Four Letter Nerd

Author - Jeff Merrick

Game of Thrones to Go 8 Seasons? Prequel series possible?

We have news folks!!! It’s been a whole six weeks since season 5 ended and news about season six for Game of Thrones has been almost non existent. Yes, there are a few leaked photos and casting descriptions for next season out there. But unfortunately for me, the Game of Thrones guy here at 4LN, it appears the creatives behind HBO’s top show plan to keep next season one big secret.

Consider that last year at Comic Con, the producers (Dan Benoif and Dan Weiss) of GoT were there, George R.R. Martin was there, and there was a video introducing new characters and the actors that were cast to play them. This year’s panel? No producers, no author, and a tape of old casting auditions. No new characters, no new locations, nothing of substance whatsoever.

So when someone associated with HBO (the network’s programming president, Michael Lombardo) says something at an official press gathering (the Television Critic’s Association summer press tour), I have to jump all over it.

Lombardo seems to think the show will go about 8 seasons (or has he said it, “two more years after 6”) on Thursday. Now what makes this significant is Benioff and Weiss have insisted on a total of 7 seasons for awhile now. But if what Lombardo is saying and implying is true, that narrative has changed not only on his end, but on their end.

Of course, Lombardo is on record wanting ten seasons, so 8 seasons seems like the perfect compromise between allowing HBO to cash in on the show, but not letting it get away from itself creatively.  And based on all the different storylines at play right now, I don’t see how they can all be resolved in two more seasons.

Also, Lombardo hinted at being open to a prequel series, but seemed to indicate that no discussions have taken place regarding this concept. It also doesn’t sound like any project would move forward without Thrones producers Benoiff and Weiss. But it is something to keep an eye on as GoT moves towards the end of its run.

So three more seasons and the possibility of a prequel series to follow is very welcome news for Thrones fans indeed!!!

Pixels: Spoiler Free Movie Review

Thousands of hours of television and movie viewing over the course of a lifetime will undoubtedly be filled with hits and misses. There are movies that will bring grown macho guys like all of us here at 4LN to tears because of its awesomeness. And others (at least when they come through the mail from Netflix) get that immediate return to the mailbox. And when I say immediate, I mean out of the DVD player, back into the envelope, and I am out the door with it so I can put in the mail the very night I tried to watch it. Some movies have been so bad that I don’t even want them infesting the air of my living room longer than they have to.

But every once in awhile, that rare piece of entertainment comes along that, after it’s over, produces a collective “ehhh” from its audience. “Pixels,” the most recent from Adam Sandler, is such a picture. I mean, it’s exactly what you’d expect from Sandler (poor reviews from critics included), so you can’t complain about it too much. But just because it’s what you’d expect doesn’t make it good. “Pixels” is the very definition of the word average, with equal positive and negative qualities.

Critic whipping boy Adam Sandler takes his next shot in the movie “Pixels.”

“Pixels” is about a crew of former game geniuses who find their skills they possessed as kids unhelpful as adults. That is, until the world needs them to stop a series of attacks by classic arcade video game characters who were sent into outer space by the form of a time capsule. The alien race took the capsule as a challenge, and now the former gamers are needed to save the world.

The premise is genius. The idea of old video game characters coming back to haunt us in the future is a fantastic idea. And with a cast that includes Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Josh Gad, and Tyrion Lan…I mean Peter Dinklage, of course there’s going to be some funny one liners.

Michelle Monaghan, Adam Sandler, Josh Gad, and Peter Dinklage in Pixels.

But for every clever one liner, there’s miles of cheesy clichés that should inspire plenty of frat house drinking games in the future. Kevin James plays the part of the president. I don’t need to say anything more about that. Peter Dinklage is an amazing actor and he still has his moments here. But the role is definitely limiting to someone of Dinklage’s caliber. And what should’ve been the strength of the movie (the classic video game characters) did not, in my opinion, appear near enough (at least not in the first half of the movie).

Pacman and Centipede, a couple of the video games who star in the movie “Pixels.”

But I would still say there is enough decent fun to make “Pixels” worth a one night rental from redbox, a view on Netflix (it’s likely destination with the deal the streaming service has with Adam Sandler), or a cable TV viewing. The numerous eighties references will be enough for some folks. There’s also an incredible lack of thinking required while viewing this film, which can be kind of nice. But for all of “Pixels” flaws, nothing about it is unexpected. If you walk into “Pixels” expecting something different than what Sandler always brings to his movies, that’s a you problem. Sandler is exactly what he’s been most every picture he’s done since “Mr. Deeds.” You either love or hate Adam Sandler. And as a guy who has grown up with and enjoyed his humor since his days on SNL, I found enough to make “Pixels” worth my viewing experience (not as a full price evening theater viewing, but as one of two films at a drive-in double feature). But if you don’t care for Sandler, then pass on “Pixels.”

 

Is Ant-Man Too Much Marvel?

Before I start, I want to clarify that I am not a “true” comic book fan. I love the various depictions of the characters on screens big and small, but there are very few comic books I’ve actually read. So I am not a “fanboy” (I think that’s the right term) who salivated at every obscure lesser known character who’s popped up randomly in the various Marvel Cinematic Universe Films.

So maybe that is why I move forward with trepidation as Marvel continues Friday with its run of lesser known comic book hero films. When you look at the slate of Marvel movies coming out that don’t include Captain America or Thor, I sometimes wonder if the executives of Marvel aren’t throwing darts at pictures of the thousands (at least) of characters in their universe to determine where they will hit their next jackpot. And the lottery winners being rolled out over the next three years (not including the various characters getting Netflix shows) include Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and Ant-Man.

I remember awhile back looking up the original lineup of the Avengers and seeing all the principal characters we’ve seen on the big screen. There was IRON MAN, THE HULK, THOR, and CAPTAIN AMERICA: epic superhero names and personalities. But there were also these two random characters, little tiny blips when compared to those previously mentioned: the wasp and ant-man. And I joked about how funny it was that the two miniatures were mixed in with the same group as the epic household names mentioned previously. No way either one of them gets their own picture.

But yet here we are at that point with one of those lesser known original Avengers getting their own picture as Marvel turns on that machine at their office that prints the money while everyone flocks to see another superhero movie. I really think this skit from this past season of Saturday Night Live sums it up perfectly (sorry for the poor quality. Hulu Subscribers can probably find a better version of it).

Now, this does not mean that Ant-Man will be a bad movie. If Marvel maintains the standard they’ve held up over these last 7 years, then it will surely be entertaining. Paul Rudd’s casting as the hero is a definite mark in the plus column for this picture. And “Guardians of the Galaxy” proved last summer that Marvel can make magic even with its most obscure characters.

But the burning question for me is at what point will we tire of these Marvel movies? Is going to see Ant-Man, Civil War, Guardians 2, (another) Spider Man, Thor 3, Infinity War 1, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and Infinity War 2 (not to mention Inhumans coming out after Infinity War 2 or the other Marvel pictures not related to the Avengers) going to finally oversaturate us with the top brand name of comics so those concluding movies just don’t matter to us like they should? Will all these obscure Marvel character pictures tire us before the main event of the Infinity War arrives?

I sure hope not. But each Marvel picture is another dance with the unfortunate possibility of overexposure.

Ranking the Pixar Movies; Every Stinking One of Them

I continue my dabbling in family friendly affairs this week (after all, I am the “Game of Thrones” writer around here) with what may prove to be the most hotly debated topic I’ve presented here at 4LN (which is saying something, because Game of Thrones book readers and show watchers can be a very fickle, angry bunch). And much like my list comparing Game of Thrones to the great shows of all time, I will not declare any ties to try and avoid tougher decisions with my rankings. So here they are, from number 15 to 1 (including the most recent Pixar movie, “Inside Out), a comprehensive ranking of all of Pixar’s films.

15. Cars 2

I believe what makes Pixar’s movies so successful is that they are true “family” pictures, not just movies made for kids that parents must take their kids to. But the “Cars” series is the exception to this. While there are a few fun pop culture references the adults get that the kids won’t, it is mostly the fun of talking Cars. That is especially true of the sequel, which went to production far quicker than any other Pixar sequel (including sequels still in production).

14. Cars

See above, with the exception of the montage/critic of the interstate system that ruined entire cities because it directed traffic away from them. Also notable were the 10 billion (not million, billion according to LA Times in 2010) dollars in merchandise sales this film produced (hence, the reason for the quick sequel).

13. Ratatouille

A mouse cooking in a kitchen while French chefs speak poor English with really bad accents? Sure, that sounds like an amazing concept. I will give Pixar credit for making a decent film out of a concept most studios would have been unable to salvage. Did I mention the mouse is cooking food?

12. WALL-E

The only real attempt by Pixar to be political, WALL-E warns us of the dangers of our overuse of the planet’s resources with the use of a Robot who finds “life” on a lifeless earth. The politics of the film don’t put it as far down for me as much as I just have a hard time with movies where Robots who can’t talk are the main protagonists.

11. Monster’s University

Everything from here on out is a movie that I really enjoyed and/or own, so it gets more difficult to rank them from this point forward. And the lone prequel in the Pixar collection enters the list here as we discover how Mike and Sully became the scare team they are in Monster’s Inc.

10. The Incredibles

What allowed “The Incredibles” to crack the top ten of this list? Demon Baby!!! I think that’s all I need to say.

And being that Superheroes were beginning to appear with regularity on the big screen in 2004, “The Incredibles” fit in perfectly, asking the question, “What would happen if Superheroes were forced to be just regular people?”

9. Brave

Brave was the first Pixar movie to feature a female in the role of main protagonist. It also has a historical context and soundtrack unique compared to all other Pixar movies thanks to its Scottish setting. I thought Brave was very close to the two movies that came before it on this list. But the strength of Merida’s character push this one above movies 10 and 11.

8. Monster’s Inc.

Monster’s Inc. was given the unfortunate task of following “Toy Story 2,” a placement that I believe hurt our perceptions of Mike and Sully at the time. Billy Crystal, fresh off turning down the role of Buzz Lightyear, did not want to make that mistake again, appearing with John Goodman as the voice stars of this important life lesson in why Monsters scare us when we were kids.

7. A Bug’s Life

The follow up to “Toy Story” (the first one that is), “A Bug’s Life” was significant in that it showed the quality Pixar put into its first movie would stay consistent throughout their future endeavors. They didn’t just have one great idea, only to flounder in quality just to make more money after it. This tale of Flik, a bug looking to save his ant colony from grasshoppers, exhibited the same creativity to Pixar’s first feature film.

6. Up

Asia and Africa are only the continents (well inhabitable continents that is) a Pixar movie has not used as the setting for. South America had its turn with “Up” and the use of Angel Falls (the real life inspiration for Paradise Falls in the movie) as the end destination for Carl and his accidental travel companion, Russell. The immediate tears produced by the opening montage of Carl’s relationship with his wife may be one of the best scenes Pixar has ever done. “Up” was also the first Pixar movie to be nominated for the Academy Awards Best Picture (one of only three animated movies to be nominated).

5. Toy Story

 

The one that started it all, not just for Pixar, but as the first feature length computer animated movie. And let’s all take a moment and be thankful for that. Think about it. What if something like “Barnyard” had been the first computer animated feature film? It’s likely everyone would’ve flocked to the theatres to see it just because of the cool graphics and the studios would follow suit, putting out crappy movies quickly in order to ride the wave of digital animation. But the first “Toy Story” set a standard that demanded quality from digital animation, not just flashy visuals.

4. Inside Out

Now this may just be based on emotion. I have just seen the latest Pixar feature film and so the emotion that comes with that is still fresh on my mind. So maybe a better barometer of how this one will stack up to the rest will be after more time as passed. But there can be no doubt it was a stellar first impression. I don’t know if a voice cast for a Pixar movie has been cast better for their respective roles than this one. And that perfect Pixar formula combining life lesson, laughs, and tearful moments is as evident in “Inside Out” as any picture Pixar has put forth.

3. Finding Nemo

It was a tough call putting Nemo here over the three movies previously mentioned.  But Marlin and Dory’s adventure featuring rehabbing sharks, jet stream surfing turtles, and fluent whale speak just had too many great moments to keep out of the top 3. I am surprised it took as long as it did to work out a deal for a sequel for this Pixar classic.

2. Toy Story 2

Pixar not only set the standard for what digital animation should be, it shattered a couple of preconceived rules about sequels. One of those was the Disney company policy of never releasing a sequel of one of their movies into theaters. Does anybody out there own a copy of those wonderful straight to DVD sequels of the Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Tarzan? Well that was the planned policy for Toy Story’s sequel; small production costs to maximize big profits. But the budget got too big to go cheap, so Disney prepared the sequel for theatrical release.

Another rule Toy Story 2 ignores is that a sequel is never as good as the first. Well Woody and Buzz’s second adventure delivered significantly more laughs than the first edition and produced its own original story, avoiding the pitfalls so many sequels endure by staying too close to the first movie. So not only did Toy Story 2 meet the expectations of the first one, it surpassed it. And speaking of sequels….

1. Toy Story 3

The third (and what we thought was the final)edition of Toy Story takes the top spot. But the much like the previous edition of Toy Story, the most recent edition barely avoided being another straight to DVD Disney sequel.

The time the third movie was being considered was also when it seemed that Disney was prepared to break up with Pixar. Disney would’ve kept the rights to Woody, Buzz, and crew and made their own version of the movie. But the Mouse came to their senses, re-upped with Pixar, and the delay proved to be perfect for the new plot of the third edition.

Another movie with toys trying to get back to Andy was unlikely to live up to the standard the first two set. But a movie where Andy is ready for college (made likely by the ten year delay between films) and the toys have to consider a life beyond their owner’s need to play with them? That made the third movie not only the best of the Toy Story bunch, but the best of anything Pixar has put on the big screen. The final journey (or so we thought) that saw the Toys face extermination tugs at the heartstrings almost as much as that opening sequence in Up did (I have to say almost on that). And the way this edition brought to close what has turned out to be the Andy chapter of the lives of our favorite toys was brilliantly coordinated, connecting the rest of the series flawlessly.

How is Toy Story 3 the best of Pixar’s movies? I present to you exhibit A.

So there you have it. All 15 Pixar movies, all ranked from worst to first. Let me know if you disagree and why.

(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

http://assets.viewers-guide.hbo.com/large5536d11558b0a.jpg

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

http://blogs-images.forbes.com/davidthier/files/2015/03/thrones2.jpg

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.

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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).

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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.

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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