Television

The Watchers on the Wall: Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 9


*Spoiler alert*

An entire episode dedicated to the Wall may sound like a tedious affair but it was, in fact, quite an enjoyable experience, not to mention frightening because I was so invested in the well-being of the characters I like best at the wall (Jon, Gilly, Sam, Ghost, Aemon), that despite knowing what was coming, it was hard to stop my heart from beating fast. I had not been sure of how spending the complete episode at the wall, unbroken, would work out for the penultimate episode but it did well. However, there is still so much left to happen in the finale that I feel as though they might have to transfer something to the fifth season.

 

‘It’s this person…this whole other person. You’re wrapped up in them, they’re wrapped up in you. For a little while you’re more than just you- oh I don’t know. I’m not a bleeding poet.’

As the inevitable war approaches, Sam spends the night trying to get Jon to tell him about the one experience every man craves to know of- what had it been like, being with the flaming woman who is now hunting him down with vengeful arrows. Sam points out that while the vows of the Night’s Watch explicitly forbid taking of a wife and fathering of children, they say nothing whatsoever about the actual physical act of love. Jon’s attempt at explanation was one of his most endearing scenes yet; him and his crinkly eyes.

‘Anyone else tries to kill him, I’ll have an arrow for them.’

Ygritte is indeed full of bitterness and she warns Magnar of Thenn (after a perverse remark by the latter) that Jon Snow is to die from her arrow. While she sharpens a bunch of said arrows by the light of a fire, a cloak-clad figure clutching a baby in its arms slides quietly from behind their camp and makes its way to Castle Black.

‘Nothing makes the past a sweeter place to visit than the prospect of imminent death’

Maester Aemon’s scene with Sam Tarly was another endearing bit about recalling past loves before the actual battle. While returning to get some sleep however, Sam was reunited with Gilly and even as she is let in through the gates, the battle gong sounds, for the wildlings north of the war have set fire to the forest. Sam promises Gilly he will never leave her again and locks her in a dark storeroom (‘Is this never leaving me again?’) before he rejoins his brothers at the wall. Before the chaos of war however, he manages to steal an impulsive kiss from the woman he loves. I quite enjoy how Sam is slowly coming into his element. This episode proved just how much stronger he has become.

‘This is not the end; not for us. Not if you lot do your duty for however long it takes to beat them.’

When the war bugle sounds, Thorne is ready at the top of the wall with fiery barrels and lit up arrows, cranking shafts and pulleys and frayed ropes that just about work. He talks about leadership, belittling Jon Snow once again but Jon is quiet, bending his will towards subservience- the one thing needed right then. When talk of the crusade from behind reach their ears however, Thorne abandons the northwards-facing post atop the wall to Slynt and descends to lead his men himself. But Slynt must soon abandon his post too. Finally, finally everything about Jon Snow is to come to a head. With poor leadership and unmanned posts, Jon takes the helm atop the wall while from the north descend bulky giants and mammoths- the complete season 4 CGI budget poured down the neck of one episode in the bulwark of the wildling thrust. The wildlings begin to scale the wall and break the gate while Jon does the best he can to hold them back from above.

Down below and injured, as the Thenns and wildlings led by Tormund and facilitated by Ygritte, charge through the gates, the brothers start to fall back. Sam is there when Pyp dies in his arms and he decides that finally something more needs to be done. He surprises himself by murdering a man and encourages Ollie, the little survivor who’s dead camp had first raised the alarm at Castle Black, to pick up a sword or something and just fight. Grenn and a bunch of other young brothers die defending the gate against a giant but not before they take him down with them.

‘You know nothing Jon Snow’

Jon is the one who ultimately descends into battle and kills Magnar with a hammer through his skull. As he turns away in exhaustion, he is face-to-face with Ygritte. He laughs when he sees her holding up an arrow aimed at his heart but her split-second hesitation is enough for little Ollie to magically kill her from atop some steps with a single shoot. He sort of winks at Jon as he turns away but Jon is concerned about the woman he had loved who then dies in his arms with one last mumbling of her famous dialogue. I never liked Ygritte; not on the show, nor in the books and found her you-know-nothing-Jon-Snow to be nothing more than presumptious belaboring despite it’s irony.

‘Great victory? Mance was testing our defenses. He almost made it through. And he has more giants, he has more mammoths. He has thousand times as many men. They will hit us again tonight. And we can hold them off for a day or two but never beat them.’

Tormund is captured and led away and for the moment, the battle is at an end. Until the next night,  the brothers have been given some time to recuperate and burn their dead. There is nobody left to lead, of course; as dawn  lightens the sky Jon realizes with an eerie sense of foreboding, that they have been terribly weakened in the first day itself. Understaffed and unequipped, only a miracle or timely intervention of some sort can save them and Jon knows it. Thus he decides to go outside alone and talk to Mance. Although Sam tries to dissuade him, he soon sees that Snow is adamant to go.

‘Jon? Come back.’

Sam beseeches Jon and he gives another crinkly-eyed smile, this time there is a darkly affectionate undertone, as though he is indulging a young child’s fantasy. And then he disappears into the light.

I love how Jon Snow finally came into his element on the show too. I cannot help but maintain how I think he is one of the most resourceful characters in the series- he has leadership qualities coupled with a benevolence that makes him worth rooting for.

The question in my head is, how much are they planning on packing into the finale? There’s a lot of stuff that needs to be done. Tyrion, Arya, Jon and Stannis all play a part in the conclusion of this season, and even Daenerys and her dragons are apparently a part of it (from the trailer). Are things going to be readjusted and shifted? Is the big Lady S. shock coming next week or next year? I can’t wait for next week to know how the season wraps up. It should be in for quite a packed finale.

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Television

Game of Thrones: Season 4 Episode 8 Review


*spoiler alert*

As is customary with Game of Thrones, much transpired in this, the third from last episode of season four, as some of the largest thrusts in the plot-line took place- the most important, of course, was Tyrion’s much-awaited trial-by-combat but other chess pieces too, made a move-along, setting stage for what has so far been GoT’s trademark decisive second-last episode.

“Little wilding bitch, you should have stayed with your own kind”

Gilly isn’t finding Mole’s Town a piece of cake but she’s standing up for her own, especially since she has a child in toe. But those are going to be the least of her problems as Mole’s Town falls to the wildings who have ganged up with the Thenns in a brutal, nocturnal attack that ends with most of the townsfolk dead. Sun-kissed Ygritte, of You-know-nothing-John-Snow fame, who hasn’t been seen for a while, is back for the kill and she does away with most of the women but although she sees Gilly hiding with her child in a corner, she merely holds up her finger in a gesture meant to silence her and then moves on, leaving Gilly and the baby quite unharmed.

Meanwhile at Castle Black, the brothers confer, quite correctly reaching the conclusion that with the town fallen, they are most definitely next. Sam believes Gilly is lost to him but brightens up a little at the thought that a woman who survived Caster and the White Walkers as well as a long and hard winter walk from beyond the wall might just manage to survive this assault as well. At any rate, Castle Black must prepare for war despite having the numbers stacked up against them.

“I am glad you saw me”
“So am I”

I find the scenes between Grey Worm and Missandei quite pointless; perhaps because they are not in the book at all or perhaps because I do not expect this story to really go anywhere (probably since they’re not in the book). Thus their naked exchange seemed like nothing more than another attempt to add the essential Game of Thrones nudity, because God forbid the world would collapse if there wasn’t at least one nude woman in each episode.

“The north is mine. Now tell me what is your name?”
“Ramsay Snow”
“No, not Ramsay Snow. From this day, until your last day, you are Ramsay Bolton, son of Roose Bolton, Warden of the North.”

While Theon who is Reek pretending to be Theon although he really is Theon but not quite anymore, puts up a brave show and manages to capture Moat Cailin and have his fellow Iron born men fleeing back home at the same time, Roose finally removes the ‘Snow’ from his bastard child’s name, christening him Bolton and officially handing over the inheritance to the sadistic bastard. How touching. Actually I had assumed this exchange had already taken place or been declared. It’s hard to be certain of how far in the show is sometimes.

Those philandering eyes. Eww.

“But did you gamble on the man you know than the strangers you don’t? Do you think you know me?”
“I know you won’t.”
“Do you?”

I quite enjoyed the Sansa-Littlefinger part of the show too. Unlike the books, here Sansa confesses to the lords and ladies of Vale that she is, in fact, Sansa Stark. She puts up quite a convincing story of her pain and suffering at the hands of the Lannisters and her aunt (which wasn’t surprising, since it was all true) but paints Lord Baelish in quite a positive light, painting him as her protector and savior and a somewhat father-figure, which is as far from the truth as you can imagine from looking into Petyr Baelish’s lusty eyes every time he looks at Sansa (I am immediately reminded of Catlyn Stark every time her does, which is quite a compliment to his acting). Littlefinger is excused and sets about the task of entrusting Robyn with more responsibility by letting him out into the world. Of course he probably means to have the little prince killed off somewhere (I’m speculating, this isn’t a spoiler). He quite rightly says that the little act Sansa put on for the benefit of those strangers was quite a gamble from her point of view because she has no idea what to expect from Baelish. Nobody does. I don’t think he himself fully knows either. But given his life-long (unrequited) love for her mother, if there is someone he might show some amount of loyalty to, it could be her. That being said, there wasn’t much else Sansa could have done either. I always believed in Sansa, even when she was the weakest Stark. Now she is finally coming in her element and picking up her broken pieces, learning to play the dreadful game a little because she has to. There’s only so far luck can hold. I think she looked quite pretty when she descended the stairs in a stunning black ensemble in a plunging neckline, complete with a large neckpiece and said ‘Shall we go?’
At this point Lord Baelish drooled some more in quite a disgusting fashion.

Arya’s unbridled laughter makes for good tragicomedy.

“Then I offer my condolences. Lady Arryn died three days ago.”

Arya continues playing quite the adorably cheeky little murderer that she is, with panache. Once again she has been brought almost to the doors of a reunion with a family member. With Sansa just within the doors of the Eyrie and the Hound and Arya at the gates, she is as close to her elder sister right now as she was to her mother and brother just nine episodes ago. As the news of the death of the aunt-she-has-never-met is broken to her and the Hound who meant to barter her off in exchange for gold, she bursts out into a long fit of laughter which is quite delightful and ominous at the same time. All this travelling for nothing! Rudderless once more.

And now the fandom begs for a hundred new Ser Jorah memes.

“Don’t ever presume to touch me again or speak my name. If you are found in Meeren past break of day, I’ll have your head throne into Slaver’s Bay.”

Daenerys is finally confronted with Ser Jorah’s earlier betrayals, for which of, course, the good warrior has more than made up by his long and loyal standing at her side (not to mention his love, which he does appeal to). Sorry figure as he does cut as an unrequited lover, Ser Jorah friend-zone memes have made him seem quite funny. Daenerys abolishes him from her sight and her kingdom, refusing to listen to his pleas and he finally gives in to her orders.

Mixed Signals: His savior The Viper gave Tyrion quite a roller-coaster journey.

“Deciding a man’s guilt or innocence in the eyes of the Gods by having two other men hack each other to pieces”

As his judgment hours draw closer, Tyrion is in quite the mood for jest while he awaits the trial-by-combat that is to decide his fate, in his cellar with Jamie. He talks about the various words used for deaths of kin (patricide, matricide, regicide, suicide and so forth) until Jamie points out that there isn’t one for cousins. This point Tryion cedes, before launching into quite a tirade about a ‘simple’ cousin from his childhood who used to crush beetles to death for no apparent reasons and although he tried really hard to get to the bottom of the matter, he just couldn’t. It was another well-acted piece by Peter Dinklage but I failed to see the point. Was GoT indulging in a bit of philosophizing or was it mere killing of time in a jam-packed episode? I wouldn’t know. As Jamie said, so many men, women and children die pointlessly in the GoT world (and in reality but oh well, we want to save all the species), that there really isn’t much time to brood over beetles.

Say it! You raped her, you murdered her, you-SQUELCH.

“You raped her, you murdered her, you killed her children”

The last seven minutes of the show were, of course, the most awaited ones this episode and they did not disappoint, not even if you knew what was coming all along. I’ll tell you why.
To me, the Oberyn on the show seemed a lot more relatable than the one in the book, probably because the elongated his role and added all those additional scenes as a means to fill in the episode but also because I hadn’t counted on Pedro Pascal to be such a quick-witted, twinkly-eyed, devilishly gleeful charmer. As a result I was quite blown away by Oberyn’s tall claims (“Today is not the day I die”, “I won’t {leave you alone in this world}”) and started to believe in them myself, hoping the show had decided to give him a longer run. But the show wouldn’t go on unless Oberyn perished this episode and perish he does. Gregor Clegone, though quite large, does not appear as formidable as everyone keeps exclaiming he is.

The combat proceeding was pleasant to watch, Oberyn was quite the nimble-footed dancing warrior who jibbed and teased his sister’s murderer and rapist, all the while chanting the same lines. He wants a confession out of the murderer, his personal vengeance is so absorbing and triumph so close that he becomes cockier than he is supposed to. He beats the beast quite easily and could quite easily have done away with him had it not been for the fact that whenever he must have pictured this moment in his head, it must have been supplanted by a full confession from the mouth of Clegone, the only way he would have considered his sister and her children safely avenged. This was not to be however, because although Oberyn does get the confession he wanted, it comes at the price of his life.
I’ve seen plenty of gruesome and gory scenes on Game of Thrones and survived, but the last moments of Oberyn’s life were the most dreadful to watch as Clegone begins by popping the Viper’s eyes and then crushing the rest of his skull and we are shown a close-up of his eyes bursting bloody in their sockets and his brains literally spilling out onto the seaside tarmac!!!! I couldn’t even- I didn’t even want to watch-

When do I get to declare my son’s hanging?

Clegone collapses soon after. His fate we shall talk about later.
Tywin rises in truimph while Cersie smiles in her seat, and announces to all those who are present that the trial decisively sentences Tyrion to death. We’ll talk about Tyrion’s fate later too. My equivocal statements could mean anything really.

All in all, a good episode where things happened and other things set the tone for what is to come in the future.

Next week’s trailer is all about the wall:

Until later 🙂

PS: I missed an episode, I know. I’m sorry. Laziness.

Television

Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 6: The Laws of Gods and Men


*Spoiler Alert*

A brilliant episode with a blazing second-half and an impressive performance. There is no Wall here but the focus shifts to a new location- Braavos is finally on the GOT map, rolling coins and a gargantuan swordsman statue announce the new locale.

“You can see why these numbers seem to add up to an unhappy ending from our perspective”

A CGI shot of Stannis and Davos sailing through the gates of Braavos opens the latest GOT episode. Stannis and Davos request the faceless, merciless Iron Bank of Braavos for a loan. Mark Gatiss has been cast as the bank representative. Cunning and cleverness he portrays well but falling into the skin of an Iron Banker did not come across as his strongest point to me. Nevertheless, Davos manages to point out quite convincingly that since Tywin is the real brains behind the King’s Landing farce, his death would create quite an un-fillable void with a pre-teen king, his wicked and despised mother, a dwarf on trial for king-slaying and a man who is a proven kingslayer. He puts up a strong case for Stannis. This is followed by a generous display of unnecessarily nude women but that is necessary for GOT of course.

“As long as they can hurt our prince with impunity, the word Ironborn means nothing”

Elsewhere, Asha Greyjoy sets out to bring back her brother from the hands of Ramsay (now Bolton). She shakes up her men into action but on confronting Theon, who keeps chanting ‘I am Reek’ and refuses to accept that this could be anything but another  ruse meant to test him, she realizes how far gone he is. Although she wouldn’t have left him to his own fate, Ramsay’s entrance compels her to take leave. ‘My brother is dead’, she declares, once out. And Reek remains with Ramsay.

“I need you to play a role. To pretend to be someone you’re not. Theon Greyjoy.”

The strongest competitor for Most Evil Game of Thrones Character, Ramsay Bolton and Reek share another scene that was almost painful to watch. Ramsay draws out a bath for Theon, something the poor creature has been denied throughout his long and painful imprisonment. You would think this was a good thing but it is hurtful to watch Ramsay’s taunting glare as he makes Theon strip and then looks him over, lingering at where his man-parts were supposed to be. It is a physical relief to watch Theon sink into the tub and imagine how it must feel to have your filthiness washed away after so long. But Ramsay’s torture does not stop there. He brings out a wet cloth and proceeds to rub it down the trembling Theon’s back before crooning on about how he wants Reek to do something important for him. Storm a stronghold. The Stockholm syndrome-affected Theon is more than eager to follow any orders his lord gives him.

“Your Grace, I cannot defend the actions of the Masters. I can only speak to you as a son who loved his father.”

In Meeren Daenerys has set up court to deal with the grievances of her new subjects. Even as civilians seek repayment for the goats her dragons seem to devour, we are introduced to Hizdahr zo Loraq who begs to have the right to bury his father with dignity. Daenerys is faced with a long and tedious line of applicants with problems that need to be settled and as a queen, she squares herself for the daunting task, simultaneously still refusing to accept any wrong in the act of ordering the masters’ crucification.

“Lord Tyrell, be a good man. Fetch my quill and paper.”

Perhaps the funniest part all episode was the dignified and sycophanous Lord Tyrell relegate himself to the role of Lord Tywin’s personal assistant during a council meeting where Tywin is most definitely starting to worry about Daenerys and acknowledges the need to take some action to deal with her appropriately. Prince Oberyn looks on with twinkling fascination (his dark eyes swim with wit and sarcasm) while the exchange occurs.

“Besides, the absence of desire leaves one free to pursue other things.” 

Glimpses into the workings of characters such as Lord Varys and Littlefinger are always interesting because they plot the most and say the least. The tiny exchange between Varys and Oberyn was interesting for the very same reason, even though it was redundant to the plot.

How marvelous is this face. I’m not even kidding.

“Yes, father. I am guilty. I am guilty of a far more monstrous crime. I am guilty of being a dwarf. I have been on trial for that my entire life.”
I wish I was the monster you think I am.”

The most wonderful bits of the episode came out of Tryion’s trial- the whole thing is staged by Cersie, all the witnesses are hers and Tyrion seems to have given up before he started. While the trial keeps fishing out one insult after another against the best, kindest and most mature character in all of Westeros, the real shock for Tyrion comes when Shae walks in, distorting the truth into a horrible misshapen rubble by taking his words and twisting them around.

Jamie makes a good case for Tyrion, trying to protect him by offering his father the thing the man has desired for years- his resignation from the King’s Guard, his subsequent transfer to the seat of Casterly Rock, marriage to a suitable woman and grandsons who can carry on the Lannister name. Tywin is well pleased with this deal as long as Tyrion is ready to make a full confession and promises to pardon his dwarf-son and allow him to don the black of the Night’s Watch, in that case. Tyrion agrees to this although he realizes that this same futile deal had been offered to Ned Stark. But Jamie points out that Tywin is not Joffrey. However, he does hate his youngest-born and thinks of him as a deformed monster who stole his wife from him.

But Tyrion breaks down under the list of lies Shae spits out at him. That is finally when, broken beyond belief, he delivers an astounding performance to a courtroom full of people who hate him.

The irony of GRRM’s fantasy is that is forever persecutes the one character who can be the deliverance of the entire kingdom. The fact that this irony makes me love Tyrion all the more is because this is exactly how the real world works too. That is why Tyrion continues to be my favorite character on the show.

“I will not give my life for Joffrey’s murder and I know I will get no justice here. So I will let the Gods decide my fate. I demand a trial by combat.”

Until next week. Looks like next week is going to see some good Sansa-action. I hope!

 

Television

Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 5: First of His Name


*Spoiler Alert*

I don’t know why but every episode that is spitted out of the HBO Game of Thrones factory is a marvel in itself, including the slower ones. Like every week, after you’re done humming along with the opening credits (parum-parararum-pararumrum) and rubbing your hands together with glee, you get to watch a bevy of characters plot and twist across the Westeros landscape for control over this malevolent fantasy-land. This week- the midway mark- was no exception.

‘He could be the first man who sits on that throne in fifty years who actually deserves it’

At King’s Landing, Tommen is crowned the First of His Name while Margaery continues to smile at him from afar, an act he returns with a lighting up of his cherubic face. This exchange is certainly not missed by Cersie who makes it her business to formally extend a request for marriage between her second born son and the mourning wife of her first-born. Cersie is clever in knowning what is good for the kingdom and acts accordingly. Whatever the inner mechanization of her mind might be, at this point she is cordial to Margaery and very frank in revealing what she thought of the shocking acts of her older son and how she fears for the good innocent soul of her second. Margaery, in turn, puts on an appropriate act of being mildly surprised by the offer but graciously accepts it in the same breath. A very fine line to walk on indeed.

‘If I can’t control Slaver’s Bay, why should anyone trust me? Why should anyone follow me? I will not let those I have freed slide back into chains. I will do what Queens do. I will rule.’

Dressed in a stunning white bodice clasped with a necklace around her waist, her braided silver hair completing the attire, Daenerys has decided to stay put at Meeren. Even as Astapor and Yunk’ai suffer uprisings against her, she is unwilling to give up the slaves she freed and sail for Westeros. Although Sir Jorah is quite right in pointing out that Dany needs to be the ruler of Westeros and not of King’s Landing. Sailing forth with her unsullied and freed slaves at this point can get her the iron throne but not the lands the throne is supposed to control. And her dragons are small right now but getting unruly. So staying seems to be the only option for Daenarys until she comes up with a better strategy.

“What kind of stories do poor men enjoy the most? Ones about rich girls they’ll never meet”

Petyr Baelish in the meantime, brings Sansa to the Eeryie (which is supposed to be so much more intimidating and higher than they’ve managed on the show) where her aunt and sickly cousin are in on the secret of her identity. Aunt Lysa is very sweet to Sansa when Littlefinger is around but the moment Sansa is out the door, she reveals a Septon in-waiting who marries the two of them off. At the same time, Petyr’s scheming is revealed a little more in detail through his long seduction and subsequent betrothal to Lysa. Lysa however is not quite as blind as she is insane for she later confronts Sansa and demands to know whether Littlefinger ever did anything to her. Sansa also finds out that they plan for her to be married to Robyn, her cousin. Sansa is like a thistle blowing in the wind with no roots to hold on to but for now, she is safely out of harm’s way, in the physical sense at least .

“No jugglers, no jousting dwarves, no seventy-seven course meals”

Cersie talks to her father about the coming marriages between Margaery and Tommen as well as her own with Sir Lorenz. Cersie impresses upon Tywin the fact that she understands the sacrifices that must be made for the family, considering the large sums of money owed by them to the Iron Bank but the score with Tyrion must be settled, for she is convinced beyond any doubt that he is responsible for the king’s murder.

“Joffrey. Cersie. Walder Frey. Meryn Trant. Tywin Lannister. The Red Woman. Beric Dondarrion. Thoros of Myre. Ilyn Payne. The Mountain. The Hound.”

Arya continues to chant her list of names and practices a little with the retrieved Needle but for a while now the Arya part of the plot hasn’t seen any changes. It’s true that some major overhaul will be needed to the Arya plot before it can diverge down new roads but it’s about time Arya and the Hound stop travelling around in this purposeless manner.

‘Gods love their stupid jokes, don’t they? What good is power if you cannot protect the ones you love?’

Cersie seeks the Prince of Oberyn. Whether the purpose is to set him emotionally against Tryion (since he is to be one of the judges at the trial) or to enquire about her daughter’s welfare and send a message or both, Cersie does a good job. I enjoyed this scene because it was one of those times where Cersie’s innate motherliness was brought to the forefront. Of course this woman loves her children and will go to the lengths of murder, treachery, butchery and scheming to protect them.

“Meera and I, even Hodor. We’re here to guide you. It’s waiting for you. You have to find it. You have to make it. This isn’t the end. Not for you. Not yet.”

The most action in this episode was seen beyond the Wall. Like I predicted last week, the Brandon Stark storyline took only a slight diversion just to add unnecessary action. Craster’s Keep burnt however and Jon Snow continued to be an efficient Night Watch reformist but once again Bran and Snow passed inches against one another without meeting. Ghost was reunited with Jon Snow so at least someone got back together.

A little disappointing on the action front, this episode did manage to drop a few hints here and there. Until next time. 🙂 The next episode looks interesting. Tyrion’s trial is on the cards.

books · Television

The Oathkeeper: GOT Season 4 Episode 4


*Spoiler Alert*

Possibly one of the most interesting episodes of this season so far and we’re talking about a season where four episodes in we have witnessed the death of a major antagonist and a controversial incestuous rape scene between the Lannister twins. But what this episode did was give us a lot of food for thought. As a reader of the books, I was more excited to see not just a flesh-and-blood version of things I’ve already read and imagined in my head but a veering off from the main course into unchartered, unmapped territory. Ladies and gentlemen, Game of Thrones has at least partly, gone off the GRRM Song of Ice and Fire books radar.

 

“I will answer injustice with justice”

After Daenerys storms Meeren by a stealthy night-time mutiny involving former-slaves instigating the ones trampled beneath the feet of their masters to raise arms  (knifes) and breaking the proverbial and literal chains, she takes the city and climbs to a high point from where she orders 163 of the masters to be nailed (crucified) cruelly in much the same way as she had witnessed the nailed children marking every mile on her journey to the city. And then perched atop the Meeren pyramid, she surveys her terrible new conquest, which is to be her domain (book spoiler coming up) for a long time yet. And while people may rightly question whether her sense of ‘justice’ was not, in fact skewed, there remains the question of how bad a revolt does she want on her hands? Perhaps she did not foresee the one that is coming anyway, when she ordered the merciless crucifixions of those masters but maybe this was her way of telling them that freedom will be strictly imposed! It’s hard to know what the characters are thinking on a show unless they express it in so many words because you have no access to the thoughts.

“A man with no motive is a man no one suspects. I’d risk everything to get what I want. My new friends are predictable and reasonable people. As for what happened to Joffrey, well, I think it was something my new friends wanted very badly.”

Littlefinger reveals his plot to the innocent and yet-naive Sansa with a flourish- telling her how the necklace Sir Dontos had given her played an important role in the death of the horrendous young king. While he plans to marry Sansa’s aunt at the Eeyrie where he means to keep Sansa safely protected, he is reaching out with his little fingers into the realms of kings. And he does chime that he will risk everything to get everything.

At the same time (or so) Lady Olena reveals to her granddaughter Margaery that of course she wouldn’t have let the poor little girl stay married to a tyrant like the obnoxious Joffrey. Margaery had been all prepared to take on the role of loving wife and generous queen hanging on the arm of a quickly distracted and sadistically explosive husband but now she must turn on her charm-o-Tyrell for the young Tommen who is on the other side of the spectrum. Innocent, gullible, lovable and cute, the new king is as far from evil as his brother was close to it. And so starts the power struggle for control over him by the two women who will fight to be the all-powerful ruler.

If I told you to find that murderous little bitch and bring me her head, would you do it?

 

While Tommen is vulnerable and in danger, Cersie for now is concerned only about his protection. She and Jamie share a curt, cool scene where they’re both partly formal. And though Cersie confronts her brother and lover, it becomes clear to her that he is on the side of Tyrion and Sansa for he refuses to kill either of them.

‘It will be our secret. If we’re going to be man and wife we’ll have a few secrets from her I hope’

And while Cersie reels under this disaster with a wine glass always in her hand, Margaery takes advantage of the opening to sneak into Tommen’s room and win over his loyalty, which isn’t difficult because he is immediately swooned over by the pretty girl who is to be his future bride, creeping into his room in the middle of the night and lighting candles. There’s a lot of seduction inside the little girl (she’s supposed to be) who is to take her third husband and hasn’t had any marriage consummated.

“I say the best swords have names. Any ideas?” 
“Oathkeeper”

Jaime Lannister does the right thing once again (beyond last week’s rape) by handing over the freshly forged Valyrian steek sword to Brienne and entrusting her with a task and with Podrick Payne. The task is to find Sansa and keep her safe because that’s the promise he made to Lady Stark and although she is dead, he will keep the promise. And in return Brienne takes her leave from him after naming the sword in his honor. Whether this unlikely duo will ever meet each other again or not needs to be seen.

“Our survival may depend on us getting to this mutinous before Mance does.”

But some of this episode’s most interesting developments took place at and beyond the wall. There is a Jon Snow uprising at the wall; whether the Commander-in-Chief likes it or not, the black-cloaked men are behind Snow. Showing military acumen and cunning beyond what he is given credit for (‘You know nothing Jon Snow’), he is getting ready to gather a group of men and head north of the wall for Craster’s Keep, meaning to suppress the turn-cloaks who have made camp there before the wildings led by Mance get there and discover how unmanned and easily take-able Castle Black really is.

And at Craster’s Keep the turn-cloaks have taken Craster’s wife-daughters for their own, raping and beating them and sacrificing a newborn as ‘tax’ to the White Walkers in return for safety. It is not a pretty scene. Nor is the site of Jon’s direwolf Ghost caught in a cage and taunted at.

“And I thought this was going to be another boring day”

But this is where the show takes a major turn from the books because Bran and his troope are nearby and they get captured by these turned Night Watchmen. While the Reed twins struggle against what is to be an assault, Bran reveals his truth to Karl by yelling out loud, ‘I am Brandon Stark of Winterfell’. Jon Snow’s brother, not to mention the high-born heir to Winterfell.

Where the show is going with this storyline is exciting and unexpected for book lovers. What I predict is that Jon Snow will storm the Keep and save his brother, perhaps have a reunion (or maybe just a goodbye from afar) along the way before Brandon will insist upon continuing with his journey towards the three-eyes crow. Of course, with Game of Thrones you can never tell but this clear departure from the storyline is exciting.

So is the sneak-peak into Kingdom White Walkers as an innocent baby is given up to the undead in a chilling closing sequence of cold-clawed conversion from wide-eyed baby to icy-blue zombie. Giving the White Walkers this third dimension was a wonderful turn of events because so far we’ve only seen them walking purposelessly through the snow. It’s funny how often we forget that they’re a part of the show because we’re so involved in the politics down south that we refuse to see how irrelevant all of that will become once the White Walkers start descending. Even though the Jon Snow storyline is continuously haunted by undead-references, their fight against the wildlings takes precedence over the rest. If the dragons are ultimately going to be pitted against the White Walkers, for now they are so far off that it’s hard to expect any collisions until the very climax of the series.

Still with all these tweaks that the show has brought in, this episode was thrilling and brilliant.

Until next week.

 

Television

Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 2: Weddings are Happy Occasions


*Spoiler alert*

There you have it. This episode was another one of those ‘hold your breath because something monumental is coming your way’ episodes. I don’t think I paid complete attention to anything other than the wedding celebrations at King’s Landing.

Bran has grown up and is getting more and more comfortable under the skins of other creatures, choosing to abandon his body in order to be free. He has also grown taller and bigger than ever before. These kids are going to go through their awkward teenage phase with this show. I was also horrified by the Theon-Greyjoy-slash-Reek scenes and Ramsay Snow is just a bastard in every sense of the word. Ramsay is set to capture Moat Caitlin; prove to his father that he has more uses beyond slashing private parts off people and reducing their dignity and self-worth into dust.  Meanwhile Stannis and his Red Witch continue to spread the love of the God of Light while his daughter tries to accept the faith-swapping as best as she could.

Jamie is learning how to spar with his left hand now. In a moment of fraternal outburst, he confesses to Tyrion how the whole world cannot find out that he cannot slay a pigeon with his left hand, let alone protect the king.

But all eyes on King’s Landing as Cersie ceded her acting Queen authority to Margaery; who takes up the stand with grace and her own brand of panache, making announcements on behalf of her sadistic beast of a new husband five seconds after the ceremony is over. Tyrion has to bear the brunt of King Jeoffrey’s jibes, of course, but he does so with a straight face after having sent away his whore-lover just hours before the ceremony, in order to save her from the cruel clutches of his father Lord Tywin.

The part I was waiting for on this episode was, of course, the climatic closing scene. With GOT, if you haven’t read the books, you can never know who is going to collapse when. The show has little empathy for its own characters and no regards whatsoever as to which episode is being used to bring about a wave of change. And so, the death everyone had been wishing upon a star for, was quite a welcome surprise for those who weren’t expected it. Joeffrey’s collapse and writhing in the arms of his crying mother and his subsequent death by sweet poison was a ‘Hurrah’ moment for all Stark lovers. Even as the Lannisters had  a sort of family huddle over the dying boy-king, Cersie was quick to raise her hand backwards at Tyrion, who through no fault of his own finds himself blamed for killing his king.

The death has opened up a dozen new doors for this season. The plot is going to thicken now. A lot of exciting changes are coming up, what with the scramble for a new king, the attempts of House Dorne and House Martell to bring out new equations with the Lannisters. Tyrion’s sacrifice was worth it though, just to see Jeoffrey die and Cersie cry. As for Tyrion, he is a big boy, bigger than the rest of them put together and he will find his way through. Sansa is off as well. Bye-bye King’s Landing!

 

 

Television

Killers- Return of Game of Thrones Season 4 Review


Game of Thrones started out its fourth season by fingering into newer story lines with the gory massacre of The Red Wedding still pounding in the heads of its long term fans. But with introduction of the House of Dorne and the character development of a bunch of its star protagonists, there’s plenty in the new season to hold the attention of fans hook, line and sinker.

While Sansa and Arya both seethe, one in silent agony and the other in bubbling anger, from the news of their lost family members, up north at the wall Jon Snow presents his story to the Crows, leaving them to judge whether or not to let him live. He fondly recalls a few bittersweet  childhood moments spent with his deceased brother Rob, as he dons the black once more in preparation for dealing with the approaching wildling bands. A good fight is about to get underway- one which will end up turning some tables.

Tyrion spends some uncomfortable moments welcoming House Dorne into the folds of King’s Landing as the royal city decks up in preparation for the coming wedding- the third in a series of unions that have so far only unfolded with disastrous circumstances. Apparently, everyone in Tyrion’s life is bent upon giving him a hard time, including the people he would least expect it from. He spends a good part of this returning episode listening to rebukes and complaints and saying only the wisest things which seem to fall on deaf ears, in return.

Jamie is back as well- back to the loving arms of his sister, or so he thought. Back also to his watchful post on the King’s Guards where he has now undertaken the task of mastering ambidexterity by trying to be as accomplished a one-handed swordsman as his left hand would allow. Jibes from both his father and his king boy-nephew do not help, of course, but so far a begrudging admiration is all Jaime gets from us in this episode  for stoically dodging all rebukes thrown out at him.

And while Daenerys Targaryen continues freeing the slave cities and struggling to hold on to her adolescent dragons, a scene involving Sansa that will prove to be significant later, occurs at King’s Landing. Prince Oberyn of House of Dorne is out to revenge his sister upon every Lannister in the kingdom because, he says, it’s not just a Lannister who always repays all his debts.

And Arya finally gets a little slice of the action she has so badly needed since her first-hand witnessing of the Stark butchering. Arya’s quest is just beginning to get a hundred shades darker.

Overall, with the fanning out of new plots, this season started its strong build-up towards another epic series of episodes. The strong star cast continues to enchant, falling into the skins of the characters they play. Brace yourselves, for winter crawls ever so closer with Season Four.

 

 

Television

How Your Mother Met Me


[Spoilers]

The most beautiful episode to come out of How I Met Your Mother in years and it barely had glimpses of the show’s star cast in it.

How Your Mother Met Me explores the story from the mother’s point of view in a synopsis that was heart-felt and warming. It’s her story through and through and she delivers so wonderfully that in just one episode, you love her more than you can ever love Ted.

She lost her boyfriend at twenty-one and vowed never to love again. Then when she finally decided New York wasn’t terrifying enough to spend the rest of her life in one room, she took up economics and formed a band, learning to play the ukulele- which had been her boyfriend’s last gift to her. Her story is interspersed with what are supposed to be serendipitous moments where Ted’s life collides with her. But right from the yellow umbrella and all the way down to her the cute little muffin song she makes up on the spur of a moment- everything about her will make you fuzzy inside.

When she tells a guy, ‘I was in love with someobody a long time ago and he died…I’m sorry, It’s silly but it’s like the first lottery ticket I ever bought was like kaboom! Jackpot! And I’m sure I’m never gonna win again. Not like that anyway. So I don’t generally buy lottery tickets’, you wonder how what she had is going to beat what’s supposed to be her destiny with Ted. Is he supposed to beat someone she couldn’t let go off for ten years and has to say a tearful goodbye to, every time she decides to move on? Because I felt for her when she turned her head skywards and told him, ‘I guess this is it. For real this time.’

Is he supposed to beat the guy who makes her heart-broken enough to sing the absolutely brilliant rendition of ‘La Vie En Rose’? I sure wonder how.

 

I liked Cristin Milioti from the first glimpse but she won my heart with this episode 🙂

Television

The Twisted Sherlock Finale


*Spoiler alert*

Sherlock’s The Last Vow unabashedly threw a montage of creatively threaded together plot twists comprising of comedy and tragedy, mixed with intense drama and suspense and of course, the absolute and utter madness of Sherlock Holmes.

(Picture: Hartswood Films / BBC)

In short, the complete package. And nothing less was to be expected from the grande finale of the much awaited Sherlock. If the first two episodes were fleeting disappointments, then this one surely made up for it in the eyes of whoever was complaining (not me!). Sherlock’s finale presented us with quite a few interesting details when it comes to our central characters. It delivered through the high points and low ones (as if it could have low points! Phew!) and what we are left with is an uncompromising portrait of Holmes, better defined than ever before.

Sherlock likes to provide its viewers with Jack-in-the-box moments and usually we’re taken for a ride with John Watson. But our flawed central character took quite a hitting this time too, when questions of betrayal nagged the space he usually keeps reserved for his nemeses. Because this episode revolved around Holmes fulfilling the promises he made to his best pal on his wedding day. The Sherlock-Watson friendship grew into something three dimensional because Sherlock was tugged in different directions but he managed to reel it all back in for that one person.

The highest point of this episode of course, was watching Sherlock’s mind palace in all its chaotic splendor when he got shot. We got to experience hands on, the richly physical interpretation of every single turmoil in Sherlock’s head as he figures out how to survive. Stop me if I am wrong, but I have never seen anything this gripping on television before.

It was spectacular, the way everything Sherlock ever does was beautifully compressed into a sequence where he has to figure out the best ways to survive and we explore the nooks and crannies of his head while he’s at it. The crooning, glorified nothingness of Moriarty’s existence as a light-sucking bug inside Sherlock, the little things Sherlock loved as a boy and the insecurities his brother built inside him, even the incessant chatter of Molly Harper’s broken little heart. It was all packed into the moments Sherlock took to explore his options in order to save himself and Watson. And John Watson forever continues to be the one guiding factor that justifies his moves.

But our fallen angel goes steps further. From a junkie detective to the world’s best crime solver and back and forth again, Sherlock’s life swings in jeopardy in the hands of  Charles Augustus Magnussen- a worthy foe because when you see his secret and learn how he guards it, you understand why he deserves to beat Sherlock, even if Sherlock does get to have the last say. Magnussen is delicious as an opponent- slimy, uncharacteristically eccentric and bursting with self-importance. He is a bit of a disappointment when it’s all said and done because somehow, you felt, more was to be expected from him. But the way he presents himself as a villain and the things he does create an aura of disgusted awe around him which made him repulsive but interesting at the same time.

Mycroft’s role continues to miff me slightly. The way in which I enjoy Molly’s continual revival is the same way that makes me roll my eyes at the Mycroft of it all. He is unnecessary in many places, though you could justify his presence in Sherlock’s brain by talking about the impact he’s had on his little brother. And since I absolutely adore every instance where we delve into Sherlock’s mind, I’ll let that pass.

Mary Watson came through to- the wife who wasn’t, her secret personality will come to cast a shadow across further episodes (and let’s raise a glass and hope it does), because her past agendas continue to be fuzzy. But in the same breath we traveled with John Watson from love to hate and back again, because love is just blind when it comes to a hopeless like Watson (he loves Holmes, for goodness’ sake). Some brilliant scenes between the two were quite the highlight of the episode.

But the build up to the ultimate Sherlock climax was the real wonder- I was thinking, oh no, not again. Are we supposed to spend another year (or two) believing Sherlock walked off to his own death, only to find out he didn’t quite? Even when Lestrade’s face rolled in and the screens started to go fuzzy, I wasn’t quite expecting the unexpected- because, seriously, how many twists can one episode have?

But when the phone call got through to Sherlock a mere two minutes after he’d been in air, calling him back (because nobody can solve crimes like he does and broadcasts can never be posthumous so that justifies the impulsive act of banishing your brother’s banishment), I was watching wide-eyed as Jim Moriarty flashed back on screen.

Did you miss me?

Notes: 1) I simply adore Watson. I feel everything he feels and not only does Martin Freeman do a most delightful job, every single John Watson quirk makes me happy!

2) I cannot help but overlook any errors that crept through the Sherlock episodes. I mean, try as I might, Sherlock seems to deliver nothing less than perfection for me. Maybe because very few T.V. series seem to have this much innovation in every frame. Sometimes you spot something that makes you go, oh that’s such a gimmick, and I try to put my critic-spectacles on but even if I go over Sherlock with a fine-tooth comb,  I’d end up pushing the lint back under the table. As of now, Sherlock’s minor errors do not seem even slightly close to suicidal and as long as these twists keep coming, I’m all for it! Our favorite villain is back, let the fireworks go crazy!

Television

A Wedding and an (Almost) Funeral. And the Heart of Holmes


After a arguably imperfect debut, Sherlock’s season three produced a heart-warming episode meant to touch the chords of the hearts of its fandom and bring tears to eyes, perhaps- but also keep up with the tradition of providing a mystery that the world would need Sherlock Holmes to solve.

The most recent Sherlock episodes have, I believe, concentrated more on delivering things with a flourish, rather than focusing on the story. Keeping up with that trend, The Sign of Three was largely concentrated at the wedding of the Watsons. Given that Mary Watson is a delicately new addition to our Sherlock team, it is interesting to note how she has been incorporated into the hearts of the audience. They’ve had to make her charming and delightful, in addition to having her keep up with Holmes (which, as we very well know, very few people can). Let’s face it, a Mary Watson who was at constant loggerheads with Sherlock and kept trying to hold the good doctor back for herself, would be a real pain in the a-r-s-e.

I don’t quite know what to report about the shift this season seems to have taken from a story-line that pulled its audiences largely through theatrical suspense, to one where wit and sarcasm leave us entertained but the cases are less baffling and more dependent on good screenplay, rather than head-scratching plot twists. Perhaps the shift does not seem as radically mortifying as it could be expected to, because Benedict Cumberbatch manages to effortlessly slide from role to role, bringing Sherlock to life like no one ever could (sorry, Robert Downey Jr.).

I keep wondering again and again, what makes this Sherlock better (or worse) than the original paper version. It’s quite clear to me, at least as far as this season is concerned, that Sherlock has been converted into someone who is charmingly intellectual, yes, but also likable! I don’t think Sherlock Holmes is ever meant to have a heart- but this one does. It’s partly adorable but also a little disconcerting to see Sherlock express his heart’s love and anguish as he battles with all things Watson. It’s a little painful to watch because you’re starting to find Sherlock human and this humanness is making you like him, but on the inside you know Sherlock Holmes isn’t supposed to be anything less than invincible when it comes to emotions. So it’s quite strange, the way Sherlock delivers a socially acceptable best man’s speech at the Watson wedding- at least until he starts to anticipate that things might get heated up.

I quite enjoy travelling inside Sherlock’s head, though, and the writers always try to find innovative ways to make that happen. There are dynamics around Sherlock which he might not understand but when it comes to solving crimes, he reconstructs the most stunning visions inside his head. This Inception-ish vision building sustains the Holmes phenomena, adding to the power he brings to each case, no matter what you might think of the story after it’s been stripped clear of all these special effects.

For my part, I enjoyed the mystery bits of The Sign of Three. It was interesting to watch Sherlock solve it; anything different might not have been quite as effective. A tiny appearance by Irene Adler simply added a delicious sense of retrospection. No rendition has ever tried to justify Holmes this deeply and whether it all adds up in a positive direction or a negative one, remains to be seen.

I think we need to give Sherlock a break. High expectations do pull down the end result and Sherlock has been on a pedestal for two years, simply because it waited too long to make a comeback. A swifter return would have led to fewer disappointments but I don’t personally think any less of the show.

This episode did make me feel a little emotional towards Holmes (which was obviously the intention, in addition to making us want to quote the Holmes-Watson friendship as the best the world has ever seen). In short, the magic quite worked on me and as Sherlock Holmes donned his cape and made to leave off in the end, I felt his brooding silence.

Until the next, and final time then.