Peter Dinklage Archive

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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.


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Television Review/Recap: Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 4

Last week I saw a snarky tweet that said listening to people talk about Game of Thrones is the new listening to people talk about Lost. Before Sunday night’s episode, it seemed like nothing more than sour grapes. After watching Episode 4, “Garden of Bones” I guess I can see where they are coming from, at least on one particular point. Anyway, my take away for this week has less to do with smoke demons and more to do with the fact that the smallest people on this show are among its best actors.

*Spoilers ahead*

Like last week, we shall recap via geography.

Riverlands Battlefield

After two weeks of relative absence from the story, the episode opens in the aftermath of another successful battle for Robb Stark. The fighting itself is implied rather than shown (budgets and all that), but it’s quite clear that Robb is kicking ass and taking names. A conversation with a battlefield triage nurse (or whatever they are called in Westeros) yields information of much greater importance. Robb has zero endgame for this war. He doesn’t want to sit on the Iron Throne, nor does he have plans for anybody else to claim it. It opens the door to an interesting question: Did Robb Stark go to war for a good reason? Sure King Joffrey is a monster, and most of the Lannisters are dicks, but did justice demand the War of Five Kings?

Harrenhal

Harrenhal has turned into the Lannister version of Andersonville prison. Arya and Gendry find themselves stuffed in a pig pen where once a day the Lannisters haul somebody off for an interrogation and a modified Orwell style execution. Each night, Arya sleep talks her way through a litany that names the people complicit in her father’s death. After a few days in the camp, Gendry gets picked to face the terminal inquisition. It’s the ultimate moment of irony when Tywin Lannister arrives at Harrenhal and puts a stop to the wasteful executions. The Lannister patriarch also recognizes Arya as a girl. Arya admits that she is disguised as a boy because it’s safer to travel that way. Forthwith Tywin claims she’s smarter than most of his men and puts her to work as his cup bearer.

I know I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: Maisie Williams is a fantastic actress. If she was just playing Arya as a survivor, that would probably be enough to win me over. Yet she continues to pull off the early onset PTSD that the writers are working into her dialogue.

King’s Landing

Things get ugly in King’s Landing. Joffrey spends most of his screen time caressing a crossbow the same way Gomer Pile caressed his rifle.

First he blames Sansa for her brother’s victories. In front of the court he has her stripped and beaten. Only Tyrion’s timely intervention stops the spectacle from going any farther. In doing so, Tyrion reminds Joffrey that the Mad King did what he pleased, and it didn’t end well for him. As Tyrion helps Sansa out of the throne room he asks her if she still wants to marry Joffrey. Bruised and humiliated Sansa answers that Joffrey is her one true love. To which Tyrion replies that Sansa might outlive them all.

Shortly thereafter Bronn suggests to Tyrion that Joffrey might be more manageable if he wasn’t pent up with teenage hormones. Bronn also wins the best one liner of the episode with the line, “There’s no cure for being a cunt.”

Heeding Bronn’s words, Tyrion sends a couple of whores to the king’s chamber. And that’s when things get creepy again – way worse than Theon Greyjoy deedling his sister creepy. Light girl on girl spanking, at the behest of Joffrey, turns to belt whipping, and then morphs into a beat down with a staff. All the while Joffrey, expertly played by Jack Gleeson, watches and smiles. The little bastard oozes sadism at every turn. Again, it’s a combination of brilliant writing and expert casting.

The final story of note within King’s Landing involves Tyrion’s ongoing battle against Cersei. Cersei, absent from the episode, sends her cousin/lover with a warrant ordering Maester Pycell’s release from the Black Cells. Yet she does so late at night and after a roll in the hay. Whip smart as ever, Tyrion deduces that his cousin is Cersei’s new lover and threatens to go to the king with that information unless the Lannister brat starts informing on Cersei. It’s another brilliant power play from Tyrion, and more top form acting from Peter Dinklage.

Essos

I’m going to be honest here. I really don’t care about the plight of Daenerys Targaryen. I find Emilia Clarke a rather boring actress whose range is limited to being stoic or pitching a temper tantrum. Acting alongside Jason Momoa last season brought out a bit more depth to her personality, but now all she has is that tedious yes-man aka Smithers with a sword. After three weeks of watching Daenerys do nothing, I’m just not invested in the “Mother of Dragons” story arc. This week did nothing to change that.

Daenerys and her motley crew happen upon the city of Quarth. However the city fathers, locally known as The Thirteen, won’t let them in until they see one of Daenerys’ dragons. Daenerys pitches a fit, threatening to burn the city down when the dragons are fully grown. Naturally The Thirteen tell her to bugger off. But then one of The Thirteen decides they should come in; so they do. How very exciting.

The Stormlands

Little Finger arrives in the Stormlands and begins doing what he does best: duplicitous grovelling. First he approaches Renly Baratheon, who tells him to get bent. Though Little Finger does hint that with a few friends in the palace, Renly might find the gates of King’s Landing open to him. In her only scene of the episode, Queen Margaery also tells Little Finger to get bent. In fairness, he was trying to pump her for courtly gossip relating to Renly’s suspected homosexual leanings. Finally, Little Finger arrives in the tent of Catelyn Stark, who uses a knife to tell him to get bent. He does however extend Tyrion’s offer to Catelyn: give back Jamie and get Sansa and Arya in exchange. Baelish also returns the, alleged, remains of Ned Stark as a show of good faith. Though I suspect they could be anybody’s remains given how adamant Cersei was about refusing any accommodation to the Starks.

Meanwhile on the war front, Stannis arrives to have a little chat with his brother. The brothers Baratheon trade insults until Stannis issues an ultimatum demanding Renly’s surrender before the next sunrise. Creepy red haired lady also manages to sneak in a few references to the lord of light, just for good measure. With an army of one hundred thousand men behind him, Renly sees little reason to take his brother seriously.

Later that night Stannis orders Davos Seaworth to smuggle Melisandre, the creepy red haired lady, ashore – presumably into Renly’s camp. Apparently, she is some sort of super weapon. It didn’t make much sense until she got naked (wait for it), showing herself to be spontaneously pregnant (wait for it) and then gave birth to the smoke monster from Lost (there it is).

The Bottom Line

I’ve had my fair share of “Holy shit, I can’t believe they did that” moments while watching Game of Thrones. However, I think the smoke monster baby was my first genuine “What the fuck was that?” moment. Bearing that in mind, I think there’s only one question left to ask, do we get a shadow monster killing spree next week?


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Television Review/Recap Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 3

Coming up next on E! "At Home with the Lannisters"

Game of Thrones’ third episode, “What Was Dead Can Never Die” does two things. First, it reminds the audience that women are power players in the Seven Kingdoms. Second, it dares us to ask who is playing whom within Westeros’ various intrigues.

Let’s recap via geography.

*Spoilers Ahead*

The Wall

As foreshadowed last week, Craster ejects the men of the Night’s Watch from his camp. Lord Commander Mormont’s responds to John Snow’s indiscretion as a lesson in the hard nature of life north of the wall. As the men pack up their camp, Sam all but professes his love to Gilly as he gives her his mother’s thimble. I couldn’t help but smile at the naive innocence of the gesture. Yet we shouldn’t forget that this isn’t the sort series where good things happen to nice people.

Winterfell

The episode’s quick stop in Winterfell reaffirmed through denial that which we already know via Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons: magic is returning to the world. No longer a subject for speculation, Bran Stark’s “dreams” are contextualized as a manifestation of some supernatural relationship between him and his dire wolf. Maester Luwin, an accomplished scholar of the arcane and occult, reminds Bran that while there used to be magic in the world, it has long since vanished.

Is it the truth, or does the Maester have an agenda? Perhaps he wants to protect Bran from the power that magic can offer. Imagine for a moment the righteous fury of a crippled wizard whose energy is fueled by frustration and resentment.

The Iron Islands

So, we're cool, right?

Theon Greyjoy wastes no time confronting his sister over their grope fest from the previous episode. Yara responds to his conniption by stating that she wanted to see what sort of man he was. Before Theon has a chance to respond to yet another emasculating comment from his family, their father announces plans to attack the north while the Starks and Lannisters fight in the Riverlands. Yara is given command of 30 ships and the most important targets of the campaign, including Winterfell. Theon is relegated to command of one ship intended to harass fishing villages. In working through this power triad, the episode offers a bit more clarification on the relationship between Theon and Balon Greyjoy. I still think that exposition would have been more useful last week, but at least it happened.

The prodigal Greyjoy then finds himself choosing between his family of blood and his family of circumstance. We’re led to believe that Theon is siding with his father. First he burns a letter he wrote warning Robb Stark about Balon’s plans to attack the north. Then, he bends a knee to his father before a salt water baptism into the faith of the Iron Islands’ patron deity “The Drowned God”. So is this a story about Theon wanting some approval from daddy at any cost? Or is it a set-up for a double cross that will prove Theon’s loyalty to the Starks?

The Stormlands

Catelyn Stark arrives in the court of Renly Baratheon on the heels of a tournament. The final round of this battle sees Brienne of Tarth, a seven foot tall female warrior, triumphant over Loras Tyrell, brother to Margaery Tyrell, who is the new wife of “King” Renly Baratheon. As a reward for her victory, Brienne is named to Renly’s Kingsguard.

Renly then welcomes Catelyn into his court as an emissary of “King” Robb Stark, despite his brother-in-law’s objections. Renly offers Catelyn quarters before going to pray. Prayer, as it happens, is code for gay sex with Loras. That’s right folks, more incest! At least this is only the political sort. Still, my mind was filled with flashbacks to The Tudors as I imagined a season long plot arc that saw Natalie Dormer reprising the role of an ignored queen.

Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Instead, Margaery admits to Renly that she knows about his orientation. She further suggests calling Loris in to the bedroom when their attempt to consummate the marriage fails. “You are a king,” she repeats to Renly. Rather than act as a victim of gender politics a la Cersei Lannister, Margaery is actively working with Renly to retain her new found station. Kudos to the writers for taking this character in a genuinely unexpected direction.

The Kingsroad

While the Watch recruits sleep, Yoren and Arya talk about how death haunts a person through obsession. Arya’s comments on seeing Cersei, Joffrey, and Sansa presiding over her father’s execution evoke a genuine feeling of PTSD from young Maisie Williams. Then the sound of horns and riders, in the form of last week’s promised Lannister reinforcements, shatters the tranquility of the scene.

In the battle that ensues, Yoren as well as a number of Night’s Watch recruits die trying to repel the Lannister guards. Arya and Gendry both survive the ordeal only to be captured. Gendry himself seems ready to confess his identify rather than watch the remaining captives be put to the sword. But it’s Arya who speaks first. She points to one of the dead, who just happens to be in close proximity to Gendry’s bull head helm, naming him as Gendry. At least Arya’s alive, but now the only person who knows she’s the daughter of Ned Stark is the bastard son of Robert Baratheon. Not exactly an actionable position when one is under the watch of Joffrey’s goons.

King’s Landing

Once again, Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey manage to make the Lannisters look as well adjusted as the Kardashians. To ensure he survives his tenure as Hand of the King, Tyrion seeks to test the loyalty of the Small Council. Tyrion constructs three scenarios that involve marrying off Myrcella Baratheon, Cersei’s only daughter, to a different noble house. He tells one story to Pycelle, another to Little Finger, and a third to Varys, swearing all three to secrecy. It’s a scene of deliciously cold served revenge when Cersei confronts Tyrion with the story he told to Pycelle: that Myrcella would be sent to Dorn, just as she was sent to Robert Baratheon. In using his own niece against his sister, Tyrion finally gets to punish Cersei for all the injustices she has heaped upon him.

With Pycelle in a black cell, Varys and Tyrion share a drink. It’s a cordial moment, but not one that should be mistaken for trust. Despite the fact that Varys pulled strings to see Shae assigned to Sansa Stark as a handmaiden, rather than working in the kitchens as Tyrion initially planned, the eunuch still holds that particular leverage over Tyrion. Even if Varys has no ambitions of his own, Tyrion’s lover makes for an impressive insurance policy should the Hand decide to swat the Spider.

The Bottom Line

There’s nothing I love more than intrigue. However, I have it on good authority that people also like action. This is the second episode in a row that’s extensively talked about Robb Stark’s war but shown nothing it. If next week’s focus remains on politics, then Game of Thrones is going to start treading into Battlestar Galactica (the good one) territory. I don’t have a problem with that, and I suppose HBO doesn’t either since the series has already been picked up for a third season. Yet the fact remains, if you want to have a show about war, then from time to time you need to depict that war in concrete terms.


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Television Review/Recap: Game of Thrones Episode 2: The Night Lands

One does not threaten Tyrion Lannister.

Summary Judgement: “The Night Lands” is a strong episode that spends most of its focus on Arya Stark and Tyrion Lannister, with an occasional jaunt to Theon Greyjoy’s old stomping grounds and a trip across the Narrow Sea.

*Spoiler Alert*

Part 1 – Recap

““The Night Lands” begins north of the wall. There’s no real action between the men of the Night’s Watch and the looming wildling/white walker threat. Instead, the audience is treated to an anthropology lesson within Craster’s incestuous/polygamist village. Gilly, one of Craster’s pregnant daughter-wives, approaches Sam and Jon Snow with a request for protection and freedom from her father-husband. The girl hints at some sort of enigmatic fate if her child is born male. Though Sam is sympathetic to her request, Jon refuses to hear anything on the subject. The end of the episode sees Jon investigating a male baby abandoned in the woods only to be found by some sort of white giant monster thing.

Events in King’s Landing focus primarily on Tyrion with a brief appearance by Cersei and Little Finger. Upon returning to his room in the palace, Tyrion finds Shae and Lord Varys having an eerily pleasant conversation. The defacto Hand of the King confronts the spymaster, informing him that unlike Ned Stark he knows how the game is played. For those who don’t recall, Tywin Lannister, the actual Hand of the King and patriarch of the Lannister clan, forbade Tyrion from bringing his whore with him to King’s Landing. The situation is left at an impasse as Varys responds to Tyrion’s threat to have him thrown into the sea with a colourful sailing metaphor.

Exercising his power as Hand of the King, Tyrion then proceeds to fire the previous Lord Commander of the City Guard, much to Cersei’s outrage. In place of the man who betrayed Ned Stark, Tyrion appoints his sell-sword Bronn to the position. During her confrontation with Tyrion over Bronn’s promotion, Cersei reveals that it was not she who ordered the execution of all of King Robert’s bastards, but Joffrey. Cersei and Tyrion also trade a few insults on how the latter’s life was not worth the death of their mother.

Little Finger’s role in this episode is so small as to almost escape notice. Having witnessed the death of a baby at the hands of Joffrey’s thugs, one of his courtesans won’t stop crying (I think it was Ros from up north, but it’s been so long who can remember these passing details). So Lord Baelish tells Ros(?) a story about how his women are “investments” subject to any imaginable depravity of a paying customer. It’s possibly the most creepy straighten up and fly right speech ever.

Maisie Williams: a child actor who can actually act.

On the Kingsroad, two riders from the Kingsguard catch up with the convoy containing Arya Stark and Gendry Baratheon. Arya dives into a ditch, fearful that the men are after her. In doing so she tips her hand to Gendry. Later in the episode Arya reveals to Robert’s bastard that she is in fact Arya Stark. Gendry almost blushes when it occurs to him that he’d pissed in front of a high born lady.

Elsewhere, Theon Greyjoy returns home to the Iron Islands in search of his father’s support for Robb Stark’s war against the Lannisters. After accidentally getting to third base with his sister en route to the castle, Theon gets the verbal equivalent of a bitch slap from his father who sees his son as nothing more than a Stark dandy. Lord Balon then burns Robb’s request for an alliance. Balon then calls upon Yara, Theon’s sister, as the leader of the Iron Island’s military forces; a force that would not be directed against the Lannisters.

Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys, her dragons, and her followers are still lost in the Red Waste. Hopes are dashed as one of her reconnaissance riders returns headless. Then one of the Dothraki women sounds off about souls and mysticism.

Meanwhile “King” Stannis Baratheon has taken to recruiting pirates into his army via Davos Seaworth. Stannis spends much of his screen time lamenting the fact that his younger brother Renly has filched 100,000 men who would otherwise be under his command. Meanwhile that red haired woman (Her name is Melisandre but I don’t think anybody has actually said it in the show) suggests that Stannis shag her rotten on a giant Settlers of Westeros board give himself over “fully” to the new one true god.

Part 2 – Criticism

Though I’ve never read the Song of Fire and Ice novels, I’ve heard that George R. R. Martin loves adding new characters to the story. This is problematic for a television adaptation. Unlike Heroes, Game of Thrones seems to have a good handle on its sprawling cast. Rather than giving everybody five minutes, the series is being efficient in focusing on the relevant stories. Because, really, do we need to see Caitlin Stark for two minutes while she rides to Renly Baratheon’s fortress? Do we need more of Bran as an underage bureaucrat? I think not.

Let’s talk Lannisters for a moment. There’s little room for doubt that Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey have earned their top billing in the series. Consider that Tyrion Lannister’s exchange with Varys was more important than it seemed. To my recollection, this was the first time that the imp has ever been truly out manoeuvred by another character. Similarly, Queen-Regent Cersei has proven herself adept at being out flanked by the actions of her sadist son: first in his execution of Ned Stark and more recently with his hunt for Baratheon bastards. Yet where outrage and counter plots could well be expected, both characters have leaned more toward vulnerability. Headey and Dinklage seem to have taken that one step farther in conveying, dare I say, a degree frailty through their acting. That said, were I in Westeros, I would not so much as breathe in the wrong direction of Cersei Lannister.

Theon gets -2 on all charisma rolls for being way too smarmy.

Also on the subject of Lannisters, as Cersei and Jamie have made incest a bit of a moot point within the series, I won’t bother waxing poetic on Theon Greyjoy’s advances toward his sister. Well maybe just one thing: nine years might be a long time, but it’s not that long of a time when the object of affection is a sibling. On a positive note, Alfie Allen has always done a marvelous job in playing Theon as an upstart who regularly forgets his place within the world. Watching Patrick Malahide as Balon Greyjoy ruthlessly emasculate his son was a welcome piece of hubristic comeuppance.

My only complaint rests within Daenerys Targaryen’s plot point. It is the exception to the general rule that Game of Thrones is good with efficiency in storytelling. Rather than witnessing a fit of histrionics that did nothing to get the would-be Khalessi out of the Red Waste, I would have preferred to see an extra two minutes spent clarifying the relationship between the Greyjoys and the Starks. Maybe that got explained last season, but it’s been a while and I shouldn’t have to look these things up on a Game of Thrones’ Wikipedia page. Say nothing for the troublesome fact that the series is playing with issues orbiting the Dothraki and race with all the aplomb of Edgar Rice Burroughs and his treatment of the Green Martians vs the Reds.

Bottom line: It’s a mostly good episode with some very strong acting from the principle cast. There’s not a lot of plot movement, but this early on in the season it is still a game of catch-up more than anything else.


2

The Daily Shaft: The Knights of Badassdom: The Only Summer Movie I Need To See

I know what people are saying, “What about the Avengers? You’re not looking forward to the Avengers?” I suppose I am, a little. With respect to Joss Whedon’s upcoming superhero ensemble, I’m more anxious than I am excited. The truth is that the trailers for Avengers combined with Marvel’s recent track record in movies such as Thor and Iron Man 2 fill me with less “Shut up and take my money.” and more “Wow, that looks cool, but I hope it doesn’t suck.” So what’s a nerd to look forward to if they’re not giddy at the prospect of Avengers or Battleship?

Submitted for your approval: The Knights of Badassdom.

What is it?

The Knights of Badassdom is the latest from actor/writer/director Joe Lynch. Fans of the television series Holliston are no doubt familiar with Lynch’s acting. Lynch also directed 2007’s direct to DVD slasher flick Wrong Turn 2: Dead End.

The story of this movie centers on a group of LARPers (Live Action Role Players). In an attempt to raise the spirits of their recently dumped friend Joe (Ryan Kwanten), Hung (Peter Dinklage) and Eric (Steve Zahn) arrange to have their friend shanghaied from his life, and brought to a weekend filled with heroism, questing, and leveling up on life.

Of course things go a bit wrong when staying in character results in a blood sucking succubus being summoned from beyond the veil.

Why do I want to see it?

As if you even need to ask? It’s an independently produced comedy about live action role play. Do I have to draw you a picture?

Not good enough, we want more.

Okay. It stars Peter Dinklage, who as Tyrion Lannister is the best part of Game of Thrones, Danny Pudi, who as Community’s Abed Nadir made ‘going meta’ a common expression within the world of television criticism, and Summer Glau, everybody’s favourite fugitive from the Alliance/terminator.

We’re still not convinced.

Fine then, consider the potential for going meta within this movie. Each of the actors is going to be playing a character, who, either willingly or begrudgingly, is going to be playing another character within the confines of the role play weekend. How often does that happen on the big screen without descending into the tired cliché of a movie within a movie?

Then there’s the immediate nerd cred that this movie earns for setting its story within a LARPing weekend. Without knowing anything about the plot, save for what I saw in the trailer, I know that this movie is being made by people who are sufficiently invested in nerd culture that they feel confident bringing LARPing into the mainstream. At the same time, the supernatural element of the story suggests that there is more at hand than a vanity project indented to edify a specific niche of fandom.

And if we assume the trailer to be an honest portrayal of the movie, Knights seems to “get it” with respect to nerd culture and inclusivity. Female LARPers don’t look to be flagrant objects of fetishism. People with physical and mobility disabilities are still included as prominent players within the ensemble. In trailer form, Knights embodies the egalitarian world that nerds would build if they were in charge of the planet.

Shut up and take my money; when does it come out?

There’s no hard and fast date yet on this movie. The movie’s website states a very general release of “2012”. IMDB lists the movie’s current status as in post-production. The best guess from the internet seems to be a release between today and August. Sufficed to say, I will be keeping a close eye on this one.

Head over to The Knights of Badassdom’s website for future updates. Now for your viewing pleasure, here is the movie’s trailer.