Category Archives: Game of Thrones Reviews

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 10 “Mother’s Mercy” Review

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 10 “Mother’s Mercy” Review

***Full book and show spoilers. You’ve been warned!***

Yup, I know, I’m late.

Quite late. Blame E3. Blame me. But, ten weeks ago I started this, and I’m going to finish it.

The finale of season 5 of “Game of Thrones” started with probably the most cock-tease of cock-tease moments the show has ever done. Let’s just throw Benjen (Joseph Mawle) in the ‘previously on’ section! Let’s see just how much fire we can light under those tinfoil hats! Book readers will go nuts! NUTS I TELL YOU. LET’S DO IT.
Alas, we got nothing more than Benjen-blue balls. Le sigh.

The episode kicked off with Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and the Great Thaw of 2015, no doubt brought about by the Kentucky-Fried Shireen (Kerry Ingram) incident from last week. In a not-so-surprising turn, half of his men have left him, probably equally afraid that he might decide to just start throwing ANYBODY on the fire in hopes of stopping the cold. Stannis also loses Selyse (Tara Fitzgerald), who hung herself. (Argument over if hanging or being burnt to death is a worse day to die in the comments only, please). Team Stannis the Mannis is dropping like flies.

Melisandre (Carice van Houten) finally is starting to realize that she might be wrong, and also decided to get the hell out of dodge. Hi ho Shadowfax! Take me away from this loser!

The more interesting thing here is how the show handled this. D&D went on spin control last week around Stannis and the great burning, but only an episode later the show swung back and punished him for the mistakes he made. It seems to lessen that blow when the creators feel the need to come out and address everything that happened…only for the show to right itself the next episode. Let the show do the talking for its own story…and stop giving the silly weekly outrage cycle fuel for its own fire.

The three northern plots also finally lined up, with Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), Stannis, and Sansa (Sophie Turner) all running around doing THINGS during the Battle of Winterfell.
It was (AGAIN) needlessly silly to have Brienne sit outside that tower and wait for Sansa to light the flame, especially when it’s quite clear that my head canon of the whole lighting the tower plot being another one of Ramsay’s (Iwan Rheon) cruel games is much cooler than it actually being a thing from Brienne.

Either way, we got a bit of the Battle of Winterfell, only for the show to skip most of it and cut to the aftermath. Brienne (who, I called weeks ago) finds Stannis, and kills him.

Or does she? It was the first of the show’s sloppy and needless cut-away shots, trying to use some fakery to build up interest in next season. Did Stannis die or not? What happened to Brienne? WE WON’T KNOW FOR A YEAR. Or maybe they can’t tell us yet. Either way, it’s left unresolved and just felt cheap…especially when the show then goes on to do it a few more times…

Like with Sansa. I’m a little sad to see Myranda (Charlotte Hope) go, as that kills my shipping of her and Sansa, but is there any reason to leave the viewer hanging over if Sansa and Reek (Alfie Allen) successfully land in a giant snow bank? They aren’t going to somehow die from that fall. Again, it’s sloppily building up tension where there isn’t a need for it. They’ll land. We know they’ll land. Let’s not be coy.

The show then jumps (and doesn’t make us wait a year to see the landing!) to Arya (Maisie Williams) and Trant (Ian Beattie), who apparently also enjoys beating up on little girls, aside from just fucking them. He is still coming off as such a one dimensional and rushed character, but the show needed a way to try to remind people why he is bad and deserves to die, I guess.

Of course, it was Arya wearing a mask, but it was a little disappointing that they went for the shock of having her disguised instead of going into how the masks work. There still seems to be a hung jury from non-bookers if the masks are just magical or actually the skin of dead people…and that’s somewhat of an important point for the show to leave unexplained. The way they had the masks slip on and off was a cool effect, and then Arya went blind, further finishing exactly how I’ve been predicting her plot to go down. Go me! I win a half-moon cookie.

Oh Dorne. Oh, my sweet, sweet, sweet Dorne. It’s one thing to take away a plot where the Dornish try to crown Myrcella (Neil Tiger Free) queen, but it’s a whole other ball of wax to then make them try to kill her instead.

Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Myrcella leave on a boat, but not before Myrcella gets a kiss of death from Ellaria (Indira Varma). Those snakes and their poisonous bites.

Jaime hasn’t learned anything from his sister apparently. She told Twyin (Charles Dance) of their incest right before he died. Sure, I thought for a second it was going to be Jaime that was going to die, but nope. That would be too interesting for show-Dorne to do.

Oh, and of course, because this is sloppy Thrones, we had another mysterious cutaway. More on that whole Myrcella being poisoned thing next season! And now…frizzies at 11.

The show then jumped to a Dany-less Mereen, where Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), Jorah (Iain Glen), and Daario (Michiel Huisman) squabbled over exactly what to do with the Mother of Dragons gone.

It was weird (though there seemed to be a few hidden meta jabs, given how the characters kept talking about how some of them shouldn’t even be here at this moment), mostly because I don’t see why anybody would really care about Grey Worm, at least enough to leave him in charge.

Of course, we did get a little drop-in from Varys (Conleth Hill), and while it wasn’t the shocking drop-in from the novels, it did give us a little hint at where the show is taking Tyrion. Who could possibly be smart enough to fix this mess? Tyrion is!

Meanwhile, somewhere in the middle of Green Greens, Dany (Emilia Clarke) is with Drogon (CGI), and SOMEHOW a whole giant khalasar sneaks up to her. She drops a ring…and then the show gives us…ANOTHER silly cliffhanger. Hazah! Sigh.

In King’s Landing, Cersei (Lena Headey) finally confessed, but denied the incest and the other really meaty bits that would get her into big trouble. She had to atone before her trial though, leading to the Great Walk of Nudey-dum.

Cersei’s naked walk was long, but rightfully so. It isn’t suppose to be easy to watch, and I’m really curious how people will feel about her character now. Almost all of the bad decisions have been (directly or indirectly) the results of Cersei’s actions, and while many characters in the world get death, instead Cersei is stripped of literally everything and laid bare before both the audience and her entire kingdom. Some may say it’s a fate worse than death, but it’s an interesting figurative (and literal) stripping of her character. In a world where characters are often punished for their actions, I still find it puzzlingly interesting that this is the retribution that Cersei is given from Martin.

At the end, of course, in the show’s worst kept secret, the Mountain comes back as Ser Robert Strong (not sure who is playing him?), and she vows her revenge. Cut to next season!

And last in the episode, but probably most talked about: Jon (Kit Harington) at the Wall.

The awful Benjen cock-tease ended up just being a reminder of who the character was, so Oly (Will Tudor) could use the name of one of the book’s most mysterious loose ends to lure Jon out and kill him. Kill him dead. For the watch!

Of course, the show seems to have really tipped its own hand here, with Mel showing up at the wall right at the right time. Sure, she looks defeated, and she isn’t used to being wrong, but she knew that she had to burn Shireen for some reason…maybe she just had the wrong person.

Harrington has assured the world that he won’t be coming back next season, and there’s been so much ink over this already, but here’s pretty much what I see the options as:

-Mel brings him back to life. (or he comes back somehow)

-He warg-ed.

-He’s actually dead.

Again, it seems all the more likely that it’s the former, given the show making sure to have Mel be there at just the right time. It’s also worth noting that in the books Mel and Shireen are still at the Wall, so I’m guessing in the books the burning will play out like that: Jon dies, and Mel uses Shireen to bring him back. The show is adapting that a little bit, but for some reason seemed to make it more Stannis-centic. Maybe we’ll find out in “The Winds of Winter.”

And with that cliffhanger, we wrap season 5. Yup, it’s the same cliffhanger book readers have been arguing over for years, but it also came with a bunch of unneeded smaller cliffhangers that made everything feel a bit cheap.

It didn’t really help the show finish strong, and season five ended up being one of the weakest (read: maybe the worst, but at least the second worst) seasons of the show. Excusing it simply because it was working with some of the book’s worst material seems premature, especially since the show – more so than ever this season – has shown that it isn’t afraid to move away from the source material.

And that’s FINE, at long as the show is doing it in smart ways. But just look at the handling of Dorne to see that the show is spinning its wheels, and is struggling to find interesting things for fan-favorite characters to do, while removing the core of what actually made “A Feast For Crows” unique in the first place.

Until next season. FOR THE WATCH!

Notes & Quotes:
-Mostly, THANK YOU to everyone who has been reading along all season, and again, super sorry for being so late on this one. The podcast, and written reviews, will be back next season. Until then, make sure to check out everything else 8 Bit Awesome is working on. Ciao 🙂

-No LSH. Pretty much given up hope. Sad face.

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 9 “The Dance of Dragons” Review

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 9 “The Dance of Dragons” Review

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

If we look back at the previous ninth episodes in any “Game of Thrones” season, they are usually big important turning points for the series. Ned’s beheading, the Battle of the Blackwater, the Red Wedding, Battle at the Wall, etc. You get the picture.

Sadly, “Dance of Dragons” falls short of nearly all of these, and is one of the worst penultimate episodes the show has had. We did get some sweet dragon action…just not much else.

The show’s struggles aren’t entirely its own fault: The titular book that it is based on has the same problem. There’s a billion and a half pages of building, and no peak or resolution. Many (myself included) expected this to mean we’d see some interesting show-only developments. Instead, we got this.

Starting up north, poor Stannis (Stephen Dillane) the Mannis has fallen on hard times. He just can’t seem to beat the blizzard, and stupid Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) just snuck in and set fire to all of his tents! That bastard!

It’s interesting, given that it was fire that destroyed the camp, that nobody stood up and said…well…Hey! Melisandre (Carice van Houten), can’t you just put the fires out? Or shouldn’t you be immune to fire? Or something? It seems weird that the thought never crept into anybody’s mind, or if it did, nobody was saying anything.

Stannis sent Davos (Liam Cunningham) away, because, of course, he’s going to kill Shireen (Kerry Ingram). The show has been building up to this with all the subtitle and grace of a bull in a china shop, so it’s a bit weird that people are finding the whole Kentucky Fried Greyscale thing either shocking or surprising.

(Side note: I have no clue where Davos goes from here. Also, where did EVERYONE in Westeros get those wooden, giant war chess pieces? Whoever sold those must be making a killing on all this war planning).

People also seem to be forgetting several key things here. This is the guy who killed his OWN BROTHER, (and other family members, in the books) because he wanted to be king.

Show runners Dan Weiss and David Benioff spoke out about this, and I do think they are right about the magic aspect. As viewers of the show, in our own reality where magic is not real, some people are having a hard time understanding how Stannis can make a decision in support of that magic. But in Westeros, that shit is real.

The only real argument I can get behind is this isn’t going to win Stannis any Friendship Points (TM) with most of the other noble families. This is a society that really looks down upon kinslaying, and well, he just did it. It was also weird that so many of his men were just chilling and watching the whole human pot roast thing.

Yup. He killed his daughter. He’s still the best fit to rule as king. Deal with it.

Also, to the segment of people saying that GRRM will somehow make this plot better, or have it make more sense, because he has magical abilities, give me a fucking break: D&D are trying to clean up the giant mess that is books 4 and 5. Martin isn’t a magician. He’s good at very many things, but not good at just as many. Moving on.

Down south, in Dorne, we had what I’m guessing is the resolution of the murder of everything that is interesting about Dorne and one of the worst plot adaptations the show has done yet.
I thought that sending Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) down to Dorne would bring necessity and a sense of importance to the Dorne quest. Instead it floundered around all season, until this episode, when Doran (Alexander Siddig) decides to just let everybody go back to King’s Landing, as long as Trystane (Toby Sebastian) is given Oberyn’s (Perdo Pascal) old spot on the council.

Even the scene with Ellaria (Indira Varma) and Jaime, which could have been interesting, given that Ellaria was somebody who could actually relate to — and understand — Jaime’s incestuous motivations, fell flat, when she just forgave him because she had to because somebody else told her to because plot.

Also, Myrcella’s (Neil Tiger Free) necklace was stolen, so it wasn’t just a scheme of Cersei’s(Lena Headey), which would have at least made all this a tad bit more interesting. SIGH.
Then again, there’s still room for some twist or turn if everybody doesn’t leave peacefully as planned, but there’s very little reason to hope for anything but that at this point. I’m guessing that’s the last we’ve seen of Dorne this season.

Arya (Maisie Williams) finally found some strand of her plot, with Mace Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths), Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie), and Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) finally crossing her path.

We got some weird singing stuff from Mace, but I did like how we saw the conversation through Arya, though we did lose out on the important parts. It felt thematic with how the POVs of the books change how we learn certain bits of information, so it works on that level, at least.

Also, Trant is one of those characters that the show seems to have realized people won’t remember or they never did enough to characterize before…so why not just make him a pedophile! Then people will hate him! I still can’t remember for the life of my why show-Arya doesn’t like Trant.

More likely though, Arya is going to sneak into that brothel and be his little whore, and then kill him, and I can already hear the internet whiplash coming now…

And finally, the actual dance with dragons. Dany (Emilia Clarke) and Mereen took center stage for the last chunk of the episode. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) has certainly gained favor awfully quickly,he already has a seat up on her high dais, right next to The Lorax (Joel Fry).

It was interesting seeing how Dany needed him to understand the Mereen customs (the clapping, it was a very Frodo needing Gandalf’s guidance moment), but of course, like a bad penny (but thankfully not THE bad Penney) Jorah (Iain Glen) turned back up, fighting again for his redemption arc.

The indecision was ripe on Dany’s face. If her people are blood thirsty, does she give them blood to drink? Does she save Jorah, who has saved her so many times before?

She didn’t have time to decide, and instead, it’s Jorah who saves Dany again, as a giant Harpy attack starts, which was totally orchestrated by Loraq who sneakily mentioned he was late because he was getting things in order.

(Note: all of the show’s twists this season have been VERY choreographed, so this doesn’t surprise me).

The attack is better than some silly poisoned locusts, but it’s also sloppy, given how, as others have complained as well, the show keeps having people or events happen at exactly the right time right as needed.

Drogon showing up was another such moment, swooping in just when Dany needed him. I didn’t expect Jorah to live out the pit, but he and the rest of camp Dany just sat there, fucked, as they watched the plot fly out of Mereen. Good bye plot! It was nice knowing you!

Usually, each season’s episode 9 is the big turning point, the focal point of a season, with the finales being the aftermath where everybody scrambles to deal with the previous atrocity.

But, if this was the high point of the season, that doesn’t leave much room for episode 10 to improve things, especially when there’s still so many plots left unresolved to jam into one hour next week. Maybe the show is breaking formula, and the finale will bring the thunder, but if not…

May the Mother’s Mercy be upon us all.

Notes & Quotes:

-Re: The preview. Does anybody really think Sansa is going to die?

-lol to the shared lover’s look that Daario (Michiel Huisman) and Jorah shared

-The hanging harpy theme was pretty awesome

-“My father would have liked you.”

-Tyrion’s whole killing speech at the pits

-“Choice is no choice at all.”

-lol to Ellaria pouring her wine out

-“You have a good heart Jon Snow, but it will get us all killed>’

-Oh yeah, there was a small scene with Jon at the wall, but all it did was further make it clear that Olly (Brenock O’Connor) is going to kill Jon, so much show that non-bookers are starting to pick it up. This show WAS great at subtly, once, wasn’t it?

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 8 “Hardhome” Review

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 8 “Hardhome” Review

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

Hardhome…more like cold home, AMIRITE?!?

I’ll be here all week.

Each season of “Game of Thrones,” we are usually treated with one big battle scene: the Black Water, last year’s battle at the wall, but this season, it looks to have come an episode early.

But, as always, let’s start at the beginning.

Dany (Emilia Clarke), Jorah (Iain Glen) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) all walked into a bar…it sounds like the set up for a perfect Westeros joke. Only two of the three survive, as Tyrion’s first duty as advisor to Dany was to get her to kick out Jorah…again.

In a battle of fierce tongue and quotable quotes, Dany and Tyrion traded banter, bonded over both having horrible fathers who are now dead, and tried to determine just if the one was going to be able to play nice with the other.

Tyrion, now eager to stay alive, isn’t above giving Dany the advice she actually needs, which is a good thing, because if there is one thing she desperately needs, its good advice. So far she seems able to put up with his more sharp sentiments, but hopefully she can at least be smart enough to realize what her weaknesses are and that Tyrion compliments those quite well. Hopefully. And maybe one day Tyrion will sit down and write her the novel, “I Didn’t Kill My Father But If I Did Here’s How I Would Have Done It,” by Tyrion.

It’s also worth noting that well yes, Jorah sold out Dany, he was doing it to Varys (Conleth Hill), who Dany now knows was actually working for her all along. I was half expecting him to jump out of some corner somewhere, maybe pull a zipper down and reveal that Dany is just a suit he wears and reveal himself as the man behind the curtain somewhere, but alas. Either way, technically, Jorah didn’t really sell her out, even if he thought he was doing it.

The problem here, is as well as Dany and Tyrion worked together, their characters actually agreeing to work together this easily is a bit of a far jump to make all at once. We have to become plot friends because plot says we have to be friends now because plot plotty plot plot.

Of course, Tyrion and Dany haven’t met yet in the books…so there’s got to be some reason the show moved up their encounter. Or maybe they just did it to get Tyrion out of whiney no-man’s-land.
Also, a brief sentence of silence that he made it to Mereen without any mention of Penny. Hazah!

Meanwhile, Jorah essentially sells himself into slavery, giving up on everything. He’s just the worst kind of ex-boyfriend, isn’t he?
Cersei (Lena Headey) sat in a jail cell and got beat up by a nun. Next.

Arya (Maisie Williams) has now taken on the spirit of Molly Malone, and is strolling around Braavos selling clams and mussels and things of the sort. Her new mission is to kill a corrupt life insurance gambler. Kinda exciting, but also kinda…yawn?

Also, the non-book readers I watch the show with had a very hard time figuring this scene out, the consensus  was that Arya was actually just imagining being the other person while lying, not that the events we really happening. That’s a big misstep on the part of the show if a majority of the viewers also felt that way.

Ok fine, now we’re back to Cersei. Qyburn (Anton Lesser), who now seems to be her only friend, stopped in for a little visit. The most important thing of note here is that Kevan (Ian Gelder) is coming back, which means more of awesome Kevan kicking ass, but also means that Varys could still show up and shoot him full of arrows before the season ends, but that just seems like an untimely end to a character who has barely has a presence this season.

The hope on Cersei’s face when Qyburn mentioned hope though! And her drinking the water from the ground. The show is trying to break her quickly, but I actually wouldn’t mind seeing her really rot and develop down there for a bit.

Also, no shocker, but Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) has stopped eating and is continuing to be totally useless. Shocker.

Back up at Winterfell, Sansa (Sophie Turner) had a little conversation with Theon/Reek (Alfie Allen), which served not much purpose beside making Sansa look like she’s on the way to the dark side ala Ramsay (Iwan Rheon), and also for her to learn that her brothers are really alive after all.

Of course, if I’m a betting man, and I am, this all could be another trick of Ramsay’s. Her brothers ARE alive, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some way for him to twist this into his advantage, and against hers. Maybe Reek slipped up on purpose, and it’s another trap.

Meanwhile, at the Hall of Super Best Friends, Roose (Michael McElhatton) is prepping for Stannis (Stephen Dillane) to show up, but Ramsay seems certain he can handle the army by himself with 20 men. Fuck 300. Just 20.

Sam (John Bradley) and Gilly (Hannah Murray) had a scene, but more importantly I’ve come up with a new nickname for the pair of them. Silly. Sam+Gilly. Mostly because their plot is silly, but it works on so many other levels.

Sure, I guess Olly and Sam’s (Brenock O’Connor) scene might have had a little more importance there, but it mostly felt like an odd scene where the show was trying to explain again how much we should agree with Jon (Kit Harington) because Jon is making the right decision and all that jazz.

But, it also seems pretty blatant foreshadowing now that Olly is going to be the one to stab Jon. Or maybe he wants to play death match-maker for Jon and Ygritte (Rose leslie)? Either way, looks like that’s how that whole thing is going to play out, at any rate.

The rest of the episode focused on Jon up at Hardhome. There was some great stuff here, but it also was a really long time to spend up north, and we had to wade through a lot of the same back-and-forth we just had at the Wall, just now with the Wildings, to get to it.

Also, I’m not the only one who thought Jon was introducing himself to an AA meeting, was I?

Of course, in another instance of “Hey it’s a TV show lets have things not happen organically,” the White Walkers just HAPPENED to attack as Jon and his new Wilding friends just as they were above to leave. HAPPENSTANCE.

What resulted was one of the show’s better battle scenes, even if it was up North, just like last year’s, and it was hard to tell exactly where it was in relation to the fighting everybody and the walls and all that important stuff. The set up for a scene like this is especially important, even more so in snow, and it was hard to get a good sense of where everybody was in relation to the boats and the Walkers and the town (I thought the gate shut out and killed everybody on the boats, at first). It was easy to get lost, and a few couple set-up shots could have solved that easily.

Showing Longclaw in the opening may have been a little TOO on the nose for Valyrian steel to have the power to defeat White Walkers, which is of course new ground that the books haven’t confirmed yet. But Jon beating one was pretty BA. Take that Sam the Slayer! Jon just one-upped you again!

(Imagery alert: The White Walker walking into the cabin, surrounded with flames, but being covered in ice. It’s almost like it was a song of ice and fire).

We also got a glimpse at the re-animaton process, and it was good to see the show put some focus back on the larger issue here. This army is coming, and it’s pretty much unstoppable and is only getting stronger.

My favorite comment of the night from the non-bookers was how maybe Jon will die, but only because they were sure he won’t die in the books but maybe the TV show will kill him to change it up. THEY KNOW NOTHING ABOUT JON SNOW. And it’s great.

All in all, “Hardhome” was a pretty good episode, though it was still an overly weighty episode and suffered structurally: Cesei’s scenes were oddly cut up, the Wall section at the ended could have used a good trimming, and several of the plot points seem content to just twiddle their thumbs until the finale. But, Dany and Tyrion’s quip show  was quite enjoyable, and Hardhome was a pretty awesome fight scene. And any day the show can give book readers a little sliver of new info, well, that makes for exciting ground as well.

Note & Quotes:

-The White Walker screech sounded way too much like the Nazgul. The comparison is already there without forcing it another notch.

-“Greatest Lannister killer of all time.”

-“Too soon to know if you deserve my service.”

-“Killing and politics aren’t always the same thing.”

-“A ruler who kills those…”

-“It’s what your father would have done.”

-“I’m not going to stop the wheel, I’m going to break the wheel.”

-“Fuck em, their dead.”

-“Never trust a man in black.”

-We finally got episode ten’s title! “The Mother’s Mercy.” Could a certain mother return that episode? PLEASE LET IT BE SO.

-No Dorne, as an awesome land continues to be quite disserviced by the show.

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?”

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.

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 5 “Kill The Boy” Review

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 5 “Kill The Boy” Review

What makes somebody a “good” person?

It’s an ever increasingly difficult question to answer in Westeros, and it’s one of author G.R.R. Martin’s great tricks; he’s able to take character we think we hate and make us feel for them, and take characters we love and put them through the ringer so much we barely recognize them once everything is said and done.

Without turning this into an philosophy argument where it’s just me talking and no discourse (and, if that was the case, I’d argue that book-Davos is the only ‘good’ character in the series), the idea of right and wrong and good and evil are lines that are continually shifting, if not, at least blurring, and often our characters are given the choice between wrong and wrong…er.

“Kill The Boy,” the strongest episode of the show yet this season, took a more streamlined approach: We had few(er!) settings and characters to deal with than normal, as the show itself wrestled with what it means to be a good character with no good choices left to make. It isn’t play time any more, and it’s time for people to grow up or get out.

The struggle came to full light with Danny (Emilia Clarke), as the show opened with her for the first time this season. The show is falling into a pattern of minicliffhangers that are resolved in the opening of the next episode (a trend it even mocked in the ending this week), and it’s a habit that it hopefully doesn’t continue to fall into.

With Barristan (Ian McElhinney) dead, Danny now finds herself alone, in a strange land, and with no supporters from Westeros. She decided to show the Wise Masters just how she got her whole “Mother of Dragons” name. A “good” mother never gives up on her children, even if they are giant, monstrous fire-breathing animals that rip and tear people apart.

I’m usually not audible during an episode of TV, but there were several moments that actually got me to be super lame and shout at the screen. The dragons ripping that guy apart after setting him on fire. WOW. That was simply an awesome scene.

Compare that to the powerful shot of Danny from behind with each of the dragons framed on either side of her. Really good stuff this week! She’s not taking shit from anybody.

Given how long it took the show  to finally pay real attention to Hizdahr (Joel Fry ), I wasn’t entirely sure they were going to stick with the same marriage plot. BUT, they are, just with a little twist: The marriage is Danny’s idea this time, and with less implication that the Loraq (as I like to call him) had involvement with the Harpy movement. It makes it more of a savvy political move that Danny decides to do, instead of the last ditch effort to cling to power that it was in the books.

Either way, I’m sure Daario (Michiel Huisman) won’t be too happy with this decisions….

(Also, before I run the risk of repeating myself, I’m not giving any ink to that horrible Mereen love pair. I fear it has taken up enough time already. Be gone with it.)
From Mereen we jumped to the wall, and the majority of the rest of the episode focused on events up North.

Jon (Kit Harington) struggled with what it meant to be a good leader, knowing that the ‘right’ thing to do was join with the Wildings, not fight them. A good person doesn’t let people starve and freeze to death just because they are different than he is.

It’s another smart set up: If Jon hadn’t gone North and been sent undercover with the Wildings, and didn’t fall in love with every ginger he meets, his Brothers probably wouldn’t be so suspicious of him inviting a bunch of wildings down for tea and crumpets.

It also wouldn’t set him up so well to treat with the Wildings, either, though. He convinced Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) to lead a group to Hardhome to convince the rest of the Wildings to come south.

Another great shot this week: Tormund softly rubbing his wrists after Jon let his cuffs off.

Tormund agreed to go to Hardhome, as long as Jon came with him. Of course, the Brothers of the Watch aren’t exactly happy about this. It’s an interesting real world parallel here: After fighting each other for generations, how do you convince each side to put down their arms and join for the greater good? How do you convince these men who have fought and seen their brothers die at the hands of these people that this is what’s for the best of everybody? It’s questions that have real world ripples throughout history, and one this fake history must deal with as well.

The Brothers can’t see the bigger picture, and Jon is right here. If the Wildings die, they will rise back up as White Walkers, and that’s just not good for anybody. It’s a tough call, but Jon made the right one here.

There was a small, but important, scene with Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and Sam (John Bradley), that mentioned Old Town (pretty blatant foreshadowing) and dragon glass, and helped solidify Stannis and Sam as two of the only people in the show who are actually worried about the right things and taking some steps to try to protect people from the fucking ice zombies. Yup. Dragonglass stock is about to skyrocket, I think.

Stannis also finally departed from Castle Black, on his way to bring war to the Boltons in Winterfell. There was an eerily foreboding music change during Jon and Stannis’s farewell, which means it’s probably bad new for one (or both!) of them.

(My current running theory is this: Melisandre (Carice van Houten) is going to convince Stannis he needs to burn Shireen (Kerry Ingram) to assure victory against the north. This happens, bye bye Stannis and company. Meanwhile, Jon returns from Hardhome, gets a letter Stannis is defeated, and then is stabbed. End season.)
And then, on this week’s installment of “Better Off With The Boltons (On NBC, Thursday nights!):

We’re introduced to Myranda (Charlotte Hope), Ramsay’s (Iwan Rheon)……girlfriend? Sex slave? Toy? Partner? I’m not really sure at this point, but SHE is super duper jealous of Sansa (Sophie Turner), so there seems to be some sort of deeper attachment and care that Miranda feels toward Ramsay. I wish this wasn’t the first scene we were introduced to Miranda in though because it’s still a little hard to grasp exactly what her dynamic with Ramsay is. I’m going to go with she’s there by choice and has SOME level of ‘da feelz’ for Ramsay, especially given her new bout of jealousy.

She seems to share many of Ramsay’s lesser qualities though, and was totally OK in tormenting Sansa and introducing her to what became of Theon (Alfie Allan), who Ramsay then paraded in front of Sansa at dinner with the in-laws. We got another really smart shot here: the camera puts us in the first-person view of Sansa as Theon apologizes, placing us directly in her shoes.

The show is actually doing a great job of subverting expectations around Ramsay. We know what he is capable of, so when he asks for Theon’s hand, or when he’s at dinner, or even with Miranda, we are just waiting for him to snap and do something totally terrible. Instead, he’s been on his (fairly) best behavior so far, but with a new baby on the way, it looks like that might not last long.

(Also, for you super book readers out there, I was expecting some mention of Ramsay’s eyes from Roose (Michael McElhatton) and there wasn’t any. So that axes that theory, for the show at least.)

And then we were back to one and a half men, one boat.

Stonemen! And dragons! AND Valyria! I was pretty damn giddy through this scene, as Valyria is a place we never get to explore in the books (always talked about), and I’m sure taking these two close to it is going to be received controversially.

Personally, it was a great way to really bring Valyria to the front of viewer’s minds, even if it was a little more green and lively than I expected it to be. I expected more fire and more ash and more death, but perhaps Valyria isn’t really as bad real estate as people are spreading tales of. Perhaps it’s some secret hideaway for the super elite of Essos and they just don’t want dragons coming in and shitting on their lawn. Valyria: The Snoobiest Homeowner Association this side of Pyke.

Sadly, the show has never quite gone into Tyrion’s (Peter Dinklage) dragon lust, which is a shame, because him seeing Drogon could have been a really big moment. As it was it was undercut by the attack by the Stone Men.

Probably for the best, it seems that Jorah’s (Iain Glen) contraction of grayscale is the last nail in the coffin for Young Griff. Let’s take a moment of silence and celebrate for what we can all agree was a useless red herring! It might also end up being Jorah’s death sentence as well. Or it will turn out that Jorah is really a long lost sibling to Danny’s and we’ll have TWO incestuous couples on the show.

And that wraps “Kill the Boy.” Great moments, great direction, and a simplification of plots all helped make it a great episode, and the best episode yet in season 5.

It was missing Dorne (boo), and felt a little weird without any scenes in King’s Landing, but now viewers know how book readers feel with all those chapters with nonvital characters! I kid.

Anyway, until next week, when we all learn to bow with “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.”


Notes & Quotes:

-Jeremy Podeswa is directing next week too, and I’m excited, because he had a lot of awesome camera work this week*.

-“Like a 100-year-old man slowly freezing to death.”

-“Fewer”

-“Of course I do, I’m not blind.”

-“I’d rather have a mother.”

-“The Mormont way.”

-“People who drink need to keep drinking.”

-Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) is coming back next episode, and if that isn;t news for celebration, I don’t know what is.

*Edit: I originally had Bryan Cogman down as the director. He wrote the episode, not directed.

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 4 “The Sons of the Harpy” Review

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 4 “The Sons of the Harpy” Review

*Full book and show spoilers follow*

In any society, who is it that really holds the power?

Power (and its structure and relation to society) is a vital theme in “Game of Thrones,” and this week the show — through the use of two very similar and brutal mob scenes — showed just how quickly power can shift, and the ever fearful results of what happens when the people (in this case, two fringe mobs) don’t exactly see things eye-to-eye with those at the top.
The problem is this episode showed the eruptions a little too quickly. Ka-boom!

After last week’s cliffhanger, the show opens with Jorah (Iain Glen) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) off to sail away on a dark little boat into the dark depths of the dark ocean.

It was interesting seeing how different people reacted to the cliffhanger last week. It never crossed my mind that it was a clever misdirect of the show (of course Jorah would be taking Tyrion to Mereen), but a lot of people assumed it meant that Tyrion was headed back to Westeros to have a little run in with his sister.

It was thus, as Tyrion put it, a “waste of a kidnapping,” as Tyrion was already headed for Mereen. We got a little segment of Tyrion playing detective while Jorah just sat there not talking…which is an odd way to give context to what is going on.

(Also, Varys (Conleth Hill) was totally missing, and at the very least won’t be travelling with Tyrion — on THIS ship, at least.)

Tyrion wasn’t the only Lannister set adrift, as Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) themselves were sneakily trying to make their way into Dorne.

Bronn, clever little snot, is of course not buying any of Jaime’s story that he was sent to rescue his “niece”…no, he’s far too smart to buy that hook, line, and sinker. Bronn shared the same concerns that I’ve been having with this whole plot: How does Jaime expect to get into Dorne without it being taken as an act of aggression?

Sending a no-name knight (as in the books), remedied this fact. But Jaimie just walking into Dorne is mighty suspicious, both to the believers of the Lannister brother-sister fuck fest theory, and to the Dornish, who probably won’t take too lightly to the idea of the Kingslayer just merrily coming down to their land in the hopes of stealing away Myceralla (Neil Tiger Free).
So, while Jaime keeps saying he wants to avoid war, all of his actions point otherwise.

But, we did get to see Bronn kick some ass, and Jaimie somehow accidently win a fight because he forgot that he had a metal hand? Well. OK.

Cersei (Lena Headey) has her own troubles, though she’s far too important to bother worrying about them. The Iron Bank is a-callin,’ and the crown’s debts are only a-growin’, and instead of trying to do something about it she half heartedly sends away Lord Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) with Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie) to go to Braavos themselves to sort the whole thing out. Taking bets now that one of them doesn’t come back alive.

The problem with Cersei is she thinks she’s smarter than everybody else, and can’t see when she isn’t. Deciding that it’s time to do something about that smirk on her daughter-in-law’s face, she decides to play with fire and finally gives the new High Septon (Jonathan Pryce) that power trip he’s always wanted: A whole new army. Enter the return of the Faith Militant.

Of course, it isn’t super clear WHY Cersei is doing this. Clearly she can’t think that arming the fringe Sparrow movement is going to turn out well for anybody.

It’s not that she doesn’t get anything out of it. The militant arrest Loras (Finn Jones) for being gay, is something that Cersei clearly had a hand in, even if she didn’t do it directly.
Margaery (Natalie Dormer) is none too happy about this, and Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) tried to go play king with the High Sparrow and failed miserably. One can only hope that Margaery’s cry to go be with her family and write her Grandmother means the return of one of the show’s best characters. And it looks like poor Tommen won’t be getting with a piece of THAT anytime soon.
We’ve reached the boiling point in a flash, though.

This would all hold more ground if the show had built to this a little more, instead of seemingly plopping the viewer into a battle between the faith and the crown. It’s also weird how cultish the show is making the Faith Militant. The head scars certainly were not in the books, and gives the army a much different feeling of rashness and fear. That’s probably the point, but it also lessens the fact that they do have some solid ground to stand on. Instead, here they just seem wild and rampant and senseless.

Instead of showing us the water in the pot boiling, which the show has done with many other plots, it’s like we’ve all of a sudden been shown the kettle boiling without even showing us a scene of somebody pouring the water in the kettle first. Oh, here’s a new High Septon, here’s a new bunch of unhappy religious people, oh now they are in charge and raiding brothels. It’s a lot of jumps to happen so quickly.

Up at the wall, Stannis (Stephen Dillane) had a brief discussion about his own faith, and also had a few lines that are probably going to be important later: the royal blood that Shireen (Kerry Ingram) has, and the non-whore parentage of Jon. What could all this be leading to?!?

Before they march on Winterfell, Melisandre (Carice van Houten) tried to get Jon to come (in more ways than one!). She gave him the good ol’ boobie argument, and given Jon’s (Kit Harington) thing for redheads I’m surprised he was able to resist. Then she went to a local Hot Topic and bought a “You know nothing, Jon Snow” t-shirt and put it on, confusing Jon in more ways than one.

( I’ve always found it interesting how ‘religious’ Mel is, but yet all we ever really see is her trying to seduce men to do something. It doesn’t seem very religious, if you ask me. )

The show cut back to Stannis, giving us one of his most interesting, and definitely softest, scenes we’ve ever seen him in. The show has really been hitting on the grey scale this season, and having Shireen at the wall, it feels like grey scale is going to become important sooner rather than later.

As sweet as this scene was, I still can’t really make heads or tails of it. It seemed to have no purpose aside from reminding us that Shireen is there and has grey scale (and softening Stannis), and it didn’t really fit in with the rest of what the episode was doing.

(All that’s to say that if the Shireen getting burned and unleashing grayscale on the wall theory is true than this episode is a very good set up for that, and makes Stannis having to burn her much more of a sacrifice than it would have been without this scene. So actually, that’s probably what is going to happen. I’d count on that.)

Alas, I was wrong, as I wrote last week that Sansa (Sophie Turner) and the Boltons were in Moat Cailin, when apparently I was supposed to have realized they were actually in Winterfell. My bad! I didn’t think they had made it that far already, and with Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) looking in on that Moat, I thought everybody was together there.

Anyways, this scene is probably going to become one of the most talked about scenes (I wrote OMG in my notes), and one that probably passed non-book readers completely by. R+L=J! R+L=J! R PLUS L EQUALS FUCKING J.

Sansa was visiting Winterfell’s crypts, where Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) stops in and gives the viewer a nice little history lesson about Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen. This is essentially the story that started all of the drama that we have been witness too since the start of the series, and it’s nice that the show is starting to give us a little back story on it, even it it didn’t directly connect the dots to modern events.

BUT, it does give some massive show support for R+L=J, even if it was subtle. (Also, Stannis also gave some support to it as well in his line to his wife about a whore probably not being Jon’s mother). The scene did feet a little odd though; Sansa seemed a bit off with some of her lines, as if she wasn’t really talking to Littlefinger. It also wasn’t the only mention we had of Rhaegar this week.

Littlefinger also spilled his guts to Sansa for his Top Secret Plan 3.0: Make her Lioness of the north. Oh? Wardeness. Either way, he knows that Stannis is about to come kick some Bolton ass, and wants Sansa there when he does so Stannis can put her back in her rightful spot. Why he can’t just take her away until then…?

It’s also interesting that Littlefinger knows just how dangerous Roose (Michael McElhatton) is, but still seems so naive about his son. This idea, along with Jaimie going to Dorne, are two plot points this season the show just isn’t selling well. There’s no way Littlefinger doesn’t know about Ramsay (Iwan Rheon)…unless he is leading Sansa into danger on purpose.

I’m guessing “i’ll be married” was Sansa’s way of telling Littlefinger to stop giving her weird uncle kisses on the mouth, but she’s going to have to be a little more forceful if she thinks she’s going to survive Ramsay.

Hisssssssssssssss. We are then finally introduced to the Sand Snakes, the bastard daughters of Oberyn (Pedro Pascal). The show has limited the number of them (a lot of Dornish people are getting the axe, it seems) but finally! Whips! Spears!

Sadly, this wasn’t the greatest introduction to the sisters as i would have liked. Right now all three come off as comic book character versions of their book selves, and the way everybody here is presented as so black and white and war and peace is a little too one dimensional.

We only got a brief scene with them, so hopefully there will be a lot more time for them to come.

Last but not least, we returned to Mereen and Danny (Emilia Clarke). The “big” death this week was accidentally spoiled for me, and of course, Barristan (Ian McElhinney) isn’t dead yet in the books. But does this really matter?

I’m not so sure. It’s going to shape Danny differently, that’s for sure. She’s now alone, with no one from her homeland to help steer her. Some are suggesting this makes a nice hole for Jorah to fill (IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE), but I think it’s more than likely setting up her marriage. She’s running out of friends and needs to react to this death someway, and trying to appease the locals might be the way to do it.

My larger problem with this scene is the physical functionality of it. How on earth is a group of the Harpys able to outfight the Unsullied? I hardly doubt that rich slave masters are well trained in combat, and even if they are, there’s no way they were trained as well and adeptly with the spear as the Unsullied. It just doesn’t make sense. The way that the Harpys were getting kills in also seemed unbelievable. Just sneaking in and cutting throats? Really?

As for Barristan, was one of the best swords in the land, and yet he’s brought down by the Harpies? I can at least buy that by the time he got there he was vastly outnumbered, but it still seems unlikely that they could put him and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) both down.

One thing’s for sure. Danny is fucked now.

The rulers that we are used to seeing hold power aren’t holding it anymore, that’s clear, and it’s hard to argue that modern politics aren’t seeping into the show a bit in the depiction of both the Harpies and the Faith Militant.

The depiction of those two groups felt unsettling just for the sake of being unsettling (especially compared to the books), and there was no reason for them to invade a brothel, except for some boobs. It’s almost as if the show wanted to make sure to give a dose of boobs and violence, and well, why not do them at the same time! This is what people want, so here you go!

But, for all the book reader shout outs and bread crumbs in this episode, it still felt like a bright flash that was lacking substance. We got a lot of death and violence this week at the hands of mobs, but the motivation and back-story behind the events were lacking. The pacing is also starting to drift widely; some plots are moving fast while others are really crawling, giving us the weakest episode yet this season.

Until next week, when it’s time to “Kill the Boy.”

Notes and Quotes:

-“All they want to do is fight and fuck, fuck and fight.”

-“Corpses raises questions. Questions raise armies.”

-“Dead don’t need lovers, only the living”

-No Arya (Maisie Williams) this week, which is probably good, as I’m still worried they are going to burn through her arc (or bore us with it) way too quickly.

-I know Grey Worm probably isn’t dead but I hope he is because I want that love arc to die a fiery death.

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 3 “The High Sparrow” Review

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 3 “The High Sparrow” Review

*Full book and show spoilers follow*

You either rule, or your serve.

Those who rule, in theory, should be serving those they rule. And those who serve…well, sometimes they want to rule. Thus is life in Westeros (and not too unlike our own society, sometimes).

But when the servers don’t want to serve and the rulers learn they need to serve…well, that’s where this week’s episode of “Game of Thrones” comes in.

We again started off with little Arya (Maisie Williams), who has been biding her time sweeping up the floors of the House of Black and White. A girl must learn to serve, but Arya, feisty as ever, is ever growing impatient spending all her time cleaning the floors. Where’s the blood and action and adventure in HOUSEHOLD CHORES?!?

Nowhere, that’s where.

I’m glad the show showed a bit of restraint; given how much time we were spending with Arya, I almost thought that they were going to have her go blind already. Both here scenes this week seemed to be leading somewhere….but in the end the show has held that off a little longer. I’m still a bit worried the show is going to burn through her arc really fast; especially given how much time we’ve seen her the past two weeks. Maybe it’s just because her story plodded this week, but I’m curious to see how they continue to develop her throughout the rest of the season.

Back in King’s Landing, Cersei struggles to hold on to her right to rule. We were treated to a (albeit brief) momentous occasion: A “Game of Thrones” wedding without somebody dying! Who knew it was possible? Who knew it could happen? The colorless wedding, I dub thee.

And booooooom. What a wedding night it was. Little Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) became a man and finally bedded that smirking whore from Highgarden. Given his age (note: the actor is 17, not sure what the character’s age is really supposed to be at this point) I wasn’t really sure what they were going to do with the scene, but Tommen seemed to enjoy himself. Wink wink. Nudge nudge.

For those of you at home keeping score, this also marks the first time that eligible bachelorette Margaery (Natalie Dormer) is finally off the market. How’s the old saying go? Third time’s the charm? Well, if the first two kings die on you, just go for the younger brother. You’ll be Queen eventually.

Oh, and that smirk when she lied about the idea of her being Queen sounding weird. Of course it sounds weird Marg, of course it does.

The new Queen however wasted NO time in sinking her claws into the little King, already plotting at how to get Cersei (Lena Headey) out of her hair. And Tommen was just lapping it up.

Then of course we were treated to Cersei Strikes Back: The Passive Aggressive Menace. She’ll help Marg in any way possible. Any way. Any way. Anything she needs, my dear. Anything I can do as long as it involves putting my lion claws around your tight little throat and watching you choke.

This must be KILLING Cersei, and it’s just so good to see that conflict. Not only does Cersei have to be cordial to this girl she clearly hates, but to see her, the new Queen, radiate happiness with her husband, a happiness that Cersei never had with her husband. And one of Cerise’s last, loved children is now in the hands of the very person Cersei is scared will remove her from power.

It’s also interesting because Margaery, is , essentially, becoming Cersei. She’s manipulating Tommen the same exact way that Cersei manipulates men, and throw in the ultimate irony that Tommen is probably the one person in Westeros (or her family…hey-oh!) that Cerise can’t woo sexually and it’s really a battle of the wills here.

That’s not all in King’s Landing though, folks! We also got some religious rabble rousing, when the fringe group known as The Sparrows decided that the High Septon (Paul Bentley) was getting too high on whores and needed to be dealt with.

We are also introduced to the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), fresh from his life in “Pirates of the Caribbean”, and who I am debating referring to as King Turtle for the remainder of eternity. Cersei seems to be courting him (God knows she needs the political capital right now), and has throne the old Septon in jail.

I’m near positive this isn’t how it went down in the books (The Septon was overthrown by the Sparrows and was a Lannister puppet), but this is one of the biggest struggles the show is going to have this season: Religion.

Where faith and religion are almost woven into the books, the whole Sparrow movement did kind of come out of nowhere. The show has, for whatever reason, really diminished both the magical and religious elements of the show, so much so that I was surprised how vibrant they were when I started reading the books after starting with the show.

But now we have a huge plot that focuses on…religion. It just needs to be dealt with carefully. And we all know how carefully Cersei tends to deal with things…

(I also, for the life of me, can’t figure out why they are foreshadowing the Mountain so much. I’m pretty sure everybody knows what’s coming now, and to keep beating us over the head with it just seems like overkill. Ha. )

Ah. Ah. AH. I’m going to try not to rub it in TOO much, but next we jumped to Moat Cailin. And I was right. Go back and look at last week’s article. My poor, poor, poor, poor, baby Sansa (Sophie Turner).

Sure, Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) gave a good speech about the reasons why Sansa should marry Ramsay (Iwan Rheon). It does put her in charge of the North again. It does let her keep her enemies close (something echoed later on in the episode). And it does let Sansa test her mettle and manipulation powers she’s learned from the best.

But, she’s also going up against one of the sickest, sadist-est, characters in the show. Just look at those flayed men! (Quite the gruesome visual).

Littlefinger’s game here is equally confusing. As Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) pointed out, Littlefinger has nothing to gain by throwing away the support of the Lannisters, and marrying off Sansa, and for someone who has had a giant master plan going all along, this seems an odd wrench in it. I also find it very odd that Littlefinger has not heard of Ramsay’s brutality through any means at all, especially given his spreading notoriety.

Of course, good book loving readers that you are, you know this isn’t what happens in the book, at all. Sansa and Little Finger are still far, far away from the North, and this is probably the biggest change that the show has done so far, and by switching in a major character (Sansa) for a not major one (that other girl pretending to be fake Arya), there’s a chance it is backing itself into a corner. Either Sansa never ends up doing anything interesting in the books (disappointing), or they somehow reconcile her arc after all of this stuff with the Boltons and THEN Littlefinger tries to marry her to someone from the Eyrie.

We’ve also heard from both Rheon and Turner that their characters each had a really hard scene to film this season, and there’s only way things can play out with Ramsay. And I’m not sure if Sansa can go toe-to-toe with him.

The other wild card here is Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), who has failed every person she has tried to serve, and Pod (Daniel Portman). We only saw them briefly, but had some great characterization out of poor Brienne. I honestly can’t remember if we’ve heard this story before or if it’s something I’m remembering from the books, but it does paint her in a light to remind us viewers that as much as we may be rooting for Brienne, she’s really an outcast in the world she lives in.

And all of this is despite being one of, if not the, best warrior in Westeros. She could also be the one who spars with Ramsay, and if that’s the case…well…I think Bolton is about to see his ass flayed.

North of the wall, Stannis (Stephen Dillane) gave one last attempt to try to get Jon (Kit Harington) to serve him. Ever stubborn, proud, and honorable, Jon of course denies. Stannis was in enough to leave the big giant hairy mammoth in the room decision to John though: What to do with all these Wildings that are now kicking about and eating the Watch’s chips and sleeping on their couches and not paying rent.

(Side note: How does EVERY character know that Ned died for honor? Everybody isn’t partial to what Ned knew and how it got him killed.)

Davos (Liam Cunningham) even tried to reason with Jon. Book-Davos is one of my favorite characters, so I’m always happy to see more of him.

It didn’t seem like John’s decision was totally made up.

We then got some good old Brothers of the Night’s Watch political shuffling, as Jon appointed Thorne (Owen Teale) as first ranger.

Then he lopped off the head of Janos Slynt (Dominic Carter). Slynt served the Lord Commander. but he didn’t serve well.

Now, this was another area this week the show didn’t lead up to enough. The show lost track of Janos for quite awhile, so much so that i would be surprised if any non-book readers remember him from the early season. Even “The Walking Dead” gives characters that are about to die some screen time before they die, and instead we’ve just continually seen Janos mostly in the background. And it almost feels like a waste of a killing when the death reflects more on Jon than it does on Janos.

(Also note: I think this is the first time in a beheading we’ve see the whole shot clear and it hasn’t cut away).

And last, but not least, Tyrion Pink Dinklage) finally gets out of his box! Welcome to Volantis.

It may not seem super important now, but I’m glad the show included the scene with the Red Priestess. But, like before, when was the last time the show even mentioned Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye)? Or the Brothers without Banners, for that matter? But here we are seeing that the fire god isn’t just isolated to a few people, but that it’s actually a movement spreading across the East. We see the important of the different religions, and it also starts to key us in to the whole fire magic getting stronger idea, which is something that’s very key in the books, and has been mostly avoided in the show. It is a song of ice and fire, after all.

Tyrion also, in a crippling blow to himself, learns that his favorite pastime is no longer his favorite pastime. Yes, the god of tits and wine can still drink, but it seems, for now at least, that his whoring days are over.

Of course, this realization comes moments before good guy Jorah (Iain Glen) kidnaps him and  declares to nobody in particular but also the entire audience that he is now kidnapping Tyrion…and taking him to the same place Tyrion was already headed to.

This, of course, makes me wonder what will happen to Varys (Conleth Hill) who has already thrown his lot in with Tyrion and can’t exactly just return to King’s Landing and start listening to whispers again.

We did get some good political wheeling and dealings, but this week also felt like a lot of filler. When the two most exciting things that happened were a third rate, low tier character getting his head cut off and Tyrion getting kidnapped and taken to the same place he was heading already, well, it’s just not the most flashy stuff. But a lot of wheels are moving, and hopefully we’ll start to see some of those results sooner rather than later.

Hides your wives and hides your daughters, because “The Sons of the Harpy” is up next!

Notes & Quotes

-I’m normally not a huge fan of (and rarely notice) the show’s score, but this week had a few really good moments: Arya and needle, Sansa making her decision, Jon marching to the chopping block, the High Septon scene.

-Always interesting to note that we did see full frontal nudity of the female persuasion, but no dick this week.

-Also, no Dany this week, which is a shame because I think I could have pulled off the “serving” theme much more with her arc than some of the others here.

-“This is all I want to do, all day, every day, for the rest of my life.” Thataboy, Tommen.

-“I wish we had some wine for you, it’s a bit early in the day for us.”

“There’s no justice in the world, not unless we make it. You loved your family, avenge them.”

“Nothing’s more hateful than failing to protect the ones you love.”

-“Good job for a ginger.”

“They think I’m special for telling them so.”

-“Who doesn’t want to meet the savior?”

-“Someone who inspires priests and whores is worth taking seriously.”

-Again, thanks to buddytv.com and The Daily Beast, and maybe one I’m forgetting for help double checking quotes.

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 2 “The House of Black and White” Review

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 2 “The House of Black and White” Review

*Full spoilers for the TV show and books follow. You’ve been warned.*

“Someone who’s forgotten fear has forgotten how to hide. Fear is useful that way.”
-Daario Naharis

“Show too much kindness, people won’t fear you. If they don’t fear you, they don’t follow you.” -Stannis

Are you afraid of the dark?

No, but there’s probably something dark, creepy, or crawly in the back of your mind that makes your skin crawl. Spiders maybe? Snakes? Or there’s always the inevitably of death.

At least you don’t (I would imagine) have to sleep with the fear of getting your head lopped off. The second episode of season 5 of “Game of Thrones” gave us a very good – and keen – look into just what fears are motivating the wise and weary of Westeros at this stage in the game, in hopes of them keeping their own heads.

Arya (Maisie Williams) was absent last week, but has finally arrived across the sea to Braavos. There have been brief glimpses of Braavos before (and that giant Titan), but we finally got to see more of the canals and waterways where Arya is going to spend the next whoeverknowshowlong in training this season.

In a week all about fear, it’s no chance that Arya kicked things off: She told the captain how she feared nothing, and out of everyone on the show she has possibly lost the most and truly has the least left to fear. She has no home, (almost) no family, and no life to return to. She truly is fearless.

In what a very smart divergent from the books (and one of several the show did this week) the show brought back Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) to be Arya’s mentor. It’s not always the case, but here it’s a good move to have a character people already know and recognize take the place of a totally new character.

(Sure, we could argue for hours that maybe Jaqen is actually the person training her in the books, but let’s not).

Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) is starting to fear she has failed every single oath she has ever made. Every. Single. One. After a cruel near-chance meeting last week, her and Pod (Daniel Portman) actually DO run into Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) this week, at the Bar of Chance and Happenstance Meetings.

This scene was very well done, and almost a bit too mean, even for a show know for its cruelty. The viewer wants characters that are good to realize that they both are good and go off with each other and be happy and safe and hold hands and run in the fields and frolic in the flowers. But that’s not what happens. We see just how much Sansa has changed here; even at the mention of her mother she could care less about what Brienne has to say. We know Brienne is good for Sansa, but as Littlefinger points out, Brienne’s track record hasn’t been great, and there’s no way for her to prove to the Sansa that she is legit. It’s a cruel twist of fate that the show is milking. It isn’t like Brienne can whip out her cell phone and prove she’s legit!

As a result, we got one of the best action bits in the whole episode, in an awesome escape scene with Brienne. Horses! Sword slashes! Hiyah!

The show is striking close to what it did with Brienne and Arya already, so it will be interesting to see how long Brienne tails Littlefinger and Arya. It seems that evidence is mounting the pair is heading to Winterfell, and I’m not convinced that when Littlefinger said his marriage proposal was accepted, he meant it was a proposal for HIS wedding. Taking bets right now: Littlefinger has set up Sansa with Ramsay (Iwan Rheon), and the fake Arya plot is going to be played out by a fake Sansa pretending to be a real Sansa but is actually real Sansa all along. TRICKERY.

And of course, none of this has happened in the books. But it made for good TV.

Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) both carry similar fears for their family, but can’t come to terms with each other on how to act on them. And that fire that Cersei cast at Jaime for not being a good father. Ouch. That burnt.

On Jaime’s part, he is now heading to Dorne to rescue Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free). It’s a big change from the books, but one that makes for the show. Jaime is an interesting character, and the show can still milk a lot more out of his more redeeming (and not sister-fucking) qualities.

Also, partnering him with Bronn (Jerome Flynn) is a great chance for the show to bring back another fan favorite character and continue to develop Jaime as well. Bronn and Jaime together might initially seem like an odd pairing – especially given Bronn and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) pairing that precedes them – but putting Bronn with Jaime can only soften the seriousness we’ve seen waft from the latter recently.

Sending Jaimie to Dorne also puts a much larger sense of urgency and stake in the quest, which can only lead more credence to it. It also changes it from a sneaky plot of Cersei’s to a much more open air attempt to bring Myrcella back, which can’t be something that is going to go well down in Dorne.

But it isn’t like Cersei isn’t up to enough of her own schemes. We got the first new meeting of the new Small Council Vista Premium Home Edition. I’ve missed the Small Council, and am a big fan of the political wheeling and dealings that happen in these scenes. More of them, I say!

Wasting no time after her father’s death, Cersei is hitting the ground running. There will be no Hand, and she’ll just kind of run things while Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) we can only assume is off playing with either his pussy cats (or Margaery’s!) somewhere. Cersei handing our promotions like candy: Qyburn (Anton Lesser) is taking Varys’ (Conleth Hill) old role as Master of Whisperers (pissing off Pycelle (Julian Glover)), while giddy ol’ Mace Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) is lauded with plenty of meaningless titles just to keep the in-laws happy.

It’s Cersei’s own family that isn’t happy. Her uncle, Kevan Lannister (Ian Gelder), gave an amazing performance that echoed some of the best we saw from Tywin (Charles Dance). Kevin wasn’t taking ANY of Cersei’s shit, but it would be a shame to see him head off to Casterly Rock so soon.

Him being there, however, did highlight one of the show’s weaknesses: I can’t honestly remember the last time we saw Kevin (I checked, season two!) and I’m sure there were many people who thought he was a new character. I wish they had built him up a little more, and I really hope he sticks around to continue to be the pain in Cersei’s side we all know she needs.

(Side note: I’m guessing his death sentence is waved, as there’s no way Varys can shoot him all the way from across the Narrow Sea).

I’m not quite sure what the denisions of Dorne fear, but I’m a bit fearful for them: This wasn’t the epic introduction to Dorne that the southernmost region of Westeros deserved.

We did get to meet gout-ridden Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig), the older brother of our beloved Oberyn (Pedro Pascal), may he RIP. The two could be no more different, and for quite some time in the books Doran comes off as incompetent, indecisive, and weak. Or at the very patient.

It’s that weakness that Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) fears, and while we don’t get to see the Sand Snakes, they are at least name checked to rue some fear in Doran. Doran is a complex and interesting character, though that doesn’t come out at first in the books, and the show seems to be going along that same path. It’s too early to tell for him, but the show doesn’t really want people to like him yet, so it’s tough to say how much of that is purposeful.

The problem here was the dressing: This just wasn’t the vastly different and flashy portrayal of Dorne I was expecting. It doesn’t look or feel that different from any of the other Westeros locations (even though it was filmed in Spain, I believe). Hopefully as we see more of Dorne the location will actually start to feel unique.

Danny (Emilia Clarke) fears a great many things. She’s scared of becoming her father. She’s scared she can’t rule Mereen. She’s scared she won’t be able to control her dragons.

There seems to be a lot of discussion around her decisions this week, and while on the one hand I’m happy to see people finally start getting over Danny, I do think it’s interesting what the show is doing here. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen lords have to deal out justice they don’t like.

Go all the way back to Ned (Sean Bean) in season 1 and chopping off the head of the Watch deserter. Go back to Jon (Kit Harington) killing Rickard Karstark (John Stahl). So keep both of those in mind when condemning Danny for doing the same thing. Just rule is not always fair to the ruler or the ruled, and throughout the season characters have had to make decision after decision that they probably would have rather not be in the position of making.

Danny, on the other hand, is sitting on a field of victory after a bunch of lucky breaks, the dragons perhaps being the luckiest of all. But now her luck is starting to run out. There’s a very heavy colonization metaphor at work here as well: She isn’t going to be able to apply Westeros rule and law to a country that doesn’t want it. She’s going to continue to learn that. As much as she was like Ned and Jon here, the riots at the end were also very familiar to the riots in King’s Landing that Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) had to contend with. Some may argue that this moment is Danny losing her idealism, but it’s a consistent decision in a long line of her being consistently idealistic.

Right now, Tyrion’s only fear is an empty glass. We returned to the Buddy Cop Drama Show with him and Varys (already) slowly making their way to Mereen, now via Volantis.
It was a good scene; but I’m worried about just how much of this season those two characters are going to spend on the road.

The show did manage to pull something new out of each of the characters. We never really get to see Varys be that open and honest (if he ever is, but that’s always up for debate), but Tyrion’s realization of how much he loved pulling the strings and having power is a big moment for the little man, especially now at perhaps his lowest moment. Neither of them will be leaders, either because of how they look, or who they are, but they can still do great things pulling the strings for those who do lead. Deep stuff. Maybe it was the alcohol.

Just hopefully, the show doesn’t keep these two locked in a box for the whole season.

Up at the wall, Jon is scared of leadership.

Stannis (Stephen Dillane) offered the bastard of Winterfell everything that he has ever wanted: A rightful name, a castle, and a lordship.

Jon turned it down.

Instead, Sam (John Bradley) nominated Jon to be the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. The show again does some nice compressing: The election wasn’t the long, drawn out process it was in the books. (It was nice they at least kept it an initial tie, though).

The best part though was Jon’s reaction to winning, played perfectly by Harrington. Jon doesn’t want to lead. He didn’t want to rule Winterfell. He didn’t want to lead the Watch. He’s just really damn good at leading. But he was shocked he won, and he’s scared of what that means for him. He tried running away from Stannis and ran out of the frying pan and into the fire. He dodged one leadership bullet, but another one (or a knife!) is waiting right for him.

“The House of Black and White” was a strong epsiode, and a step up from last week, and also pretty aptly named. Not just for the doors Arya enters, but for the many decisions that the characters are making. Vows or personal gain? Jon is always going to pick his vows. Idealism or smart political savvy? Dany only has one of those two things. And at the end of the day, everybody has to pick between which of their fears scares them the most, and make a decision, even if it isn’t black and white and clear which way is the right path.

Until next week, and the “High Sparrow!”

Notes and Quotes

-Best line of the week: “That smirking whore from Highgarden.” Let’s make that a meme internet!

-The House of Black and White always makes me think of half moon cookies. It’s a shame the door design here doesn’t have the moon face still!

– “I know S”

-Also, thank you Buddytv.com for being super helpful in getting my quotes together.

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 1 “The Wars to Come” Review

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 1 “The Wars to Come” Review

*Full spoilers for the TV show and books follow. You’ve been warned.*

Choice and consequence.

Those two words probably sum up the entire “Game of Thrones” world, even if many people would probably pick sex and violence as the first two that would come to mind. But, in the novels that George R. R. Martin has created, and thus reflected in the show, it’s really a character’s choices that define who they are, and that dictate what ends up happening to them.

The characters in the show aren’t the only ones with choices ahead of them though. We are also reaching critical mass for the show’s creators: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have choices and consequences of their own. We’ve been told that the show will soon start weaving tales the book hasn’t, and even though the show won’t pass the books this season, it’s an inevitable future. This season, more so than the others, we’ll begin to see the major choice they are making in their version of Westeros, and the consequences that might have on the story as a whole.

There also lies a chance: the show has a unique opportunity to clean up the plodding tomes that were “A Feast for Crows” and “A Dance With Dragons.” Sure, some stuff is going to get lost, but it’s a chance to really focus the story lines and bring a tighter story of the events into focus.

For the show, “Game of Thrones” tends to have two types of episodes that it has done pretty well; building and tearing down episodes. Seasons will build and build, episode by episode, until a giant moment, from the Ned in season 1, to the red wedding in season 3, tearing down episodes, and then characters reshuffle and rebuild until another big event.

Season four’s last few episodes were all tearing down episodes, which means that kicking off season five the show has a lot of building that it needs to do. A lot of building. It wasn’t exactly a explosive start to the season, but pieces are moving, if slowly, and each character was faced with interesting choices and consequences in the wake of last season.

Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) already made his choice. He chose to let Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) free, and saw the immediate consequence in the body of his dead father before him. Cersei (Lena Headey) was quick to blame Tyrion — and Jaime — and is filled with even more hate for her little brother, if that at all was possible. The scene also serves to highlight how alone Cersei and Jaime are; they have each other, but losing the head of the house is a massive blow to them, and their holds on power.

It’s an interesting role reversal: Cersei was was the near-ultimate power in the realm, and now she and Jaime are surrounded by people who want to tear them apart, and they no longer have Tywin’s (Charles Dance) protection. This is going to start to wear on Cersei, and he fear of losing power (as we saw in the flash back) is going to really play at her this season. She and Jaime once seemed untouchable, and now we are seeing their tides slowly turn in the other direction. The Lannister twins are going to be in for a rough season, there’s no doubt about that.

Another change: No longer does Cersei seem content to tell the world about their incest and let people judge as they will. Daddy isn’t around to protect his baby lion cubs anymore.

The other little cub, Tyion, had to face consequences. He’s now across the sea, in Pentos, where Daenerys (Emilia Clarke)’s story started. He’s in the house of Illyrio (Roger Allam), (who interestingly is never shown on-screen), being pitched the idea of going to Meereen by Varys (Conleth Hill).

This change from the books is going to complicate things, going forward. With Varys in Essos, he can’t be in King’s Landing for his big scene at the end of ADWD, though with us now knowing his true intentions that scene could just be not happening.

It also really felt like an under-delivered reveal for a character who has for so long been shrouded in mystery. He was working for Danny the whole fucking time! That’s a really big deal! Give it a few more sentences or at least have Tyrion notice that the reveal is important! Vary delivered it in the same way he may have told Tyrion what he was eating for breakfast. Not quite the major reveal that Varys’s master plan deserved. The show has struggled with big reveals like this in the past, and still can’t seem to really nail them.

It didn’t help that the writing for Varys just wasn’t that good. I feel like I rarely notice poor writing in the show, but while Tyrion was getting zingers, Varys’s dialogue just was not up to snuff. It relied to much on repetition, and just wasn’t the only scene this week that suffered from poor writing.

It also looks like the whole Young Griff plot is being totally skipped over, and instead Varys is throwing his support directly behind Danny. If there are actually any fans of Griff out there…sorry, I guess? It was a needless late-in-the-game hitch by Martin, and the only thing that sucks about thinning it out of the show is it essentially and accidentally confirms that Griff’s plot won’t go anywhere important in the books either.

The show is also going to have an interesting path ahead of itself with Tyion. There’s a good show-within-a-show buddy cop action adventure brewing with him and Varys, but, Tyrion is probably one of the front-runner fan favorite characters right now, and his path the next season (or seasons) isn’t going to be pretty. His path to Meereen in the books is a bloated and tiring affair, and the show is doing good by trimming that down, and also seems to be eliminating Penny, and hopefully it isn’t too early to celebrate on that one.

We got a lot of characters this week, but a few took somewhat of a back light in small scenes. Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) left little ol’ Robin (Lino Facioli) in the training of Yohn Royce (Rupert Vansittart), which either hasn’t happened yet in the books and the show is playing fore-teller, or is taking things on a much different path.

For the most part, this story has passed (or looks like it has) where the book still is. Right now I’m wondering if the show hasn’t flipped the story around a bit, and is now having Sansa and Littlefinger head off to his home and still do the little side trip to his family that the books did before the Eyrie.

(There seems to be mounting evidence that the pair is heading to Winterfell, which makes ZERO sense to me, but what can you do).

We also got a REALLY brief scene with Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Podrick (Daniel Portman), which, frankly, really didn’t serve any purpose other than to remind people that the two characters are still alive and still with each other and are still going to probably do something interesting at some point. Given the show never really using the Mummers, I’m not quite sure what that use is going to be this season, That was also a mean tease to bring Sansa so close to Brienne. The show has shown it can be just as cruel as Martin.

From the looks of it, Margaery (Natalie Dormer) has already made a choice, we just don’t know what it is. We don’t really get inside Margaery’s heads in the books, but her spry little smirk as she told her brother that maybe Cerise wouldn’t be sticking around much longer is probably the scene that resonated the most. What exactly is she up to? We must know!

If I were a betting man, I’d go out and say that instead of having Cerisie try to frame Margery, I think the show might be setting up a more proactive Tyrell plot. and that Margaery might have a hand in the soon-to-come religious shattering of Cersie. Or it could be something totally different. Like I said, there’s a reason this scene still stands out; it did a good job setting up something for the viewer to latch on to and follow a bit more directly. It had some motion, at least.

Danny, now atop her pyramid in Meereen (and I hope the show finds a way to make her stay there WAY more bearable than the book does), seems to be doubting her choices. After one of the Second Sons is murdered by the Sons of the Harpy (in a weird brothel where he is paying for cuddles, apparently), both Daario (Michiel Hulsman) and Hizdahr zo Loraq (Joel Fry) begged her to reopen the fighting pits.

Danny, the idealist as ever, is starting to show both her lack of diplomacy as well as her lack of preparedness for rule. She’s going to be in Meereen for a long time, and I’m quite excited to see how the show’s fandom reacts to her over the course of this season. She’s had a lot of really lucky – and flawless – victories almost since the start of the show. But shit hits the fan (literally, ugh) in Meereen.

Also, the show needs to start making more of Loraq, because I didn’t even know that’s who he was supposed to be until doing the research for this review.

Luckily, Danny has Daario. We finally got a scene of them in bed together (previously only hinted at), and this was a good scene for Danny; robed and on her throne she is somewhat one dimensional. Only with Daario are we given this weaker and more human side of her; a character that wasn’t born to rule and isn’t sure she knows how to do it. She admits to Daario that she can’t control her dragons anymore, and he tells her that a mother of dragons without her dragons isn’t a mother at all.

Yup. That’s true.

Then, Danny backtracks on her choice to lock away her babies and goes and checks on them. They aren’t happy. Understandably. It was a weird scene; not just because she *just* locked them away and it seems weird to have her back tracking already, but also because she did it in front of guards. She should be scared that her lack of control over her pets will spread over the city, and that’s not a good way to keep things on the quiet front.

If the choice and consequence balance wasn’t stark (ha!) enough this episode, it really comes to fruition within Mance’s (Ciaran Hinds) arc. Mance is a great character in the books – one I feel the show has vastly underused – and now he found himself at the other end of Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and Melisandre (Carice van Houter) and their burning flames.

Just like with Varys and Tyrion earlier, this was another one of several places the writing just seemed off this week. Stannis all of a sudden has decided he wants the Wildings (something Jon (Kit Harington) needs to convince him of first in the books), and for some reason trusts Jon to try to convince Mance to kneel before him.

The show also doesn’t really do a good job of explaining why Mance won’t kneel, or why that is the choice he is sticking to. Jon’s argument is sound: Everything that Mance fought for dies if he dies. Explaining to Jon that “if he isn’t smart enough to understand there’s no reason in explaining” wasn’t just Mance talking down to Jon, it was Mance talking down to the audience. If the writers can’t find a way to explain why Mance feels the way that he does, that’s on them, and that ending line was just a cop-out.

There’s been a lot of rumor mongering if the show is taking a different path; if Mance is really dead and Tormund (Kristofer Hivju), or Rattleshirt (recast as Ross O’Hennessy) will instead be taking over Mance’s roll. I’m not particularly sure why people feel this way, and I don’t really think that there was anything about Mance’s death that made it so the show couldn’t do the same bait-and-switch that the books did.

Either way, (for now) Mance made his choice, even if it wasn’t one the show felt necessary to explain. But, scene by scene, line by line, we are starting to see characters make choices about how they are going to live in this new world. Some of them (Like Jaime and Cersie) are now underdogs where they were once untouchable, and will have to make careful choices.

The even bigger question that the show faces now, though, is that the books it is adapting don’t really have a clear result or climax of any of the characters choices over the next two books. The show is going to have to find a way to make that interesting for viewers. This week isn’t a bad start, but the writing issues and lack of any huge moments made this not the strongest foot for the show to start out on. But, the choices and consequences will continue, and this is just the start of another 10-hour journey through Westeros. Strap in.

Notes and Quotes:

-Welcome to my first “Game of Thrones” review! I was going back and forth on even doing written reviews with the podcast and all, but I apparently have a lot about this show I want to say, so, thanks for joining in. Just don’t expect both the podcast and the written review to be up at the same time. Only one person!

-As I said at the start, yes, I’m sorry, but this will be spoilers-only reviews each week. So much of what I want to talk about dovetails the books (and the show as an adaptation of them).

-That being said it is a bit exciting not knowing where some parts of the story are going. I actually started with the show before reading the books, so it’s an interesting return to being in the dark.

-We didn’t see any Arya (XXX) this episode, but given the preview and next week’s title, we’ll be seeing a lot of her.

-We didn’t see ANY of Dorne either, and from what I’ve heard that could be a few episodes away still. Give me those sand snakes!!

-The show also seems to be removing Pyke this season, which I am SUPER not happy about, as it was one of my favorite parts of ‘Feast for Crows.”

-So, my actual notes got deleted from this episode, so I lost the quotes I had picked out, but I remember Tyion had a good one, and. That was lame. Will be better next week.