Game of Thrones: Mother’s Mercy

June 15, 2015 Science Fiction & Fantasy Comments (2) 818

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Read on and you may encounter spoilers from the show, the books, Winds of Winter sample chapters, and fan theories. You have been warned.

Okay, for starters: We can all agree that Season Five was a big steaming mess, right? I mean, it had its high points, but mostly it reaffirmed that the more the writing departs from the source material, the more it falls into repetition and cliche and rape. Lots and lots of rape.

We’re all in agreement? Good. With that out of the way, the Season Finale was at least a solid effort, getting the show back on track and hitting the right notes with the last two major plot points book readers have been waiting for. It also left us with a number of cliffhangers (semi-literally) so that the readers and non-readers can, for the first time, fall into speculation together. The books and the show are pretty much caught up at this point, other than a few points here or there, and we’re all in the same boat, wondering what will come in Season Six–and whether The Winds of Winter might manage to reach bookstores first.

Just a thought: Maybe the words of House Martin should be “The Winds of Winter is coming.” I’m sure no one has ever made that joke before.

As usual, I’m departing from a formal structure and just tossing out thoughts in bullet-form. I’d love if you contribute your own random thoughts in the comment section.

  • Sam asking to go to Oldtown was an odd change. With Jon having just confronted the Night King at Hardhome, and talking to Sam about that exact event, I fully expected him to say “We need to know everything we can about the White Walkers, go do research Sam.” Instead Sam asks to go primarily to protect Gilly and the baby, and him becoming a maester seems almost an afterthought. It’s a more human motivation for a TV character, sure, but it’s also a very strange motive for an order (of which Jon is Lord Commander) that’s sworn off sex. Then Jon figures out that Sam and Gilly did it, and he just smiles and pats Sam on the back. The show has come a long way from the reverence Sam and Jon showed before that Weirwood in Season One–now Jon’s all “Good job betraying your oath, Samwisewell.”
  • Has any scene on the show ever felt flatter than the throne room scene in Mereen? Even Dinklage couldn’t breathe life into that stinker–it was like watching a bad improv act. Maybe the other actors all conspired against Daario 2.0 and vowed not to bail out his boring ass in hopes they’ll get a 3.0.

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HBO’s Game of Thrones: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken (S5E6)

May 18, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (1) 709

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As usual, I’m playing fast and loose with spoilers from the show, from all the books (including sample chapters, and even from interviews and apocryphal material. You have been warned.

The writers on HBO’s show have one, and they’re going to play it over and over again.

As a fan of the book series, one of the more difficult things to accept from the TV is the reduction, to the point of near-elimination, of magical elements. In the books, magic steadily grows as an influence as Dany’s dragons age, but on the show we get dragons and White Walkers, and that’s about it. Even where magical plotlines seem to be set up–Berrick Dondarion, for instance–the show shies away from the supernatural. There’s no Coldhands, no Horn of Joramun, no glass candles, no Quaithe or Azor Ahai or any other prophecies, no glamour, and no Lady Stoneheart. At least, not yet.

The show runners have talked about magic, and their sense that it takes away from the realism of the show; that asking viewers to accept an undead Caitlin Stark or a magical door through the Wall is asking them to go a step too far. Instead, we get rape, and more rape, and–oh yeah–just a little more rape.

Rape is the go-to peril for any female character on the show, and while in earlier seasons the threat of rape was used with some skill to create tension–between Joffrey and Sansa, Brienne and Locke, or later Tyrion and Sansa–it’s now deployed with little art to elevate Ramsey into top-villain position. I’m reminded of that Stephen King theory about terror, horror, and revulsion. The series has devolved into Hostel territory, and like many people I found myself watching that final scene and hoping for some unexpected twist that never came. Instead we got the horrifying yet dull scene we all expected, even if it didn’t make sense for any of the characters involved.

I don’t need to go on about why this is such a weak storytelling choice; for that I’d recommend you read Laura Hudson at Wired. Hudson is particularly dead-on about how regressive this feels as a storyline; we’ve been down this road with Sansa already, and it’s just tiresome to have the writers try to re-tread. Alyssa Rosenberg at the Washington Post is more forgiving of the choice, particularly the way it’s presented in contrast with the analogous scene from the novels; but I’d argue that if the best defense one can mount of this scene is “it could have been worse,” we’re not addressing the core problem. Specifically, that far too often when the show’s writers deviate from Martin’s source material, that deviation involves sexual violence against a woman.

If I’m honest, the writing on this show peaked with the Red Wedding, and hasn’t really been great since. Sure, there have been a few high points, but season four was basically clunky from beginning to end, and while some of the changes made in season six five are interesting and tighten up the narrative, the show is suddenly reliant on tropes and redundancies to drive the story. I know I don’t have the willpower to stop watching, from this point on I suspect I will be hate-watching.

Further thoughts are bullet-pointed: Continue Reading

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HBO’s Game of Thrones: “House of Black and White” (S5E2)

April 22, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews, Science Fiction & Fantasy Comments (0) 457

house_of_black_and_whiteWARNING: As usual I play fast and loose with spoilers, so if you aren’t caught up on the TV series AND books (including the Winds of Winter sample chapters) you may want to sit this one out.

After a generally underwhelming season premiere immediately delivered on the showrunners’ promise to deviate from the books, the second episode really hammered that point home with significant changes to almost every character’s arc. As Varys remarks to Tyrion that their kind will never be allowed to rule, and Jon Snow finds himself suddenly in charge, everybody who’s actually holding power spends their time struggling with it. Episodes like this explain why HBO went with the title of the first novel, rather than the book series; the “Game of Thrones” is not only about who sits it, but what that person does while their butt is in the seat.

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HBO’Game of Thrones: Some Surprises in WaPo’s Infographic

April 10, 2015 Pop Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy Comments (0) 647

GoTThe Washington Post (specifically, Shelly Tan and Alberto Cuadra) put together an absolutely fantastic infographic that charts every on-screen death in the HBO series so far. It’s a great way to kill your productivity at work, but there are certainly a few surprises.

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Halloween photo, belated

November 11, 2014 Personal, Pop Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy Comments (0) 1031

White Walker Texas Ranger Chandelier Halloween

Low-key Halloween this year, what with moving just a few days earlier. Still, pretty proud of our costume choices: White Walker, Texas Ranger and Sia’s unnamed avatar.

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HBO’s Game of Thrones: Family, Honor, and Legacy in Westeros

June 23, 2014 Pop Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy Comments (0) 1679

“Your father grew up in these same halls. We hunted together many times. He was a good man.”
– Lord Yohn Royce, to Sansa Stark

“Your father was an honorable man…what would he have done?”
– Stannis Baratheon, to Jon Snow

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**SPOILER WARNING: If you haven’t caught up on the HBO series through the end of Season Four, be forewarned. There are no book spoilers past “A Storm of Swords.”

One of the most interesting things about HBO’s Game of Thrones adaptation has been seeing the cultural rules of Westeros at play. Life in a feudal medieval society is core to the book series, which George R. R. Martin meant to present something more grounded in reality than his beloved Tolkein, but seeing actual humans act out the same scenes shines a brighter spotlight on the way the people of Westeros must live, and how they choose to act within the confines of their society.

Family and reputation play heavily in all the lives of highborn Westerosi, and we’ve seen that throughout the series. Tyrion’s live is saved by his family’s wealth and reputation in Season One, just as Brienne is saved by her family’s (fabricated) wealth in Season Three. Family names and heraldry often stand in for individual identity–a Lannister becomes “a lion” in conversation, or a Stark “a wolf.” Questions of parentage and family allegiance loom large in the series–including one question many viewers don’t yet know they should be asking [I’ll say no more about that here, however].

In Season Four, the role of family and lineage became particularly interesting as it begins to turn some assumptions on its head. Specifically, what is the end result of Eddard Stark’s commitment to honor above all? Continue Reading

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HBO’s Game of Thrones: “The Children”

June 17, 2014 Pop Culture, Reviews, Science Fiction & Fantasy Comments (0) 698

Bran-Crow
SPOILER ALERT: Spoilers ahead for both TV series and book series. If you aren’t caught up on both the HBO series and the books (through A Dance with Dragons) you may want to sit this one out.
Sunday’s episode was 66 minutes of incredible television, and in my view probably the best all-around episode the show has ever done. While it may not have surpassed the Red or Purple Weddings for shock value, “The Children” set a new high-point for pacing, drama, and technical achievement. It also made numerous significant departures from the books, in my view largely for the better.
And yet, when the episode ended with Arya sailing off to Bravos, I wanted to throw something at the television. Like most fans of the original book series, I entered Season 4 assuming I knew the image that would close the season finale: The dramatic entrance of Lady Stoneheart, the spirit of vengeance that resides in Caitlyn Stark’s reanimated corpse. I was more excited about this episode than any since the Red Wedding, knowing it promised several startling revelations for fans who haven’t read the books, expecting social media to light up with “WTF???” reactions from viewers worldwide.
To be fair, that’s exactly the reaction I saw on social media–except this time it was from the book readers.

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HBO’s Game of Thrones: The Mountain and the Viper

June 3, 2014 Pop Culture, Reviews, Science Fiction & Fantasy Comments (0) 888

Oberyn Martell in the ring

I just have a couple of quick thoughts on this week’s episode. I know I haven’t been posting on GOT much recently; I’m back in novel-writing mode (elbow-deep in revisions) and putting most of my energies there.

First, a customary warning: As always I play fast and loose with the spoilers, book and show. Read at your own risk.

Like many viewers, I was taken aback by the ending of this episode. The teeth, the eyes, the screaming. The exploded brains. Even for a show that has been brutal throughout, this episode took it further. (How about that flayed man earlier in the show, too?)

It was so traumatic, my initial reaction was “that’s not how it happens in the book!” Then I went back and re-read what happened in the book, and realized this was almost exact. The teeth, the eyeballs, it happens slightly differently, but it’s all there.

And after I got over my initial reaction, horror at what I thought was exploitative, ratings-seeking violence, I decided I liked this ending–and I’ll tell you why. Continue Reading

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