Four Letter Nerd

Author - Jeff Merrick

(Spoiler Free) Inside Out Review: What If Your Feelings Had Feelings?

The mind and emotions of an eleven year old girl are the setting for Pixar’s latest hit, “Inside Out.” And how the collective minds at our favorite animated movie company keep creating wonderfully hilarious and emotional content like this is a true marvel.

I mean, think about it: when was the last awful Pixar movie (or “has there ever actually been an awful Pixar movie?” might be a better question)? Maybe Cars 2 (and that was still fun and somewhat entertaining)? These guys never miss with their ability to make us laugh and feel for inanimate objects.

But Pixar decided this time to take a swing at the abstract (our emotions) and the results are another masterpiece for the company.

“Inside Out” stars the five emotions in the head of Riley, an 11 year old girl who is having to endure some difficult changes to her previously comfortable world. To help her navigate through these changes are the five voices in her head: Joy played by Amy Poehler, Sadness played by Phyllis Smith (Phyllis from the Office), Fear played by Bill Hader, Disgust played by Mindy Kaling, and Anger by Lewis Black. Now just imagine what your life would be like if you had Leslie Knope, Phyllis Vance (once again, from the Office), Kelly Kapoor, and Lewis Black all arguing amongst each other in your head. The only thing that would make this even more chaotic would’ve been if Hader would’ve played fear as the voice of Stefan from SNL.

From left to right: Voiced by Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, and Lewis Black.

But as I mentioned earlier, everything for Riley is quite harmonious when the movie starts. But a move across country by her family forces her emotions to make changes and how they help (and sometimes hurt) her to cope with that new world and phase of life she’s heading into.

And Pixar takes the synopsis I’ve just elaborated on and pulls out equal amounts of giggles and tears. But another element that makes “Inside Out” stand out amongst many animated movies is its accuracy. If we think back to our lack of emotional stability during those preteen/early teen years, there was likely a change and rebuilding of our identity taking place that “Inside Out” portrays so well (and thinking of those changes “Inside Out” illustrates could be very helpful for parents in understanding their preteens as well).

Riley from Pixar’s Inside Out.

And in conclusion, that is what I think has made Pixar the revolutionary force in family movies they’ve been the last two decades. My mom used to complain about the movies she had to take me to (apparently the original “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie was not a favorite of hers). But Pixar has truly defined the “family movie” genre because their movies truly are “family” movies, not kids movies parents have to endure for the sake of their children. In this vein, “Inside Out” is another homerun from Pixar providing adults with thought provoking substance and hilarious culture references, while also providing kids with the cartoon hijinks and fun they seek in cinema.

 

Comparing Game of Thrones to the Greats

No one can deny (well at least with any credibility) that Game of Thrones is an immensely popular show that has added to its numbers with every shocking death. Every season, one episode (and usually more than one) breaks the previous high for the series in ratings. And Game of Thrones is also the most pirated show of the last three years (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/29/most-pirated-movies-tv-shows_n_6390490.html). So much like porn, GoT finds a way to make money despite also being available to large numbers of people for free.

But like most popular shows in this age of endless internet conversations about them, it’s not just enough for many to look at Game of Thrones as another good show. In fact, most criticisms I’ve heard or read about the show (other than the “they didn’t do that in the books!!!!” crowd) are not “this show is bad” as much as they are comparisons to “better” shows (It’s no Breaking Bad or “It’s no Sopranos”). So in that vein, I want to take GoT and compare it to the three shows I most frequently hear as being the best of the modern dramas (and possible ever): Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, and The Wire. I won’t be ranking the shows in a straight up one to four ranking, but instead I will go deeper, ranking the shows in 6 different categories that, in my opinion, make those shows better than the rest. Now, a 3rd or a 4th ranking doesn’t mean the show is bad in the particular category. Each of these excels in each of these categories when compared to an ordinary show. They just might not be the best when compared to other classic shows. And I promise; no copouts. There will be no ties (of note: I’ve left out the Walking Dead, a show that pops up on a lot of lists and is extremely popular, but I’ve not seen. If you think it, or any other show should be included on this list, please explain why in the comments section).

Characters

  1. Game of Thrones
  2. Breaking Bad
  3. The Sopranos
  4. The Wire

I believe this is the category that truly set Game of Thrones apart from the beginning. I know of few shows whose characters stir the emotions of the viewers (both positively and negatively) so strongly. Though the producers of Game of Thrones have an unfair advantage being able to use Martin’s characters from his books, they still do a brilliant job (mostly) staying true to what they are in the text (which not every adaptation of a book has done a good job with, have they Peter Jackson?). Now Breaking Bad has its own set of fantastic characters with Walt, Jessie, Saul, Gus, and Mike (who’s even better in “Better Call Saul”). And while the characters in the Sopranos are 3rd on my list, I have to give props to the show for being the first “Shades of Grey” drama (no, not in the whole domineering book/movie thing, but where your protagonists are not always wholesomely good morally). The wire comes in 4th because the show’s premise is “The System” more than it is the characters.

Tyrion Lannister, played brilliantly by Peter Dinklage, is one many great characters featured on Game of Thrones.

Writing and Direction

  1. Breaking Bad
  2. The Sopranos
  3. The Wire
  4. Game of Thrones

I personally think Breaking Bad is a step above all other dramas in the history of television when it comes to this. The way Vince Gilligan connects each part of his five season drama, aligning every dot from start to finish has not been equaled. Of course, I’m a guy who wants all my questions answered (still waiting Lost!!!). So for those who don’t care as much about that, you might choose the Sopranos here. Any show that can humanize the Mafia the way the Sopranos does is doing exceptional work behind the camera. And The Wire is not that far from either of these two. Truth is, none of these shows would be getting mentioned without the excellent direction and writing. But Game of Thrones is not quite at the level the other three are in this area.

Vince Gilligan: The creator, head writer, and executive producer of Breaking Bad.

Realism

  1. The Wire
  2. The Sopranos
  3. Breaking Bad
  4. Game of Thrones

The Wire takes the top spot here with its five season inspection into the issues that plague inner city America (and  with the recent issues in Baltimore, the show’s setting, have proven it to be more accurate than even originally thought). The in-depth, balanced look into all facets from the criminals, the police, the politicians, the schools, the parents, and the media gives the viewer the realization that, much like real life, not every ending will be a happy one. I placed the Sopranos second here because of the acclaim actual mobsters gave the show for its realistic portrayal of mafia life. Breaking Bad is amazing, but I doubt any of our chemistry teachers became the top drug kingpin in North America and Europe. And while GoT does have the very realistic medieval times politics of noble houses and ill-fated conclusions for many of its characters, I cannot put a show with dragons, zombies, wargs and fireball throwing children ahead of realistic portrayals of American life.

Shocking Moments

  1. Game of Thrones
  2. Breaking Bad
  3. The Sopranos
  4. The Wire

No one throws a punch to the gut like Game of Thrones. Whether it be “The Red Wedding,” The Purple Wedding,” Ned Stark’s beheading, “The Red Viper vs. The Mountain,” or Jamie Lannister losing his hand as the show fades to credits (and that’s not to mention the end of season events from this past season), none of the other shows leave you gasping for breath and questioning life the way Game of Thrones does. Breaking Bad boasts its own set of awesome moments, though not all of them are as unpredictable as the deaths in GoT are. The same holds true for the Sopranos. Most deaths in the Sopranos (with a few notable exceptions) are inevitable (though causes of death can be shocking). And the Wire doesn’t deal much at all in shock value. So while it is last on the list, it does not take away from the quality of the show.

Robb, Catelyn, and Talisa before the events of the Red Wedding.

Single Episodes

  1. Breaking Bad
  2. The Sopranos
  3. The Wire
  4. Game of Thrones

As I’ve been reflecting on the great shows and Game of Throne’s place with them, I’ve come to the conclusion that when it comes to individual episodes, GoT does not match up. The reasons for this are not the quality of the episodes themselves, but more the multiple directions and stories that each episode contains and the essential importance of knowing everything that happened from the beginning. Also, Game of Thrones spends a lot of time setting up big moments. So the stuff between those moments can be slow, repetitive, or boring (especially season 4 and 5). The wire has a similar dilemma to Game of Thrones, but breaks down by seasons, each one telling its own unique story.

Breaking Bad and the Sopranos, on the other hand, excel at producing individual episodes that stand on their own and can be enjoyed even without the knowledge of earlier installments. Of course, the prior knowledge helps. But the episodes encompass and express their own stories in a way the format of shows 3 and 4 on this list does not allow.

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Tony Soprano (the late James Gandolfini).

 

Ending

  1. Breaking Bad
  2. The Wire
  3. The Sopranos

Obviously, this is an incomplete for Game of Thrones. But I felt the need to include it here because of the impact the ending or final installment of a show can have on a series. For many years, Dexter was a strong candidate to appear on this list. But its ending (or possibly the last three seasons of it) really hurt the overall impression of the series. Lost is another that falls short of these others despite some excellent dramatic television thanks to a questionable conclusion. So while I compare Game of Thrones to these other shows now, it will have to stick the landing if it wants to stay here. And no show stuck the landing like Breaking Bad. Not only does Breaking Bad make number one for its final moments. Its entire fifth season was spectacular. Did Vince Gilligan leave any questions unanswered in that last season? I still can’t think of one important question that wasn’t resolved. The Wire tied up its ending very nicely as well with each character taking a new place in the continuous cycle they’ve been in since the show began. It doesn’t measure up to Breaking Bad’s ending because the final season as a whole took a while to hit its stride.

The Sopranos ending is what Lost wanted to be. The now famous fade-to-black conclusion is a hot topic of debate to this day. But one thing the Sopranos had going for it was David Simon (the show’s creator) never promised to answer all our questions. He commonly left stories unresolved. Characters also disappeared from the narrative without a real conclusion to their arcs. So The Sopranos ending fit in much better in this context than Lost, whose viewers anticipated far more answers than they received when it was over.

The final scene of the Sopranos, which ended 8 years ago, is still talked about amongst viewers to this day.

In Conclusion

Lord Littlefinger, when he was a politician in Baltimore.

 

While I strongly discourage creating some formula using these numbers, it does clearly show that I consider Breaking Bad the greatest show of all time. Gilligan’s show was 1st or 2nd on 5 of the 6 categories, including 3 number ones. But aside from that, I really wanted to compare each of these shows, being sure to exhibit and emphasize their individual strengths. For the Sopranos, though it didn’t get a single number one, is the most balanced of the shows not finishing last in any of the categories either. Game of Thrones, on the other hand, seems to take the philosophy of Ricky Bobby, coming in 1st or last in every category. But the two number ones are enough, for now, to make Game of Thrones comparable to the other great shows of this golden age of television we are currently experiencing. But the final verdict for Game of Thrones has yet to be written. For as previous shows have shown us, a poor conclusion can change the legacy of a previously great drama.

Breaking Bad (left), The Sopranos (top right), and the Wire (bottom right), all finished on top of their games. Will Game of Thrones follow suit?

That wraps up my season five coverage of Game of Thrones. I hope you’ve enjoyed the recaps and I look forward to continuing to write about the goings on in Westeros. Be on the lookout for analysis here after the Game of Thrones presentation at Comic Con. I also hope (and hope is the key word) I will have a sixth book to read and talk about between seasons.

Here are the links to the other articles I’ve written for the end of season series:

Season Finale Recap: http://www.fourletternerd.com/game-of-thrones-season-5-episode-10-recap-a-mothers-mercy/

Season 5 Review: http://www.fourletternerd.com/game-of-thrones-full-season-5-review-the-dilemma/

Season 5 Obituaries: http://www.fourletternerd.com/game-of-thrones-season-5-obituaries/

Season 6 Preview: http://www.fourletternerd.com/six-things-for-season-six/

 

 

Game of Thrones: Six Things For Season Six

It always ends too soon doesn’t it!!! Ten months of hype and build up, all for one two and a half month season. But just like that, it’s finished and the cycle starts all over again. So to start the long “hype and build up” portion of the process, here’s a quick look at some things to be looking forward to next season.

1. New Characters

Though these are not confirmed, some casting leaks have included descriptions of characters who are very similar to these three book characters:

Euron Greyjoy (The Crow’s Eye)

Euron is the brother of Balon. He is a pirate who’s been terrorizing various coastal cities around Essos while his brother ruled the Iron Islands. I am not sure how the TV show will explain his absence from the show or where he will be when we first see him, but he was banished by his brother from the Iron Islands in the books.

Randyll Tarly

Randall Tarly is Sam’s father, the man who shamed him all his life and sent him to the wall because “he wasn’t man enough.” So I am sure he will be a fan favorite next season. Also, it sounds as if the rest of Sam’s family will be cast for next season as well.

Septon Meribold

The Septon is a traveling missionary who serves the poor and suffering in the Riverlands.

Sources: http://winteriscoming.net/2015/05/27/game-of-thrones-season-6-casting-rumors-and-speculation/

http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/game-thrones-season-six-speculation-begins-casting-announcements-offer-hints/

2. New Places

Oldtown

The oldest and one of the largest cities in Westeros is where maesters receive their training. And Sam is likely headed to the Citadel for season six.

Horn Hill

Another Sam related location, Horn Hill is home of House Tarly. Being that the whole Tarly clan is being cast for next season, this is a likely destination.

This link provides speculation for some of the new shooting locations and what they could mean for next season.

http://en.yibada.com/articles/37513/20150609/game-of-thrones-season-6-filming-location-spain-citadel-oldtown-casterly-rock-song-ice-fire-george-martin.htm

Sam’s journey to become a maester will likely be an important storyline of season 6.

3. Returning Characters

Hodor returns!!! The big man with the expansive vocabulary returns after sitting season five out. Oh yeah, and Bran and Meera will be back as well. And hopefully, we will get a return of the Children of the Forest where they will show more mystical abilities than just throwing fireballs.

The big man is coming back for season six!!!

4. Potential Returning Characters?

I can only speculate here, but I think the show will bring back one or more of these forgotten characters. Since Meribold’s casting could return us to the Riverlands next season, surely we will see Edmure Tully (who was consummating his marriage while his family was slaughtered) and Brendyn “Blackfish” Tully (no one has ever had a better timed piss than Catelyn Stark’s uncle). And what about the vile Walder Frey? He’s been absent since orchestrating the Red Wedding massacre. Does he reemerge at some point in season six?

We have nothing to tell us that the Brotherhood Without Banners is not still out there. Are they still in the Riverlands as well? Have they moved to another location? Or have they disbanded and headed their separate ways? We last saw Gendry boarding a boat when Ser Davos helped him escape Melisandre’s wrath back in Season 3. Could Robert’s Baratheon’s bastard reappear in season six? And what about Rickon (the forgotten Stark) and Osha? Will they be with the Umber’s, as Bran directed them to go back in season 3? I doubt we see them all this season. But at least some of these characters have to appear again next season as we near the end of the series, don’t they?

Jaqen H’ghar returned for season five. But will we see any of these other characters be back for season six?

5. Larger Dragons and a Much Anticipated Delayed Scene?

In a recent interview with Yahoo, Game of Thrones VFX Supervisor Joe Bauer said the dragons will be “doubling in size” for season six. He also mentioned a massive scene that has been tabled the past two seasons that is set for season six (that is if it doesn’t get pulled again). I have no clue what scene hasn’t happened yet that the effects team would say is going to be difficult, but incredible.

The link to the whole interview is here:

https://www.yahoo.com/tv/game-of-thrones-dragons-white-walkers-vfx-121365015845.html

If you want to skip to the parts I am referencing, scroll down to just below the picture of Dany flying on Drogon.

How many more seasons will the dragons be growing?

 

6. Bookreaders will continue to be just as surprised as TV viewers, but more often

As of this point, source material for season six has not been written. So unless Martin gets his sixth book out there before next season, we all will be experiencing most of it for the first time. And even if “Winds of Winter” makes it to the shelf before season six, the changes in season five should continue the butterfly effect that is turning Game of Thrones from a show based on the books to a show inspired by them, but creating its own story.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week as I’ve been wrapping up season five of Game of Thrones. Here are links to three previous installments:

Monday: Season Finale Recap: http://www.fourletternerd.com/game-of-thrones-season-5-episode-10-recap-a-mothers-mercy/

Tuesday: http://www.fourletternerd.com/game-of-thrones-full-season-5-review-the-dilemma/

Thursday: http://www.fourletternerd.com/game-of-thrones-season-5-obituaries/

Today: Six Things For Season Six/An early look at next season

Monday: Comparing Game of Thrones to the Greats

On Monday (the usual spot for my recap throughout the season), I will present a piece I’ve been sitting on for awhile now. I will be comparing Game of Thrones to the other great television series of this modern golden age of television. I am sure it will spark much debate not only for the shows I include, but the shows I don’t. So be sure to come by on Monday and let me know what you think.

 

 

 

Game of Thrones Season 5 Obituaries

In continuing our yearly tradition, let’s take a look back, in remembrance, at those characters who perished on this season’s Game of Thrones:

Mance Rayder

When: Episode One/The Wars to Come

Where: The Wall

How: A merciful arrow from Jon Snow

Mance Rayder was the “king beyond the wall” who united all the Wildling tribes with the common cause of doing whatever is necessary to get south. Though our early impressions of the man give credence to Rayder as an anarchist who wants to cause trouble for the watch, all the man really wanted was to get his people away from the WhiteWalkers. His conversations with Jon were some of the best in the show and I believe one of the shows biggest mistakes was not having Mance involved more with season 4 (you know, the season where he was leading a large army to invade Westeros???).

Stannis’s army ultimately ended the Wildling threat, capturing Mance and requiring a bending of the knee to “the rightful king of Westeros” if he wanted to be free. But Mance refused, and so he was sentenced to death by burning. Jon, who gained much respect for Mance the previous two seasons, did not want to see the man burned alive. So he shot an arrow, killing Mance before the flames overtook his body.

Mossador

When: Episode 2/The House of Black and White

Where: Meereen

How: Executed for disobeying Daenary’s orders

Mossodor was a well-spoken former slave who served as one of Daenarys’s advisors. How did he come to that position of power? No idea. He just kind of showed up early this season and started talking, giving advice to the mother of dragons like he had a right to do so. He made one brief appearance last year, giving a pep talk to the slaves of Meereen, telling them why they should fight for Daenarys. So it wasn’t his first appearance, but I hate it when shows place characters into the narrative and act like they’ve always been here without any kind of introduction or development for the character.  I mean, it makes sense for an educated former slave to advise Daenarys, but couldn’t we have met him sometime last season?

Mossodor believes in harsh punishment for the former slave owners. So when one is captured, instead of letting him go to trial, Mossodor breaks into his cell and kills him. Dany sentenced Mossodor to death for disobeying her, sparking a riot between former slaves and former masters.

Janos Slynt

http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20140512174106/gameofthrones/images/b/b7/Janos-HD.png

When: Episode 3/The High Sparrow

Where: The Wall

How: Executed by Jon Snow for defying his orders

Tyrion Lannister once said of Janos Slynt (in one of my favorite quotes of the show and directly to the man’s face), “I am not questioning your integrity, Mr. Slynt. I am denying that it ever existed.”

Janos Slynt was the head of King’s Landing’s city watch at the start of season 2, a position he “earned” after betraying Ned Stark. Knowing Slynt was not trustworthy, Tyrion sent him to the Night’s Watch. Slynt reappeared in season 4, serving as a lackey to Allister Throne. His cowardice at the wall battle may have been worse than his betrayal of Stark or the baby he stabbed to death in a brothel (yes, he did that to one of Robert Baratheon’s bastards). So I do not believe a single tear was shed with the despicable Slynt met his deserved end, a beheading by Lord Commander Jon Snow when he refused Jon’s order to go to Grey Guard.

Various Members of the Unsullied

http://winteriscoming.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Unsullied.jpg

When: Throughout the Season

Where: Meereen

How: Killed in a brothel while “being held and sung to” and while fighting various Sons of the Harpy throughout the season.

I thought this would be a great moment to address one of the issues many had with season 5; the weakening of the Unsullied. And it was a rough season for the Unsullied, who spent most of it defending Meereen against sudden attacks from the Sons of the Harpy. How could such a strong military faction be made to look silly so often against masked upstarts?

Think of it like professional wrestling. In pro wrestling, the heel wrestlers (the bad guys) are built up for months and months at a time as evil, legitimate threats. In order to do that, they have to commit horrible acts to the face wrestlers (the good guys) and be very successful with those attacks. That face may be the current/multiple time world champion with a prestigious list of opponents he’s defeated in battle. But that heel must be able to get the better of the face for a time in or out of the ring because if he cannot, what good is the moment when the face ultimately defeats the heel? If the face can squash the heel quickly and easily, then the reaction to the final defeat that ends the feud is muted because the heel was never built up to be anything the face needed to be concerned about it.

This same philosophy was at work for season five. The Unsullied have a reputation already of being a dominant fighting force for two seasons. The Sons of the Harpy appeared for the first time this season and, in order to be established as a true threat to Dany and her rule in Meereen, had to get victories against the Unsullied. If the Unsullied could just squash them easily, then the threat to Dany’s rule is never established, the fighting pits never have a reason to be reopened, and Drogon never has a reason to appear at those pits and save his “mother.”

And much like those face wrestlers, I believe the Unsullied will be back (especially when their leader, Grey Worm, returns to health) and return to their dominant form. But they had to struggle this season because the Sons of the Harpy needed to be taken seriously by viewers and show characters alike.

So here is to all the Unsullied who gave their lives in service of Daenarys Stormborn this season. And I look forward to the ancient fighting force to be a significant part of Dany’s plans (whenever she returns to Meereen) in future seasons.

Barristan Selmy

When: Episode 4/The Sons of the Harpy

Where: Meereen

How: Died Fighting the Sons of the Harpy

Barristen Selmy was Lord Commander of the King’s Guard when the show started. When Joffrey dismissed him from service at the end of season one, Barristen the Bold stormed out, reemerging at the beginning of season three in the service of Daenarys.

Ser Barristen was a great source of information for Daenarys and the audience with his knowledge of her father (the Mad King) and oldest brother (Rhaegar). He guarded her for two plus seasons, falling in a street fight while coming to the aid of Grey Worm as he fought off the Sons of the Harpy.

Maester Aemon

When: Episode 7/The Gift

Where: The Wall

How: He was old (A Game of Thrones first, a death by “natural causes”)

Maester Aemon was a mentor and advisor to Jon Snow and Sam throughout their formative years as members of the Nights Watch. He could’ve been king if he hadn’t taken the maester’s vows before the throne passed to his younger brother, Aegon V. Always possessing great advice for those who sought it, Aemon’s wisdom and level-headed approach to managing affairs at the Wall have been and will continue to be sorely missed.

Old Woman in the North

When: Episode 7/The Gift

Where: Winterfell

How: Flayed and Murdered for trying to assist Sansa’s escape

 Early in the season, this old lady serving as maid to Lady Sansa informed her that the North has her back. The next time we see her, she’s hanging from a pole after being flayed by Ramsey. No show can snuff out the hope of its viewers quite like Game of Thrones.

Rattleshirt

When: Episode 8/Hardhome

Where: Hardhome

How: Beaten to death by Thormund Giantsband

Rattleshirt, also known as the Lord of Bones for the bones he takes from his victims and then wears as armor, was a wildling leader and advisor to Mance Rayder. After the Wildling defeat in their attempt to take the Wall, Rattleshirt fleed with the uncaptured Wildlings to Hardhome. His death was anti-climatic, as Thormund knocked him down and bludgeoned him repeatedly so he could talk to someone more reasonable.

Karsi

When: Episode 8/Hardhome

Where: Hardhome

How: Overrun by Wight Children

So much promise here with Birgitte Hjort Sorenson owning her short-lived role as a female wildling leader who supports Jon and Tormund in their attempt to get the Wildlings off the island. I remember making note of who this character is and what possible inspirations could be coming from the text to inspire her character. But the mood shifted suddenly as Wights appeared out of the ground and, after getting her children to a boat, Karsi turned around and fought to her death, succumbing to a pack of former wildling turned Wight children. We may see her again fighting for the White Walkers, but Jon and Tormund lost a very strong potential ally here.

Loboda

http://watchersonthewall.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Loboda.jpg

When: Episode 8/Hardhome

Where: Hardhome

How: Fighting the White Walkers

Another wildling leader on Hardhome who fell fighting the White Walkers, Loboda was the new leader of the Thenns, replacing Styr, who was killed by Jon Snow last season.

Shireen

When: Episode 9/The Dance of Dragons

Where: The North

How: Burned as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light

No death was more tragic than the loss of Shireen. Born with greyscale and resented by her mother, Shireen still kept a positive attitude with her appreciation of various books and stories. She taught Ser Davos and Gilly how to read. And her star was shining as bright as any season this year with her positive interactions at the Wall and the endearing moments she had with her loving father, Stannis.

But we were all being set up with those moments. The positive character developments were only a means of increasing the emotional impact of Shireen’s demise when her own loving father sent her to be burned in some religious ritual in an attempt to turn the tide for his struggling forces.

Selyse Baratheon

When: Episode 10/ A Mother’s Mercy

Where: The North

How: Hung herself, unable to deal with the grief of her daughter being sacrificed

 The true religious zealot of the Baratheon family (though Stannis may have stolen that title for himself at the end), Selyse was as unpopular as any character in the history of the show. Her resentment towards her daughter and her inability to stand on her on two feet put her at odds with all Game of Thrones fans. And more screen time would include her with the likes of Joffrey and Ramsey on the most hated character list. But we were only meant to experience Selyse’s loose screws in moderation. A firm supporter of the Lord of Light, Selyse approved of any burning ritual Melisandre proposed until the final one, involving her daughter, tipped her over the edge. Stannis found her body hanging from a tree in the forest just before he rode off to his last battle.

Meryn Trant

When: Episode 10/A Mother’s Mercy

Where: Braavos

How: Stabbed repeatedly by Arya for killing Syrio Forel back in Season One

Trant’s role of late had not been very prominent. In fact, you may not have remembered him as anything but that guy who Joffrey ordered to hit Sansa. But Meryn Trant was a man who followed orders blindly with no concern for the morals behind what he’d been commanded to do. Trant killing Syrio Forel back in season one was the reason why the member of the Kingsguard was on Arya’s hit list when he arrived in Braavos as protection for Mace Tyrell. And while this show has featured from very brutal, Arya’s repeated stabbing of Meryn Trant is up there with the most gruesome of them all.

Stannis Baratheon

http://images6.fanpop.com/image/photos/38100000/Stannis-Baratheon-stannis-baratheon-38169928-2034-3056.jpg

When: Episode 10/A Mother’s Mercy

Where: The North

How: Struck Down by Brienne of Tarth After Being Exhausted From Defeat

Unlike Selyse, the range of emotions for Stannis amongst fans ranged from admiration to loathing. And season five emphasized the best and worst of the man before bringing his attempt at claiming the throne of Westeros to an abrupt end.

From the moment Stannis received a letter from Ned Stark informing him that he was the true heir to his brother Robert’s throne, “the rightful king” had only one purpose; claim the Iron Throne. And once he believed it was his destiny, he was willing to go through any means to achieve this goal. That included killing his brother with a shadow baby to gain his forces. But after the failed attack on King’s Landing at the end of season 2, everything else Stannis did reeked of desperation. More people were burned, leaches were thrown in pots, and a whole lot of sulking and sitting around happened in seasons three and four before “the rightful king” finally left his giant rock to aid the Nights Watch in their defense of the Wall.

That victory set us on the roller coaster season five was for Stannis. Most of the season, the man was a fan favorite, unafraid to speak his mind and certain in his actions, knowing that he must push his claim to the crown soon or it would be forgotten. But as Stannis began to march, Winter started showing its early signs and the loses brought out the worst of the man that we had seen glimpses of in those early seasons. The last straw was the sacrifice of his daughter in hopes of reviving his dying chances of claiming the Iron Throne. When that did not turn the tide (making things worse with the lose of men) Stannis marched into certain defeat, knowing he had no other direction to turn, and his forces were routed outside of Winterfell, where he was struck down by Brienne of Tarth.

Stannis was the fourth of the five “War of Five Kings” participants to meet his end. He leaves behind one short-fingered peasant turned knight and a red priestess who discovered too late that Stannis was not the “one that was promised.”

Myranda

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When: Episode 10/A Mother’s Mercy

Where: Winterfell

How: Shoved Off a High Platform by Theon/Reek

Myranda was the female version of Ramsey, spending three seasons torturing and hunting for and with Roose Bolton’s bastard. I expected her end to come at the hands of Ramsey when she got jealous and went too far in attempting to be Ramsey’s only lover. But she stayed loyal to the man right up to her end, becoming a victim of a sudden change in mindset from the previously brainwashed Theon/Reek.

Myrcella Baratheon

When: Episode 10/A Mother’s Mercy

Where: On a boat leaving Dorne

How: Poison from a kiss on the check by Ellaria Sand

Oberyn told Cersei back in season four that “We don’t hurt little girls in Dorne.” Apparently, his paramour, Ellaria, wasn’t listening. Myrcella was simply a background character through the first two seasons until she was sent off to Dorne for an arranged marriage with Trystane Martell. But she reemerged this year as a happy, well adjusted teenager who had grown to love her now familiar surroundings in Dorne. But Game of Thrones is where “Happily Ever After” gets mauled with a machete. And for Myrcella, after experiencing a tender moment with her real father, succumbed to the poison put in her system by the lips of Ellaria and the resources of the Sand Snakes. Now, Myrcella is a character who we haven’t seen for certain that she is dead. But unless someone snuck some antidote on the boat, it’s highly unlikely.

Jon Snow

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When: Episode 10/A Mother’s Mercy

Where: At the Wall

How: Stabbed repeatedly by the other members of the Night’s Watch

It’s funny how the producers of the show and the actor playing the character can insist “Jon’s dead” and “he’s not coming back,” but nobody seems to believe them. And while I personally don’t believe them either, I would regret not saying some final words for Jon Snow in case they truly meant to kill off Jon Snow for good. Because after all, Jon is dead. I don’t think there’s any question. The only debate would be if some form resurrection is coming.

But Jon has been a feature player from the beginning, from his time as the bastard Ned Stark brought home to Winterfell to Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.

We watched Jon grow at the wall, training under Allister Thorne in Season One. He went out on the great ranging in season two, where instead of killing the wildling girl, Ygritte, Jon spared her life, only to be captured by her later. That single decision may have been what ultimately cost Jon his life. For if he had just killed Ygritte, she would not have captured him, forcing him to infiltrate the Wildling camp. Many did not trust Jon throughout the fourth or fifth season because of his time with Mance Rayder and his dalliance with the girl whose hair was kissed by fire.

But Jon’s maturity through the final two seasons was evident by his realization of impending threats nearing the Wall. His warnings of the Wildling invasion were ignored by most of the leaders of the Nights Watch. And they still don’t seriously value the White Walkers and the danger they pose to Westeros.

Unlike many of his fellow members of the Nights Watch, Jon was willing to put aside previous grievances he had for the greater good. That willingness led to Jon’s death. Let’s hope “Lord Snow” receives a reprieve.

This is the third of a five part series putting a cap on season five. Come back tomorrow for a quick preview of next season.

Monday: Season Finale Recap: http://www.fourletternerd.com/game-of-thrones-season-5-episode-10-recap-a-mothers-mercy/

Tuesday: http://www.fourletternerd.com/game-of-thrones-full-season-5-review-the-dilemma/

Today: Season 5 Obituaries

Tomorrow: Six Things For Season Six/An early look at next season

Monday: Comparing Game of Thrones to the Greats

Game of Thrones Full Season 5 Review: The Dilemma

Game of Thrones fifth season was the most difficult for the series, with both the adapting of the script and the actual events that happened to the characters on the show. A show built on the gut wrenching plot twist entered this past season with source material that provided very few of the moments that helped the show build its audience over the years (well at least until those final episodes). I mean, sure, Dany flying on Drogon, Cersei’s walk of shame, and the stabbing of Jon Snow are very important moments. But compare that to season four, where these type of “what the hell just happened?” moments weren’t all saved for the final two episodes, but were spread out amongst the entire season.

So how does a show built on “shocking” continue to shock in its later seasons when the source material either saves all its shocking for the final chapters or for the books that have yet to be published? Very controversially, that’s how. The two most shocking moments this season (well, up until that finale!!!!) were the raping of Sansa and the burning of Shireen. Neither event happens in the books (well at least not yet with the latter), so book readers get angry, and show viewers get upset because these “went too far!!!!”

This is the dilemma Game of Thrones must wrestle with for the remainder of its run. A show built on shock can’t shock us anymore at this point without disturbing and offending us. And with there being little to no source material to work from (unless Martin gets his next book released before season six, and even then, shooting will start well before a potential release date), the producers have to create their own shocking moments or spoil moments that will be coming in future books. And that’s not to say the moments should only exist to shock us. It’s just that the world of Game of Thrones is a harsh, brutal world. And it can’t just be harsh and brutal to those we don’t like. It has to be to everyone.  So either present shocking moments to maintain that brutally that we are appalled by, or don’t present them, and we get bored.

And many viewers were bored with season 5, that is until episode 8. Until Hardhome, when Tryion and Dany had their first conversations and when the Whitewalker army made it’s strongest case for being the most significant threat to Westeros, Earth shattering plot twists were largely absent. That is, until those final three episodes. Then they came without ceasing!!!

And those moments were rewarding because the show invested time into every part of the story to get to those moments (with the exception of the horrible disaster that was Dorne). In that way, I thought season five was a much better season than last season. Most viewers look back at season four and remember all the epic moments. But in between these moments were characters sitting around wasting time while other parts of the story caught up. So while Joffrey was poisoned, the men at the Wall sat and talked about the impending Wildling threat (emphasis on “talked about”). Tyrion gives a great speech while Dany sits in a pyramid and compensates farmers for burned sheep. And episode nine’s epic Wall battle is up there with the best episodes the show has ever produced. But the whole story line suffered because the momentum of the Wildling attack was put on pause for almost all of the fourth season.

Compare that to this season, where, yes, I was ready for Tyrion to get out of his mopy drunken stupor and be the bad ass he was before. But when a man kills his father, former lover, and heads across the ocean to a land they are completely unfamiliar with, he tends not to be in the best of spirits. The man had to be rebuilt. Things changed drastically after season four for everyone, making some reshuffling necessary. And while not all of it was the most enthralling television, it all set up the great moments of the final three episodes in a way that season four’s epic moments were lacking.

And the show could have not have kept everybody moving the way they did if they stuck strictly to the source material. Though book purists have insisted that Martin’s fourth and fifth books would do just fine as is on the show, the way Martin takes his story and expands it with multiple new characters and locations meant streamlining was a must for the Television version.

And I don’t anticipate these dilemmas to get any easier to deal with for show creators and viewers alike. Decisions by the producers of whether to stick with (as of right now, unwritten) source material or plot their own course will be accompanied with significant amounts of scrutiny. And the decision to try and top what’s come before with more shocking moments will be criticized either because “they just don’t punch you in the gut like they used to” or “they’ve just gone too far this time.”

But overall (with the overwhelming exception of the disaster that was Dorne), I tip my cap to season five of Game of Thrones for not trying to appease these dilemmas by going straight from the text or making it easier to watch with less brutality. But instead, they tackle these dilemmas head on, not apologizing for the brutal world they’ve sucked us into and encouraging us to react with equal levels of adoration and scorn at it.

This is the second of a five part series putting a cap on the season five. Thursday will be this season’s obituaries.

Yesterday: Season Finale Recap: http://www.fourletternerd.com/game-of-thrones-season-5-episode-10-recap-a-mothers-mercy/

Today: Full Season Review

Thursday: Season 5 Obituaries

Friday: Six Things For Season Six/An early look at next season

Monday: Comparing Game of Thrones to the Greats

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 10 Recap: A Mother’s Mercy

Tragic Ending or Tragic Cliffhanger?

The formula for ending the first three seasons of Game of Thrones was having episode nine serve as the season’s climax and episode ten serve as the resetting for next season. But Season four began to murk those waters, with the Wall battle making the usual action-packed episode nine, but also featuring a finale with a significant amount of story resolutions.

Season five continued the new normal for Game of Thrones, using the finale to put the pieces into place for next season, but also bringing forth much anticipated moments, and one tragic conclusion.

The stabbing of Jon Snow is the last scene we have of him from the source material. It’s been considered a cliffhanger going on five years now because we don’t have a chapter to confirm the death. But Jon’s body sure did look lifeless as the screen turned to black. And both the producers and Kit Harrington seemed to indicate that, as far as the television show goes, Jon Snow is dead.

But some interesting things happened at the Wall before the big moment happened that still have me doubting. I intend to discuss all of those in the Wall portion of this recap. But we also see one claimant to the throne meet his end, everything changing for Cersei, one final blow from Ellaria and the Sand Snakes,  a new order for rule in Meereen, and did we mention Jon Snow is dead?

The North

Melisandre wakes up to the melting of ice cicles. Much of the snow on the ground has melted and she seems to have some initial optimism about the impending battle. But while there may have been an improvement in conditions, Stannis is not exactly warm to the red priestess. And other than some melting snow, things are just awful in Camp Stannis. Half his men abandoned him in the middle of the night (when your leader burns his own daughter alive, that will have an affect on you). And his wife is found hanging from a tree. With all the signs pointing against him, Melisandre decides to turn tail and run, information Stannis is informed of right before he means to set out. That’s a pretty sad move by Melisandre considering she was the inspiration for last week’s (now meaningless) sacrifice of Shireen.

But she could apparently see the writing on the Wall. And for the most of this episode, it seems like Stannis is seeing it too. But the man is all in, and rides on, knowing he truly is out of options. His small force marches to Winterfell and is confronted by Ramsey and his crew, who ride out to meet them.

Meanwhile, Brienne is still watching, waiting for that candle. But Pod notices Stannis’s army marching and immediately informs Brienne. Unfortunately, Sansa made her way up to that tower and lit that candle just after Brienne left to go deal with Stannis.

brienne finale

Brienne living up to the early season promise she made.

It was earlier in the season that Brienne vowed to kill Stannis if she ever got the opportunity. And thanks to a complete massacre by Ramsey and his men, Brienne finds Stannis helpless and up against a tree. Brienne informs the “true king of Westeros” her intentions, and he simply says, “Do your duty.”

Everything seemed to fall very suddenly for Stannis after a promising start to season five. He couldn’t help the snow, but how does a man keep the loyalty of men when they see you burn your own daughter for the purposes of a throne? And now Shireen’s sacrifice seems meaningless, though having Stannis benefit from the injustice last week might have been worse.

GoT S5E10 Stannis

Stannis in the end.

Meanwhile, Sansa sees while she’s lighting her candle that a battle is happening outside Winterfell. She attempts to take advantage of the opportunity, but is met by a bow and arrow wielding Myranda and Theon/Reek. She means to take Sansa back to her cell and proceeds to tell her all the things Ramsey has planned for her. None of them sound pleasant and seem to be enough to finally knock Theon/Reek out of his Ramsey stupor as he throws Myranda off the side of the rail and kills her. Theon/Reek knows he must get out know, so he takes Sansa by the hand and they head to the top of the Wall surrounding Winterfell. Ramsey’s men have returned from battle and Theon and Sansa have no choice but to jump. Interesting note here; the height of the wall surrounding Winterfell is higher than the one Myranda feel and died from. I guess they won’t be going face first like she did. The two take the leap, and we will have to wait until season six to find out their fate.

Sansa before her escape with Theon.

Braavos

I was relieved to see that Meryn Trant’s pedophilia was not just to make the man a sick and twisted freak who deserved to die. Arya used it brilliantly in her plot to kill the man. Three young girls (much younger than the girl last week) stand before Trant and he proceeds to whip all three. But the third girl doesn’t react the way he wants. So the other two are sent out, leaving the third to face extreme punishment. Her identity had been covered by her long blonde hair, but the girl reveals herself to be the girl Arya fed the poisoned water earlier this season. One pulling back of the mask reveals Arya, and she proceeds to brutally stab Meryn Trant in the face, back and chest.

Arya sneaks back to the House of Black and White to return the mask. But she was still supposed to be nobody!!! And since she was Arya Stark with her first kill, she still needs more training. Her punishment; the loss of sight. Though the scene where Arya thought Jaqen had poisoned himself, only to find that wasn’t really him was confusing, this was one of the best scenes we’ve seen all season in the House of Black and White and the clearest statement of their purpose. The faceless men don’t choose their kills or kill for revenge. They kill those they’ve been assigned to kill.

GoT S5E10 Arya

Arya as she watches the life of some random guy replace the one she took.

Dorne

Dorne has been a major disappointment all season. So of course, the finale had to stay consistent with that theme. That’s not to say that the Sand Snakes and Ellaria poisoning Myrcella wasn’t interesting, it’s just I was really hoping for some insight into the motivation of Doran Martell (I mean, the man is supposed to be in charge here). But we only see the Prince of Dorne sending off Trystane and Myrcella as they leave with Jamie and Bronn.

Jamie and Myrcella have a heart to heart on the boat, one of the few moments where Jamie gets to be a father, encouraging her in her love for Trystane. And Myrcella also admits she knows Jamie is her real father and she’s happy about it. The two embrace, and all seems happy on that little boat heading to King’s Landing. That’s until Myrcella’s nose starts bleeding. Returning to the dock, Ellaria’s nose is bleeding as well. She made contact with Myrcella while using some of Tyene’s poison. But unlike Myrcella, Ellaria has the antidote and takes it before she and the three Sand Snakes walk away. Jamie will have a lot of explaining to do when he returns to King’s Landing. And Ellaria was told last week she will not get a third chance. But the greater question is do we really want all these hanging story arcs over Dorne, meaning we have to return to this place next season?

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Jamie holding Myrcella, who is unlikely to wake up from the poison.

Meereen

Daenarys has flown away on her dragon, leaving her council of advisors to rule in her place. But Daario has a plan. I’ve liked Daario significantly better this season than last season, and he makes the best temporary governing plan I think this group could’ve come up with. Jorah and Daario will go out to look for the queen. Tyrion believes he should go, but Daario correctly points out that Tyrion’s skill set does not fit the requirements of him and Jorah’s expedition. The halfman is left to rule in Meereen with Grey Worm (who reappears and is in need of some major summarizing of recent events) to keep peace in the city. As he watches Daario and Jorah ride away, Varys reappears and informs Tyrion he is here to help. I am really glad Varys and Tyrion are back together again. But it seems very convenient to have him appear so suddenly. But can I say again that I really look forward to seeing these two men rule a city together!!!

So, uhhhh, now what???

Speaking of Daenarys, it would appear Drogon has taken her to the field he’s been hanging out in while he’s been away. Drogon lays on several burned carcases while Daenarys tries to get him up to go back to Meereen. But Drogon is like a teenager who won’t get up in the morning. So step 3 in training your dragon will be getting him to fly where you want him to fly instead of dropping you off in the middle of some random field.

Dany goes out looking for food because, once again, Drogon is not flying around looking for any right now (probably not hungry from all the human he just finished eating in those fighting pits). But while out searching, Daenarys sees a large group of horse riders approach, and they surround her. That’s right folks!!! Making their first appearance since the first season are the Dothraki. And while the horse lords don’t make their intentions clear as they scream and yell, circling Daenarys, she drops the ring on her fingers for that search party she just knows is looking for her will have something to track her by.

King’s Landing

Cersei sits before the High Sparrow and does the only thing she’s been advised to do; confess. Well, not exactly a complete confession, but enough, she hopes, to get her out of her cell. She confesses to sleeping with Lancel, but won’t admit to her children being Jamie’s and not Robert’s. She knows Tommen would likely be removed from the throne for sure if she admitted that.

Now one cannot simply just go to the High Sparrow, admit to doing something, and then bam, be forgiven and move on. The Sparrow informs Cersei that a trial is still forthcoming for everything she has denied. Cersei also pleads to be with her son again. The High Sparrow grants this request, but not until atonement has been granted. And of course, this wouldn’t be the High Sparrow if atonement was simply water baptism.

A group of Septas bath Cersei and chop off her hair, leaving it very short. She is then presented before a large mob of peasants, stripped and naked, and made to walk from the Holy Sept to the Red Keep. At first Cersei stands proud, walking like we are used to seeing her. It all doesn’t seem so bad if one can get over the fact they are only in their birthday suit. But then the name calling starts. And the more she walks, the louder it gets. Some people spit on her as she walks by. Others expose themselves to her while throwing food, mud (or dung, I’m not sure) on her. By the end of it, Cersei is slumped over and in tears, falling down towards the end, her bare feet bloodied from the long walk. Lena Headey did a fantastic job portraying the range of motions required for one of “A Dance With Dragons” most important scenes.

She finally makes it to the safety of the Red Keep, where Qyburn, Kevan Lannister, and Pycelle are there to greet her. Qyburn is the only one who seems to embrace her, wrapping a rob around her and presenting a large man, the newest member of the Kingsguard, wearing a knight’s mask. It would seem Qyburn’s work in resurrecting large men is complete. The former mountain picks up Cersei and carries her off, as Qyburn informs her that he will not speak until all her enemies are vanquished (and since Cersei has a lot of enemies, that sounds like a permanent vow of silence).

cersei

Cersei in the midst of her “Walk of Shame.”

The Wall

A couple of episodes back, Sam mentioned his desire to one day become a maester. And he makes a very strong case for why he should be. Gilly will be in constant danger at the Wall and Sam will likely die at some point trying to defend her (because we all know Ghost can’t just appear whenever you want him to). Jon is hesitant at first, because he really does lack friends at this point on the Wall. But he eventually agrees, and we see Sam and Gilly ride off, on their way to Oldtown, the site of the Citadel, and headquarters for the maesters.

Later on, Davos arrives at the Wall on that mission Stannis sent him on. I had a sad feeling come over me watching Davos pleading for help for his lost cause. But Davos turns his attention from pleading with Jon to the appearance of the Red Lady, riding alone and arriving at the Wall. Melisandre seems downcast (which I guess you would be too if you arranged the fiery deaths of people for the man all your prophesies and visions were wrong about for five seasons). Davos asks about Shireen, but Melisandre doesn’t want to talk about it. So Melisandre and Davos are back at the Wall with no Stannis to support.

Our last scene is Jon sitting in his office, an office we all wish now he would’ve just stayed in. Olly runs in to tell him a Wildling has seen Benjen Stark, Jon’s uncle, who rode out early in the first season and hasn’t been seen since. When Jon goes to where the Wildling supposedly is, he sees a sign that says “Traitor.” (It’s a trap!!!!) Jon turns around and is greeted by the blade of Allister Throne, who stabs him, saying “For the Watch.” Each man in the group proceeds to do the same thing and repeat the same words, forcing Jon to his knees. Then Olly walks up, and to Jon’s surprise (which considering how he’s responded to all the free Wildlings stuff Jon has lead the group into, it shouldn’t), Olly shoves the final knife blade, also saying “For the Watch.” Jon falls over and lays in the snow, no life in his eyes and puddles of blood surrounding him as the screen fades to a long black screen before finally hitting the credits.

Now immediately after the episode, I went online and found statements by both the producers and Kit Harrington about the death of Jon Snow. They confirmed that this was his death and that he would no longer be on the show. But why is the Red Priestess (and those who work for the Lord of Light are known for resurrection) back at the Wall? I mean, yes, she missed badly on Stannis. But her powers have been evident throughout the show. And what good is she if she can only burn children, but is not willing or able to resurrect someone who would definitely stand with the cause of taking out the Lord of Darkness (the one it’s been implied is behind the White Walkers)? I will assume Jon Snow is dead because of all the direct quotes saying he’s finished. But keep that appearance of Melisandre at the Wall with no Stannis in mind as we head toward season six.

jon snow

Jon Snow, lying dead in the snow.

Of Note

-Once again, Sansa takes on the role that Jeyne Poole/Fake Arya took in Dance with Dragons. She also ran away with Theon from Winterfell and took that rather large jump off the wall of the castle.

-Arya’s lost sight is also a scene taken directly from the books, though it didn’t come as a punishment for killing anyone. I really loved its use here as the final piece of her storyline this season.

-Many book readers were disappointed with the death of Barristen Selmy early in the season. As it stands in the books, he is the man who is ruling Meereen while Dany is on her dragon sabbatical. But I personally love Tyrion as a replacement for that role. I have mentioned many times that Tyrion’s best season was when he served as Hand of the King for season two and I don’t think any character in the show is better suited for a position of power.

-The Church where Cersei’s “Walk of Shame” happened was hesitant to allow the scene and needed convincing to let it move forward. Also, Lena Headey was not willing to do the scene nude, so a body double was used. Her character has not appeared naked in any episode of Game of Thrones until “A Mother’s Mercy.”

-In the books, the resurrected Mountain goes by the name of Robert the Strong. It is also believed that Qyburn resurrected him without his head, as it was sent to Dorne to appease the Martells.

Questions for Next Season

-What do the remaining men of the Night’s Watch plan to do with all the Wildlings hanging out there now that they’ve taken out Jon? And what will their reactions be to Davos and Melisandre?

-Where will Sansa and Theon go to in their attempt to flee Winterfell?

-Will blindness turn Arya to one worthy of wearing a mask? How will her training proceed with her new condition?

-How will those in King’s Landing react to Myrcella’s dead body when Jamie arrives with her? And did Ellaria use up her “second chance” with Doran Martell?

-How will the Dothraki treat a former Khaleesi? And what chance to Daario and Jorah have of claiming her from the large Khalasar? And will Drogon get off his lazy teen ass and save his mother again?

-How can Cersei have any position of power after being subjected to such a demeaning walk? And what about the Tyrells? Do they have to make a walk? Will Littlefinger’s gift finally be revealed next season? Do all three still have to stand trial?

I have plenty of great things coming as I round out season five with a couple of final articles to put the season that was to rest. Here’s the launch schedule:

Tomorrow: Full Season Five Review

Thursday: Season Five Obituaries

Friday: Six Things for Season Six: An Early Look at What to Expect Next Season

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 9: The Dance of Dragons

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 9: The Dance of Dragons

Awesome Triumph, Terrible Tragedy

The most common complaint about this season from book readers has been (well, other than how awful Dorne has been) how much the show is changing the source material. Up until last week’s awesome White Walker route of the living, all deviations from the book were viewed by many “Song of Ice and Fire” fans as sacrilege and reasons to “swear I will never watch this show again for many” (though when the same book readers say this every single week, I start the process of not taking them seriously). But tonight, I for once am in league with book purists over tonight’s brutal change or spoiler of the source material (we’re not sure which one yet).

Book readers and show readers all had the chance to rejoice together during tonight’s final scene. For those of us that knew Daenarys was going to take a ride on Drogon, it was much anticipated. And for TV viewers, knowing the struggles the mother of dragons was having controlling them, it is always encouraging to see favorite characters succeed in a world where being one of the beloved protagonists carries extreme risks. But not only was Dany flying a great ending to the episode. The pit fight provided a second straight week with an intensely fought and well-executed battle scene preceding that final moment.

But tampering my enthusiasm this week (though you might not be able to tell from last paragraph) is what I consider to be the most deplorable act of the show so far. While the rape of Sansa created an uproar after episode 6, the burning of Shireen tonight was, in my opinion, far worse. I had a feeling it was coming (I didn’t know for sure because, once again, it is not in the books at this point) and it is in line with something Melisandre and Stannis would do (because Stannis at this point is committed to being king more than anything else). But that did not make it any easier to stomach. And what reason do we have to support Stannis’s claim to the throne now? Do we really want a guy who would burn his own daughter alive to sit the Iron Throne? The last Targaryen king was removed from the throne for burning people, and none of them were his beloved children.

Now I do not plan on making any public proclamations declaring my intentions to stop watching the show. I’m in for the long haul. And the producers of the show have made clear this is a brutal show in a brutal world. But I do not care for the reasons why the show went this direction and fear for what direction this “sacrifice” will have on future episodes.

The North

I usually start with the location where the show began. And tonight, I’m glad it’s the North because I really want to get this over with. With the snow falling, Melisandre steps out of her tent and senses fire (she’s like a drug-sniffing dog when it comes to that). Several patches of the camp catch fire and the damage is significant. Davos says it was done by about 20 men (You mean the same number of men Ramsey said he needed last week? Nice strategic move there you sick freak).

Supplies are running out and the situation seems dire for Stannis, who as I’ve mentioned in these reviews before, is all in with being king. But he is actually considering now, with his men freezing, starving, and supplies running out, the horrible act Melisandre proposed to him a few episodes back.

Stannis sends Davos to the Wall to request supplies from Jon Snow. But before Davos goes, he tries (because I still think Davos is cool despite his support of the “one true king”) to take Shireen with him knowing what’s about to happen. Stannis refuses, so Davos says goodbye to the young girl that taught him how to read before heading off to the Wall. Looking back, this was done very well the performers and is absolutely heartbreaking.

Stannis has one final conversation with his daughter. So much time this season has been spent building up how much he loves and cares for her. But all that was used to emphasize how hard this decision was for him. Shireen walks out of her tent and sees a pyre with Melisandre standing in front of it. Selyse finally realizes how much she loves her and as the flames start to burn, pleads for her daughter to be saved. Now the show is in an impossible to rectify situation. All the positive character development this season was undone by this one act. I know and expect changes to the source material to make a good TV show. But there had to be other directions to take Stannis’s story that didn’t involve the senseless sacrificing of his own daughter.

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Stannis and Selyse look on as Shireen is burned.

The Wall

I’m glad that’s over with. I will step off the soapbox now and discuss the Wildlings (well the ones that survived anyway) as Jon Snow brought them to the Wall. I love the scene with the “former” enemies of the Nights Watch walking through the middle of Castle Black with disgusted members of the Nights Watch looking on (I especially love their reaction when Wun Wun walks in). Ollie walks out as well, still disgusted by the scene of the men who raided his village, killing all his family walking freely to the other side of the wall. I did find it interesting that not one discussion came up about the massacre Jon Snow and all these Wildlings survived last episode. I mean, wouldn’t you need to process that. I also enjoyed the brief blast from the past, with Alister Thorne walking by Jon Snow, informing him he’s going to “get them all killed.” Yes, Sir Allister insulting Lord Snow; just how things should be at Castle Black.

Jon and Sam at the Wall as the Wildlings pass through.

 

Dorne

In other news, Dorne is still horrible. I keep waiting for the events with the Martells to really hit their stride. But all my waiting remains in vain to this point. Jamie is brought out of his “cell” to meet with Doran Martell, who wants to know his purpose in Dorne. Jamie informs Doran of the snake with Myrcella’s necklace that was shipped to King’s Landing earlier in the season, and he came because he believed she was at risk. And it turns out, Jamie was right. It just wasn’t Doran who was the threat. Doran is hearing about this for the first time, but he seems to know it was Ellaria who sent it. Doran makes very clear he didn’t send it and is still loyal to the throne. He wants nothing to do with war and means to show this to Jamie by agreeing to send Myrcella back to King’s Landing with Trystane as long as Trystane can take Oberyn’s spot on the king’s council.

Jamie wants to also address the issue of Bronn, who is still in a cell with the Sand Snakes (cue collective groan). And this week, the Sand Snakes are playing slaps. That’s right; slaps (placing face in palm). I can’t wait for next week’s really brutal game of pencil break. Bronn is released. But he must receive a very painful elbow to the face from Areo Hotah!!! My proposal for season six: scrap everything else in Dorne and put Areo and Bronn on a tour of Westeros together. Bronn makes snide and sarcastic remarks while Areo elbows him every time he gets annoyed with those remarks.

We did see Ellaria end her rebellious ways, bowing down and kissing the hand of Doran after he threatened to kill her if she didn’t get in line. I found it interesting that a man who pushes for peace with Jamie, a man who just invaded his land, can produce immediate allegiance when he threatens to kill someone. We must see more of the complexities of Doran Martell in the future, for this season has not done him justice.

Ellaria kneels before Doran, ending her rebellious ways of season five.

Braavos

Arya is back on the dock (or should I say “Lana?”) selling her shellfish and spying on “the Thin Man.” But when “Lana” was Arya, she still had four names left on her kill list, and one of them just pulled up on a boat and arrived in Braavos. Meryn Trant (the man who killed Arya’s “dancing” instructor back in Season One) is here with Mace Tyrell. Cersei sent the two men to deal with the Iron Bank and the debt the Iron Throne owes them. We get nothing but random ramblings between Mace and Tycho Nestoris (the head of the Iron Bank, who got a somewhat hilarious serenading from Lord Oaf). I expect far more significant discussions between them next week.

But the rest of the time in Braavos is spent with Arya following Trant. And the show makes sure we know just how despicable a guy Trant is. He goes to a brothel and requests a “young girl.” The pedophile is not satisfied with any of the choices put before him, continually asking for “younger.” Finally, a frightened young serving girl is brought in and she is to Trant’s liking. He also expects a different girl tomorrow night. This was all reminiscent of a heel wrestler doing deplorable things to get the crowd to hate him, making the face wrestler’s victory over him all the more satisfying.

I also have to say I’m disappointed with the lack of stealth skills Arya’s picked up from the House of Black and White. I would think a cult whose job it is to be secret, stealthy killers would have mentioned the part about girls selling shellfish not walking into brothels. Arya follows Trant into the brothel and he sure does seem to recognize Arya, though I’m not sure if he thinks it could possibly be her.

Arya has a major decision coming next week.

Meereen

I think my biggest disappointment with the burning of Shireen is that it completely stole the spotlight from the moment we should all be talking about, which is everything that happened in the fighting pits of Meereen. For the second straight week, the show ended with a signatrue fight scene leading up to the game changer that concluded tonight’s episode.

Daenarys and her entourage of Tyrion, Hizdahr, Daario, and Melisandei take their places for the reopening of the fighting pits. Everyone who fights say they are doing it in honor of the queen, though the Dany seems anything but honored by it. She finds the fighting pits disgusting and Tyrion (who is now and has always been the voice of show viewers) finds them unnecessary as well (his eye rolling while Daario and Hizdahr “show off” with words before the scene is just fantastic!!!)

Breaking up this discussion on the merits and necessity of the pits is Ser Jorah, whose voice the Mother of Dragons instantly recognizes, declaring he is fighting for queen. After Dany and the crowd stand up, a gladiator style battle ensues with Jorah emerging as the last man standing. The crowd does not approve, but Jorah seems to pick up on something else, throwing a spear in the direction of the queen. His spear flies into the chest of a Harpy (they’re baaaaack….) who was attempting to kill Daenarys.

Men in golden masks emerge from the crowd and slaughter anyone they see that is not in those creepy masks, including Hizdahr (so I guess in the TV show, he’s not the leader of the Harpys?) The cameras makes sure to get Daario’s reaction to this, as he is the one who proposed this theory to Dany.

Jorah fights to protect to queen and, in a nice moment, Dany takes his hand as he tries to lead her to safety. But the doors of the fighting pit are locked up, so Dany and her entourage are stuck. The Unsullied circle around them and it looks like another Red Wedding style massacre might occur.

Dany and her crew encircled by the Harpys.

But here comes Drogon!!!! A dragon roar and flame appears in the distance!!! (the only thing this scene needed was commentary from Wrestling announcer Jim Ross, sort of like this).

Drogon returns and is absolutely brutalizing the Harpies (oh my god, he’s burning them alive!!!!) He eats a few of them as well (oh my god he’s broken in half!!!) Drogon’s presence emboldens Dany and she walks over to him and removes a spear from Drogon’s body. He greets her with a loud roar (which using my fluent understanding of dragon speak, meant “Owwwww!!!!!)  right in her face. But that roar is followed by smile and Dany carefully getting on Drogon’s back. The mother of dragons says “fly” and Drogon obeys, flying away from the carnage of the fighting pit as Dany’s supporters stare up in the sky in amazement.

Drogon coming to the rescue of Dany.

Observations

-Very good use of foreshadowing by the show tonight having Shireen discuss the Dance of the Dragons, a battle two hundred years ago pitting Targaryen vs. Targaryen that effectively eliminated dragons from Westeros. I discussed that battle and some other tidbits about dragons in the Game of Thrones universe in this article I wrote before the season started, linked here: http://www.fourletternerd.com/the-road-to-game-of-thrones-season-5-dragons-in-westeros/

-Another link you might find relates to tonight’s episode is by fellow 4LN writer Cam Clark, discussing next summer’s “Captain America: Civil War” and Iron Man’s view of Utilitarianism, which is the identical world view Stannis takes in making his brutal decision tonight. I’ve linked that article here: http://www.fourletternerd.com/the-philosophy-of-civil-war-part-1-tony-stark-and-utilitarianism/

Questions

-Who do we hope is victorious in the North, with a battle between the Boltons, who flay living men, or Stannis, who now must take Winterfell or the death of Shireen will have been for nothing?

-With Dany flying off on her dragon, how will those she left behind maintain order in a city already struggling to maintain order?

-Jamie was writing a letter in his room in Dorne. I wonder if that letter has any meeting to the future plot lines of the show?

-Will Dorne’s purpose in the overall scheme of the show be established any more in the finale?

-Will Arya stay the course the faceless men have set for her, or will she seek out revenge and go after Trant?

-And what of the three trials in King’s Landing? Are we getting all three next week, or will some of the defendants find there way out of their situation?

-Is anymore fallout from the “alliance” with the Wildlings forthcoming for Jon Snow?

-Will Brienne make her move to rescue Lady Sansa?

Brienne is still here, waiting….

I want to finish with a couple of quotes for the end of the season:

-Liam Cunningham, the actor who plays Davos, says a scene was coming that was “more shocking than the Red Wedding.” That had to be Shireen’s death.

-Emilia Clark said that Season 5 would have lots of “youtube reaction moments.” This could have been her riding the dragon, but is more coming in Meereen?

-The last quote comes from Daniel Portman, the man who plays Brienne’s travel companion, Pod. He says the finale this season will “break the internet.” Obviously, this hasn’t happened yet. But will Portman’s words prove true? We will see next week.

 

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 8: Hardhome

A Beautiful Reminder of the Larger Threats Still Looming

Let’s take a look back at season one, shall we. Remember when the White Walkers were this imminent threat bound to attack Westeros at any moment? And remember the season one journey of Daenarys who, towards the end of the first season, had an army of Dothraki ready to ride across the Narrow Sea and take the Iron Throne for her? Chalk it up to long-term story telling or the writing style of  George R.R Martin, but both of these threats to the people of Westeros really lost steam with scant appearances from White Walkers over the last five seasons and the Mother of Dragons getting bogged down abolishing slavery.

But this week’s episode, “Hardhome,” reminded us that yes, Dany still wants to sit the Iron Throne one day while smacking us in the face with the fact that the White Walkers still pose the greatest threat to Westeros. And both of these points were made using plot devices outside of Martin’s text (at least they haven’t appeared there yet). While the arcs in Hardhome and Meereen rightfully took up most of the time tonight, we still saw how prison life is treating Cersei, what “somebody” Arya is going to be, and Sansa confronting one of her family’s many tormenters.

Meereen

Daenary’s and Tyrion!!! Finally!!! And it did not disappoint. It feels like Dany has not had a truly intelligent and challenging conversation with someone in awhile. The Halfman wants to be Daenary’s advisor, but she is skeptical of his intentions. His first test is to advise her on Jorah, who the Mother of Dragons does not allow to speak. While Tyrion advises against killing a man so loyal, he cannot recommend bringing a man who betrayed Dany back into her service. So Ser Friend Zone is banished from the city for a second time. Now where does one go when the queen whom he serves kicks him out of her city twice? How about back to the slave master he punched in the face on his way to being a freedman. No, it wouldn’t be my first choice either, but Jorah thinks fighting for Dany in the fighting pits will somehow convince her to take him back. Yes, Dany did seem impressed by Ser Jorah when he fought with a mask on, but these are the same fighting pits she vehemently opposed to opening and needed riots to break out in the city before agreeing to open them.

Meanwhile, Tryion and Dany meet to discuss their fathers (more on this later) and the queen’s intentions. Though Tyrion recommends staying in Meereen, Dany insists her intentions to “Break the Wheel” of noble families in King’s Landing. My favorite Tyrion season was season 2, when the Halfman was Hand of the King. I look forward to a similar role with Tyrion advising Dany moving forward.

With Daenerys and Tyrion together, how can anyone else take the Iron Throne?

Daenarys and Tyrion discuss the Iron Throne and their respective fathers.

King’s Landing

For the first time in her life, Cersei is powerless. She has no soldier or family guards she can call to assist her. But the Queen Mother doesn’t seem to believe or understand this. Despite her terrible position in life, she refuses to confess when Septon Unella shows up with water. It’s a cruel method of torture used by the Sparrows: confess your sins or watch the water brought for you to drink dumped on the floor. Cersei’s pride bubble finally bursts when Qyburn (possibly her only remaining ally) informs her there is nothing to be done. And things are not any better on the outside. Tommen is not eating, no one has heard from Jamie, and her Uncle Kevan (who refused her offer to serve has hand) has returned at the urging of Pycelle to take the position. As a sign of her crumbling pride, Cersei leans down and drinks water on the floor that Unella dropped there.

Cersei in her cell.

Braavos

Arya is out of the House of Black and White, and I could not be happier. That doesn’t mean she’s left, but she’s allowed out. Her first mission: poison a “gambler” who steals money from poor fishermen whose families are in tough situations, oftentimes arranging for the male of the house to be killed after stealing their money, knowing that his wife and kids have no means of stopping them.  Her weapon: poisoned oyster!!!! Now personally, I don’t believe oysters actually need anything added to them to make them disgusting. But Arya (under a different name and posing an seafish sales girl) sells one to the “gambler,” putting the poison Jaqen gave her inside the oyster. I look forward to seeing Arya out and about playing the young assassin. It can’t be any worse that hanging out with a thousand creepy faces staring at you while Jaqen speaks vague cultish nothings to her.

Arya playing her first “role.”

Winterfell

Not much time was spent in the North, but both of the short scenes were significant. In one scene, Sansa gets an accidental confession from Theon/Reek that her younger brothers are still alive. I am not sure how she can use this information since no one knows where her brothers are, but it’s out there and might just give her some hope as she endures what seems like an impossible situation.

We also see a brief war council has House Bolton discusses their strategy for fending off Stannis and his men (who we can assume are still playing around in the snow somewhere). Roose believes they should stay behind the Wall and make Stannis come to him. But Ramsey thinks they should attack. And he means to do it with just twenty men? What are you up to you sick freak? Maybe Stannis can do a little Ramsey hunting at the end of this season. Also, will Reek be accompanying Ramsey on this mission?

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Sansa pleading with Theon/Reek to tell her where her brothers are.

The Wall

Now to the main event!!! Though it didn’t start at the island. Instead, we have a foreshadowing conversation at the wall between Sam and Olly. Olly still cannot support Jon’s intentions to save/work with the people who raided and killed his family. But Sam wisely points out the threat of the White Walkers is much greater. I’m not sure Olly is buying that yet. But everyone who survived Hardhome with Jon sure is.

Jon and Tormund arrive at Hardhome.

Hardhomme

Jon and Tormund arrive on a boats with several others. Their intentions are to convince the wildlings to come with them and get to the other side of the Wall away from the White Walkers. Rattleshirt (he appeared back in Season 3) is the first man to parlay with Snow and Giantsbane. But a few insults are exchanged and Tormund proceeds to brutally murder the Lord of Bones (I did not expect his death to come so quickly). Jon and Tormund try their luck next with a group of Wildling elders. An old man, a woman, and a Thenn are the main people speaking (I was going to look up their names later, but now that they are all White Walkers, what’s the point?) Most everyone in the tent thinks it wise to get on boats with Jon and leave the island. But some, led by the main Thenn and a giant (!!!!!) want to stay.

But then, the mountains shake and the grounds rumble. Anticipating what is going to happen, those who are outside the gate lock it, trapping the Wildlings who chose to stay inside in hopes of keeping the wights emerging from the ground locked in. Also locked inside are the giant and Dolorous Edd. Things grow quiet before Wight’s start showing up at the gate attempting to get out. Much of this scene was confusing and difficult to follow, but that didn’t lessen the overall impact: showing just how imposing a force the White Walkers and their Wight soldiers truly are. Jon, Tormund, and the wildling leaders turn and fight while others are getting on the boats and rowing off. Despite fighting valiantly, the female is overrun by about six children of the corn like zombie kids. Jon looks over at the house where the meeting with the elders took place and sees the giant (call him Wun Wun from now on!!!) emerges smashing zombies with his giant feet. Jon and the Thenn enter and are met by what looks like a higher up in the White Walker chain of Command. He kills the Thenn and looks to have a similar fate for Jon, but that “Valyrian Steel” sword he received stops the White Walker blow and delivers a decisive one as well. While all of this is going on, several White Walkers on horses (that would be the Board of Trustees for the frozen zombies) looks on while on top of the mountains and the Night’s King (the leader of the White Walkers appears. Now these are Wight’s and the only way to kill a wight is with dragon glass. So everyone of them that had been stabbed or “defeated” before reemerges in a terrifying charge that Tormund, Jon, Dolorous Edd, and Wun Wun (with a giant flaming fence post!!!) run away from, leaving many wildings behind to be slaughtered. As Jon sails away, the Night’s King gets on a pier and raises his hand, bringing all those who were dead (including the female wildling leader) back to life with blue eyes. Jon floats away in terror with a new appreciation of the evil they now face.

Jon in the midst of fighting on Hardhome.

Observations

-In the text, Hardhome is an island where a Wildling spiritual leader named Mother Mole leads many survivors to receive a rapture like salvation. The problem is the land has very poor vegetation and is likely to be death of thousands more that will join the White Walker army.

-I am very curious to see if the show, for the first time, has spoiled book scenes. The Hardhome scene has yet to play out in Martin’s text. And Dany and Tyrion’s meeting has also not happened yet. It is possible the show went in different directions with both of these, but we won’t know until Martin (finally) releases “Winds of Winter.”

-The full name of the giant in tonight’s episode was Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun. But it is much easier to call him Wun Wun and I am really glad his character made the cut for this show.

Wun Wun standing in front of the rest of the Hardhome crew.

-Brilliant quote by Tryion tonight: “A ruler who kills those devoted to her will struggle to earn devotion.”

-I also really look forward Tyrion discussing matters with the rest of Dany’s crew. What will he say to Greyworm? Will he hit on Missandei? And what are his opinions of Hizdahr? Will he agree with Daario’s mistrust of the man?

-I may have mentioned this previously, but Tyrion’s father served Dany’s father as Hand of the King. Many believed Tywin, not Aerys (Dany’s father) was the reason the seven kingdoms prospered at the time.

-Greyscale update: Jorah’s greyscale mark has grown slightly. At this pace, he will be a stone man after the series is finished.

-The series has hinted strongly that the leader of the White Walkers is a man known as the Night’s King, a commander of the Night’s Watch who married a white walker and declared himself king at the Wall. His reign was so awful that the Stark king and the “king beyond the wall” joined forces to defeat him. Also, the White Walker Jon fought tonight had a very strong resemblance to a Targaryen. Or could he be someone else we knew from previous seasons?

Did this man used to be someone important in Westeros?

Questions

-How will the Night’s Watch respond to Jon, the Wildlings, and his story about the horror of the White Walkers?

-Is Jon’s sword made of Dragonglass and not Valyrian Steel? Or can Valyrian Steel handle the weapons of the White Walkers?

-Will Ramsey leave Sansa at the castle without him? And can she use that to her advantage?

-Mace Tyrell and Meryn Trant were sent to Braavos earlier in the season? Will they finally run into Arya next week?

-The previews hinted that Stannis may consider the sacrifice Melisandre wanted him to make last week? Will Stannis go through with “sacrificing” Shireen?

-Who will Ramsey take with him on his journey to attack Stannis?

-Will Cersei confess or choose trial before the High Sparrow?

-And what about Littlefinger’s gift? Will that be revealed next week and what will it’s effect be on the happenings at King’s Landing?

-What will Wun Wun step on next week?

-And will Dorne actually matter? Doran Martell will speak again and you’re going to have to take my word on this for now that he’s very important. Hopefully, the show will emphasize that importance before the season ends.

As you can tell by this week’s questions, the pace has really picked up for the season’s final two episodes. See you in the fighting pits next week.

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 7: The Gift

What is that old saying about the pot calling the kettle black? Or would a more accurate representation of tonight’s events be “those who live in glass houses should not throw stones?” Actually, I think the most accurate cliche is those who have bastard children with their sibling and sleep with their cousin should not arm religious zealots and send them after people practicing homosexuality(you use that one all the time, don’t you). We all saw this coming didn’t we? Cersei’s shortsighted strategy of getting her house’s main “allies” thrown in prison all so she could pretend to be queen a little longer was bound to get her eventually. Especially considering the High Sparrow didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would differentiate between sexual sins. And did Cersei truly think that Lancel, the doormat turned holy warrior, hadn’t said anything about their time together from back in season 2?

Along with Cersei’s demise, tonight’s episode brought the first meeting between Daenarys and Tyrion, the plotting of the Queen of Thornes and Littlefinger, a Sand Snake seduction, and Sam and Gilly!!! (nice to see some consensual sex this week).

The Wall

Jon and Thormund are making their preparations for their mission to Hardhomme, the island where the remaining wildlings are and everyone has an opinion about it. Some opinions come from the eyes of the men of the Night’s Watch, such as the disgusted look Ed gives when he uncuffs Thormund. Allister Thorne says it out loud, believing this mission to be an insult to those who have bleed fighting the wildlings for years.

After Jon rides off, the story at the Wall shifts to Sam, first showing his reaction to the death of Maester Aemon, who died of the rarely seen “natural causes” explanation for death on Game of Thrones. Ser Allister, continuing his truth-telling tour of Season 5, informs Sam that his friends are all gone. And while Thorne is a douchebag, he has a point. Sam gets to see just how alone he is when he walks in on two members of the Night’s Watch as they try to have their way with Gilly. Boldly, Sam pulls his sword only to quickly be knocked down. But just when it looks like we must endure another rape scene that wasn’t in the books, Sam stands up and bravely tells the men to let her go again. As the two men turn towards Sam, in walks Ghost (must be some sort of “Ghost” signal one must light in order for Ghost to appear, kind of like the bat signal, because he always seems to appear at the perfect time). Rightly frightened of Jon Snow’s direwolf, the two men run away. The rest of the night, Gilly takes care of Sam, cleaning his wounds for him and taking Mr. Tarley’s virginity in their long anticipated intimate encounter. The Samwell who protected Gilly at his own expense and had sex with her is a far cry from the one who last season sent her to Mole’s Town for “protection.”

Thormund Giantsbane before he is freed to go on the mission to Hardhomme.

Winterfell

Theon/Reek enters Sansa’s room with breakfast. But before he can sneak off, Sansa pleads with him to help her. You can see the bruises on her arm as she begs Theon/Reek to light the candle she was encouraged to light should she ever need help earlier in the season. Unfortunately, Theon/Reek is completely loyal to Ramsey at this point, telling his master immediately. The old woman from earlier in the season is presented to Sansa flayed. I was concerned with how the show was going to balance the new found boldness Sansa has shown this season with the effects her abusive relationship with Ramsey would have on her. I thought the show did a great job with it this episode. While it was clear Sansa is suffering in her marriage with Ramsey, she still can speak her mind in a way she wasn’t able to do before, like when she questioned Ramsey’s legitimacy once his father has a new, true born heir.

Ramsey keeping Sansa abreast on issues of the day.

Stannis

Good to see Stannis back this week, and he’s as stubborn and determined as ever. You may have noticed the snow in Winterfell coming down harder than it has at any point previously there. The Starks have been telling us that “Winter is Coming” for awhile now and it appears to be arriving, which is very bad news for the “true king” of Westeros as he tries to march through it. Davos informs him that 40 horses have died, food is running out, and 500 sellswords have left because of the conditions. But despite Davos’s pleading to turn around and head back to the Wall until the snow stops, Stannis insists they must push forward. He’s all in to be king and there is no turning back at this point. Melisandre’s solution to these problems, of course, is fiery death. She wants Stannis to sacrifice his daughter, believing her “royal blood” will please the Lord of Light. She is right to point out that the leaches back in Season 3 did predict the deaths of Joffrey and Robb Stark, but Stannis will have none of this. All those character moments we’ve seen with Shireen this season may be coming to a head as Stannis mulls over the decision to sacrifice his own daughter for the sake of being king.

That awkward moment when your religious advisor recommends you sacrifice your daughter to fire.

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 Slaver’s Bay

Jorah and Tyrion experience life as slaves as Mr. Eko (I don’t even care what his show name is) presents them for auction. Now, it looks pretty clear to me this is an underground event, with a handful of slaveowners not adhering to Daenarys’s ban against slavery. Eko presents Jorah, exaggerating the true feats he told them last week (don’t they know it takes black magic to slay Khal Drago, not a knight of Westeros). A man (who I believe is named Yezzen) wins the auction and is about to leave without Tyrion. But the halfman thinks on his feet yet again, claiming to be a fighter as well and beating the man holding him with the chain he is tied to. Yezzen takes Jorah and the other men to a small fighting pit (think of it as the minor leagues or the Arena Football League version of fighting pits). The purpose is to impress here so you can go on to the major league fighting pits in Meereen. But Yezzan is unaware that Hizdahr (Dany’s fiancée) has brought her to watch today. And Jorah, who was being saved for the major fighting pit, here’s men bowing to his Khaleesi. So Jorah armors up, knocks his new slave master out of the way, and joins the fight, easily handling all the minor league fighters. Dany is impressed, but her face changes when Jorah unmasks. She wants him removed from her sight, but Jorah begs her to reconsider because he has a gift (ladies and gentlemen, your show title) and out walks Tyrion, who presents himself to the queen. I found it bizarre that Tyrion, who was chained up and trying to free himself, was freed by a random large man who was supposed to be working for Yezzan. But I don’t really care how much that scene lacked sense, because now Tyrion and the Mother of Dragons are in the same place!!!!

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Jorah and Tyrion before the first pit battle.

Dorne

Our five minutes in Dorne this week begins in Jamie’s cell, even though it’s a very nice looking cell. I get the sense that Doran Martell does not want their to be any question of how he intends to treat a Lannister he has in custody. Areo enters with Myrcella, who informs Jamie that she didn’t need to be rescued and is happy where she is. And the girl does have a point. Normally, I would be opposed to allowing the whims of teen love to influence decision making. But she is definitely better off here in Dorne than she would have been in King’s Landing.

The rest of our time in Dorne is one of the best scenes we’ve seen this far south so far. Dorne has been the worst part of the season because the producers have given it very little time to develop. And considering we’ve never been to this part of Westeros before, shouldn’t we give it more than five minutes every third episode to develop? But the cell scene with Bronn and the Sand Snakes did more for Oberyn’s daughters than any other of their 7 minutes on screen this season has done. Bronn is singing and Tyene is impressed. What follows is a series of insults from Bronn about how beautiful the women of Dorne are, despite the Sand Snakes. Tyene decides to put this to the test, seductively stripping and showing herself to Bronn. I am not sure if she could purposely time this, but it  was at this moment, with her clothes completely open, that Bronn’s poison kicks in. Apparently, Tyene takes after her late father and poisons her spear when she fights. She also has the antidote that would cure Bronn around her neck, but he must say she is the most beautiful woman in the world. Bronn agrees and receives the antidote before the poison can do him anymore harm. This scene finally convinced us of what the show has failed to do up to this point: the Sand Snakes are very dangerous and Doran is wise to have them locked up right now in their current mindset.

Jamie and Myrcella talking in his “cell.”

King’s Landing

Much like last season, the real featured attraction of this episode was King’s Landing. The Queen of Thorns and the High Sparrow kick things off and the banter is fantastic. I also love that the High Sparrow, the man who is leading the church right now, is playing the servant and cleaning while he talks with Lady Olenna. Her talk with the Sparrow gets her no closer to freeing her grandkids, but a letter from Littlefinger just might. It was good to see Lord Baelish reflecting on the wreckage of his once prosperous business. And while their conversation is mostly covered up threats of “We killed a king together and could be doom for the other,” a very important development emerges from these talks. Littlefinger says he has a gift (there’s the title again) and strongly hints that a certain lover of Loras Tyrell is it. Does this mean things are not looking so good for Olyvar, the man who testified against Ser Loras?

Meanwhile, back at dysfunctional house Lannister, Tommen is having a very bad week. Not only does he not get to have relations with his beautiful queen, but he also must feel emasculated that, despite being king, he can do nothing to save her. Cersei tries to comfort her son and tells him she would be happy to go and speak with the High Sparrow on (wink, wink) Margaery’s behalf.

If you are a fan of smug Cersei and her passive aggressive ways, enjoy these next few moments. For who knows if we will ever see her that way again. She goes to visit Margaery, pretending to be there to comfort her. Of course, Margaery sees right through it and tells her to get out. Smug Cersei then makes her way to the High Sparrow under the guise of pleading for Margaery and Loras’s life. My conclusion here is Cersei means for Margaery and Loras not to die, but confess their crimes and receive a punishment that would shame them in a way that Cersei would come out more powerful than they are. But then the High Sparrow starts talking about a troubled young man who came to them broken (alarms should have been going off in Cersei’s head at this point) but was now healed of the transgressions he committed. The light bulb finally turns on for Cersei when Lancel steps out. She tries to escape, but a septa (Septa Unella) is blocking the door and proceeds to grab hold of her and throws Cersei in her own cell. Cersei believed her willingness to help the High Sparrow would buy her his allegiance. I guess that was a miscalculation. Also, it was interesting to see the very pious High Sparrow use calculating tactics here to arrest Cersei. He had to have know about Cersei’s past sins from the first time they talked. But knowing he didn’t have the means to apprehend her, he waited until the perfect moment.

Cersei and Tommen before her ill-fated trip to the Holy Sept.

 Observations

-So after five seasons, Winter appears to be making it’s arrival. Of course, it hasn’t appeared in all of the Seven Kingdoms yet, but my guess is it won’t be long. And remember, the seasons in Westeros do not have a predetermined time. They could last any number of years, which is why Stannis felt he could not simply wait out the snow.

-Sam handed Jon some dragonglass as he left for Hardhomme, a nice reminder of the White Walkers, who sure seem to be taking their sweet time making their way to Westeros.

-Maester Aemon, before he died, made several references to Aegon, his younger brother who became king. Aegon is featured in the “Tales of Dunk and Egg” series. It is also the name of four other kings of Westeros and of the baby Targaryen who was killed during the sack of King’s Landing (“You raped her, you murdered her, you killed her children.”)

-The flaying of bodies Ramsey has practiced this season is an old practice of House Bolton. They do it when interrogating prisoners and it is the basis for their sigil.

The sigil of House Bolton.

-In the fifth book, Yezzan, the man who buys Jorah and Tyrion, is much fatter and kinder to his slaves than this version of him was. In fact, if Jorah and Tyrion are going before the queen next week, that might be a very quick end to the story of an important minor character from the book.

-Each of the last two weeks, the Queen of Thornes has used the threat of withholding food from the fertile reach, keeping it out of King’s Landing. But the High Sparrow, in response this week, seemed to hint at peasant rebellion, correctly pointing out that poor workers far outnumber members of noble houses.

-I found it interesting that the Sand Snakes and Bronn (a sellsword and three bastards) were put in far less luxurious conditions than Jamie. I do not believe this was a mistake by Doran Martell (who I hope at some point you get to see on screen for more than two minutes this season).

Questions….

-How will Littlefinger’s “gift” play a part in the impending trial of Loras and Margaery?

-And with so many queens locked up and Tommen have no power to speak of, who exactly is running King’s Landing right now?

-Will Daenarys welcome back Jorah? And how will she receive Tyrion, a man from the same house as the one that had her niece and nephew brutally murdered?

-Brienne still has an eye on Winterfell. Will Sansa light the candle next week?

-How will the Wildlings receive Jon Snow on Hardhomme? And what kind of atmosphere will greet Snow when he returns to the Wall?

-Will Stannis truly sacrifice his daughter for the sake of victory at Winterfell?

Just three episodes left this season and things have definitely picked up as we move towards this season’s conclusion.

Previous Generation of Late Night Hosts Going Out Quietly

I remember coming home after a little league baseball game I played in on a Friday night in May of 1992. After a quick shower, I walked downstairs to have a late night snack and my parents had the TV on Johnny Carson, host of the Tonight Show from 1962 to 1992. It was his well publicized last show as host and around 50 million people tuned in. The prestige of the event was evident even to 11 year old me and the ratings mentioned earlier were further evidence to how much people would miss the former “king of late night.”

David Letterman, whose 32 year career included “Late Night” on NBC and “The Late Show” on CBS, will host his last show on Wednesday. How many of you are reading this for the first time? Though the recognition has picked up somewhat this week,  it is truly amazing how little pub the end of the run of such a significant figure in the history of late night is having. And did anybody reading this watch Jay Leno’s final “Tonight Show?” Though it did have a decent rating, it’s audience was a fourth of the size of Carson’s audience and the buzz for it was next to nothing. So why are the ends of the 30 plus year runs of Leno and Letterman on late night television lacking the fanfare of their predecessor? Here are a couple of speculations on my part as to why the pomp around their exits has been significantly less.

1. The Expansion of the Late Night Universe

When Carson was “king of late night,” no one was really competing with him. Letterman came on the same network following Carson and the other networks answered with their own alternate programming (for example “Nightline” on ABC). Now, three of the four major networks have a late night show (NBC and CBS have two). Plus, there are numerous offerings for the late night audience, whether it be Conan on TBS, the Daily Show on Comedy Central, or creepy adult cartoons on Adult Swim (just to name a few). The saturation of the Late Night market has definitely lessened the buzz of these two departed late night legends.

2. Excitement for Their Replacements

When discussing this article with fellow 4LN writer Cam Clark, his thoughts were “I can’t wait for Stephen Colbert (Letterman’s replacement on the Late Show) to take over.” His comments were an exact quote from me when Leno stepped down, except for replacing Stephen Colbert’s name with Jimmy Fallon’s. When Carson retired, Leno had only been a substitute host on the Tonight Show and Letterman came on after many who watched the Tonight Show went to bed. So when Carson stepped down, there was an air of uncertainty surrounding the new hosts. Thanks to social media, Fallon’s shenanigans on “Late Night” were well known and built up quite the buzz for the eventual taking over of the coveted “Tonight Show” spot.  The same could be said for Jimmy Kimmel, whose own brand on ABC was already making waves in the final years of Leno and Letterman’s shows. And while we can’t say for sure what Stephen Colbert will look like as host of the Late Show, viewers will have a strong familiarity with him from his years hosting “The Colbert Report” in the same time slot. The buzz surrounding the current crop of late night hosts have been so significant that it has greatly overshadowed those who are stepping away.

3. Online Streaming

The emergence of YouTube and internet streaming happened right in the middle of the transition between the old and the new guard of late night. Jimmy Fallon figured this out early, breaking his show down into bits that could be consumed just as easily in 7 minute clips online as they could on the air. Kimmel and Conan do similar bits that can stream to anyone at anytime, not just those who stayed up to watch the first viewing. This change happened while Leno and Letterman were still on the air. And while both men added social media pages and posted some shenanigans online, their brand of humor never adapted the way those whose shows immersed themselves in it from the start. As much as anything, the internet helped build the excitement for the new guard, making us forget about the men who came before.

4. The Frosty Relationship Between Leno and Letterman

The decision to replace Carson with Leno proved to be a permanent point of contention between the two hosts. Letterman believed his work on “Late Night” was enough to qualify him to replace Carson. So when Leno was chosen by the brass at NBC, Letterman took his talents to CBS and a late night ratings war (with words and with viewers) was born. Compare this to the many hosts in the coveted spots today, who while competing with each other, have yet to resort to the verbal sparring Leno and Letterman practiced.

Letterman and Leno before they became competitors.

 

5. The Conan Debacle

Some of you may have been screaming this one from the start of the article. And while I don’t think it’s the only reason for the quiet parting of these two men, I definitely believe it is the primary one.

NBC’s master plan to replace Leno with Conan in the “Tonight Show” spot was a disaster. To keep Conan with the network on “Late Night,” NBC agreed to turn the “Tonight Show” over to Conan in 2009 (the deal was made five years before this date). But when the time came to pass the torch, Leno was unwilling to bow out. Instead of retiring or moving to another network, Leno convinced the brass at NBC to put him into a nightly primetime spot. The disaster of Leno’s new show plus poor ratings for Conan on the Tonight Show created an issue that NBC resolved by putting Leno back on “The Tonight Show” and canning Conan (though Conan actually ended up quitting because of NBC”s proposal to put Leno on for 30 minutes before Conan). Leno made a lot of enemies with this move and, as much as anything, is why Leno bowed out quietly.

But Letterman did himself no favors by jumping into the fray. Maybe it was just too much for Letterman to resist, having his longtime enemy make such a selfish move. The following are Letterman’s comments criticizing Leno for his handling of the situation:

 

You may have noticed this video was titled “Vol. 1.” I found ten volumes of this while looking for this clip online. If Letterman would’ve only spoke up this one time, maybe the effect would have been minimal (this one clip is actually very funny). But the nightly rants really wore on some previous Letterman supporters. In contrast, here are Conan’s closing remarks on his final tonight show:

 

Talk about a different tone. And has it turned out, this may have been the best thing that ever happened to Conan. He turned his misfortune into a successful comedy tour and a new gig on TBS in a slot that is more fitting to O’Brien’s style of humor. But the biggest winner of the entire episode was NBC, the network responsible for the debacle in the first place. They ended up with Jimmy Fallon and his game-changing late night antics for “The Tonight Show.” But there will be plenty of years to praise the new king as well as those who very successfully navigate the waters of late night television today. But I was a regular viewer of Letterman in my teen and college years and while I have not found the man funny in awhile, I still think he deserves some props for the influence he’s had on the generation of hosts with us today. So here’s to the end of David Letterman’s run on late night television, now when does Stephen Colbert start?