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Winter is Coming: HBO’s Game of Thrones, seasons 1-6

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No Spoilers
in these overviews

No Spoilers
in extended season reviews
(links below each brief overview)

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HBO’s award-winning show Game of Thrones, created and (mostly) written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, is based on the best-selling series of fantasy novels A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin. Though the show diverges from the books’ content and order in some places, as do all dramatic adaptations, Game of Thrones follows the major Houses presented in the book series — Lannister, Stark, Targaryen, Tyrell, Baratheon, etc — as its members war and scheme for power. At the center of their struggle is the ancient Iron Throne, to which virtually every player claims to have the right. Other themes explore family loyalty and obligations, love, spirituality, religious beliefs and intolerance, hubris, sexuality, morality, and the purpose of violence to achieve one’s goals.

Season 1

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Based on the fantasy novel  A Game of Thrones, Book 1 of the best-selling series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, season 1 of HBO’s Game of Thrones is set in the fictional land of Westeros, composed mainly of The 7 Kingdoms, where royal claimants and usurpers fight for the right to sit on the Iron Throne. Season One concentrates on three major families: the Lannisters, the Starks, and the Targaryens. Their stories become interwoven with their claims to the throne, and their loyalty to their ruler.

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

Game of Thrones Season 1 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 (go into iTunes to purchase). (Pricing differences seem to be for SD versus HD videos.) The season is always available free of charge for HBO subscribers.

Season 2

Based roughly on A Clash of Kings, 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. 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 Summer of Our Discontent:
Game of Thrones, Season 2

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.

Season 3

Based in part on the first half of A Storm of Swords, 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. 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.

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

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.

Season 4

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Season 4 of HBO’s award-winning series Game of Thrones is based principally on the second half of A Storm of Swords, Book 3 in George R. R. Martin’s acclaimed fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. Season 4 also includes material from Book 4, A Feast for Crows, and Book 5, A Dance with DragonsIn Season 4, the writers of Game of Thrones continues to explore its themes of love, betrayal, and power, on the familial and national level. The storyline is expanded to explore themes of loyalty, hubris,  spirituality, religious beliefs, religious intolerance, as well as the morality of violence. The principal families — Lannister, Stark, Targaryen, and Tyrell — remain, and their stories are deftly interwoven with those of new characters.

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

Game of Thrones Season 4 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.

Season 5 

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Season 5 of HBO’s Game of Thrones, is adapted primarily Books 4 and 5 in George R. R. Martin’s best-selling fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Along with Books 4 and 5 — A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons — the writers returned to Book 3, A Storm of Swords, for additional content. They also had access to material from Martin’s as-yet unpublished Book 6, The Winds of Winter. Season 5 of the dramatic adaptation won a record number of Emmy Awards for a series in a single year: 12 awards out of 24 nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series. Created and (mostly) written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the show’s writing, acting, and design are all brilliant, and Game of Thrones deserves every award it’s won.

Game of Thrones Season 5 unites many of the storylines that have been converging during the previous 4 seasons. The major families who started the drama — the Lannisters, the Starks, and the Targaryens — are joined with the Tyrells, the Martells, and the Boltons. The only remaining Baratheon, Stannis, is still waging war against the King of the Seven Kingdoms. Season 5 also takes one of Season 4’s major themes — religious intolerance — and puts it in the forefront of the drama. Although family loyalty still determines most of the characters’ actions, the quest for power is intimately intertwined with any family obligations.

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

Game of Thrones Season 5 is available for purchase for $38.99 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. Many of the retailers have special bargains for purchasing seasons 1-5, including Amazon, GooglePlay, and iTunes.

Season Six

Season 6 of HBO’s Game of Thrones is based on the as yet uncompleted Book 6 in Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, The Winds of Winter, and includes a “significant amount of material” from the Books 4 and 5 — A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. The author provided a detailed outline to show creators Benioff and Weiss. The sixth season proved to have more weaknesses than the previous ones, and it may have been due to the fact that the show-runners were working from an outline, no matter how detailed, rather than culling the story from completed books. Still, this season had some of the most powerful moments of the entire series, some of which Martin will be hard-pressed to reproduce on the printed page.

The battle for the Iron Throne gets vicious as the major families  — the Lannisters, the Starks, and the Targaryens — are joined by other families — the Tyrells, the Martells, and the Boltons — the latter of whom either want to rule the Seven Kingdoms themselves or who want revenge for wrongs inflicted by the three primary families.

(The Good, The Bad, and The Dead:
Game of Thrones, season 6
detailed overview coming next week)

Game of Thrones Season 6 is available for purchase for $24.99 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. Seasons 1-3 and 4-6 can be purchased from iTunes for a slightly reduced price. The entire 6 seasons are available on Amazon for $170.99.

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

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A Man Must Have A Name: Game of Thrones, s6 e4, Review & Recap

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Spoilers,
Spoiled & Rotten

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After weeks of catching viewers up on all the characters by having them talk a lot without doing much, creator-writers David Benioff and D. B Weiss took off in “Book of the Stranger,” the fourth episode of HBO’s sixth season of its hugely popular Game of Thrones. Based on the best-selling fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin, season 6 was not written from the highly anticipated 6th novel in the series. Instead, author Martin provided Benioff and Weiss with a detailed outline. That outline seemed to overwhelm the writers initially, as they attempted to set up the storylines of every single character in the show, while introducing new ones (or younger versions of existing characters). But last night’s episode had the writing — and the action — back in stride.

Jon, Sansa, and the
War for Winterfell

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Sansa (Sophie Turner), accompanied by her protector Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Brienne’s squire Podrick (Daniel Portman), finally arrived at Castle Black, where Sansa was re-united with her brother Jon Snow (Kit Harington).

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Though Jon had stepped down as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, naming Dolorous Edd (Ben Crompton) as his replacement,

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Jon had not yet left Castle Black. Sansa convinced him to return to Winterfell and, with an army of Wildlings, to take back their ancestral home from Ramsay Bolton, whose father Roose took the castle and lands after he betrayed and killed Robb Stark.

Accompanied by Brienne, who has proved herself a superior swordsman and a stout defender of the Stark family, Jon and his Wilding army managed to quickly overpower the dissatisfied army of the Boltons.

The hostage, Rickon Stark (Art Parkinson), youngest brother of the Stark family, who no longer looks like this,

but like a taller, thinner, older version of his chubby-cheeked self, was feeling violated by his imprisonment; the beheading of his Dire-Wolf, Shaggy-Dog; and the killing of his Wildling companion and protector, Osha (whom Ramsay had killed in an earlier scene). In a scene that mirrored the one with Osha, where she failed to grab a nearby knife, Rickon managed to snatch a knife from Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) and kill him just as brother Jon and his Wildling army swarmed the castle grounds.

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At the death of the notoriously sadistic Ramsay, viewers around the globe cheered, no doubt.

After the monumental battle for Winterfell, which, though shorter due to the episode’s time constraints, was more stunning than the season 5 battle involving the Wildlings, the White Walkers, and the Wights, Jon Snow declared himself, as the oldest surviving son of Ned Stark, the True Warden of the North.

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With her brothers’ approval, Sansa declared herself the True (and First of Her Name) Wardeness of the North: she has finally matured enough to be the strong female character viewers have longed for and is no longer looking to men to make her life decisions.

Say, Hallelujah, Brothers and Sisters.

With Sansa’s urging, Jon made plans to lay siege to King’s Landing. Though he didn’t openly declare himself the King of the Iron Throne, Sansa and the others do plan for Jon to become King, especially since Melisandre (Carice van Houten, below) now sees Snow, not Stannis, as the King of her visions.

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Melisandre, who re-animated Jon Snow after the Men of the Night’s Watch betrayed and murdered him, once again proved herself a competent Witch and practitioner of That Ol’ Black Magic. After Theon (Alfie Allen), former ward of the House Stark, was roundly castigated for “not being a man” by his sister Yara (Gemma Whelan, below L),

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Theon left the Iron Islands and made his way north to the only real home he has ever known: Winterfell.

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There, Melisandre restored Theon’s mental acuity if not his missing manhood (I guess there are limits to her powers, after all).images-27
This may be an extremely bittersweet restoration for Theon, who, in one of the more poignant moments of the series, realized that he has loved Sansa ever since he helped her escape from her rapist-husband (and his torturer), Ramsay Bolton.

Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), who was a smuggler and who is more comfortable on the deck of a ship than on dry land, accepted Theon as his equal — considering Theon’s lack of physical manhood — and, even though they do not need ships to storm King’s Landing, the two became companions and warrior-pals.

That Davos, he’s always had a soft spot for the unfortunate.

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Lady Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) is, of course, accompanying Jon Snow to King’s Landing, having her own personal reasons for revenge against the Lannisters, though I cannot, at the moment, recall exactly what they are. Still, she’s too wonderful a character to drop her from the storyline now, so whatever her reasons for continuing to be a Knight and to do battle, I cheer her on.

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To Brienne’s consternation, she has become the love object of the Wildling Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju), affectionately known by fans, reviewers, and bloggers, as the Ginger Wildling.

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I, for one, encourage the writers to explore this fascinating love story. As tall, as powerful, as fierce a warrior, and equally devoted to the Starks (in the form of Jon Snow), the Ginger Wildling is just the man for Brienne: he’ll respect her as a warrior and as a woman.

Brother Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), who is also a taller, thinner, older version of his younger, chubby-cheeked self, did not appear in episode 4, but he is, no doubt, still in the Far North, with the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow, below L),

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having visions about the various characters viewers have come to know and love, including Ned Stark, only in younger versions of themselves.

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Vox reviewer Matthew Yglesias has speculated that these visions will have something to do with the parentage of Jon Snow: long known as the bastard of Ned Stark, Jon Snow may, instead, his nephew.

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According to Yglesias, Jon may be the son of Ned Stark’s sister, Lynna (never in the series), who was ostensibly kidnapped and raped by the Mad King’s son, Rhaegar Targaryen (also not in the series).

But none of that was in Sunday’s episode, so enough about that.

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Youngest female Stark, Arya (Maisie Williams, above, center) was also missing from episode 4, but she is, in all likelihood, still in the House of Black and White, with Jaqen H’gar (Tom Wlaschiha, above L), learning to be one of the Faceless Men.

Because, after all, though he be faceless, “a man must have a name.”

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The only other Jon Snow compatriot who was not in Sunday’s episode was Sam Tarwell (John Bradley), last seen heading to the Citadel with his Wildling love, Gilly (Hannah Murray), and her baby, Little Sam. No doubt, once Sam discovers that Jon has left the Wall and is heading to King’s Landing, Sam will also go there, if only because he does not really want to be separated from Gilly and Little Sam, and because he wants to become a Grand Maester.

Fans who are attached to Dolorous Edd are probably hoping that he will defect from the Night’s Watch to join Jon, Sam, and the Ginger Wildling.

Led by Jon Snow and Sansa, the Starks have become the pre-eminent family in Westeros, and not just because the House Stark has more living family members than anyone else.

Cersei, Jaime, and
the Battle for King’s Landing

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At the end of season 5, after her humiliating Walk of Atonement, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) was greeted by Maester Qyburn (Anton Lesser, below, center), who presented her with the “newest member of King’s Landing,” none other than the dead-now-reincarnated Ser Gregor Clagane (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson), also affectionately known as The Mountain, and brother of the now deceased Knight, Ser Sandor Clegane, who was affectionately known as The Hound.

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The Mountain has become Cersei’s protector. Unbeknownst to everyone, including Cersei herself and her twin brother and lover Jaime (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, below L), Ser Gregor retains the power to act independently.

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Revealing his long-standing — and secret — love for Cersei to the viewers (in a rare, un-armored moment), but not to the Queen herself,

Hafthor Bjornsson 420lb - 190kg 6'6 FACEBOOK

Ser Gregor made it his mission to eliminate the man who shamed and humiliated Gregor’s Queen and LadyLove: the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce).

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The High Sparrow, meanwhile, was busy hounding Cersei’s daughter-in-law, Queen Margery (Natalie Dormer, below R), and, in an attempt to trip her up and implicate her in a moral crime. To further that nefarious aim, the High Sparrow allowed Margery to see her imprisoned brother Loras (Finn Jones, below L), who is most definitely cracking under the strain of the prolonged imprisonment, and not just because he hasn’t been allowed to bathe, do his hair, or wear pretty clothes with flowers embroidered on them. In fact, Loras might have damned the entire Tyrell family with his jail-house “confession” to Margery, who remained strong and determined to get herself and her brother out of jail.

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Later, as the High Sparrow was once again regaling his captive audience, Queen Margery, with tales of his rambunctious and rowdy childhood adventures — and as Margery was attempting not to fall asleep out of sheer boredom, astutely recognizing that his rambling monologue was a highly sophisticated and clever method of torture —

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Ser Gregor, back in full armor, broke in, roaring most frightfully, revealing that he still retains the power to scream, as well as to fight.

With no preamble whatsoever, The Mountain ripped off the head of the High Sparrow. He killed any other Sparrows who came running to the High Sparrow’s defense. Ser Gregor, magnificently bellowing, even decapitated Cersei’s cousin-lover Lancel, who had turned Sparrow after being betrayed by Cersei.

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Viewers were probably disappointed that The Mountain missed killing Septa Unella (Hannah Waldingham), but there was only so much he could do in any one day. Ser Gregor then escorted Queen Margery safely back to the Red Keep, where her husband and family welcomed her.

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After Queen Margery was freed and returned to King Tommen’s (Dean-Charles Chapman) side, her grandmother Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) decided not to further agitate Cersei and Jaime, if only because she feared retribution from The Mountain, unpredictable bad-ass that he has now proven he still is, even after death and re-incarnation.

Olenna also, wisely, forged an armed alliance with the Lannister twins after it was learned that Jon Snow and his army of Wildlings were marching on King’s Landing.

As the inhabitants of King’s Landing prepare for battle with the approaching army, they have set aside their individual grievances in the longing to retain power and to retain the Iron Throne.

Oh, and to have The Mountain on their side in any battles.

Littlefinger and
the Battle for the Vale

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In a surprise moment for viewers, Lord Petyr Baelish (Aiden Gillen) — once a villain, always a villain, as they say — returned to Game of Thrones and to The Vale, where he confronted his stepson Robyn Arryn (Lino Facioli), also a taller, thinner, older version of his younger, chubbier-cheeked self, about the loyalty of them men around him.

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Viewers all know Little Robyn’s penchant for throwing people out the MoonDoor to their deaths. When Lord Petyr, also known as “Littlefinger,” attempted to toss Little Lord Robyn out the MoonDoor, right after the extremely confused and frightened subordinate had been tossed, Robyn grabbed Littlefinger by the clothes and took him along for the ride.

It didn’t have too much to do with the other storylines in the episode, so I can only assume that the writers were just tying up loose ends.

Or tossing them out the MoonDoor, as the case may be.

Tyrion, Varys, and
the Battle for the Unsullied

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Oh, that Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage).

Talk about a man who must have his names.

In “Book of the Stranger,” Tyrion finally returned to form after weeks of attempting to play drinking games with parties who don’t drink, aimlessly strolling the streets of Mereen with Lord Varys, and amiably but ramblingly talking to just about anyone who was also in the scene with him. Over the past few weeks, viewers have probably wondered what in the name of the gods had happened to the man who killed his own father by shooting him with a cross-bow as he sat on his chamber-pot.

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With a smile and a pithy remark, Tyrion finally dispatched Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Gray Worm (Jacob Anderson), both of whom have been pretty unhappy with his socio-political platform, especially since he was trying to please the Masters by re-instituting slavery, albeit only for a seven-year period.

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Tyrion then went after his so-called friend, Varys (Conleth Hill, above R, in background), who, given his own history of betrayal, should have been prepared for Tyrion’s treachery, but wasn’t. Because Varys has often delivered droll badinage with other characters in his scenes on Game of Thrones, viewers may miss him.

Then again, they may be so happy to see Tyrion back in the saddle, metaphorically speaking, that they’re willing to sacrifice one to spare the many.

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In any event, Tyrion simply ordered the Sons of the Harpy (represented above) and The Unsullied to obey his orders.

And they did!

I guess once-a-brainwashed-automaton-always-one.

After Tyrion had Daenerys’ army under his command, he dropped the Free the Slaves Movement and headed to King’s Landing, where he plans to stop being just the little brother of the Lannisters and to claim power in his own right.

Daenerys and the Battle
for Whatever She Wants

at the Moment

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Confined to the abode of the Dosh Khaleen with other widowed wives, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) finally decided that enough is enough. After listening to the High Priestess and other widows heckle and berate her, she slipped outside “to make water” because, you know, the crones who preside of the city of Vaes Dothrak would not have the ability to meet their body functions inside the structure.

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Accompanied by a slave, who expressed feelings similar to her own, Daenerys learned that Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen, below R) and Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman, below L) had come to secure her release by any means necessary. She already knows that both of them are in love with her, so they didn’t have to tell her again: their being there on a rescue-mission proved it.

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In a super-coolio coup d’état, Daenerys got all the male leaders together in one wooden structure, at night, so there were lots and lots of braziers burning all around. While the men strutted and preened and threatened Dany with rape and other forms of violation and bodily harm, she casually positioned herself near the braziers.

Then, Bammo!

She knocked the braziers over with her bare hands, spilling the flammable lighter fluid that was apparently in with the charcoal, spreading fire throughout.

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 As the remaining Dothroki gathered outside the burning building, Daenerys, in a scene that resembled that in the finale of season 1, stepped out of the conflagration.

Naked, but otherwise unharmed.

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In awe, everyone feel to his knees before her. Including Ser Jorah and Daario Naharis. While Daenerys accepted their tribute, she seemed restless without her dragons.

In a surprising volte-face, Dany ordered the male Dothroki to execute Ser Jorah and Naharis, no doubt because she’d grown tired of listening to men bickering around her.

This left the Mother of Dragons free to reclaim her dragons — if she can find them — convince the remaining Dothroki to cross the Salt Sea, and take back the Iron Throne of her father.

It’s about time, says I.

The White Walkers
and their Gang

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As Jon Snow and his army headed for King’s Landing, they were surprised by the appearance of a lone figure on the horizon. Jon sent someone to discover who it was. Upon reaching the unknown figure, the rider and horse toppled to the ground. Disconcerted and discombobulated, Jon decided to investigate himself. Accompanied by Brienne, Davos, Theon, and the Ginger Wildling, Jon approached the mysterious figure.

No doubt viewers were expecting one of the White Walkers,

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or, at the very least, one of the Wights.

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Imagine, then, the shock of seeing this character, whom everyone assumed was dead.

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Yes, it was Lady Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley).

Last seen with her eldest son Robb at a wedding where he and his preggers wife were both murdered by Roose Bolton (father of Ramsay), and where her own throat was cut, Lady Cat seems to have been re-animated.

And she brought an entire army of White Walkers — sans Wights — with her.

Including this super-omnipotent and spooky guy, who can raise the dead simply by lifting his arms.

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Jon clutched his chest, his eyes wide with abject terror or innate recognition or the super-creepy-creeps and terrifying-terrors that he was about to stop looking like this,

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or even like this,

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and start looking like this…

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Then, just when you thought nothing more exciting could possibly happen in a single episode…

Enough, enough already, I can hear you saying. None of this was in Game of Thrones’ latest episode.

To which I respond, Yes, indeed, some of it did, in fact, happen:

  • Jon and Sansa were reunited at Castle Black
  • Sansa convinced Jon to return to Winterfell
  • The High Sparrow regaled Margery with his outré childhood exploits
  • Margery met brother Loras in his cell, where he appeared unhinged
  • Littlefinger returned to the Vale
  • Ramsay killed the Wildling Osha
  • Theon went home, where he was berated by his sister
  • Tyrion re-instituted slavery to please the Masters, albeit with a 7-year limitation
  • Daenerys burned up the Dothroki male leaders
  • Daenerys emerged, unburnt and nude, from the flames
  • Everybody bowed to Daenerys as the music — and the flames — swelled

But, oh, how I wish all those exciting things in my blog post had happened in “Book of the Stranger.”

Instead, my once belovèd Game of Thrones has become deadly dull with endless scenes of characters talk-talk-talking, relating pointless childhood memoirs or events with which viewers are already familiar.

Sigh.

If only…

p.s. Apologies to fans, to Peter Dinklage, and to Charles Dance for accidentally calling Tyrion, “Tywin” earlier. And thanks to Mat Cooke for catching it for me!

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The Dead Can’t Hear Us: GAME OF THRONES, season 4, Review

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No S4 Spoilers

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Created and written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, season 4 of HBO’s award-winning series Game of Thrones is based principally on the second half of A Storm of Swords, Book 3 in George R. R. Martin’s acclaimed fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. Season 4 also includes material from Book 4, A Feast for Crows, and Book 5, A Dance with Dragons.

Season Four

The writers of Game of Thrones continue to explore the themes of love, betrayal, and power, on the familial and national level. The storyline is expanded to explore themes of loyalty, hubris,  spirituality, religious beliefs, religious intolerance, as well as the morality of violence. The principal families — Lannister, Stark, Targaryen, and Tyrell — remain, and their stories are deftly interwoven with those of new characters.

The Lannisters

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Though twins Jaime (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) and Cersei (Lena Headey) are reunited, their relationship is strained, and not only because Jaime has lost his hand.

Cersei is intensely jealous of Jaime’s relationship with his knight-escort, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), who has made an oath to find Sansa and Arya Stark in order to return them to their mother, Lady Catelyn Stark.

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Family patriarch Tywin (Charles Dance) and son Jaime clash over Jaime’s position in and responsibility to the family. Additionally, the political marriages arranged by Tywin are making everyone unhappy.

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The youngest Lannister son Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), has been coerced into marrying hostage Sansa Stark, and is accused of a crime he insists he did not commit.

What will happen to the members of House Lannister as they turn on each other, exposing their weakness for others to exploit?

The Starks

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The Red Wedding has reduced the number of living Starks dramatically, leaving Sansa (Sophie Turner) in King’s Landing, forced to marry Tyrion Lannister, yet still threatened by King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson).

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Her younger sister Arya (Maisie Williams, above L), previously hiding amongst thieves, outlaws, and murderers, is kidnapped by Sandor “The Hound” Clegane (Rory McCann, above R), who plans to take Arya to her Aunt’s home for ransom.

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Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) continues his dangerous journey North. He is attempting to go Beyond The Wall in order to discover the meaning of his prophetic dreams. On the way, he learns that he is a Warg (also referred to as SkinChangers): someone who can put his mind into the bodies of animals. But, because he’s crippled, he likes the freedom of being in animals so much, his companions fear he will become trapped in one.

Who, of the House Stark, will survive?

The Targaryens

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Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) dragons are getting too big for her to control, which saddens and alarms her. While she is building an army comprised of freed slaves, she runs afoul of their former masters as well as of her own military advisors, Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen, below L) and Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney, below, center).

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Her advisors fear that, by sacking cities and murdering slave owners, Daenerys is becoming like the wealthy group of people she claims to despise. Will she listen to them, or will they have to rebel against her themselves?

The Baratheons

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With the help, black magic, and guidance of the witch Melisandre (Carice van Houten, above) Stannis (Stephen Dillane, below, center) continues to battle with the Lannisters for possession of the Iron Throne. Does he have a chance to claim it?

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The Tyrells

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Though Margery (Natalie Dormer, above L) is clever at handling and seducing the male members of the Lannister family, her Grandmother Oleanna (Diana Rigg, above R) is the true power-broker in the House Tyrell. Manipulative, subtle, and vicious, Oleanna is both protective and extremely dangerous. Is she a match for all the Lannisters combined?

The Greyjoys

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Held prisoner  by someone he does not recognize, Theon (Alfie Allen) begins to crack under savage torture. He doesn’t know whether the Stark family is punishing him for his betrayal, or whether his own father is causing him to be tortured for disobeying orders during the War. Will he survive the torture long enough to find out?

The Boltons

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Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton, above L) has been appointed Warden of the North by Tywin Lannister. He wants to expand his territory in order to have more power. His illegitimate son Ramsay (Iwan Rheon, above, center) attempts to prove himself worthy of the family name, by any means necessary. How far is Ramsay willing to go to become a Bolton?

The Martells

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The Martells of Dorn, led by Oberon (Pedro Pascal, above L) are introduced as relatives of the former Queen, who was murdered by the Lannisters when they usurped the Iron Throne. The Martells are, understandably, planning revenge. Do they want the Iron Throne themselves, or do they just want to punish the Lannisters?

The Men of The Night’s Watch

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Much of season 4 is spent exploring the stories of the Men of the Night’s Watch, including Jon Snow (Kit Harington, above L), who has joined the Wildlings. Led by their self-proclaimed King Beyond the Wall, Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds, above R), the Wildlings plan on attacking the Wall so that they may travel further South, into the Seven Kingdoms.

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The Men of the Night’s Watch must fight not only the Wildlings, but the re-animated corpses known as the White Walkers,

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Giants, who fight for the Wildlings,

and mammoths, which the Giants ride into Battle.

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There is also a monster who turns babies, abandoned in the woods as offerings “to the gods,” into NightWalkers.

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The only paranormal beings that the Night Watch does not encounter in season 4 are the Wights: skeleton warriors buried under the ice and snow, who come out of the ground and attack Brandon Stark and his companions.

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The Men of the Night’s Watch do not even know how many different enemies they have. How can they prepare for a battle with all of them?

Though I was slightly alarmed by the introduction of so many minor families and characters, I gradually was able to figure them out. This was not, in fact, because I’ve read all the books in the Martin series, since I cannot remember anything other than the major characters and plot events. Rather, my ability to follow the interconnecting plots and the various characters was due more to the flawless transitions from scene to scene in the show itself. Sansa, for example, might be mentioned by Cersei when talking to her brother Tyrion: next we see Sansa. Also, each episode tends to begin in the same dramatic scene where the previous one left off. This kind of tight writing keeps viewers from being confused while allowing them to become familiar with the characters and their stories at a reasonable pace.

Game of Thrones Season 4 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:
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What Crawls Out of Nightmares:
Game of Thrones, Season 3

The Last Thing You See Before You Die:
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What Crawls Out of Nightmares: GAME OF THRONES, Season 3, Review

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Game_of_Thrones_Season_3

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.

Related Posts

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Actors, Books, Game of Thrones, Movies/Television, Review, Videos, Violence