Category Archives: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 7, Episode 1 “Dragonstone”

After the total shitshow that was season six (and seasons four and five) of Game of Thrones, my expectations heading into last night’s premiere were low. I ended up being pleasantly (-ish) surprised. There are some Game of Thrones storylines that are well beyond salvaging at this point, and I’ll get to those soon enough, but there’s also some decent writing in “Dragonstone.” If some of the episode’s more emotional moments only work in isolation, divorced from the context of the previous several seasons, I’m feeling magnanimous enough halfway through this garbage year to be forgiving of some of the show’s sins in the interest of being able to enjoy it with a bottle of wine each week.

**Spoilers ahead, natch.**

Arya Stark

It seems like it’s been a while since Game of Thrones used a cold open, but they did for this season. We begin the episode with what appears to be Walder Frey addressing a room full of his nearest and dearest male relatives and quickly turns into, well, whatever a bloodbath is when it’s done with poison. Because—surprise!—that’s not Walder Frey! It’s Arya in disguise, which anyone who watched even just the last episode of season six will guess by the time Walder’s face appears on screen, so I’m not entirely certain who is supposed to be surprised by any of what happens in this scene.

David Bradley, in one last turn as the Frey patriarch, looks like he’s having the time of his life playing Arya-as-Walder, and his dialogue is clever enough, but it relies too heavily on uninspired wordplay (“Leave one wolf alive…”) and overused catchphrases (“The North remembers,” “Winter came…”). Visually, the whole thing recalls the Red Wedding, but this was already true of Arya’s original murder of Lord Walder last year. It’s a scene that feels mostly redundant, covering thematic and visual ground that the show tread in literally the last episode, but it’s nevertheless an entertaining scene to watch, with an overall feel to it that suggests something designed by committee to be crowd-pleasing for exactly the crowd of people who are still watching this terrible show.

Similarly, Arya’s second scene, later in the hour, feels calculated to achieve broad appeal, down to its Ed Sheeran cameo as a singing Lannister soldier, one of a group of men that Arya meets in order to learn a lesson about remembering the humanity of her enemies or something. On the one hand, such a lesson would be consistent with the themes of the episode’s Jon and Sansa material. On the other hand, it’s so totally at odds with the celebratory tone of the Frey massacre scene that it’s hard to imagine that any such lesson is what is intended. That said, it’s pretty par for the course on this show to frame a hate- and vengeance-fueled mass murder as a girl power moment and then undercut it within half an hour.

Bran Stark

Directly after the opening credits, we get an update on the Night King and the army of the dead that’s marching south to the Wall and the Seven Kingdoms. After lasting a good twenty seconds too long (not helped by the trouble my television had processing all the mist and snow effects), this turns out to be another vision of Bran’s. He and Meera (who is much the worse for wear) have finally made it to the Wall, where they’re met by a suspicious Dolorous Edd who questions whether they’re Wildlings—I’m not sure why this matters since the Wildlings are allies of the Night’s Watch now—and then is bizarrely easily convinced of Bran’s identity after Bran tells Edd’s fortune—even though Bran Stark has been presumed dead for all this while and there’s no reason for Edd to know that Bran now has psychic powers. It’s a strange, short scene that seems intended to be tense but lacks any legitimate source of the intended tension, so it feels more like a perfunctorily executed update scene about characters who almost certainly will have little of import to do until later in the season.

At Winterfell

Jon is settling into his new role as King in the North, and he’s full of ideas and commands and sweeping social reforms. First on his checklist is to find a way to get more dragonglass for making weapons to fight the White Walkers that he sees as the most immediate concern faced by the people of the North. He asks Tormund and the Wildlings to garrison the castles along the Wall, starting with Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. Because Jon is Super Feminist™, he also wants to ensure that all the Northfolk are being trained to fight and defend themselves, and he’s backed up by Lyanna Mormont, whose only discernable personality traits are supporting Jon Snow and sternly talking down to men old enough to be her grandfather.

Last, Jon must figure out what to do about the castles and lands left leaderless after the deaths of the lords who sided with the Boltons last season, and he apparently forgot to prepare that part of his presentation. When he hesitates over how to handle the situation, Sansa suggests that the Umber and Karstark holdings be given as rewards to some of the lords who remained true to the Starks, which elicits cheers from the room. Jon’s not Super Feminist™ enough to defer to his sister, however, and he doesn’t believe in punishing children for the sins of their fathers, so he makes actual children Alys Karstark and Ned Umber publicly declare their allegiance to House Stark. This would be fine if Jon had just decisively done this to begin with, but his uncertainty left room for suggestions, which Sansa gave.

It also makes no sense that the Northern and Vale lords would so quickly shift from supporting Sansa’s idea to unquestioningly supporting Jon’s decision, and this, combined with Jon’s dressing down of his sister afterwards, ends up feeling like a contrived public humiliation for Sansa. She spoke up—and perhaps it was the wrong timing on her part, but Jon hadn’t consulted her prior to his meeting and didn’t seem to know what he was doing during the meeting—only to be immediately shut down by Jon and then inexplicably ignored by a roomful of people who agreed with her moments before. To add insult to injury, the writers have put an additional obsequious speech in her mouth where—after just having publicly disagreed with Jon about a major policy matter, largely in an attempt to cover for Jon’s own ineptitude—Sansa praises Jon’s leadership abilities.

It’s weird, and it’s an obvious ploy to humiliate Sansa to the show’s audience as well, only topped by Jon going on to accuse Sansa of admiring Cersei about a minute later. The seeds of a real conflict between Jon and Sansa are already growing, which is about what I expected coming into the season, but I’m somewhat surprised at how decisively the audience is being led to take Jon’s side, especially when he’s so clearly in the wrong. Jon isn’t a confident leader, and he seems out of his depth already, but he’s also baldly sexist in his refusal to even consider taking advice from Sansa, scoffing at the idea straight to her face. So Super Feminist™ of him.

Fortunately, this is all the Jon we see this week, though we return to Winterfell later in the episode for brief updates with Brienne, Tormund, Podrick, Sansa and Littlefinger. Brienne is “training” Podrick, mostly, it seems, by brutally hitting him, but she’s distracted by Tormund leering at her. Sansa is watching this when Littlefinger comes over to try and conspire with her, but Sansa shuts him down relatively quickly. Still, Sansa defends Littlefinger’s presence to Brienne a moment later, citing the man’s usefulness and their indebtedness to him after his support helped win back Winterfell. Okay.

At King’s Landing

Cersei and Jaime have a boring talk while walking all over an unfinished painting of Westeros. It’s a rather on the nose bit of symbolism, and the conversation isn’t particularly illuminating. They are sort of talking strategy, but things are looking pretty bleak for the Lannisters. They have enemies on all sides (described by Cersei in colorfully misogynistic terms), and the arrival of winter doesn’t improve things for their military forces, who depend on other parts of the Seven Kingdoms for supplies, which will presumably not be forthcoming now that Cersei has destabilized the whole country by killing most of its leaders and pissing off the rest. The biggest piece of information to come out of this whole talk is that Cersei has no idea what a “dynasty” is.

What Cersei does have, however, is a new ally: Euron Greyjoy, who slouches into the throne room looking like a refugee from circa 2000 Hot Topic. He’s brought a thousand ships—which is a lot (the Spanish Armada, for example, was only 130 ships in 1588)—and a proposal for Cersei. Even though the Lannisters surely need Euron and his impossibly enormous fleet of ships far more than he needs them, Cersei refuses the proposal until Euron has proven his loyalty. He promises to leave and return to her with a gift; I’m guessing the gift will be people, likely Tyrion or the Sand Snakes if Euron can catch them.

In Oldtown

Though Sam was sent to Oldtown to train to replace Maester Aemon at Castle Black, it’s not clear what his training consists of other than a sort of humiliating and profoundly dull general-purpose drudgery. There’s a whole sequence of what is obviously some time passing with Sam spending his days cleaning chamber pots, serving food and shelving books. Some time is spent with the Archmaester, played by Jim Broadbent, who gives Sam a fatalistic speech about how they at the Citadel are the world’s memory and that the world isn’t going to end because of the White Walkers. In the end, Sam decides to steal a key to the restricted area of the library so he can study up on the White Walkers and dragonglass. He stays up late one night to go through the books he’s stolen, and he helpfully finds a very simple map that indicates a whole mountain of dragonglass underneath Dragonstone. Thank goodness. We wouldn’t want finding this information to be genuinely challenging or suspenseful or anything.

In the Riverlands

In the best-written segment of the episode (and it’s genuinely excellent), Sandor Clegane and the Brotherhood Without Banners are traveling north through the Riverlands when they stop at the night at the home of the man and child Clegane robbed a couple seasons ago. Sandor tries to urge them on, to go past the house, which is obviously now abandoned—no livestock, no smoke from the chimney—but it’s getting dark and the other men want shelter. While I don’t think we’ll be seeing a true redemption arc for Sandor Clegane, we are seeing him having real, compelling and sustainable character growth. His attempts to externalize his guilt and shame by insulting and arguing with Beric and Thoros are unsuccessful, and instead Clegane ends up having a bona fide religious experience when he finally agrees to look into the flames in the hearth and sees a vision of the army of the dead heading towards Eastwatch. This makes me doubly certain that we won’t be seeing any Cleganebowl this season, and it certainly raises the odds of this group dying tragically in the upcoming war against ice zombies.

Sandor burying the man and child whose deaths he’s somewhat responsible for was nicely done. While I’m still by no means a great fan of the Hound, I like that he did this small act of kindness. It also feels notable that the moment wasn’t ruined by the writers’ cynical streak. Sandor’s eulogy for the man and girl—“I’m sorry you’re dead; you deserved better”—is simple and heartfelt, and Thoros’s helping Sandor finish isn’t played for laughs or marred by any argument between the two men. It’s a sad, quiet moment that’s allowed to just exist in the show as a short bit of earnest and powerful thematic commentary in a show that is otherwise devoid of any sincere meaning.

Daenerys

Daenerys and company have arrived at Dragonstone, where we get a lengthy sequence of Daenerys discovering and exploring her birthplace in silence as her entourage hangs back respectfully. It’s almost too much, to be honest, and the whole thing goes on just shy of too long before Daenerys arrives in the map room, lovingly caresses the length of the table best known as the place where Stannis banged Melisandre that one time, and then turns to her advisors to say, “Shall we begin?” as if they haven’t started their invasion already. I liked this sequence in spite of myself. It’s almost silly in its self-importance, but Dragonstone is stunning and we get to see Daenerys’s dragons wheeling overhead looking as beautiful and impressive as they ever have. As ridiculous a line as “Shall we begin?” is, it’s also full of promise, and I enjoyed this episode enough that I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next. After a somewhat slow start to the season, hopefully the pace will pick up next week.

Miscellany:

  • Why is Arbor Gold a red wine?
  • Why is Alys Karstark a redhead? I’m sure it’s because they’re supposed to be Stark cousins, but Sansa got her hair from her Southron mother; it’s not just a trait that all Stark relations have.
  • Arya is going to try and kill Cersei, exactly as I predicted.
  • Jorah is in a cell at the Citadel, and his greyscale has progressed. He’s still obsessed with Daenerys, though.
  • How is Dragonstone so completely empty, though? Stannis didn’t literally take every man, woman and child with him when he went, right? The big, empty space makes for a neat image, sure, but there’s no way everyone would be gone like this.
  • I am actually slightly alarmed by how many of my predictions for the season are already coming true.

Game of Thrones: Season 7 Predictions

It’s that time of year again, where I try to guess, in broad strokes at least, what might happen on the new season of Game of Thrones. In the past, I have only had very mixed success at this, and last season was a shitshow that defied all expectations, but I’m back. Again. Still. Always. Because I have a weird, fierce love for this stupid, bad show. Also, two bottles of cheap Moscato for tonight.

This season, I haven’t been following Game of Thrones news the way I have in the past, though I have watched the trailers and looked at some of the promo posters and so on. However, I haven’t bothered with the endless parade of cast interviews and spoiler-free speculation and so on as it’s just gotten boring at this point. HBO likes to keep the show heavily under wraps in order to maximize our “surprise” at the show’s senseless violence and nonsensical storytelling, and that’s fine. It just means I’m pretty much basing my predictions on what I remember from season six, what little footage I’ve seen in the trailers for season seven, and six years’ worth of knowledge of the respect with which David Benioff and D.B. Weiss treat their source material and the audience.

Here’s what I think we might see this season:

Sansa Stark
We left Sansa at the end of season six watching her illegitimate half-brother/cousin Jon Snow accede to the titles and honors that she is both more legally entitled to and better qualified for, but there were some ominously foreshadowing shots of her seeming discontent with this situation. I fully expect this season to find Sansa segueing into the role of antagonist to Jon. With trailers and promo images indicating that Jon Snow will be heading past the Wall again, I think we’ll see Sansa left in charge of Winterfell in his absence. My concern is that this will end up with her having nothing of particular interest to do for the majority of the season, with her own antagonist dead and the Lannisters in King’s Landing likely to be busy with more immediate existential threats.

Jon Snow
It’s already been mentioned somewhere or other that Jon Snow will be heading to Dragonstone to meet Daenerys, and there are images of Jon beyond the Wall as well, so I predict that Jon is going to be doing some teleporting. There’s no way that, with just seven episodes in the season, the show is going to even try to convey the months-long journeys all this stuff will necessitate, and they’ve shown in the past that they care very little about maintaining anything like a coherent timeline.

Bran Stark
In trailers, it looks like Bran and Meera make it to the Wall and the Night’s Watch. I suspect that Bran’s new magic powers are going to be of use in defeating the zombie hordes of the North, but I don’t think we’ll see that actually accomplished this year. Instead, I think we’ll see a late-season reunion between Bran and Jon as Jon heads North to fight the zombies and finds his brother already there.

Arya Stark
Arya was last seen at the Twins, checking Walder Frey’s name off her infamous list, and I think this season will see her trying to make some more progress on those goals. It’s likely that she doesn’t know yet that any of her other siblings are alive in the North, so it seems logical that she would head south to King’s Landing. With the recent news that Gendry is back this season, and knowing how small the show likes to keep its world, I could see her reuniting with him somehow when she gets there.

Littlefinger
He could stay at Winterfell with Sansa as either a new antagonist for her or as Sansa’s co-conspirator against Jon Snow, either of which would be consistent with where the show left things last season. Alternatively, he could return to King’s Landing to hedge his bets with Cersei. He could even teleport to Dorne and/or Dragonstone, you know, as one does, and get up to some plotting there as well.

Brienne and Podrick
Something tells me that Brienne is going to head south again this season, perhaps for a reunion of some kind with Jaime Lannister. They’re also on my shortlist of characters I don’t expect to live out the season.

Davos Seaworth
Davos is still going to be on Team Jon, but he’s going to die beyond the Wall.

Melisandre
Banished from the North, Melisandre will either teleport to Dragonstone immediately or be completely absent until a late episode, when she’ll show up just in time to provide a magical solution to a problem.

The Hound
Promo material places the Hound in the North with Beric Dondarrion and the Brotherhood Without Banners. We won’t be getting Cleganebowl this year, if ever. Most of the Brotherhood will die, and this might include the Hound.

Cersei Lannister
True to her straw feminist form, Cersei will be day drinking and making terrible decisions. With almost every other character in King’s Landing dead, she’ll finally think about what’s going on in the rest of the kingdom, and it’s going to shock her. She is going to lose her shit when she finds out about Daenerys, but she’ll be even more concerned when she learns that Tyrion is still alive.

Jaime Lannister
Jaime is going to feel conflicted about Cersei, but not so conflicted he won’t still bang her. I predict/hope that this is the season we get to see Nikolaj Coster-Waldau go full frontal nude.

Bronn
Bronn will “hilariously” say some gross shit about women. I could see him getting to kill a Sand Snake or two this year.

The Greyjoys
Last time we saw them, Yara and Theon had joined up with Daenerys, but I don’t think this is going to turn out well for them. I think we’ll find out early in the season that Euron Greyjoy is throwing his support behind Cersei, and I think by midseason he’ll have caught up with his errant niece and nephew for a final showdown. If I was a betting woman, I’d put money on them all killing each other in a strategically silly naval battle of some kind because it would look cool. Yara’s queerness is going to be played for laughs at least once.

Sam and Gilly and Baby Sam
Gilly will still be waiting in that vestibule where Sam left her. Baby Sam is going to be like five years old. Sam is going to hang around the Citadel for the whole season, presumably learning something that we won’t actually find out about until season eight.

Olenna, Ellaria and the Sand Snakes
They’re going to join Daenerys, obviously. I don’t think we’ll see much, if anything, of Dorne this season, however. Instead, the Dorne crew will meet Daenerys at Dragonstone, and I think they’ll be significant in whatever battles with the Lannisters we get to see this season. However, I also think they’re likely to die in those battles as the show is surely looking to further cull its cast and storylines by the end of the season in preparation for the final few episodes next year.

Varys
Varys had teleported from Dorne straight onto Daenerys’s ship at the end of season six, so he should be with her when she makes it to Dragonstone. There’s no obvious role for him in any storyline at this point, so I think he’ll be more of a background advisor for Dany for most of the season. He could potentially come into conflict with Tyrion if they disagree over how Daenerys’s invasion of the Seven Kingdoms should be carried out, which would inject some drama into the situation, but I think it’s more likely that he’ll be around just enough for the show to include a joke or two about him being a eunuch.

Missandei and Grey Worm
There’s about a second of footage in one of the trailers for the season that looks like Missandei and Grey Worm getting ready to do it. So I guess that’s happening. I hope they run away together and live happily ever after, but I think it’s more likely that one or both of them will die tragically in service to someone else’s (either Daenerys’ or Tyrion’s) storyline.

Jorah Mormont
Jorah will die this season, almost certainly in battle, fighting for Daenerys.

Tyrion Lannister
Tyrion will mansplain everything to everyone. And he’s still going to be a fan favorite and critical darling, completely unearned.

Daenerys
We know for sure that Daenerys will make it to Dragonstone, and that will probably take up most of the first episode. I think the majority of whatever fighting she’s going to do in season seven will be in the last couple episodes and that most of her time will be spent holding court at Dragonstone and looking pensively off the battlements. I don’t think she’ll get a romance plot this year, but there’s going to be a bananas amount of new Daenerys/Jon fanfic after they meet.

Tits
We will see some.

Dragons
We won’t see as many as we’d like, but they’re going to be gorgeous.

Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 10 “The Winds of Winter”

“The Winds of Winter” was fucking wild, you guys. Not good, mind you, and (like the vast majority of season six) mostly nonsensical if you think about it even a little bit, but still a wild ride from start to finish. I rather liked last week’s episode because—taken in isolation, at least—it was actually a good hour of television. This episode, however is a complete mess of weird pacing, unintentional hilarity, bizarre self-importance, and complete disrespect for the source material—we’re talking just absolutely ridiculous adaptational decisions here, folks. Add in some blatant fan service, loads of Benioff and Weiss’s peculiarly misogynistic brand of “feminism,” and an absurd amount of teleportation, and things only get worse. Unhyperbolically, it’s seriously some of the worst garbage I’ve ever seen masquerading as prestige television, and it’s absolutely clear that the show’s writers do not give a fuck anymore about the source material, audience expectations, or anything else but wrapping up this monstrosity they’ve wrought for the last six years as soon as possible.

In short, it’s Game of Thrones at its best and worst, and I loved watching it. Still, most of my reaction is just ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Spoilers under the cut, as always. Continue reading Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 10 “The Winds of Winter”

Game of Thrones Season 6 Predictions, Revisited

With the season finale of Game of Thrones airing tomorrow, I felt it was time to revisit my predictions for the season and see how close my pre-season six thoughts lined up to the reality of what the show delivered. I wouldn’t say I’ve been overwhelmingly right about the season, but of my seventeen numbered predictions, eleven were all or mostly correct. Which is depressing, because my predictions for the season were not very optimistic. Thank goodness I didn’t do this for every episode, I guess? I probably would have had an even higher success rate, but I don’t even want to think about how much more depressing that would have been.

In any case, let’s go through these one by one. Spoilers for the whole season so far, obviously. Continue reading Game of Thrones Season 6 Predictions, Revisited

Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 9 “The Battle of the Bastards”

This is the first episode of season six that I’ve found more enjoyable than not, and there’s really quite a lot to like about “Battle of the Bastards” from an artistic standpoint. With only two settings to worry about this week, it’s a relatively well-constructed episode, and it seems obvious where all the show’s budget went this year—the battle scenes are truly spectacular. The titular conflict in particular is well done in its grim, dark, ugly bloodbath fashion, while in Meereen we finally get some dragon action. Unfortunately, once you really think about what’s underneath the spectacle, there’s still a remarkable amount of stuff going on that doesn’t make sense, a lot of obvious contrivance, and a heavy helping of the same contempt for the show’s source material and audience that has characterized the show since at least season four. And that’s not even touching on the patronizing disrespect with which the show still treats its female characters, even as so-called critics continue to fawn over how “different” the show is this year.

In short, “Battle of the Bastards” is an episode that looks good and was enjoyable to watch with a bottle of wine in hand, but it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny as a real quality episode of television.

As always, spoilers under the cut. Continue reading Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 9 “The Battle of the Bastards”

Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 8 “No One”

So, this is a late recap/review. I usually write these up the day after each episode airs, but we ended up watching this one while camping in Huntsville, Alabama (in order to take care of final arrangements for my partner’s mother, who passed away last week) and I simply haven’t really had the time to dedicate to it before now. It hasn’t helped that “No One” is a downright boring hour of television in which not much makes sense and even less manages to be important or exciting. Most of it doesn’t even manage to be offensively bad; it’s just plain dull. Presumably this is supposed to be setup for the last couple episodes of the season, especially the stuff in King’s Landing and Meereen, but it feels much more like filler and in an already glacially paced season. At this point, I feel like every critical reviewer is one broken record of complaints about the slow pace of this season, but let’s be serious. Very little has actually happened in any of the show’s storylines, and “No One” does nothing to change that in any positive fashion.

Spoilers below the cut, obv. Continue reading Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 8 “No One”

Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 7 “The Broken Man”

I can’t decide if this is the best episode so far this season or the worst. On the one hand, “The Broken Man” is relatively well-constructed and most of its storylines are halfway coherent, which is a nice change. On the other hand, it’s incredibly boring (very little actually happens, and there’s no action to speak of) and contains some pretty horrendously offensive messaging in multiple storylines. This week, in the interest of clarity (and, with any luck, brevity) because there were so many short scenes as the show shifted between characters and locations, I’m going to just cover each storyline separately. I think this is going to be the new normal for these recaps, too, as the shift, in the first few episodes this season, towards longer sequences instead of lots of moving around in short choppy segments doesn’t seem to have stuck, in spite of the fact that it helped significantly with the show being able to convey passage of time and in general made for a more pleasant and less disjointed viewing experience.

In any case, spoilers, obviously, under the cut. Continue reading Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 7 “The Broken Man”