Tag Archives: Game of Thrones

Five musings about Season 5 of ‘Game of Thrones’

In case you're wondering, this is what a moron looks like.

In case you’re wondering, this is what a moron looks like.

Die, Stannis, Die! I knew Stannis Baratheon was a pretender to the throne (‘Game of Thrones’ pays off, sometimes despite itself). Granted, I was hoping Davos would off both him and the Red Witch, but I’ll take an embarrassing, historic military loss instead of betrayal by his ally. Stannis was the face of religious zealotry, and like all such fools, was burned … unfortunately, not literally, like his poor, trusting daughter.

Cersei gets hers. Speaking of religious zealotry, how’d that little game you were running with the dirty priest work out for you, Cersei? Did Ms. Lannister learn nothing from her dad? You can’t empower those thirsting for power unless you have something to hold over them, or you will get fucked. Period. Interesting that Olenna Tyrell figured out immediately what the holy man was, while Cersei had to end up in the dungeon before she realized who she was messing with. I found this to be the most interesting storyline of the season and am interested to see where it leads. My suspicion is that, while Round One went to the holy man, Cersei will even up the balance sheet at some point.

Arya, the only Stark without a self-destructive streak and a tin ear when it comes to the politics of Westeros.

Arya, the only Stark without a self-destructive streak and a tin ear when it comes to the politics of Westeros.

Only one trustworthy Stark. Well, I’d hoped for more from Sansa (Long game starting to come together on ‘Game of Thrones’), as it seemed like at the end of Season 4 she was finally ready to be proactive. But she just went along with Baelish, not really thinking ahead, and that did not work out so well for her. When Theon Greyjoy is your knight in shining armor, you have seriously gone off the rails. Thankfully, Arya keeps getting smarter, the only Stark worth her weight in something other than cow dung. I continue to think, at some point, the north is going to rally behind her, but her time with “the man” could spin her in other directions.

John Snow nearly pulled off the impossible.

John Snow nearly pulled off the impossible.

Speaking of Stark-like behavior. John Snow, rest in peace (unless, as every headline on the Internet suggests, he is not dead, which would just be stupid). Snow’s problem was he tried two strategies that couldn’t work together. On the one hand, making Alliser Thorne his second-in-command was a stroke of brilliance. Single handedly, Snow brought his biggest enemy into the fold and honored his abilities, very publicly. “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” On the other hand, Snow also tried to take a huge leap that was never, at least in the early stages, going to have broad support among the Crows. To pull off something as crazy as bringing years-long enemies such as the Wildings in as allies, you need a second-in-command that is completely loyal and is going to back your play. Snow took a huge risk that he knew probably wasn’t going to work and sabotaged himself in the process. It could have come together as he envisioned, but he didn’t quite have the chops to pull it off. Still, Snow, so far, has accomplished more than any other spawn of Ned Stark.

Daenerys’s dynasty. It was frustrating to watch Daenerys spin her wheels on the other side of the sea throughout Season 5. That said, the lessons she’s learned and the allies she now has position her better than anyone still living in Westeros to take the reins of the kingdom. The wild cards are the dragons … they could be very useful, even just as intimidating symbols. But how much control does Daenerys have of those flaming-breathing beasts? Guess we’ll find out …

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Long game starting to come together on ‘Game of Thrones’

I'm looking forward to what Arya will do next. I'll miss Dog, if he's really dead.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Arya will do next. I’ll miss Dog, if he’s really dead.

* Arya and Sansa Stark are learning, more than Rob and Papa Stark ever did. Arya – thanks largely to Dog, although she’s had other tutoring along the way – is figuring out just the sort of mentality it takes to be a warrior and leader and survive in Westeros. She seems comfortable keeping her own company, observing and learning from the mistakes of others. She’s smart enough to avoid conflict, and savvy enough to understand when blood needs to be spilled. Sansa has had a different path, but has grown wiser just the same. Sansa, who has been pretty much everyone’s pawn at some point during Game of Thrones, finally understands her own power: Her rank, her name and her beauty. She probably should have trusted Tyrion more, something that could have saved them both significant time and trouble. That said, joining forces with Lord Baelish shows some smarts on her part. I think Sansa also understands the spell being the daughter of Catelyn casts over Baelish, as well as Baelish’s abilities as a diplomat and sneak. It was savvy political alignment on her part, some character development that really, finally makes her interesting, not just important.

* I love the idea of an alliance of Tyrion, Lord Varys and Daenerys Targaryen. Tyrion is a bit indulgent and self-destructive, but he understands strategy, the short and long games. He also knows how to exploit weakness. The throne wouldn’t suit him, but being the power behind the throne very well could, even if he doesn’t want to follow in daddy’s footsteps. Lord Varys is the master of collecting information and has eyes and ears all over that world. Daenerys has military power and advisors and is loved by her people, but – particularly as the final episodes of Season 4 and first episode of Season 5 show – she lacks the skills of day-to-day governance that someone in her position needs. With Tyrion as the hand of the queen and Varys lurking in the shadows, this could end up making Daenerys the power to deal with, dragons or no.

* John Snow just gets more and more interesting. In the first season, even into the second, he’s a bit of an afterthought. But now, John’s a key player. He’s one of the few on the south side of the wall who may be able to get through to the Wildings, and his ties to the Starks, ability as a fighter and general mental sharpness make him important to Stannis. The question is what is Snow’s ceiling? How high can he rise before someone resents Ned Stark’s bastard and tries to take him down a notch or two?

* I love the Missandei-Grey Worm storyline. I don’t know that it will mean much to the series, but it really humanizes the Unsullied and is the one relationship in Game of Thrones where power or potential for power is not in play. Two star-crossed lovers who likely won’t find a way to make it work.

* Every time I see Lena Heady in anything, I like her more. Heady is simply fierce. It’s the eyes. And it doesn’t matter the project – Game of Thrones, 300, The Purge, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, The Broken, etc. – Heady brings intensity to her role. Sometimes its more over-the-top – such as Dredd – while other times it’s controlled and internalized, such has her turn as John Conner’s mom. I look forward to what she does beyond GoT down the road.

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Double shot of Locke Lamora isn’t enough

20130906162408!Locke_Lamora“I can’t wait to have words with the Gray King when this shit is all finished. There’s a few things I want to ask him. Philosophical questions. Like, ‘How does it feel to be dangled out a window by a rope tied around your balls, motherfucker?’ ” Locke Lamora, The Lies of Locke Lamora

I’ve previously written about a conversation with a pal, who, after I said I had some issues with Game of Thrones (while enjoying it overall), went on a rant about the quality of fantasy tomes for adult readers. After he spewed forth his wrath against the genre in general, he then pointed me toward Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series and said, “Read this.”

So I did. The Lies of Locke Lamora, the first book in the Gentleman Bastard series, is a combination of Ocean’s 11-esque heist movie and Game of Thrones level violence. The backstabbing is metaphorical, literal and frequent. Lamora and his gang of confidence men violate the peace between the old money of the city of Camorr and its criminal underworld, going after the elite targets while generally being rewarded for their efforts. Until the Grey King shows up and it all goes to shit. The twists are marvelous, the characters are many and varied, the world that Lynch has created is broad, unique and detailed. I can’t recommend the Lies of Locke Lamora enough.

887877Book two of the Gentleman Bastard series, Red Seas Under Red Skies, is … effective. Some of the fun of the first book is gone, as Locke has lost too much to continue to be nothing but a light-hearted rogue. But some of what we lose in Locke is just as much about the story as the evolution of character, a tale which takes Locke out of the con too frequently. It isn’t that Lamora’s time on the high seas isn’t rewarding, but what gives these books their vitality is the thrill of the crime. Don’t get me wrong: Red Seas Under Red Skies is still a great read. But my hope is as I delve deeper into this series, Lynch is able to find the fun a bit more. With the dark ending of the second book, however, that may be difficult to do.

But I have faith in Locke, Jean, Scott Lynch and the Crooked Warden. So bring on book three and whatever violence, chicanery and humor it holds.

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All in on ‘Arrow’

If you've been a bad boy, you don't want to see this coming at you in a dark alley.

If you’ve been a bad boy, you don’t want to see this coming at you in a dark alley.

I had a couple of buddies who are bigger comics geeks than me tell me that I really needed to check out Arrow. I hemmed and hawed for a while, as I am not a fan of many things D.C. outside of Batman.

But since I had periodic gaps while I was waiting for Game of Thrones discs from Netflix, I went and streamed the first two seasons of Arrow. As this went on over a period of a couple of months, I started to realize that I was letting GoT discs sit because I had to see the next episode of the adventures of Oliver McQueen and his pals.

Is it Game of Thrones quality? Hells naw. We’re talking the CW here, so let’s not get carried away. That’s not what Arrow is, nor what it aspires to be.

But when I compare it to another CW superhero drama, Smallville, there’s no comparison. Arrow is head-and-shoulders above the Man of Steel offering. Smallville never seemed to have a grasp of what the larger story should be over time, other than to drag out his origin story. Their “Oh shit, they’ve graduated high school … so now we have Smallville community college” moment was just one example of that ineptitude, as well as the abrupt evolution of Lana into a special being of her own, which was the point where I abandoned the show.

Arrow has a great overarching enemy – the League of Assassins – as well as a much more solid core group of actors than Smallville with Stephen Amell as the titular hero, David Ramsey as sidekick/war hero Diggle, Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity and even Willa Holland as McQueen’s sister Thea, who is starting to shed her the-next-Paris-Hilton persona into a true player among Starling City’s arrow-slinging heavyweights. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it does a nice job of layering the story, revealing key points only when absolutely necessary and taking the narrative to unexpected places.

The evolution of the individual storylines works, as well. Oliver’s transition from stone-cold killer avenging his dad to hero trying to save a city when he couldn’t save his best friend was natural and necessary. John Diggle struggles with the possibilities of what his injury or death might do to the woman he loves and his new child. And while Katie Cassidy’s lack of acting skills in anything other than crying sometimes hurts the character Laurel at times, the idea that she needs to quit being that simpering addict and take matters into her own hands has been one of the more interesting arcs of Season 3, as well as offering some potential for growth beyond that.

I look forward to seeing how Arrow proceeds from here. Here’s hoping they can keep this train on the rails.

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‘Game of Thrones’ pays off, sometimes despite itself

Why, exactly, am I supposed to care about Theon Greyjoy?

Why, exactly, am I supposed to care about Theon Greyjoy?

After mentioning to a buddy of mine about how much I was enjoying Game of Thrones despite certain reservations I was having, he went off on a rant about the general lack of quality in the fantasy arena, whether on the page or on-screen, how mature consumers of fantasy were too often out of luck, forced to read books for kids or seek satisfaction in other genres. As he wound down and admitted my concerns about Game of Thrones were valid, he asked me to name one other fantasy franchise that is doing it better.

He had me stumped on that one.

Because when Game of Thrones is on its game, it’s a whole lotta fun. The general antics of the Lannister family, particularly Tyrion, are a wonderful representation of the incestuous courts of Europe of previous centuries, a constant whirl of gossip, lies and back-stabbing – with the occasional bloody, out-and-out front-stabbing as well – that is the real war behind the grand battles fought in fields and keeps. Arya Stark’s journey from eager kid to burgeoning revolutionary has been well mapped, and she is a survivor in a family that has done its best to get itself killed off. And, best of all, the messianic rise of Daenerys Targaryen from an afterthought in a royal family in exile to the mother of dragons, freer of the slaves and leader of what is about to become the most terrifying and dominating army in Westeros (at this point, I should probably note I’m only at the end of season 3, so season 4 is not in play for this piece).

The problem is all of the boring bullshit you have to put up with to get to the good stuff. Sansa Stark is never interesting on her own, occasionally becoming a worthy diversion when she is swept into someone else’s drama, such as her marriage to Tyrion. Yes, she represents the royal child raised to marry into a match that will serve some political scheme, which makes her important as a symbol, but it also makes her wholly uninteresting as a character. I have a hard time caring about Stannis Baratheon’s storyline, in large part because it’s mostly him acting inconsistently while the red witch and his right-hand man bicker like a couple of girls in the junior high bathroom. Plus, I honestly don’t believe he’ll rise to power, so it’s increasingly difficult to care what schemes the Plankton of Westeros has going on. I cheered during the “Red Wedding” because now I never have to hear Rob Stark whine, grouse and pout again. Rob was dull and managed to make the wrong, most self-destructive decision nearly every time, and it’s a shame his head wasn’t chopped of instead of his daddy’s. And why, God, why am I still forced to watch the misadventures of Theon Greyjoy? So far, all he has contributed to the show is the supposed death of the youngest Stark boys and that “Dude, it’s your sister” moment when he feels up Yara. My time is being wasted whenever the story focuses on him.

But in the end, the big-picture payoff continues to be worth it, even if the journey sometimes gets in the way. So I am hitched to the fate of Westeros, for good or ill.

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