[TV] Game of Thrones – Mother’s Mercy

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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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[TV] Game of Thrones – Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken (S5E6)

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Shock value is not something that Game of Thrones has ever been accused of lacking but the question surrounding the final scene of the sixth episode of this season of the season, ‘Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken’ is whether the writers have any method behind their collective madness. This isn’t the first time the show has courted controversy over its depiction of sexual assault but where previous instances eventually sorted themselves out, if this one is handled poorly, it might just be the straw the breaks the backs of legions of fans that crave an adaptation more loyal to the original source material. For better or worse, the scene itself, already dubbed the White Wedding, was somewhat tastefully done with fantastic acting from all involved and was also especially one of the best scenes in an episode that had some truly awful ones. The story line in Dorne is a cancer that the writers need to remove from the show before it spreads to other plotlines while King’s Landing is becoming increasingly convoluted and unpleasant, but not irredeemably so. Having firmly crossed the halfway mark, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back at the season and give some thought to what lies ahead in each of our respective storylines.

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[TV] Game of Thrones – Kill The Boy (S5E5)

GOT S5 PosterIf you hear the sounds of bells tolling, it’s probably the death knell sounding for a whole bunch of characters as we hit the halfway mark of the fifth season of Game of Thrones. The most obvious upcoming death is that Jorah Mormont, who has been infected with the deadly greyscale disease but he is far from the only one. Stannis Baratheon, the One True King of Westeros, makes him way to face the Boltons, the new Wardens of the North. He has the superior firepower and is the more experienced commander, which, in any other series would, be factors in his favour but here only serve to foreshadow his defeat. A similar fate awaits Jon as his incredibly unpopular decisions divide his sworn brothers. Sansa gets better acquainted with her new family to be, which is exactly as horrifying as it sounds, as Ramsay Bolton demonstrates how you don’t need knives and other lovely sharp objects to make someone very, very uncomfortable. This episode felt a lot longer than it actually was, but in a good way; it was filled with excellent scenes from all the storylines, with a nice balance of character development and plot advancement. This episode left out a few story lines, of course; we will be seeing the drama in King’s Landing, Sunspear and Braavos unfold next week, but for now, the North gives us plenty of food for thought.

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[TV] Game of Thrones – The Sons Of The Harpy (S5E4)

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There is a temptation in writing fiction, to give characters we love a farewell proportional to their popularity. It’s all too common to see major characters in any sort of fiction take out hordes of enemies before going out in blaze of glory. There are well documented reasons for why this trope is still a thing despite it being so rarely justified and chief among those reasons is that it is difficult to see characters we know and love be snuffed out with whimpers when we feel they deserve bangs. The deaths in this episode of Barristan Selmy and Grey Worm the Unsullied are great examples. Regardless of how much we love these characters, it cannot be denied that neither character had any business taking down anywhere near as many enemies with them as they did – and yet no one, least of all myself, will complain at seeing these two bastions of sincere courage and fortitude take down a veritable horde of thugs in the streets of Meereen. We will discuss their deaths, and the implications on the story and what it all means soon enough. Meanwhile, in other storylines, fanaticism is on the rise again and it falls on the depressingly narrow shoulders of King Tommen Baratheon to sort it all out, but unfortunately, he, like so many men before him, has managed to find himself mired in the battle between his wife and mother. At the Wall, Stannis tries to assure us that he’s not such a bad guy after all while the two adult women in his life try their very best to illustrate why he’s so miserable all the time.

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