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The Good, The Bad, and The Dead: Game of Thrones, Season 6 Review

Spoilers
(For a No Spoiler review of Season 6,
see Winter is Coming:
Game of Thrones 1-6)

I’m a huge fan or HBO’s Game of Thrones, created and (mostly) written by DB Weiss and David Benioff, and based on George RR Martin’s bestselling series A Song of Ice and Fire. When my guy and I originally attempted to watch the show in its premiere season, the fantasy element — along with all those characters — put us off. Though I eventually read all five books, I was still confused about all the characters, especially when the books kept introducing new, minor characters. In fact, I didn’t watch the show until it was announced that the magnificent Ian McShane would be in season 6 of the award-winning show.

Those of you who’ve read my Deadwood and Favorite Villains blogs know how much I adore and respect Ian McS, and I admit that it was only to watch his performance in Game of Thrones 6 — as whatever character he would play — that I looked up all the previous seasons of the show. I don’t regret it: I loved them. Despite not being a fan of the story’s fantasy elements — books or television series — I thought virtually everything else about the show was an improvement on the massive books, if only because the show provided actors’ faces to help me keep the vast number of characters straight.

I watched all 50 episodes of the first 5 seasons in about 10 days, just to be ready for the season 6 premiere. Though I knew Martin hadn’t’t finished the 6th book in the series — The Winds of Winter I’d read that show-runners Benioff and Weiss had been given a detailed outline of the events from the author himself. Since the show writers had done such a good job culling the story from the first five books, I assumed they’d be successful with the outline of the sixth.

Unfortunately, the freedom provided by an outline-only, no matter how detailed, hurt the show in its 6th season. While much of the season was powerful, moving, and unexpected, some of season 6 was the worst the series has had to offer, including becoming predictable and dragging. Some of the episodes were just downright bad, and it seems to have been a case of the writers not having been able to translate the outline into good drama. There were good and bad things in season 6, and there were, as usual, plenty of dead. Let’s start with the good, because when Game of Thrones 6 was good, it was very, very good.

THE GOOD

There was lots of The Good in season 6, from Kick-Ass women to Bran’s visions. These things were what kept the fans coming back for more because when Game of Thrones 6 was good, it was very, very good.

Kick-Ass Women

From Cersei (Lena Headey) to Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), from Arya (Maisie Williams) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) to 10-year-old Lady Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) and Lady Olenna Tyrrell (Diana Rigg, above), the women of Game of Thrones are some of the most seriously bad-ass female characters ever created (and it’s understood that the actors playing the roles contribute significantly to the characters’ development and success).

Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) is one of my favorite women in the show, and not just because she’s succeeding in an arena primarily dominated by males. She doesn’t need a man to define her, though she initially needed a man to follow, serve, and revenge (King Renly), and then needed a man to escort and later defend (Jaime Lannister). Brienne came into her own indomitable self once she swore loyalty to Lady Catelyn Star and promised to find and protect the daughters of House Stark: Sansa and Arya. Though Brienne never found Arya, who is at the House of Black and White, learning to become one of the Faceless Men, Brienne did find Sansa. That’s when Brienne shone. Loyal, stalwart, and brave, she earned characters’ and viewers’ respect as she executed King Stannis for murdering his brother Renly; pledged to combat Jaime Lannister, despite caring about him, should they meet in battle; and rescued and defended Sansa once she had escaped Ramsay Bolton. As far as I’m concerned, Brienne is one of the best things about Game of Thrones, and I adore her.

Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) may be one of the characters that plenty of fans despise, but I think she’s wonderful, and in season 6, after her humiliating (nude) Walk of Atonement at the end of the fifth season, she re-examined her life and found some things wanting. Always fiercely devoted to her children, she set about protecting the only one remaining to her — King Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) — whether she was keeping him safe from The High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) or from his own wife Queen Margery (Natalie Dormer). Cersei told Septa Una, who’d taunted Cersei during her imprisonment, that Cersei’s face “would be the last thing” the Septa ever saw. Cersei has always been a woman of her word, and with help from her devoted returned-from-the-dead-warrior The Mountain, Cersei took revenge on the Septa.

In season 6, Cersei recalled some prophecies that a Witch had made when Cersei was a child, relayed them to the love of her life — her twin brother Jaime — and eventually took revenge against the High Sparrow and Margery by locking them in the Sept and blowing it up with Wildfire. Though her relationship with Jaime has developed this season into something far beyond the sexual-incestuous one which began in season 1, Cersei neglected to inform him of her plans to take the Iron Throne herself, and I don’t think it was just because he was off fighting a War against the Starks in the form of Blackfish. Cersei is a woman of her word, and she has always intended to be Queen, though she allowed her children to take the Throne for a while and attempted to rule as the Queen Mother (or Queen Dowager).

Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) has been one of the biggest damsels in distress ever created in literature. From season one, where she wanted nothing more than to marry and become a Queen, despite the fact that the King was the sadistic and nasty Joffrey, eldest son of Cersei and Jaime, to later seasons when Sansa kept depending on males to save her, Sansa has been one annoying little girl. And not even a fierce little girl like Lyanna Mormont. No, Sansa’s been a weepy, whiny little girl.

Season 6 saw her rapidly mature, however, especially after Littlefinger arranged her marriage to the brutish torturer Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) who raped her on their wedding night. She not only escaped Winterfell, where she was being held captive, albeit she escaped with Theon’s help (Alfie Allen), but she made it to the Wall to join her brother Jon (Kit Harrington) and became a stout ally in the battle for their home, although no one realized it until late in the “Battle of the Bastards.” I’m guessing that women, and rape victims, around the world cheered collectively when Sansa took revenge on Ramsay, letting his own starving dogs eat his face (and everything else, I suppose), then walked away with a slight, satisfied smile on her face.

Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) was the 10-year-old Lady of Bear Island, and though she only had about 3 scenes in the entire season, that didn’t stop her from becoming a fan favorite and lighting up the Internet. From her initial encounter with Jon, Sansa, and Ser Davos (Liam Cunningham), who wanted her to supply men for their army to fight Ramsay Bolton — she offered a grand total of 62 (and Bella revealed that she cracked up laughing every time she offered them only 62 men, and had to work hard to stop giggling) — to her infamous fan-favorite Death Stare on the battlefield just before the epic Battle of the Bastards, 12-year-old Bella rocked the viewers’ world with her confidence and memorable performance.

Fans said she should be the one to sit on the Iron Throne, and after reading this confident young lady’s interviews about her role, I’d have to agree. She was magnificent. She was the show’s newest Bad Ass, for real, and I’m delighted that she’s a woman. Apparently, she stunned her fellow actors and the episodes’ directors as well, since they thought they’d have to “coax the young actor through her scenes.” Instead, she startled them with her professionalism, leading them to compliment her on everything from the Doc Martens she was wearing with her gown, to the Death Stare that she had to force on her face since she found Iwan, who played the villainous Ramsay, so delightful and fun to work with.

Lady Bella was outstanding as Lady Mormont, no doubt about it. She inspired delightful memes all over social media, like Bitches, please from @LordLyannaMormont.

She was one of the most Bad Ass women in Game of Thrones 6, and she was only a little girl.

The Battle Scenes

In every single season, the battle scenes in Game of Thrones have seriously rocked the Casbah — even the ones with the fantasy White Walkers and their cohorts, the Wights — and season 6 has to be the absolute best for battles, if only because of the realistic and frightening Battle of the Bastards, which pitted the smaller army of Jon Snow against the usurper of House Stark, Ramsay Bolton. After sadistically murdering Jon’s little brother Rickon (Art Parkinson), after telling him to run over to Jon (across the virtually endless No Man’s Land between the two armies), in order to get Jon to jump almost heedlessly into battle, Ramsay’s army and Jon’s engaged in one of the most realistic and terrifying fights ever.

When Jon became trapped under all the bodies of the wounded, dying, and dead men, I became claustrophobic, literally, and feared I wouldn’t be able to continue to watch the scene. It was one of the best battles I’ve ever seen filmed. It had all the confusion and despair of battles like those in big screen Platoon and The Revenant, but without being so frenzied that viewers couldn’t tell what was happening.

Bran’s Visions

Though most of Bran’s (Isaac Hempstead Wright) visions are about back-story, especially concerning his father Eddard Stark and the parentage of Bran’s “brother” Jon Snow, thye were presented as if they were happening at the moment, albeit with Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow) on the fringes of the scenes, watching the action. If these had been revealed in monologues by the Raven to Bran, they would have been deadly, so these, at least, were handled in the best dramatic fashion: by being shown to the viewers.

And yes, fans of the books were totally correct: Jon is not the illegitimate son of Ned Stark and some nameless woman after all. Instead, Jon is the true-born love-child of Ned’s sister Lyanna Stark and future king of the Iron Throne, Rhaegar Targaryen. He was already married, but apparently Rhaegar didn’t really kidnap Lyanna (who was the fiancée of Robert Baratheon, who rebelled after she disappeared, and usurped the throne), but whether Lyanna Stark was merely Rhaegar’s mistress or a second bride has not yet been revealed. That makes Jon Snow a legitimate heir to the Iron throne.

Bran’s visions also revealed some things about himself and Losing Hodor, as well as about the White Walkers, but the import of The White Walkers and their cohorts has yet to be explained completely.

Other good things about season 6, included these:

  • the maturing love relationship between Jaime and Cersei
  • Jaime’s acknowledging his parentage of Cersei’s children to his daughter Myrcella
  • the loyalty of characters, like Brienne (to Lady Catelyn and to Sansa), Jaime (to Cersei and to their children), Jorah (to Daenerys), Bronn (to Tyrion and, later, to Jamie), Hodor and Mira (to Bran), Olenna (to her family), and Qyburn and The Mounatin (to Cersei), among others
  • Bronn’s (Jerome Flynn) sense of humor and his singing
  • Tormund Giantsbane’s (Kristofer Hivju) attraction to the tall and powerful warrior-knight Brienne of Tarth
  • Davos’ (Liam Cunningham) development into a major character
  • the Giant, who is one of the few fantasy elements I liked, if only because he had such a feisty and courageous personality

THE BAD

Yes, there were plenty of good things in season 6, but there were also quite a few really bad things. Most of The Bad wasn’t in the story itself, but, instead, in its presentation. The poor dramatization of the story resulted in stuttering plot advancement (inconsistent pacing, according to CheatSheet), predictability (like knowing who’s going to die and who isn’t), and poor use of guest stars. When Game of Thrones 6 was good, it was very, very good, but when it was bad, oh, my, it was absolutely horrid.

Why White Walkers?

I’m afraid I just don’t get what’s so scary about the White Walkers. I mean, didn’t the Wildlings used to offer them babies to pacify them? Yeah, there are a lot of them, and they’re often accompanied by their Wight buddies, who seem to be crazed skeletons, but the White Walkers, despite being led by the Night King, just haven’t really made much of an emotional impact on me. I don’t know if it’s because of their fantasy element, or because they just aren’t the monsters everyone acts like they are.

Every time White Walkers come into the series, which isn’t too often considering that’s how the book series and show started in the first place, I just lose interest. Oh, I can appreciate all the money HBO has spent on extras and on make-up, but in terms of the story, the White Walkers don’t work for me. They don’t work for other reviewers either, if only because they’re not villains yet.

The Talk-Walkers

Oy, vey, talk about bad drama. How many scenes did we have to sit through in season 6 where the characters just walked around talking (Tyrion and Varys), while waiting for Queen Daenerys to return? Or rode horses around, talking (Ser Jroah and Daario), while ostensibly searching for Daenerys)? Or sat around, drinking, and talking (Tyrion, Missandei, and Grey Worm)? Or just sitting around talking (Tyrion, Varys, and the Traders of Slavers’ Bay)? Or just stand around talking (all the Iron Island residents)?

It was scary-sad to see the show degenerate to these talking head moments. The poor actors had to be bored silly, especially the actors whose characters had previously been such important members of the show. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage, above L) and Varys (Conleth Hill, R) spent so many scenes wandering around Mereen that it seemed about as big as all of the American West. Unfortunately, neither the scenery nor their discussions were interesting. And the that scene where Tyrion tried to get Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) to drink and tell jokes, ugh-ness to the max.

Margery’s Bible Study

We never got to learn if Queen Margery’s (Natalie Dormer) “conversion” to the Faith of the Seven was authentic or if she was merely attempting to escape imprisonment. The scene where she visited her brother Loras in prison and cautioned him not to say anything aloud that would jeopardize himself — or her — made it seem as if Margery was playing the High Sparrow. Later scenes with her grandmother Olenna (Diana Rigg), when Margery urged her to leave the Capitol, reinforced that view. Despite the fact that Margery also convinced her husband King Tommen to convert and become devout, Margery’s faith still seemed false. Because she died, trapped in the Sept with the High Sparrow and everyone else whom Cersei killed in the finale, we never got to learn if Margery’s Bible Studies were all show without substance. Because Tommen killed himself by jumping out of a window after Margery was killed, we’ll never know if the conversion routine was real or an act.

Death Means Nothing

I’m not talking about the deaths of characters like Ned and Catelyn Stark, because those characters appear to be dead, and they don’t seem to be coming back, no matter the Lady Stoneheart teasers before season 6.

I’m not talking about the resurrected Ser Gregor Clegane, aka The Mountain, who doesn’t ever say anything or seem to do anything independently from Cersei’s command. I’m talking about Jon Snow, most specifically, who not only seems none the worse for death, but who acts like he’s never been dead or resurrected in the first place. And I’m not talking about the teasers with him in it either, where he looked like he might come back but be another Lady Stoneheart or even a White Walker.

I’m talking about Jon’s character, most specifically in the Battle of the Bastards, when the dead and dying and wounded were piling up on and around him, threatening to suffocate him or bury him alive. Though the scene itself was powerful, I did find myself wondering why no one seemed to remember that Jon was already dead. I mean, he did get killed by the Members of the Night’s Watch at the finale of season 5. The Red Woman resurrected him this season, but he still was dead. Doesn’t that mean he should be different? Is he still mortal if he already died?

Even if author George R R Martin hadn’t claimed that Jon would be different after having been dead, I still would have expected Jon Snow to be vastly if not completely different, if only because he now knows that the Brothers killed him.

On Jon’s death and possible resurrection, author Martin  insisted that Jon would be different.

I do think that if you’re bringing a character back, that a character has gone through death, that’s a transformative experience. My characters who come back from death are worse for wear. In some ways, they’re not even the same characters anymore. The body may be moving, but some aspect of the spirit is changed or transformed, and they’ve lost something.

Martin may be talking about his book characters, but he’s certainly not talking about the Jon Snow in the series. I would never have known that Jon Snow died if I hadn’t seen it myself, and I forgot about it many times during the sixth season because, apparently, death doesn’t mean anything in this Game of Thrones universe if you’re a fan favorite, as Kit Harrington is. That takes away all the dramatic tension, and it’s disappointingly bad writing.

Arya Can’t Die

I realized when I first read the books that the character Arya Stark (Maisie Williams, above, foreground) was one of the author’s favorite characters. In the show, however, this favoritism has gone to extremes. Arya has not only completely replaced her mother, revived in the books as Lady Stoneheart, in seeking revenge for the deaths of her family members, including Walder Frey, but no matter what happens to Arya, she can’t die. I mean, Arya has had the most horrific things happen to her, including being blinded for failing to give up her personal plans of revenge, yet no matter how viciously the Waif attacks and wounds Arya, she escapes and survives.

Is it something in the Stark bloodline? I think it’s more the fan-fave-thing operating here. That makes me take Arya’s storyline less intensely. If she can’t die, I don’t need to worry about what happens to her.

The Play’s The Thing

And while we’re on the subject of bad dramatization… Those plays that Arya watched, where the characters in the play performed scenes from the Capitol, scenes with which Arya was already familiar, like the death of her father, and the marriage of her sister Sansa to King Joffrey, and the marriage of Sansa to Tyrion Lannister. If the viewers had not also seen all these things, in detail, in the earlier seasons of Game of Thrones, then having Arya watch them again in plays might have been interesting.

Emphasize might have been.

Since everyone in the show and watching it already knew these stories, however, the play’s were tedious in the extreme. It doesn’t matter that Arya was supposed to kill one of the actors, that she grew somewhat attached to her (for some unknown reason) and couldn’t kill her, or that Arya eventually returned to the actor and then unintentionally caused her death. It was the plays being performed that were bad writing because all the viewers, and the character of Arya herself, already knew all the stories behind them. I mean, talk about bad writing, HBO-guys. If a viewer can get up and go get a snack in the kitchen and not miss anything important that happens while he’s away, that’s really bad writing.

Emilia Clark (Daenerys )
Still Has To Do Nude Scenes

Enough said.

THE DEAD

There was lots more of The Good than The Bad in season 6 of Game of Thrones, and I’m eternally grateful, but there was another aspect of good and bad in the show, and that involved the deaths of the characters. I’ve categorized them as follows:

  • The Good, as in, viewers were most likely glad that the character died;
  • The Bad, as in, viewers were pretty upset;
  • The Meh, as in viewers didn’t know enough about the characters to really care about their deaths: and
  • The Ugly, as in, viewers were totally and completely devastated by the character’s death, and the Internet lit up like a Christmas tree after the episode.

The Good
(viewers collectively cheered)

  • Walder Frey
  • Roose Bolton
  • Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon, above)
  • High Sparrow
  • Jon Snow’s murderers (yes, even Ollie)
  • The Dothroki (from this season, the ones who were constantly threatening to rape Dany)

The Bad
(viewers didn’t expect it or were pretty upset)

  • The Giant (the only fantasy element I liked)
  • Roose’s Wife (Ramsay’s Stepmother) and her Newborn Infant Son
  • Margery
  • Tommen
  • Osha
  • Rickon (Art Parkinson, above)
  • The Three-Eyed Raven
  • Ian McShane’s Sept character, whose name I don’t even recall because he was only in about 10 minutes of the entire season.

The Meh
(mostly because viewers didn’t get to know them
well enough to care about their deaths):

  • Myrcella (above)
  • Doran Martell
  • Blackfish
  • The Wildling who put her children in the boat to be saved and then got killed by White Walkers

The Ugly
(because his death literally traumatized fans and viewers
and because there’s no possible way for George R R Martin
to do a better job in his books that HBO did with the show)

Hodor.

Hodor deserves an entire blog on his death, and I’ve already written one about Losing Hodor, as did most of the other critics and reviewers for “The Door.”

There you have it, my Lovelies, The Good, The Bad, and The Dead of HBO’s sixth season of Game of Thrones. And, please, if I left out any of the Dead, do let me know.

Related Posts
(No Spoiler Reviews, Seasons 1-6)

Love and Betrayal amidst Swordplay,
Dragons, and White Walkers:
Game of Thrones, Season 1

The Summer of Our Discontent:
Game of Thrones, Season 2

What Crawls Out of Nightmares:
Game of Thrones, Season 3

The Dead Can’t Hear Us:
Game of Thrones, Season 4

The Last Thing You See Before You Die:
Game of Thrones, Season 5

Winter is Coming:
Game of Thrones seasons 1-6,
No Spoiler Reviews

Season 6 Episode Reviews
Spoilers

The Red Woman and the Crone:
Game of Thrones season 6:1 Premiere,
Review & Recap

Don’t Eat The Help:
Game of Thrones 6:2-3 Review & Recap

A Man Must Have A Name:
Game of Thrones 6:4 Review & Recap

Losing Hodor:
Game of Thrones 6:5 “Hold the Door” Review

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Don’t Eat the Help: Game of Thrones, s6 e2-3, Review & Recap

Spoilers

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When I first learned that show-runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss would be working from an outline provided by author George R. R. Martin, who did not complete the highly anticipated 6th novel in his best-selling fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, the basis for HBO’s award-winning drama, Game of Thrones, I assumed that it would be a good thing. Since Hollywood rarely sticks strictly to any books it uses as source material — it is a different artistic medium, after all — I thought the outline would give them some broad strokes to follow while giving them the freedom to explore the characters’ stories in their own way.

Unfortunately, the outline might have overwhelmed writers Benioff and Weiss. Instead of giving us the new storylines of some characters each week, alternating stories weekly since there are so many characters, they’ve attempted to give us a bit of each character every single week.

There’s simply not enough time in any one episode to present each character in Game of Thrones, especially when the writers are also introducing new characters, or younger versions of existing characters. Viewers have, instead, been given so many short scenes, attempting to bring everyone up to speed with each character’s story, that the result is a confusing mish-mash where not much actually happens in any individual episode.

I’m writing from the perspective of one who has read all the books in the series, which I found mighty confusing as the books progressed due to all the minor characters and their extended families. I had to keep looking up the title of the chapter I was reading, which was the name of the character whose perspective was being presented, in order to recall whom that chapter was about.

One of the things I’ve always liked about the dramatic adaptation Game of Thrones is that the number of characters was reduced, making the stories easier to follow, and the characters were given faces in the form of the actors, also making it easier to follow the interweaving stories. Along with the consistently well-written transitions, which clearly lead from one character’s story to another’s, it hasn’t been too difficult to follow Game of Thrones during the first five seasons.

Not so with season 6, I fear. I know who all the characters are. I know what their past storylines are. I know how they’re related to each other, and, often, to the quest for the Iron Throne.

What I don’t know is why so many of the characters spend so much time talk-talk-talking without anything happening in their story.

Have the creator-writers Benioff and Weiss simply become overwhelmed with the material? I don’t know, but I do realize that I am not confused: I just don’t see that much happening in the show. I doubt I’m the only one, since several other reviewers have taken to writing about episodes which have not yet aired (Independent), writing about all of season 6 (Vanity Fair), or ruminating on what might happen in the sixth season based on what’s happened in the books in the past (Vox and Washington Post). That would seem to indicate that reviewers do not have too much to write about thus far in season 6.

Still, I’ll attempt to recap what’s happened in the second and third episodes: “Home” and “Oathbreaker.”

Jon Snow
(aka the Stark bastard)

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The stories of the members of the House Stark have become the pre-eminent storylines in Game of Thrones, if only because it has the most surviving family members. Last week, Melisandre (Carice van Houten) attempted to bring the murdered Jon Snow (Kit Harington) back to life. To her surprise, she succeeded.

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She now thinks Jon might be the “King” of her visions, since the defeated and dead Stannis  clearly was not. Jon, however, does not know what he has been brought back for. Telling Davos that he saw nothing, heard nothing, felt nothing on “the other side” of life, Jon struggles to figure out why he’s alive. Again.

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After appearing to the startled Men of the Night’s Watch and to the Wildlings who have gathered at Castle Black, Jon then executes the men who rebelled and killed him.

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Then he hands over his Cloak as Lord Commander and leaves Castle Black.

I suppose he’s searching for his destiny, now that he’s dead.

I mean, now that he’s alive after death.

And not as a White Walker.

Or as a Wight.

Whatever…

Bran Stark

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Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright, above L), who’s grown mighty tall since the first season of Game of Thrones, has found the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow, above R), who keeps teasing Bran with partial visions of things in the past. I’m really not sure why this is happening. If Bran has the gift of sight, why use it to see the past, which has already happened and cannot be changed?

Matthew Yglesias, of Vox, thinks Bran’s flashbacks are to “re-interpret” family history, specifically, the story of his half-brother Jon Snow’s parentage. I won’t go into all Yglesias’ theories — you can read the article yourself — but his article had me plenty confused. Even more confused than I was by the flashbacks. I thought they were just an excuse for action scenes and sword fights, but I could be wrong.

I certainly hope I’m wrong.

I guess this is one part of the story I’m just going to have to see played out before I can hope to follow all its labyrinthine passageways.

Arya Stark

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Formerly abandoned on the streets as a blind beggar, Arya (Maisie Williams) was reunited with her nemesis from the House of Black and White, the Waif (Faye Marsay, below L). images-10Teaching the blind Arya to fight with sticks, the Waif transformed into Jaqen H’gar (Tom Wlaschiha, below R) last week, taking Arya back to the Temple. There, she has continued her training with the Waif, mostly getting beat in the process, and being repeatedly interrogated as to her identity and as to the names on her list: those she wants to kill for revenge.

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Because Arya seems to have accepted that she is no longer the Arya who was seeking revenge, Jaqen lets her drink from the fountain at the House of Black and White. Though that water has been shown killing people who have come to the Temple, it does not kill Arya. Instead, it restores her sight.

Now, we’ll see what Arya, as one of the Faceless Men, will do with her life.

Rickon Stark

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The youngest member of the House Stark, Rickon (Art Parkinson, above R), who was running south with the Wildling Osha (Natalia Tena, above L), was captured last night and turned over to Ramsay Bolton as a prisoner. His wolf was beheaded, and its head presented as proof of Rickon’s identity.

Sansa Stark

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Sansa (Sophie Turner) was last seen in the woods with Lady Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and her squire Pod (Daniel Portman). Theon (Alfie Allen), who helped Sansa escape from her husband-rapist Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), informed Sansa that he would not be continuing with them, but would be returning to his home in the Iron Islands.

And that’s all we know about Sansa so far…

Cersei and Jaime Lannisterimages-7

As the mother and uncle of the King who sits on the Iron Throne, Cersei (Lena Headey, above L) and Jaime (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, above L) should have some major roles in the sixth season. So far, not much has happened. There have been quite a few scenes where one or the other is talking to King Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman), but not much action. 

King Tommen did confront the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce, below) last night, attempting to obtain the release of his wife, Margery (Natalie Dormer), and to obtain permission for his mother Cersei to see the grave of her daughter Myrcella, but to no avail.

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After all, the High Sparrow is a politically powerful man, and Tommen is a manipulated little boy.

No contest.

Tyrion Lannister images-20

Though Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) consistently has some of the most amusing lines, including the one that became the title of this post — “Don’t eat the help,” which he addressed to the dragons before freeing them — he and Varys (Conleth Hill) don’t really have much to do in Mereen. Varys is attempting to discover who controls the Sons of the Harpy, and Tyrion is reduced to playing “drinking games” with Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), neither of whom drink.

I’m anxiously awaiting the episodes where Tyrion becomes a major player in the action again, rather than a talking bystander.

Daenerys Targaryen

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Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), a prisoner of the Widows Dothraki, hasn’t appeared much in the last two episodes. Or in season 6 itself, for that matter. So I’m not sure what’s happened to her quest for the Iron Throne. At the moment, it’s been derailed, taking her back to the storyline that was in season one.

Only without her having any power.

Or nemesis, like her brother, agitating for power.

Sure, she’s technically the Mother of Dragons, but where are the mythical beasts now that she needs them?

The Tyrells

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Represented by the grandmother Olenna (Diana Rigg), the Tyrells are attempting to retain what little power they have while Queen Margery (Natalie Dormer) is imprisoned by the High Sparrow.

Though Olenna managed to annoy Cersei and Jaime by refusing the let them sit on the Small Council, then leaving when they sat down at the table, the Tyrells have not done much so far this season.

The Boltons

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After betraying Robb Stark and becoming Warden of the North in season 5, Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) was killed by his sadistic son Ramsay (Iwan Rheon). His wife and newborn son were then killed by Ramsay’s dogs.

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Last night, Ramsay was presented with the hostage, Rickon Stark.

So much for being in power, eh?

The Greyjoys

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Father Balon (Patrick Malahide, above) and daughter Yara (Gemma Whelan, below)

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argued about getting Theon back. From Theon’s scene with Sansa, we know he’s headed home.

Other than that, nothing has happened with the Greyjoys.

No one seems to care.

Sam & Gilly & Baby

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Sam Tarley (John Bradley) says he’s going to the Citadel to become a Maester to help Lord Commander Jon Snow at the Wall. Sam doesn’t know that Jon’s been killed, resurrected, and given up his post as Lord Commander. Gilly (Hannah Murray) says she’s going to Oldtown, till Sam tells her it’s not safe, and he wants her and the baby to go to his family home.

Where his mother, at the very least, will be nice to them.

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I don’t know what’s happened to the quest for the Iron Throne, which is, ostensibly, what Game of Thrones is all about.

I don’t know what’s happened to the dragons, who were last seen, unchained but still in the stone prison, technically freed by Tyrion.

I don’t know what happened to the two men who love Daenerys, Ser Jorah and Daario Naharis, who are supposedly searching for her.

I don’t know what’s happened to all the Wildlings who were heading south to save themselves from the army of White Walkers and Wights.

I don’t know how creator-writers Benioff and Weiss can pull up this nose-dive and get the show flying again.

But I certainly hope they can do it, and soon.

Because  Game of Thrones is just too good a drama to let it collapse now.

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The Red Woman and the Crone: GAME OF THRONES, season 6 ep 1, Review & Recap

Spoilers,
Dark & Terror-ful

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Though episode 1 of Season 6 of HBO’s award-winning series Game of Thrones was called “The Red Woman,” the red-haired, red-garbed witch Melisandre (Carice van Houten) had a relatively small role in the premiere. Instead, creator-writers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss took viewers on a tour of all the remaining characters, reminding us of who had died in the Season 5 finale, and who was left to deal with the grief.

No longer relying on one of the novels from George R. R. Martin’s best-selling fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, show-runners Benioff and Weiss had, instead, an outline for the unfinished sixth book, provided by author Martin. Still, it was clear that Benioff and Weiss were in charge of last night’s episode, if only because they managed to work in the storylines of all the characters left in the story, whether they are competing for the Iron Throne or not.

The Starks

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With the death of Jon Snow (Kit Harington) at the hands of his fellow Men of the Night’s Watch at the end of season 5, the House Stark has taken prominence in the series Game of Thrones. To the dismay of all actor Harington’s fans, Jon Snow is undeniably dead. Alas, he is deader than the proverbial doornail.

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After his friends gathered up his body, they and Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) locked themselves in a room with it, trying to decide what to do. Though Davos formerly despised the black magic of Melisandre — the Red Woman — he actually mentioned her as a way to restore Jon. I don’t know if she can help him or not, but the trailers for the show indicate that if Jon does come back to life, he very well may be one of the dreaded Night Walkers.

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Jon’s sister Sansa (Sophie Turner), has been blindly following the advice of the manipulative Lord Petyr Baelish (Aiden Gillen), getting herself into a marriage with the sadistic Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), who raped her on their wedding night, and turning down the help of the valorous and honorable Knight, Lady Brienne.

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After Ramsay’s victim — Sansa’s “brother” —  Theon (Alfie Allen, above L) helped Sansa escape from Winterfell at the finale of Season 5, the two of them were seen desperately running through the snow-filled woods, attempting to escape Bolton’s hounds.

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I felt actual joy at the arrival of Lady Brienne (Gwendline Christie, above R), one of the most consistently delightful characters of the series. She and her squire, Podrick (Daniel Portman, above L), fought and defeated Bolton’s men. Then Brienne renewed her oath to protect Sansa. This time, Sansa accepted her protection. Thank the gods.

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Arya (Maisie Williams) disobeyed the rules of the House of Black and White in the Season 5 finale, taking one of the faces of the Many Faced God to get personal revenge. For her punishment, she has lost her sight. We first saw Arya on the streets, begging for her survival. Later in the S6 premiere, one of her fellows from the Temple arrived, carrying big sticks.

images-10The blonde girl has become the master in the master-student relationship, it seems, as she was teaching Arya how to fight and defend herself. Arya needs it. She doesn’t seem to be able to do anything on her own except kill people who have hurt her or members of her family.

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She has a lot to learn if she is going to become one of the Faceless Men, as was her former mentor Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), who drank poison, because “only death can pay for a death,” after Arya killed for revenge, rather than for someone’s else’s honor or justice.

Brothers Bran and Rickon Stark were not in last night’s episode.

The Lannisters

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One of the slower moments in last night’s episode was the reunion of twins Jaimie (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) and Cersei (Lena Headey) who were mourning the death of their daughter Myrcella, poisoned by the Dornish Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma, below) as revenge for the death of her brother-lover Oberon.

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Though Cersei told Jaime that the two of them need to take revenge on all the world, the scene itself didn’t reveal anything new about their characters nor add anything to the plot, since viewers already knew that their daughter was dead. Viewers also knew about the witch who had predicted Cersei’s mournful fate and the loss of her children, though Jaime, apparently, did not.

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Brother Tyrion Lannister’s (Peter Dinklage) story was also a bit slow last night, as he and Varys (Conleth Hill) roamed around the streets of Mereen pretending to be inconspicuous. Since one of them is a dwarf and the other is a bald eunuch, they’re hardly unremarkable in the dirty streets of a city populated by ex-slaves and beggars. New York Times critic Jeremy Enger stated that “maybe one day Tyrion and Varys can make [us] care about Mereen,” but, unfortunately, it wasn’t in last night’s episode. Their appearance was more of a reminder that they’re still in the story rather than anything more exciting.

Daenerys Targaryen

She may be the Mother of Dragons with a whole bunch of other titles, but Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) was nothing but a white-haired slave to the Dothroki horse-lords who captured her after she walked away from her dragon Drogon.

images-4In an ironic twist, she herself was taken into slavery and brought to the new Horse-lord, who not only didn’t care that she was the conqueror of Mereen who had freed all the slaves, but decided that as the widow of Khal Drogo, she needed to go with all the other widows of the dead Khals.

I think that means that she either goes into isolated mourning for the rest of her life, or she dies on a pyre, I can’t recall exactly what they told her in season 1.

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I’m sure Daenerys, clever young woman that she usually is, will manage to talk her way out of her intended fate. And her being a widow of a Khal protected her from rape at the very least.

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Meanwhile, Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glenn), her former advisor who is now stricken with the deadly Grey Scale, and her lover Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) have teamed up to find her. They discovered her dropped pearl ring, and recognized the tracks of the Dothroki.images-1

The Tyrells

Instead of torturing Queen Mother-Dpwager Queen Cersei,  who has already “atoned” through her “walk of shame,” Septa Unella (Hannah Waddingham, standing, below) was torturing Queen Margery (Natalie Dormer), of the House Tyrell, who kept asking to see her imprisoned brother or her husband, King Tommen. When the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) came in, he commented that Septa Unella “can be overzealous at times.”

images-12What an understatement. Unella reminded me of all the nuns who taught school and tortured us kids when we were young, so I just wanted to slap her. (I still don’t know how Cersei didn’t break Unella’s nose during her  walk of shame last season, chanting “Shame” and ringing that bell all the way behind the nude and shorn Cersei.)

Margery held to her innocence last night, not admitting her guilt in anything or her knowledge of anything illicit that might have occurred on her brother’s Loras’ behalf. Unfortunately, that didn’t win her a Get Out of Jail card with the High Sparrow, who’s apparently more power-hungry than spiritual.

The Martells

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Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma, above R) of Dorne not only wants revenge for the death of her brother-lover Oberon, she wants war against the Lannisters. She poisoned Cersei’s daughter Myrcella in the finale of S5, and last night, she had her nephew Trystane murdered, while she herself killed her brother Prince Doran. Does she also want the Iron Throne for herself? That remains to be seen.

And The Red Woman Is…

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Though the Red Woman (Carice van Houten) was hardly in last night’s titular episode, she provided the biggest shock of the evening. After discussing the Red Woman, Davos seemed convinced that she could do something for the murdered Jon Snow. After she touched Jon Snow’s corpse, saying rather mournfully that she “saw him fighting at Winterfell” —  an indication that it was yet another of her fire-visions gone awry  — we saw a sad-looking Melisandre undressing alone in her chambers. She undid her gown, as she often has in the series, though usually it’s been when she’s seducing or attempting to seduce one of the powerful men in her world. Standing there, nude, she then took off her famed red-jeweled necklace.

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And… instead of the sultry Red Woman, an aged crone was in her place.

Wowza!

Melisandre has a lot more secrets than we imagined. She’s apparently not the young sexy seductress of men in power that she seems, but an ancient crone who’s using much of her magic to appear young.

What a shocker.

And yet another indication that Melisandre is as power-hungry as most of the rest of the characters.

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Yes, Game of Thrones returned with a big Bang! in the premiere for season 6, slowed down only in a couple of spots when the storylines didn’t have time to take off and actually go anywhere (Cersei and Jaime, Tyrion and Varys). Otherwise, it was a splendid opening to the show’s sixth season, which show-runners Benioff and Weiss claim will be one of its last.

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What Crawls Out of Nightmares: GAME OF THRONES, Season 3, Review

No S3 Spoilers

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Based in part on the first half of A Clash of Kings, Book 3 of George R. R. Martin’s best-selling fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, the third season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, created and written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the stories of the inhabitants of Westeros and the Lands beyond continue. Love, power, and betrayal are its major themes as the War of the Five Kings intensifies. The third season of Game of Thrones gets viewers more intimately involved with the peripheral characters, bringing them to the forefront.

Season 3

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Though there are multiple, ultimately converging storylines, the excellent writing and powerful acting keep the viewers engaged without confusing them. Even the scene transitions flawlessly guide viewers from one character — or group of characters — to another, and back again. The acting is riveting, with some previously minor characters taking center stage, and some previously “evil” characters gaining the sympathy of the audience.

The Lannisters

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The head of House Lannister, Tywin (Charles Dance, above L) fights the rebels, takes his position as the Hand of King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson, above, center), and brokers political marriages for his daughter Cersei (Lena Headey, above R) and his youngest son Tyrion (Peter Dinklage, below L).

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The eldest son of the House Lannister, Jaime (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, below L), accompanied by the Knight, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie, below R), struggles to return to King’s Landing to be reunited with his family.

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Tywin’s grandson, King Joffrey, becomes more unmanageable as his latent violent tendencies surface.

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Who will rule in King’s Landing? The Lannisters or the Tyrells?

The Starks

House Stark

Robb (Richard Madden) — the King of the North — is winning every battle against Tywin and the House Lannister, yet he cannot seem to win the war. When Lady Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) sets hostage Jaime Lannister free in an attempt to bargain for her daughters, her son Robb declares her a traitor.

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 Robb further isolates himself from his own military forces by breaking his oath to one of his Bannermen, Lord Walder Frey, causing enmity within the ranks and setting the stage for unforseen difficulties. Eventually, Robb needs the help of his mother’s brother, Edmure (Tobias Menzies) to try and solve these problems.

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Sansa (Sophie Turner), now abandoned by King Joffrey but not permitted to leave the capitol, tries to maneuver the dangerous political environment while staying out of Joffrey’s increasingly cruel grasp.

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Hunted by the House Lannister as well as by anyone who thinks he can profit from ransom, Arya (Maisie Williams, below, center) hides among runaways, thieves, and murderers as she travels to her home in the north. She pretends to be a boy: a dangerous charade for a girl too young to defend herself.

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Despite warnings from the Wildling Osha, Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), accompanied by his younger brother, treks toward the North beyond the Wall in an attempt to understand and fulfill his prophetic dreams.

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The members of Stark House are fighting for survival, but each person’s survival might endanger another’s in the same family.

The Targaryens

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With her dragons growing, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is still raising an army so that she can return to Westeros and claim the Iron Throne of her father. Betrayed by virtually everyone she encounters, she must learn whom she can trust, if anyone. Her dragons, once thought extinct, are coveted by virtually everyone who wants ultimate power. Can Daenerys retake the throne?

The Baratheons

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With the help of the witch Melisandre (Carice van Houten), Stannis uses black magic to murder his younger brother Renly and to restore his military standing. Stannis (Stephen Dillane, below) is willing to commit any atrocity in order to sit on the Iron Throne. But will his followers stay loyal?

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The Greyjoys

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After Theon’s (Alfie Allen) treachery at Wintefell, he finds himself betrayed by his Iron Brothers and by his own emotional weakness. But who is holding Theon hostage: his father, House Stark, or House Lannister?

The Tyrells

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As clever as Margery (Natalie Dormer) is at infiltrating King Joffrey’s emotions, she doesn’t seem as politically manipulative as her grandmother Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg), who is working hard to establish even more Tyrell power at court. She may even usurp Cersei in this game.

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The Night’s Watch

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Having gone beyond the Wall into the North, Jon Snow and his fellows encounter clans of Wildlings, who are not only moving South en masse, but who have declared Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds, below) their own King of the North, calling him The King Beyond the Wall.

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To further complicate matters, Jon (Kit Harington) is isolated from the others, and becomes involved with the Wildling Ygritte, who threatens to kill him herself if she discovers any treachery.

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The White Walkers are also making their way south to the Wall, to the terror of the Wildlings and to the men of the Night’s Watch, none of whom knows how to stop this army of  paranormal creatures.

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The Men of the Night’s Watch fear the Wildlings and the White Walkers. The Wildlings fear the White Walkers and something else that’s roaming the woods. Do the White Walkers fear anything at all?

No matter how much the show Game of Thrones may diverge from the series of books on which it’s based, the writing is so strong that anyone can follow the story with ease. Considering how many characters are involved, that’s a major accomplishment. The writing and the acting are powerful, the dialogue important, the characters complex and sophisticated.

HBO’s Game of Thrones is one of the best series since its own Deadwood (created and written by David Milch), and Showtime’s two hit series,  The Tudors (created and written by Michael Hirst) and Penny Dreadful (created and written by John Logan).

Game of Thrones Season 3 is available for purchase for $19.99 from Amazon (or free with a 30-day HBO trial), for $28.99 from GooglePlay, and for $38.99 from iTunes. The season is always available free of charge for HBO subscribers.

Rated Very Mature for Graphic Violence, Explicit Sexual Situations, Nudity, Adult Content, and Adult Language.

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The Summer of our Discontent: GAME OF THRONES, Season 2, Review

No S2 Spoilers

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Created and (mostly) written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, and based roughly on A Storm of Swords Book 2 in George R. R. Martin’s best-selling series of novels A Song of Ice and Fire, HBO’s critically acclaimed and award-winning Game of Thrones continues its exploration of power, politics, family obligations, love, and betrayal, in the second season. As the battle for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms of the civilized world erupts once more, everyone now knows that “Winter is coming.

Season Two

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The surviving members of the three major families — Lannister, Stark, and Targaryen — continue the quest for survival and power, this time amidst rebellions, uprisings, and war. They are joined and betrayed by members of various other Houses.

The Lannisters

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Now that Cersei’s son Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) is King, and her twin brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is a hostage of the Starks,

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Queen-Regent Cersei (Lena Headey) fights harder than ever to retain her power.

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Ostensibly, she is fighting for her son, but Joffrey seems to have no problem “ruling” without her. His actions have caused some of his subjects to rebel, and the family Patriarch, Tywin (Charles Dance) is fighting the War.

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Since Tywin is leading the War effort, he cannot serve as The King’s Hand. He appoints his youngest son, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage, in a Golden Globe and Emmy winning role) to act as his proxy.

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Now, with political power himself, and protected physically by his sellsword Bronn (Jerome Flynn),

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Tyrion becomes a more adequate foil for his sister, Queen Cersei.

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Which of the Lannisters will become King of the Hill?

The Starks

After Lord Eddard’s (Sean Bean, above) death, Bran’s accident, and Jon’s (Kit Harington, below) assignment to the Men of the Night’s Watch on The Wall,

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the remaining members of House Stark are fractured in their loyalties.

Sansa (Sophie Turner) is still the betrothed of King Joffrey, though it is clear she is emotionally ravaged and frightened of her fiancé.

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Arya (Maisie Williams) was taken into protection at the execution of her father, and is hiding among prisoners and outlaws while both the Starks and the Lannisters search for her.

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Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright, below, piggyback), crippled, serves as Lord Stark, and protects his younger brother Rickon (Art Parkinson), with the help of the dim-witted but loyal servant Hodor (Kristian Nairn, below, R),

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and the Wildling slave Osha (Natalia Tena).

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Their mother, Lady Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley),

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supports her eldest son Robb (Richard Madden, below R) in his War against the Lannisters.

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Which of the House Stark will survive?

The Targaryens

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Now the “Mother of Dragons,” Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) leads what remains of her late husband’s Dothroki horse-tribe across the Red Waste, searching for a new homeland from which to launch her return to Westeros, where she plans to reclaim her father’s Iron Throne for herself. Can she become queen?

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The Baratheons

After the death (murder?) of King Robert, his younger brothers Stannis (Stephen Dillane, above) and Renly (Gethin Anthony, below, center), each raise an army and declare themselves King of Westeros.

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Stannis has the help of a sorcerer, Melisandre (Carice van Houten) who scares people by threatening to “offer them to the One God” (i.e., death by fire).

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The Baratheons clash with each other as well as with the Starks and the Lannisters. Will magic help the Baratheons win the battle for the Iron Throne?

The Greyjoys

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Despite swearing allegiance to Robb, former Stark hostage and ward Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) returns to his home in the Iron Islands. Prompted to rebellion by his father and younger sister, Theon must decide who he really is — Stark or Greyjoy — and if he wants to follow a King, or be one in his own right.

The Tyrells

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The wife of King Renly, Margery (Natalie Dormer) of House Tyrell, and her brother Loras, both want power, whether it is through Renly, or through another King. Margery and Loras have fluid loyalties to others, but strong loyalty to each other. They want power and revenge, and are willing to do anything to get both.

The Men of the Night’s Watch
and The Wall

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The Men of the Night’s Watch, among them illegitimate Stark son Jon Snow (Kit Harington, above L) are guarding The Wall that protects the  Seven Kingdoms from The Wildlings, who are acting suspiciously. Some of the Rangers go further North, “beyond the Wall,” searching for the missing ranger — Jon’s uncle — Benjen Stark, as well as for an answer to the Wildlings’ strange behavior. What do the Wildlings want? Should the Men of the Night’s Watch fear them?

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Initially, Season Two is a little more confusing than Season One, if only because there are more families to learn and characters to remember. Once you figure out the historical and political connections of all the Houses, however, you’ll find yourself caught up in the compelling storyline and complex, fascinating characters.

Game of Thrones Season 2 is available for purchase for $19.99 from Amazon (or free with a 30-day HBO trial), for $28.99 from GooglePlay, and for $38.99 from iTunes. The season is always available free of charge for HBO subscribers.

Rated Very Mature for Graphic Violence, Explicit Sexual Situations, Nudity, Adult Content, and Adult Language.

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