Community Season 6, Episode 12 “Wedding Videography” Review

Community Season 6, Episode 12 “Wedding Videography” Review

“Community” seems stuck.

This season has been a cyclone of recycled ideas, some of them working quite well (Paintball, Honda), while the others served more as a reminder of how great the show once was, and how great it can be when it breaks free of itself and delivers the unexpected instead of new twists on old tales.

” Wedding Videography ” is a combination of two things the show has already done: A wedding episode, and a documentary-style episode, with Abed (Danny Pudi) behind the camera.
It also was a stinker of an episode.

Garret (Erik Charles Nielsen) proposed to Stacy (special guest, Erin McGathy, Dan Harmon’s real life wife) in the middle of Jeff’s (Joel McHale) class, giving us a “Community” wedding outside of the regular cast and players. It’s a good idea! It shifted the focus away from the main cast, in an episode where the main cast continually tried to shift the focus back on to themselves.

In a lot of ways this episode seemed to – spiritually at least – call back to the “Seinfeld” finale. Both episodes were reminders of how horrible the characters in the show are, and both also served as a rude awakening to how the rest of the internal universes of each show view the characters.

The documentary format did allow a bit of this to come through; instead of the focus on the main study group it was easier to see just how self-obsessed all of these characters really are. Framed outside of the group, it successfully showed them as the quite obnoxious wedding guests they actually were.

It’s not much of a shock that they all showed up late to the wedding (even if the timing didn’t seem to really make sense, since they somehow went from thinking they were three hours early to being late), or that they turned the whole ceremony into an inside joke about themselves. These are self-centered, “synergistic” people, as Jeff would say.

The idea of splitting the group up – and that everybody else at the wedding hates them – is not a new one for the group, but it’s the first time the show has really hammered the idea home, but sadly did so poorly. Elroy (Keith Davis) took up a lot of screen time to essentially set up a single joke, Britta (Gillian Jacobs) just danced around, and Annie (Alison Brie) and Frankie (Paget Frewster), while making some humorous dragon names, seemed to serve very little purpose other than to further plant seeds for a Annie/Jeff future.

At the end, it turned out that Garret and Stacy were cousins, and it was none other than Chang (Ken Jeong) that somehow delivered the “Winger” speech at the end and convinced the happily married couple to stay incestuously married. That was weird enough in itself, and it also gave Jeff (and everyone else) a pass on messing up the wedding (even if them being cousins wasn’t really his fault), but also seemed to give the group as a whole a pass for the behavior the show seemed set to condemn from the start of the episode. There were a few more lines on incest, and then credits rolled.

Yup. It was as weird as it sounds, and the episode just didn’t work, resulting in missed opportunities and one of the more disappointing episodes this season. It came and it went and it happened, but that’s about it. Revisiting the documentary format mostly resulted in a few “Jim” jokes from Abed, but putting him behind the camera is one way to deal with the show’s inability to write him this season, it seems. The wedding, which could have been a real moment in showing just how the rest of Greendale views the beloved main characters, ended in nothing but an odd comment on incest.

One episode left. Abed convinces the group to pitch ideas for a seventh season. Hopefully it sends the show out on a much better note than this episode, at least.

Notes & Quotes:
-“Aren’t you still smelling hair?”

-“I’m getting laid!”

-“I lived in New York.”

-“The color black….”

-‘Somebody laughed at that the wrong way.”

-“You are my favorite video game.”

-“If I can it can I give it another name?”

-“It’s like knitting…”

“That was Stacey’s first time!”

-“Now this is a man who knows how to marry his cousin…”

-None of Britta’s default analogies

-“Ugh, so much Jim-ing it.”

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 7 “The Gift” Review

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 7 “The Gift” Review

**Full spoilers for all books and TV episodes.**

People seem really shocked over “The Gift.” Not sure why. Let’s dig into this mostly disappointing episode that’s more coal than anything you’d actually want to get under your tree.

We started with the snow softly falling over Castle Black, as Jon (Kit Harington) got ready to lead an expedition up north of The Wall to try to save the Wildings. He then vanished for the remainder of the episode, but not before Sam (John Bradley) could give him dragon glass, in a “We’ve mentioned this twice this season so it will probably start to be important just like the Stone Men” moment.

Sam and Gilly (Hannah Murray) then buried Old Maester Aemon (Peter Vaughan). The post-episode commentary mentioned this was the first natural death on the show, but it was one that it probably kept a little too in the background (there was some hints here and there), but you had to pretty much know it was coming.

And don’t lie, I know some of you out there jumped with joy at the mention of Egg. I know you did. Back in your seats with those tinfoil hats!

I can’t wrap my head around the rest of the Sam and Gilly stuff, though. They are one of my least favorite (read: hated) romantic pairings on the show, perhaps only trumped by Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson). For a second it seemed the show had decided that one rape scene a season wasn’t enough, but having Ghost come out of literally nowhere (and have him not with Jon…which is also weird) is just one of those “too good for real life we must be watching TV moments.”

Sam does manage to get his dick wet though…?

My bigger problem here is that, while “Game of Thrones” is not shy to dole out violence, it is usually the direct result or consequence of a character’s decision. It’s (almost) always the character’s fault, and while as readers/viewers, we don’t WANT Ned to have his head chopped off, we can directly trace the decisions he made that got him there.

The seemingly random violence toward Sam and Gilly seems different. It could be read as a result of Sam keeping Gilly at the wall, but it seems to be there more to echo Jon’s absence than anything else, which really isn’t fair in a way the show (and source material’s) structure usually is.

We then returned to Winterfell. The show has been falling into the habit (read: bad habit) of lumping areas together and then cutting really small scenes back and forth. It isn’t working. Please stop.

A disheveled Sansa (Sophie Turner) asked Reek/Theon/The Muffin Man (Alfie Allen) for help, picking him for the ever important task of going up and lighting the candle that will save her from all of her doom. It might have been one of the worst decisions in the show since Ned decided that sharpening Ice before going to King’s Landing was a good idea.

Of course, Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) was waiting for Reek in the tower. It’s unclear if the whole thing was a power ploy by Ramsay (it wouldn’t be beyond him), or if he just happened to have a giant feast set up so he could sit there and wait for Reek or Sansa to show up. Leaning toward elaborate ploy.

Sansa did start to get her own power-play booties on, sowing more seeds of discontent in Ramsay over his soon-to-be brother. I just wanted her to press those buttons even more…and become the manipulator we all want her to become. Use the Force, Sansa! Turn off your targeting computer. Feel it inside you!

We paid a very brief visit to Stannis (Stephen Dillane), and there’s really not much to say here beside I totally called it and he is going to sacrifice Shireen (Kerry Ingram). Hello airborne Grey Scale. Moving on to someplace warmer….

On Essos, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Jorah (Iain Glen) got sold into slavery. Or were hired to fight in the pits. Slavery is illegal. But so is the Pirate Bay. Shrug.

The one bit that was especially good here was the slaver’s description of Jorah: I can’t remember how much the show went into his back-story, but Jorah’s whole troubled affairs started when he sold slaves in Westeros, so now being sold as a slave and having the slaver hit really close to the actual truth here had to sting.

And sure. Sure sure sure. Sure. The show did pull a clever little inside joke with fans who pay close attention. The area of land south of the wall but north of Winterfell is called the Gift, and by titling this episode “The Gift,” it made very acute watchers think something was going to happen there.

But nope. Instead it was Tyrion who was in fact the titular gift, running into Dany (Emilia Clarke) earlier than I expected him to. Having her at the opening rounds did feel like a cheap excuse to do something small scale (Tyrion falling off a horse instead of seeing a battle cheap), but show descriptions make it look like the tournament will continue, so it may not have been the cop-out it originally seemed to be.

It’s big…but is it really that big of a surprise? It’s earlier than expected, and it hasn’t happened in the books yet, which means the show is either pulling stuff from the future and ruining it for us poor fools who like the written word, or that nothing will come of their meeting quiet yet.

Daario (Michiel Huisman) also finally called out Loraq (Joel Fry) as being the head of the Harpies, which is the first time the show has made that kind of direct accusation and implication. And it was about time for Dany to realize that being queen meant she was just as trapped as everybody else. Welcome to the real world, Dany girl.

But who will Dany side with? Her lover scorned? Or the best dwarf lover in the 7 Kingdoms? I guess we’ll find out next week in another segment on worst kidnapping attempt ever.

And finally, the hornet’s nest of King’s Landing.

Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) sparred off with the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce). Lady Olenna sparred off with Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen). Lady Olenna may be one of my favorite characters in the show universe of “Game of Thrones,” so the more of her, the merrier, for the most part.

I still have a problem with the handling of the High Sparrow, though. The show is so full of characters that are motivated by something that it is unique for these characters to come up against somebody who is in some ways pure of want. The High Sparrow can’t be bought or reasoned with, and that in some ways makes him untouchable. It also makes him quite dangerous, as even Littlefinger has wants and aspirations that give him some weaknesses.

I just wish he was a little more interesting. The show can’t seem to find a way to actually explain a motivation-less character, and his rise to power, and now ability to jail even Cersei (Lena Headey) is a giant hanging thread. If Cersei helped put him in power, why can’t she remove him? Where did these religious laws come from? How did Cersei not POSSIBLY see this coming?
Little Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) is turning more and more like his mother (and fake-father, actually) every day, willing to go to war to try to free Margaery (Natalie Dormer). Cersie actually had some good advice to give here, having herself wanted to start wars and burn cities to protect her children, and also to see the world take away the people she loves while she stands there powerless to save them.

I’m curious how only-TV people took this. It seemed to be the show had been telegraphing this decently well; but knowing it was coming makes it impossible for me to really say how much of a surprise it was or not. It seemed pretty clear that the breeze couldn’t keep blowing in her favor already, and they already set up Lancel (Eugene Simon), even if he had dropped off the face of the show since season two.

It’s also quite unclear to me when Lancel confessed. It’s not super important in the scheme of things, but it does help determine if the High Sparrow is a power player who was toying with Cersei all along, or if he is really this contrite person that he claims to be.

“Uncle” Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) met up with Myrcella (Neil Tiger Free), who was under no circumstances going to go home with her uncle because he didn’t understand love and she was in love forever and it was real love and she’s not going to go home with him and she’s safe and he needs to leave her alone because TEENAGE LOVE GODDAMMIT.

I read an interesting theory at the start of the season that Cersei faked the whole snake eating the locket thing, and I’m starting to see that theory gain a lot of traction. At least from what we’ve seen, there’s no reason to believe Myrcella is in any kind of harm whatsoever, and that’s just the kind of thing Cersei would do…

For those acute watchers, the show did in fact make mention of Bronn (Jerome Flynn) being poisoned, as he sat in jail across from a den of Sand Snakes.

I’m off two minds of this whole scene: It puts the Sand Snakes in a powerful position, a position that probably rivals that of any other females in Westeros: They are in control of their sexuality, and aren’t afraid to use it against men. But, the Sand Snakes are also such interesting characters and it did seem a little cheap to disrobe one of them so early. It was almost like the show was like: “Well, maybe people will remember this one if she gets naked for Bronn.” Ironically, without looking it up, I couldn’t tell you which of the Snakes it was.

(I did get a kick out of the other two sisters rolling their eyes in the background though).

I’m still very disappointed with how they have been using Dorne this season. Just throwing that out there. Again.

The episode as a whole was a disappointment, and the show is falling into the glacially-slow territory the books occupied during these same arcs. Not much really happened in the hour plus episode, and that’s worrisome this far into the back half of a season. There might be some exciting stuff yet to come, and I say might because I’m honestly not sure how far into the books this season is going to go, but there’s only three episodes left, and while I’m sure there’s some end-game twist left, it’s going to have to be quite something else to save this season from being one of the weaker ones yet.

Notes & Quotes

-“Bastards can rise high in the world.”

-How the fuck did the Storm Crows get to be in Stannis’s keeping?

-“This is the right time and I will risk everything.”

-“All rulers are either butchers or meat.”

-“Lifetime of wealth and power has left you blind in one eye.”

-“…many stop fearing the few.”

-“And more hands.”

-“You’ve always been rather impressed with yourself haven’t you?”

Podcast 83: Special Splatoon Review Edition

We got our hands on an early copy of Splatoon and we have a full hour discussion breaking it down.  Does it live up to the hype and does Nintendo finally give us that sweet, sweet online action that we have been craving? We’ll you’ll have to listen to find out. Or I guess you could just read out written review here: http://www.8bitawesome.com/2015/05/27/splatoon-review/

 

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Splatoon Review

Disclaimer: This review was written based on my review gameplay hosted on separate pre-release servers. The review will be updated when the final version is released and retail servers can be tested.

Splatoon is Nintendo’s first real entry in a genre that has, for the past decade it seems, taken over the entire video game industry. With Splatoon, Nintendo is hoping to add their special Nintendo secret sauce to it  — they hope it will be to the shooter what Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. were to the racing and fighting genres — a mainstream, beginner-friendly entry into a gaming scene that is typically very hardcore.

Nintendo, well known for their family friendly game library, would of course never sully the world’s children with blood and bullets. Their twist on the shooter uses colorful paint and anthropomorphized squid children/skater punks, and the object of the game isn’t to kill your opponents, but rather to paint the ground. Even though it sounds ridiculous, Splatoon is actually one of the most original and unique titles Nintendo has put out in years, and it feels like a breath of fresh air.

Splattershot_003

In fact, nothing describes Splatoon better than the word “fresh.”  Whenever I think about the game, I can’t help but think how absolutely new it feels — the Nintendo who dominated the market with the Wii would never have released a game this bold and strange. Splatoon is a mark in the changed atmosphere at Nintendo, a mark of their desperation to try anything to regain their lost dominance. And it is Nintendo’s first huge attempt to appeal to the western audiences it has always put second behind its homeland of Japan.

And Splatoon isn’t only Nintendo’s first foray into a new genre, but it’s also their first game made with online gaming as a forethought. The game was first announced as online 4-on-4 arena shooter, with the local co-op and single player modes announced later. So, when we were first shown footage at E3 2014, I was blown away that Nintendo was finally going to join Microsoft and Sony in the 21st century by creating a game with an online experience that didn’t feel tacked on.

Splatoon is also the first new IP that Nintendo’s flagship development team, EAD Kyoto, has put out in 13 years. Pikmin, released in 2002, was their last new creation. Although the main characters in Splatoon are just customizable avatars, the 90’s skater-punk style and colorful charm feels both incredibly un-Nintendo, and yet familiar in all the best ways.

WiiU_Splatoon_screenshot_04

So yes, there is a lot that’s new and a lot to be excited about, but how does the game actually play? Does it live up to the hype and deliver on its promises as a fully-fledged, robust online shooter experience?

Well… depends on your definition of fully-fledged. The online held up great (in separate test servers just for journalists using pre-release copies) and I experienced very few problems in my over 10 hours of online play. The character design, level design, and music were charming as could be, and the frenetic gameplay kept me coming back again and again. Despite all this though, there were a few major design choices that prevented Splatoon from becoming the instant classic it was meant to be.

 

Gameplay:

 

At its core, Splatoon is a shooter unlike any other. The main mechanic is to cover any horizontal surface with as much ink as you possibly can, shot from a gun that looks suspiciously similar to a Super Soaker. Ever single square foot of ground that you cover scores you points, while shooting at your opponents doesn’t score you a thing (Ok, that’s kind of a lie… when you shoot an opponent they explode in a burst of your color, which can cover a small patch of ground). Also, in other crazy Nintendo twist, once you lay down ink, you can press a button to turn into a squid and swim at much faster speeds. Swimming in your own colored ink also makes you invisible — you can pop out at the right moment and kill an opponent in a surprise attack. You can also spray walls and swim up them to reach precious high ground, where you can rain ink down on all your enemies. Also, if you end up walking or swimming in enemy ink, your character’s movement is slowed to a crawl and takes slight damage. All these seemingly ridiculous elements lead to a super fast-paced and chaotic territory-control based shooter that is amazingly fun.

The mode that will steal the majority of your time is called “Turf Wars.” It gives you three minutes to cover as much ground with paint as possible in a symmetrical arena. Your team of four “inklings” (the squid/kid avatars) starts in one corner, and your opponent’s team of four in the other. When the timer runs down, the team with the most color on the ground wins. It seems simple enough, and it is — but with over 20 separate weapons, and dozens of pieces of gear that can slightly adjust your stats (from baseball caps to T-shirts to your flashy Converse look-alikes), this mode has a ton of depth.

zlCfzTYHgQ4g2wNMmrThere are sniper rifles if you want to focus on picking off your opponents, or big – but heavy – paint-rollers for you to spread huge swaths of paint quickly and easily. There are automatic weapons like the Splattershot and Splattershot Junior that efficiently spread ink around, but they lack in killing power and accuracy. There are other automatics like the .96 gallon that shoots huge, inkling-destroying globs of paint at a slower rate of fire. Each weapon comes with a specific sub-weapon and special weapon. These cannot be customized or transferred to another weapon set, each sub-weapon and special weapon is tied to a main weapon. Sub weapons range from homing grenades to sprinklers, while special weapons include bubble shields, bazookas, and one where you can even turn into a Kraken.

WiiU_Splatoon_screenshot_13The gear you wear can also change the tide of battle. Each individual piece (you can wear one piece of headgear, one shirt, and one pair of shoes) can have up to four stat boosts. These boosts range from decreasing spawn time after dying, to increasing running speed, to even increasing attack power. These buffs are subtle, but noticeable — and can be stacked if you have multiple pieces of gear with the same ability. The gear and abilities can definitely influence your battles, but won’t ruin matches for those players who are new and haven’t unlocked any good ones yet.

“Turf Wars” is the main mode of the game and it shows, it has been polished so much I feel like I can see my reflection in it. The way it feels to spray ink everywhere and cover the grungy skate parks and metallic, industrial levels with huge globs of neon ink can be described in no other way but pure fun.

Every single match online nets you both experience points and coins to use to purchase all the precious gear and weapons. Experience points will level you up, getting you that much closer to level 10, the arbitrary number Nintendo chose to lock their second and only other online mode behind (for now).

WiiU_Splatoon_323_MultiPlayer_SplatZones_Warehouse01This mode, called “Ranked Battles” is advertised as “hardcore;” it requires more strategy and depth, so n00bs need not apply. In one of a few strange design decisions, not only must you reach level 10, but an undisclosed number of Splatoon players must also reach level 10 as well before this mode is unlocked in the retail version of the game. Ranked Battles has only one mode, but will presumably gain a few more in free patches planned throughout the summer. The one you get at launch is called “Splat Zones” and you essentially have to control (or cover in your ink) one specific portion for 100 seconds.  Because of the small “Splat Zone” you end up interacting with your opponents a lot more — in Turf Wars you can easily hide and paint some corners to earn yourself some points. In Splat Zones, it is kill or be killed. I appreciate the higher focus on combat in Splat Zones, while still involving the core mechanic of painting the arena —unfortunately due to a lack of players on the pre-launch servers, I didn’t get a huge amount of time with this mode.

Both Splat Zones and Turf Wars offer a ton of depth and insanely fast-paced gameplay.  It just makes you feel like a kid, all the way down to the “JUST ONE MORE GAME, MOMMMM” feeling. Each match is so quick and chaotic, yet you really feel like you’ve earned it when you win, or screwed up when you lose. The combination of chaos and strategy hits a perfect note that in many ways mirrors Nintendo’s other hits franchises like Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros.

But unlike Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros., Splatoon focuses on team battles and your victory is also influenced by three teammates. In another strange design choice, Nintendo doesn’t offer any voice chat whatsoever, not even with friends. Voice chat could really elevate the strategy to a whole new level, especially in Ranked Battles. Without it, Nintendo is cutting off a good portion of gamers who like to take their matches a little more seriously. Matchmaking is also arbitrarily strange: you can join friends in online battles, but between each match teams are randomized — so even if you want to team up with a friend, you have a 50/50 chance that they’ll be on the other team. (As a side note, true matchmaking and the ability to create permanent teams of your friends will be coming in one of many promised updates this summer).

Another barrier to strategy is the unfriendly lobby system. You pick your gear and weapon load-out before going online, and any time you want to switch it up or test out a new weapon, the game requires you to back all the way out of online matchmaking. This wouldn’t be a huge issue if Nintendo didn’t lock you in to Matchmaking once you entered. You must either wait until you enter a match and it ends (where you are given the option to return to the main menu) or for the timer to run out in the lobby (because eight players didn’t join in time). Otherwise, you can’t click the home button on the gamepad or return to Splatoon’s main menu without also turning off your Wii U.

My last grievance with Splatoon is a slight lack of content. For a game that’s an arena shooter, there is a notorious lack of arenas. The game comes with five stages at launch, but there are more promised in the aforementioned summer patches. I don’t know if it’s a choice to keep players coming back to Splatoon with regular updates, or a result of the developers rushing to hit a deadline, but five maps feels lacking, even if I surprisingly never found myself growing tired of them.

Finally, I just wanted to quickly mention Splatoon’s single player Cardinal_Rule__01_USenexperience. If you are buying this game for single player, you’re going to have a bad time (unless you enjoyed The Order: 1886, if so, by all means buy Splatoon.) At 4-6 hours of content, it sometimes feels like an extended tutorial. Despite its length, the developers really created a weird, new experience that combines platforming and shooting while slowly introducing you to all of Splatoon’s core mechanics. Each level plays really quickly, most can be beat in around 5 minutes or less. The stages are addicting and fast paced in the same way that multiplayer is — I couldn’t help but finish the single player in one long gaming session. The single player does not water down its difficulty either, later stages and bosses really kept me challenged. Although Splatoon is clearly a multiplayer-first experience, Nintendo really created a tight single-player experience that ultimately left me wanting even more.

 

 

 Verdict:

 

Splatoon’s core gameplay is chaotic and addicting, and packs way more depth than I expected. Despite Nintendo’s inability to fully adapt with the times — and give fans the online features like voice chat and robust matchmaking that we expect in modern online games — I anticipate playing Splatoon for many weeks and months to come. I already put in over 19 hours in just over a week of gameplay — and even with concerns that the game wouldn’t offer enough to justify its full retail price – if you enjoy online multiplayer, “Splatoon” is well worth it.  More content and modes at launch would have been nice, but what’s here on day one will keep you distracted long enough to justify a purchase. And with a ton of free content promised in the coming months, Splatoon could really become another flagship Nintendo title, even if it is held back by its lack of online features and strange Nintendo design quirks.

Final Score TBD after testing launch-version servers

 

Pros

·      Fun, addicting gameplay

·      Challenging and quirky single player campaign

·      Did I mention how much fun and addicting the gameplay is?

·      Actually packs a lot of strategy and depth into both online and offline modes

 

Cons

·      Single player is short at 4-6 hours of gameplay

·      Online modes lack voice chat and proper matchmaking

·      Slight lack of content, only 5 multiplayer stages at launch (more promised in free updates)

Voices of Valyria Episode 17: Game of Thrones “The Gift” Podcast

Jon leaves the Wall, and Sam pays for it. Stannis realizes he should invent Valyria shovels. And Cersei gets a taste of her own medicine. Join in as we discuss everything that happened in the seventh episode of season five, “The Gift.”

As always, we are starting the first half of the podcast with a Spoiler-Free TV only discussion. Spoilers start at ~55:00.

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Community Season 6, Episode 11 “Modern Espionage” Review

Community Season 6, Episode 11 “Modern Espionage” Review

Hopefully “Community” viewers aren’t sick of paintball.

There are some valid concerns, of course. This isn’t the first time “Community” has returned to an idea, and this season especially has at times felt like a remix of best hits from a golden era the show can make referential jokes about but not seem to reach.

So, paintball returns, again. But this time the game has gone underground, fit with a spy theme, a unique custom intro, and of course, fancy suits.

There’s a difference between the show making a joke about doing “paintball to death,” and then actually doing it to death. City College is after Greendale…again. There’s some mysterious ringer…again. Koogler (Mitchell Hurwitz) is back…again. As much as there is new going on, there’s still quite a bit looking back.

And this season of “Community” has continually returned its past, but returning to paintball is more the exception than the rule to the law of diminishing returns. The paintball scenes are as fun as ever, it was great seeing Annie (Alison Brie) and Abed (Danny Pudi) pair up again, and even the Dean (Jim Rash) got an awesome action scene that was pretty perfectly fit to his personality.

Even Kooglar coming back as the paintball dealer (though the show seemed at one point to suggest the ammo was coming from City College, not from the inside) worked better than expected, through the gradual deepening of the character bench, like with the Vicki (Danielle Kaplowitz) and Garrett (Erik Charles Nielsen) opening and ending didn’t really fit in with everything else going on.

It’s also great how the one-note gag from paintball eons ago about the janitors having to clean it all up fed right into the plot. Any instance of pitting the school against the study group for all the havoc they’ve caused over the years is great fuel and a moment of grounding for an other side often ethereal show, and it provided just enough “different” ground to keep things from feeling overwhelmingly similar.

It seemed the show might take another page out of its own book and do a two or three parter, but it resisted the temptation, even though there were some threads it didn’t wrap up this week. The silver gunner is still a mystery, and this was one time this season where the show really could have used more time to keep developing something and it decided against it.

Skepticism aside, “Modern Espionage” proved that going back to the same paint-soaked well for ideas isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and that even if the third time isn’t a perfect charm, it’s still a very enjoyable one.

Notes & Quotes:

-“done it to death”

-Club Club was funny

-lol at the whole ending janitor museum, steamy pipe exhibit especially

-I wanted more paintball! I have questions that need answers!

-“You’re weird at picnics”

-“taken by an indie comic book or horrible tequila”

-“Mischaracterized by the ignorant as parody”

-“I can’t help being a bad ass.”

-“We need intelligence. No references, no call backs.”

-“Are your ready to party the way they do in clubs?”

-“Aladdin.”

-“The first rule of club club is we are not a fight club”

-“That’s the description of every paint ball.”

-“Of course it’s the Indian guy.”

Voices of Valyria Episode 16: Game of Thrones “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” Podcast

Quite a lot to talk about this week. Sansa marries Ramsay…and the results are just as horrible as you might think. Jaimie arrive in Dorne…at the same time as the Sand Snakes. And Arya finally gets to stop washing bodies. Join in as we discuss everything that happened in the sixth episode of season five, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.”

As always, we are starting the first half of the podcast with a Spoiler-Free TV only discussion. Spoilers start at ~42:00.

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Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 6 “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” Review

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 6 “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” Review

*Full book and show spoilers.*

“Sometimes butterflies grow into dragons.” – G.R.R. Martin’s post on this week’s episode, which can be read in full here.

“Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” kicked off with Arya (Maisie Williams), still serving her time in the House of Black and White washing bodies and washing floors and trying to play some lying game that the show hasn’t really done a good job at setting up. Wack! Slap!

She ended up being able to lie eventually — to a little girl on the brink of death – and is rewarded with being shown all of the various masks she can purchase from the Happy Mask Salesmen.

As with most of her scenes this season, the show lingered at the last shot, making you think something else interesting was going to happen. Nope. Just enough to make you somewhat interested in Arya again, but not enough to actually move her forward in any big direction. Did love that ending shot of the whole room of faces, though.

We then returned to the love boat…without a boat. Jonah (Iain Glen) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage).

This arc, for better or for worse…well actually no, for worse, is starting to remind me a lot of the original story in the books. Tyrion walks around…Tyrion gets kidnapped…Tyrion gets kidnapped again….more walking, more sailing, with random bits of talking here and there. BUT, Tyrion’s reflections on Dany (Emilia Clarke) not being a good queen just because she was given magical dragons rings truer and truer every day, and I’m glad somebody in the show is smart enough to see it.

The pairs conversation — and reflection — on fathers was also interesting, given that they both are now fatherless, one by his one actions and one by the actions of others.

The biggest change we’ve seen in Tyrion is that he does seem quite intent on staying alive now, as opposed to the sullen drinking-himself-to-deat-pity-party note he started this season on. The pure fear on his face and terror in his voice when the slavers were about to kill him was amazing acting, to the point I was almost worried they actually were going to kill him right then and there.

Of course, they didn’t, and he was able to talk his way into getting him and Jorah passage back to…Mereen. What a waste of a (second) kidnapping.

(On that note, have we seen the last of Varys (Conleth Hill)?!?)

The editing between these two arcs wasn’t the strongest way to start off the episode, and it felt weird just cutting back and forth between the two of them for a few scenes while avoiding everything else going on.

Time also drags in the House of Black and White. It looks like they may be skipping Arya going blind, which is putting her even closer to the end of her material. It was fun to hear the non-book readers who I watch the show with go back and forth if the faces were going to be worn as masks or if they were going to be magical. They’ll find out!

After being absent last week we returned to King’s Landing. Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) has made it back as well, just in time to fill Cersei (Lena Headey) — who still blames Sansa (Sophie Turner) for the death of Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) — in on the new Starkess of the North who is in the hands of the Boltons.

Of course he leaves out the fact that he was the one who set that whole thing up. Must have slipped his mind!

One of the unique things about Littlefinger is that he (usually) doesn’t get his own fingers dirty. Him leading an army himself… well, I just can’t see him grabbing a sword and actually going to war for anybody. At least we are starting to see a little more of what he is working toward, but this seems mostly like whole cloth spun for the show. And Littlefinger might be selling tickets to that show, but I’m not buying them.

I don’t think book Littlefinger is eyeing the North as much as he is eying Sansa, and the further divergence of these two characters only heightens what he is actually working toward in the books. All that said, everything still seems a bit inconsistent, but he has to have some end game…right? Right?

One of my personal favorite show characters, Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) also returned to King’s Landing, to spar with Cersei and to try to save Loras (Finn Jones). The show is shuffling things around a bit here: Instead of having Cersei put Margaery (Natalie Dormer) on trial directly she’s getting roped in as part of lying on Loras’s behalf (and making his being gay a much larger issue than I ever remember it being in the books). Cersei isn’t going to be enjoying that smile much longer! But, just with the pacing of how things are going, I almost wonder if Cersei may make it out of this season on top, and won’t have to walk through the streets until next season.

Dorne was also absent last week, and we see that despite all the warring and brooding and huffing and puffing and house blowing down of their respective families, Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) and Trystane (Toby Sebastian) actually like each other and want to get married.

“Uncle” Jaimie (Nijolaj Coster-Waldau) has a thing or two to say about that, but so do the fierce and feisty Sand Snakes.

The show is really starting to get into Peter Jackson Hobbit levels of fan fiction stuff here. How cool would it be if the Sand Snakes got into a fight with Jaime? Yeah! That would be cool! Let’s have them show up at EXACTLY THE SAME TIME and DUEL!

It wasn’t *that* cool (The scene just felt weirdly choreographed to me), and it’s a little too tidy how the arrival of both teams lined up perfectly, and way too confidential to be believable in anything except a TV show. Also, please, let’s see Hotah (DeObia Oparei) use his axe soon, mmmkay?

Out of all the plots this season that are getting trimmed, the most disservice seems to be happening to Dorne (well, beside the Iron Islands, but what is cut from the show may never die). There were so many interesting wheels turning in Dorne when it is first introduced in the books, and while reducing the plots is understandable, right now it seems to be simplified down on such a level that it’s removing what made Dorne interesting in the first place. And then we returned to Winterfell, in what is sure to be the most talked about scene of this episode, if not this season.

Before we get to that, just my two cents: I’m shipping Sansa and Myranda (Charlotte Hope), and everything else aside, that’s a fan fiction waiting to happen. It was also probably one of Sansa’s best scenes: Even though what Myranda was saying is true, Sansa let some of that inner strength out and put her in her place.
And then Sansa gets raped by Ramsay. So let’s talk about it.

“Game of Thrones” is fantasy. Unlike Tolkein’s Middle-earth, which is a world that is more escapist and ideal, Westeros is more grounded and dirty. It’s not a place viewers (or readers) should want to live. The problem is that it’s also a mirror to our own reality, despite the setting.

And the reality is that rape happens, and it’s awful. Ramsay’s rape of Sansa is supposed to be uncomfortable. What little softening of his character they’ve done this season is undone, and we’re reminded as to exactly what type of person we are dealing with here.

Look no further than Roose’s (Michael McElhatton) speech last episode. Because Ramsay’s mother didn’t ask for Roose’s permission before getting married he killed her husband and raped her under his dead corpse. This is a world of war, a world full of physical and sexual violence. People watching should react negatively to it, but it also serves as a reminder of humanity’s troubled past and current present.

Just because Westeros is an artistic mirror to our world, doesn’t mean we will like what we see. Rape and sexual assault are still social issues that need to be talked about and addressed. Even the worst parts of humanity need to be discussed and talked about and represented in art; that’s the only way we can hope to get better.

Regardless, it’s still a very dark and depressing note to end an episode on (and a little cheap, too), especially when the camera just sat on Reek for so long it almost seemed that he was actually going to finally lash out and try to stop what was happening.

There’s going to be a lot of talk surrounding this episode, and it’s impossible to remove the discussion of the rape scene from any talk surrounding the show. But all in all, it wasn’t that strong of an episode, and the show is running into pacing issues and also struggling to find interesting peaks in character’s stories that are pretty flat across the source material. It’s a challenge, but it’s one the show has known was coming since the start.

Until next week, when we all sell our hair to buy presents for our loved ones at Christmas in “The Gift of the Magi.” Or just ‘The Gift.” One of the two.

Notes & Quotes:

-“So those villages we were suppose to find?”

-“Doesn’t mean she’s going to be a great queen.”

-“The dwarf lives until we find a cock merchant.”

-“We both peddle fantasies, mine just happen to be entertaining.”

-“I like to improvise.” “that explains the golden hand.”

-“Smell the shit from 5 miles away”

-pillow biters

-Did anybody else catch the Tansy reference? Interesting they would throw it in here now randomly of all places.

Community Season 6, Episode 10 “Basic RV Repair and Palmistry” Review

Community Season 6, Episode 10 “Basic RV Repair and Palmistry” Review

Apparently all this season of “Community” needed was a big hand and an old, dilapidated RV.

But first: Three weeks earlier.

No study room opening. No study table. Hell, almost no Chang (Ken Jeong). “Basic RV Repair and Palmistry” was both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, a constant give and take between the show that people are used to, and the show that has been evolving and growing over the last season.

Bottle episodes aren’t new to “Community,” but unlike the other territory the show has retread this season, this time it decided to actually do something new and fresh with the idea. Abed’s (Danny Pudi) fourth wall commentary is nothing new, but having Jeff (Joel McHale) get fed up with it to the point of outright decrying it, is.

Jeff tends to take Harmon’s voice, and while it’s impossible to write this sentence without using the word show (or this review itself), Jeff’s frustration over Abed hit a new tipping point, and one that while probably won’t be an end to Abed’s character as we know it, it could be the mark or reasoning for the change (or toning down) to his wild side that we’ve seen this season.

The show (sorry!) has been struggling all season with what to do with Abed, but at least here he’s given a gimmick that works. It’s always great when the show breaks form and fiddles with itself, and the jumping back and forth gag was a great play on form.

This week was also the group bonding story this season has so desperately needed, and probably the best example yet of the whole group (including the newcomers) bonding together nicely and working off each other quite well. These are the stories that made the study group a true…well, community, and hopefully the types of stories that will knit this new group of vagabonds together.

Ultimately though, it was Abed, and his inability to connect with people, that helped him connect with the Dean and save the day. (It was also Abed who had to stop Annie (Alison Brie) and Frankie (Paget Brewster) from being crazy earlier in the episode as well). Abed pulled it out in the end(even if he needed Frankie’s help), with a speech about the power of holding and letting go. And it’s hard not to read that as an overall metaphor for this season: Fans have held on to “Community” so strongly, that even after it was cancelled, it wasn’t let go. Harmon wasn’t able to let the series go and came back after leaving, but eventually, at some point, the show will have to let go. Everybody will have to let go of “Community.”

It wasn’t a perfect episode, but it’s one of the better entries this season, and just had the feel-good resolution that’s hard to decry. There was a soft but sure heart here, with a “Community” twist, and that’s something worth holding on to.

Notes & Quotes

-Is this really how RV (or car) batteries work?

-“I’m pretty sure the answer is no.”

-“I wonder what they are talking about.” “God who knows, they are sealed off behind this soundproof vinyl.”

-“Darn it i want to hijack this RV but I’m foiled but its impenetrable post-2001 security measures.”

-“I’m yelling even louder so you have to stop.”

-“We’re all gonna die.”

-“I’d like to establish this moment…”

-“Insert dialog here about you dropping the 4th wall shtick.”

-“It’s just sitting there in Memorial’s Day’s Shadow like a military Hanukkah.”

-“Season two you mean?”

-“Can I ask that it not be a show about you saying its a show because…dumb.”

-“Most conventional weapons don’t require electricity”

-“Are you going to eat me first?”

-I’m an adult, and you can’t make me not cry>”

-I can’t cry anymore unless someone brings me a Pedialyte?

-lol, people chess

-“That’s a really stupid question Annie. Obviously something fell off the roof, the question is what.”

-“What’s wrong with me if that’s hot?”

-“And I had to Christopher Nolan it.”

-“I’m space elder Britta…what are you guys talking about?”

-I almost thought they killed off the Dean, and Rash tweeted that there was actually discussion about it.

-Up next: More paintball. I’m very, very hesitant to them returning to pinball again, but the spy thing just might work. Also interesting that there’s two episodes up after paintball. Curious…curious.

Voices of Valyria Episode 15: Game of Thrones “Kill The Boy” Podcast

Dany has tough choices this week. Jon has tough choices this week. Sansa has tough choices this week! What is this, “Better off with the Boltons?” Of course not, it’s “Game of Throne,” and everybody always has tough choices. Join in as we discuss everything that happened in the fifth episode of season five, “Kill the Boy.”

As always, we are starting the first half of the podcast with a Spoiler-Free TV only discussion. Spoilers start at ~42:00.

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