Four Letter Nerd

Author - Jeff Merrick

Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 4:

Some of the best work “Game of Thrones” does is when it takes its time and lets its stories breathe. I know it is tough for a show with so many moving parts (well, at least it used to have many parts) to give the time every storyline and character deserves. But when it does, GoT rivals any show currently airing on television.

Take the opening of last season’s finale. The drawn out destruction of all of Cersei’s enemies was one of the show’s best scenes. But it wasn’t just the slow build of the moment, the growing intensity of the narrative, or the brilliant score in the background that made it work so effectively. It was also that each character was given the time for their role in the destruction of the great Sept. of Baelor to develop before the climatic moment.

“Spoils of War” was such an episode for “Game of Thrones.” Sam, the Hound, the Brotherhood, Euron, the Unsullied, Jorah, the Wildlings, and the Night’s Watch (who’s been out of it for a while now) were all ignored so Stark reunions and battlefield slaughter could be given the time they needed.

If any attention was given to those other stories, it would have taken valuable time away from the power of the episode’s great moments.

Sansa and Arya needed to have their awkward reunion before Sansa could observe just what Arya has become. The moment where Sansa watches Arya fight Brienne one on one loses some of its effectiveness if it appears without having first had the reunion in front of their father’s grave.

Jon and Dany moved a little closer to an alliance with the Mother of Dragons telling the King of the North she will help him. But she still insists he bend the knee. The thawing of relations between these two epic characters can’t be rushed. It has to be steady to be effective. And tonight’s episode was another step in that direction.

And another in the show’s long line of epic battle scenes, character reactions rightfully received more attention than the battle itself. We get Jamie and Bronn’s horrified reaction to both stampeding Dothraki and Drogon’s roar. As men turn to ashes all around him, Bronn acts out of character as he desperately seeks the Dragon Crossbow in an attempt to save Westeros from further burning. And finally, there’s Tyrion, who’s prospective is one of a man on the winning side of a conflict who is horrified at what he’s seeing.

And that focus on character made “Spoils of War” the best episode of season 7 so far.

We only have three location in tonight’s recap. We’ll start in the North, where another Stark found her way back home.

Winterfell

I was a little surprised Arya actually ended up in Winterfell. I guess I read a little too much into her encounter with Nymeria.

Also, wouldn’t Arya be a more effective assassin if no one knew she was alive? Maybe showing off her skills wasn’t the best tactic for someone who wants to kill the queen?

Oh well. At least Arya’s scenes were fantastically done. Sansa and Arya were not very close when they were last together, and it shows when Sansa embraces Arya but receives no embrace in return (second week in a row that’s happened to Sansa).

But as they talk, Arya seems to realize how much Sansa has grown and returns the affection.

Arya and Sansa meet for the first time since Season 1.

Sansa, on the other hand, only sees her silly little sister at first. The “Lady of the North” laughs when Arya brings up her kill list. But then, Bran reveals that Arya does have a kill list, and she was heading to King’s Landing to take out Cersei, one of the names on it.

And then, Arya more than hold’s her own in single combat with Brienne, a character Sansa knows is a beast in combat. Sansa now knows her sister has become a very dangerous person.

Brienne and Arya spar in Winterfell’s courtyard.

Dragonstone

As expected, round 2 between Jon and Daenarys went a little smoother than round 1. For the first time, we see the dragonglass underneath Dragonstone. Also under the rock are a bunch of cave paintings conveniently located there so Dany can see the history of the original “Long Night.”

Jon points out how the Children of the Forest and the First Men fought together to defeat the Whitewalkers, and Jon wants Dany to do the same. A more compassionate Mother of Dragons says she will help, but Jon must bend the knee. The debate is the same as last week, but both seem to be more understanding of the other’s position.

But the good vibes of that meeting disappear once Dany receives the news that she’s lost the Tyrells and the Unsullied are trapped on Casterly Rock.

The Mother of Dragons scalds Tyrion for his failed strategy so far as she plans to ride her three dragons into the Red Keep and take out Cersei herself. She ignores Tyrion’s rebuttal, but then turns and asks Jon what he thinks.

The King of the North advises against burning down castles to claim Westeros because it would simply make her appear like everyone else who’s come before.

So what does Dany have in mind to turn the tide in the war she’s losing?

Daenarys and team Dragonstone looking out over the waters trying to decide what to do next.

The Reach

Lannister wagons are hitched up and leaving the recently conquered Highgarden with the former Tyrell fortune loaded up and heading to King’s Landing. Cersei told Tycho Nestorsis she would have the crowns debts paid back in full, and the stolen Tyrell coffers are the means in which to do that. We receive word later that this money does indeed reach King’s Landing.

The rest of our time before the big battle is spent as a reminder that Bronn is indeed just in it for the money. He collects a big bag of gold and talks about the castle he should get for all this fighting he continues to do for House Lannister.

Otherwise, things seem peaceful for an army going back home after a big victory until Bronn hears something coming.

First, it’s hoofs of running horses hitting the ground. Then, yelling and shouting leads both Jamie and Randall Tarly to prepare the troops to defend. Bronn wants to flee, head back to King’s Landing, and get behind the capital’s walls. But Jamie will not leave the fight. They seem to be building up the courage to take on the coming challenge when they are suddenly both terrified by Drogon’s roar.

Up to this point, those in the south have mostly heard of all these mysterious things going on in the North and across the Narrow Sea. The rumors were out there that the last Targaryen had three full grown dragons and a Dothraki hoard by her side. But the looks on Jamie and Bronn’s faces tell us they truly did not believe the stories until they saw that Dothraki hoard riding towards them with a dragon flying above it.

Drogon and the Dothraki’s ride towards the Lannister lines.

Daenarys is leading her troops into battle, and Drogon is dousing dragon fire on everything. The battle is a route. The tired Lannister and Tarly men had no shot against fresh Dothraki and a large dragon.

Bronn loses the bag of money and leaves it knowing he has a more important purpose. Bronn desperately searches and finds the Dragon Crossbow Qyburn introduced two weeks ago. He loads up and fires a spear that takes down Drogon, but only hits him in the shoulder.

Drogon regroups and Dany jumps off of him to try and remove the spear from his shoulder. Jamie sees the opportunity to end this war right here as he picks up one of the dragon spears and rides full speed towards Daenarys.

Jamie riding through a burning field looking to take out the Mother of Dragons.

But just a Daenarys notices him coming, Drogon turns his head and sends out more fire. Someone saves Jamie just before the fire can consume him. Jamie lands in water and, in full armor, is sinking to the bottom when the screen turns black.

Of Note:

-Though we left his fate on a bit of a cliffhanger, I imagine Jamie will somehow survive the current plight he’s in. I just don’t see the show saving him from dragonfire only to have him drown in his armor.

-“Your people can’t fight,” said a random Dothraki. To which, Tyrion replied, “What the hell would you do facing off with dragon fire, moron?”

-We know Daenarys can control one dragon. But is she able to get all three to fly and work together in one battle? Or will two more riders be needed? I discussed this very topic in a piece I did previewing Season 5.

-Missandei tells Jon that Daenarys is “the queen we choose.” It does not look like the people in Westeros are going to get that same choice.

-Nothing of note about Jon and Theon’s meeting other than Theon is now back in Dragonstone as he waits for something important to do.

-A couple of the cave drawings were the same pattern as the one’s the Whitewalkers made in the snow all the way back in Season 1.

-I mentioned Cersei’s meeting with Tycho earlier. In that meeting, she mentioned the Golden Company, one of the most successful sell sword groups in all of Essos. We’ve heard the Golden Company mentioned before, but they have yet to appear on the show.

Cersei discusses “investment opportunities” with Tycho.

-The blade that was used in the attempt on Bran’s life back in season 1 was given to Bran, who then gave it to Arya. So Arya now has a Valayrian steel blade.

-And I found it interesting the show would bring up who tried to kill Bran so long ago. In the TV show, the mystery was never solved. So could that answer play a key part in what’s to come? And wouldn’t creepy time vision boy know this answer already?

Bran…I mean the Three Eyed Raven giving the Valayrian Steel Blade to Arya.

-Bran’s emotionless state has never been worse than in his stoic send off to Meera. The girl who dragged him all the way across the land beyond the Wall barely gets a thank you.

-And if Meera is heading home, does that mean we will get to see her father, Howland Reed, at some point?

 

Dany has struck her first big blow in the battle to take the Iron Throne. We’ll see who lands the next punch next week.

 

 

 

 

 

Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 3: The Queen’s Justice

For six seasons (and especially the first five), Game of Thrones told a large story juggling multiple threads spanning thousands of miles. A character could spend their entire time on the show without ever interacting with certain major characters or know the details of the journey those characters in other places were enduring.

Now, in season 7, everybody’s fighting on the same playing field. Though they may not be interacting directly, all are motivated by the ongoing war for the Iron Throne or the looming battle with the Whitewalkers.

But the effect of all these disparate story lines in the past is that now people who need to work together are hesitant to because of their unfamiliarity with the other’s story arc. Dany doesn’t believe or trust Jon because she wasn’t there at Hardhomme to see the Night’s King in all his glory. And all Jon knows of Dany are stories of her “mad” father and how he murdered Jon’s grandfather and uncle. He hasn’t seen her rise up as a leader who freed thousands of slaves on the other side of the world. It would have been real easy for the show to find a way to make the long anticipated first meeting between these two epic characters the birth of some glorious alliance right away (like Dany’s first meeting with Tyrion was). But it wouldn’t have been true to the way the story’s been told so far.

The same thing plagued what should have been a joyous Stark sibling reunion between Sansa and Bran. Well, at least it did for one side. Sansa didn’t even know where to start asking questions to understand what Bran’s been through since they last saw each other early in season 1. But his complete knowledge of her backstory made their encounter even more awkward. At least Jon and Dany were on equal terms, not knowing the best way to respond to the other claiming to be royalty. But for Sansa to know her brother knows all the worst things that have happened to her was way too much to bear.

Will these characters come to an understanding of each other before the Long Night arrives in Westeros? The ten remaining episodes don’t leave a lot of time for them to figure it all out.

We’ll begin our recap with a look back at the first of those awkward meetings: the first meeting between “ice” and “fire.”

Dragonstone

Jon and Davos arrive on Dragonstone and are greeted by Tyrion, who shares several inside jokes with Jon from their previous meetings in season 1. But he follows up the pleasantries by taking their weapons and (more importantly) their boat.

The long walk to the castle is interrupted by dragons flying overhead. Despite all the “unreal” things the pair have seen, Jon and Davos still can’t hide their amazement at seeing the flying beasts.

The pair approach Dany’s throne and have the privilege of hearing all 3,000 of Dany’s titles. I worried the episode would be over before Missandei was finished. Davos, Westeros’s leading expert in dry comedy, responds: “Well, this is Jon Snow…He’s…King of the North.”

Daenarys and Jon meet for the first time.

That’s the first contention between Jon and Dany: Jon’s unwillingness to bend the knee. Jon knows he will lose the North’s loyalty if he bends the knee and renounces a title his people gave him. But Dany wants to be queen of ALL seven kingdoms, including the North.

The second contention is which war needs to be keeping everyone’s attention. Dany’s war with Cersei has already begun. But Jon wants everyone in Westeros to turn their focus North and deal with the Night’s King.

So what we end up with is 20 minutes of impassioned pleas (the kind that has moved every other ear these two have spoken to the last couple of seasons) neither one wants to listen to. Instead, Jon and Davos are sent to their rooms and not allowed to leave.

Enter Tyrion, the mediator and voice of reason on Dragonstone. Tryion was smart enough to realize that Jon and Dany were unlikely to come to an agreement after one meeting (even if they both thought the other would be moved by a few words). He meets with both separately and encourages them to offer something to the other. Jon agrees to not fight his staying on the island, while Daenarys agrees to let Jon search the island for dragonglass with Dany’s help.

Daenarys and Jon come to an agreement, allowing him to look for dragonglass on the island.

Winterfell

Meanwhile, up North, Sansa is doing an admirable job running the north. But that’s not good enough for creepy Uncle Petyr. Baelish encourages Sansa to fight every battle everywhere in her mind so that nothing surprises her (we’ll see where that thinking comes into play in the future).

Baelish advises Sansa in Winterfell

But Sansa’s meeting with Littlefinger is interrupted by a surprise visitor: her brother Bran.

While Sansa is elated to see her brother, Bran seems disinterested. I guess if you can see everything that’s happening everywhere, having conversations with a sister you never thought you’d see again just isn’t that exciting.

And be advised to never take Bran to any kind of party or gathering. Sansa can’t seem to get him to talk about his experiences becoming the three-eyed raven, but she can’t get him to stop talking about the night Ramsey raped her for the first time.

Creepy Bran stays by the tree after an uncomfortable Sansa leaves him.

King’s Landing

Things are looking up for Cersei and her hold on the Iron Throne. Euron Greyjoy delivers her two prisoners: Ellaria and Tyene Sand (Euron keeps Yara for himself).

Cersei is appreciative of the gift and promises Euron all his heart’s desires (cough…sex..cough cough) once her throne is secure. And to that, she places Jamie to lead her armies and Euron in charge of her fleet.

Euron and Jamie, uneasy allies in the war to keep Cersei on the throne.

As for Ellaria and Tyene, Cersei means to make them suffer (especially Ellaria). Of the three sand snakes, only Tyene is Ellaria’s daughter. That’s why the other two were killed last week, but Tyene was captured.

Qyburn (that sneaky resourceful bastard) figured out the poison used to kill Myrcella and provided it to Cersei. She kisses Tyene, then takes the antidote. Cersei instructs the guards to keep Ellaria alive and keep the cell well lit so she can watch as her daughter dies. Is there a more ruthless bitch on television right now than Cersei?

Ellaria (left) and Tyene (right) brought before Queen Cersei.

 

But everything is not all coming up spades for the queen. Tycho Nestoris is visiting from the Iron Bank, and he’s come to collect. The show has mentioned a couple of times that the crown (with the combination of Robert and the depleted state of Casterly Rock) is in massive debt to the Iron Bank of Braavos. Tycho has crossed the Narrow Sea to either collect from Cersei, do business with the side that replaces her, or both. Cersei insists the crown will pay their debts “in full” when the crown is secure (more post war promises from the queen).

Casterly Rock

As for the battle to secure that throne, the end of “Queen’s Justice” can be filed as a big W in the Cersei column.

The first battle takes place in Casterly Rock, the seat of House Lannister. As the Unsullied and preparing their attack, Tyrion explains (from Dragonstone) the weak spot he built into the fortress (the sewer) to sneak girls in so his father wouldn’t know about them. The Unsullied successfully take Casterly Rock. But Grey Worm is confused. He knows there should have been more Lannister troops. He then looks out over the sea and sees Euron’s ships destroying the Unsullied fleet. Cue Admirable Akbar because Grey Worm and his friends are trapped!!!

Highgarden

And where were the rest of those Lannister troops? They were marching on Highgarden with the Tarlys taking out Dany’s last Westerosi ally.

The final scene between Jamie and the Queen of Thrones was the highlight of the night. Lady Olenna, resigned to her defeat, and Jamie Lannister, arriving to give the leader of House Tyrell a peaceful end.

Though if he’d known what she was going to say after taking the poison, he may have given her a more violent death. I feel somewhat responsible for this having asked the show last week to please keep Olenna Tyrell around until the very end. But she sure did go down swinging.

Lady Olenna in her final moments talking with Jamie Lannister.

After swallowing the poison, Lady Olenna tells Jamie that she poisoned Joffrey and asks him to make sure Cersei knows that.

So if you’re keeping score at home:

Jon and Sansa hold the north and the Vale.

Cersei holds King’s Landing, the Reach, Highgarden, the Riverlands, and has the Unsullied trapped at Casterly Rock.

Daenarys has Dragonstone and is down three allies.

Daenarys’s attempt to conquer Westeros is not off to a very strong start.

Of Note:

-Jorah is officially cured of Greyscale. And how did Sam do it? By reading the book and following the instructions. Seriously, that’s how Sam cured the “uncureable” grey scale. It’s like someone who cures cancer saying he did by following how-to instructions on WebMD. And what was Sam’s reward for curing a disease that plagued the people in Westeros and Essos for thousands of year? Copying all the aging books. The Archmaester is a tough one to please.

-Melisandre says she’s on her way to Volantis. But she said she will return. She has apparently seen in the flames that both she and Varys are to die in the wars to come.

-There were two ships that escaped Euron last week. Those two ships rescued Theon “I tried to rescue my sister” Greyjoy this week.

-I asked last week where the Dothraki are staying while Dany figures out how to use them on Westeros. Well, that questioned wasn’t exactly answered. But at least we know from them greeting Jon and Davos that they are hanging around somewhere near the mother of dragons.

-Davos nearly let slip the death and resurrection of Jon Snow to Dany. And it was still on her mind when she was talking to Tyrion later on.

-Last week, the Queen of Thornes (R.I.P) told Daenarys to “be the dragon.” I wonder if we are closer to that becoming a reality in Westeros with all of Tyrion’s plans so far failing.

-Cersei also thinks being queen means not having to hide what she and her brother do at night.

-And do all of the girls who work for Cersei have their hair cut short like she does?

-Braavos was a city built on former slaves. Slavery is banned there. So could the Iron Bank of Braavos support slavery while still being located there?

-Lady Olenna made a reference to “the Reynes of Castamire” in describing her own house’s fate. Also, the song of the same name was played several times in this episode referring to the family Tywin Lannister wiped off the face of Westeros to make his hold on Casterly Rock firmer.

-Despite facing long odds, the Unsullied have fought off large numbers before. A group of 3,000 unsullied saved the city of Qohor from 20,000 Dothraki 4,000 years ago. Grey Worm and crew have a similar situation on their hands now.

It’s been all Cersei so far in her battle with Daenarys for the Iron Throne. Will she and her crew have an answer? And will she grow closer to some form of alliance with Jon Snow? See you next week.

 

 

Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 2: Stormborn Recap

“Stormborn,” the 2nd episode in the penultimate season of Game of Thrones, was act 1 of a large game of risk played out on a large map of Westeros. While last week’s premiere episode gave characters time to breathe and delivered solid character moments, episode 2 was about turning the focus to the battle.

Tyrion laid out the Dragon Queen’s initial plans before all the leaders who have joined her side. Jon Snow made his first major move of the season as he and Davos began their journey to Dragonstone to secure all that Dragonglass. And Cersei tried to build her forces by appealing to the fears of the remaining Lords of Westeros.

But I don’t think anyone expects these initial steps in the game to go as planned. It only took one episode for Arya’s journey to kill Cersei to take a detour. And the first step in conquering Westeros for Daenarys has already been stopped cold by the execution by the first step of Euron’s game.

The bottom line is we’ve got war. And it’s not like the war of previous seasons where everything led up to one ultimate episode 9 battle. Armed conflict of small and large scale will consume the remaining five episodes.

Of course, it’s not like I’m giving you some deep insight here. We all knew (and the trailers confirmed) that battle was going to light the map of Westeros up. But knowing it’s going to happen and seeing the events we’ve been building to the last 6 seasons are two different things. And knowing that the true battle for Westeros is here should be a very exciting moment for all of us.

We’ll start our recap this week with a look in on Daenarys’s war council on Dragonstone.

Dragonstone

The show decided to address a large loose end in the show’s opening scene.

Back in season 1, Varys delivered an order for then King Robert to kill Danearys. Fast forward to present day, where Dany questioned Lord Varys, asking why she should trust him and his ever-changing allegiances.

Varys doesn’t shy away from his duplicity, admitting to his actions and claiming he works for the common people. The mother of dragons seems to accept Varys as a part of her council, encouraging him to be frank with her in the future, but threatening to burn him should he betray her.

Later on, all of Dany’s allies meet to discuss her strategy for conquering Westeros. Tyrion runs the meeting, addressing the need for King’s Landing to be taken by a domestic army instead of an army of foreigners.

Tyroin goes over the war map Daenarys and her allies.

Tyrion wants the Iron Islanders to pick up the Dornish forces in Dorne and meet the Tyrells at the gates of King’s Landing. He will also be sending the Unsullied to take Casterly Rock, the seat of House Lannister.

The best part of this council was the Queen of Thrones and her conversation with Daenarys. With Margaery dead, Olenna appears ready to take the Mother of Dragons under her wing. And her advice: “ignore your advisors” and “be the dragon.” Let’s all petition HBO to make sure Olenna Tyrell is around until the last episode airs.

Winterfell

Meanwhile, in Winterfell, Jon receives a note from Tyrion encouraging him to come meet the Mother of Dragons. It was a smart move having Tyrion be the one who wrote this letter considering the previous relationship he has with Jon. But Jon, Sansa, and Davos all agree this meeting is too risky to attend.

But my, how convenient (a major theme of the evening) it was that the next note Jon receives is the “There’s dragonglass on Dragonstone!!!” note Sam was preparing last week.

So despite the objections of those loyal to Jon, he’s heading to Dragonstone to meet with Queen Daenarys and get her help in the battle against the Night’s King.

Jon and Davos prepare to make their journey to Dragonstone.

While he’s gone, Sansa will rule in his stead, a statement that makes Littlefinger very happy. Now, Littlefinger makes very few mistakes as he calculates every step he takes in hopes of claiming the Iron Throne one day. But telling Jon “I love your sister” was a rather large one. Jon informs Littlefinger that he will kill him if he touches Sansa as he strangles Sansa’s creepy uncle.

Baelish has a very unsuccessful meeting with Jon Snow.

Oldtown

The only place war is not central to the discussion is Oldtown, where it seems every maester but Sam is unaware anybody’s getting ready to fight. And Archmaester Garwyn would have nothing to do with any solutions and revelations Sam makes.

Archmaester Garwyn is giving Jorah a grim medical report, telling him has 6 months before he becomes a Stone Man. But Sam’s been reading, and he thinks he’s found a cure for greyscale, a notion the Archmaester quickly dismisses.

Sam holds books for the Archmaester while the Archmaester kills all of Sam’s ideas.

But Sam has grown more defiant with each passing season. He moves forward with his plan in spite of the warnings and misgivings of Garwyn.

He gives Jorah a bottle of “Stuttering Sam’s Greyscale Gone” and (in what might be the show’s grossest scene ever) begins carving the scabs off Jorah’s skin.

Arya

We switch from Oldtown to the Riverlands (and from pus to soup one of the worst scene transitions any show has ever done), where Arya has stopped at the Inn at the Crossroads to eat and visit with her old friend Hot Pie.

Now, I thought it was interesting the show decided to skip the reunion here. I figured Hot Pie would be very excited to see Arya, and he probably was. But we enter their interaction long after that happened

Arya tells her trusted friend where she’s going, but Hot Pie is shocked she’s not going back to Winterfell. The news of her family retaking her childhood home had not made it to Arya’s ears yet. So she decides, when faced with the choice of which way to go, to head back to Winterfell instead of continuing her journey to King’s Landing.

Arya standing at a crossroads as she considers whether to go King’s Landing or Winterfell.

But a significant moment happens for Arya on her way back home. A pack of wolves surrounds her. And the leader of that pack is none other than Nymeria, the large direwolf she sent away back in season 1.

At first, I thought that pack was going to end Arya’s journey right there. I mean, she was pretty mean when she sent Nymeria off. But the direwolf still had enough affection for Arya to let her live. She didn’t, however care to go back with Arya to Winterfell. When Nymeria leaves, Arya realizes Winterfell is not for Nymeria. And that is the questions we leave Arya contemplating for herself.

King’s Landing

Cersei is meeting with several Lords from the Reach asking for their support. Included among them is Randall Tarly (Sam’s father).

Cersei uses fear to try and bring the lords to her side, using both the presence of the Dothraki and fear of the Targaryen name (another common theme this week) to try and rally their support.

Lord Tarly brings up the matter of dealing with three dragons. Qyburn has a solution down in the dragonpit: a large crossbow meant to fire spears at high speeds at dragons.

Jamie also meets with Lord Tarly, and we see the practical, loyal side of him we didn’t see last season.

Jamie wants Sam’s father to lead the Queen’s army. But Lord Tarly doesn’t want to fight against the Tyrell’s, the Tarly’s bannerman. Jamie leaves Lord Tarly with these chilling words: “Do you fight with us or foreign savages and eunuchs? We’ll have to wait to hear Tarly’s response.

The Narrow Seas

Raise your hand if you though the first step in conquering Westeros was going to go smoothly? Anyone?

On their way to Dorne, Ellaria and Yara’s girl fun play is interrupted by Euron. He promised Cersei a gift last week, and he’s here to claim it (or should I say them).

Now I think at this point, Euron’s character is trying to channel Heath Ledger’s joker. And while I think it’s way overdone, I far prefer it to the lame incarnation of the
“Crow’s Eye” we saw last season.

Euron invading Theon and Yara’s boat.

Euron kills two Sand Snakes (yay!!!!) and has the third Sand Snake and Ellaria captured.

Then, Euron holds an axe blade to Yara’s throat trying to goad Theon into a fight. But cowardly Theon rears his ugly head as he drops the sword and jumps into the water.

A sluggish start to Dany’s plan to conquest Westeros for sure: the head’s of two major allies captured and a new, vile enemy strikes his first blow.

Of Note:

-Dany will have a tall order convincing nobles that she is not her father. At least three different people (Cersei, Bronze Yohn, and Sansa) all spoke against trusting the Dragon Queen this week.

-No Wildlings this week. It appears they are on their way to Eastwatch by the Sea.

-Many online noticed the seas around the Wall turning into ice last week during the opening credits. I watched this week and noticed the changing seas, but they only “froze” for a brief second before returning back to water. Is that foreshadowing or just an unintentional effect?

-Melisandre made her first appearance this week encouraging Daenarys to meet with Jon Snow. I’m sure Davos will be thrilled to see the red priestess when he and Jon arrive on Dragonstone next week.

-A convenient note dropped by Missandei this week. The “prince” in the “prince that was promised” prophesy is actually translated from a gender neutral word (so it could be “prince or princess.” How convenient!!!).

-Speaking of Missandei, she and Greyworm finally hooked up the only way they can. Assuming Grey Worm survives the fighting, that will be a lot of fun for one of them for sure.

-Jamie seemed to treat Sam’s brother, Dickon, as little more than an afterthought.

-While she hangs out on Dragonstone, where is Dany keeping the Dothraki and her dragons? And what does she have planned for them?

-The Inn at the Crossroads has appeared several times in the show. It was where the fight between Arya and Joffrey back in Season 1 took place. The Brotherhood, Arya, and the Hound stopped there in season 3. And Hot Pie mentioned Brienne and Pod’s visit from season 4.

-Qyburn and Cersei looked at the skull of Balerion the Black Dread: the dragon Aegon the Conquerer rode to establish the first Targaryen king in Westeros.

 

Don’t expect things to slow down from this point forward. See you next week.

 

 

 

Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 1 Recap: Dragonstone

Six seasons of war, politicking, and suffering sure can give a character in a fantasy world a lot to think about. So instead of marching on with GoT’s continued exploits in these three areas, the producers of the show decided to give characters time to reflect on what’s brought them all to this point.

Reflection was the theme in “Dragonstone,” the premiere episode in Game of Thrones 7th season. Jon and Sansa recalled the mistakes their father and brother (or in Jon’s case, his “father” and “brother”) made that got them killed. Jamie and Cersei reflect on the death of their children and the loss of all their allies. Even the Hound did a rare bit of reflecting as he recalled the horrible treatment he gave to the father and daughter he correctly predicted would die.

And though she doesn’t speak her reflections out loud, I think there is little doubt Daenarys had to be thinking of all the trials she endured to get to the point where she has now returned to her home land to take back the Iron Throne.

But none of these characters were reminiscing for sake of pure nostalgia. Sansa knows Jon must avoid the fatal mistakes of his “father” and “brother.” The “last of the Lannisters” know they need allies going forward. The Hound recalls because he knows he must atone for the horrible things he’s done. All reflect with the future in mind.

And no line in “Dragonstone” summed this up more than the last line spoken by the “Breaker of Chains” as she looked over that old dusty map:

“Shall we begin?”

So let’s begin our recap with a character we were really hopeful we’d seen the last of.

Arya

The show opens at the Twins, where Walder Frey is addressing all the “important” members of House Frey.

I was confused at first, debating in my mind when this flashback occurred. But then, I remembered Arya’s whole “I become other people” superpower. Then, Lord Frey doesn’t drink after giving the toast. He keeps the now widow of Lord Frey from drinking as well. And Lord Walder’s condemnation of the Red Wedding assured us all that indeed Arya was under that mask. She poisoned all of House Frey and left, telling the former Mrs. Frey to “tell them Winter came for House Frey.” (Bad Ass!!!!)

Arya after she takes out House Frey.

But we weren’t done with Arya yet. She comes across a crew of Lannister soldiers on their way to the Twins to “keep the peace” after what Arya did.

One of the soldiers serenaded Arya, saying he would love her until they were 70. He also talked about some “Castle on a Hill” he grew up on (these, of course, are obvious references to Ed Sheeran’s cameo here).

It was a very human moment for Arya getting to hear about the lives of men who are technically here enemies. When the men ask her the purpose she has for traveling, she tells them she’s going to kill the queen. All the soldiers laugh, thinking it’s a joke. But we all know it’s not and are absolutely thrilled with the direction Arya is headed this season.

Winterfell

While Arya was killing Freys and hanging out with celebrities, her “brother” is handling business as King of the North. First, he wants everyone (men and women) digging for dragon glass. Then, he sends the Wildlings to “Eastwatch by the Sea,” an abandoned Night’s Watch castle, to halt the Whitewalker march.

His decision regarding what to do with the lands of House Karstark and House Umber (the two houses who fought for House Bolton last season) gave us our first of what should be many spats between Jon and Sansa this season.

Sansa wants the Karstark and Umber lands given to houses that stayed loyal to House Stark. Jon however, does not want to punish future generations for the treason of their predecessors, who are both now dead.

Jon allows the lands to stay in the hands of the Karstarks and Umbers after the new young lord and lady of the respective houses bend the knee to House Stark.

Jon and Sansa debate in Winterfell.

Jon later expresses his frustration with Sansa for questioning him in front of all his men. Sansa says she just wants Jon to listen to her. Jon and Sansa’s conversation which ends on a reconciliatory note, is interrupted by a note from King’s Landing. New Queen Cersei wants Jon to bend the knee or else.

King’s Landing

Queen Cersei is standing, looking over a freshly painted map of Westeros while it’s still being painted when Jamie enters. The two debate their current situation, which is pretty dire. The end of the Freys took out the Lannister’s last ally. They stand alone, but Cersie means to rectify this. She’s summoned Euron Greyjoy and his many Iron Born ships to King’s Landing.

Cersei in the Red Keep thinking of her next move.

What happens next was a far more proper introduction to Euron’s character than anything we saw last season. In season six, Euron was a cartoon I never took seriously. But everything about this speech (the wardrobe, the insults, the mannerisms) made me believe Euron could be a holy terror to all in Westeros.

Euron offers marriage in exchange for the Iron Born fleet. Cersei refuses, rightly refusing to trust “the Crow’s Eye” (I know it’s only his book nickname so far. But I don’t care. I’m using it anyway). So Euron promises a “pricelss gift” to prove his loyalty. (more on the horrifying possibilities of this “gift” later).

The Brotherhood Without Banners and The Hound

Meanwhile, Winter has reached the Riverlands as the Brotherhood and the Hound approach a familiar location.

The Hound and Arya stayed here one night back in Season 4. But the Hound ultimately robbed the man (who lived alone with his daughter) and told Arya they would be dead soon anyway.

The Hound and the Brotherhood approach the house he stayed in with Arya many seasons ago.

Well, he was right. Thoros of Myr believes the man killed himself and his daughter so they wouldn’t die of starvation. I think this might be the first time the Hound has expressed guilt. He gives a proper burial to the kind father and daughter and wonders why he’s been spared while they died.

The flames may have given a hint to that purpose. The Hound looks into the flames from the fire started in the house and sees the part of the Wall by the sea (in other words, “Eastwatch by the Sea”). He also sees a mountain shaped like an arrowhead (Hardhomme?) And for the first time, the Hound sees the Army of the Dead marching. I think we know where the Hound and the Brotherhood are heading. And I expect they’ll be meeting Tormund and the Wildlings on their way.

Oldtown

Making its debut in the opening credits Sunday night was Oldtown, the home of the Citadel, where Sam is playing orderly for the Maesters. A very effective montage shows Sam collecting chamber pots and cleaning them out, serving soup, and collecting leftover books in the library. But all Sam can think of while doing all these menial tasks is what books are behind a gate only a Maester can use.

Sam under the stress of his apprenticeship with the Maesters.

Professor Slughorn, following a meeting with Tom Riddle, tells Sam he cannot have access until he becomes a Maester. But Sam sneaks in and grabs a book anyway. That book had a map that showed the existence of dragon glass on Dragonstone. He prepares a note to send to Jon, giving “the White Wolf” a reason to meet the Mother of Dragons.

But Sam in not the only character residing in Oldtown.

Last season, Daenarys sent Jorah Mormont to find healing for his greyscale. We don’t see Friend Zone’s face, but we know from the voice and the arm now completely covered in greyscale that Jorah sought out the Citadel for that healing. After scaring Sam, Jorah asks if the Dragon Queen has arrived.

Dragonstone

Why yes she has, Jorah. Yes she has. Little is said or revealed when Daenarys steps foot on the shores of Dragonstone. She takes in all the dragon images, beholds the chair made of Dragonglass, and pulls down an old Stannis banner still hanging in the halls.

Daenarys and Tyrion walking through the halls of Dragonstone.

Then, Dany approaches an old dusty table with a map of Westeros on it (the one Stannis did all his planning on). With Tyrion close by, Daenarys stares at the table and asks “Shall we begin?”

Of Note

-Tonight’s premiere introduced three new characters:

Alys Karstark-A teenage girl and sister of the Karstark who sided with Ramsey Bolton last season. She’s now head of House Karstark.

Ned Umber- An young boy who was the son of the now deceased Smalljon Umber. He’s now head of House Umber.

Archmaester Marwyn- Yes, that was Jim Broadbent, aka Professor Horace Slughorn from the Harry Potter moveis, talking to Sam over that    dead body. But the name of his character is Archmaester Marwyn, the head of all Maesters. And it appears the archmaester will be a very supportive figure to Sam.

-Ned, Alice, and Lady Lyanna Mormont show one of the effects of all the fighting the north has endured: really young heads of houses.

-The face of feminism in Winterfell is Lyanna Mormont as she dares Robett Glover to keep her and the women of Bear Island from working and fighting.

-Dragonstone was the Island House Targaryen kept their heirs on to keep them safe until it was their time to rule. When Robert took the throne, Stannis was granted Dragonstone and spent of most of the first four seasons there.

-Bran and Meera are finally back south of the Wall as Dolorous Edd and the Night’s Watch opened the gate for them. He tells Edd something about his past, which I’m sure all the people who interact with Bran will never get tired of.

-“Everything before the word but is horse shit.” Great quote from Ned Stark, as told to us by Jon Snow.

-What will Euron’s “priceless gift” be? Unfortunately, I can only think of one thing Cersei would consider priceless: Tyrion’s head.

A really great, character centric premiere should give way to complete chaos in the weeks to come. See you next week.

 

 

 

Seven Things For Season Seven

Game of Thrones begins its seventh season this Sunday. And here’s seven things you need to know before the penultimate season begins.

1. Dany is coming to Westeros

Daenarys standing in the halls of Dragonstone.

For the first time, the Mother of Dragons sets foot on the land her ancestors ruled. Previews indicate she’ll establish herself first on Dragonstone, the island Stannis spent most the first four seasons.

2. Cersei Sits the Iron Throne

Cersei ended Season 6 in that old familiar chair.

All hail Queen Cersei!!! (Though I doubt anyone in King’s Landing is excited about that). Cersei Lannister sits the Iron Throne. And with all her children gone, there’s nothing keeping the Mad Queen of Westeros sane.

3. Jon Rules the North

Jon Snow rules in the North while Sansa looks on.

The “White Wolf” now leads the many great houses of the North. But with continued threats beyond the Wall, Sansa holding a pure Stark claim, and Littlefinger looking to pull the strings in the shadows, Jon’s hold of Westeros’s largest province is anything but secure.

4. What Will Euron’s Role Be?

We last saw Euron Greyjoy, Theon and Yara’s uncle, commanding the Iron Islanders to build ships and take to the seas.

Season 6 gave Euron Greyjoy, ruler of the Iron Islands after he killed his brother Balon, a very underwhelming introduction. But when we last left him, Euron was building a large fleet that will likely wreck havoc all across Westeros this season.

5. What Will Sam Find in OldTown?

Sam prepares to study in Oldtown.

When we last left Sam and Gilly, they had just arrived at the Citadel in Oldtown. Sam will be training to earn a Maester’s chain. But I suspect Sam’s greater purpose in Oldtown will involve a discovery that will greatly impact the wars to come.

6. What About All Those Other Loose Ends?

-What impact will Bran’s visions have on those south of the Wall? And could his mere presence prove costly to the people of Westeros?

-What role will the Brotherhood Without Banners and the Hound play in the larger conflict?

Beric Donadarion returned last season. Him and the rest of the Brotherhood will likely have a prominent role in Season 7.

-Who will Jorah seek to heal him of his greyscale?

-Will Jamie continue defend and fight for his sister in all that she does?

-Will we ever see Gendry again?

7. The Rise of the Whitewalkers

Will the end of season seven see the Whitewalkers make themselves known to the rest of Westeros? And with so many sides battling for the Iron Throne the last seven seasons, what shape will Westeros be in to handle the coming invasion?

The premiere is tomorrow at 8 pm (9 pm eastern) on HBO. I’ll have a recap of every episode this season the following Monday at noon central (1 pm eastern) time.

My Thoughts on the Game of Thrones Season 7 Trailer (Well the 2nd One That Is)

With the new season less than one month away, HBO released a second trailer (yes, I dropped the ball on the first one) for the 7th season of Game of Thrones on Wednesday.

First, take a look at the trailer. Then, read my observations that follow.

(This should go without saying, but if you are a “zero spoiler of any kind at all person,” then stop reading)

1. War is Everywhere

There are at least four battles going on in the trailer:

-King’s Landing, where the unsullied appear to be invading the city.

-The Dothraki (I think) are plowing into Lannister shields. Also, there is another shot of the Dothraki riding with a dragon flying just above them in the same direction.

-Also, Jamie is seen both directing archers in battle and riding a horse full speed on a burning (dragonfire???!!!)   battlefield.

-Fighting on the seas (could be Theon’s uncle Euron?).

-Beyond the wall, where Jon Snow and several wildlings are fighting something (there is an image of a Wildling and a Whitewalker fighting, but we can’t really tell who Jon’s crew is fighting here).

2. Daenerys Establishes Herself on Dragonstone.

Much like the first trailer, Daenerys is seen on Dragonstone, the longtime seat of the heir to the Targaryen throne numerous times.

3. Jon Will Meet with Daenarys.

Several leaked photos have confirmed this, but there are two pieces of evidence in the trailer of this inevitable meeting:

First, there’s a quote from Jon saying “For centuries, our families fought together against a common enemy.”

That’s not the whole quote, but the gist of it seems clear that Jon wants everyone in Westeros to come together and prepare to fight the Whitewalkers. And considering he took the seat of Winterfell without Cersei’s approval, I doubt it’s her.

Second, there’s a shot of Jon Snow and Davos somewhere with the sun shining. Now, when did we last see Jon Snow and the sun in the same shot? Have we ever seen Jon Snow and the sun coexisting in the same scene before? Clearly, he’s not in the north. So I’m guessing he’s on his way or has already spoken with the Mother of Dragons.

Jon and Davos somewhere south.

4. Euron is Heading to King’s Landing.

It can be easy to forget that Euron Greyjoy (known in the books as the Crow’s Eye) had taken over leadership on the Iron islands, was building a fleet of ships, and meant to find Theon and Yara and murder them.

Well, in the trailer, we see a large fleet of ships with the Greyjoy sigil on them. And the Red Keep in the background indicates those ships are heading towards King’s Landing.

A fleet of ships with the Greyjoy sigil on them.

Those same ships floating towards King’s Landing, with the Red Keep in the distance.

5. Jon Snow would be wise to be wary of Sansa.

Quotes involving Sansa both start and end the trailer. The first is Littlefinger (we don’t know for certain who he’s talking to, but come on, who else could it be?) saying to “fight every battle in your mind.”

The second quote is Sansa herself speaking of “the lone wolf” dying.

Now, it’s hard to give any meaning to the 2nd quote without the context of when it was said or who it was said to. But I don’t expect Sansa to stay content playing second fiddle to her brother/cousin. And Littlefinger will be there to make sure she doesn’t.

Sansa, as she appears in the 2nd trailer.

Of Note:

-The 2nd trailer featured very little of Cersei, the prominent figure in the first trailer. She opens that one describing how she means to fight everyone circling around her.

-Not that it’s anything new, but every shot of Arya in both trailers show the young assassin alone.

-There were also brief shots of the Hound, Beric Donadarion handling a flaming sword, and Missandei kissing Greyworm (how does that even work when an Unsullied’s involved?).

The seventh season begins July 16th. And in case you missed it, here’s that first trailer I didn’t review because, well, I’m just horrible.

Better Call Saul Season 3, Episode 10: Lantern Recap

Every time I watch an episode of “Better Call Saul,” I try to think of an overarching theme that connects all the events occurring. And for most of the night, “Lantern’s” central theme was just how strong the bond is between Jimmy and Kim.

After “Fall”, I really thought cracks would start to appear. But Kim’s wreck seemed to only strengthen the bond between the two. It also showed that, for all the steps Jimmy has taken towards the dark side this season, there’s still some humanity left in the future Saul Goodman.

Even Hector’s collapse didn’t steer my focus from how close Jimmy and Kim remained at the end of Season 3’s finale.

Then, Chuck knocked over that lantern.

Arrogant Chuck, who pushed everyone out of his life with a false confidence that finally gave way to pure madness.

For all the hatred Chuck held for Jimmy, it seemed his relationship with his brother and his status at HHM kept him anchored. The madness was always there, but Chuck’s contacts in the outside world kept it contained.

But once those ties were severed (and both largely thanks to Chuck himself), the box holding in Chuck’s madness burst open, culminating with Chuck burning himself alive.

We didn’t get official confirmation that Chuck is dead, but I do not see how he survived. And now, Jimmy, Kim, and Howard must wrestle with the part they played in unleashing the madman.

I’ll go over Jimmy, Kim and Chuck’s stories later. But let’s start with another huge occurrence in the season 3 finale: the birth of Hector “Ding Ding” Salamanca.

“I Don’t Trust Him”

Hector’s placebo pills have yet to kick in, so Nacho must allow the meeting with his dad to proceed. And Nacho’s father does not hide his disdain for Hector.

Hector “Shallow” Salamanca thinks he can just throw money at anyone and they will be on board. Principled people are not something Hector understands. So when Nacho’s father refuses to accept the bribe (though Nacho eventually talks him into accepting), Hector’s response is “I don’t trust him” (translation: He needs to be killed so I can take over his business).

This “partnership” seems destined to end with the death of Nacho’s father. But it doesn’t appear like that will be happening now.

Hector and Nacho’s father discuss “business” as Nacho mediates.

Hector’s Going to the Wheelchair!!!

This is the only time in my life I expect to ever put exclamation points behind the word wheelchair. But before we get to the big event, we need to review of couple of subtle observations from this iconic scene.

The first is Nacho’s reason for being there. Hector’s fake pills aren’t working (at least not yet). And Nacho has no way of knowing when they will work, meaning Hector could take out Nacho’s dad before succumbing to his condition.

So Nacho decided to speed the process up and take Hector out himself. He’s tailing Hector and is ready to barge in with a gun and take the Don out when another car pulls up.

The second observation comes from Nacho’s reaction to that second car. Two of Hector’s henchmen get out of the car and believe Nacho has received a text message about a meeting taking place here. Nacho nods his head yes, but clearly was not aware this meeting was happening. Why was Nacho kept out of the loop about a meeting between Hector and Gus?

Gus and Don Bolsa pull up in a third car. Bolsa puts the kibosh on Hector’s upholstery truck plans. There will only be one route used to transport drugs across the border: Gus’s chicken trucks.

Hector’s response is exactly what you’d expect. Hector has felt disrespected all season and it all comes to head right here.

When his heart starts acting crazy again, Hector reaches for and takes some pills, but they have no affect this time. Salamanca falls, hitting his head hard on the pavement.

As Gus is performing chest compressions and 911 is called, Nacho takes the opportunity to scoop up Hector’s pill bottle. Later, when the paramedic asks if Hector was on any medications, Nacho hands her his pill bottle which, we can assume, is filled with the proper pills again.

Hector is taken away in an ambulance, his life forever altered.

Hector is hauled into the ambulance after his collapse.

“I Am Gonna Fix Things.”

Kim’s ER visit had none of the negative affects I figured it would. Instead, it produced only positives for both Kim and Jimmy.

Kim realizes she’s doing too much. So she drops Gatwood Oil as a client, pushes all her meetings this week to next week, makes a run to Blockbuster (the original “Netflix and chill”), and takes some much deserved time to rest.

Kim resting at home while Jimmy considers what he should do next.

The rest of Jimmy’s episode is spent trying to rectify everything he’s done wrong in season 3. He makes arrangements with Kim to move out of their nice office, tries to make things right with Chuck (more on that later), and works to reunite Irene with her friends.

“How Do You Trust Someone Who Bends Anyway the Wind is Blowing?”

When Jimmy goes to visit an unhappy Irene, he’s surprised to learn her friends are still upset with her. Jimmy’s con last week was so effective that Irene’s friends, despite Jimmy’s best efforts, still don’t believe she’s anything but a selfish, greedy bitch.

So Jimmy comes up with a scheme that will have permanent consequences. First, he takes over the instructor spot in chair yoga. Then, he calls in Erin from Davis and Mane (remember her, Jimmy’s babysitter from last season) to “confront” him for what he did last week.

Jimmy leads chair yoga as a part of his scheme to reunite Irene and her friends.

Jimmy leaves the microphone on so everyone in the yoga room can hear Jimmy confess to manipulating Irene and her friends so he could get his greedy hands on the settlement money.

Everyone is walking out disgusted when Jimmy reenters. Irene leaves reunited with her friends, but all of them now hate Jimmy for his betrayal.

So while Jimmy’s scheme worked to reunite Irene with her friends, it also dealt a permanent blow to Jimmy’s chances of working with the elderly when he resumes practicing law.

Chuck’s Last Day

Did anyone else think a long legal battle with the future of HHM at stake was in the cards? Well, Howard squashed that possibility in the first 20 minutes of the finale. Howard gives Chuck a check for $3 million (the first of 3 payments all from Howard’s personal funds) and gathers all the employees at HHM to bid Chuck farewell.

“The Truth is You’ve Never Really Mattered All That Much to Me.”

After his firing from HHM, Chuck must next deal with a conversation from his brother, the first the two have had since the hearing midseason. And never has that smug attitude Chuck carries around been more evident than his likely last conversation with his brother.

I go back and forth on Chuck’s role in Jimmy becoming Saul. Is Chuck the reason Jimmy becomes Saul Goodman, or was Chuck able to see the direction Jimmy was heading in and wise to warn people of his brother’s inevitable conversion?

Well, I will be firmly in the former column on this question all offseason. Chuck’s clear message to Jimmy is don’t bother apologizing. You are what you are, so just embrace it.

Chuck in what is likely the last conversation he’ll be having with Jimmy.

Chuck appeared to be a fully functioning asshole when Jimmy left. All the lights are on and Chuck appears as confident as ever. But that all turns out to be a façade. And with everyone who cares for him out of his life, that disguise comes crashing down.

“Lantern”

That night, Chuck gives up. He shuts down all the breakers. He cancels his scheduled appointment with Dr. Cruz. He removes every light bulb from every lamp and chandelier in the house.

But Chuck notices that something is still running electricity. So he removes all the outlets. He punches holes in every wall, desperately reaching for wiring that could be that one remaining source. Still unable to find the source, Chuck takes a baseball bat and hammers away at the Kwh box outside his home.

This is the madness Chuck’s been harboring all these years. While he’s always appeared crazy, there was still a sense of control. But as the finale entered its final scene, Chuck’s house had been torn apart by a lunatic.

Chuck sits there shivering in his space blanket with a lantern sitting on the coffee table across from him. Chuck kicks the table gradually, slowly pushing the lantern to falling into vast amounts of paperwork surrounding the table.

The lantern falls, hits the ground, and sets the living room Chuck is sitting in on fire.

Of Note

-Did Rebecca leave Chuck after a similar conversation to the one he had with Jimmy? And after Chuck’s pompous ass apologized for nothing, did he turn off the lights to cope with the guilt?

-I knew how Howard was desperate to be rid of Chuck. But I did not know he was “spend and borrow $3 million to make it happen” desperate.

-It also appears the Sandpiper case will be reopened now that Irene knows what Jimmy was doing, meaning no money for Jimmy just yet.

-I wonder what impact Kim keeping Jimmy’s rolodex will have in the future.

-Kim mentioned getting only 6 hours of sleep for the week that she got into the wreck.

-So we’ll all have to take a break from Francesca until she and Jimmy/Saul cross paths again.

-I wonder how much more, if any, of the teen Chuck/young Jimmy relationship we’ll get to see in future seasons.

-Did we seriously just have a season finale without Mike? I understand why they didn’t (wasn’t a lot of room for much else), but something just doesn’t seem right about that.

-And what was the purpose of Mike finding that body in the desert two episodes ago?

So now, the big question moving forward is how will Jimmy, Kim, and Howard all handle their respective roles in Chuck’s assumed death.

Thank you so much for checking out my recaps this season. And I look forward to seeing you all back here again when I recap the fourth season of “Better Call Saul.”

 

 

 

 

 

Better Call Saul Season 3, Episode 9: Fall Recap

For all “Better Call Saul’s” seemingly random one word episode names, no episode title better represented the events in the hour it’s named for as “Fall,” the penultimate episode of “Better Call Saul’s” 3rd season.

And no man is more responsible than Jimmy McGill for the fall of so many last night. Or should we start calling him Saul Goodman now? Because Jimmy’s actions in “Fall” are as despicable as any act (with the exception of poisoning Brock) Saul commits in “Breaking Bad.”

Jimmy’s wrath helped take down a prestigious law firm (at least that is where things appear to be headed with Chuck and Howard), a sweet old lady’s final years, and a bad ass lawyer’s career.

Well, maybe that last paragraph was a little dramatic. Irene could still salvage her friendships with the ladies at Sandpiper. And Kim may still have a long career practicing law ahead of her (at least I sure hope she does). But the point is we are finally starting to see the carnage we’ve long expected to follow Jimmy McGill as he follows the dark path to becoming Saul Goodman.

We’ll get to everything laid waste by Jimmy in just a bit. But let’s start with one fall this episode that the future Saul Goodman had nothing to do with.

“The Salamanca’s?”

Last week, Nacho set into motion a plan to kill Hector “Ding Ding” Salamanca by replacing the man’s heart pills with fakes. And during a meeting with Gus (more on that later), Hector has another episode where he must take pills. The Placebo Effect appears to be at work here as the fake pills seem to work just like the real ones. We’ll see how long that lasts.

But Nacho’s mission this week may have been tougher than last week’s as Nacho informed his father that Hector was coming to talk to him.

The late-night dinner table conversation revealed much about the seemingly good relationship between father and son. We learn that Nacho’s father is aware that his son has been a drug dealer (though he doesn’t appear to realize how long Nacho’s been back in the game). We also learn that Nacho’s father knows who Hector Salamanca is.

Nacho meets with his father to discuss Hector’s upcoming proposal.

Nacho tells his dad to do whatever Hector asks because the situation will be taken care of. Then, Nacho’s father sternly asks his son to get out of the house.

“This Is Not What Fine Looks Like”

Meanwhile, over at the law firm of Hamlin, Hamlin, McGill, Howard and Chuck met with representatives from Santa Rosa, the liability insurance company Jimmy met with two weeks ago and spilled the beans to about Chuck’s condition.

Santa Rosa not only wants to raise Chuck’s premiums, they want to raise premiums on every attorney at HHM. Howard wants a deal, while Chuck wants to sue.

Howard and Chuck meeting with representatives from Santa Rosa.

The threat of a lawsuit sends the Santa Rosa representatives away. But Howard is not through with Chuck. He wants the elder McGill to retire, and it’s not a suggestion. Chuck insists he’s fine, picking up a lamp like the crazed pyscho he is and showing Howard just how “normal” he is now. But Howard insists. Of course, Howard still wants to keep the McGill name on the firm and the money owed Chuck should his name be removed.

“You Think I’m Trouble as Your Partner? Imagine Me as Your Enemy.”

Chuck’s response is to sue Howard and HHM. This discussion was first had in the very first episode of “Better Call Saul” when Jimmy tore up a check Howard sent to Chuck. Jimmy wanted HHM to release Chuck and pay him a third of what the firm was worth. At the time, Chuck was reluctant to do that because it would sink the firm and cost many their jobs.

Now, Chuck has no such issues seeing those people suffer. He’s either going to receive the share Jimmy pushed for back in season 1, or he’s going to sue for it. Chuck also reveals the $8 million (so it’s just 8 million now?) he’s owed is a bill the firm cannot afford to pay.

$1,160,000

Now onto Jimmy’s story, which takes us back to the Sandpiper case that launched Jimmy a stretch as a very successful lawyer.

With all the financial concerns he and Kim are having at Wexler, McGill, Jimmy decides it’s time to push for a settlement in the case so he can go ahead and receive the percentage he’s entitled to.

Jimmy meets with Irene Landry, the old lady whose bills revealed to the younger McGill the corruption at Sandpiper. She reveals (and a little too freely with the legal council she received) that Davis and Mane are advising her not to accept Sandpiper’s current offer. Irene then shows Jimmy (once again Irene, a little too free with sharing the legal council you received) the amount of that offer.

Jimmy does the math in his head and figures out that, if this offer is accepted, he will receive $1,160,000.

“You’ll Get Your Damn Money, You’re Just Going to Have to Wait For It.”

Jimmy’s first attempt to push for a settlement is with Howard. And, well Howard is in no mood to entertain Jimmy in the parking garage of HHM on this day. He dismisses Jimmy’s push for a settlement as nothing more than a selfish action by Jimmy to get his money now. Of course, he’s correct. But did Howard really think he was going to make “Slippin Jimmy” wait for his “damn money?”

“Listen to Your Heart.”

Nothing shows the complete 180 happening to Jimmy McGill like the scam he runs on Irene.

The whole purpose of the Sandpiper case was to target a company that was blatantly taking advantage of the elderly. Yet, here is Jimmy taking advantage of Irene and her trust in him all so he can profit now.

The first part of the scam involves Jimmy joining the ladies of Sandpiper for mall walking. He strikes up a conversation with Irene and gives her a new pair of shoes (the same kind he’s wearing at the moment).

Step 1: Give Irene a brand new pair of walking shoes.

Then, Jimmy starts talking to Irene’s friends at Sandpiper. He sows the seeds of jealousy and resentment, questioning why Irene hasn’t accepted the settlement from Sandpiper. Though Irene is the main party, her decision to accept would benefit all of them. But she must not need the money since she just bought a new pair of shoes (brilliant but so despicable).

Step 2: Convince Irene’s friends that those shoes are a sign she’s holding out on them by not going ahead and settling the Sandpiper case.

All of Irene’s friend turn against her, setting up the last part of Jimmy’s scheme. He creates a set of rigged bingo balls, making them magnetic from the inside. When Irene enters the room to join the game, her friends continue to shun her. So she finds an empty seat in the back. Jimmy preps a new game right after Irene sits down, handing her the card that will win.

Vince Gilligan and crew are brilliant at contrasting moments. It seemed insignificant at first, but a winner was announced and applauded just as Irene sat down. But when Irene is announced as the winner, nobody claps or cheers.

Irene runs out of the room and into the hallway crying. Jimmy goes to comfort her and tells her the reason the ladies are so mad is because she hasn’t agreed to the settlement yet. Then, Jimmy tells her, “Listen to your heart” when Irene asks what she should do.

We don’t see her actually agree to settle. But Jimmy’s celebratory mood when he enters the office of Wexler McGill indicates she did. But Kim is in no mood to celebrate. She has a pressure packed presentation for a new client she rushes off to take care of.

Jimmy runs into the office to celebrate, but Kim is too busy to partake.

“Kevin Sent me a Miracle Worker.”

Season 3 has convinced me that Kim Wexler is the best and hardest working attorney on the show. It’s clear she’s done great work with Mesa Verde. But her solution for her recently added 2nd client is even better.

The man’s name is Rob Gatwood, owner of Gatwood Oil, and he has a pressing tax issue. He’s been pulling oil from both sides of the Texas/New Mexico border, and now both states want to collect taxes from him.

Kim’s solution: push for a payout with one of the states (I’m not sure which one) for diminishing resources instead of paying yearly tax revenue. It is a brilliant solution. The only problem is Kim has two weeks to get it drafted so it can be presented to whatever board needs to hear the presentation.

Kim meets with Rob Gatwood to discuss his tax issue.

“Our Troubles are Over. Come On!!!!

Kim gets the presentation together with no sleep and runs out of the office just as Jimmy declares their troubles are over (more on the irony of this statement later).

Kim is practicing what she’s going to say in her car as she’s surrounded by boxes full of files. Suddenly, her car crashes. Kim fell asleep at the wheel. Her lack of sleep this season finally caught up to her. Kim steps out of the wrecked car holding what appears to be a broken arm and stares at all the paper work spread out on the ground as the episode ends.

Of Note

-So Jimmy declares “Our Troubles are Over” the moment before what is likely the beginning of the end for his relationship with Kim?

-More symbolism from the masters of the art last night as Kim nearly runs her car into an oil rig, a little foreshadowing to her wreck at the end of the show.

-Mike was officially hired by Gus in “Fall.” His contract is for 20 weeks. He also met Lydia, and neither seems to be happy to be working with the other.

Lydia discussing Madrigal, the German company Gus’s chicken/drug empire is under, with Mike.

-The consolidated transportation Gus and Hector “agreed” to several weeks ago has been so successful that Don Eladio wants the arrangement to be permanent.

Gus and Hector listen to an announcement from Don Bolsa regarding the continuing cooperation of their respective drug trades.

-I hated Jimmy for scamming Irene, but the forethought to buy numerous pairs of shoes of all different sizes to insure he would have Irene’s shoe size was brilliant.

-Was anybody out there hoping Erin (Jimmy’s babysitter last season) would appear after Irene referenced her to Jimmy? Really? No One?

-Another nice touch by Jimmy presenting the store bought kitten cookies to Irene as if they were homemade.

-Back in season 1, Jimmy though Chuck’s share of HHM was worth $26 million. But tonight, Chuck revealed it would be worth only $8 million. Has the value of HHM diminished that much since season 1? Or has Howard been keeping the company’s true worth a secret all along?

-More fake confidence from Howard this week. After tearing up a $14,000 check last week, he throws bills at Jimmy like he’s loaded (though we know HHM has some financial problems). And then, he gets a letter from Chuck and assumes the elder McGill has decided to retire. Has Howard yet to learn that nobody ever listens to him or does what he asks on this show?

 

Which teetering relationship is blowing up first next week?

-Kim and Jimmy?

-Howard and Chuck?

-Nacho and the Salamancas?

-Or do they all make it still together to season 4?

I can’t believe the season finale is next week. We’ll see you then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How the People of Nashville Became Nerds For Hockey

I became a fan of the Nashville Predators on April 11th, 2004. It wasn’t the first game I had ever been to, and I watched games on TV from time to time. But I didn’t truly become a nerd for the hockey team I love today until this day: the day I attended the Predators’ first ever home playoff game.

From that day forward, Nashville’s hockey team became one of four teams I would follow year round with a nerd-like obsession. I would no longer just be attending a game here and there when my buddies and I needed a guy’s night. I was going to learn the game, know the players, and criticize them when they weren’t playing up to my expectations (because becoming a fan or nerd about something makes you an expert regardless of your hands-on experience with the obsession).

A picture from the Predators inaugural playoff series against the once mighty Detroit Red Wings, when I became a true fan of the team.

Fast forward to today and it’s clear I’m not the only one whose experienced this transformation. For the last two months, Nashville has been the mecca of hockey. Media types and hockey personalities all over North America are raving, imploring hockey nerds everywhere to make the pilgrimage to Nashville.

Now some (including some clueless weather man from Pittsburgh) think this is all just because the local team is making a run at a championship. And some of the fever pitch can be attributed to this (because I’m sure Pittsburgh Steeler fans being everywhere has NOTHING to do with all the Super Bowls they’ve won). But the Smashville atmosphere so many are just now discovering has been building over the last decade. And it all started at the franchise’s lowest point ten years ago.

New Ownership, New Direction

The current state of Nashville as a gold-colored hockey paradise makes it east to forget how close this team was to leaving town.

On May 24th, 2007, then Predators owner Craig Leipold announced he was selling the team. The frontrunner to buy the Predators was Jim Basielle, a Canadian billionaire who didn’t keep his intentions of moving the team to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, secret.

The stark reality of a lost franchise and a downtown arena with no tenant spurred both rallies from the public to save the team and, most importantly, a group of local businessmen to pool their resources together and make a bid at ownership.

Leipold sold the team to the local ownership group in August, accepting a bid that was about $30 million less than what Basielle offered. But the new owners knew they could not keep this team moving the same direction it had been. And this necessity forced the Predators to get innovative, a path that created one of the most unique experiences in professional sports.

The Birth of “Smashville”

Selling a nontraditional sport in a nontraditional market means thinking nontraditionally. So instead of focusing on the hockey (which has been wisely left to General Manager David Poile), the new ownership group focused on the atmosphere inside Bridgestone Arena, getting people in the seats to experience that atmosphere, and increasing the team’s role as a part of the greater Nashville community.

Country music stars began making frequent appearances on the band stage (which has been in the arena since the team’s inaugural season). The quality of the in-game entertainment (video production, Gnash’s (the mascot) antics, etc.) improved dramatically. Ticket and concession deals (including many involving free tickets) got people into the building and grew the team’s relationship with the community. Player involvement with the 365 Pediatric Cancer Fund also played a major role in making the city embrace the Preds.

Titans players rev up the crowd before a playoff game this season. Two essential parts of the gameday atmosphere in Smashville (beer and catfish) are featured here.

But while all these actions taken by the new ownership group played their part in building what the hockey world knows today as “Smashville,” the most important part of the Pred’s gameday experience was already in town.

So 17,000 College Football Fans Walk Into a Hockey Arena…

Our sporting roots in this part of the country are in college football. College football ruled the sporting world in the southeastern United States long before professional teams decided to settle here.

And fans cheering on their favorite college team on a Saturday in the fall don’t treat it like a 3 hour business trip. It is an all day party. People tailgate at least 3 hours (sometimes longer) before the game starts. Fans greet the team on their way into the stadium to show their support. And everyone makes sure to be in their seats to cheer on their team during warm-ups and soak in pregame festivities.

Fans line up to greet the Predators as they take the ice for warm-ups before a game at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

So once Nashville embraced hockey, we weren’t just going to sit on our hands and spend 3 hours debating the proper application of the offsides rule. We’re going to get to downtown Nashville early (like around noon central time, 7 hours before face-off of game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals). Fans greet the team both when they skate onto the ice for pregame warmups and when they skate back into the locker room. And also, just like college football, “Smashville” has the cheers (and I don’t just mean the obligatory “Let’s go insert mascot here” done at every hockey arena), especially if you’re an opposing goalie who just let a puck in the net.

Crowds gather outside Bridgestone Arena for a Stanley Cup Playoff Game.

So much of what makes “Smashville” such a great atmosphere was already ingrained in the fans before a hockey team made it to town. All it took was for the owners of the team getting people into the arena and giving them the chance to embrace the sport of hockey to create the unique experience Predator games are today.

So There Used to be Attendance Problems Here?

So as people began to rave about the experience of a Preds game at Bridgestone Arena, the team endeared itself to the community they were in, and the organization embraced the music and party atmosphere of Nashville, the attendance figures began to climb. And for those of you who say the city is only backing a winner, arena capacity has been at 97% or better the last five seasons (only of one of which featured a run at a Stanley Cup). That includes selling out every game this season (in a year when the team didn’t look like a cup contender until the playoffs).

The Smashville Crowd celebrating a goal this postseason at Bridgestone Arena.

So now, Nashville has become a city of nerds for hockey. But if you’re looking at this from the outside, don’t think it just happened overnight. It has been a long process that I’ve had the privilege of witnessing first hand. I sat in many games 10 years ago with 3,000 to 4,000 empty seats around me. But the people of Nashville were given the opportunity to experience Predators hockey. And each year, more of those previously empty seats were filled by new fans embracing the game. The new fans have mixed in with the old guard, bringing a unique spin on game day that makes Nashville a hockey town, and it will be one for long, long time.

 

 

 

Better Call Saul Season 3, Episode 8: Slip Recap

Three. Before Monday’s “Slip,” that was the number of episodes left in “Better Call Saul’s” 3rd season. Three was also the number of times I stood up and cheered, one time for each of the three key events that occurred Monday night that pushed our characters closer to their “Breaking Bad” selves.

Now, I didn’t literally jump off my couch and start hollering. The subtle nature of these events didn’t call for that. But each of these moments provided viewers with a genuine satisfaction of seeing key puzzle pieces falling into place and vindicated the pace Gilligan has been using to tell the “BCS” story.

The first event was Jimmy representing a “criminal” client for the first time. No, it wasn’t technically a legal representation. And yes, technically Jimmy did provide legal services to Price last season. But Price does not represent the habitual offender we see Saul working with frequently in “Breaking Bad.”

The next moment, and most tense of the three, was Nacho replacing Hector’s pills. We all know Hector’s bound for that wheelchair. But I was still on the edge of my seat, nervous for Nacho as he worked to save his father from Hector’s clutches.

The third moment was “the handshake” that ended the episode. Of the three, this one seemed the most sudden and rushed. But it was still iconic to see Mike and Gus, two legendary “Breaking Bad” characters, officially form their alliance.

I will analyze each of these landmark moments in more detail in the recap. But let’s start with Kim, another character who had a big night picking up a new client and dropping the mic on her former employer.

“If You Were Hiding That From Your Clients, Howard, Well That’s on You.”

Kim’s episode began with a celebratory drink with Paige and Kevin from Mesa Verde. I keep waiting for the moment when Kim’s relationship with the bank will go sour. But it sure didn’t happen Monday night.

In fact, things are gong so well that Kevin recommends a new client for Kim, Gatwood Oil. Kim is hesitant to take on another client, but she agrees to look at their case and refer them to another law firm.

In the middle of the celebration, Howard walks up and reminds Kim and the folks at Mesa Verde how low on the totem pole she was at HHM.

With Hamlin’s condescending tone fresh on her mind, Kim gets up from the Mesa Verde meeting and hands Howard a check to cover the loan HHM gave her for law school.

But Howard will have none of that. He’s already angry with Kim for exposing Chuck’s “condition” on a public record. Howard is having to work overtime to keep HHM’s current clients on board, and his pride won’t allow him to accept that check. Howard rips it up, but not before Kim correctly points out that Howard should have been informing HHM’s clients about Chuck’s condition all along. At that point, I imagined one of the parking valet’s walking up to Kim and handing her a mic so she could drop it, then spread her arms out scream, “What now Hamlin???”

“My Back Hurts Like Hell and People Suck.”

Meanwhile, Jimmy’s commercial business roles on with another shoot inside “ABQ In-Tune,” the music store that Jimmy shot a free ad for last week. And while Jimmy McGill’s ethics are highly questionable (to put it nicely) most of the time, it may not be as bad as the twins who own the store.

Last week, Jimmy agreed to make a commercial for free for these guys. If it was successful, they would take the deal they reneged on last week.

Well, the commercial was a success, and foot traffic is significantly better this week compared to last week. But once again, the brothers go back on the deal. They think they can just film the commercial themselves and pay for the ad time directly with the network.

Feeling desperate, Jimmy puts a drumstick on the floor when no one is looking. Then, with the camera rolling, Jimmy “trips” and falls (and he did not hold back on the fall).

Now, I don’t know if the twins didn’t have liability insurance (considering how they try to cut cost with Jimmy, this seems likely) or didn’t want to be on the hook for rising premiums once the medical expenses for Jimmy’s fall was paid for. Either way, Jimmy gets them to agree to pay $6500 for 7 commercials.

Jimmy presents the money, and it’s enough to cover six weeks of payment for the office, to Kim while he’s lying on his back playing a guitar he now owns from the “settlement” with the twins. Once again, Kim offers to cover Jimmy’s half so he can get his community service completed. But Jimmy refuses.

Seeing Jimmy on the floor convinces Kim that the soon to be Saul Goodman is having to go through extreme measures to get his end of the bills paid. Feeling she must pull more weight on her end, Kim picks up the phone and calls Gatwood Oil, informing them that she will be taking over as their legal representative.

“Out Here, You Might be the King Douche Nozzle. But in Court, You Are Little People.”

Now, Jimmy’s hurting back is definitely a problem for his next four hour community service stint. But an opening presents itself when Jimmy sees King Douche Nozzle (don’t know what else to call this guy) preventing a guy, Freddy, from leaving community service to go see his sick daughter at the hospital. Jimmy also noticed thousands of dollars in the guy’s socks, so Jimmy offers to get Freddy (a likely drug dealer considering the amount of cash in his sock) out of community service with credit for his full hours if he will pay Jimmy $700.

Freddy and Jimmy discuss a deal.

Jimmy lays down on his back to get Nozzle’s attention. Of course, the king notices and gives Jimmy his opening. Jimmy uses the lawsuit angle (not to sue the state of New Mexico, but to sue Douche Nozzle personally) to get the supervisor to both let Jimmy lay down and let Freddy go to the hospital with a full four hours worked.

Now, I don’t think Jimmy would have been able to deliver in court on everything he told Douche Nozzle he could do. But the key to any slipping Jimmy scheme is to get the target to believe.

Jimmy counts his $700 and looks up at the sky, smiling, feeling way too comfortable in this new element he now finds himself in.

Causing a Stroke, Part 1

Little was said in Nacho’s scenes this week, but some of Michael Mando’s best work on the show so far was in “Slip.”

First, we see Nacho filling the empty pill casings with what looks like crushed up Tylenol. Then, Nacho practices how he’s going to slip those pills in Hector’s coat.

But in order to be able to slip the pills in, the jacket must not be on Hector. So Nacho sneaks up to the roof one night and breaks the air conditioner. Feeling the heat, Hector slips off his jacket and gives Nacho the opportunity he needs.

In a tense, tense, scene, Nacho walks over to Hector under the guise of “this $50 bill looks fake” and “accidentally” drops all the money. While picking up the fallen bills, Nacho snatches Hector’s pill bottles from the coat pocket.

Nacho snatching Hector’s pills from the coat while Hector looks over the $50 bill.

Now, I’m not sure how Hector doesn’t hear the pills being dropped into a bottle. But Nacho takes the real pills out and replaces them with the fakes. Finally, with sweat pouring down my forehead out of fear he will be found out, Nacho makes a perfect toss, putting Hector’s pill bottle back into his coat pocket with the fake pills.

Hector before he tosses the pill bottle back into Hector’s coat.

“I Was Out With My Metal Detector Looking for Arrowheads.”

Though Mike did not appear very often on screen in “Slip,” both moments appear to be significant.

We can’t be sure just how Mike locating the dead body (I’m assuming it’s that good samaritan Hector killed off screen last season) with his metal detector will come into play. But I imagine there will be repercussions for a certain someone who may be having some major medical issues soon.

Mike with the metal detector he used to find the body in the desert.

But even more important was “the handshake.” Now, as I said earlier, this was the only of the three big moments in “Slip” I have any criticism for. The timing, placement, and execution for Jimmy’s conversation with King Nozzle and Nacho’s plot to replace Hector’s pills were both just about perfect. But when did Mike suddenly realize he needed a safe place for $200,000? Maybe it was the conversation with Nacho last week that increased the urgency of this matter. Or maybe I would have felt better about this if Mike had spent a little time two weeks ago contemplating Gus’s previous offer.

I am really nitpicking here. The relationship between Mike and Gus had been established earlier and it was still a great moment. I would just have liked to see these two interact more before their official partnership officially began.

But as it turns out, what ultimately leads Mike to partner with Gus was the previously mentioned need to protect $200,000 in case something does happen to Mike in his battle with Hector. He wants that money to go Stacey and Kaylee, not be swiped by the Salamancas. Gus agrees to hide it in return for Mike working in secret (as Gus wisely points out, they cannot be seen together openly because the Salamanca’s might catch wind of it) for Gus. The two men shake hands, ending the show with the beginning of an epic partnership.

Mike and Gus shake hands at the end of “Slip.”

Of Note

-An interesting flashback started Monday’s episode with Jimmy and Marco breaking into the old store Jimmy’s dad used to run. We are reminded that Jimmy’s dad ended up losing the store because everyone took advantage of how nice he was.

-I also suspect all those coins Jimmy found in that scene will play a part at some point in the “BCS” timeline.

Jimmy hunting down the coins he hid in the ceiling that contains rare and valuable coins as Marco looks on.

-Chuck seems extremely motivated to get back into practicing law. He meets with Dr. Cruz at his home and buys his own groceries for the first time in a long time. But Howard also brought the news regarding Chuck’s rising liability insurance, which figures to play a major part in the final two episodes of the season.

-Paige’s facial expressions seemed to foreshadow to the audience that Kim’s second client will prove detrimental to her current good standing with Kevin and Mesa Verde.

-Howard has been a real enigma on this show. Unlike Chuck, who’s been the clear bad guy since the end of season 1, Howard has gone back and forth between an asshole boss and a fair-minded man to work for. With Kim, he seems to be leaning back into the asshole part of his personality.

-I thought it was nice shot when the camera caught Francesca looking over a magazine instead of doing the legal work Kim had asked her to do.

Just two more episodes left and I expect a couple of situations to really blow up next week. We’ll see you then.