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Game of Thrones: Mother's Mercy (2015)
*This review contains spoilers for the episode and also some speculation by this non-book reader about the future*
The finale set up many interesting things and I look forward to seeing how these play out next season already! However I will concentrate on the final scene the most but feel I should mention the other things first: (1) Arya got someone on her list but might pay a price for it. (2) Sansa made her move and Reek finally got some Theon back. (3) Myrcella touchingly told Jaime she always knew about his secret and didn't care, just before falling prey to Dornish treachery. (4) Jorah and Daario off to find Dany who has left Meereen while now Tyrion finds himself in charge of the chaotic city but with the great support team of Varys, Greyworm and Missandei. I have to say this was the one event of the episode which gave me some optimism for the future. (5) Dany and Drogon far away - Dany surrounded by another clan of horsemen... Drogon being a teenager lol. (6) Stannis' troops desert him (rightfully), his wife hangs herself out of sorrow and most tellingly Melisandre gets out while the goings good - though she might have believed in Stannis at first and not just put on a show - it is clear she has changed her mind! Brienne seemingly ends his arc getting her vengeance for Renly. (7) Cersei confesses to the High Sparrow and is made to atone in a shocking walk through the city naked while being mocked and abused by the townfolk. At the end she reaches the palace and is consoled by Qhyburn and the new Mountain. It will be interesting to see what happens between the royalty and the growing religious fanatism next season! (8) After sending Sam and Gilly to Oldtown, Jon Snow is sadly betrayed and killed by the nightwatch. I have grown to like Jon Snow especially in the last two seasons so I hope this is not final though with this show, unlike many others, I have to admit it is very possible that this is it for him. *SPECULATION TO FOLLOW - before that though let me say I am amazed how much there was in 1 hour when writing about it here lol*
SPECULATION - SPOILERS THOUGH NOTHING FOUNDED ON ANYTHING AS I HAVE NOT READ THE BOOKS: Jon's arc though just seems so interesting to just end so suddenly but it wouldn't be the first time. However I hope this is not the end for him! There are some theories and speculation but as the book, author, producers have said nothing it really is just speculation: (1) Some have suggested Melisandre might resurrect Snow - her fellow Priest Thoros of Myr had the ability, and she needs a new vessel for the Lord of Light - she didn't seem to just be playing Stannis because she did direct him to save the Wall a couple seasons ago and would need someone new to fill his place. She is there too! (2) Some feel Jon might have warged in the end into perhaps his direwolf ghost - who knows though this seems to be reaching. (3) However my favorite theory which I am sure has been bandied about is based on "foreshadowing filmwork" done in the end of episode 8 and beginning of episode 9 this season. At the end of episode 8, the night king walks out on the pier and they pan to his boots as he walks before reviving the dead. In the beginning of episode 9 as Jon marches the wildlings to the wall, you see again him walk but with focus on his boots which look very similar somehow to the night king's in the previous episode. Thus the possibility I favor and it is pure speculation is this: Jon's death is metamorphosis just like Dany walking into the pyre. Fantasy has had archetypes that GRRM has brought to life in his books by explaining how they become who they are - dragon queen, boy king and most pertinantly perhaps for Jon Snow - Lich King. Though the night king currently seems to have that role - the style of the series has been to show how someone rises to their role. I hope this is the case for Jon but we can only see how it goes - right now, the truth is, no one really knows except GRRM.
Fire and Ice.
Well, having just watched the episode I am still processing the things I saw. The episode certainly delivered scenes that evoked a lot of emotion - both sadness and elation to the degree few other shows can. Some will be mad as usual about the harshness of the storyline. *Spoilers follow for the episode so don't read if you haven't seen it*
The episode primarily consisted of Stannis' choice in the north and Dany's arc. It developed Arya's arc which is leading hopefully to her confrontation of someone on her infamous list. The Dorne players made peace - setting up for the future.
The first main storyline was the betrayal of Shireen Baratheon by her parents to the witch Melisandre. Though I was hoping against hope that Stannis' love for his daughter would win over his desperation - this was not the case. Those who claim this is inconsistency in his character though have viewed him with rose colored glasses. Let us not forget he had his brother Renly killed the last time he was at a critical juncture and sadly enough, his familial love once again lost out to his "destiny" and ambition. Stannis is brave and tough as Blackwater exhibited but those who ever thought he was a "all round good guy" were deluding themselves. He killed his brother and now he killed his daughter. I was never Team Stannis but still wonder how his "destiny" plays out and will look forward to seeing what develops. His wife redeemed herself slightly in this instance but still had let her brother burn in the beginning of season 2 so hardly an innocent either. Melisandre is well Melisandre - lives are just pieces on her board. I am sad for Shireen and Stannis is going to lose the good people that believed in him. Certainly Davos is going to be heartbroken.
Now when Stannis clashes with the Boltons - I can only hope that Littlefinger wins (following his plan to swoop in at the end and defeat the weakened winnder) - lol saying a lot that Littlefinger is the one that I clearly root for in the battle of Winterfell!
Dany's arc was suspenseful and glorious. At first I worried that there was no way I would be able to watch it after the horrible thing that happened with Stannis but the interactions of her companions quickly captured my attention. I am glad to see Jorah redeem himself (though his time is limited by his disease) and the image of Drogon flying in and defending Dany was marvelous as was her mounting him for the first time. Tyrion and Dany's mercenary boytoy were both in excellent witty form. There are going to be repercussions for the Sons of the Harpy and it was good to see some of them burn by dragon fire. We will see what happens next episode.
In the end, the episode had both great sadness, suspense, and awe- inspiring imagery in the colliseum. As usual Thrones did not play it safe and many will as usual threaten "rage-quits" though at this stage honestly it sounds hollow - if you've been watching this long, you don't want your drama to take the safe route - you want it to push the boundaries and this is what GoT does. Sometimes you'll love it and sometimes you will be angry and heartbroken - don't pretend you don't know this by now.
Game of Thrones: Oathkeeper (2014)
Intriguing and Ambiguous Pairs.
*This review contains spoilers for this episode*
Game of Thrones continues an excellent season with many interesting pairings and matches in this episode. A talk on a ship, a walk in a park and much is revealed about the plotting behind the scenes reminding us what a deadly viper pit King's Landing is!
Jaime and Bronn, Jaime and Tyrion, Jaime and Cersei, Jaime and Brienne. All these scenes were excellent and did not tip the hat either this way or that for Jaime. GoT excels at this ambiguity/uncertainty more than many lesser shows - this character has done many bad things: trying to kill a kid, bashing his relative's head in with a rock to make an escape, forcing himself on his sister - but also many good things. While there was much outcry last week that he was now an unredeemable rapist, the truth is a little blurrier - as always intended, each viewer will have to balance his good deeds and bad deeds and decide for themselves - no trite generalities allowed.
Another such ambiguity introduced in this episode is the appearance of Locke at the wall - we know Bolton sent him yet he seems genuinely impressed with Jon Snow (who btw this season has jumped into awesome gear!) - so when Locke volunteers we wonder if he does it to carry out nefarious deeds or does he do it because he admires Snow?
This is what makes GoT stand out - the characters evolve and little is black and white - much is uncertain. Margery's bedside talk with Tommen also stood out in this way - it was both sweet and a little bit creepy due to the age difference at the same time. Regardless it let us see aspects of both the characters and I have to say I really like Tommen so far - another young casting coup for GoT I predict!
I love the pairing of Brienne and Podrick - hope we see some of their adventures! Bran's story also got a whole lot more interesting suddenly and the glimpse of life in the mutineer camp was also revealing with their leader fleshed out in this episode.
Finally the end scene was breathtaking and intriguing, leaving you wanting to see more of the whitewalker's realm. Congratulations GoT, you've got at least 10 scenes I am aching to see the followup to!
The Lion and the Rose.
*This review contains spoilers for this episode* The first half of this episode served as the usual catchup with characters that is typical early in most seasons of this excellent series. However the last half broke with this tradition quite spectacularly! The royal wedding of Joffrey Baratheon and Margery Tyrell was a feast for the senses. The costume and props department should at least be nominated for an Emmy for this episode. The wedding was superbly directed by Alex Graves and the tension mounted with every scene with excellent acting all around.
The final scenes were shocking (as a show watcher who hasn't read the book), gruesome, awesome and sad at the same time. A horrible person gets their just desserts but a young kid dies scared in the arms of his mother. Jack Gleeson brings out both aspects of this scene as only the most talented actors can - it is really too bad that he plans to retire from acting after this.
In the end, I am surprised to find myself more than a bit sad to part ways with one of TV's best villains - the mad boy king, from G.R.R.M. to the world - we got to hate and love your madness for a good 4 years. A toast to you Joffrey Baratheon, one of the few characters on any screen, be they hero or villain who actually made us feel and react. You will be missed you little s**t! :)
Game of Thrones: The Climb (2013)
An episode of contrasts.
One of the quieter more contemplative episodes in this outstanding season, episode 6 might not have brought your jaw to the floor as many of the other episodes this season but it had a quiet grace. The perfectly titled "The Climb" provided much to think about. Contrasting themes of order and chaos, cynicism and optimism. The final 10 minutes provide perhaps one of the most beautifully shot contrasts of worldview ever done. A contrast between a cynical view of life and an optimistic one, Littlefinger's monologue strikes the viewer in its overall harshness and unfortunate plausibility - that mostly people delude themselves in life, spoken over such convincing supporting visuals as only game of thrones can provide. This scene is immediately followed by a final scene which contrasts this viewpoint that is so beautiful and touching that the viewer feels nearly uneasy. In any other show the final scene could have become meaningless sweetness but in game of thrones it resonates, because we realize that true happiness is rare and fleeting, but we hope that it lasts, we hope Littlefinger is wrong, though we realize, especially in the world of Westeros, he is most probably right.
Game of Thrones: Fire and Blood (2011)
Nothing else really compares.
As a fan of the series, loving both season 1 and 2 so far, I've recently rewatched season 1 and was struck at how epic this series really is. There are many good shows out there but for most shows, even the good ones, most scenes fade away with time. There is something different about "Game of Thrones" - akin to "Star Wars" in my estimation in the sense that there are characters and scenes that etch into one's consciousness (and from reading posts, I don't think I am the only one with this view). The final scene of season 1 is one of the best that I have ever seen on any screen - beautiful, powerful and transformative. Game of Thrones is marked with these moments of complete transformation - when you know the characters are forever changed and nothing will ever be the same.
Visual Masterpiece - Adrenaline charged - Inspiring.
First off, I loved the movie - I thought it was a breath of fresh air - a visual adrenaline packed masterpiece. I have always enjoyed ancient history and the Battle of Thermopylae is one of military histories great stories. Please feel free to read about it before you actually go off on political tirades. I admire ancient Greece - people began to be judged or chosen for power due to their capabilities and actions and not their divinity or birthright, a step in the right direction for man.
This movie, keeping with many ancient forms of storytelling tells this story with operatic fantasy (yes, we know no sons of Perseus (Persians), have blades for arms! Btw comparing the Persians of that day to current day Iranians is misleading, that empire is gone and Islamic culture did not come into being till post 600AD), with fantasy and glory woven in - the result is larger and BETTER than real life could ever be. It is a heroic tale, one of sacrifice, Gerard Butler for all the operatic staging, captures the essence, the nobility, the inspiration of what a great man is perfectly.
However since not everyone is ready to put aside cinematic prejudices, to forgive Hollywood for making movies that the masses might enjoy in general - the analog of someone playing cricket scoffing at the rugby team nearby and thumbing their noses - I guess I will try to make a guess as to who should or should not see the movie.
Definitely SEE IT: Love comic books, sci-fi, fantasy, operatic or mythic tales. If visuals, style and cinematography can count quite a bit in your book - see this for sure - I don't say wow lightly and this movie was WOW WOW WOW in that book! If a strong steadfast character, with 6-pack abs running around in a codpiece and actually pulling it off is a selling point to you - by all means see it you won't be disappointed.
SEE IT: If you want to see a movie with some adrenaline and that celebrates the unabashedly masculine in spirit. If you like sports, war movies, strong steadfast men (of both orientations) doing noble things then you will probably really enjoy it. See it if you are inspired by the real history of Thermopylae and DON'T MIND the embellishments. (Btw. the capital Lambda on the shields is a symbol of brotherhood in the face of adversity and has been adopted by many movements and fraternities, often in both uppercase or lowercase.)
Don't SEE IT: If your only definition of movie is one where old ladies express regrets or which are about how horrible this world is. Don't see it if you are so politically sensitive that any suggestion that people might have to step up sometimes is likened to Bush's misguided Iraq war (Contrast a general war on terrorism versus an opportunistic war. For example take WWII - and ask is the call to stand up to atrocity or tyranny is so bad?
Finally let me give you a quote attributed to the real Leonidas so that you may judge if Gerard Butler might have captured the essence of the man: When leaving Sparta for Theromopylae it is written in "phrases of Spartan men and women" that Queen Gorgo asked Leonidas "what should I do?" to which he replied "Marry a good man, and have good children."
Though this was not used in the movie, I think Butler nailed this essence. (Many of the main phrases the movie uses are straight out of Herodotus' accounts btw so please do take the time to glance at them before dismissing them as corny Hollywoodisms. Even Wikipidea will suffice. :))