‘Game of Thrones’ szn 7, ep. 3: Is Jaime about to become a cuck?

For all the dragons and armies and boobies, Game of Thrones is at its best when it’s at its quietest; that is, moments when it’s just two or three or maybe four people in a room talking to each other. In “The Queen’s Justice”, by far the strongest episode of a season that’s already 42.8% of the way over, we saw a handful of accelerated action sequences sandwiched in between a couple of killer conversations.

Let’s start with the obvious one, the most anticipated meeting in GOT history. Dany and Jon. Ice and fire. Auntie and nephew. The two characters this show has set up as the likable leads ever since season one. All that jazz. Despite the one-note nature of the Emilia Clarke and Kit Harrington as of late*, there was still some stirring dialogue here. I credit the larger context of the the conversation; context that the viewer, but not the characters, understand. There’s this “rule” in storytelling that for a scene to have real tension, someone has to be hiding something from someone else. Either one character knows something the other doesn’t, or the audience knows something neither characters do. This was of course a case of the latter as we all know Dany and Jon are related. Everything they do and say to each other before they learn the truth carries extra dramatic weight. It must be really fun to write dialogue this way, and harkens back to just how perfect is was to reveal Jon’s lineage to us last season before he met Dany.

*Just how many times is GOT going to make a joke about Jon Snow brooding before it, you know, has him do something other than brood?

Dany and Jon were at a relative stalemate at first. She wants him to bend the knee and support her claim to the throne. He wants her to give him dragonglass and join his side in the coming war against the dead. Luckily, Tyrion is there. He’s the best talker of the bunch and somewhat in the middle of the two. He’s loyal to Dany and wants to see her destroy Cersei, but he also knows Jon is an honest dude who probably isn’t making everything up. We saw him able to convince Dany to budge a bit and allow Jon to mine dragonglass. But it’s not like Dany and Jon are best buddies just yet. As Jon asked, how does he convince people he doesn’t know that a threat they don’t believe in is coming to kill them? That’s the story for the remainder this season.

I don’t care about Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes dying.

Line of the Week

“They just like severed heads, really” – Euron

Bran is sort of a weirdo, no? I understand his role as the Three-Eyed Raven requires him to act a certain way, but good god, that reunion with Sansa was cold. He hadn’t seen her in years, more or less since he could walk, and the first thing he said to her boiled down to “you looked pretty that night you were forced to marry and raped by a monster”. Bran is clearly a huge part of the show’s endgame, but his last few scenes have been uncomfortable to watch, and not in the way GOT scenes are usually uncomfortable to watch.

Ramsay Bolton, the aforementioned monster who terrorized Sansa, may be dead, but the show has been quick to replace him with Euron Greyjoy. Euron is a much more interesting character than Ramsay, however. Euron at least has understandable motivations, a certain method to his madness. Ramsay was a sadist who existed on the show for the sole purpose of giving the viewer someone easy to root against. It was fun to see Euron parade his captors through the streets of King’s Landing on his way to the Red Keep. Mark Mylod, a veteran director of GOT and other HBO shows, made a strong effort to shoot the walk from the same angles as Cersei’s “walk of shame” at the end of season five. It wasn’t too long ago that the same commoners were throwing shit and food at a naked Cersei; now they’re doing it to their enemies. It was a neat way to show the fickle nature of the people. “They just like severed heads, really,” as Euron said.

I still don’t care about Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes dying.

Cersei and Jaime’s wartime strategy certainly one-upped Tyrion and Dany’s yet again this week. I enjoyed the way the attack on Casterly Rock was staged, more or less as a montage narrated by Tyrion. In doing so, the show was able to not waste any time with a relatively insignificant plot point but still work in some action. It was a callback to Tyrion’s heyday of entertaining whores, much like Jaime’s decision to give up The Rock in favor of easily taking Highgarden was a callback to a similar tactic Robb Stark deployed against him back in season two. Also, the show didn’t make it clear, but the logic behind taking Highgarden instead of defending The Rock is so the Lannisters could use the loot from Highgarden, the richest place in Westeros, to pay back the Iron Bank. On top of that, Casterly Rock is on the other side of the world. Now without ships, Grey Worm and the Unsullied are basically stuck away from where the war is. If you’re Cersei/Jaime and had to chose having control of just one of the two, Highgarden is the obvious choice.

I absolutely adored the performance of Diana Rigg as Olenna Tyrell throughout her run on the show. Her scathing wit made every conversation she took part in entertaining. She was a true scene stealer. At no moment was that more clear than her final scene. Even facing certain death, literally having just drank poison, she still won the moment vs Jaime. The look on his face as she explained Cersei’s monstrosity and admitted to killing Joffrey was priceless. He knew everything she was saying was true. It’s yet another scene where Jaime’s allegiances are subtly tested. He loves Cersei and he probably always will. But there has to be a breaking point sooner or later. 

More subtext from the Jaime-Olenna convo…Olenna admitting to killing Joffrey, and Jaime clearly believing her, means he now knows Tyrion FOR SURE didn’t do it. And more importantly, he now knows Cersei wanted Tyrion, a brother who Jaime loves, dead regardless of his non-involvement. Tensions in that bedroom should be at an all-time high.

The Sam/Jorah/Citadel subplot has been very underwhelming. First off, the legendary and incurable sickness greyscale is in fact quite curable. It was as simple as peeling the stuff off then applying a little ointment*. Sam’s presence at the Citadel to this point has been nothing more than convenient placing to drive the plot. It hasn’t done anything to forward his character arc. He surely has more to learn there -the common theory is that he’ll be the one to discover Jon’s lineage- but the writers have sacrificed one of their stronger characters for narrative ease to this point in the season.

*It should be noted, however, that Shireen Baratheon was not treated that way. She still had visible greyscale on her face, it just stopped spreading.

“The Queen’s Justice” was an overall solid episode. It featured real forward motion, a highly anticipated meeting, and one of the finest scenes in the series’ run with the Jaime-Olenna ending. It still feels like things are moving a bit slow considering how little time is left, but we’re getting there.

I still definitely don’t care about Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes dying.

Five Random Thoughts:

  1. If for some reason you aren’t reading/watching Jason Concepcion of The Ringer, please stop reading this and do so. As The Ringer’s in-house GOT nut and self-described Maester, he knows more about the show and books than anybody. His content is always essential. His “Ask the Maester” mailbags are very educational for non-book readers.
  2. If you haven’t heard, there was a major hack of HBO. The company fears that scripts and even full episodes have been stolen. Add this to the fact that the entire plot of this season has been on Reddit for over six months (and it’s been accurate thus far), and we’re looking at a larger problem with cyber-security in relation to spoilers with GOT. In full disclosure, I am vaguely familiar with what’s rumored to go down. But I would never spoil anything.
  3. We got some Bronn this week! Albeit in a speechless cameo when Jaime took Highgarden.
  4. No Arya this week. Also, nothing from The Hound and the Brotherhood again. Expect Arya to return to Winterfell and be featured prominently next week.
  5. Get Diana Rigg a goddamn Emmy. That is all.

‘Game of Thrones’ szn 7, ep 2: Make Westeros Great Again

“Stormborn” opened with a literal storm and Dany discussing strategy with her newly assembled crew. GOT has made a continued effort to show us how different Cersei, Dany, and Jon are as rulers. Cersei has surrounded herself with yes men. Jon does what he believes is right regardless of what his advisors say. Dany is learning to heed advice, specifically Tyrion’s, perhaps to a fault. As Olenna reminds her, she’s a dragon. Tyrion is correct that a straight up dragon attack on King’s Landing would kill a bunch of innocents, but at some point Dany is going to have let the dragons loose and channel her inner Targaryen if she wants to take the Iron Throne. Her and Tyrion going to great expository lengths to justify this patience wasn’t just so the Tyrell’s, Greyjoy’s, and Sand’s would understand; but so the audience would as well. Dany and Tyrion spent a decent portion of this episode defending the fact that they’re still doing little more than talking about conquering Westeros. Ugh.

I was very frustrated with the Dany-Vays conversation. First off, why now? If she wanted to grill him on his loyalty and character, why not do it right when she met him like she did with Tyrion? Second, we’ve been watching the show for seven seasons, we know Varys’ story. We don’t need to hear Dany recount it. Then she does the same thing with Melisandre seconds later! These are cases where the writers don’t trust the audience to grasp the basic context of the conversations unless it’s explicitly stated. 

Cersei is attempting to rally support with fear tactic narratives about dangerous foreigners. It’s a desperation move as traditional support for the crown is waning. She’s burned a lot of bridges, blown up septs, etc. While she finally sits on the Iron Throne herself, the choices that brought her to this point have backfired. Known bigot and wildling hater Randall Tarly seems down for the cause, at least. And Cersei has Euron Greyjoy working for her.

Speaking of Euron, it appears as if his gift for Cersei is Ellaria Sand and/or Yara Greyjoy. Quite the romantic, that Euron. The episode concluded with a big action set piece of Euron attacking the fleet Dany sent to lay siege to King’s Landing. It was an impressively executed scene -anytime you’re doing something so big on water it presents a lot of filmmaking challenges- and Pilou Asbæk does a fine job playing the menacing and cocky Euron. This was the first time we got to see Euron in action, where we learned his boasts about being the best captain in the world weren’t just all talk. But the way the episode was structured, the scene was supposed to be a high stakes “oh shit” moment. Unfortunately, the showrunners miscalculated how much (or little) viewers care about the Sand Snakes. Their introduction was butchered and they’ve had no arc. Seeing two of them die did nothing for me. I never considered them important players in the larger story. I’m not alone. They’re amongst the most hated characters on the show. Season five is generally considered the weakest season and they’re a big part of the reason why.

Just when we thought Theon had conquered his demons in full, we’re shown the trauma he’s been through will always be a part of him. Despite saving Sansa and making a rousing speech championing Yara at the Kingsmoot, he couldn’t muster up courage amidst the sight of Euron’s men cutting out tongues. I’m sure the show will find a way to have him redeem himself again, but I don’t care at this point. The cyclical storytelling with him has grown old. 

My favorite character moment of the episode came when Grey Worm performed cunninglingus on everyone’s favorite cunning linguist. His speech about love allowing him to know what fear is for the first time in his life was poignant, and Missandei is a sensitive listener. This is the strongest romantic relationship on the show. The relationship brings out the best in both characters’ individual stories, rather than just functioning as a convenient plot device (cough cough Dario and Dany).

Line of the Week

“You’re a dragon. Be a dragon.” – Olenna

I’m confused as to what is happening with Arya. Last week, in the already infamous Ed Sheeran scene, Arya smiled and laughed for the first time in years. It was the first time we saw her genuinely happy, for even a brief moment, since season one. In this episode, she reunited with Hot Pie, but receives him relatively coldly. You’d expect some hugs and jokes and whatnot. But, nope. The scene’s atmosphere was very odd. Arya’s mind was elsewhere even before Hot Pie informed her that Jon is the King in the North. So what could’ve been a nice character moment existed solely to spark Arya’s decision to return home to Winterfell. At least her (and probably Bran as well) heading there should lead to a sweet Stark children reunion.

The highly anticipated “Jonerys” meeting is a foregone conclusion at this point. It’ll probably happen as soon as next episode considering how liberally GOT has handled travel time the last two seasons. There will be some tension. His primary reason for taking the meeting is getting Dragonglass and possibly Dany’s support in the Great War. She wants him to bend the proverbial or literal knee and help fight the Lannisters. Despite the fact that Dany-Jon are actually Aunt-Nephew, I sense that most fans are rooting for a romantic relationship to develop between the two. This is Westeros, after all. The social stigma of incest is little more than the occasional subtle asterisk on the line of succession. 

Littlefinger’s days seem numbered. He’s a man who trades in deception, plays sides against each other, etc. The problem is, he’s been exposed. Everyone, most importantly Sansa, has realized how he operates. With the Knights of the Vale now under Jon’s (and Sansa’s) control, he has zero leverage or real power. He’s Littlefinger, so he’ll conjure up some scheme. But he’ll probably get called out on it and end up with a dagger (or a “needle”?) through his heart. Arya is heading to Winterfell…

“Dragonstone” was an all-around frustrating episode. Individual scenes failed to land, and the hour as a whole was surprisingly stagnant considering the momentum from the premiere and fact that there are now just ELEVEN episodes left in the entire series. 

Five Random Thoughts:

  1. Next episode should be a doozy. Look out for the attack on Casterly Rock by the Unsullied, the Stark children reunion, and the Jonerys meeting.
  2. Jorah isn’t currently winning any ribbons for best beach bod.
  3. Where, exactly, is everyone’s favorite sellsword turned anointed knight?
  4. And, again, where is Gendry?
  5. HBOers, the fantastic Hacksaw Ridge became available to stream or watch On-Demand this weekend. Give it a look if you haven’t.

‘Game of Thrones’ szn 7, ep 1: Thinking Out Loud (and cleaning poop)

Thematically speaking, “Dragonstone” was quite an interesting Game of  Thrones season premiere. We all know the show has now entered its final act; last season’s finale confirmed such. The pieces are all in place. The worldbuilding seems to be over.Winter is here. But “Dragonstone” actually made a concentrated effort to use events from the past to show who our characters are now.

Whether is was Arya -under the guise of Walder Frey- recapping the red wedding to the surviving Freys before she poisoned them, Jon Snow refusing to punish the Karstark and Umber children for their fathers’ betrayal (much to the dismay of Sansa), or a changed Hound having himself a moment as he sees the corpses of two innocents he wasn’t very kind to back in season four….previous events are what drove the meat of this episode.

Starting with Arya feels right since the episode elected to do so with the rare cold open. I really don’t care that she killed the remaining Freys. They don’t matter. I didn’t even think they’d appear again. But it was a strong scene in a vacuum, with Arya slowly revealing to them what was happening, much like Walder did at the red wedding with the musicians. On the Kingsroad, Arya then ran into a group of Lannister soldiers (on of them played by Ed Sheeran in a stupid cameo that took me out of the show for a minute). This was a really important scene though. Arya initially planned on killing the men, I believe. There was a neat editing trick where we got a shot of their swords sitting on a log, out of reach. She certainly could’ve killed them. But she quickly realized they were blameless, and even shared a laugh with them. It was the first time we got to see a genuine smile from Arya in quite some time.

As for Arya’s old traveling companion, The Hound, he also had an important character moment. He’s a cynic of course, but he can no longer deny there’s something to this Lord of Light thing after looking into the fire (and witnessing Beric be resurrected). His character arc has been perhaps the show’s most interesting, and seeing him bury the father and daughter he came across with Arya long ago brought that full circle. The big ugly man who murdered an innocent child in the first season has now become a tragic hero. Rory McCann continues to be brilliant in the role. It seems likely he’ll team up with Jon Snow soon, as the Brotherhood are some of the few who actually realize the threat the White Walkers pose.

Line of the Week

 “Leave one wolf alive and the sheep are never safe” – Arya

Jon and Sansa have differing opinions on various matters, but they’re very civil with each other. Jon’s word rules, however. He’s all-in on preparing to fight the whites, even imploring Northern lords to train their young women to fight, and completely ignoring threats from Cersei. It was cool to hear Sansa put her weird respect for Cersei into words. She even went as far as to call Ned and Robb stupid (which is true). 

My favorite moment was actually the already infamous poop montage with Sam. I love when GOT breaks away from its standard “eight minute scene where one character mentions another, then cut to the character mentiomed for another eight minute scene” structure. The show can get a bit repetitive and predictable at times because of this. Also, that’s the great Jim Broadbent playing the Archmaester. Broadbent won an Oscar for the film Iris. This show continues to surprise with cool casting choices.

Cersei and Jaime’s relationship has never been more interesting. They love each other, obviously, but it’s getting harder and harder for the relatively kind-hearted Jaime to overlook Cersei’s lunacy. Something is going to drive them apart. It’ll probably have something to do with Tyrion and Dany showing up, which is happening soon, as Dany’s fleet has finally landed in Westeros (albeit at the slightly disconnected Dragonstone). This was a major moment. I love the decision to have it be dialogue free, just Dany slowly taking in all the sites. 

As far as season premieres go, “Dragonstone” was much more interesting than we’re used to from GOT. Was it still a relatively minor episode? Sure, but most of it was handled very well, and there were enough exciting moments to quench fans’ thirst for a week.

Five Random Thoughts: 

  1. So, is tight-fitting black leather the new trend in Westeros? It feels like everyone is wearing it out of nowhere. 
  2. We checked in with most major players this week. Notably absent: Olenna Tyrell and the Sand Snakes.
  3. GOT starting late this year made it ineligible for this round of Emmy nominations. It appears as if HBO directed their campaign to Westworld (22 nominations).
  4. Remember, there are only secen episodes this season. We’re already 14.28% of the way done.
  5. WHERE THE FUCK IS GENDRY?

The 10 (okay, 11) Best ‘Game of Thrones’ Episodes, Pt. 2

Here I conclude my countdown of my favorite Game of Thrones episodes with the top five. For #’s 11-6, click here.

Obviously, spoilers ahead.

#5) “The Children”

Season 4, Episode 10

Directed by: Alex Graves

Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss

GOT has built itself a reputation for unorthodox season structure. Usually, it rolls out its “big” episode as the penultimate one then uses the finale as a way to catch-up amidst the aftermath. Episode nine of season one saw Ned Stark beheaded. Episode nine of season two saw the Battle of Blackwater. Episode nine of season three saw a little event called the Red Wedding. So when the season four finale proved eventful, following the battle at The Wall in the prior episode, it was certainly a pleasant surprise.

Where do I even begin with this one? Maybe beyond The Wall? Jon Snow travels North to assassinate Mance and break up the wildling army. But after a tense conversation, Mance is quick to realize Jon’s plan. Jon seems doomed, but then Stannis’ army shows up, easily running through the tired and horseless wildlings. The key moment here is Jon suggesting Stannis spare Mance and take him as a prisoner. It’s proof that even after the bloodshed, Jon truly does respect Mance and his people. I found it a bit out of character that Stannis listened to him, but whatever. Also beyond The Wall, Bran and his traveling companions reach the Heart Tree. They’re attacked by some wights, who are fought off by the Children of the Forest in what made for the show’s most impressive use of CGI yet. The corpses were beautifully animated; horrifying.

Shit certainly goes down in King’s Landing as well. Tyrion, awaiting his execution, is sprung free by Varys and Jaime. The escape included a nice, minimalist farewell between the brothers. I don’t think anyone really thought Tyrion was going to die -his imprisonment had been dragged out too long as a plotline for it to end as one would conventionally expect- but Benioff and Weiss still managed to squeeze real emotion out of this moment. Of course, Tyrion, wronged by nearly everyone, isn’t interested in merely escaping. One of the series’ most heartbreaking moments comes when Tyrion enters his father’s chamber, sees Shae laying on the bed, and she mutters (thinking Tyrion is Tywin), “My lion”. To this point the series painted Shae as a whore with a heart of gold. It turns out, she’s was just a whore with a regular whorish heart. As Tyrion graphically strangles her to death, the look in Peter Dinklage’s eye is one of both sorrow and pure hatred. A fine speechless moment from the series’ best actor. He follows that up by putting a couple crossbow bolts in Tywin as he drops a deuce. That was a fascinating scene. Even facing certain death Tywin was incapable of truly apologizing to or embracing Tyrion. He gave some quick spiel about “You think I’d actually let them kill you?” but it was such an obvious lie. A great sendoff for Charles Dance, who gave one of the stronger performances on the series as Tywin. Tyrion-Tywin scenes were always great.

But my favorite moment came in the Vale. Brienne and Podrick come across Arya and The Hound. They recognize the girl, and The Hound’s insistence on being the one who looks after her results in the best fight the show’s had yet. Brienne and The Hound, two of Westeros’ mightiest warriors, both truly having the best of intentions regarding Arya, square off. That’s a complex scenario given how both characters developed into two of the more likable folks on the show. And the actual fight? Sheesh. It quickly becomes hand-to-hand combat as their swords are lost. The Hound kicks Brienne in the vayjayjay. Brienne smashes The Hound’s head with a rock. The sound design in this scene is exceptional. Every blow is heard clearly. It’s raw. No music plays (which differs it from most GOT action sequences). After Brienne wins the fight and The Hound takes a tumble, it appears he’s dead. Yett Arya finds him just barely alive. He begs her to kill him, to cross another name of her list. But she won’t. It’s the climactic moment in what developed into one of the series’ best relationships. Outstanding acting by Rory McCann, who’s been repeatedly snubbed by awards groups for his work in this role.

What a packed episode. And more than that, what a packed episode that takes its time with key moments.


#4) “Baelor”

Season 1, Episode 9

Directed by: Alan Taylor

Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss

“Baelor” served as GOT’s first true holy shit moment. As the first season neared its conclusion, I don’t think anyone sans book readers actually believed Ned Stark would be executed. After all, he was one of the few clear “good guys” on the show and the closest thing we’d ever get to an  actual protagonist. Ned Stark’s death was the moment when GOT showed us that nobody is safe and that nothing is predictable. It’s not automatically going to end happy for fan favorites as most fantasy stories tend to. It was certainly a ballsy moment both in print and on screen. Killing the guy whose face was on all the advertisements before the first season even ended? Unheard of. Looking back, however, it’s the only thing that made sense. It showed Joffrey’s monstrosity. It showed that honor gets you nowhere in Westeros. Most importantly, it showed that any character can be (literally) put on the chopping block.

Adding to the importance of the moment is the fact that it was shot and edited perfectly. We get images of Sansa looking on in horror, closeups of Ned’s head being put in place, Arya witnessing it all from the statue. As the sword finally comes down on Ned’s neck we cut to the Night’s Watch man Yoren holding Arya as she looks up, and then to an almost serene image of birds flying above. It was impeccably handled by Alan Taylor, perhaps the series’ finest director.

The other high point of the episode comes at the Lannister camp, where we’re introduced to Shae. She plays a revealing drinking game with Tyrion and Bronn, and the chemistry between her and Tyrion is clear from the start. In Dinklage’s best bit of acting this season, he recounts the story of how his brother set him up with a prostitute, who he married. Upon hearing of this Tywin made Tyrion watch as a gang of his men fucked her (not clear if it was rape or not). It was the first really dark moment from Tyrion, who to this point seemed like little more than a careless lusthound with an always problematic BAC. It provided great insight into why he feels so separated from every other Lannister.


#3) “The Winds of Winter”

Season 6, Episode 10

Directed by: Miguel Sapochnik

Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss

That opening. Holy fuck. Miguel Sapochnik hits us with a quiet, ominous sequence that lays the groundwork for the biggest massacre on GOT to date. Perfectly drawn out. Ramin Djawadi’s beautiful score plays as everything falls into motion. It’s primarily just piano, vastly different from the main theme and any character music. We slowly realize what’s happening as Qyburn’s “little birds” shank a few people and Cersei has The Mountain prevent Tommen from attending the trail in the Sept; where all of the Sparrows, all of the Tyrell’s, and many other innocent people are gathered. Margaery, perhaps Cersei’s greatest rival, is the first to notice that something is off. But it’s too late. Kaboom. The impressive set piece turns into a glorious onslaught of green flames. Cersei finally gets her revenge and is now in charge. The whole sequence was a remarkable filmmaking achievement, complimented by the scene of Tommen killing himself.

Elsewhere, Arya kicks off her revenge tour by giving her best Eric Cartman impression, baking Walder Frey’s sons into a meat pie that she feeds him just before she kills him. It was a nice little appetizer for what is sure to be a very violent conclusion to Arya’s storyline. We also get a preview of a very neat new location as Sam arrives at The Citadel. Yet another tease for next season takes place as Lady Olenna arrives in Dorne to spark an alliance against the Lannisters. And to cap it all off we see Dany FINALLY sailing her fleet to Westeros. This finale found the balance between previewing the next season, containing its own exciting moments, and wrapping up a few storylines. Quite the writing/directorial achievement.

The big revelation comes as Bran enters a vision of Young Ned at the Tower of Joy, one we were briefly shown earlier. The scene confirms what many believed for years; R + L = J. Jon Snow is not in fact Ned’s bastard child. He is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark (Ned’s sister). Lyanna, knowing Robert Baratheon would have the boy slaughtered, made it her dying wish to Ned that he protect him. So Ned, honorable to a fault, claimed Jon as his bastard. In real-time, Jon was just proclaimed King in the North because everyone thinks he has Ned’s blood running through him. In reality, he’s a Targaryen, and Dany is his aunt. Got it?

The showrunners were likely tired of the endless speculation surrounding who was in the Tower of Joy and Jon’s real heritage, so making the truth clear before the series goes into its final act was a wise move. Rather than end with a cliffhanger, season six ended by solving a mystery. Jon and Dany are obviously going to meet soon and there will be an interesting complex at play. Who else besides Bran will learn Jon’s true lineage? Maybe something Sam discovers at the library.

God, I am so excited for season seven, so this finale certainly did its job. It’s by far the strongest GOT finale yet.


#2) “Blackwater”

Season 2, Episode 9

Directed by: Neil Marshall

Written by: George R.R. Martin

GOT’s first real battle episode remains its strongest, despite later ones having much more money to work with. Stannis’ assault on King’s Landing benefited from: A) the viewer genuinely having no clue what was going to happen, B) a perfectly directed and written episode that kept everything in perspective. The actual wildfire explosion was spectacular, beautifully colored amidst the night sky. When we cut back to the faces of Tyrion, Joffrey, others on the wall there’s this subtle green lighting highlighting their faces. A nice touch by DoP Sam McCurdy.

“Blackwater” served as the series’ first bottle episode. The entire hour was focused on the events at King’s Landing. That allowed for not just some awesome action sequences but tense quieter moments as well. Bronn and The Hound almost fighting just before the bells ring? Tyrion channeling his inner Henry V to rally the troops (“Those are some brave men out there…let’s go kill them!”)? Joffrey showing his cowardice? Stannis refusing to admit defeat and having to be literally dragged off by his men? Gold. All great moments that, combined with the bloodshed, made for a fantastic hour.

But the highlight of the episode came inside the city. Locked away, Cersei and Sansa have a killer conversation. An increasingly drunken Cersei explains many things to young Sansa. She explains the raping that happens when a city is sacked. She explains that a woman’s most powerful weapon is what’s between her legs. In theory, she’s trying to help Sansa. But Cersei’s tone makes it clear she’s doing nothing more than trying to scare the shit out of the poor girl. One of the best moments for Lena Headey in the role. The scenes of the two talking provide a perfect contrast with what’s going on outside the walls.

GOT may have topped “Blackwater” in terms of sheer spectacle with episodes like “The Watchers on the Wall”, “Hardhome”, and “Battle of the Bastards”, but no battle episode was more carefully put together. This made for one of the finest hours in television history.


#1) “The Door”

Season 6, Episode 5

Directed by: Jack Bender

Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss

Am I crazy to say the saddest death so far on GOT was that of Hodor? At the very least, it was the most significant to the series’ overall mythos. Bran breaks his consciousness in two, staying at Winterfell in the past and warging into Hodor in the present. This of course tells us that Bran can serve as a direct connection between the past and present, and that many things that have happened or will happen were impacted by Bran long ago (check reddit for crazy theories concerning this). Can he literally change things that’ve already happened? We’ll see.

The actual death of Hodor, maaaaaaan. Young Hodor Wylis, through Bran, hears Meera Reed’s cries from the present for him to hold the door. So he has some sort of seizure, shaking and shouting “hold the door” until eventually all he can say is Hodor. It was an astonishing moment. The uncomfortable imagery of seeing the youngin’ have an attack while nobody is able to help him, cut together with Bran and Meera just barely escaping the army of wights. GOT enlisted Jack Bender to direct this episode. Bender has real experience with weird TV time continuums thanks to his work on Lost. This final scene felt like a tipping point in Bran’s often-shaky storyline. Isaac Hempstead Wright has become a significantly better actor with age and in season six Bran actually became one of the strengths of the series.

And Hodor, poor Hodor.

Other fun moments in this episode include the traveling players in Braavos recounting earlier events in hilarious fashion and the touching moment where Jorah, finally having been accepted back by Dany, reveals his greyscale to her. She orders him to find a cure. Could he be visiting Sam at The Citadel next season?

“The Door” is by no means the biggest GOT episode, but it’s certainly the most important. The entire narrative of the show falls apart if they don’t nail that scene with Bran and Hodor. It could’ve easily been confusing and/or corny. Instead, it made for the series’ finest moment.

The 10 (okay, 11) Best ‘Game of Thrones’ Episodes, Pt. 1

With Game of Thrones returning sometime this summer (probably) and me being tired of Reddit speculation, I figured it’d be fun to look back at some of the series’ high points. In a two-part post I’ll count down my top ten eleven episodes of series thus far.

Opinions are my own. if you’ve read me before you know I’m not a huge fan of Dany’s storyline to this point, so don’t expect many Dany-centric moments to be highlighted here. Sorry, nerds.

#11) “Two Swords”

Season 4, Episode 1

Directed by: D.B. Weiss

Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss

Game of Thrones season premieres tend to be lackluster relative to the series’ overall quality. They’re usually more or less an extended version of “previously on” previews: briefly checking in with our characters so we know where and with whom everyone is, keeping the story stagnant, beating us over the head with exposition so we’re sure to be ready for what will later unfold. It’s a wee-bit insulting as a viewer, frankly. The writers underestimate both the intelligence and passion of their viewers. Trust me, GOT fans know where everything is at heading into any given season.

But “Two Swords” was different. It did everything you could ask of a season premiere. It introduced a fascinating new character in Oberyn Martell, played with a perfect blend of anger and raw sexuality by the great Pedro Pascal. It sets in motion a major event when Ser Dontos gives Sansa the necklace that will later be used in the murder of Joffrey. But the high point of the episode comes at its end, when The Hound and Arya visit an inn also hosting Lannister soldiers, one of whom is the man who stole Arya’s sword and murdered her friend. The sequence is staged impeccably. It’s all fun ‘n’ games at first, with The Hound talking about chicken and whatnot. But there’s an ominous sense to the whole scene. The moment the men recognized The Hound we knew how it would end. We then get one of the more brutal close-quarter fights that ends with the thematic maturation of Arya Stark. She not only kills, but appears to enjoy it. This is where her revenge tour -still a significant subplot in the series- really kicks off. It also forces the The Hound to view her differently, which leads to some outstanding banter throughout the rest of the season.

“Two Swords” is the best GOT season premiere to date and one of the best episodes of season four. Even if I couldn’t quite sneak it into the top ten, it would’ve felt weird to not say anything about it.


#10) “The Broken Man”

Season 6, Episode 7

Directed by: Mark Mylod

Written by: Bryan Cogman

Sevens save ya, Ian McShane. When the great McShane was announced as a guest star for season six, there was rampant speculation from book readers as to who he would play. Casting him almost against type (remember, this is the man who made “cocksucker” sound eloquent on Deadwood), McShane played a one-off septon named Ray. He infused the episode with his trademark charisma. Of course, his real purpose was to provide an outlet through which The Hound could be brought back. I think most fans assumed that The Hound would return at some point, considering we didn’t see him die and his arc seems destined to end with him fighting his brother. What this revelation lacked in shock value it more than made up for in execution. That cold open where a group of five men haul a large log, then behind them just one man hauls an even larger log? Perfect. I think we all new it was The Hound even before the camera panned up to his maimed face.

Another high point of the episode is Yara Greyjoy emasculating her brother Theon by forcing him to chug ale and cracking jokes about his cajones, or lack thereof. But she still does care, and that’s clear. The Theon-Yara relationship hasn’t gotten a ton of time to develop but figures to be a significant part of the final two seasons. “The Broken Man” also includes the hilarious sequence where Jaime and Bronn arrive at the incompetent siege of Riverunn. Jaime, not known to be a particularly keen military commander, certainly makes the Freys seem foolish here. “You’re lucky we’re friends or we’d be fucking you in the arse right now”, says Bronn, bluntly. Yet, despite his newfound confidence, Jaime isn’t able to make the Blackfish move an inch.

The Blackfish has always been one of my favorite minor characters on GOT. Clive Russell plays him with this cool quietness that contrasts the emotive acting of nearly everyone else on the series. This episode also introduces Lyanna Mormont, who fucking rules.


#9) “The Rains of Castamere”

Season 3, Episode 10

Directed by: David Nutter

Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss

Popularly referred to as “The Red Wedding”, the penultimate episode of season three is viewed by many as the most shocking GOT episode to date. The thing is, if you were paying attention, you’d have smelled the death of Robb Stark (and therefore his wife and mother by association) from a mile away. It just made too much sense thematically. Westeros is an unforgiving place that cares not for love. Robb lost support from his following the second he chose to wed Talisa instead of the Frey girl he was initially promised to. That dwindling support became more clear when Robb executed Lord Karstark, arguably the most powerful of his bannermen.

It’s said that classic works -particularly those by Shakespeare- end one of two ways; a comedy ends in a wedding, a tragedy ends with death. George R.R. Martin scoffs at that idea. The actual red wedding sequence was beautifully blocked and written. Something is afoul from the start and it slowly develops to the point we realize what’s happening just as it happens. Many people leave the chamber. Frey men lock the doors. The musicians start playing the melody to Lannister song “The Rains of Castamere”. Catelyn notices Roose Bolton’s chainmail armor. And then, boom. Talisa is stabbed in the gut repeatedly, Robb and the few who still follow him are slaughtered. What was once a celebration (did Edmure still do the sex?) instantly became one of the bloodiest moments on a show that often makes Braveheart look G-rated.

Brilliant acting by Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark) in her last episode. Being a Stark, she just doesn’t understand how things actually work. Even after everything unfolds she still believes there’s a chance Robb will be spared. Fairley channels the despair with her voice. This is an iconic television moment in large part due to Fairley’s work.


#8) “The Old Gods and the New”

Season 2, Episode 6

Directed by: David Nutter

Written by: Vanessa Taylor

An episode loaded with quality scenes in nearly every location, I’ll begin beyond the wall. Qhorin Halfhand’s expedition, which includes the still pure Jon Snow, comes across a group of wildlings, including Ygritte. Charged with beheading her, of course Jon doesn’t. A cat-n-mouse game ends in them having to spoon for warmth. The sexual tension won’t come to a boil until a few episodes later, but this is where GOT’s most tragic love story begins. Rose Leslie (who plays Ygritte) is just so much fun. Her chemistry with Kit Harrington will go on to result in many of series’ best moments.

In King’s Landing, shit happens, literally. A crowd of starving people is getting unruly. One of them chucks a turd at Joffrey, who immediately shows off both his cruelty and stupidity by ordering them all to be slaughtered. This was really the first time someone other than Cersei checked Joffrey, and the first time we got a real glimpse of how upset commonfolk were with his rule. The sequences culminates with Tyrion bitch-slapping his nephew and hilariously proclaiming “And now I’ve struck a king! Did my hand fall from my wrist?”. I always found the Joffrey-Tyrion relationship to be one of the more interesting ones. Tyrion is never afraid to speak down to, even order around, Joffrey. Joffrey never really does anything about it early on. Perhaps he had a strange respect for his uncle, or perhaps he truly was that much of a coward.

My favorite scene in the episode comes at Harrenhal. Arya, serving as the cupbearer for a Tywin Lannister who has no clue who she is, lies brilliantly over a multiple episode stretch. But for a moment it appears over here as Littlefinger visits Lord Tywin. Arya stays in the room serving the two, even spilling wine on Littlefinger. As she circles the table he gives her multiple glances. It’s unclear if he recognized exactly who she was (Littlefinger is obviously tough to read), but he surely realized something was different about this girl. The tension is almost unbearable. Exceptional direction and blocking from David Nutter, one of GOT’s finest directors.


#7) “Hardhome”

Season 5, Episode 8

Directed by: Miguel Sapochnik

Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss

The titular battle at Hardhome was only mentioned in the books. The showrunners made the executive decision to flex their budget and show it here, a wise move as it serves as the first real glimpse we get at the army of the dead in action. Other things happened in this episode, but let’s not pretend that’s why people love it.

The battle is glorious and manages to draw out tension despite it being obvious that Jon Snow isn’t going to die here. It also made the important revelation that Valyrian steel can kill the walkers. The actual battle features some great long-take fight choreography, something Kit Harrington and Miguel Sapochnik have expressed is important to them. It’s also surprising how hard the death of female wilding Karsi hits considering we were just introduced to her. “Hardhome” featured not just a visually spectacular battle, but one very important to the larger context of the series.

And, that ending, wow. Perfectly edited by Emmy winner Tim Porter. We alternate between shots of the Night’s King raising his arms, Jon Snow looking on in horror, and perspective shots of the boats and army of the dead. It’s a harrowing moment that genuinely had me speechless afterwards. What more can I really say about “Hardhome”? Fans voted it the best episode in the series. I wouldn’t quite go that far, but it is astonishing.


#6) “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things”

Season 1, Episode 4

Directed by: Brian Kirk

Written by: Bryan Cogman

A relatively quiet but outstanding episode of GOT (yes, those exist). This episode features Tyrion returning to Winterfell after his visit to the Wall. As a dwarf, he of course has a soft spot for what Bran is experiencing. To see Tyrion make the kind gesture of giving Bran blueprints for a saddle that will allow him to ride while we know that Catelyn Stark is coming for him thinking he’s responsible for Bran’s crippling is quite a neat trick. And at this point we’re not yet aware that Tyrion is different from the rest of his family. For all we knew, he did conspire to kill Bran.

This is also the first episode where Ned really starts doing some investigating in King’s Landing, discovering the existence of Gendry (remember him?) in the process. Also in the capital, we see The Mountain kill a man during a joust just after Littlefinger frightens the Stark girls by telling them the story of The Mountain and The Hound. It’s a chilling moment for reasons far beyond the blood. Aidan Gillen is so good at playing Littlefinger. Those sly smirks help create the character more than anything he actually says.

One of my all-time favorite GOT moments happens here when we’re introduced to Sam at The Wall. He is of course fat and clumsy, and his apparent weakness gives us our first glimpse of the real Jon Snow, who defends him amidst the ass-beating he’s receiving from the other trainees. It kicks off the shows best bromance and serves as an important early moment for two major characters.

That’s it for now. Check back later for my top five GOT episodes.

‘Game of Thrones’ szn 6, ep. 10: Winter is here?

For the better part of a decade, Games of Thrones has told us that shit’s about to get real. Time and time again it’s reminded us of its inevitable fireworks, even going as far to use them as a crutch. We were told in the very first episode that the White Walkers are coming, that the Targaeryn’s are coming to retake Westeros. “Winter is coming”, “I will take my throne with fire and blood”, yada yada yada. It’s a testament to the remarkable world-building of George R.R. Martin and the showrunners that the show continued to grow in popularity despite none of the big stuff actually happening.

Tauheed Epps –known to most as 2 Chainz- once wrote, “It ain’t a strip club if they ain’t showing pussy”. Running further with that metaphor (surely a problematic one given the mixed reactions to GOT’s use of female nudity), GOT has been a quaint but relatively tame gentlemen’s club to this point. The buffet is great, the dancers and staff are all nice, but we know the real fun is waiting to go down in the VIP room. Only you can’t get into the VIP room right away. You need to throw a healthy amount of singles around and pay a $25 ATM fee before you’re deemed worthy. You need to watch six exposition-heavy seasons. You simply have to earn it. Gotta crawl before you ball, you know?

It takes guts to open a season finale the way Game of Thrones did with “The Winds of Winter”. It takes trust in your audience to pick up visual cues. There couldn’t have been more than ten lines of dialogue over the episode’s first fifteen minutes. Instead, Ramin Djawadi’s score and some meticulous staging from director Miguel Sapochnik set up Cersei’s revenge in a way that verbal exposition never could. Everyone who’s anyone gathered in the Great Sept of Baelor for the trials of Loras Tyrell and Cersei. Everyone except those who Cersei would like to keep alive, that is. Margaery, one of the few characters whose proven herself Cersei’s relative equal in terms of string-pulling, put two-and-two together. But it was too late. The Faith Militant wouldn’t let anyone leave. Chekhov’s wildfire caught flame, and, boom. Quite literally. Everyone blew up.

Cut to:

Queen Mother/Domestic terrorist Cersei safely overlooking her achievement from a balcony, sipping wine, smirking in the way only she can. It was clear all season Cersei was plotting something; and while the Redditors may have pieced it together weeks ago, it was still genuinely shocking to see it come to a boil. The explosion looked spectacular. We were given shots from inside the Sept and outside the Sept that perfectly set the physical stage for the explosion. When everything went green, the show didn’t need to waste time showing the wreckage from various spots in the city. We knew the massacre was contained and we knew where it was contained to. There were countless moments throughout the season where it felt like Cersei was this close to just telling the Mountain to go crazy. But she knows the game. She showed patience; waiting until she had the perfect hand. Cersei remains one of the very smartest characters in this world.

She didn’t want Tommen to die. That much I know. Otherwise she wouldn’t have had the Mountain put him in timeout. But I don’t think she’s exactly losing sleep over her son’s self-inflicted fatal tumble (talk about a king’s landing, am I right?). After all, she has an Iron Throne to sit on for the time being.

I didn’t like how Margaery’s death was handled. She’s only one of the hundreds who died in the explosion, so I get why the show wouldn’t focus on her demise but goddamn that’s a MAJOR character we’ve known for a long time gone without any sort of remembrance and with a story still left to tell. What was her plan? She WAS playing the High Sparrow, we saw that two episodes ago. I guess we’ll never know? But, hey, I can’t even say for sure that she’s 100% dead (which is what happens when you end your fifth season with a supposed death that everyone knows isn’t final).

Checking in with Bronn of the Blackwater, week 10

Bronn and Jaime conveniently left the Riverlands just in time to witness Cersei’s crowning, and just in time to not run into vengeful Arya. Back in Westeros armed with little more than a small sword, masks, and a hit list; Arya is the wild card. Her first victim was Lord Frey, and she went about it in a way that would make Titus Andronicus proud. This finale made the next move for most characters clear, but again, Arya is the wild card. She’ll get in the way of someone’s plans. What makes this so interesting is that nearly every character thinks her dead. The people know about Dany and her pending invasion. The people know Winter is here. But they don’t know Arya Stark is. Well, maybe Brienne, the Hound, Hot Pie, and Podrick do. But that’s it.

I touched on this a couple weeks ago but GOT has completely given up making any geographical/sequential sense, which is probably for the best at this point. Characters are seemingly teleporting from place to place rather than embarking on the long road side plots. Theon and Yara got to Meereen rather quickly. Arya got back to Westeros rather quickly. Varys went from Meereen to Dorne then back to Meereen quicker than Bronn can say “cunt”. I loved some of season-long voyages, but we’re past that. There’s no more time for building relationships (I would hope). The players are all there.

Noticeably absent from this episode was Jorah, presumably off somewhere looking for a cure to greyscale. He’s probably going to run into Melisandre at some point, right? Jon sent her away after her child-burning tactics were revealed. A common theory suggests that it was Melisandre or someone of similar faith who cured Shireen Baratheon’s greyscale, which would certainly explain Stannis’ blind trust in Melisandre (something that never really made sense given Stannis’ general practicality).

We DID return to Samwell this week, seeing the Citadel for the first time. It is certainly something. A gigantic, possibly infinite library that extends up and up and up. That’s a lot of books. Maybe Samwell will find George R.R. Martin there. Maybe that’s what he’s been doing instead of, you know, writing the conclusions to the stories that have made him a millionaire.

The “Daenerys Sucks Diaries”, week 10

Dany doesn’t suck anymore. She’s learned some valuable lessons and her character is far less boring for it. Electing to leave Daario in charge of Meereen is a clever move by both Dany and the showrunners. She can use marriage as a political tool, and the show got rid of a relatively insignificant character without having to resort to some gimmicky death (cough cough Rickon).

I was happy to see Dany’s big plan finally take shape this season, though it does seem like the last minute addition of the Tyrell’s and Martell’s to her following was lazy. I’m assuming more exposition was shot and then left on the cutting room floor. Whatever. But how did Lady Olenna know about the massacre in King’s Landing so soon? One would assume that people seeing Cersei’s true colors –if they were somehow not yet aware- would drive support towards Dany. I hope this politicking is explored further. There’s urgency, but major houses in Westeros aligning with Dany isn’t something you can just gloss over. This show has spent years world-building, all of it leading to this moment. Let it breathe a bit.

What a nice scene between Dany and Tyrion. Their relationship hasn’t delivered the weekly gems we thought it would –mostly due to Dany not actually being there- but it’s clear that Tyrion has made Dany a better leader, and just as importantly, it’s clear she recognizes that. Tyrion saved King’s Landing in season two but was never properly credited. Dany needs him and she knows it. Dany physically putting the Hand’s badge on Tyrion was the moment he’s been waiting for since his inception. Acting alongside Peter Dinklage has really brought out the best in Emilia Clarke. This was the first season where her stoic interpretation of the character didn’t get in the way. The character has finally earned such a demeanor. THE most exciting development for me this season was Dany and her entire storyline moving away from what held it back for so long; repetitiveness, stagnancy, lifeless character work, and frivolous exposition about dragons and whatnot. So Dany no longer sucks, officially. I’ll have to think of a new organizational tool for next season.

Sidebar: Who do you think Dany will marry? Will she marry at all? Would taking the hand of a strapping Westerosi bachelor make her seem less powerful? Is there a chance she marries Tyrion, or a character of equal significance?

The image of Dany’s fleet (the Unsullied, the Dorthraki, the Ironborn, the Martell’s, the Tyrell’s) feels like the climactic one (so far). Even more so than the assumed White Walkers attack I believe fans have been anticipating Dany’s attempted conquest since the very first episode. The digital artists did a nice job making everything look as vast as it should have.

Of course, the biggest moment in last night’s episode came courtesy of a flashback, which itself came courtesy of Bran more or less accepting his new role as the Three-Eyed Raven. “R + L = J” has long been the most common theory amongst fans. It’s a detailed theory supported by many things in the books that never really factored in on the show but at its simplest it says that Jon Snow is not, in fact, Ned’s Stark’s bastard, but is the child of Ned’s sister Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. Knowing that baby Jon will be killed due his bloodlines, Lyanna asks Ned to care for him as her dying wish. Ned then assumes the humility and tells the world that Jon is his bastard. That’s the most Ned Stark thing ever.

Google it for more concrete details; but at its core it’s all about Jon being half-Stark, half-Targaryen. We saw last night through Bran that Jon is FOR SURE Lyanna’s son, not Ned’s. But the show intentionally cut the volume as she whispered into Ned’s ear. This is gimmicky. It’s extremely similar to the use of Jon’s death in last season’s finale. Everyone is going to assume all year that Jon is Rhaegar’s son. Book-readers will probably be able to prove it. It was clear from his resurrection that Jon is the key to this whole thing, What the show just did was CONFIRM part of his ancestry while still trying to use his other familial mysteries as a cliffhanger. Ewwwww.

I also continue to be confused by Sansa, which is probably intentional, but frustrating nonetheless. She has a heart-to-heart with Jon where she apologizes for not telling him how she sent for Littlefinger and they express how important it is to be honest with each other. The immediately afterwards Littlefinger tells her how his end goal is to sit alongside her on the Iron Throne and SHE DOESN’T TELL JON, even as Littlefinger slyly smiles when Jon is proclaimed King in the North. What the fuck.

Side note: Lyanna Mormont is an OG.

Tweet of the Week

Capture

My personal distaste for GOT’s newfound reliance on bad cliffhangers aside, this was a worthy finale that brought both great contained moments and moved the larger story forward in interesting ways, which is rare for a show whose finales are often just clean-up episodes after each season’s penultimate shitshow. The entire sequence in King’s Landing was beautifully done, and fans are surely thrilled to see Dany and company finally set sail. It’s hard to ask for much more out of a season finale. “The Winds of Winter” tied up some stories while laying the foundation for others, all the while remaining a riveting hour-plus of television from scene to scene.

As a whole, season six was pretty damn great. It had its lulls like any season but branching off from the books proved to be just what the show needed after two wasteful seasons in four and five. If you were to divide this show up into beginning-middle-end, season six probably marks the conclusion of the middle section. With a rumored fourteen episodes left, everything is set up for this show to go out with a bang.

There’s so much more to talk about with the episode but this is already my longest recap ever. Maybe I’ll go back to it soon.

Arbitrary Ranking of the Week

Seasons of Game of Thrones, ranked

  1. Season 2 (nothing tops Tyrion’s stint as Joffrey’s Hand in terms of pure watchability and quality writing. Also, “Blackwater” is still the shows finest hour).
  2. Season 3 (Not just the Red Wedding, but the way the season was set up so that the Red Wedding, while shocking, made perfect sense).
  3. Season 6 (A season full of rising action ended with a bang. The most linear season despite the use of flashbacks)
  4. Season 1 (It’s very difficult to introduce so many characters and do so much world-building while still creating tense episodes. They nailed it)
  5. Season 4 (it was too up-and-down. You’d have an “oh shit” moment followed by two hours of boredom.)
  6. Season 5 (Ewwww. Had “Hardhome” not been so spectacular I may have quit the show. For real.)

Five Random Notes

  1. I really enjoy ranting about this show. Its popularity helps the discussion of it (as much as I tend to hate fan theories). I’m thinking I may go back to season one and do episode-by-episode recaps before the show returns, contemplating each episodes worth knowing what we know now. Hopefully I can find the time and hopefully the interest is there. If not, whatever, it gives me an excuse to rewatch GOT.
  2. The Night Of, the new HBO miniseries which premieres July 10th, actually has its pilot on HBO right now. It’s INCREDIBLE. A slow-burner for sure, but filled with great performances and some brilliant cinematography. I highly recommend and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.
  3. If you need a show, might I also suggest Mr. Robot (I know, I know, everyone is telling people to watch Mr. Robot). Its first season was the best standalone season of television since whatever the best Breaking Bad season was. Season 2 starts July 13th, which leaves you time to binge (only 10 episodes).
  4. Where the hell is Gendry?
  5. Ser Davos, please don’t die. I love you.

‘Game of Thrones’ szn 6, ep. 9: A Glorious Bastard

It’s the remix to Ignition

Hot Pie workin’ the kitchen

Now all my direwolf pastries are totally bitchin’

What defines “good” when talking about a Game of Thrones episode? More specifically, what defines “good” when talking about the most-anticipated GOT episode in the show’s six-year run? Any given episode can be great for any given reason. Some episodes seamlessly forward the plot. Some bring about shocking revelations or critical character moments. Some are just plain badass. The truly perfect GOT episodes –like S2’s “Blackwater”, or last season’s “Hardhome”- do all of these things. Before you read my general cynicism, ask yourself, was ”Battle of the Bastards” everything you expected it to be and more?

It’s not baseless overkill to call “Battle of the Bastards” the most-anticipated GOT episode yet. GOT is more popular now than it ever has been. It’s at the brunt of the pop culture discussion to a degree nothing else has come close to in my lifetime. On a personal level, this episode felt so much like an event that I, a diehard hoops fan, tuned out of Game 7 of the NBA FUCKING FINALS to catch it. I didn’t despise the episode by any means; but when the dogs ripped Ramsay up and the credits rolled, I went back to the basketball game thinking, “That was cool. I guess.”

For an episode on such a large scale, I was frustrated with how safe and obligatory this felt. What really was at stake? Let’s start at Winterfell, the site of the titular battle. Did anyone expect Ramsay to win? Was this show really going to waste the time of having Jon Snow lose and regroup when there are much bigger wars to be fought? If it sounds like I’m asking a lot of questions, I am. I really am interested to see what other people thought going into and coming out of this episode.

I couldn’t even take Rickon’s death seriously, as cruel as that may sound. I don’t give two shits about Rickon because the show has given me no reason to other than his last name being Stark. He’s had, what, 20 minutes of screentime the whole series? His capture by Ramsay was purely a plot device; something included solely to add urgency to an event that didn’t need any added urgency. As for the physical killing of Rickon, good God man. We’ve seen Ramsay shoot a few arrows but nothing’s indicated that he’s some master-archer capable of pulling an Apocalypto with so much ease. I’m just going to move forward pretending Rickon, and that scene, never existed.

The battle itself was beautifully staged by director Miguel Sapochnik, who should be getting calls from Hollywood franchises as we speak given what he did here and with “Hardhome”. There was nothing particularly poetic about this battle. It was raw. Blood, guts, mud, and piles of corpses so high Jon literally found himself buried in one of them. GOT has never skimped in regards to brutality, but this was something else. The producers have talked extensively about how this was their most expensive and difficult moment. A grueling 25-day shoot with hundreds of extras, a whole lot of horses, and careful choreography. They nailed it. This certainly looked like the open-field battle we’ve been waiting for. If only it felt that way.

I’m not saying Ramsay should’ve won. His assuredness was always his tragic flaw; and a classical one at that. It was very much within the frame of his character to foolishly decide to meet Snow’s army in the open as opposed to taking advantage of Winterfell’s reinforcements.

My problem is with how Snow won the battle. Is it possible for a TV show or movie to have battle that doesn’t end with the underdog being saved at the last minute by a third-party cavalry that just happens to show up at THE PERFECT MOMENT? We’ve seen this so many times before. Shit, we’ve seen this on GOT multiple times before. It felt like a cop-out (even if it made sense on a strategic level).

Also, why in the fuck didn’t Sansa tell Jon she wrote Littlefinger? This makes ZERO sense. She didn’t think they had enough men, but Jon was moving forward regardless. Talk about communication issues. And to think some of you want them to become a couple.

Checking in with Bronn of the Blackwater, Week 9

No Bronn this week as everything was focused on Winterfell and Meereen.

Surely Littlefinger’s motivations for saving the day extend beyond just helping Sansa and Jon win this battle. Did Sansa promise him something in that letter? Littlefinger is a character who stands just outside the major happenings until he sees an opportune moment. Maybe he wants the North. Maybe he wants Sansa. Maybe he wants the Seven Kingdoms. I’m not sure, but he wants something.

Ramsay was probably the most hated character on GOT yet. His death, though predictable, was satisfying. Jon beat him into submission but made sure he was still breathing so Sansa could watch him get ripped apart by his own dogs. That was certainly a moment. She didn’t even blink. She stood outside the cage (cliché visual motif!), watching every second of it. As nice as it would’ve been to see Sansa order the removal of a certain body part, Ramsay’s actual death felt proper.

The “Daenerys Sucks Diaries”, Week 9

Coming in, I thought this episode would be ENTIRELY dedicated to the battle in Winterfell. To see it include and even open with the battle at Slaver’s Bay was a surprise. I’m glad they got it out of the way so the finale can focus on other things. GOT flexed its CGI-muscle with those dragons. The ship-burning sequence was spectacular, as was the use of scaled models to show Dany flying above the entire city. Nothing looked cheap, which is refreshing on a show whose CGI can (understandably) be very hit-or-miss.

I don’t really understand why Dany was so forgiving towards Tyrion, who violated her orders and almost lost the city. She’s been pretty damn stern and unforgiving up to this point. Perhaps her embracement of Jorah and forgiving of Tyrion indicate a change in her mindset. Maybe she’s realized that she needs help from those she swore to burn.

Theon and Yara arriving in Meereen (that was quick) supports that idea. Dany needs to compromise. She needs ships. The Greyjoy rogues have ships, and they want the Iron Islands. This would appear to be a pretty easy deal to make. There was also a nice girl power moment between Dany and Yara, both of whom have seen their sex be an additional hurdle to get over. Yara is a bit more masculine in the classical sense (we’ve also seen that she hits from both sides of the plate), but Dany has proven herself quite forceful in a world where women are mostly either trophy wives or whores. I don’t actually believe Yara gives a damn about leaving the world “better than she found it”, but maybe Dany will rub off on her.

Tweet of the Week

CaptureEl oh El.

Going back to my original thought, I don’t really know what to think of “Battle of the Bastards”. It looked spectacular but felt minor the more I think about it relative to the larger story. It was very neat, happy even. Because of this, I’d expect some serious tragedy in the finale next week.

Arbitrary Ranking of the Week

GOT “Battles”, ranked

  1. Blackwater
  2. Hardhome
  3. The Wall
  4. Battle of the Bastards

Five Random Notes

  1. Oh boy, how about that Game Seven? I’m happy for LeBron. He finally has more rings than Michael Jordan.
  2. I saw Finding Dory. It wasn’t very good. Gorgeously animated but the story just took HUGE leaps and the supporting characters weren’t charming or funny. It had its emotional moments but the whole middle third of the movie was bad. However, Piper, the short before the feature, is possibly my favorite thing Pixar has ever done.
  3. Next week’s GOT will be 69 minutes long. Nice.
  4. Miguel Sapochnik also directed the finale.
  5. Iwan Rheon, the actor who plays Ramsay, originally was brought in to audition for the role of Jon Snow.