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Game of Thrones – Deciphering the Code: Episode Titles and What They Mean

Ten months between season!!! That is the price a viewer pays for experiencing this current golden age of television. The shortened, higher quality seasons of today’s cable drama means longer periods of waiting for the next season of the show to begin. So within those ten months, show fanatics like myself jump all over every single bit of casting news, leaked photos, or plot information we can get. So even the releasing of episode titles causes us to go into “internet theory frenzy” and start piecing together the entire plot of those first four episodes that now have titles.

Now I will not be unveiling every bit of information I know about the start of the season from these titles. But I will provide an almost spoiler-free preview of what is coming in each of these four episodes.

Of Note: I did say almost spoiler-free as some of the information I provide may be info you want to figure out from watching the show (assuming the show actually takes the time to explain these things, which it doesn’t always do). So if you want ABSOLUTELY ZERO PERCENT of season five spoiled for you, then stop reading. But most of you should be find reading on.

 

Episode One: The Wars to Come
Well that really narrows it down, doesn’t it? Considering that everyone in Game of Thrones is in violent conflict with somebody else, this could imply anyone, or (as I would theorize) multiple characters. The recently released second trailer for season five spells it out a little clearer:

So based on the trailer, we have battles in the North and on the other side of the wall, rioting in the streets of King’s Landing and Merreen, and Daenary’s intentions to “break the wheel.” I suspect the first episode will also set the table for some or all of those battles. I also expect some individual battles to be included in these “Wars to Come” such as Cersei vs Jamie, Cersei vs Margaery, basically Cersei versus anyone.

Episode Two: The House of Black and White
The next three titles are more clear cut than the first one. For all you need to know about The House of Black and White, I submit this picture:

Obviously this doesn’t tell you everyone that goes on there. But it does tell you where the name
comes from and who is heading there. But the bad news about this title is I doubt we will see any of Arya in episode one. This house is where her story arc is taking her and I doubt (at least I hope) the producers will waste a lot of time with Arya sitting on a boat doing nothing.

Episode 3: High Sparrow
In order to understand who the High Sparrow is, I present this photo from season 2. This is when then King Joffrey (R.I.P. you cruel bastard) incited a riot in the streets of King’s Landing after someone threw poop at him:

That arm being held up is the arm of the High Septon, the man in charge of worshipping the seven in all of Westeros. This particular High Septon, if paid the right price, turned a blind eye to the sins committed by the crown. The High Sparrow is the man replacing that High Septon. I will save my profile of the High Sparrow for the full season primer in a couple of weeks. But for now, I will say the Sparrow will not be like the old High Septon.

Episode 4: Sons of the Harpy
I will not say too much here, since I feel like it would spoil too much of the first three episodes. I will simply say that the “Sons of the Harpy” will cause a lot of problems for one of our main characters this season. This is unlikely to be the first time we’ve seen them in season five, but I expect the realization of just how significant a threat they are will come at this point.

 

Next Week: Dragons-Their history and their potential impact for season five.

 

(This article was written by 4LN GoT expert, Jeff Merrick.)

Game of Thrones 101: Religions of Westeros

The following is the second part of a six part series preparing for the start of the new season of Game of Thrones, starting April 12th. Last week, we reviewed where the key characters finished last season. This week, I will be looking at the religions in Westeros and what role they play in the world of Game of Thrones.

In regards to the television series, the religions the various characters practice in Game of Thrones merely served as a background up to this point. And unlike the books, where the knowledge of the religions comes directly from the characters whose minds are telling the story, the TV series does not give much in regards to the origins and practices of the individual religions. But the importance of the individual religions will be increasing for season five and be central to at least one (but probably more) of the important conflicts. I will start with the North and the first religion practiced in Westeros.

 

The Old Gods

The Old Gods were worshipped by the Children of the Forest (one of these appeared in the show for the first time in last season’s finale throwing fireballs at the skeletons jumping out of the ground to assist Bran and company…still cannot believe I am typing that). When the first men came over to Westeros on a land bridge, they fought for thousands of years with the Children. But after agreeing to a truce, the first men took to the old gods of the Children. Worshippers of the old gods pray and hold important ceremonies, such as weddings and taking vows (Jon Snow and Sam took their Night’s Watch vows before one), before weirwood trees with faces carved into them. The faces were either put there by the Children or by various worshippers representing the eyes with which the old guys use to see over everything.

 

The Seven

The next invasion of men came in the form of the Andals, who came over as crusaders worshipping the seven. They believed their mission was to proclaim their faith to all and eliminate the practice of any other religion in the lands they conquered (or Westeros own version of Manifest Destiny). The Andals were able to claim and subdue all the kingdoms and lands in Westeros except the North. As a result of this, the North still worships the old gods while the rest of Westeros worships the seven.

The seven is a single deity represented by seven different faces. They are the father representing judgement, the mother representing mercy, the warrior representing strength in battle, the maiden representing innocence, the smith representing labor, the crone representing wisdom, and the stranger representing death and the unknown (awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/The_Seven). A worshipper will pray to whichever aspect meets their current need.

The Seven are led by the High Septon, whose resides in the Great Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing (Joffrey’s wedding and Ned Stark’s beheading took place here). Various Septs (houses of worship for the seven) are scattered throughout Westeros and led by Septons and Septas (male and female rulers respectively) of the faith.

Many of the wedding and burial customs witnessed on the show originate from the worship of the seven.

 

The Drowned God

The Iron Islands worship the drowned god, a god of the sea who is in constant battle with the storm god. All iron men are baptized, having saltwater poured on their head by a priest, or drowned man, and say “What is dead may never die,” believing that even if one drowns or dies in battle, they will simply join the drowned god in the bottom of the sea and serve him for eternity. The baptizing ceremony was shown during the 2nd season when Theon Greyjoy returned to the Iron Islands and decided to join his father and betray Robb Stark and the North.

The priests of the drowned god, the drowned men, are drowned at least twice. But their second drowning is a full submersion into water until they lose consciousness. They are then resuscitated by another of the drowned men. But not all resuscitations are successful.

Of Note: The Andals invaded and conquered the Iron Island successfully, just like the rest of Westeros. But the Andals who took over chose to convert to the drowned god instead of continuing to practice the worship of the seven.

 

R’hllor (the Lord of Light)

The best way to describe “the Lord of Light” is that cryptic god Melisandre is all melodramatic about all the time, making sacrifices and starting fires over and such. Stannis’s allegiance to Melisandre has brought the Lord of Light into the world of Westeros in a way it had not appeared before.

While rare in Westeros, R’hllor has numerous followers and temples throughout Essos (the continent where all the free lands are). They believe the world is a struggle between two forces: Rhllor, the lord of fire and life and the Great Other (think of him as he who shall not be named for all the Harry Potter fans out there), the lord of ice and death. Melisandre explained this struggle to Stannis’s daughter, Shireen, during a scene in season 4. Worshippers of R’llor also believe that a savior, Azor Ahai, will come wielding Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and bring an end this mighty struggle. Melisandre believes Stannis is Azor Ahai, as depicted by a scene in season 2 when Stannis grabs a sword from a fire in a ceremony presided over by Melisandre.

Priests of R’hllor often look into a fire for guidance and will see visions they believe to be the future. Sacrifices of unbelievers or royal blood are common place as well. And while trial by combat is not exclusive to worshippers of R’hllor, they believe that victory or defeat in a trial by battle is determined by R’hllor’s justice. Such a battle was shown in season 3 when Beric Donadarion fought the Hound with a fiery sword.

Of Note: Thoros of Myr (member of the Brotherhood Without Banners who drinks a lot a brings the occasional person back to life) is a red priest. Also, the Lord of Light, up to this point, is the only god in the world of Game of Thrones whose followers have exhibited any supernatural powers (such as Beric’s being brought back to life by Thoros of Myr, Melisandre drinking poison and living, and Melisandre giving birth to a shadow that killed Renly Baratheon).

 

Other Religions

Other faiths old and new will appear in the show this season and will play a significant part. But I focused this on gods we’ve already seen during the show. I will discuss new faiths as they appear.

 

Next Week: Deciphering the Code: The released episode titles are out at what they mean for the upcoming season.

 

(This article was written by 4LN GoT expert, Jeff Merrick.)

4LN Local Spotlight: Imaginary Theatre Company

 

Inebriated Shakespeare: a Theatre on Fire(ball)

Ever gone to a play, and thought to yourself, “this would be so much better if I were drunk”? As an (ex) theatre person, I often find myself thinking, “this would be so much better if the actors were drunk.” Apparently, Nashville’s own Imaginary Theatre Company has had the same thought. Their most recent production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) offered a special, two night only treat…INEBRIATED Shakespeare. (Drunk, y’all. That means, drunk.)

How does that work? Shakespeare can’t be drunk, he’s dead.I can hear you saying, because for the purposes of this article, we’re pretending you all care about Shakespeare as much as I do…just go with it. Well, dear reader, what it means is that I got to witness the realization of every actor’s secret dream/nightmare! Drunk actors, drunk-acting the multiverse of Shakespeare. About fifteen minutes before curtain, the three amazing, and brave performers, Asa Ambrister, Robert Coles, and Angela Gimlin, gathered on stage to draw lots. The night I attended, the stalwart Angela got the short straw, and was forced to take five shots of Fireball Whiskey before the show even began. Weeeeeaaaaak,” I hear you saying, “That’s 3pm on a Tuesday in my world.” Well, friend, it didn’t end there. During the course of the 90 minute production, audience members could purchase shots for any of the performers, upon which the lovely stage manager would stop the show and administer shots, like punches to the proverbial groin.

So, full disclosure; I have seen …Complete Works… before, and I hated it. It could have been me being all stuffy and un-funny, like I do, or maybe it was immature actors trying too hard. Perhaps it was a bit of both, but I really didn’t like it. I was sort of excited to see it done again, and soused. I was pretty sure that nothing could save it but some special sauce. I was wrong. All it needed was three seasoned comedic (and improvisational) actors who know each other well enough to wing it when they must. It needed Robby, Angela, and Asa.

The show began without a slur, but also without missing a beat. This trio made Shakespeare understandable, side-splitting, and clever before the whiskey even took hold. Asa Ambrister’s frantic and flouncy “pre-imminent Shakespeare scholar,” opened the show with gusto. The audience was on board from jump, and most of us (most of us) hadn’t even started drinking yet. It was a BYOB event, complete with an audience drinking game handily printed in the program. Actors never like to suffer alone. We quickly ran through Romeo and Juliet, and the first of several repeat gags; drag, more drag, some violent fake vomiting, and some truly inspired “feminine” giggles and screams, (way to really punch that B, Robby. “BAAAHHHHHHHHH.”) all of which should have gotten old, but never did. All three performers were forced to take their medicine numerous times during the first act, but Angela Poooooooor Angela. They said they cut her off at 12, but I still swear that I counted 15. It was somewhere during Titus Andronicus as a cooking show (which, in and of itself was hilarity with a side of noggin pie and nubbins) that we started to lose her. While kneeling in front of Asa, waiting for her line, she started to aimlessly draw on his shirt with flour. That’s how it began, but it quickly devolved into much giggling, so many goosings of Asa, and threatenings of the audience with violence (in an adorable way), falling during costume changes, and spontaneous bouts of cussing. I believe Robby broke his finger. I was pretty sure Asa was going to chunk his cookies at one point (Asa doesn’t drink). And I think, although I cannot corroborate, that one, or all three of the cast members may have ended up going home with “Lillian,” an audience member with whom they all became enamored. In short: It. Was. Freaking. Fantastic. Hands down, this was this most fun I have had at the theatre in years. Oh, I have missed theatre being fun. It all left me with little doubt that, even sadly sober, their version would have taken me to church and made me a convert. Incredibly well done, you three.

That leads me to the sad part of this humble review. “Where can I see this masterpiece of befuddled tomfoolery?” I hear you imploring. Alas, poor reader, I have no happy answer for you. The show, ah…the show does not go on. Inebriated Shakespeare closed the very night that I discovered it. Never again shall I hear Angela yell, “come at me!” while grabbing her boobs. Never again shall Asa’s Hamlet dissolve into fits of giggles. (I mean, unless he does some new, and very bizarre interpretation of Hamlet, which I would totally be okay with.) Never again shall Robert’s dulcet tones ring through the halls just before he pretends to puke in my lap. (See above, re: bizarre interpretation of Hamlet.) It’s a sad day, my friends. A sad day. And yet, there might be hope

Dear Imaginary Theatre Company,

I don’t know if you caught my review of Inebriated Shakespeare for 4LN? Let’s just say that I loved it. I am a fan. I want to bring all of my friends. But, as you know, it’s over. Curtain’s down. No more Fireball to be had. I’m bummed. My friends are bummed. Then I looked at your season. It’s a good season. So, I just thought that I would write you a polite letter to say; “OH MY GODS, YOU HAVE TO DO DRUNK STEEL MAGNOLIAS!! Seriously, you guys. Do it for the money. Do it for charity. Do it cause no one else has the lady balls to do something so crazy. Do it because, it would be effing hysterical. Look, I get it. Drama, and integrity. And, like, the height of very dramatic drama. People die, there’s lots of crying, it’s all very intense. But that’s the POINT! You should marinate that sadness in a handle of Wild Turkey, sell t-shirts that say “I got tanked with Ouiser Boudreaux,” and slices of armadillo cake at intermission, then give half of what you make to a charity for diabetes. Sure, I sound like an awesome philanthropist. Don’t get me wrong. I super love to give. But mostly I just want to see Drunk Magnolias. Drunk. Magnolias. BOOM!

Yours Truly,

Melody Dobbins

(Ps… I will be needing Robby to play Annelle, and Asa to play Clairee. I am assuming Angela will be playing everyone else, because she’s fabulous.)

(Editor’s Note: This article was written by Melody Dobbins. In addition to being a supermom, and theater nerd, and, like, a REALLY good writer, Melody also runs her own business, Milk & Magpie Naturals.)

Previously on Game of Thrones: A Look Back at the end of Season 4

Over the next six weeks, I will be presenting a series of articles previewing the upcoming season of Game of Thrones. The first edition takes a look back at where each of the principal characters were as the last season came to a close.

King’s Landing
You may want to consult a doctor or psychologist if you forgot the image of Tywin Lannister, the man pulling all the puppet strings in Westeros since season 3, sitting on a toilet dead with two arrows in his chest from a crossbow shot by his youngest son, Tyrion. For all his strengths, Tywin’s downfall proved to be his greatest weakness; his underestimation of the dwarf son he despised. Now, Tyrion is in a crate on a boat likely headed across the Narrow Sea with Lord Varys, who appears to be fleeing himself.

Jamie proved to be the key cog that sprung Tyrion loose, freeing him from prison in the first place. But he is still Lord Commander of the King’s Guard and the man primarily responsible for his son…I mean nephew, Tommen’s protection.

And speaking of our young king, the death of his grandfather also opens up a key position of influence for Cersei and Margaery to fill. Margaery is pledged to be married (for the third time) to Tommen and I’m sure these two ladies will be in full agreement of how to manage the young king in the future.

Sitting on the operating table is a lifeless Mountain. Though he defeated Oberyn Martell in a brutal trial by combat, the poison from Oberyn’s spear as left him near death (and I am sorry the show didn’t make this clearer, but the Red Viper got his nickname from the poison in his spear). But Qyburn has a solution not approved by Grand Maester Pycelle that might return the Mountain to life.

The Vale
Dark-haired Sansa!!!! The young lady who came down the steps to greet Petyr Baelish exuded far more confidence than the naïve, frail red-haired girl who’s been mostly tortured since the show started. But Littlefinger owes her for not testifying against him during his trial over the death of Crazy Aunt Lysa. And now they are ready to head out across the Vale with “Brave Ser Robyn” (que the Monty Python music) to rally the region to their cause.

Meanwhile, Brienne and Pod were on their way to find Sansa for Jamie. They likely had no idea how close they were to Sansa when they ran into Arya and the Hound, and the brawl of the ages ensued. Brienne came out victorious, but Arya slipped away. So will Brienne and Pod continue their course towards the Vale and Sansa, or will they seek out Arya, heading in a completely different direction?

As for Arya’s escape, she left the Hound for dead (we think?) and is aboard a ship headed for Bravos. The ship captain dismissed her until she presented the coin Jaqen H’ghar gave her at the end of Season 2. I will say more about the importance of that coin as Season 5 unfolds.
The North

Roose Bolton now rules the North. The Boltons warred with the Starks from many years before bending the knee. Now the Stark betrayer from the Red Wedding back at the end of Season 3 has finally fulfilled his house’s desire to lead the North. And he will do it reluctantly with his bastard son, Ramsey, who can now officially carry the name of Bolton instead of the north bastard name, Snow.

Theon (or should I say Reek) had a hand in “uniting the North” for Ramsey and his father and finished season four entirely at the will of his torturer. He even spurned an attempt by his sister to rescue him out of fear of what Ramsey would do to him. The overconfident prick from the first two seasons is a distant memory.

Beyond the Wall
We have our first true super team in Westeros (well not sure how much of a “team” they will end up being, but it’s pretty cool to have all these characters in one place). The war with the Wildlings appears to be over as Stannis and his men arrived to aid the men of the Night’s Watch and defeat Mance Rayder. Now Jon Snow, Stannis, Melisandre, Mance and Tormund Giantsbane are all at the wall (!!!!!) with plenty of issues to settle.

Meereen
We hear (and I emphasize hear, because we didn’t actually see any of it) that the slave cities along Slaver’s Bay that Daenerys freed are in chaos as the former slave masters have tried to regain their power. She sent Daario (the one she had sex with) and Hizdahr zo Loraq (he appeared once pleading for mercy for former slave masters for Dany, so you many not remember him) to settle things down.

The mother of dragons also started having her first issues controlling her dragons. One of her dragons, Drogon (the largest of her dragons) has escaped and apparently burned a young child alive. The burned bones of the child’s body forced Dany to chain up her other two dragons. With all these issues emerging around her, Daenerys must move forward without her most trusted advisor, Jorah Mormont, who was banished from Meereen after Daenerys discovered he had been spying on her back in season one.

 

Questions moving forward:

-Will Daenerys move closer to her original goal of claiming back the throne of Westeros for the Targaryens? Or will the unrest in Slaver’s Bay unravel her plans?

-Who will fill the power vacuum left by the death of Tywin Lannister in King’s Landing?

-How close will Sansa and Lord Littlefinger become and who can really trust who in their bizarre relationship?

-How will everyone now at the Wall coexist and what will the relationship dynamic be between them all?
-What direction are Tyrion’s and Arya’s stories heading as they shift to new locations and, presumably, interact with new characters?

 

Next week: Religions in Westeros and their importance in the upcoming season.

 

(This article was written by 4LN GoT expert, Jeff Merrick.)

In Memoriam: Leonard Nimoy

I don’t typically get all broken up about celebrities dying. Though they may touch our lives with their work, we don’t know them and having an emotional attachment to them has always struck me as a little silly. Thus celebrity deaths are more or less a way to mark the time.

How very logical of me.

But, here I am holding back tears as I write this, because Leonard Nimoy died today, at 83. He was many things: an actor, a director and photographer, an author, a philosopher. But to me, and to so many around the world and across the decades, he was Spock. Spock, who in so many ways defines the best of what Star Trek is and what it aspires to be.

Half Vulcan and half Human, Spock’s journey mirrors our own. What does it mean to be Human? How do we reconcile the intensity of our emotions with the need to deal with our world and those around us rationally? When should we listen to our heart and when should our head take the lead? What does it mean to be a friend? The very best of Star Trek investigates these basically human, existential questions. A journey into the unknown of space is simply the occasion to ask the questions.

Outside of his life as Spock, Leonard Nimoy took these questions to heart and lived them out in his life and work. These adventures will be well detailed across the Internet today, so I won’t go into them here.

I only want to say this: as Leonard Nimoy now travels the final frontier, may we all live long and prosper.

(Editor’s note: this article was written by Logan Robertson at the Disembodied Beard)

Game of Thrones Season 5 Trailer Analysis

It felt like Christmas morning to wake up, look on my phone, and see that I had a link to the season 5 trailer streaming on youtube from the IMAX showings of last season’s final two episodes. And finally, we get an ACTUAL TRAILER, not some ten second snippet of a bird with three eyes while nonsense is professed on the screen. Thank you HBO!!! But more appropriately, thank you Youtube poster for taping the trailer illegally and posting so we don’t have to pay fifteen or twenty bucks to see this two minute clip.

But while the trailer does get me excited for the new season, much of it is hard to discern any key plot points, splicing half-second to one second clips of random soldiers marching or characters looking concerned about their situation. There were some notable scenes and dialogue worth discussing, which I shall be discussing below. But first, here’s the trailer (assuming it has not been pulled for copyright infringement). Warning: If you want the entire season to be a total surprise, you may want to stop reading now. Also, stop reading if you are not caught up through Season 4. But there will be no season 5 destroying spoilers here, so most of you can read ahead free of worry.

Observations:

1. Jamie is standing over a body in the Holy Sept.

I think it is safe to say the body is Tywin Lannister, killed at the end of last season. And much like last season, it appears this will be another place for Cersei and Jamie to have a discussion about where things stand with House Lannister (let’s hope they avoid the sex/rape confusion scene from last season).

2. Littlefinger is still trying to manipulate Sansa…

and is still doing it in such a creepy way, holding her head still while he tells her “There’s no justice in this world.” But the end of last season revealed “dark-haired Sansa,” who seems to have taken all the lessons she’s learned from being around master manipulators like Cersei, Margaery, and Littlefinger to become quite the gameplayer herself. Will this change her interactions with Littlefinger, or will she be just as uncomfortable as before?

3. There’s another wedding.

The young man getting married has a crown on his blond head, so I think it’s safe to assume this is Tommen and Margaery’s wedding. I assume this wedding will go on without a hitch just like all Game of Thrones weddings.
4. Wildlings are marching.

Now, I thought Stannis showed up beyond the wall last season and took care of this whole Wildling invasion thing. So why are they marching with weapons as if they intend to attack again? And will Jon Snow, who later appears to be leading an attack of some sort, be the man trying to stop this repeat invasion attempt? I sure hope not.

5. Jorah Mormont is fighting in some sort of Gladiator like pit.

When we last saw Dany’s trusted advisor, he was being banished from her presence for spying on her back in season one. What chain of events will lead him to fighting for his life (at least it appears that way) in front of large crowd?

6. Melisandre, the Queen of Thornes, and Ellaria Sand oh my!!!

All three of these strong female characters make brief appearances in the trailer. Melisandre is doing something with fire (imagine that) and seducing someone (imagine that part 2). The Queen of Thornes (Grandma Tyrell) is giving out advice (I will assume it is Margaery, but cannot confirm it). And Ellaria (Oberyn’s paramour from last season) is just standing there (back in her homeland of Dorne or someplace else?)

7. Arya standing before the large black and white door and holding needle.

I received more questions about Arya’s future storyline than any other character after last year’s finale. And it makes since for non-book readers since everything she is getting ready to do has been hinted at very little in the show. All I will say is that large black and white door is a very massive hint as to where she will be.

8. Varys and Tyrion are having conversation across the Narrow Sea.

The best part of the trailer in my opinion are various snippets of conversation had between these two who appear to be off the boat they boarded last season discussing their situation. The largest reveal of the entire trailer comes towards the end, where Varys seems to reveal his allegiance to Daenarys, saying “Who said anything about him?” when Tyrion questioned who this perfect candidate for the Iron Throne Varys describes is. And speaking of Daenarys….

9. A giant statue falls from the pyramid Daenarys has been doing business in since taking over Meereen.

The final scene of the trailer is this falling statue, which I have two theories for it’s meaning:

Theory 1: Daenarys ordered they be taken down
-The statues on top of the pyramids in Meereen represent the gods of the old Ghiscari Empire, originating from the city of Ghis. When the empire fell to the Valyrians, they allowed the cities on Slaver’s Bay to stay as a holding center for all the people they conquered. These statues represent some of the last remnants of Ghiscari culture. Is Dany taking a stand, attempting to eliminate any part of the old culture that might oppose her?

Theory 2: Riots in Meereen are threatening Dany’s rule.

-At the end of last season, rumblings were being mentioned (I emphasized mentioned, not actually seen, which would’ve been much better) that many were rising up to oppose Dany’s rule in Slaver’s Bay and her slave freeing policies. Are some of these groups rising up and expressing their displeasure?

I don’t care if it is either one of these scenarios or a different one, I just want Daenarys to get out of her pyramid and do something instead of the snorefest that was the second half of last season for the Mother of Dragons.

 

(Editor’s Note: As usual, this article was written by 4LN’s resident Game of Thrones corespondent, Jeff Merrick.)

Game of Thrones Quarterly Report: Winter Edition

Three months!!!! That’s all!!! Three months until the premiere of Season 5 of Game of Thrones!!! It doesn’t feel like much time as passed since season four reached its bloody conclusion. But now, here we are getting ready for a new season that promises to be quite the reboot for our characters in Westeros and beyond the Narrow Sea. I plan on writing several entries in the near future reviewing the previous season and providing some important background information for the events that are to occur this upcoming season. But first, let’s catch-up on some of the news that has come out over the last couple of months regarding our favorite HBO fantasy drama.

 

Premiere date announced for Season 5!!!

Contrary to many reports that Season 5’s premiere would be delayed because of editing issues, Game of Thrones’ new season will begin on its usual early April start date, April 12th.

Special IMAX showing of last season’s final two episodes January 23rd-29th

At first reading, this sounds very exciting. Seeing the battle at the wall in episode 9 get the IMAX treatment would be amazing (imagine watching that giant scythe slicing through wildlings on the large IMAX screen). And also included with (I assume sometime after) this showing is a special preview of Season 5. Sounds great, except that this time last year, HBO released a trailer that was shown on their network and then released online for free the next day previewing season 4. Does this mean we only get the trailer for season 5 if we fork out the money to see two episodes we’ve already seen? I hope not. But I will be keeping an eye out for this preview around the time of its release hoping that it pops up somewhere online for my analysis. And speaking of previews…

HBO releases ten second preview of new season

Don’t get too excited. Here’s the “preview” in its entirety.

That’s it. Arya wakes up and a door opens. Mind Blown!!! It would have been better for HBO to release nothing than this lame teaser. Better (though just as brief) teasers appeared in HBO’s end of 2014/preview of 2015 montage presented here (the GoT scenes begin at 1:38).

Most important of these preview scenes are Tyrion with a full grown beard and hooded face. He appears to be fully undercover after the events that ended last season. Also, Arya appears to have just stepped off a boat on the other end of the sea she was floating across at the end of last season. The other two scenes say little about the upcoming plot. Cersei walking determinedly is nothing new. But I was glad to see John and Olly (who appears to have grown about three feet since he was last seen killing Ygritte with his bow and arrow) together at the Wall.

Bran will not appear in the fifth season

Because his story is now caught up with the source material, Bran and his not so merry band will not be appearing in the fifth season. Though I did find it odd that HBO is using the three-eyed raven (the shriveled up old guy in the tree that Bran reached last season) as part of the marketing for the

upcoming season despite Bran not being a part of things. Not sure what that’s about, but this also means no Hodor for season five as well .

HBO schedules “A Day in the Life” special for GoT February 8th

Little information is available as to what the show entails, but scroll your cable/satellite tv guide page to this part of the schedule and this 28 minute special appears. I suspect this will also be used to provide more buzz for the upcoming season and (hopefully) a more revealing trailer.

And in closing…

Game of Thrones again denied the Golden Globe for Best Drama.

Something called “The Affair” took the prize this year. The only thing I know about the show is Jimmy McNulty from the Wire (strongly recommend this show if you haven’t watched it) stars and somebody cheats on somebody else (I used my very strong inferring skills from the title to figure this out). I don’t want to judge the show without having seen it, but how can a drama about a modern day affair compare to a giant scythe chopping up Wildlings?

 

(Editor’s note: This article was written by 4LN’s resident GoT expert, Jeff Merrick.)

Why I Closed a Comic Book Store

Someone once told me that no one is in the comic book business to make money.

Remember that, because I’m going to come back to it.

I can’t recall a time when I didn’t have a comic book within 10 feet of me. I wrote in them with markers. I took them to school in my backpack. I met Stan Lee when I was 12. My two children are named from comic book super heroes. For the last 7 years, I’ve helped manage one of the country’s largest online comic book collecting websites (ComicCollectorLive.com) and I’ve attended comic conventions from San Diego to New York City to Toronto as attendee, exhibitor and professional. With a little research, you fill find my name in both the letter columns and credits of your favorite comic books. But there’s many of you out there who will never meet me or know who I am. So allow me to introduce myself:

I’m the reason you and your children are wearing SPIDER-MAN t-shirts, SUPERMAN Converses and watching MARVEL movies on Netflix.

I am the comic book retailer.

Or at least I was.

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In the middle of the entire print vs digital debate which has raged through the comic industry for several years, our website ComicCollectorLive.com, which offers collecting software, manages comic book sales online and has tens of thousands of members, took a strange direction. While many sellers took all their sales online, went digital and closed up shop, we took our website property and leveraged a brick and mortar store to compliment our website 14 months ago.

It was a bold move. ComicCollectorLive.com has been around for years and has enjoyed a modicum of success within the industry. Oh sure, we had a selection of exclusive variants that we sold at conventions or gave away to our members as gifts if they popped in for the last few years, but this was going to be a stretch. The idea was to help promote and drive customers to the website locally while at the same time giving our membership that stopped by every now and then just to say hi a place to drop a few bucks and all the while, we honored the industry we love.

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And so it was that Comic Collector Live: The Store was born. We secured an account with Diamond Distribution and opened just before HALLOWEEN COMICFEST 2013 to slow to average sales, but with the long term goal of making something really unique that comic collectors and their kids can enjoy for years to come.

Now remember, all this time, someone once told me that no one is in the comic book business to make money.

I remember the next 6 months was a real struggle. I busted my ass to ensure that the shop was clean and well-stocked. I worked extra hours on the weekend. I budgeted and managed financial expectations for the store down to the last dime. I created a kids’ section of the shop that kids and parents enjoyed. If any of you reading this ever attended a DIAMOND RETAILER SUMMIT, I was the guy in the meeting room taking feverish notes on how to run a successful comic book store. I worked more within the community to promote the store, working with school libraries and preschools. If the word “comic book” was spoken in this city, I wanted “Comic Collector Live” to be spoken in the same sentence with it. And as days turned into weeks and weeks into months, I watched most of the money going directly back into the store. And I often wondered if it was all worth it.

Then around April 2014 (specifically FREE COMIC BOOK DAY), something wonderful happened.

We started to get more customers. A lot of them. Maybe it was the guy who just came in every couple months to see if we had anything new. Maybe it was the mom who drove by with kids pointing fingers asking if they could see what was in the building with the HULK standee in the window. Maybe it was the guys with the comic book news website that saw that we loved comics as much as they do (A wink and a nod to 4LN). But for whatever reason, these people become regulars and signing up to get all their comics through us. It wasn’t a home run by any stretch….more like a bunt to fake a base hit to first….but it was enough to give me hope that this store might actually stick it out long enough to survive the first year. By summer 2014, I was convinced that the shop was going to be around for a while and maybe, just maybe be able to (“GASP!”) start putting money in savings. While still relatively small in number, our customer base is and was loyal. I enjoyed many awesome moments, not the least of which was joining our local community Literacy Council.

Jacob Rougemont

Jacob Rougemont

Now keep in mind that all this time, there’s a website with tens of thousands of members that also needs love and attention sitting off to the side. It had been years…literally years…since the site has been updated and, despite all our best intentions and hopes, it hasn’t been done.

And for those of you who have ever seen STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, you know what’s more important than the needs of the few.

The good news is that ComicCollectorLive.com is on the fast track to a much needed facelift and will continue to help bring buyers and sellers together. Technology has changed A LOT in the last 7 years and the website will be leaps and bounds better than what it is. But in order to give the website property the attention it needs, Comic Collector Live: The Store has to go and its’ last day of business will be January 31st, 2015.

And it’s literally as simply as that.

It’s a bittersweet moment. Probably not unlike the feeling when LEGO realized that while, yes, a clothing line is awesome, you stick with what you do best and that’s building bricks. And that’s my conundrum. In doing my job these last 7 years, it comes at the cost of doing something I’m also good at….selling comics…even though technically, I’m still doing it by helping manage this incredible website with incredible members and incredible potential.

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To my good friends at 4LN, who have been supporters of CCL: THE STORE: I’m not really going anywhere and we’ll continue to see each other, albeit under different circumstances. I’ll simply give you guys this piece of advice: do what you love and you’ll always be successful. I appreciate the dedication and attention you’ve given our little shop and it’s been a pleasure getting to know you and your families. You each have something to contribute and are the closest thing to THE AVENGERS I’ll ever meet in real life. I look forward to your continued friendship.

To the customers, friends and friends I’ve come to call family these last 16 months in our shop: I want to personally thank you for allowing me to serve you and keep your passion for this business alive. We must have made an impact in your lives due to the large number of well-wishes and supportive words (and even invites to dinner) I’ve received in the last 72 hours. Today, I find that 4LN has written a eulogy column mourning the death of our brick and mortar store and a customer today informed me that because of the store, we’ve inspired her to write her own comic book.

Wow.

To say I’m moved by these gestures would be an incredible understatement. Believe me: it would be a lot easier if I could tell you that our little shop was closing because it failed financially.

But it isn’t.

It’s closing because we have an obligation and a love for this industry that goes beyond what we were currently doing. And strangely enough, it goes deeper than that for me. Remember when I told you that someone once told me that no one is in the comic book business to make money? I used to think this was just something that comic professionals tell each other in order to show they love comics more than you do. But then I realized something. They were absolutely right. If I make money doing what I love, all the better, but in the end I honestly want to be the reason EVERYONE loves comics. You, your kids and your kids’ kids.

So in order to do that, I have to look beyond what I have and forward to what Comic Collector Live can become and achieve.

And the irony is: if I ever do make money in this business, I’ll probably just spend it on more comics.

 

 

 

*Steve Boyd is Vice President of the Board of Directors for Goloco Media Group, Inc’s E-Commerce Division, a member of the Board of Directors for the Literacy Council of Middle Tennessee, Manager of Comic Collector Live: The Store, co-creator of WalkingTheWalkingDead.com, co-host of the WTWD podcast and has most recently contributed to 2 projects for Marvel Comics. He also knows every word to the “McDonald’s Menu Song”. While his office will remain at the same location in Hendersonville Tennessee, the storefront closes on January 31st.

4LN Movie Review – The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies

In my opinion, the three Hobbit movies have been a bit of a letdown. Not necessarily in the quality of the movies, but in the experience of the films. The reason for my disappointment is because it’s hard not to compare the three Hobbit films to their predecessors, the Lord of the Rings Trilogy from the early to mid 2000’s (remember when it only took one movie to express the story of a book).

Anyone with an affinity for nerd culture owes a significant debt of gratitude to those films. Before LoTR, stories of fantasy were only appreciated by a few while being soundly dismissed by the majority. “Have fun reading those graphic novels, playing those silly board games, and dressing up for those silly comic conventions you guys go to. We’ll sit in here and enjoy our 90’s sitcoms and action hero/end of the world flicks, thank you very much,” said most of America until Peter Jackson convinced New Line Cinema to lay down between 200 and 250 million dollars on the production of three Tolkien inspired films (unheard of at the time because of the disaster a first movie flop could mean for the production company).

But then, “Fellowship of the Ring” hit the theaters. J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, only familiar to a few before, was now being experienced by the masses. And the graphics!!!! Revolutionary in its use of CGI, Jackson recreated Middle Earth on a scale that would not have been possible even five years before. “Return of the King” would take best picture at the Oscars a couple of years later. I remember walking into a packed theater at the Opry Mills 20 in Nashville on opening night as we watched the final three hour installment of Jackson’s masterpiece.

Fast forward to today and the once taboo nerd culture is all around us. Book series’ being bankrolled for multiple movies has become the norm with Hunger Games, Divergent, Twilight, Harry Potter, and some HBO TV show based on a book series I am somewhat familiar with. CGI is now expected by moviegoers (a key element, in my opinion, to the popularity of the ongoing Marvel Universe, beginning with Iron Man in 2008).

But as the final Hobbit movie is released this weekend, any buzz for its arrival is extremely muted. I am sure many will go see it and hundreds of millions of dollars will be made, but lacking is the excitement that was present for “Return of the King.” And “Battle of Five Armies” can thank its predecessor for that. The graphics in the Hobbit are spectacular, but they are in every movie now. The movie wastes no time getting right to the action, settling the previous editions cliffhanger. But it’s the third movie, and so we now expect the third of a trilogy to waste no time with plot points and pleasantries between characters. “Battle of Five Armies” is very entertaining filled with action throughout, but it wasn’t the same experience as sitting in that packed house in Nashville on opening night in 2004 when LoTR, the pioneer for modern cinema, finished its run.

Now, if you can forget what you experienced a decade ago, treat “Battle” as its own stand- alone experience, then you will still enjoy this picture. When we last left Bilbo and his dwarf friends, they thought they had killed Smaug, the dragon who was sitting on Thorin Oakenshield’s treasure. But Smaug escapes, and we are left with a cliffhanger: Smaug is free and ready to wreak havoc on Dale, the village inhabited by men close by. As a book reader, I appreciate Jackson playing out in real time important scenes that Tolkien, for some odd reason, chose not to.

Tolkien told the tale of Smaug’s attack on the city of Dale in a flashback. But Jackson opens “Battle” with a conclusion to this as well as Gandalf’s dealings with the Necromancer. Once again, this is another issue Tolkien chose to deal with off the pages of the book, having Gandalf disappear for half the book to deal with it, only to come back later and say, “It’s taken care of.” The Necromancer scene also sets the stage for the events in LoTR just like any good prequel should do.

The rest, and most significant part, of the movie deals with the battle. Recall that throughout the trilogy, the dwarves, on their way to reclaiming their gold, have angered orcs, goblins, elves, and men. All these groups are heading to the mountain the dwarves are sitting in to settle each of their particular grudges. While the first LoTR movies had very clearly defined good guys and bad guys, the third Hobbit movie does not (at least not when all these groups first converge). I like the range of emotions the different characters express in the events leading to and events that happen throughout the battle. Each group has their own selfish interests in mind, which is far more realistic than the good vs. evil fight to save the world in “Return.” I did feel as if some characters (and the overall conclusion of the battle) were shortchanged as the battle scene wound down towards its conclusion. But the goal of a movie is to entertain. And “The Battle of Five Armies” does that, even if any buzz it creates blends in with all the other noise from all the other series movies LoTR helped originate.

 

(Editor’s Note: This review was written by Jeff Merrick.)

(Barely) Star Trek

(Editor’s note: this article was written by our friend Mark from the Disembodied Beard)

I’ll make this short. Star Trek and Star Wars aren’t the same. It’s not an apples to apples comparison. You can’t ask someone if they’re a “Trek” or a “Wars” person, because that’s not a real dichotomy. Star Wars is a frenetic opera. Star Trek is Shakespearean theater in the best sense. You can like both, because they’re wildly different things to like, though you might not realize it after watching Into Darkness.

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A comic I did a while back for DisembodiedBeard.net, my usual soapbox, which addresses the growing murkiness.

For this reason, Paramount trying to make Star Trek 3 like Guardians of the Galaxy is an awful idea. There’s no nice way to say it. Guardians is also an opera. A really good one, at that. It’s such a good opera, I hope the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII sat up and took notes. But wanting Star Trek to be that way means you don’t know what Star Trek is. Have you watched Star Trek? Go back and binge on The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine. Do you realize how much talking there is? How much standing, deliberating, thinking happens in a 45-minute episode? Enough to fill a Lucas Films CGI department.

I’m an old man. I have been since I was a child. So maybe “I’m just bitching,” as my ailing grandmother once said to her shocked family. But Star Trek is special. It’s unique and lovely, and it’s art. I know that because it’s transformative, because it leads the viewer to new information and new ways of seeing old information. It does something no one else has been able to replicate. It’s why fans like me long for another Trek show; television could use it. The problem is, no network is going to pick up a Trek series with that trademark tone if Hollywood keeps setting a skewed Trek agenda. Which is why, if there are any movie executives reading this, please, hear me out: think Gravity, not Guardians.