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

No Spoilers
in these overviews

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

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

Season 1

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

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

Game of Thrones Season 1 is available for purchase for $19.99 from Amazon (or free with a 30-day HBO trial), for $28.99 from GooglePlay, and for $38.99 from iTunes (go into iTunes to purchase). (Pricing differences seem to be for SD versus HD videos.) The season is always available free of charge for HBO subscribers.

Season 2

Based roughly on A Clash of Kings, Book 2 in George R. R. Martin’s best-selling series of novels A Song of Ice and Fire, HBO’s critically acclaimed and award-winning Game of Thrones continues its exploration of power, politics, family obligations, love, and betrayal, in the second season. As the battle for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms of the civilized world erupts once more, everyone now knows that “Winter is coming. The surviving members of the three major families — Lannister, Stark, and Targaryen — continue the quest for survival and power, this time amidst rebellions, uprisings, and war. They are joined and betrayed by members of various other Houses.

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

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

Season 3

Based in part on the first half of A Storm of Swords, Book 3 of George R. R. Martin’s best-selling fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, the third season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, created and written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the stories of the inhabitants of Westeros and the Lands beyond continue. Love, power, and betrayal are its major themes as the War of the Five Kings intensifies. The third season of Game of Thrones gets viewers more intimately involved with the peripheral characters, bringing them to the forefront. Though there are multiple, ultimately converging storylines, the excellent writing and powerful acting keep the viewers engaged without confusing them. Even the scene transitions flawlessly guide viewers from one character — or group of characters — to another, and back again. The acting is riveting, with some previously minor characters taking center stage, and some previously “evil” characters gaining the sympathy of the audience.

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

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

Season 4

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

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

Game of Thrones Season 4 is available for purchase for $19.99 from Amazon (or free with a 30-day HBO trial), for $28.99 from GooglePlay, and for $38.99 from iTunes.  The season is always available free of charge for HBO subscribers.

Season 5 

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

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

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

Game of Thrones Season 5 is available for purchase for $38.99 from Amazon (or free with a 30-day HBO trial), for $28.99 from GooglePlay, and for $38.99 from iTunes. The season is always available free of charge for HBO subscribers. Many of the retailers have special bargains for purchasing seasons 1-5, including Amazon, GooglePlay, and iTunes.

Season Six

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

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

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

Game of Thrones Season 6 is available for purchase for $24.99 from Amazon (or free with a 30-day HBO trial), for $28.99 from GooglePlay, and for $38.99 from iTunes. The season is always available free of charge for HBO subscribers. Seasons 1-3 and 4-6 can be purchased from iTunes for a slightly reduced price. The entire 6 seasons are available on Amazon for $170.99.

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

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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…

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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.

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.

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

Spoilers,
Dark & Terror-ful

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

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

The Starks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lannisters

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

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

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

Daenerys Targaryen

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

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

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

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

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

The Tyrells

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

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

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

The Martells

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

And The Red Woman Is…

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

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

Wowza!

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

What a shocker.

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

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

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Love and Betrayal amidst Swordplay, Dragons, and White Walkers: GAME OF THRONES season 1, Review

No Spoilers

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Created and (mostly) written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, and 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, 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.

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Season One

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.

The Lannisters
(in the South)

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Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy), “First of His Name,” is King in Season 1 of Game of Thrones, having won the throne in battle (also called “rebellion”). The Lannisters are the ruling family since Cersei (Lena Headey) is the King’s wife, and his Queen.

Surrounded by her brothers, Jaime (Nikolaj Walder-Costau) known as “The Kingslayer” because he killed the previously ruling king,

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and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) known as “The Imp” because he is a dwarf,

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Cersei wants to ensure that her son Joffrey (Jack Gleeson, below) inherits the throne after King Robert’s death.

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To help ensure the family succession, the head of the Lannister family, Tywin (Charles Dance), does whatever he deems necessary, from lending King Robert enormous sums of money, to going to war.

Can the Lannisters stay in power?

The Starks
(in the North)

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When King Robert comes to Winterfell, asking his long-time friend Lord Eddard (Sean Bean) to come to court to serve as the King’s Hand (financial minister), the Starks become more intimately involved in the deadly political game. Eddard, who guards the North, reluctantly accepts the role of The Hand.

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His two daughters accompany Eddard to the court in the south, at King’s Landing. The eldest, Sansa (Sophie Turner) is formerly engaged to Prince Joffrey.

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While the youngest, Arya (Maisie Williams) fights to remain independent and honest.

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The Stark sons, Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright, below L), Jon (Kit Harington, below center), and Robb (Richard Madden, below R), must deal with their own difficulties regarding the Lannisters and their father’s absence.

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Will the members of House Stark survive?

The Targaryens
(in the East)

King Robert ascended to the throne after The Kingslayer Jaime Lannister killed “The Mad King” Targaryen. His children, in exile, want the throne back. To regain it, Viserys (Harry Lloyd)

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arranges a marriage between his sister Daenerys (Emilia Clarke),

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and the “King” — Khal — of the Dothroki horse-tribe, Drogo (Jason Momoa), a legendary warrior who has never been defeated in battle.

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With the army he plans to get from Khal Drogo, Viserys intends to invade Westerns and take the Iron Throne back from the usurpers.

Can the Targaryens successfully reclaim their ancestral throne?

The Wall
(even further North)

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As if all the political and emotional dramas surrounding the Iron Throne weren’t enough, author Martin throws in The Wall, a huge, almost magical barrier of ice in the North, meant to protect the 7 Kingdoms from roving bands of Wildlings as well as from the mysteriously re-animated corpses known as the White Walkers.

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Guarded by the men of The Night’s Watch, The Wall is a barrier of Ice that introduces an element of the paranormal into Game of Thrones.

Think of Game of Thrones as a medieval costume drama in an unspecified kingdom, complete with jousts, duels, illicit love affairs, and war. Throw in witches, dire-wolves, the re-animated White Walkers, and some dragons, and the story is amped up into high fantasy.

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Though the premiere was a little confusing till you got all the families figured out, it was still interesting enough to watch the next episode. Strong scripts, complex and memorable characters, snappy dialogue, and powerful acting by all the cast members — including the children — make the HBO dramatic series Game of Thrones worth watching whether you’ve read the books or not.

Initially, I watched the show without having read the books, but didn’t like the fantasy element. Now, a few years after reading the books, I simply accepted the fantastical elements of the show, and enjoyed it for its riveting plot, fascinating characters, action sequences, and droll touches of humor.

Even if, like me, you tend not to like fantasy, chances are you’ll like Game of Thrones for the fascinating political and family dramas.

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.

Rated Mature for (sometimes graphic) Violence, Sexual Situations, Nudity (sometimes full frontal, male and female), Adult Content, and Adult Language.

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