Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

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June 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 10

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

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

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

Is Jon Snow really dead?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the Watch!

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Sunday

26

April 2015

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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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Monday

21

July 2014

1

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Game of Thrones Finally Acknowledges The One True King Stannis Baratheon

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones

One of the downsides, perhaps the primary one, of adapting an epic book series is that certain characters are naturally going to get less screen time than they deserve. Game of Thrones has taken this to a whole new level, mostly out of necessity. While George R.R. Martin is content to have characters disappear for multiple books at a time, this isn’t really realistic for a television program.

The biggest victim of this so far has been Stannis Baratheon, King Robert’s rightful heir. His prominence in season two and the splitting of A Storm of Swords into two seasons makes a statement like this puzzling, especially since Stannis isn’t even a POV character. The problem is that the show has hardly done the one true King justice, while allotting large amounts of screen time to characters who are just as absent from chunks of the source material.

The main problem is that Stannis’ portrayal in season two doesn’t do the character justice, though Stephen Dilane was a strong casting choice. Book Stannis is a strong leader with a firm sense of right and wrong who helps uncover the Lannisters’ deception along with Jon Arryn. In the show, he’s introduced as an easily manipulated power hungry religious loon. The show backs off of this a bit in season three, but the much of the damage is done. At least in the viewers’ mind.

Until the season four finale, it was difficult to talk to fans of the show who hadn’t read the books about the one true king. Using strictly television logic, Stannis’ survival past the Battle of the Blackwater is puzzling. He’s portrayed as the “big bad” to Tyrion and Renly and those types of characters tend to die in season finales. And yet Stannis prevails.

The show’s lax characterization of Stannis deprives the character of his rich personality, which makes him one of the books’ strongest characters. While it’s easy to judge Stannis solely by Ned’s characterization, his maiming of Ser Davos, and his devotion to Melisandre, that just scratches the surface of his personality.

Stannis’ defense of Storm’s End during Robert’s Rebellion is consistently referred to as indicative of the middle Baratheon’s personality as a whole. He had it far worse than any of the other commanding usurpers and was perhaps the only one other than Ned Stark who could’ve held off the Tyrell’s under such dire circumstances. His rigidness proved to be an asset.

Which explains why he’s considered unlikable, but it’s easy to forget how little that actually matters. Stannis might not have been a friend of either Ned Stark or Jon Arryn, but he commanded their respect. The Tyrell’s were the only significant supporter of Renly who didn’t defect to his cause and that was a foregone conclusion anyway.

Stannis commands loyalty even in places where the reader/viewer isn’t supposed to expect it from. Ned refused to back Renly because Stannis was the rightful heir, a move that cost him his life. Davos supports him even after Stannis maimed his hand. He works with Jon Snow even after he was rebuffed on his offer to legitimize him as the heir to Winterfell.

Stannis grows quite a bit as he grapples with his sense of duty to the realm. We see him as more than a man seeking his right to rule, but rather as someone who understands that he is the only person who could actually bring order to Westeros. This point is eloquently featured in the show when Davos and Stannis visit the Iron Bank of Braavos in perhaps the show’s only deviation from the books that served to benefit his character.

While it’s slightly upsetting that the episode dedicated to the Wall didn’t end with Stannis’ arrival, it was great to see him have his moment of triumph after a turbulent two seasons. Since season four didn’t fully catch up with Jon’s plotline, this can sort of be excused. Fans have much to be excited for in the upcoming season as Stannis’ relationship with Jon Snow supplies the meatiest storyline of A Dance With Dragons. By saving The Wall, he shows that he’s the only one who doesn’t crave power solely for the sake of power. He chases justice.

Games of Thrones has an opportunity to let Stannis shine opposite one of the series’ most popular characters, which in turn should raise his image in the eyes of the fans of the shows. Hopefully the show won’t use him as a foil for Snow, who is occasionally at odds with Stannis but manages to gain his respect and eventually helps him rally northmen to his cause. I wouldn’t put it past the show to elevate the Snow legitimization conflict, but that in it of itself would be a further bastardization of Stannis’ character.

Looking to the future of the series, it appears as though Stannis could find himself deeply involved in the eventual Targaryen conflict if the R + L = J theory holds up and if The Onion Knight is successful in retrieving Rickon Stark from the cannibal island. Preview chapters of The Winds of Winter show Stannis’ looming decision regarding the fate of one Theon “Reek” Greyjoy, which will undoubtedly shed more light on Stannis’ overall sense of justice.

Stannis is a perfect example of the depth of characters in A Song of Ice and Fire. While Martin never goes too far out of his way to give the spotlight to the one true king, he’s much more of a three dimensional character than anyone at King’s Landing would have us believe in the first two books. While conventional logic would suggest that Stannis has about a zero percent chance at having a happy ending at the end of the series, Martin has a tendency to keep the reader guessing. Perhaps the Lord of Light will stand with Stannis. I know I will.

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