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Crime, Passion, Absurdity: More Darkly Twisted Comedies

No Spoilers

In my first blog on Darkly Twisted Comedies, I listed some of my favorite comedies, acknowledging that the selected films are often too dark and twisted to be considered amusing by some audiences. That original post was so popular, and generated so much interaction on readers’ parts, that I’ve written a follow-up listing more films in that genre. To my surprise, it wasn’t difficult to find more brilliantly acted, well-written, sometimes award-winning films that are considered “dark comedy.” Sometimes the absurd premise in these films delivers laughs, sometimes the easily recognizable human scenarios are amusing, and sometimes the compassionate view of humanity against its occasionally blatant stupidity is what does the trick. Here’s my next list of darkly twisted comedies, presented in no particular order unless it’s from least to most “dark,” without any Spoilers, so you can enjoy them for yourselves.

The Last Supper
(1995)

After an accident, a group of five idealistic, liberal graduate students (Cameron Diaz, Annabeth Gish, Courtney B Vance, Ron Eldard, Jonathan Penner) decide to make a difference in the world through action, not talk. Each week, they find someone to invite to Sunday night “dinner and discussion,” where the group attempts to change the guest’s social views.

Guests include Ron Perlman, Bill Paxton,

Jason Alexander, and Charles Durning, among others.

Things quickly go awry, spinning out of the students’ control, forcing each member to re-evaluate his own ethics and morality.

Staged like a play, where most of the action takes place in the confined quarters of the grad students’ dining room and kitchen, The Last Supper is an intriguing exploration of the ever popular “What would you do if…” scenario where you ponder your own hypothetical behavior given a chance to change the world.

The Last Supper is available to rent for $2.99 on Amazon, and is free if you subscribe to Starz or to DirecTV.

 ♦

Death at a Funeral
(2007)

On the day of Daniel’s (Matthew MacFadyen, below R) father’s funeral, everything is supposed to be sedate and dignified. Instead, from the moment the coffin arrives, everything goes topsy-turvy. Daniel desperately strives to maintain order and to stay in control, but everyone else seems to be going mad. From his brother Robert (Rupert Graves, L),

to his wheelchair-bound Uncle Alfie (the late Peter Vaughan),

from his father’s friend Peter (Peter Dinklage),

to his cousins (Daisy Donovan and Kris Marshal),

who accidentally drug the fiancé (Alan Tudyk, below, R),

they all try Daniel’s patience. Despite Daniel’s best attempts, chaos erupts, threatening to expose family rivalries and skeletons.

Witty and farcical, with nudity and a few instances of scatalogical humor, Death at a Funeral encapsulates some of the weirdest and most notorious moments possible at a dysfunctional family’s gathering. Death at a Funeral is available for rent for $3.99 (free if you’re a Prime Member) from Amazon.

The 2010 remake of Death at a Funeral, starring Zoë Saldana, Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, James Marsden, and Peter Dinklage, is available free to DirecTV subscribers, but it’s not the version of the film I saw, so I cannot yet recommend it.

The Lobster
(2015)

In an unnamed place, in an unspecified future, humans — who are known mostly by their “defining characteristics,”  such as a limp, a lisp, or being short-sighted — are not permitted to be alone. If they are widowed or divorced, they must check into The Hotel, where they have 45 days to find another life partner. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as it seems to find someone to love in this dystopian world since partners are required to be physically alike as well as emotionally compatible. If a Guest cannot find a partner within the time limit, s/he is transformed permanently into an animal released into the woods. Newly divorced David (Colin Farrell) wants to be a lobster if he fails, and is accompanied by his brother, who is now a dog.

In order to prolong their stay at The Hotel, Guests may earn additional days by going on a Hunt and killing Loners: people who refuse to find a mate and who hide in the Woods, vowing to forever remain single, isolated, and hidden from society.

David doesn’t know which life is worse: that of the Guests or the Loners, but he knows he’s lonely and doesn’t want to turn into a dog.

Narrated in VoiceOver by the Short-Sighted Woman (Rachel Weiss), The Lobster  begins with a startling and absurd premise but manages to carry it successfully to its absurdly logical conclusion.

In this new twist on dystopian literature or films, the actors do a wonderful job behaving as if they have no emotions, sexual drives, or otherwise subversive feelings. The Lobster is available for rent for $4.99 (free if you’re a Prime Member) from Amazon and is free for DirecTV subscribers.

Fargo
(1996)

One of the Coen Brothers’ classic films, Fargo explores the world of crime when the criminals are inept, incompetent, and extremely dangerous. Car salesman Jerry Lundergaard (William H. Macy)

hires two bumblers (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife.

Jerry is über-confident that his wealthy father-in-law will pay the enormous ransom, which Jerry needs for an unspecified reason. It’s a lot of money, but despite his father-in-law’s devotion to his daughter, he isn’t about to let Jerry handle that much money. In any event, the kidnapping immediately goes wrong,

which gets a hugely pregnant local police-chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) involved. She’s desperately seeking criminals in an attempt to save the kidnapping victim’s life.

Buscemi shines as the violent, impulsive kidnapper. The Oscar-winning screenplay garnered an Academy Award for McDormand as the quirky but diligent law officer, and an Oscar nomination for Macy as the dull-witted and desperate Jerry. Fargo is available for rent for $3.99 from Amazon, and is free if you subscribe to Showtime or DirecTV.

Fight Club
(1999)

When a dissatisfied, support-group-hopping, insomniac (Edward Norton), who’s the unnamed Narrator,

meets a charismatic, renegade soap-maker (Brad Pitt), the two form an unlikely bond. In their desperation to live a fully experienced life, they form an underground Fight Club, where the “first rule of Fight Club is that you do not talk about Fight Club.”

The fights bond the two men until Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) — another support-group Crasher — resurfaces in the Narrator’s life.

In fact, Marla creates at least as much havoc as the ever expanding club, which begins to spread its exponentially increasing violence outside the metaphorical ring.

Based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, this is one of the few films that surpasses its source material in quality, if only because the (book) Narrator’s lines are spread out around the film’s principals. Brilliant and dangerously quirky, Fight Club is worth watching multiple times to get all the important details. Fight Club is available for rent for $3.99 from Amazon or free if you subscribe to DirecTV.

American Beauty
(1999)

One of the darkest comedies ever made, Oscar-winning American Beauty explores the rot and ugliness beneath the seemingly perfect exteriors of an upper middle-class family and of everyone who comes into contact with its seriously flawed members. Head of household Lester (Kevin Spacey, in an Oscar-winning performance) is about to lose his job to down-sizing,

and is despised by his wife Carolyn (Annette Bening, in her best role ever).

Both of them repulse their daughter Jane (Thora Birch),

especially after Lester gets a blatant crush on Jane’s friend Angela (Mena Suvari, on bed).

When the new neighbor, boy-next-door drug-dealer Ricky (Wes Bentley), falls for Jane and makes her feel special for the first time in her life, her life becomes intolerable.

To make things worse, Lolita-like nymphet Angela begins to fall for Jane’s sexually frustrated father Lester, and is openly hostile to Jane’s quirky boyfriend Ricky, whom Angela considers a “psycho.” Yes, everything falls apart.

Stunning performances by all actors combined with an Oscar-winning screenplay by Alan Ball take this dark comedy from its amusing beginnings to a much deeper exploration of beauty, happiness, and the meaning of life itself. American Beauty is available for rent for $3.99 (free if you’re a Prime Member) from Amazon, for rent for $3.99 for DirecTV  subscribers, or free if you’re a subscriber to SundanceTV.

Though some of the films contain violence or explicit language, I don’t find graphic or sexual violence humorous, so none contains that. All of the films should be considered for mature audiences, however.

And, as always, if you have any films you’d like to suggest for future lists, I’d love to hear from you (and to see the films).

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Crime, Passion, Ambition, Stupidity:
Darkly Twisted Comedies

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

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

Spoilers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jon Snow
(aka the Stark bastard)

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

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

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

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

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

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

And not as a White Walker.

Or as a Wight.

Whatever…

Bran Stark

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

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

I certainly hope I’m wrong.

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

Arya Stark

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

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

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

Rickon Stark

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

Sansa Stark

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

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

Cersei and Jaime Lannisterimages-7

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

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

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

No contest.

Tyrion Lannister images-20

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

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

Daenerys Targaryen

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

Only without her having any power.

Or nemesis, like her brother, agitating for power.

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

The Tyrells

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

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

The Boltons

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

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

So much for being in power, eh?

The Greyjoys

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

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

Other than that, nothing has happened with the Greyjoys.

No one seems to care.

Sam & Gilly & Baby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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