Science, Fiction, Life

Month: June 2014

Recap/Review: Game of Thrones Season 4 – Episodes 9 and 10

Well, that does it for another season of Game of Thrones!  This post will be covering the final two episodes of the season, because I fell behind while on vacation. Here be spoilers!

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Episode 9 is pretty easy to recap because it was one big battle at the Wall. I don’t have a lot to say about the particular events of this episode, because despite a lot of action, the plot wasn’t moved forward very much. Sam and Gilly are reunited and Sam finds he has more guts than he used to. He even gives some advice to Pyp before the battle.

The main thing to mention about the battle is the apparent complete lack of tactics on either side. The wildlings supposedly have 100,000 men, but they all attack at the gate and they only send a small number at a time. Seems to me, if you have than many soldiers, you would attack along a long stretch of the wall. Or for that matter, avoid Castle Black entirely, and just climb over the wall in one of the unguarded sections. On the other side, the Night’s Watch sure did waste a lot of arrows shooting at guys who were no threat to the wall. Wouldn’t you want to wait and let the dudes climb up a ways (and let some of them fall on their own), and then just shoot at the ones who get close?

Speaking of which, the battle inside castle black was good old fashioned hacking and slashing, but ever since watching this video about how poorly on-screen battles are portrayed, and in particular the part at the end about how everyone nicely pairs off into separate duels, I have to chuckle.

Anyway, Grenn and Pyp are killed by a giant bursting through the gate, and Ygritte is killed by a boy with a bow (who nonetheless is apparently so strong that his arrow goes clear through her torso). This makes Jon sad, and he goes on a suicidal mission to assasinate Mance Rayder.

And that’s the end of Episode 9! I was surprised they didn’t finish this episode with Stannis’ surprise arrival, particularly because they had so many other plot points to cover in the final episode of the season. Well, Stannis shows up first thing in Episode 10, after a very good scene between Jon and Mance. I really liked the short exchange between Mance and Stannis, where Stannis orders him to kneel and Mance says, almost sadly, that wildlings don’t kneel. The expression on his face basically says: “I might get killed for this, but kneeling is just not gonna happen. What’s a man to do?”

Even farther north of the wall, Bran and company finally arrive at the great weirwood tree, only to be attacked by skeletons. This scene came across as a bit hokey, I think because the baddies were literally skeletons rather than frozen zombies. Skeletons just look more fake, I think. Also, apparently the children of the forest can cast fireballs? Also also: Jojen gets killed?! I take it this means he doesn’t have any more important role to play in the books and, having delivered Bran to the Three Eyed Raven, he is superfluous and therefore must die.¬†Inside the tree, Bran meets up with the man who is the three-eyed raven, who tells Bran that he will never walk again, “but you will fly.” Cryptic! Book readers know some of what is coming on this storyline, but not all that much. The show is burning through Bran’s plot very quickly, and is well into the 5th book at this point.

Over in Meereen, Dany is having more and more trouble. First, she speaks with a man who wants to return to slavery, where he can at least do what he’s good at (teaching the master’s kids) rather than living in the homeless shelters that Dany has set up. She bristles at the idea that he would want to go back to slavery, but can’t do anything but grant the man permission to work for his former master. (Seems like this would be a good time for her to get some trusted lawyers together and write up regulations on what constitutes a fair contract so that, as Barristan warns, people don’t return to slavery in all but name.) Next up, a man comes into the throne room weeping, and reveals the charred bones of his three year old daughter. Drogon has apparently moved beyond just killing goats. This leads to Dany luring the remaining two dragons into the catacombs and sadly chaining them up. The irony of Danerys, the great breaker of chains, having to shackle her dragons is strong here, and the scene was well done.

In King’s Landing, we see Cersei, Pycelle, and Quyburn examining the barely-living Mountain, who is suffering from the wounds and poison that Oberyn gave him before being crushed like a melon. It was nice to see this set up, with Cersei basically shifting the power from Pycelle to Quyburn, and Quyburn’s ominous response when she asks if the treatment to save the Mountain’s life will weaken him. “Oh no,” he says, implying that it will have quite the opposite effect…

Cersei then goes and has a chat with father dearest, and when he refuses to allow her to get out of marrying Loras Tyrell, she drops the truth bomb on him: all the rumors about her relationship with Jamie are true. Leaving a stunned Tywin, she goes to Jamie and tells him, basically, that she’s tired of keeping their relationship a secret. Of course, their scene here is tainted by the rape scene earlier in the season, which apparently the show didn’t think was rapey at all, which explains why all the scenes afterward don’t seem to acknowledge it ever happening.

Later on, Tyrion is surprised to get a visit from Jamie, who sets him free with Varys’ help. Jamie leads Tyrion to the escape, and leaves him there, but Tyrion has some things to do before leaving. He climbs up to his father’s chambers, only to find Shae in the bed. In a painful scene without any dialogue, they fight, and Tyrion chokes her to death with her golden necklace (which I’m sure was a chain of linked hands like in the book, but it wasn’t obvious in the show).

Tyrion then grabs the crossbow on the wall (apparently Tywin shares Joffrey’s fondness for the aesthetics of crossbows) and goes to find Tywin on the toilet. Tywin tries to talk his way out of the situation, but says the word “whore” one too many times for Tyrion’s liking and gets a quarrel to the gut, followed by another to the heart. Happy father’s day Tywin! I expected this to be my favorite scene in the finale, because it’s such a great scene in the books, but it seemed a bit rushed.

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Instead, my favorite scene was with Arya and the Hound. They run into Brienne and Pod, something that definitely doesn’t happen in the books, but makes a lot of sense. The brief conversation ebtween Brienne and Arya was wonderful, as they both are pleased to find another woman who prefers swordplay to ball gowns. But one the Hound forces Brienne to admit that she was sent by a Lannister, that brief glimmer of a friendship is over. In an excellent exchange, Brienne and the Hound argue over who is better suited to take care of Arya, and then have an epic duel which ends with Brienne biting the Hound’s ear off and toppling him off a cliff. But Arya doesn’t want to go with her, and hides.

Once Brienne is gone, Arya speaks to the Hound, who begs her to kill him, but she just stares at him. Finally, instead of killing him, she takes his money and leaves him to his fate. In the final scene of the episode, Arya finds her way to a peaceful prot town and tries to buy passage on a ship north to the Wall. There is no ship headed that way, but there is one headed to Braavos. She remembers the iron coin that Jaqen gave her, and when she presents it to the captain he immediately grants her a capin aboard his ship. The episode ends with Arya turning away from Westeros to look ahead across the ocean at her new life.

This was a jam-packed episode, and was longer than most. It was great, but I wish they had taken some more time with some of the plot lines by cutting down on the battle in episode 9. A lot of people were surprised that Lady Stoneheart didn’t make an appearance, but I was pretty sure she wouldn’t. There was no groundwork laid for her at all this season, so it would have been difficult to remind viewers of who Berric Dondarrion was, and about his eerie re-animation ability, and then have the big reveal all in one episode. Plus, when I heard the episode was titled “The Children” it was pretty clear that the supernatural quota would be filled by the Children of the Forest. The big question now, of course, is: if not this season, then will there be a Lady Stoneheart at all? In the books, she hasn’t done much since the reveal, so maybe the show is waiting for there to be more plot to work with. Or maybe she’s not that important overall, and will just not be a part of the show.

Given where some of the story arcs ended this season, well into book 5, I’m getting worried about the show going past the books next season and beyond. I really don’t think I want to watch the end of this series before I read it, but if it really is the case that the show will be over before the books, it will be almost impossible to stay spoiler free until the books are done. I was expecting the show to take it slower on some of the plot arcs this season for this reason, but it seems to be barreling forward. I guess we’ll see how things stand next year.

 

Recap & Review: Game of Thrones Season 4, Episode 8 “The Mountain and the Viper”

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I’ve been on vacation for the past two weeks, but now that I’m back home, one of the first orders of business is getting caught up on Game of Thrones! Episode 8 was certainly worth the wait: this was one of the best episodes of the season, in my opinion.

It starts off in Mole’s Town, where the wildling, including Ygritte, show up and slaughter everyone they find. We see that Ygritte is just as brutal as the rest of the wildlings… almost. She spares Gilly and her son when she finds them cowering in a back room.

At the wall, Sam is freaking out about sending Gilly to Mole’s Twon, and Jon and the others try to cheer him up, but they’re in a grim situation and they know it. Although, when they ask how 100 men of the night’s watch are supposed to stop 100,000 wildlings, I had to think to myself “Well, the 700 foot tall wall of ice is a good start.”

Over in Meereen, the interesting subplot between Gray Worm and Missandei moves forward. Missandei notices Gray Worm (somewhat creepily) watching her bathe in the river, and later he comes to apologize for her and they have a surprisingly tender scene where he says, basically, that being castrated was not all bad because it led to him getting to meet her. Which is about as close to “romantic” as this show gets. In a show with very few respectful relationships between men and women, this subplot is a nice change. I’m not sure what it says that all it took was for the man to be a eunuch for a subplot like this to happen though…

Jumping over to the North, Ramsay sends Reek/Theon to go treat with the ironborn who hold the fortress of Moat Cailin. The commander sneers at the prospect of surrender, but one of his subordinates kills him and says that if their lives are spared, he’s willing to surrender. This… doesn’t exactly work out well for him: in the next scene we see his flayed corpse. Ramsay never had any intention of letting the ironborn go, he just needed a way to get into the castle. With his success at taking Moat Cailin, Ramsay is officially named a Bolton rather than a Snow. I thought it was a nice bit of writing that Roose’s asks Ramsay what his name is in much the same way that Ramsay asks Theon/Reek what his name is. With Ramsay now an official Bolton, and Moat Cailin claimed by the Boltons, they now have control over the whole north, and the episode wraps up this subplot by showing the Bolton army marching toward Winterfell.

Back in Meereen, Barristan gets a scroll containing a royal pardon from Robert Baratheon for Jorah Mormont. I guess the mail service between Westeros and Essos is a bit slow… In any case, the pardon reveals that Jorah had been spying on Danaerys, and she is none to happy about it. She kicks Jorah out of her city. I could have sworn that this betrayal already happened much earlier, but maybe I’m confusing my book memories with my show memories. It seems odd to me that it took so long for the message to arrive. Haven’t we seen the small council meeting in King’s Landing with relatively up-to-date information about what Danaerys is up to? Or maybe I’m confusing the book and the show again.

Over in the Eyrie the nobility of the Vale are paying Petyr a visit, investigating the rather suspicious death of Lysa Arryn. Petyr claims it was suicide, and then the nobles summon Sansa in to testify. The details of Lysa’s murder were changed for the show so I was interested to see how the aftermath would play out. In the book, there’s a minstrel who can be framed for the murder, but in the show, it’s just Petyr and Sansa. In a turn that surprised me, Sansa admits to being a Stark, and then tells the nobles of the Vale a well-crafted mix of truth and lies to convince them that Lysa did indeed kill herself. At the end of her testimony, Sansa shares a look with Littlefinger that I took to mean “there, I said just what you wanted me to say,” but it turns out that in the show, the whole testimony was Sansa’s idea.

I’m not sure I buy this. Littlefinger isn’t the sort of person who orchestrates such a detailed plan and then fails to plan for the inevitable interrogation that follows. But even though it’s not in character for him not to be in control of the situation, Sansa’s transformation in this episode was great. Seeing her acting confident instead of helpless was quite a change, though she needs to talk to her tailor about the outfit she was wearing in her last scene as she descends the stairs looking like an evil queen. Maybe tone down the evil a bit, Sansa. If you’re going to try to manipulate people the way Littlefinger does, it would help not to look like Maleficent.

Outside the gates to the Eyrie, the Hound and Arya arrive and ask to speak to Lysa. When the guard tells them that she recently died, the Hound is crestfallen – he had been hoping to sell Arya to her aunt. Arya bursts into uncontrollable laughter. It’s tempting to say that this is more evidence that she’s becoming unstable, but really: at this point, what else can she do but laugh at how ridiculously unfortunate her life has been recently? Of course her last living relative (that she knows of) is dead too. Figures.

Finally, the episode gets to King’s Landing, where Jaime and Tyrion are chatting in Tyrion’s cell. Tyrion ends up giving a long monologue about their mentally handicapped cousin, who would spend all day smashing beetles, and how Tyrion became obsessed with figuring out why. It might seem like an odd story for Tyrion to tell his brother during what may well be their last conversation, but the point is, I think, that the world that they live in is full of morons smashing things just because they can, and Tyrion has tried and tried in vain to figure out why, particularly because he is one of the small creatures likely to be smashed.

They wrap up their conversation, and then we move to the arena where Oberyn and Gregor, the Viper of Dorne and the Mountain that Rides are to fight. Even knowing what would happen, this was a very well-done fight scene, and had my heart pounding. Stupid Oberyn couldn’t just be satisfied with killing the Mountain, he had to make a performance out of it. It’s terrible to see such a great character (quite possibly better in the show than in the books) meet his end, but really? Don’t mess around with The Mountain.

That said, just as I complained before about the gruesome “sword through the mouth” death scene earlier in the season, this “crushed skull” death mostly indicates to me that this show underestimates how strong skulls are. I’m sure a strong enough guy could kill someone by gouging out his eyes, but I am skeptical that even the Mountain could actually crush a skull with his bare hands like they showed. Anyway, it was gross, and the Viper died first, so Tyrion is out of luck.

And that does it for this episode! Compared to previous episodes of the season, there was not a lot to criticize in this one. It was Game of Thrones at its best, and I’m looking forward to the last two episodes of the season!

 

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