[TV] Game of Thrones – The Winds of Winter

season-6-tease

This post is the third  and final post covering the latest season of Game of Thrones. If spoilers, including material from the books and fan theories, aren’t your thing, you might not want to scroll down too much further down

Part 1: Queen’s Landing

Part 2: Cutting the Meereenese Knot

Merry Christmas! What better time to talk about Game of Thrones – specifically the advance of the icy White Walkers and the winter they are bringing – than the middle of our real world winter? This is the final post on Game of Thrones season 6, and it’ll be covering the storyline closest to audiences’ hearts – the Starks of Winterfell. Before we get any further, let’s be real for a second. This storyline was not perfect but got it the job done. I didn’t watch the season as it came out in real time but I remember the social media and Reddit hype; it seemed like people were genuinely enjoying the season and seemed to be keenly anticipating the next episode each week. In fact, the internet pretty much seemed to have a collective orgasm in the weeks that episodes 9 and 10 (‘Battle of the Bastards’ & ‘The Winds of Winter’) and its not hard to see why. Those episodes, along with some of the more explosive episodes in the season, were engineered precisely for those reactions. While I’m not taking anything away from the quality of those episodes – I think they showcased some great writing and directing – I think the real test of the season is to see how well it stands up on a second, or even third, viewing, when the explosions and plot twists have less of an effect. By those metrics I’d say Game of Thrones season 6 fares less well, and the story in the North, which was arguably the centrepiece of this season, is no exception. I don’t want this post to be all doom and gloom, though; I think for all its flaws and missed opportunities, this season and the Northern storyline, especially, has had some great moments and there’s plenty in it that has me excited to see where this story in particular goes next season as we finally approach the end of this long song.

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[TV] Game of Thrones – Season 6, Cutting The Meereenese Knot

season-6-tease

This post is the second of three covering the latest season of Game of Thrones. If spoilers, including material from the books and fan theories, aren’t your thing, you might not want to scroll down too much further down

Part 1: Queen’s Landing

Way back in 2011, when Game of Thrones‘ first season aired on HBO, the network spared no expense in trying to convince audiences that Game of Thrones wasn’t just another shallow attempt at riding the pop culture fantasy tidal wave that The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter had created throughout the 2000s. You would hear phrases like ‘it’s a fantasy show for people who hate fantasy’ or ‘it’s Lord of the Rings meets The Sopranos‘.  I’ve never liked either description because I felt it set up false expectations. In trying to emphasize the politics and grit of the story, I think that HBO downplayed the fact that at the end of the day, Game of Thrones is very much a fantasy story, which means that whether or not the mass market likes it, there are going to be fantasy elements to it. Speaking in an incredibly broad sense, I think that the show’s fandom (which I think can be considered separate from the books’ fandom) was split into two parts during the first couple of season. There were those who loved the dramatic elements of the show – the politics, the character development, the excellent acting – but got a little uncomfortable when the fantasy elements were played up and then there were those who loved the fantasy bits of it but bemoaned that they were used so sparingly.

This week, we’ll take a look at where Season 6 took the characters in Essos, particularly Daenerys Targaryen, the character who has always had a stronghold on the magic in the series. Sure, Tyrion had his wildfire and the Others were stalking around beyond the Wall, but Dany’s story was the only one with the dragons and the magic house of visions. In some ways, this season was really do-or-die for Dany – I don’t think there was any segment of the audience that was ready for yet another season of the monotony in Meereen.

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[TV] Game of Thrones – Season 6, Queen’s Landing

 

season-6-tease

This post is the first of three covering the latest season of Game of Thrones. If spoilers including material from the books and fan theories aren’t your thing, you might not want to scroll down too far

Some of you might have been wondering why I had not covered Game of Thrones season 6 week by week as it happened. There are a few reasons. First, after the way season 5 ended, I felt a distinct lack of hype about the direction that the show was heading in. I did not like the way that characters like Sansa, Stannis and Shireen had been treated. I did not like the Sand Snakes and the bad poosi. I thought that Arya’s storyline was dragging on too long and I thought that the show had lost the spark that made it stand out way back in season 1. At the time, there was no doubt in my mind that I would eventually watch the new season when it aired. For a number of reasons – work, being busy with other shows – I didn’t watch the show when it aired, but I have fully caught up now. Some of the criticisms I brought up about season 5 still apply to season 6, as well as some new ones, but on the whole, I don’t think I am alone in thinking that season 6 is a strong step in the right direction.

Since I’ve already seen all 10 episodes of the season, and I assumed anyone reading this has as well or at least, doesn’t care enough about spoilers, I figured that I can cover most of what I want to say about the season in three posts. This week’s post is going to focus on the storyline in King’s Landing – a rather incendiary storyline, I’m sure most of you would agree. I’ll be talk mostly about what worked and what didn’t, things that I liked and stuff that I thought missed the mark as well as sharing some reactions I had to the first season of Game of Thrones in which I had no idea what would happen.

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[TV] Game of Thrones – Mother’s Mercy

GOT S5 Poster

The final episodes of each season of Game of Thrones are always accompanied by a unique blend of anticipation and dread. The book-reader portion of the audience has it easier, insulated as they are from the series’ infamous shocks and plot twists – until now. This season finale had less material from the novels than any episode before it and fittingly enough, took the opportunity to blindside the entirety of its audience. The first quarter of the episode wastes no time racking up a dismayingly high body count, including one of the last remaining candidates still vying for that much coveted title of ‘Lord of the Seven Kingdoms’. It doesn’t end there though; the rest of the episode has enough bloodshed to satiate the most murderous appetites. From sudden betrayals in Winterfell to some serious karmic retribution in Braavos, the episode’s title, ‘Mother’s Mercy’ feels like a cruel mockery of the concept. If this is the show producers’ idea of mercy, then it’s possible they might have colder hearts than the White Walkers.

(I apologize for the lack of pictures this week, my hard drive crashed and I lost my download)

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[TV] Game of Thrones – The Dance of Dragons (S5E9)

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Following the overwhelmingly positive reception that last week’s episode of Game of Thrones received, big things were expected of the final episodes of the season. These were the episodes that would redeem the show’s weakest season, they would erase the audience’s memories of Dorne and poorly executed back alley fights and would return some hype and excitement to the show’s major storylines. Unfortunately, the only thing that this week’s episode, ‘The Dance Of Dragons’ , achieved was to prove that ‘Hardhome’ was a fluke, an episode of excellence in a season filled with mediocrity. Shocking deaths are par for the course in this series; it would take exceptional naivete to reach the tail end of a season of Game of Thrones and not expect some sort of twist in the tale, but poor writing was never part of that unspoken agreement between producers and audience. The character of Stannis Baratheon has been shafted since the very beginning but this episode effectively ensures that there can be redemption for him and, by extension, his storyline while in Meereen, a perfectly serviceable scene, filled with chaotic action and a dragon’s reappearance, was ruined once again by poor execution. If one didn’t know any better, it would honestly seem like the producers have a personal vendetta against Stephen Dilane and Emilia Clarke.

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[TV] Game of Thrones – Hardhome (S5E8)

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There tend to be two types of Game of Thrones fans – one that believes that the series’ strongest moments come from the nuanced politics and that the larger story of the Long Winter and the Others (White Walkers) is superfluous and unnecessary and  one that believes just the opposite. There are, of course, fans of both parts of the story, but by and large, it’s hard to like both aspects of the story equally. The first four seasons have been dominated by the political happenings in the Southern Kingdoms, to the point that it seemed unlikely that the threat from the distant North could ever really be seen as a credible threat. This episode, ‘Hardhome’, gave that threat all the credibility it could need, making it abundantly clear that the danger that the Others pose easily outweighs anything that the petty wars fought thus far could produce. The last twenty minutes of ‘Hardhome’ were easily some of the best television in recent memory – from the music, to the action, to the camerawork and cinematography. The first half of the episode was solid as well with Tyrion finally meeting Daenerys, Sansa learning that she is not the last living Stark and Arya getting along with her Faceless Man training. Yet, as undeniably engaging as these scenes were, they cannot hope to hold a candle against the sheer enormity of the battle at Hardhome – not just in terms of entertainment value but also in terms of their respective implications on the series as a whole.

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[TV] Game of Thrones – The Gift (S5E7)

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Foreshadowing can be much harder to get right than most people give it credit for; too little and the plot development feels contrived and unconvincing but with too much, you lose the element of surprise and impact is ruined. A large chunk of this season so far has been build-up and foreshadowing and with just four episodes left to go, it’s about time that some of those threads begin to tie themselves together. Some threads have already begun to reap their rewards – Tyrion has finally met Daenerys, though her response is uncertain, while Stannis’ dilemma regarding Shireen has been revealed at long last. Other threads, however, continue to bubble and simmer – the increasingly negative atmosphere at the Wall continues to only get more toxic as some of the Night’s Watch revert to their old ways while Jorah’s possible redemption but definite death has also yet to really bear any harvest and in the North, Sansa’s story has been thrown under the bus, ostensibly in order to give Theon Greyjoy the salvation that he really hasn’t earned. In each of these instances however, the decisions that the show made earlier on are beginning come back to haunt them and while the show is able to make a pretty spectacle of it on the surface, anything more than a cursory glance will expose the fact that a lot of the characters’ decisions are uncharacteristic and inconsistent.

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