Final Thoughts on Game of Thrones Season 5

17 Jun

Pretty much the only scene in this ep that didn't make me want to jump off a bridge.

It is a strange world we live in, where grimdark is now the norm for Hollywood cheesiness. You wouldn’t think a show where a little girl is burned alive and another serially raped could be cheesier than its source material, but somehow David Benioff & D.B. Weiss have managed just that.  Despite its fantasy setting, A Song of Ice and Fire isn’t an escape from reality and the show has never been afraid to tackle the ugliness featured in George R.R. Martin’s books. Grimdark is defined by an absence of any emotion other than misery, but ASOIAF has never been like that. What I love about the series is despite its character deaths and dark subject matter, it shows the totality of the human experience: joy, love, despair, hope and sorrow, it’s all in there. On season 5? Unending misery.

My biggest criticism is of course the character assassination of Stannis Baratheon. From very early on Stannis was painted as a villain and for one simple reason: the Ds think you’re all idiots. The Ds are right that ASOIAF is a hard story to get into, but they think that gen audiences are so dumb that if they don’t make it as cheesy and simplistic as possible, everyone will get lost “We need a hero in a post-Ned Stark world!” the Ds cried. Thus Tyrion, a multi-faceted and not always likable character in the books (he turns a singer into stew and feeds him to commoners) is elevated to Hero of the Story. His opponent? Stannis. “Well Stannis kills his brother, so let’s make him really, really evil,” the Ds say. “Gen audiences are too dumb to appreciate a story where good and evil aren’t black and white!” So Stannis kills Renly and this is over and over brought up as The Reason Stannis is a Bad Guy. In the fifth season finale we’re meant to root for Brienne as she unsheathes Oathkeeper and declares “in the name of Renly Baratheon, the one true king, I sentence you to death.” (more...)

Game of Thrones- “Kill the Boy” Recap

11 May

The most akward family dinner of all time.

 

Though the pacing is still a bit too slow for my liking, Game of Thrones kicked things up a notch with “Kill the Boy,” the season’s best episode by far. I should note that one of the reasons I probably liked this episode more than others was it neglected the series’ worst and most troubling plotline: the Jaime/Bronn Dorne Extravaganza Hour. The description for next week’s episode promises “the Sand Snakes attack,” so maybe Dorne will finally become interesting (the episode title is also the Martells’ mantra, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”), but considering where the other stories have been going it feels like they almost could have cut the Dorne story out entirely.

But back to the topic at hand: “Kill the Boy,” an episode that I am already seeing is contentious among show watchers and book readers (as has been the case with most of this season so far). The AV Club actually writes two sets of reviews for each Thrones episode, one for “experts” and one for “newbies,” and the newbies scores have been consistently lower throughout. As I’ve said before, this is most likely due to book readers knowing the basic gist of where a lot of this is going, so the slow pace isn’t as bothersome, whereas show watchers crave for the action-packed days of Season 4, where every week someone was either getting poisoned or stabbed through the mouth. (more...)

Game of Thrones Season 5- Thoughts on Episodes 3 & 4

4 May

I want to start off by saying that despite any quibbles I may express, I have the utmost respect for showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. I don’t think fans quite realize the immense amount of pressure put upon them or the sheer volume of work they put in every year. They have basically been living and breathing Game of Thrones for the past five years, spending half the year writing ten episodes and then the other half shooting, editing and promoting it. It must be exhausting.

As an aspiring writer, I often think about the difficulty of adapting A Song of Ice and Fire to a visual medium, and so I can forgive missteps because the Ds have such an enormous task set before them. But as an aspiring writer, I can’t help but think of ways I would do things differently. After four episodes, I can finally see past the veil of my fandom and agree with show watchers that this season is moving too slowly. At first I didn’t notice—the first three episodes were a lot of set-up, and knowing what’s coming next made that exciting.

But “The Sons of the Harpy,” despite some great action scenes, moved the plot forward at a snail’s pace, and added unnecessary and boring filler while cutting subplots from the books. I am reminded of the third season, which despite the Red Wedding, still remains the weakest year in my opinion (others say it’s season two). In that season, certain subplots, namely the Brotherhood Without Banners, were cut or trimmed, in service of simplifying the often overly-complex story and moving it along faster. But it actually did the opposite because while those subplots were just that—sub—they were also plots. When you cut them what you get instead is scene after scene of Lady Olenna arguing with Tywin over how much money to spend on the Royal Wedding. No one wants to see that. (more...)

Game of Thrones- The House of Black & White Recap

21 Apr

As we enter week two of Game of Thrones’ fifth season, events start to ramp up despite a noticeably slower pace. The pacing here feels deliberate, and with some exceptions, each storyline is moving forward inch by inch. This is the nature of the show at this point, so I’m not so much criticizing as observing. Time still flies when you’re watching GoT; there is no show on TV more entertaining or engaging.

“The House of Black and White” also saw the show begin to veer even further away from the books, with mixed results. Before I jump into my location-by-location notes, I wanted to point out that in rare fashion, this episode had no boobs in it, not even a single one. I wonder if now that the story has grown so complex we’ll see fewer tits-for-tits-sake on the show, though last week certainly gave us a huge helping of man ass.

Also of note: no new location added to the world map despite a scene that took place in Dorne. My guess is that since said scene occurred at the Water Gardens and not Sunspear, the Dornish capital, that they are holding off on adding anything to the map for the time being. (more...)

Game of Thrones- Season 5 Premiere Mega Recap

14 Apr

I was so excited in the hours leading up to last night’s Game of Thrones premiere I could barely think straight. It’s rare for me to get so excited about a piece of pop culture these days; I’m older, I’m more cynical, and I can more easily see through Hollywood’s deceptive veil. But man, Game of Thrones makes me feel like a giddy teenager again.

Overall, this was a pretty standard Thrones opener. With so many characters and so many complex plotlines, GoT premieres have basically become “check in with all the people” installments, and often it feels as if the show has two premieres. They can’t fit all the characters into one episode, so they spread them out between the first two (like in season 3).

I’ll admit season 4 had a better opener. “Two Swords” is one of the show’s best eps and got the audience up to speed much more elegantly than “The Wars to Come” does, though the latter is still a good episode. Last season’s second episode had a Holy Shit moment in the Purple Wedding; season 5 seems to be moving at a more deliberate pace, which I think is appropriate considering that with the death of Tywin Lannister, the board has been swept clean.

I am going to separate my recap into a NON-SPOILERS section for show watchers and a SPOILERS section for book readers, and will be separating the discussion by location. But let’s start with the opening. (more...)

Top 10 Game of Thrones Episodes, Part 3

12 Apr

Tonight's the night!

3. The Rains of Castamere

Season 3, Episode 9
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by David Nutter

The Red Wedding. It’s the most masterful sequence in Game of Thrones history, and its most horrifying. It’s hard to watch, but it all happens so fast you don’t have time to look away. It’s as gut-punching as it is in the books, even more so, and it has the same impact even if you’ve read it before and know it’s coming.

Like with “Baelor,” the episode in which Ned Stark loses his head, the Ds pepper the episode with triumphant moments so as to deflect any suspicion of impending doom. Daario, Jorah and Grey Worm single-handedly capture the slave city of Yunkai, which while a little unbelievable, is still cool to watch. I’ve mentioned fight choreography before, and what I love about Game of Thrones is how every character has a unique fighting style, and how they are informed by their personality. Jon also finally turns on Ygritte and the Wildlings and is saved by Bran and Rickon’s direwolves.

But of course the majority of the episode is spent at the Twins, where Robb, Catelyn and the Northmen have to suffer Walder Frey’s insults even before he betrays them. As with the death of Ned, everything seems to be building towards a positive outcome. Walder Frey, while dickish, appears amicable to the new marriage pact, and mostly seems to just be fucking with Robb as penance. Edmure’s bride Roslin even turns out to be the One Hot Frey, another jab at Robb. In the previous episode, Robb revealed a new battle plan to his mother: take Casterly Rock while Tywin is caught up in King’s Landing (in the books it’s a plan to retake Moat Cailin from the Ironborn and subsequently the North). Robb’s wife Talisa is also pregnant, and decides to name their unborn son Eddard after Robb’s deceased dad. (more...)

Top 10 Game of Thrones Episodes, Part 2

10 Apr

6. The Children

Season 4, Episode 10
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Alex Graves

When I first watched Game of Thrones’ most recent season finale, I decided it was not only the season’s best episode, but quite possibly the entire series’. It was after all, the only ep HBO submitted for the Primetime Emmys (it didn’t win). Having now watched it four more times, I don’t think it’s quite as superb as I initially believed. A lot happens and it’s very exciting and it’s a great closer to a season, so at the time I think I was just all hyped up on its awesomeness. But in the end, “The Children” is an episode that simultaneously illustrates Thrones’ greatest strengths and weaknesses. (more...)

Top 10 Game of Thrones Episodes, Part 1

8 Apr

With Game of Thrones’ fifth season premiering this Sunday, it’s time for me to do what I do best: arbitrary rankings in list form! Here are, in my humble opinion, the best episodes of Thrones thus far:

10. The Lion and the Rose

ILLUSIONS, Michael. Tricks are what a whore does for money.

Season 4, Episode 2
Written by George R.R. Martin
Directed by Alex Graves

A.K.A. “The Purple Wedding” episode, the second installment in GoT’s most recent season saw the villain everyone loved to hate, Joffrey Baratheon, finally kick the bucket. The wedding is the best sequence in the episode, but there is a lot of other great stuff to. This was the ep that finally turned the Boltons into real characters and true villains. Ramsay hunting a girl with dogs was a bit excessive (though canonical), but the scene in which Roose rebukes his bastard for castrating Theon, forcing Ramsay to prove Reek’s loyalty with a close shave, really personified who these guys are and how awful they are. The ep also gave some much-needed humanization to Stannis, who stands up for his daughter Shireen when his crazy wife demands she be spanked. (more...)

Ranking the Assassin’s Creed Franchise, Part 7

3 Apr

2. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

I LOVE PIRATES.

So this should have been an easy sell for me, but after Assassin’s Creed III introduced me to the most boring Assassin ever and botched Desmond’s present day plotline in the most egregious way possible, I was about ready to ditch my favorite game franchise. Black Flag’s announcement was the second time I ever blogged about Assassin’s Creed and also the second time I thought of ditching it, but even back then I noted how the pirate setting instantly piqued my interest.

The naval combat in ACIII, while arguably pointless, was also arguably the best feature in the game. The controls were magnificent, making the player really feel like they were steering an 18th Century brig and firing broadsides at enemy vessels. By making that the focus of the game and turning your ship into a mobile version of ACII’s upgradable villa, Ubisoft completely redefined the game and for the first time in a long while, Assassin’s Creed was fresh and exciting again. (more...)

Ranking the Assassin’s Creed Franchise, Part 6

2 Apr

3. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

Other than Black Flag, Brotherhood, technically the third game in the series, still has the best overall gameplay, and its combat is superior to every other title released thus far. It was the first game to introduce chain-kills, which allowed the player to turn Ezio into a dizzying flurry of blades as he swept one insta-kill to the next. ACIII and the games that shared its engine—Liberation, Black Flag and Rogue—continued the chaining mechanic, but like with the rest of their gameplay, combat was considerably dumbed down. Never in Assassin’s Creed’s history was chopping and stabbing more viscerally satisfying than in Brotherhood, and some of the kill animations are completely ridiculous, namely one in which Ezio stabs an enemy in the temple, then pushes his body around to fire his hidden gun through the guy’s head and into another enemy. (more...)