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

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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

Miss Game of Thrones?
Can’t wait for next season?
Let Game of Drones put you to sleep
with all the previous seasons’ episodes,
by @DearestScooter & Drew Ackerman
of Sleep With Me Podcast

Game of Drones:
Game of Thrones, Bore-i-fied

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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)

images-6

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

Unknown

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

Unknown

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 

Game_of_Thrones_Season_5

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

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Spoilers,
Tear-Jerkingly Sad

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Last night, HBO’s Game of Thrones’ episode 5, “Hold the Door,” was much of the same talkity-talk-talk amongst characters that has thus far comprised season Six. In the unrealistic, deadly kind of dialogue that neophyte fiction writers err in, characters not only discussed — catalogued, more like — events that viewers already knew, but reiterated events that the other characters themselves were already familiar with.

Considering the crisp and snappy dialogue in the first five seasons of Game of Thrones, I been taken aback with the duller-than-dull dialogue that’s littering season 6 episodes, delaying any important action and completely devoid of character development. Last night, yawning through another Tyrion-Varys recounting of past events, this time with some new Red Witch, I decided that the show’s creator-writers, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, must have gotten much more of their dialogue directly from George R. R. Martin’s series of fantasy novels A Song of Ice and Fire than I originally realized.

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While that’s certainly a compliment to best-selling author George Martin, it’s rather a shame for Game of Thrones. Martin failed to complete the highly anticipated sixth novel in the series, providing HBO show-runners with a detailed outline instead. I’ve said repeatedly in these posts and on the Twitter that Martin’s outline seems to have overwhelmed the show’s writers. It also seems to have denied them of the fine dialogue — which must reveal the characters’ natures, relationship, history, and conflict to be effective — that has been a hallmark of the show.

In each of the episodes this season, any really important action has been delayed until the final scene. From Melisandre’s removing her “magical” necklace and revealing that she is a withered crone rather than the sex-pot beauty who’s been seducing men all over Westeros,

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to Jon Snow’s coming back to life after he was betrayed and murdered by his comrades of the Night’s Watch;

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from Daenerys’ burning and killing all the Khals and emerging, once again, unburnt from the conflagration;

to Rickon’s being captured and turned over as a hostage to the sadistic Ramsay Bolton;

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Game of Thrones has been ending each show with a Bang! of monumental proportions.

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“Hold the Door” was no exception: its stunning final sequence with Bran, Meera, Hodor, and the White Walkers, gave viewers the shocks and the emotional devastation that the show is known for.

(If you didn’t yet see “Hold the Door,” do not continue to read this post, which is nothing but one big Spoiler, Very Horrific and Tear-Jerkingly Sad.)

Having finally found the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow, above L) in the Far North beyond the Wall, the youngest son of the House of Stark, Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright, above, center) has been having visions of events prior to the present, leading viewers to speculate that we were going to be given new information about some of the series’ characters. Last night’s final scene fulfilled those predictions. To viewers’ dismay, horror, and grief, we learned that Bran’s continual selfishness led to the demise of one of the most loved and lovable characters in the series: Bran’s bodyguard Hodor (Kristian Nairn).

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Ever since young Bran spied the royal Lannister Twins, Jaime and Cersei, having incestuous sexual relations and was thrown from the tower window by Jaime, the crippled Bran has been accompanied by his faithful companion Hodor. A big, affable, somewhat dim-witted fellow, Hodor, for reasons unknown to characters in the show and to viewers, was never capable of saying anything other than “Hodor,” though he was able to follow instructions. Hodor also seemed very fond of Bran, his brother Rickon, and their guide Meera (Ellie Kendrick).

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Many of Bran’s visions since he found the Three-eyed Raven have involved himself and his brothers when they were younger, as well as the young Hodor, who was called Wylis (Sam Coleman).

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To Bran’s surprise, the young Hodor-Wylis is capable of speaking, of training with swords with the young Stark brothers, and is a belovèd son to his mother. Nothing has been revealed about why Hodor became simple-minded, able to say nothing other than “Hodor.”

After Bran had a vision in which he saw an army of White Walkers approach the underground caves where he, Meera, and Hodor have been hiding, the Three-eyed Raved told Bran he must leave.

Like, yesterday, Bran-Boy.

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Apparently, because the White Walker (above) grabbed — and permanently marked — Bran’s wrist, the White Walker would now have the ability to enter their hiding place and kill its inhabitants.

And that is exactly what he did.

Once inside the underground or mountain labyrinth, the White Walkers proceeded to attack the Children of the Forest, the Three-eyed Raven, Bran, and his companions.

(In a surprise Reveal, the Children of the Forest admitted to having “created” the White Walkers by killing the men who first invaded and destroyed their land.) Despite having made the White Walkers by killing men, the Children of the Forest defended Bran from the Blue-eyed Zombies.

Meera screamed repeatedly at the unconscious Bran — who was having yet another vision of his childhood — that they “needed Hodor” to help them fight the White Walkers. Bran then sent his spirit into Hodor’s body, as he has done in the past, so that Hodor could fight for them.

Surprisingly, Bran, in the vision, also occupied Hodor-Wylis in the past. (Please don’t ask me how: I’ve never been able to figure out any of the time-traveling stories, like Twelve Monkeys or Terminator, where a character is himself, his father, his son, etc.) Though, technically, when he was younger, Bran had not mastered the ability to put himself into another animal’s or person’s body, Hodor-Wylis’ eyes turned white as Bran also went into the younger Hodor’s body.

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In a typically self-centered move, Bran stood there and watched — listening to Meera, in the future-present, scream instructions to simple-minded Hodor as she attempted to save Bran from the White Walkers. To Hodor-Wylis’ mother’s horror and consternation, young Hodor collapsed and seemed to be having a seizure.

Bran looked on, rather disinterestedly, I thought, but then, that’s Bran’s nature: he’s interested in himself and his own survival; he appears to regard everyone else as existing only to ensure his survival, improve his own life, and even alleviate his boredom. (He’s also often filled with self-pity concerning his crippled state, but that wasn’t in last night’s episode.)

In fact, it was while the Three-eyed Raven was off in a vision of his own in “Hold the Door” that Bran awoke, and, in what seemed to be a fit of boredom, grabbed some bones lying in the cave, and proceeded to have the fatal vision of the White Walkers that enabled them to grab Bran’s wrist which allowed them to enter the hideout.

In the past, in the courtyard of the House Stark, Bran could hear Meera screaming to Hodor-in-the-present “Hold the door” — and that’s when, with a sudden catch in my throat, I realized what was going to happen — while young Hodor-Wylis convulsed on the ground, shouting, in return, “Hold the door.”

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Bran just stood there, listening to Meera in his present, while vision-observin and listening to Hodor-Wylis in his past. Bran’s selfishness was extremely apparent in that scene, and I’m guessing that most viewers’ sympathy and affection poured out toward Hodor, in both time periods, not toward Bran.

 Meera pushed or pulled Bran in the sled, away from the rampaging White Walkers, repeatedly shouting “Hold the Door” to the faithful Hodor.

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Meera shouted over and over in the present, while Hodor-Wylis, in his seizure, shouted over and over in the past. (And then, I admit, Bran seemed to feel something like empathy or sadness for the young Hodor as he shouted “Hold the Door” in the past.)

In the most powerful and heart-wrenching scene of the entire sixth season, “Hold the Door, Hold the Door, Hold Door, Hold Door” eventually, and tragically, became “Hodor, Hodor, Hodor.”

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Until the loving, faithful, innocent Hodor was killed by the White Walkers.

And viewers wept.

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

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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…

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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.

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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.

Related Posts

The Red Woman and the Crone:
Game of Thrones, Season 6 Premiere

Winter is Coming:
My Game of Thrones Posts,
Seasons 1-5

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