Game of Thrones Archive

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That scene from Sunday’s Game of Thrones

Because there aren’t enough people talking about Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones, I am going to offer up my two cents on the subject.

There’s no shortage of people crying foul on Game of Thrones for what amounts to a rape scene between Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), and Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) witnessed by Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen). At this time I want to make clear that I’m not here to talk about trigger warnings, rape culture, sexpositioning, or anything else of the sort.

For the record, I see the entire spectrum of human joy and misery as fair game for art. Full stop. Anything less than a universal approach to art amounts to censorship. This doesn’t mean everything should be respected as good art. To wit, I submit Game of Thrones wasted an incredibly powerful scene on the back of lazy writing and poor narrative choices.

Consider these three points:

Point 1: We already know Ramsay Bolton is a shitstick. Between the writing and Iwan Rheon’s pitch-perfect portrayal of a monstrous human being, the point is sold. He hunts people for sport. He feeds his ex-lovers to dogs. He revels in flaying people alive and cutting off extremities e.g. Theon Greyjoy’s cock. Does having him take Sansa in a forceful way add anything new to his character? I think not. It only piles on what we already know while spending a very expensive coin for what I see as little return on investment.

Point 2: If the scene is meant to be a preamble to “How Sansa got her Groove Back” it is a lazy and short-sighted maneuver on the part of the writers. The on-screen moment that drove Theon Greyjoy to tears is unlikely to be a one-off – unless the next episode opens on Sansa cutting Ramsay’s throat. In which case, I’ve completely misread things and much of this post is wrong.

Given Ramsay’s appetites, Sansa will have to endure the indignity of his company many times. How will Sansa go about reclaiming the initiative after being repeatedly violated by Ramsay Bolton? Are we to presume it won’t damage her physically and mentally? I don’t know anything about being a rape survivor, but I suspect “getting over it” in the name of revenge is a little far-fetched, unless one happens to be Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction.

Point 3: If the rape scene is meant to be a preamble to “How Theon got his Groove Back” then it’s the worst sort of pedestrian trash. It effectively sends a raven message that the writers are willing to sacrifice Sansa’s agency to give Theon, a literally emasculated character, a path to reclaiming his manly virtue. He would become the archetypal prince saving the princess from her evil husband. I could not imagine a more listless narrative course.

The offending scene, and all its subtext, as I see it, leaves the writers with one of two outcomes for moving forward with Sansa’s arc. On the one hand, Sansa could collapse into her own mind. This figuratively kills the powerful woman we’ve seen to date in this season, and sets up Theon as a redemptive figure. Alternatively, Sansa could channel some Kill Bill energy. Try as I might, I don’t think I will be able to suspend disbelief enough to accept this outcome without some serious and traumatic follow-up for Sansa. To do less would be to devalue the powerful scene between these three characters as little more than an exercise in raising the stakes and reminding the audience of Ramsay Bolton’s nature as a shitstick.

I’ll concede this scene may have needed to happen the way it happened for reasons that will become clearer in the future. At the same time, I like to think of myself as a reasonably intelligent person. I’m more than capable of imagining alternatives to “and then he raped her” writing. In the short term, and in light of some relatively weak writing in season three and four, I’m disinclined from believing the writers are building up to something I can’t see coming. That being the case, I don’t think anything coming down the pipe is so brilliant it needed to be built on the back of a rape scene – notwithstanding Sansa killing Ramsay in his sleep on their wedding night as a reflex to his actions.

To reiterate, I don’t think this episode makes Game of Thrones “bad” for hosting a rape scene. I am not offended by what happened on screen. As a critic, I do question what I see as a poor use of a powerful moment to utterly predictable ends.


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Movie Review: Knights of Badassdom

There is something to be said for a movie where all involved parties seem to know that what they’re working on won’t achieve any great narrative heights. I think this self-knowledge is important. Without a carefully measured effort to be a good B-movie, a production is likely to end up with Adam Sandler dressed in drag, making like a less funny Eddie Murphy. This is where the Knights of Badassdom excels. It knows that it is a solid brick of aged cheese, but it makes no pretension at being anything more than that, and for that reason, the movie works – albeit with a few caveats.

When broken down into component parts, Knights of Badassdom is both a celebration of a particular brand of low budget 70s and 80s horror and a knowing wink to nerd sub-culture. It’s not the first movie to explore young people abusing the occult with terrible consequences, nor is it the first to have a poke at the culture of Dungeons and Dragons or LARPing (Live action role play). Unlike 1982’s Mazes and Monsters, which convinced a generation of parents that tabletop role-play would lead to Chthonian insanity and murder-suicide (my parents included so fuck you very much, Rona Jaffe) KoB is mostly laughing with the audience rather offering up any sort of tut-tutting editorial. Indeed, half the fun of this movie is watching its cast of A and B listers goof around in armour and fight choreographed battles with foam weapons.

Without the likes of Peter Dinklage, Ryan Kwanten, Danny Pudi, and Summer Glau, all of whom play characters who are intentionally reminiscent of the characters who made each of these actors a household name, I don’t think the movie would work. Dinklage’s character spends most of the movie tripping balls. Kwanten plays a goof ball with a heart of gold. Pudi’s character fusses over the details of how many experience points his in-movie character will get for completing various quests. And, of course, Glau’s character is mysterious and all manner of kick ass.

In so many words, I now know what would happen if Tyrion Lannister, Jason Stackhouse, Abed Nadir, and River Tam got together for a game of Dungeons and Dragons. Once again, Knights of Badassdom doesn’t score a lot of points for originality, but it’s certainly not without some innate charms. Charms that, in fairness, are both a strength and a weakness as they only extend so far as an audience’s affection for nerd culture in general.

I don’t want to say that Knights of Badassdom requires a foreknowledge of D&D or role-playing games, but it certainly goes a long way to helping the jokes land. Even then, much of the comedy isn’t laugh out loud. Most of the gags revolve around the audience’s ability to look at a particular scene and go, “Yeah, I know that guy.” It’s not inclusive comedy in any sense of the word, but it knows its audience, and there’s something to say for a movie whose reach doesn’t exceed its grasp.

In the final calculation, Knights of Badassdom delivers exactly what it promises: a bunch of fan-favourite actors playing variations on their fan-favourite characters. It’s goofy, it has plot holes big enough to accommodate an elder dragon, and isn’t nearly as meta as it could be. It also has Ryan Kwanten and Peter Dinglage getting high as Keith Richards, and that has to be worth something. It won’t win any Oscars, but I don’t think that’s what it set out to do.  Like any ripe old cheese, some people will devour it with much avarice, while others will take one whiff and wonder why anybody would even bother.

 

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Is the Hitman Absolution Trailer Offensive or just Grotesquely Stupid?

I grok that both stupidity and the quality of being offensive are in the eye of the beholder. Nor would I consider either of these traits to be mutually exclusive of the other. But when it comes to the Hitman Absolution trailer, I, as a male gamer, need to let it be known to the world that I find the latest from IO Interactive so stupid as to be offensive.

For anybody who hasn’t seen the offending piece of promotional material, here it is. It’s a mildly NSFW due to cartoon cleavage and excessive violence.

 

Violence unto women dressed for a night of parochial school themed S&M has never been a motif of the Hitman franchise. The series has always put a premium on stealth and a Bond-esque level of subtlety in the protagonist’s wet work. To fire a bazooka into a no-tell motel is to miss the point of the Hitman games. To do so attired in a puerile attempt at titillation is as intuitive as obeying traffic signals in Grand Theft Auto. Kudos to IO Interactive; in two minutes you’ve managed to mortgage a large quantity of the critical credibility that you acquired through four successful video games and one average theatrical adaptation.

Somebody call Quentin Tarantino and tell him that's he's officially subtle.

IO Interactive’s efforts to make something that looks “cool”, their own words per a recent apology for this trailer, are a colossal failure in marketing at its most fundamental level. Conceivably, I’m a member of their target audience. Yet the presumption that a union between PG-13 sexuality and violence will arouse my interest is as faulty as a Kardashian wedding. Violence turns my crank (and if you’ve ever watched a single episode of Game of Thrones, Spartacus, or True Blood it does yours as well so don’t judge me). Sex turns my crank considerably more than violence. Assuming that the two would go well together is the sort of juvenile syllogism that argues being drunk is fun, and driving fast is fun. Therefore driving drunk at very fast speeds would be super fun. Moreover, the trailer tells me, the consumer, nothing about the game, or perhaps more accurately how the game plays. I dare say this trailer speaks volumes about the game and the “creative” minds behind it. To put a finer point on it, I, and I expect any member of the target audience who has seen more than fifteen minutes of pornography in their life, have evolved past the crap that Hitman Absolution is selling.

To the other issue at hand, does it offend me to see Hitman 47 laying some slaughter on a bunch of women? No more than it offended me to see a Roman throw an axe into Mira’s chest in Spartacus. No more than it offended me to read about mixed gender matches of Rollerball in Rollerball Murder. What I recognize as a problem is the trailer’s shameless sexposition, which attempts to normalize a gender hierarchy between the Hitman and his foes. Further, I object to the assumption of stupidity on my part whereby I won’t pick up on this passive audience programming.

47 is wearing his trademark suit; the subtext is that he remains a professional. By dropping their habits, the female assassins are symbolically shedding their credibility as guns for hire. Thus the killer nuns’ termination at the hands of the Hitman was preordained via their fetish-wear as an indication of their naturally inferior state compared to 47.

Therein rests some of the inequality within this particular rogues’ gallery. But before we decry the gaming industry as an evil empire of misogyny, remember that this sort of gender issue is by no means limited to video games. HBO’s Game of Thrones illustrates hierarchy through sex scenes where men remain clothed but women bare all. Arguably if everybody was naked in the Hitman trailer, don’t ask me why assassins would go about their business in the buff, perhaps they were all attending the same Roman orgy, it would be less shameless then it stands now. It certainly wouldn’t make the trailer any more stupid than it already is.

Among the sort of folk for whom the above trailer finds traction, I expect walking erect, opposable thumbs, and running water to be a novelty. Certainly these people are to be pitied for their retrograde ways, rather than framed as agents promoting an agenda of chauvinism and heteronormativity.


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The Top Five Reasons Why People Pirate

The other night I found myself wanting to indulge in a childhood pleasure: John Christopher’s The Tripods trilogy. With my copy of the series long since lost to time, I did a quick search to see if there were any readily accessible e-book versions of the first novel in the triad, The White Mountains.

As a Kindle owner, the freely available e-pub editions of the book aren’t that useful. So I weighed the pros and cons before taking to Amazon. That’s when I saw this. (You you may need to click to enlarge)

WTF?

My rage raneth over. How does the e-book cost more than the paperback? I took to twitter, facebook, tumblr, and google plus to voice what I saw as a grave injustice. I cited this particular example as the #3 reason why people pirate things. Jon Eric, a google plus friend of mine, then asked what occupied the first and second position on my list. Submitted for his, and your, approval are my top five reasons why I think people commit various forms of data piracy.

Convenience/Poor Impulse Control/Entitlement

The Oatmeal posted a great cartoon a while ago about the various machinations involved in trying to own the first season of Game of Thrones. After months of waiting, paying for additional services, and waiting some more, the character in question downloaded the entire first series in eight minutes.

Piracy is the ultimate answer to wanting something now. Said demand is often rationalized, if not legitimized, through a sense of entitlement. Case in point: a person who pays for HBO can twist that subscription into a right to download episodes of HBO’s programming. DVD profits be damned. If we apply that logic to my situation, I know I own a paper copy of The White Mountains; why should I have to pay for it twice?

Impudence

Every time a judge, either in Canada or the US, renders an opinion in defence of IP addresses as something that can’t be bound to an individual person, I fear a move toward more invasive internet monitoring. Others see those verdicts as a licence to torrent to their heart’s content. Even though the first round of Napster lawsuits are old enough that they would be starting high school next year, impudence in the face of potential reprisals, well founded or otherwise, is still a dominant sentiment among pirates in their various forms. That discussion is made all the more interesting when conversations on data cryptography come into question. If downloaders are always three steps ahead of regulators, thanks to open source crypto projects, why should they fear the consequences of their infractions?

Consumer Outrage

I think this point speaks for itself. The book publishing industry might have been smart in adapting to e-readers early on in the game, but it still operates under some painfully outdated models. Given the ongoing expense that goes into producing books versus the one time investment that is an e-book, there’s no justification for the latter costing more than the former. Tell me the money is going directly to the writer’s royalties, and I might change my tune.

This concept holds true in software and music, as well. If the consumer thinks they’re getting the screw job, piracy becomes an act of righteous rebellion. Said screw jobs include geo-locking prices and availability despite the fact that globalism and multinational companies invalidate many arguments on economic protectionism. Nor should we forget product pricing that assumes Reagan is in office and subsequently increases the price on products for Canadian consumers, just because. Yes, yes, economies of scale factor into that equation. Try telling that to somebody who is in the throes of level four rage mode upon learning that Americans pay 30% less on something because of an economy of scale.

The Delusional Beta Tester

““I’m not a pirate” says the delusional beta tester. “I just don’t believe in buying something before I’ve had a chance to test it.”

Right. Except that the delusional beta tester never quite seems to get around to actually buying the product that they have been using.

The Copyright Vigilante

I don’t know that I buy into this idea, but I’ve seen it cropping up on message boards with a little too much frequency to ignore it.

The argument goes that the powers which legislate copyright have taken protecting intellectual property too far. How far is too far? To the point that eternal copyright is stymieing innovation. In so much as every innovation is an improvement on an existing product, the market for making things better is subject to armies of lawyers who claim intellectual property at every turn. While I can see a relationship between this trend and a growing entrenchment of the ultra-rich, I don’t quite see how downloading Game of Thrones tracks as a feasible act of resistance. I suppose it’s just a damn the man philosophy.

There’s my top five. Why do you think people take to piracy?


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Television Review/Recap: Game of Thrones Season Two Episode Ten – Valar Morghulis

Alas, another season of Game of Thrones has come to an end. We’ve seen squabbles with the brothers Baratheon. Tyrion and Cersei have waged their ongoing war of words, feints, and betrayal with Shakespearian efficiency. Jamie Lannister was all but forgotten before returning in the eleventh hour as one of the show’s most interesting villains(?). Jon Snow got beaten up a few times. And, of course, Dany Targaryen did a whole lot of pouting.

There’s nothing left to do now but recap the few loose ends, and offer some final thoughts on the season.

The Big Political Developments

Joffrey, the little twerp, named Tywin Lannister the saviour of King’s Landing and official Hand of the King. Indicating the low esteem in which he holds either his grandson or the new office, Twyin declined to get off his horse to receive the honour. Also his horse shat all over the floor of the Red Keep’s throne room. I don’t think I need to draw anybody a picture so that they might pick up the symbolism there. I may though, if somebody asks nicely.

It’s also revealed that Twyin’s last second victory against Stannis’ troops was not solely a Lannister affair. Little Finger was able to bring House Tyrell on side with the Lannisters against the “rebel” Baratheons. The Tyrell’s military aid also brought Margaery Tyrell to the royal court. With a little bit of prodding from Cersei, Joffrey dissolves his engagement with Sansa and agrees to make Margaery his queen.

Speaking of people getting married, Robb decides to marry that nurse girl, breaking his vow to marry a daughter of Walder Frey. The consequences of that course of action remain to be seen. Other unresolved things include the state of the Stark’s war against the Lannisters. In fact, that’s been one of the poorest covered story elements this season. Granted we know that Robb has been kicking ass and taking names, but where’s the update on what’s actually going on in the war? If Tywin’s men are in King’s Landing, who is Robb fighting? Is he marching on Casterly Rock? Is he marching on King’s Landing? Whatever happened to those surrender negotiations that people were going on about around episode seven?

As for Tyrion…well Tyrion got sacked. Despite mobilizing the city against Stannis’ attack, the now scarred former Hand of the King has been relegated to a small room, stripped of all previous retainers and position. As for the Lannister that carved up Tyrion’s face, that gentleman did so under Cersei’s express orders.Though Shae attempts to convince Tyrion to leave Westeros, he admits that playing the game is the only thing he’s good at doing in life. Phoenix + Ashes=Tyrion in season 3.

Little Political Developments

Theon gives a great speech to try and rally his men to a glorious death at the hands of the five hundred Stark banner men surrounding Winterfell. In a comedic turn of events, Theon’s first officer clubs him over the back of the head and presumably sells him out to the Starks in exchange for their freedom. Then, yet again, things get confusing. When Bran and Rickon emerge from their hiding place in the keep, they find the city a smoldering wreck. This invites the question, who burned Winterfell? Was it the 20 Iron Islanders? Was it the Stark’s own banner men? And where did these men go?

Perhaps I’m slow, but this year’s attempt at wrapping things up is really slipshod.

Arya has one last encounter with Jaqen H’ghar as she, Gendry, and that fat kid walk…somewhere. Despite his offer to take Arya to Bravos to learn the ways of an assassin, the youngest female Stark opts to remain in Westeros in search of her family. Before changing his face into that of another man, quite the party trick, Jaqen gives Arya an assassin’s calling card in the form of a coin. If Arya gives this coin to anybody from Bravos and says the words “Valar Morghulis” Jaquen will find her so that she can be trained as a “faceless one”.

The Pointless Political Developments

After magically teleporting into the House of the Undying, which allowed Jorah Mormont to re-enact Stanley’s most memorable scene in Streetcar, Dany found her dragons. This reunion allows the dragons to torch the warlock who was intent on keeping them captive.

Now armed with her house cat sized fire breathers, Dany and Jorah lay a little revenge on Xaro Xhoan Daxos. Dany locks Xaro and his bed wench in the big vault. Oh and here’s an interesting turn of events, Xaro’s big vault was empty. Relevance? None since this story arc has been filler material all season.

With the surviving members of her Khalisar in tow (am I the only one who thought they were all dead), Dany takes to looting Xaro’s opulent home so that they might buy a ship bound for Westeros.

Seriously? It took a whole bloody season to get to that uninteresting point? Talk about your monumental wastes of time. Mark my words, boys and girls, if the entirety of Dany’s role in season three is to sit on a boat and sail the Narrow Sea, I’m writing a letter to HBO and George R.R. Martin.

As for Jon Snow, well he killed the other ranger in a brawl to win the loyalty of the wildlings. Sexy yet conflicted times ahead for him next year? I think so.

The Best Thing EVER

Sam and a couple other Night’s Watch fellows are out scavenging things to burn. During their hunt, Sam is going on about how interesting Gilly is as a person. The discourse on interpreting the female form is interrupted by three horn blows. For those who forget, three horn blows means approaching White Walkers. The other Watchmen run for their lives, leaving the slow, fat, and clumsy Sam to his own devices. As the wind picks up, shambling figures come into frame. Before long there is an entire freaking ZOMBIE ARMY passing Sam by. That’s not even the best part. This army is lead by a frost monster thing riding a zombie horse. Now that is something that will make people care about Jon’s story again.

Final Thoughts

Notwithstanding the Battle of Blackwater Bay, it was a bit of a slow season. That said, if there’s any justice in the world, “Blackwater” should earn Game of Thrones no shortage of Emmy nominations in the technical categories. Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey are both likely to see Best Actor/Actress nominations coming their way for continued excellence this year. I expect that Nikolaj Coster-Waldau will also collect a nom for best supporting actor. On that note, I sincerely hope that A Storm of Swords is Jamie Lannister’s time to shine. Save for the last three episodes of the season, his character all but disappeared this year.

I’m also thoroughly convinced that anybody whose last name is Stark and is over the age of fourteen is a blithering idiot. Ned trusts people who tell him not to trust them. Robb marries a girl who should just be a wench on the side. Catelyn releases Jamie Lannister on some half baked notion that she will actually get her daughters back. Jon Snow, technically a Stark, can’t follow orders to save his life. The Lannisters might be scum bags, but at least they don’t seem to share a single brain between the lot of them.

Also, fire Emilia Clarke.

So that’s it. I’m not quite sure what will be replacing Game of Thrones Mondays. I was tempted to make it True Blood Mondays, but I fear such an action would cause my brain to melt. Perhaps Tron Uprising Mondays? A note of thanks to everybody who kept coming back each week to read these posts. I know they are long, but I try to make them worthwhile. And a special thanks to Christina Boulard, who has re-tweeted every Game of Thrones Mondays update that I have made over the last two and a half months. Everybody should follow her on twitter.


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Television Review/Recap: Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 9 – Blackwater

This might be the easiest review/recap I have ever done for Game of Thrones. The whole episode, written by George R. R. Martin himself, was set in King’s Landing, and damn if it wasn’t the epic pay off that viewers have been waiting for all season.

Let’s start with a quick run through of the salient events.

Varys meets with Tyrion as the men of King’s Landing enjoy their last night of peace before Stannis’ fleet arrives. As Tyrion gets armoured for battle, Varys offers a map of the city’s extensive underground as well as a confession that he thinks Tyrion to be the city’s only hope for survival. Heavy is the chest that wears the pin of the Hand.

The Battle of Blackwater Bay itself is a thing to behold. I can’t recall an episode of Game of Thrones that ever looked quite so expensive. The sea battles, land skirmishes, and eventual siege had all the elegant brutality of a high priced Hollywood feature.

Round one of the battle goes to the Lannisters. Tyrion blows up a significant portion of Stannis’ fleet with a single ship filled to the gunwales with Wildfire. But it’s a one trick pony that fails to turn Stannis’ attack. It’s also worth mentioning the look of sheer horror on Peter Dinklage’s face as Tyrion comes to understand that he, and he alone, is responsible for killing all those men. While Joffrey gets giddy, Tyrion learns something of war’s human cost.

Therein, the “legitimate” heir to the Iron Throne sends his surviving men ashore to begin breaching the walls. Clearly traumatized by the sight of an immolated Blackwater Bay, the Hound quits the battle, telling the Lannisters and King Joffrey to fuck themselves (I’m not being colourful, he actually says “Fuck the King”). Despite losing one of their champions, the Lannisters put up a good fight, yet Stannis has a clear numerical, if not a tactical, advantage. Fearing for his life, and encouraged to do so by his mother, who sends Lancel to tell Joffrey that playtime is over and he’s to come home, Joffrey quits the battle leaving the burden of leadership on Tyrion. With some difficulty, Tyrion manages to rally the men, leading them into the sewers so that they might flank the Baratheon force at the wall.

Once again, Peter Dinklage gets one liner of the night when he says, “Those are brave men knocking at our door; let’s go kill them.”

Tyrion’s counterpunch routs the vanguard of Stannis’ troops. There is the briefest moment of celebration before the main force of Stannis’ men charge into the battle. Something quite interesting happens here. During the battle Tyrion is fighting in the thick of it. He’s saved from a Baratheon sword by what looks like a man dressed in Lannister livery. But then that very same Lannister solider swings a sword at Tyrion. The only thing that saves Tyrion’s life is the quick intervention from his squire. Still, the Hand of the King catches a sword tip to the face and falls to the ground, probably not dead, most likely in shock, and arguably the bravest half-man in all of Westeros.

Meanwhile, Shae has commanded Sansa out of the tower containing the highborn women. She returns to her room only to find the Hound waiting for her. Newly retired from the Lannister army, he offers to take Sansa home to Winterfell as wants to go somewhere where there’s no fire.

With Stannis Baratheon rampaging atop the battlements, somehow he was he only guy to make it up a siege ladder without getting his head squashed by a rock, and an army battering down the mud gate, things seem their darkest. Enter deus ex machine Tywin Lannister to the rescue.

Here I thought he was riding out against Robb Stark. Does that mean that Robb is going to be able to walk into Casterly Rock in the finale? One doesn’t simply walk into Casterly Rock?

Amazing as the battle was, the real star of the episode has to be Lena Headey’s drunken/honest portrayal of Cersei in a powerless situation.

Unable to connive, seduce, or puppet master her way out of the siege, Cersei takes to drinking. In doing so, she gets very ugly, yet remains supremely vulnerable. Some of her statements echo those of other women who “should have been born men” within fantasy environs. For example, Cersei demonstrates her Machiavellian leadership style when she tells Sansa that that the only way to rule (unless you’re a Stark) is to make your own people fear you more than they fear the enemy. Eventually she takes on a more practical tone, especially when she tells Sansa to cut the bullshit and start learning that the world is full of killers up to and including her beloved father. Toward the end of the episode, she falls apart back on what she told Sansa a few weeks earlier: all a mother can do is protect her children.

Cersei orders Joffrey off the wall, morale of the troops be damned, and manically cradles her youngest son on the Iron Throne. As she prepares to give her non-awful child a dose of Nightshade poison, so that he might be spared the rapine and slaughter of Stannis’ men, we can see the mask that Cersei wears to fulfill her role as queen-regent shattering to the floor around her. Yet in the instant that Tywin opens the doors of the Red Keep and proclaims the battle won, her duty bound visage is restored to its previous glory. Such is the talent of Lena Headey that over the course of an episode she can gradually unravel her character, and then put her back together on command.

I imagine that next week will return to the “all over the world” style of storytelling, further subjecting us to Dany and Jon’s dull plot arcs. All we can do now is hope that the Lion’s share of the episode will be dedicated to Robb and wherever his army ends up. Also Arya, I’d like to get a proper end of season wrap-up/cliff-hanger for Arya.


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Television Review/Recap: Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 8 – The Prince of Winterfell Review/Recap

Here’s a funny story, halfway through the episode, around the time Cersei and Tyrion were having a faceoff to end all faceoffs, my laptop randomly decided to reboot for the purpose of applying updates. At the time, I was banging out notes in notepad, which, as you would expect, did not save upon this unceremonious restart. As such, I’m taking a bit of a different tack with this week’s review/recap.

Here is the shit that went down (in order of importance)

*Spoilers Ahead*

Rob Stark doesn’t know why he’s fighting.

Catelyn didn’t lop off Jamie Lannister’s head after last week’s episode faded to black. Instead she freed the Kingslayer, with the expectation she would get Sansa and Arya back, and sent him on his way with Brienne as a guardian. When word reached Robb, who was out having a walk with Florence Nightengale Talisa Maegyr, he was not impressed. Words like betrayal and treason are tossed about as Robb has his mother imprisoned.

All this time I thought Catelyn Stark was one of the smarter people in this show. But if we recall Cersei’s words from last week, the only thing a Queen, or in this case a Queen Mother, can do is love and protect her children. Meanwhile Robb, uncertain if he should march home to free Winterfell or press on to Casterly Rock, does what any good leader would do, shags the noblewoman masquerading as a sexy nurse.

Tyrion wants Joffrey to fight; Cersei punishes Tyrion, with sexy results.

Stannis Baratheon is two days from King’s Landing, and good King Joffrey wants to lead his men into battle (Is it just me, or is this extended countdown taking on the tone of a Dragon Ball Z plot arc). The twerp thinks that his uncle Stannis will soil himself and run home to the Stormlands at the mere sight of King’s Landing desperately undermanned garrison. Tyrion approves of his nephew’s plan, under the pretext of offering morale support to the men. It’s also a convenient way to let the little sadist die in battle. Cersei, however, seizes the opportunity to punish her brother for yet another power play against her children.

The Queen-Regent informs the Hand of the King that she’s found out about his whore. Tyrion’s attempts to play off the situation as an inconvenience, rather than a threat against the love of his life, appear transparent to Cersei. Yet the tide turns in Tyrion’s favour when Cersei has Ros, and not Shae, brought in as proof of her intent to visit every injury upon her brother’s love that befalls Joffrey in battle.

After promising a mighty vengeance upon his sister, Tyrion returns to his room to find Shae waiting for him. Though Shae is convinced she could cut the face from any who threaten her, Tyrion is not satisfied. With each telling the other that “You are mine” I think we come as close as possible to any two characters expressing genuine, non-twincest, love for each other. Though there might have been some love between Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell. If Lannister guards are to be believed, their relationship was nothing if not long standing.

Theon Greyjoy is an idiot and a fraud.

Yara Greyjoy arrives at Winterfell with a handful of cavalry (How the shit do pirates keep getting horses?) and proceeds to break Theon’s balls for his continued ineptitude: first in losing Bran and Rickon Stark, then in “burning” them to set an example for the Northerners, and finally in forgetting that their power base is in ships not armies ergo attacking inland Winterfell was pointless and stupid. Chuffed up on the fact that he took Winterfell with twenty men (His words. My declaration of Shenanigans on the writing is still in effect.) Theon ignores his father’s recall order. Alone and absent reinforcements, Theon Greyjoy is now the most hated man in the North.

Except, Theon didn’t actually kill Bran and Rickon. In the penultimate and final scenes of the episode, we learn that Theon torched the two orphans that were working on the farm Bran and Rickon passed during their initial flight from Winterfell. As for the Starks, Hodor, and the wildling girl, they’re hiding out in Winterfell. Maester Luwin sees the former captive, now protector of Bran and Rickon, stealing bread and follows her into a hidden chamber within Winterfell. As the truth comes out, Luwin makes clear that Bran must never find out about the death of the children, which the little ord sent to the farm, lest he blame himself for their painful demise. Too bad Bran was awake and heard everything.

Arya and friends walk out of Harrenhal.

After much consternation, Tywin decides that the time has come for him to ride out against Robb. Arya attempts to find the ghost so that she might name the Lannister patriarch as her final death, but to no avail. Later, Arya extorts the ghost into helping her, Gendry Baratheon, and a fat kid who I’m going to call Podgey, into escaping. She does so by naming him, Jaqen H’ghar, as her third death unless he helps the trio escape. Following H’ghar’s instructions, the group walks out of Harrenhal at midnight to see the guards butchered at their posts.

There’s lots of walking North of the Wall.

Only two things worth any note happen here. We learn that Jon’s jaunt with the wildling girl has led to the death of the other rangers save for one. The second is that the surviving ranger wants Jon to try and infiltrate the wildling army because “one brother on the inside is worth a thousand on the wall”

Stannis is on a boat.

Stannis complains about how Robert Baratheon was a jerk despite Stannis’ loyal service during the rebellion. Stannis and Davos Seaworth then about rank, title, and society before the would-be king names Seaworth as his Hand once the battle at King’s Landing is won.

Nothing happens in Qarth.

Seriously, nothing. Dany has a tantrum, Jorah is stoic, and the plot remains at a standstill.

And that’s the episode.

There was one odd recurring motif in the episode, food. Bronn, acting as captain of the city guard, has all the thieves in King’s Landing rounded up and killed. In his experience, thieves do very well in sieges as food becomes the most precious resource imaginable. Stannis Baratheon echoes these sentiments when he talks about eating horses, cats, and dogs to stay alive during a siege. Tyrion talks about the high quality of his Lamprey pie before Cersei makes her move against him. Even Podgey goes on about how things are cooked in the kitchens of Harrenhal during his escape with Arya and Gendry. What’s the connection?

For all the talk about winning or dying when playing the game of thrones, it’s still subject to the basic laws of humanity; therein society is only five meals away from barbarism. Food is also an easy device for reminding the audience that the characters we’ve come to love and hate are the 1% of Westeros. Shae said it best last week when she reminded Sansa that the people of King’s Landing hate the captive Stark and all the Lannisters for the simple fact that their horses eat better than the mob.

We could stretch the metaphor even farther if we focus on food as a consumptive thing. Survival for the principle characters is not simply a matter of eating and drinking as it is for everybody else in Westeros. They must consume others characters in order to survive. Consider Tyrion’s meal of Lamprey pie. Lampreys have long been a meal fit for kings in European culture. But there’s also the fact that the Lamprey, a relatively weak creature, must attach itself on to larger fish for survival vis-a-vis Tyrion with Bronn and those Viking folks from last season. On the opposite side of the spectrum there is someone like Stannis Baratheon, who has consumed his gods, perhaps his soul in taking up with Melisandre, and his own brother in order to forward his claim to the Iron Throne.

Next week, from what I’ve heard, all the shit finally hits the fan. Tywin has his final battle with Robb. Stannis lays siege to King’s Landing. Robb’s splinter force retakes Winterfell. Hopefully we get to see some of it, though. This series has a nasty habit of cutting to the aftermath as a means of keeping the budget under control. As the second to last episode of the season, I think we, the audience, have earned some bloodshed.


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Television Review/Recap: Game of Thrones Season Two Episode 7 – A Man Without Honour

This week on Game of Thrones, life is a prison and the choices that we make are its bars. How poetic.

*Spoilers Ahead*

Let’s go East, South and North for this episode. That way recapping is like eating a really expensive steak served in a cheap hamburger bun.

Qarth

I spent a good chuck of Saturday playing Game of Thrones: the board game. During which time I complained about how bored I am with Daenerys Targaryen’s story as well as Emilia Clarke’s substandard acting abilities. My friends assured me that by the fourth novel Daenerys’ character becomes interesting. At least we can all have something to look forward to in the Summer of 2014.

Long story made short, Daenerys whines about her missing dragons. She then complains to Jorah Mormont about how she can’t trust anybody, the irony of which becomes apparent when the face mask lady from a few episodes back reminds us that Mormont almost let her Daenerys die in exchange for a pardon from Robert Baratheon. Finally, Daenerys begs the city fathers of Qarth to help find her dragons. In a surprise turn of events Xaro Xhoan Daxos and the jaundiced fellow from the House of the Undying admit to stealing the dragons. The two men then proceed to have all of the thirteen killed so that Daxos might become king of Qarth. Once again Daenerys’ decisions have trapped her in an untenable situation.

King’s Landing

Poor Sansa Stark wakes up to find that she’s had her first period. Fearing that she will now be able to bear Joffrey’s children, Sansa and Shae attempt to destroy the evidence before anybody else in the palace notices her bloody sheets. Shae intercepts one of Cersei’s hand maidens but returns to find The Hound in her room.

Surprisingly enough, Cersei is rather understanding toward Sansa. In a moment of forthright honesty, Cersei warns Sansa that a queen should only love her children as loving anybody else, including her husband, would make her weak. Later, during a conversation with Tyrion, Cersei admits that Joffrey is a lost cause. And again, it’s a moment of gut wrenching honesty conveyed through Lena Headey. As a mother, Cersei Lannister wants to protect her son, but she knows that he’s a power mad tyrant. Cersei’s fear, a fear she voices to Tyrion and in doing so all but abandons the pretence that Robert Baratheon is Joffrey’s father, is that her eldest son’s madness is the result of her incest with Jamie. For his part, Tyrion seems almost sympathetic toward his sister, a woman who last episode was vowing revenge against him.

Also, Stannis Baratheon’s fleet is five days from King’s Landing. Shit is about to get real in King’s Landing.

Riverlands

Robb has another run in with the sexy nurse lady. In need of medical supplies, she accompanies Robb to some negotiations where the Lannisters are apparently surrendering to the Starks. When did that happen? Did I miss something?

Meanwhile Alton Lannister, who you’ve probably forgot about by now, returned to Robb bearing Cersei’s refusal to acknowledge the Stark’s peace terms. Alton then gets thrown in a pen with Jamie Lannister. Therein the two trade stories about being squires before Jamie beats Alton’s head to a bloody pulp as a means of facilitating his escape. It’s a futile gesture as he’s very quickly recaptured by the Starks, whose banner men are now howling for Lannister blood. Catelyn Stark manages to impose some order, but the peace is a dubious one at best. During a subsequent conversation with the Kingslayer, Lady Stark draws a sword on Jamie as he pokes Catelyn’s raw nerve concerning Jon Snow and Ned Stark’s extramarital affair.

Harrenhal

Tywin Lannister is treating the death of his man in the previous episode as an attempt on his own life. For want of information on the would-be assassin, he’s taken to torture, hanging, and village burning as a research tool. So much for the Tywin who put a stop to needless waste a few episodes back.

There’s a bit more banter between Tywin and Arya on the finer points of Westeros’ history and Tywin’s legacy to his children. This results in Tywin calling Arya out as a high born girl masquerading as a commoner. Arya parries with a story about how her mother was the handmaiden to a Lady, ergo she knows proper manners and etiquette. Line of the night goes to these two when Tywin asks, “Has anybody ever told you that you’re too smart for your own good?” and Arya answers, “Yes.”

So the big question, does Tywin know she’s actually Arya Stark? Or is he operating under the assumption that she’s the daughter of a minor noble from the North?

Winterfell

NB: I continue to call supreme shenanigans on what the writers are doing with this plot arc. More so after finding out that in the novel Theon Greyjoy took Winterfell through deception, rather than force of arms.

Theon’s big theme this week is that it’s better to be cruel than weak. So he beats the ever loving piss out of one of his men for letting Bran and Rickon escape with Hodor and the wildling woman. Then, Theon literally releases the hounds.

The motley crew, pun intended, take a bunch of horses and go riding after the fugitives. I guess they brought those horses with them on their one boat? Because anybody who knows anything about horses knows that a horse is rather particular about its rider.

As for securing Winterfell, it’s a race between Theon’s sister and Robb’s men. Invoking Ned Stark, Theon proclaims that 500 men can hold Winterfell against 10,000. Pay no attention to the fact that at said 20:1 ratio, 5 men should have been able to hold Winterfell against Theon’s 100 and their grappling hooks.

As for Bran, Rickon, and company, they come upon a farm but Bran insists that they not expose themselves to the people there, lest the hounds track their scent and Theon torture the farmers for information. In the episode’s final scene, there’s a hint that Bran and team have been captured. Returning to Winterfell, Theon, intent to set an example for the people in the city, hoists up two charred bodies before the city gates.

I know we’re supposed to think that’s Bran and Rickon, but I’m not buying it. My suspicion is that Theon did indeed lose Bran and Rickon’s trail and decided to BBQ some locals in keeping with his cruelty before weakness policy.

North of the Wall

Wake me up when something that isn’t predictable happens. The wildling captive spends most of her screen time pointing out the obvious flaws in the Night’s Watch prohibition on sex while simultaneously pointing out just how capital-F “Free” she and the other wildlings are North of the Wall.

The girl’s continuous attempts at seducing Jon, both sexually and ideologically, away from the restrictive life of the Night’s Watch eventually leads her to another run for freedom – big surprise there. Jon follows her into a boxed canyon where a dozen or so wildlings appear from nowhere with spears in hand.

Though predictable, the scenes with the wildling girl add a bit more depth to the wildlings’ back story. Despite living on the other side of the Wall, the wildlings share a common ancestry with the people of the Seven Kingdoms via the “First-Men”. I know a friend of mine who would have a lot of fun looking at this reveal through the lens of displaced indigenous peoples. Since the wildlings don’t live in cities and castles, they are not civilized. So why not build a wall to keep them isolated on the shitty land and away from the rest of Westeros’ proper folk.

I’m curious to know if the books lend themselves to any such discussion – somebody who’s read them can feel free to leave a comment and fill me in.

The Bottom Line

A step in the right direction compared to last week. This week also produced a bit of subtext worth parsing out here and there. With Stannis’ invasion less than a week away from King’s Landing, I think we have to view this as the calm before the storm.

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Television Review/Recap: Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 6

I’m a wee bit conflicted on this episode. On the one hand, events in King’s Landing are fantastic. I’d be the happiest man in the world if an entire episode was set there. Such an action would also assuage my growing fears that Game of Thrones is going to turn into Heroes, a show which was crippled by its exponential character growth and plot lines that never really connected.

While things north of the Wall felt a bit more interesting this week, the story in Qarth is as tedious as ever. As for Winterfell, well things just don’t make sense there.

*Spoilers Ahead*

North of the Wall

The rangers tell Jon Snow that he can never expect loyalty from his dire wolf as wild things are beyond knowing. Shortly thereafter they take a wilding prisoner at the mouth of some wildling cave/encampment. Jon gets tasked with killing her, that’s right, it’s a woman, but he doesn’t have the stones to go through with it, you know because she’s a woman. After botching the execution she leads Jon on a merry chase, separating him from the other rangers. With the rangers out of sight, Jon and the wildling set up camp for the night. There’s some cuddling for mutual warmth and a knowing grin on the face of the wildling woman.

Winterfell

Let it be known right now that I’m calling shenanigans on this entire story arc. Theon Greyjoy, the new lord of Winterfell, announces before the assembled denizens of Winterfell keep that he took the castle using grappling hooks to climb the walls. So either Bran Stark is an idiot who sent every man he had, including the guards on the walls, to help the other city, or the Stark’s soldiers are so stupid that they didn’t hear iron hooks bouncing off stone walls.

I don’t know who is to blame for this terrible piece of writing but somebody ought to get flogged for it.

So now Theon and his one ship worth of men (laughable) are occupying the whole of Winterfell. To prove that he is serious about things, Theon lops off Ser Rodrik’s head. Nothing punctuates a scene like the death of a minor character.

Skip ahead and the Stark’s resident wildling gets naked for Theon, offering up savage pleasures to her new lord in exchange for freedom. After shagging Theon into a coma, she leaves his bed to free Hodor, Bran, and Rickon Stark.

A cripple, a child, and an idiot escape from a castle…it sounds like the setup to a Marx brothers joke.

The Riverlands

Not much of note happens here. Robb Stark has a chat with that nurse from a few weeks back. In the process he figures out that she is noble born, puppy love eyes soon follow.

Catelyn Stark returns to the camp just in time to cock block Robb. Ma Stark reminds Robb that he’s promised to one of the daughters of that guy from last season who controlled the bridge.

As if being married ever stopped Ned Stark or Robert Baratheon from doing as they pleased.

When a raven arrives with news of Theon Greyjoy’s attack on Winterfell, Robb begrudgingly delegates the counter attack to one of his banner men. The only thing that keeps him from going himself was a reminder that he has the Lannisters on the run.

I’m actually okay with things being a bit slow paced in Robb’s story. I know it’s going to lead up to a huge battle (or some sort of game changer) either at King’s Landing or in Castlerly Rock.

Qarth

It’s time to fire Emilia Clarke. No, I’m serious. Her outrage as Daenerys Targaryen borders on comical. This week she pitched a fit in the home of a Qarthian noble, demanding ships and men to retake Westeros. As she was yelling about her rightful claim to the Iron Throne, it almost looked as if the actress was trying to fight a smile while delivering her lines.

I know that some of the fault lay in the writing – Daenerys’ character is much younger than Emilia Clarke – but her inability to convey a proper range of emotions is only making a bad thing worse.

So what actually happened in Qarth? Daenerys pitched some tantrums, nobody would help her, and then her dragons were stolen.

King’s Landing

Everybody assembles at the beach to see Princess Myrcella Baratheon shipped off to Dorn. Cersei, who refuses to believe that her brother is acting in his niece’s, and the family’s, best interest swears an equal vengeance on Tyrion. Anybody want to place bets on how long it takes Cersei to find out about Shae?

En route to the keep, the Royal party is met with jeers and cat calls from the great unwashed. One person even lobs a pile of shit in Joffrey’s face. Enraged, Joffrey orders his men to kill the poop slinger. With that command, a full blown riot ensues.

This scene was amazing. Sheer unbridled populist outrage takes hold of the city. Lannister guards are torn limb from limb by the mob. Poor Sansa, who Joffrey left to her fate despite Tyrion’s objections, nearly gets gang raped just because she looks to be high born. The only thing that saves her is the Dog’s timely intervention.

Then, the coup de grace, the thing that we’ve all been waiting for: Tyrion slaps Joffrey. The slap came on the heels of the line of the night, also uttered by Tyrion, “We’ve had idiot kings and vicious kings, but you are the first vicious idiot that we have ever seen.”

At this rate, Stannis Baratheon isn’t going to have to attack King’s Landing. He’ll just need to show up and the people of the city will give him the Iron Throne.

Harrenhal

Once again, nothing here was particularly essential to the main plot.

During a strategy meeting we learn that Tywin Lannister’s councillors are idiots – probably why he is losing the war. We’re also treated to a bit of Tywin’s back story. Hearing about how he taught Jamie to read, despite his eldest son’s dyslexia, was enough to make me wonder why his children turned out as they did. In fact, he hardly seems like the same man who orchestrated Tyrion’s tactical heart break.

After that, Arya orders her second kill when one of the Lannister guards catches her with a stolen letter concerning Robb’s troop movements. So who will be the third to get it at the hands of the Ghost? Tywin himself, perhaps?

Later, Little Finger shows up for a planning session with Tywin. He suggests getting House Tyrell on side with the Lannisters, despite the fact that they were recently allied through marriage to Renly Baratheon. All the while, Arya attempts to keep her back turned on Lord Baelish lest he recognize her. I suspect we’re meant to think Arya was successful in remaining anonymous as to heighten the surprise next week if/when Little Finger confronts her.

The Bottom Line

After watching King’s Landing tear itself apart, I continue to lament the fact that the majority of the show’s focus has left that city. I know the source material does little to bring the divergent stories together, but television doesn’t lend itself to that sort of writing. The writers need to start taking liberties with the novels whereby they bring more of the cast together. Otherwise the plots, as well as the character interactions, risk going prematurely stale.


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Television Review/Recap: Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 5

Oh yeah, that's what they're doing up there.

Damn it all to hell. I had so hoped to start this review with, “Wow, that was the greatest smoke monster killing frenzy I have ever seen.” Ah well, we can’t always get what we want. The short, fast, and dirty of “The Ghost of Harrenhal” is that the only plots worth caring about are happening in the South of Westeros. The farther North and East the story is set, the more obvious it is that the writers are working overtime to keep the audience’s interest.

*Spoilers Ahead*

The Stormlands

The episode begins with Catelyn Stark negotiating a deal with Renly Baratheon. Renly’s content to let Robb be king of the North, so long as Robb swears fealty to Renly in the same way that Ned Stark swore his loyalty to Robert Baratheon. It’s probably the best deal either party could hope for, so of course it’s all going to go terribly wrong. Melisandre’s smoke baby apparates into Renly’s tent and stabs the man who would be king through the chest. Renly dies. Brienne screams, then cries, then kills a couple of guards who thought she killed Renly. Fearing that they will both be hung for treason, Catelyn convinces Brienne that she must flee in lieu of seeking revenge.

Dawn sees Stannis Baratheon’s fleet closing on Renly’s encampment. Little Finger bursts in on Margaery and Loras Tyrell holding vigil over Renly’s dead body. Margaery orders her brother to saddle their horses so that they, as well as the Tyrell banner men, can flee. We are, however, left with the implication that we haven’t seen the last of Margaery Tyrell. When Little Finger asks if she wants to be a queen, Margaery answers, “No, I want to be the Queen.”

Liam Cunningham (seen above) once thanked me for a compliment I paid him on twitter. True story.

Aboard Stannis’ flagship, Davos Seaworth attempts to confront his king about Melisandre’s smoke baby. Stannis, dour as ever, is hearing nothing of it. Citing the courage to give bad news as a key part of loyalty, Seaworth admits to Stannis that the men fear Melisandre will take King’s Landing from Stannis as easily as he took Renly Baratheon’s men. Reluctantly, Stannis agrees to leave Melisandre behind when they push on King’s Landing. Stannis also assigns Seaworth to command the invasion of the aforementioned city. I coudn’t quite tell if Stannis made the decision in the same way that Tywin Lannister assigned Tyrion to the front lines of his first battle against Robb Stark; the expectation being that he would die. Seaworth has been nothing but loyal, but he also knows that Melisandre is a magic user. If Stannis wins the Iron Throne, Seaworth, who knows that Stannis’ power base rests in sorcery, might prove a liability.

Elsewhere, between the Riverlands and the Strormlands, Catelyn and Brienne try to decide their next step. Brienne wants revenge, but Catelyn advises her against an inevitably suicidal effort. Instead, Brienne offers herself to Catelyn as bodyguard in exchange for a promise that when the time comes, Brienne will get to kill Stannis. It’s actually a rather touching scene to see two of the strongest characters, one literally the other spiritually, exchanging fealty with each other. In that moment the audience can truly understand why the Starks are so beloved by their people.

King’s Landing

Having heard of Renly’s death, Cersei Lannister is positively dripping with hubris. Despite the fact that the Lannisters are now outnumbered on land and sea by Stannis Baratheon’s forces, Cersei is confident in King Joffrey’s plans to deal with a siege of King’s Landing.

Yeah, I said King Joffrey’s plan. And as Bronn points out with his usual aplomb, the plan is bat shit crazy.

After pressing his cousin for information, Tyrion finds out that some combination of the Cersei/Joffrey brain trust has ordered the creation of something called Wild Fire aka Westeros’ version of Greek fire/napalm. And there’s something on the order of 9000 kegs of the stuff inside the walls of King’s Landing. So maybe the Lannisters will repel the invasion, or maybe, as Bronn suggested, they will burn the city around themselves trying to lob exploding Wild Fire projectiles from catapults.

We also learn that the people of King’s Landing are not particularly happy with good King Joffrey’s rule. One particular street preacher lets the audience in on the fact that the people don’t blame Joffrey, they blame Tyrion, the “Demon Monkey” pulling the king’s strings. Ah irony, it’s such a delicious thing. The one person who actually gives a shit about the people of King’s Landing is being written off as the reason for their suffering.

Pyke

Theon Greyjoy is back. In his one scene, he introduces himself to the crew of his ship, the Sea Bitch, like a preening fop. Low and behold, the crew don’t care about him. His first mate reminds him that they are iron islanders and thus accustomed to doing what they like. Translation: perhaps Theon should sack-up and do what he likes as well.

So instead of going to raid fishing villages, Theon decides/is manipulated into attacking a village near Winterfell. Though it’s never said, the implication is that once Bran Stark sends men to aid the village, Theon and his one ship will go besiege Wintefell itself.

I call shenanigans on that.

One sailboat with a crew of 150 men (just guessing based on the size of the ship – also if they don’t have cannon why would they square rig a ship?) can not possibly besiege, let alone capture, a castle. What are they going to do, throw rocks and foul language at Winterfell’s walls?

Winterfell

Bran continues to hold court as Lord of Winterfell. After dealing with pasture problems, word reaches him of the attack on the aforementioned village. Playing into Theon’s “plan” he dispatches 250 men to deal with the incursion. So now Winterfell is vulnerable, I guess. Things make even less sense after Bran talks to the wildling “slave” woman about a dream where the sea floods Winterfell keep. Okay, Bran has a bit of prescience happening if we view the sea as a metaphor for the imminent Greyjoy attack, that’s cool. But then the wildling “slave” confirms what we know from the show’s opening credits, Winterfell is a walled city in the interior of Westeros.

Maybe I’m missing something from not having read the books, but I don’t see what threat one ship full of surly pirates is against a land locked city. Perhaps Theon has some sort of semaphore system that he can use to signal his sister with her 30 ships…so they can all walk inland together?

North of the Wall

Does anybody remember why the men of the Night’s Watch went North of the Wall? I had a serious “oh yeah, that’s why” moment when the Watchmen reminded us that there’s some wilding king who has rallied all the other wildings behind him. Atop some mountain that was settled by the first people who lived in Westeros (narrative infodump warning) the Lord Commander and his rangers decide they need to send a small team of men to kill the wildling king rather than engaging him in pitched battle. So off Jon Snow goes with the rangers to do just that, I think.

Here’s the problem with this plot thread. It seems like the writers are desperate to come up with something for Jon Snow to do. Again, I haven’t read the books, so maybe the powers that be are doing exactly what they should be doing. However, it seems to me that they haven’t locked on to a motivation for Jon Snow that translates from text to television. Last season I knew why the Night’s Watch was important. This season they have spent so much time diddling around with Craster, Sam, Gilly, and dead babies that even though the white walkers are upon them and wildling kings are raising an armies, neither of the two seem very menacing. The entire expedition has the tone of camping trip, rather than an incursion into hostile territory.

So how about this, let’s kill Sam next week. Nothing would raise the stakes better than killing the nicest person on the show.

Qarth

Honestly baby, I want you for your body, not your dragons.

See Daenerys. See Daenerys go to parties. Party, Daenerys, party. Once again, Daenerys spends the episode alternating between confusion and outrage. First, she learns that Robert Baratheon is dead. Then Xaro Xhoan Daxos, the black guy who let her into Qarth, reveals that he is filthy stinking rich and wants Daenerys to marry him. In exchange he will outfit her with men, horses, and ships to mount a campaign against the Seven Kingdoms. Jorah Mormont convinces Daenerys that the men she needs to reclaim the Iron Throne are in Westeros, not Essos. Mormont then adds that she will need only one ship, a ship to carry her home.

So the plan is that Daenerys is going to walk into Westeros, announce to everybody that she has some baby dragons, and then those same people will forget about her father’s insane rule and rally behind her?

I don’t care if it’s a divergence from the novels, but it’s time to either do something very interesting with Daenerys Targaryen or kill her so we can focus on more interesting characters.

Harennhal

The eponymous ghost of Harrenhal turns out to be one of the men that Arya freed from the prison cart. After some talk about the Red God, he offers Arya three lives in exchange for the three that she spared. Arya first asks for the life of the man who was torturing the prisoners. The Ghost delivers it to her at the end of the episode.

The big question is this: will Arya ask for the life of Tywin Lannister. On the one hand he’s the man who saved her, Gendry, and the other prisoners from certain painful death. He’s also the man waging a losing war against her brother and is, indirectly, responsible for the death of her father. Arya statement to him that “any man can be killed” could certainly be construed as an adequate foreshadow of events to come. But Arya’s not stupid, there’s no real point in killing her benefactor without an exit strategy.

The man with no name.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that, as they say, is that. Five episodes down, five to go.