Category Archives: Game of Thrones

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”

Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 6 “Blood of My Blood”

If I could only use a single word (instead of the thousand I likely will use) to describe “Blood of My Blood” it would be “predictable.” This has been increasingly true of the show for some time now, and I know I’ve mentioned in the past that it’s gotten extremely easy these days to extrapolate nearly all the events of each episode from just the “previously on” reel at the beginning. There were a couple of “twists” this week, but none of them were particularly interested, and all have been heavily, ham-fistedly foreshadowed either in earlier seasons or, sometimes, simply in the involved characters’ previous scene in this very episode. Alternatively, said “twists” come with no warning at all and make basically no sense if you think about them for more than a moment or two, which may make the “twists” somewhat unpredictable but is pretty much par for the course for the show. I’m never less surprised than when the show has a completely unearned and nonsensical plot twist thrown in to season the pot of badness it’s become.

Spoilers below! Continue reading Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 6 “Blood of My Blood”

Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 5 “The Door”

Like basically every episode of Game of Thrones in the last three years, “The Door” is a mixed bag. However, like most episodes in the last two seasons or so, the bag is mostly full of shit. Interestingly (and disappointingly), this episode spends a ton of time either retreading ground that has already been covered in the series or lampshading some of the show’s more nonsensical decisions.

Speaking of lampshading nonsense, the episode jumps right into that at the start of the hour, which opens with Sansa receiving a letter from Littlefinger and going to meet him in Mole’s Town. The scene that ensues is at once glorious and absurd as Sansa takes Littlefinger to task for selling her to the Boltons, tells him that he’s either stupid or evil, and threatens to have Brienne kill him before rejecting his offer of military help and sending him on his way. I want to love Sansa’s dressing down of the man who bartered her into an abusive marriage, and it’s obvious that the show’s writers expect us to cheer for her newfound empowerment, but it’s simply not even a little bit earned. Mostly, it just feels somewhat out of character for both Sansa and her erstwhile “ally” (though not for Brienne, who continues to be portrayed on the show as one-dimensionally brutish).

Sadly, the recognition—nearly a full season’s worth of episodes later—of Sansa’s wedding night trauma and the horrors of what she endured at Winterfell rings somewhat false. Sansa tells Littlefinger and the audience how she feels, but there’s been no other indication before now of these feelings. I suppose several episodes of Sansa looking sad let us know that something bad was happening to her, but since her escape there’s been not a peep about how she’s dealing with things. I can’t remember it being mentioned at all before now, and in fact much of Ramsay’s abuse of Sansa has only been implied, mostly by Sansa looking wan and puffy during her time at Winterfell. For a show that is all about being shocking, this one is remarkably coy when it comes to addressing something real (domestic abuse) and seems more than content to spend much more time dealing with the more fantastical elements of the stories it’s trying (rather unsuccessfully) to tell. And so far more time has been dedicated to Ramsay’s daddy issues, Theon’s redemption arc, and even to the touching reunion between Jon and Sansa (another emotional moment that was entirely unearned) than on Sansa’s character growth and recovery from the trauma she’s supposed to have experienced. Even Sansa’s sudden closeness with Brienne doesn’t feel quite real, since we’ve barely seen them on screen together and they’ve hardly exchanged more than a couple of words with each other.

One of the biggest problems I’ve had with Game of Thrones for some time has been exactly these kinds of scenes. They’re moments that work, sort of, out of context and by giving the writers a lot of credit for all the things that can be kinda-sorta inferred from the show enough to make some kind of sense out of what we’re seeing. But these moments never hold up to any kind of scrutiny, and the application of just the tiniest bit of critical thinking will break whatever spell the show has managed to cast. Sure, we can use our imaginations about Sansa’s abuse at Ramsay’s hands. We can assume that she has been experiencing cold sweats and nightmares and other effects of that trauma. We can guess that during the journey to the Wall she and Brienne bonded and she shared some of that with her new friend, which forged a bond between the two women. But why should we, the audience, have to do all that work? There is always a certain amount of filling in of blanks when we consume stories, but this show relies on the audience’s knowledge and understanding of storytelling conventions (and often on the audience’s familiarity with the books) to a shamefully degree. It’s lazy, and it’s disappointing, and it only gets worse the longer the show goes on.

When the show isn’t condescending to the audience with pathetic narrative shorthand, it’s simply spinning its wheels, as it is in Arya’s Braavos storyline. Nearly three full minutes are spent on Arya receiving another beating from the Waif, and it’s as senseless as it is repetitive and visually uninteresting. It’s well-worn ground at this point, and it’s frankly boring. Even Jaqen H’ghar’s story about the origins of the Faceless Men is dull, and it’s not helped by the fact that it’s close enough to the story given in the books to show that the writers did actually read them but different enough from the book story to prove that D&D didn’t actually understand it. I know David Benioff has said that “themes are for 8th grade book reports,” but shit like this makes me doubt he reads and comprehends material on an 8th grade level at all. Like, when Benioff said this it was kind of derisively–as if he’s beyond all that, with his MFA and all, but it seems much more likely that he just really, really doesn’t “get” ASOIAF.

Moving along, though, Arya gets her second official assignment as a prospective member of this cult of death. This time, she’s to assassinate an actress, Lady Crane (played by Essie Davis from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries!), who performs with her troupe near the docks. I guess this is supposed to be a very loose adaptation of the Mercy chapter from The Winds of Winter that GRRM released ages ago, but it isn’t, at least not in any meaningful way. I did kind of love the pro-Cersei propaganda play that we get to see parts of in this sequence, which has better dialogue than most of the show has had for two and half seasons. I could have done without the close-up shot of the Joffrey actor’s diseased dick, but this stuff is otherwise fairly unobjectionable, if only due to its extreme blandness. Arya’s misgivings about killing Lady Crane could be interesting, but we’re given such a small glimpse of the actress (most of the time spent with the troupe is dominated by the male actors) that it’s hard to have any particularly strong feelings one way or the other about the matter. And, really, Arya having to make a hard choice in order to gain or keep her place at the House of Black and White is “dramatic” fodder that was already chewed over last season. It’s fine, but it would be nice to see more forward movement in this story line, especially as all the rest of the Stark kids seem to be moving towards some kind of reunion.

From Arya, we travel north of the Wall to see what Bran Stark is up to, which is not a whole lot. However, this brief (right around two minutes) scene contains what ought to be a major revelation: that the Children of the Forest are the ones who created the White Walkers, as weapons to fend off the invading humans. The impact of this information is somewhat diminished by the short length of the scene, however. There’s barely time to process the news before we’re whisked away to the Kingsmoot.

Which is an enormous letdown. First, no one but Yara is willing to make a claim to the throne. Then Yara is quickly shouted down by men who would rather have Theon than his sister because she has a vagina. Also, apparently all the reasons why Theon got a cold welcome at Pyke years ago after being raised at Winterfell no longer matter, even though he’s just as dickless these days as Yara is (unlikely, to say the least, to produce a legitimate heir of his own) and clearly broken down by the torture he experienced at Ramsay’s hands. It’s okay, though, because Theon throws his support behind Yara, which gets this apparently very fickle crowd chanting for her after all. But, surprise! Old (well, young) uncle Euron is home, and he’s going to win the Ironborn over by bragging about how he’s got a big dick. Yara accuses him of murdering Balon, even though there’s no reason for her to think this, but Euron’s just like, “Yeah, I did. What are you going to do about it?” because it’s not like kinslaying is one of the worst cultural taboos in Westeros or anything. The men quickly shift their allegiance to Euron, so Yara, Theon and some men loyal to them book it out of there and steal the whole Ironborn fleet while Euron is busy being drowned and crowned. This is probably a wise decision on Yara and Theon’s part, since the first thing Euron does once he’s done coughing up sea water is round up a mob to go murder his niece and nephew, only to be comically amazed as he sees the whole Ironborn fleet hightailing it out of there.

This is definitely the most unintentionally hilarious sequence so far this season, but it’s also one of the most disappointing ones. None of this makes very much sense, and it’s a sad bastardization of this plot from the books. GRRM’s Iron Islands chapters are generally considered a weak spot in the books, but they’re at least coherent there, and the actual Kingsmoot chapter is an excellent one. Here, it’s reduced to a couple of minutes of spiritless stump speeches and dick measuring, with Yara and Theon’s leaving, presumably for Essos, the most interesting thing about it. It’s a weird adaptational decision, really, to have Yara taking over (at least in some measure) the role filled by Victarion Greyjoy in the books. It works, theoretically, and well, on several levels, but the show could have told a much more economical and sensible story around this decision by simply giving the Ironborn to Yara after Balon’s mysterious death and having her make the choice under her own steam to go join forces with Daenerys, especially if they aren’t going to introduce the dragon-controlling horn Euron brings back from his travels. In a season that has so far been characterized by a growing string of significant character deaths and a systematic working towards bringing all its various plot strands together, it seems strange to introduce Euron at all and stranger still to write this conflict with Yara. Are they really going to waste time having Euron chasing Yara down all across the world? That seems stupid. Also, what factor of warp speed do we think the Ironborn fleet is going to use to get to Meereen in two episodes (since it looks like we won’t see them next week)?

Next up is some Daenerys stuff, because why not? She’s still pissed off at Ser Jorah, but his saving her life (him?) complicates things. Just as she’s about to probably forgive him, Jorah shows her his greyscale-covered arm and tells her that she has to send him away. This forces her to recognize that she really does love him (him?), though, so she commands him to go find a cure for the disease. Meanwhile, Daario stands around awkwardly because he’s clearly a third wheel here. In any case, they finally part ways, with Dany leading her khalasar back to Meereen I guess and Jorah heading off into an uncertain future. I guess we’re supposed to find this sad, but Jorah is unlikeable and Daenerys is so stoically wooden that it’s hard to have any very strong feelings about it other than relief that this garbage storyline is drawing to a close. While the whole Daario/Jorah rescue thing was ill-conceived from the start, the truth is that this amounted to some fairly significant forward movement for Dany, and at this rate I fully expect to see her at least setting out towards Westeros by the end of this season or the first episode of the next one.

Meanwhile, in Meereen, there’s another storyline spinning its wheels and retreading old material. It’s been two weeks since the deal with the slavers to stop the Sons of the Harpy from terrorizing Meereen, and the previously daily killings seem to have stopped. Varys is ready to call this a win, but the next concern on Tyrion’s plate is public relations. They need to find someone the people like to convince the Meereenese how awesome Daenerys is, which is a speech Tyrion delivers like he’s on an episode of Mad Men. Cut to the next scene, when they’ve managed to bring in Kinvara, the High Priestess of the Red Temple of Volantis (and a bunch of other titles, enough to give Daenerys a run for her money), who is definitely on board with talking up the Dragon Queen to the people of Meereen and elsewhere. What’s not explained is why anyone cares who Kinvara is or what she has to say, since she’s the leader of a minority religious cult from Volantis, and there haven’t been many red priests and priestesses in Meereen. It’s not even very clear how she managed to get here from Volantis so quickly. Varys isn’t really on board with this whole religion thing, but Kinvara impresses him/cows him into submission by bringing up Varys’s traumatic childhood experiences, because goodness knows we could all stand to hear more stories about how Varys became a eunuch.

Kinvara might seem creepy, but she’s not as creepy as this show’s writers’ obsession with castration. They literally don’t go an episode without bringing it up at least once anymore. It’s interesting that, in a season that is so heavily buzzed about for the increased prominence of women in the narrative, the writers are more obsessed than ever before in exploring themes of emasculation, both literal and figurative. It betrays a kind of bizarre neuroses on their part and they subtly cast aspersions on nearly every woman on the show. Even as the show is being talked up for improving its treatment of its female characters, nearly every one of them is being shown as mannishly aggressive, irrational, deceitful, or shrewish. In the meantime, there are multiple occurrences each week of insecure, toxic masculinity. Neither of these trends are new ones for the show, but they certainly seem to have been ramped up this year.

Back at the Three-Eyed Raven’s tree, Bran is bored while everyone else is asleep, so he decides to go into a vision without his mentor’s guidance. He gets to see the army of the dead, which is big enough to fill a whole valley. He walks through the ranks, and I was certain he was going to see a face that he knew—his uncle Benjen, maybe—but he doesn’t. Instead, when he gets to the other side of the snow zombie army, he gets grabbed by the Night King. This breaks the vision, and the Three-Eyed Raven tells Bran that the Night King is coming for him, so it’s time for Bran to take the Three-Eyed Raven’s place. Bran isn’t ready, obviously, which isn’t very encouraging. While Meera starts packing their things and getting ready to escape, Bran goes into another vision and we’re taken to Castle Black, where Jon and Sansa are hammering out some war plans.

Jon quite rightly points out that they need a lot more men than they have if they want to take Winterfell, but then the rest of the discussion is driven by Sansa and Davos, who are arguing over the best way to bring in more men. Sansa suggests going after the smaller houses of the North, which Davos dismisses until Jon backs up the idea as a good one. Sansa also lets slip about the Tully army to the south, but she lies about how she knows about it. Soon, things are settled. Jon, Davos, and Sansa are going to round up men in the North, and Sansa is sending Brienne to Riverrun for the Tully troops. Brienne is worried about leaving Sansa unprotected—Brienne doesn’t trust Davos and Melisandre, which is smart even though it’s framed as unreasonable in the narrative here—but it looks like she’s going to go after all, though she leaves at the same time as the rest of them. As they all ride out of Castle Black together, Dolorous Edd realizes that he’s Lord Commander now, by default I guess.

Honestly, I just have a hard time caring very much about the Jon and Sansa stuff right now. I did like Sansa’s gift to Jon of a furred cloak like their dad used to wear. That was sweet, although I wonder where Sansa got velvet for the new dress she made for herself. And I laughed out loud when Brienne called Jon brooding. And I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of Tormund making eyes at Brienne. But I could have done without Davos mansplaining to Sansa and Jon having to step in to rescue her by saying the same stuff she’d just said. This isn’t the worst plot going on in the show right now, but it’s not exactly a standout bit of writing, either.

The episode ends back with Bran and company. Meera and Hodor are still packing when the temperature suddenly drops cold enough that you can see their breath on the air. Meera runs outside, only to find that the place is surrounded by zombies led by the Night King and three more White Walkers. What ensues is a frantically paced action sequence (think World War Z-ish) that is poorly lit, fake-looking, and results in the deaths of everyone except for Meera and Bran. Somehow, it manages to feel underwhelmingly low stakes even as several characters are killed in quick succession, and none of the deaths of all the remaining Children of the Forest, the Three-Eyed Raven, Summer, and Hodor feel as momentous as they ought to. After the revelation earlier in this episode, it might have seemed as if the Children might play some important role in stopping the menace they created, but apparently not. The Three-Eyed Raven gets a cool death effect as he explodes into black scraps of stuff in Bran’s vision, but it’s moved past so quickly that there’s barely time to register it happening, much less mourn.

Of all the character deaths so far this season, Summer’s is the most legitimately shocking and arguably the most infuriating. The show has always struggled with figuring out how to integrate the Stark children’s dire wolves, and the last couple of seasons they seem to have just given up on the whole idea, symbolism and thematic significance be damned. This season, however, the show has moved on to just unceremoniously killing the poor things. Bran’s bond with Summer in the books is perhaps his most important relationship as he discovers his powers, and it’s one of the few things that made his chapters readable at all, so it’s been very disappointing that the show has basically pretended as if the wolf doesn’t exist at all. This quick and dirty death only adds insult to injury.

The death that gets the most screentime this week is Hodor’s and it’s absolutely agonizing to watch. We learn that “Hodor” is a corruption of Meera’s pleas to Hodor to “hold the door” behind them as Bran and Meera flee into the snow, leaving Hodor to die. This death is certainly better thought out than Summer’s, but I’m not sure it’s any less awful. Certainly, it’s terrible to watch, but it’s also, from a meta standpoint, terrible to the character as well. The explanation offered here for Hodor’s disability is contrary to what is given in the source material (even if D&D do say that GRRM told them this), and it makes Hodor’s very existence—at least as we know him—all about Bran and this single moment. Sure, there’s a sort of tragedy about that, but it also leaves Hodor as a disposable character, without even the agency to make the decision to sacrifice himself for Bran. Considering how the books explore some ideas related to the ethics of Bran warging into Hodor at all, the idea that Hodor would be used this way in the show is actually pretty fucked up. That the show goes on to turn it into a lengthy scene of hyper-tragic torture porn, blatantly manipulating the audience, only makes it worse.

Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 4 “Book of the Stranger”

The main theme of my thoughts on last night’s Game of Thrones episode, “Book of the Stranger,” could probably be best summed up as “well, that could have been worse.” In many ways, season six is increasingly proving itself to be an improvement over last year’s stinking garbage fire of a season, but obviously “it could be worse” isn’t exactly a glowing endorsement, either. The good news, I suppose, is that there was some real forward movement in several storylines last night. There were even a few scenes that were really nicely done. However, there is some clumsy (and downright unpleasant, if not unsurprising) tying up of loose ends, a lot of hand-wavy “storytelling,” a some highly questionable (to say the least) messaging.

As always, spoilers under the cut. Continue reading Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 4 “Book of the Stranger”

Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 3 “Oathbreaker”

I purposefully avoid reading any other reviews of Game of Thrones before writing my own, so I’m not sure exactly what is being said about this episode yet, but I can already imagine the breathless joy with which “Oathbreaker” has been received. It seems like every episode this season has been getting rave reviews, in my opinion due to a mixture of the fact that it’s not nearly so bad as season five and that a lot of viewers seem to be under the impression that we’re somehow getting a sneak preview of what’s going to happen in the final two books. You might think that this would be faint praise, but mainstream reviewers all seem to be united in writing paeans to the show now that it’s quote unquote “moved past the books.” Sadly, though, all I can say in this episode’s favor is that it’s not the worst hour of Game of Thrones I’ve ever seen, even as I struggle to think of any particular highlights. Kit Harrington’s butt, I guess. That was nice. But that’s within the first two minutes, and then there’s another fifty or so minutes of sheer fucking nonsense to get through.

Spoilers, as always, under the cut. Continue reading Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 3 “Oathbreaker”

11 Nonsensical Things We’re Supposed to Believe About Davos and Melisandre

Spoilers abound, clearly. Though I didn’t include the Night’s Watch, Jon Snow, Wildlings, or other key parts of this storyline in the headline, they are all discussed herein.

This list appears as well in my full recap and review of last night’s episode, but it got so lengthy and it’s so ridiculous that I felt it deserved its own post. Although Jon Snow’s resurrection was so heavily telegraphed and obviously had to happen in order for the show’s story to continue, the way that it was accomplished last night was hands down the biggest mess of poor writing so far this season, in terms of inconsistent characterization and totally absurd leaps of logic.

  1. Davos has basically forgotten entirely about Stannis. I’d have to watch both of these first couple episodes a third time each to be totally certain, but I don’t think Davos has even said Stannis’s name this season, much less expressed any grief or sense of loss over the king he loved. I don’t even have to rewatch the episodes to be sure that Davos hasn’t mentioned Shireen Baratheon at all.
  2. Davos has become deeply embroiled in the affairs of the Night’s Watch, and in just a few days since Stannis’s death has become a strong partisan of Jon Snow in spite of the fact that they barely knew each other previous to this.
  3. Both the loyal-to-Jon members of the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings under Tormund defer to Davos’s judgment and are willing to stand with and fight for him unto death in order to I guess protect Jon’s legacy or something?
  4. Although almost everyone at Castle Black must have now had at least some first- or second-hand experience with a zombie by this point and at least one man of the Night’s Watch has come back as a wight within the very walls of the castle and it’s customary for both the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings to burn their dead as soon as possible after death, Jon Snow’s body has been kept, and not even under watch or guard.
  5. Even when Tormund finally says he’s going to go get things ready to burn the body, early in this episode, no one actually does it, which gives Davos plenty of time to go and convince Melisandre to try and resurrect Jon somehow.
  6. Davos knows that there is at least an outside chance that Melisandre can resurrect someone, even though at no point in the show has he been exposed to this information. Melisandre’s side trip in which she met Beric and Thoros, which is where she would have gotten the idea if it was truly something she didn’t already know was possible, was a journey she took alone, and we’ve never seen her speak about it to anyone, much less Davos, who has never had any love for the red priestess.
  7. Davos, though not a devout man, has for some reason decided to put his faith in Melisandre, even though he has long been a critic of what he considers dark and evil magic that she performs and skeptical of her religious claims. If anything, recent events seem like they would make him more distrustful of her, not less.
  8. We are also to believe that Davos holds no ill will towards Melisandre over the deaths of Stannis, Shireen, and thousands of men—a fate which Melisandre only escaped by fleeing on her own right as shit hit the fan. While it’s possible that Davos doesn’t know any of the particulars of how things went down, especially about Shireen’s death by burning, Davos’s previous mistrust and dislike for Melisandre would more naturally and believably lead him to feel resentment towards her for leading Stannis to his death and failing to protect Shireen.
  9. Davos, a man who is not devout and who is not highly educated (was actually illiterate until very recently) is capable of making impassioned theological arguments to a priestess and suggests magical solutions to problems that Melisandre was unable to think of on her own.
  10. Everyone is totally okay with a mysterious foreign priestess of a god they have likely never heard of prior to meeting Melisandre perform magic rituals over the dead body of their beloved Lord Commander in order to try and raise him from the dead. Even though most men of the Night’s Watch follow the Faith of the Seven, which would consider Melisandre’s magic heretical, and the Wildlings are almost exclusively believers in the Old Gods of the North and are distrustful of more organized religions. And foreigners. And women. Also, the only experience that the Watch and the Wildlings have had with risen dead so far has been with terrifying zombies that try to murder them all. But they are completely cool with Melisandre raising Jon Snow from the dead.
  11. Because Jon Snow is so popular and well-liked and effective as Lord Commander that the Night’s Watch, now inexplicably led by Davos, Edd, and Tormund, just don’t feel like they can do without him, even though Jon has not achieved anything of note during his time as Lord Commander and opinions on his decisions have been polarizing enough to motivate an assassination.

Is there anything I missed? I’m sure their must be. Let me know in the comments.

If you’ve somehow managed to make sense out of this, let me know that, too. I promise to be impressed.

Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 2 “Home”

Another week, another episode of Game of Thrones that proves both that the show really is capable of doing some things right and that the show’s writers have no clue what those things are or how to replicate their successes in any kind of consistent fashion. It’s the great moments—albeit few and far between—that keep me coming back to this show even though I know that, objectively, it’s the worst kind of trash programming, made even more offensively bad by the fact that they’re spending like $10 million and episode to make it happen. That said, most of “Home” isn’t extraordinarily bad or good; it’s simply boring, and nothing happens that isn’t expected, either because its demanded by the (ridiculous) narrative that the show’s writers have created, or because it’s so obviously exactly the sort of nonsense that we know the show for that one can’t possibly be truly surprised by it.

Spoilers, obviously, under the cut. Continue reading Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 2 “Home”

Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 1 “The Red Woman”

For an episode titled “The Red Woman,” last night’s season six premier had remarkably little to do with Melisandre, and it didn’t introduce the other red priestess who has been teased in some of pre-season promotional materials. Still, the episode sort of starts with Melisandre, and it definitely ends with her, so I guess the title works alright.

The hour opens with Davos discovering Jon Snow’s corpse, which Alliser Thorne and his men have just left laying out in the snow, in spite of the fact that they know that corpses at the Wall must be burned so they don’t rise up as wights. Davos and some of the men loyal to Jon take the body indoors and put it on a table while Ghost tries to escape from the room he’s shut up in. Dolorous Edd is sad and angry, but he leaves to get Ghost when Melisandre shows up. Melisandre says that she saw Jon Snow in the flames, fighting at Winterfell, but we all know how accurate shit she sees in the flames is.

Elsewhere, Alliser Thorne is humble bragging about how he killed Jon Snow out of patriotism or whatever and tries to rally the remaining men of the Night’s Watch against the Wildlings. He’s basically a dour Donald Trump. Meanwhile, Davos has a plan as well, which is good because Dolorous Edd is ready to just die gloriously trying to avenge Jon’s murder. Davos sends Edd to go talk to the Wildlings, because obviously a bloody, senseless battle is exactly what everyone needs to help them work through their grief. I’m guessing that we should expect a significant battle between the Wildlings and the Night’s Watch in the second half of episode two, or more likely in episode three. I’m calling it right now, though: Melisandre is going to resurrect Jon while the battle is raging, and he’s going to come out and his mere appearance will miraculously unite the Night’s Watch and Wildling factions. Also, either Jon Snow is going to chop off Thorne’s head to prove what a big man he is or he’s going to magnanimously allow Thorne to live and Thorne will become a creepily fervent supporter of Jon Snow.

Because this show definitely has its priorities in order, we’re taken next to Winterfell, where Ramsay Bolton is mourning his dead girlfriend by talking about how he first saw her when she was just eleven. It’s okay, though. The writers just buried the lead—Ramsay wasn’t much older, himself. Whew. And I thought this was going to be gross and creepy. Nah, it’s just supposed to be kind of sweet, I guess. Even sadistic torturing rapists have feelings that we’re supposed to be invested in. Just kidding! Ramsay tells the maester to feed Myranda to the dogs, because she’s good meat, after all.

No joke, I cackled maniacally when this happened, and it wasn’t just because I’d already downed half a bottle of wine. It was legitimately hilarious, and it gets even more hilarious when Ramsay gets a talking to from his dad. There is nothing funnier on this show than Roose Bolton dispassionately chiding his bastard son for irresponsibly losing his wife and pissing off the whole North, then threatening to pass Ramsay over in the succession in favor of a baby that isn’t even born yet. I love that D&D love Ramsay and his storyline so much and that they seem to see him as a sort of misunderstood but ultimately lovable antihero that they never stop trying to get us to root for. Because moral ambiguity, obviously. He really loved his evil girlfriend! And he’s got daddy issues! Sad trombone!

Theon and Sansa are running through the woods with Ramsay’s men in pursuit with dogs. They cross a freezing river in order to throw off the hounds, but not five minutes later the dogs find them anyway. Probably because, instead of traveling up or downstream to confuse their pursuers and buy themselves more time, Theon and Sansa just crossed straight over, leaving a very visible trail in the snow. Good news, though! Brienne and Podrick arrive just in the nick of time to save them. Because this is not at all unlikely, and goodness knows we need more scenes of Brienne straight up butchering guys (not really kidding, I actually kind of like seeing Brienne destroy like eight dudes at a time).

Here’s the thing, though. For all that D&D and directors and actors have talked up Sansa in the last couple of years and continuously promised that no, really, this season we’re going to get to see her come into her own, that’s not what happens here. Theon has to practically drag her into the water with the ominous warning that he’s seen what Ramsay’s dogs do to people, as if Sansa isn’t already very aware of her husband’s cruelty. Sansa at one point begs Theon not to try and sacrifice himself to save her because she says she won’t survive without him. Then, of course, Sansa is totally useless when Ramsay’s men do catch up with them, while Podrick is apparently a kind of badass now and even Theon gets to pick up a sword and kill someone.

The really unforgivable part of all this, though, is that when Sansa is finally safe(ish), after Brienne has dispatched Ramsay’s men and saved the day, Brienne again offers her service to Sansa, just like she once offered her services to Sansa’s mother. It’s the first time that Sansa has had a meaningful and more or less unconstrained choice to make in a while, and she looks to Theon for permission. It’s only when Theon nods his assent that Sansa accepts Brienne into her household (such as it is), and even then, Sansa—one of whose defining qualities (in the books, at least—I’m pretty sure that consistent characterization is a total mystery to D&D) is her knowledge of and adherence to social conventions no matter how terrible her circumstances—cannot remember the traditional response that she is supposed to make to Brienne’s oath. She has to have Podrick remind her of the words.

Listen, I’m sure that there are a thousand justifications for this. I’m certain that it will be explained away as Sansa being traumatized, that it’s a sign of just how much Ramsay’s abuse has affected her. It could be that they intended this moment to be illustrative of the similarities between Sansa and Podrick, who is admittedly a sort of kindred spirit to Sansa in this way. It could even be sowing the seeds for a romance between the two characters because the show is essentially just awful fanfiction at this point and no bad fanfic is complete without a crackship. Oh, god, this is really happening, isn’t it? I can’t help feeling as if by putting it into words I’m willing this garbage into existence, but now that I’ve had the idea, I’m about 80% certain that this is exactly where the show is going. Jesus wept.

In King’s Landing, Cersei is excited when she thinks Myrcella is home, and it is actually fucking heartbreaking to see her face fall when she realizes that her daughter is dead. It has nothing to do with the books, and it’s not particularly consistent with anything that has come before this on the show, but I actually don’t hate the following scene, where Cersei is grieving and Jaime is trying to comfort her. I did laugh like a maniac when Jaime says “Fuck everyone who isn’t us!” though. Because probably these two would have far fewer problems if they’d been doing that all along. In any case, there’s not much to mock here. The scene focuses on Cersei’s belief in prophecy, and it does kind of make it seem like we’re supposed to think she’s stupid for it, but it’s not the worst thing this show has done with these characters, and Lena Headey is great at making me care about her character even when what she’s doing makes no sense at all. This material is about three quarters plausible based on what we’ve seen of Cersei up to this point, so it seems great in comparison.

Elsewhere, Margaery would like to see her brother, but Septa Unella is a big old bitch. Sure, she might be a petty Catholic schoolboy’s misogynistic caricature of an overzealous nun, but really she’s just the bad cop to the High Sparrow’s good cop. I guess it’s good to get some kind of update on Margaery, but there’s not actually a lot of information in this scene, just a vague suggestion that Margaery might have stumbled upon the right thing to say in order to get herself out of jail. Alternatively, the High Sparrow may have simply realized that keeping the queen in a filthy dungeon for no real reason is probably not conducive to his continued good health. Who even knows, really?

With that, we’re whisked away to Dorne, where Ellaria and her daughters have staged a comically ridiculous coup. “Weak men will never rule Dorne again,” Ellaria says. Okay, but WHO WILL BE RULING DORNE NOW? This makes no sense whatsoever. Ellaria’s murder dress is stunning, though.

On the other side of the world in Meereen, Tyrion and Varys are walking through the apparently totally empty streets of the city. In case you’ve forgotten, Varys has no cock, which is a hilarious joke apparently. Tyrion is so funny. Things get even more hilarious when some poor brown lady thinks that Tyrion wants to buy her baby to eat and Varys has to explain that Tyrion just sucks at speaking Valyrian. Also, something something Tyrion walks like a rich guy, even though Varys is walking next to him in literally the exact same way. I hate this all so much. It makes no sense that Tyrion and Varys are now in charge of the city in the first place, and this is just deeply silly. Oh, “Our queen is not as popular in Meereen as she used to be”? Okay. When was that, exactly? There was violent resistance to her rule from day one. I guess at least the red priests are on Daenerys’s side, sort of? Oh shit, the entire harbor is on fire.

I had somewhat high hopes for comedy value of the Jorah and Daario bro journey, but it turns out to just be some rather maudlin reflections on how much they both love Daenerys. D- banter. The way they track Daenerys is kind of dumb, but okay. Jorah finds the ring Dany dropped in the middle of a huge field, where it was somehow not trampled into the ground or washed away by rain or just covered by grass, and now they know that she’s with the Dothraki.

Speaking of the Dothraki, this show really loves to have wide shots where Daenerys is the only white person in a sea of brown faces, huh? Just to make sure we know how bad things are for Daenerys, we have to listen to a pair of Dothraki men say gross and demeaning things to her for several minutes while she’s marched to see the Khal whose property she now is. There’s plenty of racist overtones throughout Dany’s time with the Dothraki this week, but this first part kind of takes the racist cake, as the two cheerfully rape-y Dothraki men and their sexually violent and degrading comments are explicitly presented in contrast to Daario and Jorah’s true and pure love for their queen. This is all compounded, of course, when Dany is finally brought before the Khal and he too talks about raping her while a couple of Dothraki women just say superstitious garbage and advise him to kill her. It’s almost as if this show wants to make really sure that we know that the Dothraki are ignorant, vicious barbarians or something.

Fortunately for Daenerys, all she has to do is name drop her dead husband and instead of getting raped and enslaved she’s going to be treated with some basic dignity and carted off to Vaes Dothrak to live with the rest of the widows of Khals. I’m not sure why she’s so surprised and dismayed by this, though. I know the show has diverged pretty wildly from the books, but even in the show she’s supposed to have become very assimilated into Dothraki culture during her marriage, so she would know that this is what is supposed to have happened when Khal Drogo died. In the books, trying to avoid this fate is part of what drove her to travel away from the Dothraki in the first place; she wanted to be a queen, not stuck in what is essentially an old folks’ home. Here, though, it’s just one more thing for Jorah and Daario to rescue her from. I guess it beats them having to rescue her from sexual violence or slavery, but still. Ugh.

There’s a brief Arya scene, of course, where we learn that she is indeed blind, and begging in Braavos. The Waif shows up and beats the shit out of her for some reason, then goes away promising that she’ll see Arya tomorrow. Okay.

The episode ends back at Castle Black, where Alliser Thorne is trying to secure his hold on the Night’s Watch. Davos and the few Jon Snow loyalists are still barricaded in a room, and Thorne is trying to get them to surrender, promising that, no really, he’s definitely not going to murder them all if they just open the door come on guys pleeeease. I’m not really sure what Davos and company think they’re going to accomplish all holed up with Jon Snow’s corpse, and I don’t really understand why Davos thought this was a thing he needed to get this deeply involved in to begin with, but apparently everything depends on Dolorous Edd now. Then Davos is all “Well, we could use the Red Woman,” and the other guys are like, “For what?” but we don’t find out this week.

Instead, we get to see Melisandre, who is still pretty bummed about how things went down with Stannis, I guess. She starts stripping in front of a mold-covered piece of metal, because we haven’t seen any boobs yet this week, but PSYCH! She takes off her necklace and she’s been an old hag all along! Even though, back in season four (episode seven) we’ve already seen Melisandre completely naked in a bath without her necklace and she was still a total babe. I feel like this is meant to be shocking and symbolically resonant because she’s metaphorically aged by her experiences and is now feeling her age in a way that she hasn’t up to this point. Okay, sure, whatever, but it doesn’t even work.

It’s hinted at in the books that she’s much older than she looks, but the show has never hinted at this before and it explicitly contradicts what we’ve seen on screen years ago. D&D might think their audience is stupid—they have a long track record of both abandoning stories that they have done groundwork for (like Tyrion and Tysha, for example) and introducing “twists” like this seemingly out of nowhere. It’s incredibly insulting to the audience—we really can keep up; it’s not that complicated—and it’s in every case a disservice to the show’s characters. Which doesn’t even touch on the added insult of using an aged woman’s body as spectacle in a way that is calculated to make the viewer feel disgust and shock just at seeing it. Thanks, Game of Thrones.

Still, “The Red Woman” isn’t a terrible episode. Unlike most of the other first episodes of the show’s seasons, this one spends a minimal amount of time just recapping the events of the previous season. The hour does still mostly consist of setup for future events, but it nonetheless manages to feel as if there’s some forward movement on all its many fronts. Probably the most positive thing I can say about the episode, though, is that they made a smart decision to do this week’s storytelling in longer scenes than usual, without skipping around between settings. Often, Game of Thrones does well at crafting particular moments and events, but the show has struggled, increasingly, for years with actually forming those moments into coherent stories. With a couple of exceptions (Arya’s scene, most notably), every scene this week worked to move the story along, and there was even a sort of linear logic to the episode that made it fairly pleasant viewing. It wasn’t the regular scattered vignettes on a theme that we have become used to, and that’s a positive development. Now, if only we could get the stories and character development on this show to actually make some kind of sense, the show might be halfway good again.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • Every scene at Castle Black and Winterfell is unrelentingly dark and gloomy, still. It’s actually distracting, as it’s downright difficult to see what’s going on at times.
  • Roose confirms that Stannis is dead, but they don’t know who did the deed. “I’d reward the man,” Roose says. Hardy har har. See, it’s funny because we know that it was Brienne. Hilarious!
  • The Sand Snakes really are the worst. I think the best we can hope for is that this is the last we’re ever going to see of them.
  • Jorah’s greyscale is getting worse. Also, I am pretty sure he was definitely considering rubbing it all over Daario. “If” Daario grows old, indeed.
  • I did chuckle at “Seeing a beautiful woman naked for the first time is among the five best things in life” but I kind of hate myself for it.
  • I love the dude that’s like “Well, we’re fucked if we have to depend on Dolorous Edd.”