Sunday, April 28, 2013

Game of Thrones 3.5: Kissed by Fire

Snow Becomes a Man

I cannot believe we are already halfway through the third season of Game of Thrones. Oh I wish this series had a 22 episode run like network television (then again if this was network television this series would not be nearly as good). Once again another event filled episode. Snow and Ygritte finally give into their inner temptations and get down and dirty. In order to make her believe that he has truly forsaken his Night’s Watch vows, she suggests a little afternoon delight. I guess there are worse ways to prove that you are not a spy. Though this in Jon’s first time, he seems pretty knowledgeable with how to please a woman. I thought Kit Harrington (Jon Snow) and Rose Leslie’s romantic chemistry was sizzling but then again the two actors are dating in reality so it must not be too hard transferring that sexual desire onscreen. I am intrigued by this story development because I think becoming romantically involved with a Wildling will make it more difficult for Jon to carry out his task as a spy.

Arya faced a setback this episode. The Hound fought Beric Dondarrion to decide his guilt or innocence. Much to my pleasure (but to Arya’s dismay) the Hound won the battle and was thus set free by the Men Without Banners. This scene gave the viewer more information about the power possessed by the Lord of Light. Though the Hound killed Dondarrion, Dondarrion came back from the dead. Apparently this is not Beric’s first time escaping death but his sixth. The Lord of Light wishes for him to stay alive. I am beginning to wonder about the role of the Lord of Light in this series. Is he supposed to be a mystical representation of the Christian God? Jesus always used the metaphor that he was the light. Also the followers of the Lord of Light in the series refer to him as the only god. They follow him and no one else unlike the old gods that the Starks pray to or the new gods of say the Lannisters. Finally, the Lord of Light works visible miracles such as bringing people back from the dead just like the miracles performed by Jesus in the New Testament. Of course there are many qualities about this god that do not reflect the Christian God such as burning people who do not believe (then again Mary I burned Protestants at the stake so the practice is not unheard of)  or using his powers to create a demon to murder Stannis’ brother, but the Lord of Light bears more resemblance to the Christianity God than the other deities mentioned in the series. 

In this episode, we finally get to meet Stannis’ wife and daughter. Though they both make appearances in the second novel, the series does not show their characters until now. Stannis’ wife is a very understanding woman and is happy that Stannis bed Melisandre and produced a “son.” Once again another biblical reference came to my mind as I watched this scene recalling the story of Abraham and how Sarah sent Abraham to her maid so that he might have a son. I will say that this episode shed some light onto Stannis’ character. In the second book, the reader learns how devoted of a husband Stannis is, never straying from his marriage bed. He holds those vows sacred. In the series, that point is never really addressed until now. In the second season, he takes Melisandre in the heat of passion without much hesitation. Even last episode, he was trying to get in her pants again. This is the first time we see the moral Stannis (at least moral when it comes to marriage vows) making an appearance and apologizing to his wife for his infidelity. We also get to meet Stannis’ daughter this episode. Once again there is a difference between the book and the series. In the book, the daughter is supposed to be severely disfigured and grotesque. I half expected to see Jessica Lange’s daughter from the first season of American Horror Story cast in the role. However, the daughter looked, sounded, and acted normal all except for having half her face scarred. Though she did have this one disfigurement, it was not nearly as horrific as described in the book.

Robb Stark followed in his father’s footsteps this episode and not for the better. Lord Karstark ventured out on his own and killed the two young Lannisters in custody. Robb seeing this as treason kills Lord Karstark causing him to lose the bannermen this lord brought with him. I fear Robb might not survive this series. Eddard lost his head because he was so honorable and just that he could not play the political game and could not let some insolences alone even though their persecution would mean more trouble for him. Robb is making the same mistakes. Both his wife and his mother warn him that by killing this lord he will lose the men the lord brought with him. They advise that he should just hold him as prisoner and use his safety as a wager to make the Karstark bannermen stay and fight. Robb, however, cannot let this treason go and kills Lord Karstark thus losing his men and depleting his army. Eddard was correct to teach his children honor and integrity but Robb also needs to learn political savvy. In order to survive this war he needs to take the lessons he learned from Eddard but learn from Eddard’s mistakes to become an even wiser ruler. 

This episode ended with an awesome twist. Cersei uses Littlefinger to try to figure out what the Tyrells are planning. She discovers that Margaery and the Tyrells are looking to wed Sansa to Ser Loras. Since of course Cersei is out to ruin Sansa’s life, she informs Lord Tywin. I was half expecting for Lord Tywin to marry Sansa to Lord Baelish which would be creepy, but Littlefinger comes off as creepy and semi pedophilic so it would seem to work. In an awesome twist, Lord Tywin decides to have Tyrion wed Sansa. I did not see this coming. Poor Tyrion, who also is appalled at how young she is,  is in love with Shae (which of course his father does not know). The only thing I can say for Sansa is that at least Tyrion has a good heart and will not harm her unlike Jofrrey and she might even have some protection. This scene got even better, however, when Lord Tywin ordered Cersei to marry Ser Loras. She was so happy that she was forcing Tyrion to marry someone he did not love but was completely blindsided by her father’s second request. It was brilliant. Not only does she have to marry someone else (at least he is much better looking that Robert) but it is going to be another loveless marriage because Ser Loras desires other men and no matter how hard Cersei might try she will never be able to please him. I actually love this arrangement not only because I like to see Cersei squirm but I think it might create an unusual alliance between Cersei and Tyrion. I think they might team up to go against their father, but then again he has such a strong psychological hold over all of his children, no matter how much they might dislike his orders, I do not see any of them rebelling. Though if two children were ever going to go against their father it would most definitely be Cersei and Tyrion. Well there are only five more episodes left in this season to find out so until next week….

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Game of Thrones 3.4: And Now His Watch Is Ended

The Spider Catches His Fly

Each week I feel like I always start out these blogs saying, “Wow so much has happened.” This week seemed to be different. The first forty minutes of this episode reflected the episodes of last season, building up exposition and not containing too much action. Though this episode started out slow, the end definitely left me on the edge of my seat. We finally hear the story of how Varys got cut. I actually thought we heard how he became a eunuch a few seasons ago but I guess he always referenced it but never shared the gory details. It was an interesting story involving black magic and a demon voice. Though besides being an intriguing antidote, learning how Varys become who he is offered an insightful look into how he came to be where he is and how he learned the value of information. Even further adding to his character, not only does he know how to gather information and use it to his advantage but he also has the desire for revenge. As he regales Tyrion with his sordid origin tale, Varys slowly opens up a wooden box that we assume he just received. This suspense leading up to the opening of the crate reminded me of the climatic scene from Seven when Brad Pitt keeps yelling "What's in the box?," as Kevin Spacey unveils the end of his sadistic plan. Finally, Varys finishes his story, we get the answer to our "What's in the box?" pleadings. Inside resides the sorcerer who cut him. After all these years, Varys will finally get his revenge and only those who read ahead in the books will know how he exacts it. 

Though Varys seems vindictive in this scene, he redeems himself in a later scene with Olenna Tyrell, Margaery’s grandmother. First, I want to say that Lady Tyrell might be my new favorite character. She is witty and blunt and takes a no hold bars attitude. If anyone can manage to survive in King’s Landing with the Lannisters it will most certainly be her. Moreover, she has a decent heart and is not looking to exact revenge or cause more bloodshed but wants what is best for her relatives. I hope before the season ends, there will be at least one scene between her and Tyrion. I think with these two characters’ witty style they would have an excellent repartee. But to get back to the episode, Varys redeems himself by caring for Sansa. She does not want her to fall prey to Littlefinger or the Lannisters. It shows that even though he may betray some of those that considered him their friend, he does have some kind of moral conscience. I do believe what he said in the first season when talking to Ned Stark after he was imprisoned….Varys serves the realm and will do whatever it takes to make sure the realm survives. 

Jaime Lannister continues to have a really bad day. Not only did he lose his hand last episode but now his captors make him wear the severed limb around his neck. They also allow him to fall from his horse and make him drink horse urine. Leave it to Brienne, however, to put it all into perspective. While Jaime sits by the fire refusing to eat and ready to just let himself die, Brienne yells at him calling the past events a bought of misfortune and Jaime a woman for pouting over them. She reminds him that he has lived a life of privilege and now he is experiencing what most people face…real life. The majority of the characters in this series are some form of royalty or nobility and have all led a life of privilege. We do not get to see the everyday affairs of the commoners. This was a nice reminder that everyday life for most people in this world sucks and that those with money or power do not know what it is really like to struggle. This conversation between Jaime and Brienne also took another turn for we find out that when Jaime saved Brienne last week from rape by saying her family had a lot of money, he was in fact lying. The Sapphire Island from which she comes got its name from the water not the actual gemstones. Jaime once again showed he had a heart by lying in order to save a fellow knight. 

The Night’s Watch took an interesting turn this episode. They are still camped out at Craster’s ranch waiting for their injured to gain strength before returning to The Wall. Old man Craster is stingy with the provisions he gives the Watch and one of their injured ends up dying. This invokes rage within the group and they confront Craster which ends with an all-out fight and Craster and the Lord Commander killed. Sam uses the chaos to his advantage and runs off with Gilly, Craster’s daughter/wife that he fancies. It was nice to see The Night’s Watch act its true nature. This is a band of men made up mostly of criminals and murders who all of the sudden decide to lead a life of virtue and become an upstanding citizen of an army. This scene showed that the rebellious nature in most of these men still exists and that they can use their vast numbers to wreak havoc. This plot point, once again entertaining, exhibited a flaw that I think has been a common theme this season: missing backstory. After the rebellion breaks out, another Night’s Watch brother looks around the compound for Sam but cannot find him. He then says that the little piggy can run but he will eventually find him. I do not understand what Sam did to earn the disdain from this brother. Though he has never been a favorite because of his cowardice and weight problems, these faults do not seem to warrant an all-out manhunt for him. Once again I feel this is another story that the books might elaborate on that the show just expects the viewer to take at face value.

Another interesting turn of events happened with Theon. First he finally took responsibility for what he did. He laments betraying his true father, Ned Stark, and for killing two innocent boys so he could hold onto Winterfell. However, this once again was a confusing storyline that hopefully will be made clear in future episodes. It seems that the person who helped him escape captivity and helped him avoid capture in the woods, was actually one of his original captors and led him back to the very place he was being held. I do not understand why he would go to all of the trouble to help him escape only to have him captured again. Also we still do not know who has Theon or where Theon is. It is an intriguing story but it definitely needs more development.

Finally, and I am saving the best for last, we come to Daenerys. Now I know last episode when she offered to trade one of her dragons for the army of slaves, she had something up her sleeves because the Mother of Dragons would not abandon one of her children. And boy did she ever have a plan. I correctly guessed that once she traded her dragon and gain the allegiance of the Unsullied, she would turn her army on the town and take back her dragon. But that was only part of it. First it turns out that the mysterious language spoken in Astapora is Valyerian. I do not think they ever mentioned which language they were conversing in which required a translator. I think if they divulged the name of the language, the viewers could have surmised that Daenerys spoke Valyerian and did not need a translator and it would have messed up the reveal for when she begins giving commands to the army. I do not know what I enjoyed more: knowing that Daenerys understood every insulting word Kraznys said or her speech instructing her army to kill everyone…I think it was the speech. Once again it is so refreshing this season to see Daenerys take action and make good on her threats and not just scream out that she is the Mother of Dragons. And now the official tally of towns Daenerys has conquered so far is two and I have a feeling that number will be drastically higher by the end of the season. If I had to bet on who will end up on the Iron Throne by the end of the series, my money is on Daenerys. But we will have to continue to watch and see. Till next week…..

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Game of Thrones 3.3: Walk of Punishment

Afternoon Delight

So I just finished the third episode of season 3 for Game of Thrones. As I watched, I had so many different things I wanted to write about. This episode seemed more comedic than the previous two episodes of the season. Also it handled the issue of rape on an interesting level. But while I will get to all of these topics a little further below, I was completely and utterly shocked by the ending of this episode. I am still at loss for words. I keep going back and forth on Jaime Lannister. For all intents and purposes, he seems to be a ruthless person and a despicable knight. He broke his oath as a member of the King’s Guard and killed the king he sworn to protect. He has an incestuous relationship with his sister and almost killed Bran just to keep it a secret. He had a hand in the downfall of Ned Stark. Not to mention that he killed his own cousin so he could escape Robb Stark’s captivity. But there is something about him that makes me still thoroughly enjoy his character. Maybe it is Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s enticing accent and Disney Prince Charming looks that makes me want his character to be redeemed. But I think there is more to his character than just brooding good looks and deadly actions. His repartee with Brienne is not only humorous but also enlightening for you see that he almost has a certain amount of respect for her. Though, it was this episode that really made me see that Jaime might not be all evil. He warns Brienne that their captors will rape her tonight, and as a sworn member of Catelyn’s guard, Brienne has vowed a chaste life and she holds her vows most sacred. When the captors take her away to have their way with her, Jaime has pain on his face. I do not know if is because he has come to respect Brienne and maybe has even grown a little fond of her, or if he cannot not even imagine the situation she is in. In a conversation with Brienne as their captors are leading them to camp, she asks Jaime what he would do if he knew he was going to be raped multiple times that night. He replied that he would rather kill himself, but luckily he is not a woman. This show over the past few seasons has actually taken the idea of rape kind of lightly. It was a Dothraki war custom to rape the women in the lands you conquered. A lot of times in this show, women are reduced to either whores or innocent victims of war where they are expected to give their bodies to the powerful men who conquer the world. In viewing the show, the audience accepts these positions because of the medieval time period in which this show is set as well the barbaric nature of war and the competing armies. However, this is the first time that a character ever shows a serious problem with a woman being taken advantage of. Jamie does his best to persuade their captors that she is worth more untouched, advising them that she is from a land of great wealth. His magic way with words save Brienne and her virtue (at least for the time being) and he seems almost to be making friends with those who hold him captive. In a surprising turn of events, however, his sweet talking leads him to a chopping block where his captor severs his hand. This moment left me speechless. I know in the Game of Thrones universe, no character is safe and anything can happen but the Kingslayer without his hand definitely changes the nature of that character. With it only being the third episode of the season and having this big event happen, I cannot wait to see what the rest of the season has to offer.

Rape actually played another role in this episode. Theon, with the help of an accomplice whose identity is not yet known, manages to escape and ride towards his sister. Before going further I want to say, I do not know if the show intentionally leaves some things in the dark or they just expect people to have a basic knowledge of the books but there are some confusing aspects to the stories especially this season. For example, we still do not know who kidnapped Theon. Apparently, after his men turn on him at Winterfell, Theon does not return until the fifth book meaning that the show runners moved up this storyline. Benioff and Weiss, the producers of the show, commented in an EW article that because of Alfie Allen’s (Theon’s portrayers) performance last season, they wanted to keep him in the upcoming season. I am wondering since they moved up his appearance in the TV show if we do not know who his captors are yet because they do not make an appearance until the later novels. Though despite the confusion about who took Theon and where he is being held, the captors manage to catch up with him. As punishment for running away (and in much the same fashion as the infamous scene from Deliverance), his captor explains that he will “Fuck him into the mud.” Luckily Theon like Brienne gets rescued from this fate worse than death by the same accomplice who helped him escape from his cell. This will be an interesting story which will hopefully fill in the plot holes as it develops.

This episode, while dealing with issues of rape, was actually quite humorous at times. First Catelyn and Robb are still at Riverun because Catelyn’s father, Robb’s grandfather has died. The episode actually begins with Robb and Catelyn along with the rest of the Tully’s standing on the pier pushing the funeral pyre out to sea. The best part of this scene is that it answers the questions we all have whenever we see someone laid on a boat, floated out to sea, and then lit on fire. This question being: How do they manage to light the pyre on fire the first time when they are just shooting arrows at it? For example, in First Knight when Sean Connery floats out to sea, the lighted arrow flies at his pyre, hits it on the first shot, and lights it ablaze. I loved the way Game of Thrones addressed this issue having it take several attempts to hit the pyre with a lighted arrow. It gave it the added bit of humanness depicting the characters in this series as flawed and not having special powers but are just ordinary humans who do not always hit their target.

Another humorous scene involved Bronn, Tyrion and Tyrion’s squire, Podrick. This is unsurprising since most of the comedic situations come from Tyrion and Bronn. To repay Podrick for saving his life during the Battle of Blackwater, Tyrion decides to give him an Afternoon Delight with three of Littlefinger’s top prostitutes. Podrick returns with a little skip in his step and to Tyrion’s surprise with the bag of money he left with Podrick to pay for the services. Bronn’s and Tyrion’s faces are priceless because they cannot understand why the prostitutes would refuse to accept money. It suddenly dawns on them that Podrick was that good at pleasing a woman that the prostitutes refused to collect payment. Bronn and Tyrion huddle around Podrick like little school boys taking notes on an important lesson and demand that Podrick describe everything he did. 

Finally Daenerys is still in Astapora and decided to buy an army of the Unsullied. There is an interesting dynamic building between Daenerys, Ser Jorah and Ser Barristan. For the longest time, Jorah was Daenerys’ only advisor and she listened intently to everything he said. Now Ser Barristan has thrown his hat into the ring and often disagrees with Jorah. Hopefully Jorah will not let his personal feelings for Daenerys to overpower his role as advisor. Daenerys has decided to buy the entire army which Kraznys mo Nakloz scuffs at claiming she does not have nearly enough money. On a side note, these scenes between Kraznys and Daenerys also add humor and realism to the show. So many times in film and television when enemies meet who do not speak the same language, their dialogue is translated through an interpreter exactly as it should be. In this show, Kraznys talks down to Daenerys and calls her insulting names but she never knows (or at least doesn’t know exactly what he says) because she doesn’t understand the language. Kraznys’ interpreter has to make the language more diplomatic to negotiate the deal. I feel when conversing with someone who is an enemy or who you do not particularly like and who does not speak your language, you might not use the most cordial of terms and just rely on the interpreter to clean up the language. Daenerys decides to trade one of her dragons for the whole army which Kraznys eagerly accepts. At first this came as shock to me but I think Daenerys has a plan. She is the mother of dragons, which she kept yelling all of last season, and she would never leave one of her children behind, especially in the hellish place of Astapora. I am excited because I think her dragons are big enough to take down a small community. I am looking forward to her actually doing something with her dragons this season and not just making threats with them.

Once again another fine episode of Game of Thrones. Also happy belated birthday to Maise Williams who plays Ayra and turned sixteen on Monday. She is a phenomenal young actress. I can’t wait to see what next week has in store for us.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Game of Thrones 3.2: Dark Wings, Dark Words

Brans a Man!

Another awesome episode from Game of Thrones this week. Besides the plot development, I think the most shocking realization was the growth of Bran. Isaac Hempstead Wright definitely grew over the break and no longer looks nor sounds like the little boy of the previous two seasons. Hopefully he won’t have to suffer any awkward voice cracking moments like Rupert Grint in Harry Potter. But besides his growth spurt, this episode allowed us to catch up with all of the characters who were missing from last week’s premiere episode. Bran continues with his brother, Osha, and Hodor on their journey to The Wall. He continues to have the dreams about three eyed ravens and seeing through his wolf’s eyes. Upon their travels Bran and company come across another boy, Jojen Reed (played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster who also has grown since his last big role as Sam in Love Actually). It turns out Jojen has the same ability as Bran and his family is actually an ally of the Starks. I do not know for sure why Jojen decided to seek Bran out but I am guessing that they will be able to use their powers to help their families.

We finally see the outcome of Theon this episode. He is being held captive by an unknown group of people and tortured. I do not know if these are  Robb’s bannermen who were sent to take back Winterfell or another band of fighters. The torture scenes are gruesome, not so much Theon’s foot being squeezed in a vice but the ripping off his fingernails. No matter how many times TV shows portray this torture scenario whether it be Alias or Lost, my blood runs cold and my fingers start to hurt whenever I see someone’s fingernails pried off. This season though intriguing has left a lot of questions up in the air and some plot holes, with who is holding Theon captive being one of them, which I hope will quickly be made clear.

Arya and company are also on a journey trying to get to her brother or a house that supports them. On their travels they run into another group of fighting men, the men without banners. Thanks to a little exposition by Arya, we find out that this is the group of men who the torturers at Harrenhal were trying to find. As far as a misfit band of fighters, these guys seem pretty ok, offering to get Arya, Hot Pie, and Gendry food before letting them go. This was almost a non-incident with the other band of fighters, but just as Arya and company start to leave the tavern where they were eating, some of the men without banners bring in a hostage, The Hound, and Arya is unable to leave without him calling her out. 

Robb finds out this episode that Catelyn’s father, his grandfather, has died at Riverrun. He decides to redirect his troops towards Riverrun so they can attend the funeral. This is an odd placement for this event. In the book series, Catelyn’s father dies in the beginning of book two. She in fact refuses to leave Riverrun to meet Robb or head back to Winterfell until her father passes. I wonder what the writers have in store for Robb’s and Catelyn’s storylines that required them to head back to Riverrun at this point in the series. Michelle Fairley, Catelyn’s portrayer, has a heart wrenching scene this episode and does a brilliant job delivering it. She explains to Talia about the talisman she is making so her children will be safe. When Talia asks her if they work, Catelyn says she used it twice before, once for Bran and once to the audience’s surprise for Jon Snow. Seeing her struggle over trying to be the bigger woman and accept her husband’s infidelity is gripping. You can see on her face the internal brawl she faced living with Jon trying with all her power to accept him as her own but not being able to handle him as a sign of her husband’s infidelity every day. To make her pain worse, we finally see a crack in Catelyn’s hard exterior shell and realize that she blames herself for all of the trouble that has befallen her family because she broke her promise to the gods when she refused to accept and love Jon as her own son.

Margaery and her grandmother request the presence of Sansa. This almost seemed a little beyond soap opera. Margaery seems to have no problem keeping company with the woman whose husband she stole. And just when I thought Sansa was becoming wise to the ways of King’s Landing she reverts back into her old dreamy eyed ways of accepting everyone as nice. She thinks Littlefinger will help her with no strings attached even though everyone is warning her and she coos over The Knight of Flowers like he is her knight in shining armor. It is nice to see that the Tyrells are no fools and that Margaery’s grandmother is looking out for her, trying to see if Joffrey lives up to the rumors they heard. Sansa finally lets down her guard and tells Margaery and her grandmother what she has been wanting to shout from the rooftops: that Joffrey is a monster. Margaery, though she seems sweet and loving to those around her, I believe is actually more cunning than she looks. I think she will use this knowledge not to break off her marriage, since it is her father’s command, but be wary of it and do her best to serve Joffrey. Each episode I begin to like Margaery more and more because she exhibits virtue and goodness that lacks in King’s Landing. This episode, when Joffrey questions her about Renly, instead of slamming him for preferring her brother over herself, Margaery actually speaks quite fondly of him even though she knows that Joffrey considers him a traitor. She brilliantly plays Joffrey treating him like the big man on campus all the while building up his devotion to her so that she will be able to control him later. There is an interesting scene between Joffrey and Margaery where Joffrey shows off his new crossbow. Margaery indulges him and asks if she can hold it. The look in his eyes when he stares at her holding the crossbow, I feel he might try to turn their relationship into something the Marqui de Sade would approve of.

Finally, Brienne and Jaime continue on their travels. At one point Jaime is able to grab a sword off of Brienne and fight her. I will say after Jaime taunting her constantly on their entire journey about how she is an ugly woman and not nearly as good of a fighter as he is, it was bliss watching her kick his ass. Also if they were ever going to do a spinoff of Game of Thrones (though it would never happen nor probably be any good), it should revolve around Brienne and Jaime. Though they are foils for one another, Gwendoline Christie and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau have excellent chemistry. Their fight does end prematurely for they are interrupted by some of Robb’s bannermen. The plot continues to thicken for this show.

Though the second season of this show was good, this season definitely involves more dramatic plot points and keeps you on the edge of your sleep. I can’t wait until next week!