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Westworld Season 1, Episode 2 Recap: Chestnut

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There are two things I love about the first two episodes of Westworld. Not to say they’re the only two things, but they’re primary strengths that stand out to make HBO’s new hit drama such a high quality program so far.

The first is the seamless introduction of so many different characters. I’m not sure how, in just two hours of television, I know so much about the history of all these “hosts,” the motivations of their creators, and the driving force behind why their guests seek what they’re seeking in Westworld. There are at least 11 characters with whom we’ve been introduced to that we know better than any two hours of television should’ve been able to accomplish.

The second is the way the show has introduced us to its world through the three distinct perspectives (hosts, creators, guests) with which the park can be viewed. Though there is plenty we haven’t seen from this place, there’s already so much we know that two episodes should not be able to convey to us.

The strength of the foundation set by the creators of Westworld rivals any show in broadcast history. Now let’s hope they build off that foundation just as effectively as they’ve built it.

As for this week’s episode, let’s start the recap with that third perspective we didn’t get to see last week: a guest arriving in Westworld for the first time.

William and the New Guest Experience

William is a first timer who represents the way most normal people would be when approaching Westworld. His buddy Logan, the man bringing him to the park, is a veteran who’d be a serial animal rapist if he didn’t get his kicks in Westworld (thank you Westworld for the service you provide).

Through the eyes of William, we see the experience guests have arriving in Westworld. A bullet train delivers them to a hosts who walks you through wardrobe and offers herself to you sexually. From there, guests enter the old west train we saw last week bringing guests into the park.

William keeps that same bewildered look the whole time as Logan walks him through the sites of the park. Logan points out to William (and to us for that matter) that every host is trying to pull you into an adventure, including that old man who falls in the mud that William helps up. That old man wants to pull William into a treasure hunt, a proposal he makes will the two friends are having dinner.

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William (left) and Logan (right) walking through the streets of Westworld.

 

Now, when a host is stabbed violently in the hand by an unhinged guest, do you blame the host, the guest, or the people who put both the story in the host and the knife in the hand of the guest? Deep thoughts to ponder, people.

Logan stabs the host in the hand because Logan a horrible person. Instead, he opts for the orgy story line with two girls and a guy (wonder if that was written into any of the intended scripts), while William just can’t bring himself to sleep with Clementine. William has somebody at home. And he just doesn’t think having sex with a robot is staying faithful.

But while William may try to stay faithful, he did have quite an eye for Dolores when she dropped that can all the guys love to pick up. We’ll have to keep an eye on those two in the coming weeks.

The Man in Black

On the opposite side of the spectrum from William is the Man in Black. The man whose been coming to Westworld for 30 years continued his quest seeking the “deeper levels of the game” by finding a host named Lawrence. Lawrence was about to be hanged before the MIB came to “save” him. Now is it really saving a host to replace death with constant torture? I mean, the host dies most everyday anyway doesn’t he? But instead of death, he gets dragged behind the MIB’s horse back to the Mexican town where Lawrence is from.

The MIB needs information and he’s going to do whatever he needs to do to get it. He shoots his way through all of Lawrence’s cousins. He then kills Lawrence’s wife and is about to kill Lawrence’s daughter before the girl steps up and provides the information the MIB needs.

Now, I go back and forth on whether the MIB is a really slick bad guy, or just a bully taking advantage of hosts who can’t hurt him. I currently lean towards the latter.

Lawrence’s daughter tells the MIB where the maze is (some mumbo jumbo I didn’t understand at all), but also says “The maze isn’t meant for you.” To which, the MIB says, “Oh, I never thought of it that way, wise robot girl. I shall end my mission now.”

Of course the MIB marches on, thinking himself invincible as he drags Lawrence away to the entrance of this “maze.”

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The Man in Black and Lawrence on their way to the start of the maze.

Headquarters

Meanwhile, back at headquarters, everyone’s still concerned with the affects of the update and what happened with Dolores’s father last episode. Could it happen to other hosts? Is it something that is isolated to Abernathy, or could it be contagious? And is someone purposely sabotaging these robots?

Bernard Lowe, the man building these robots, tells anyone who will listen there’s nothing to be concerned with. Everyone, except Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins). There conversations are far more frank and philosophical compared to the “everything’s fine” message Lowe has for everyone else.

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Ford (Hopkins) and Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) discuss the difficulties with “playing god” at Westworld.

As various people work through the issues with the hosts, Narrative Director Lee Sizemore is yelling at the girl creating robots for the next new story line. Our initial impression of this creative masterpiece is that it involves a whole bunch of Indians.

Maeve

One of those hosts that gives credence to the concerns about these issues with the robots being contagious is Maeve, the madam who runs the brothel within Westworld. She’s been having issues getting guests to join her in the bedroom, and a madam the guests aren’t interested in isn’t much of a madam at all. So the techs back in headquarters increase her aggression by ten percent (that won’t end poorly, I’m sure).

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Maeve Malloy struggling with old memories in her brothel.

And she proves herself too aggressive with a female guest. But those careless techs who thought aggression was the problem missed the primary issue: a scene Maeve is recalling and struggling with. In the scene, she was a different character who had a daughter in a wooden house in the country. But there was some sort of horrible Indian attack involved that we only get glimpses of in each scene we have with Maeve.

The discussion with Maeve amongst the higher ups at Westworld is whether Maeve needs to join the other decommissioned robots in that creepy room. But while they’re trying to fix her, the full memory comes to mind. We see all the images of Indians trying to scalp her, but the one trying to is shot, allowing Maeve to take her daughter into the house. But it’s in there that the man in black shows up, appearing in another story line he has no business being in. He approaches Maeve, but we don’t see what he does to her. Rape, murder, scalping, all three? I imagine it’s something horrible and Maeve wakes up on the surgery table an absolute mess.

Something about that memory causes Maeve to grab her stomach each time. And she does it on the operating table before grabbing a scalpel. One surgeon is pissed at the other for not putting her in sleep mode. But the other guy insists that he did. Maeve gets away, but is horrified at the images of all the robots bodies in headquarters. They look like they’ve been massacred as she falls to her knees before being neutralized by the recovering surgeons.

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Maeve and her daughter from a previous story line in Westworld.

Now who started Maeve down this road to that horrible memory and consistent malfunctions? Look no further than the oldest and most loyal host in the park.

Dolores

The fallout from her conversation with her father continue for the park’s oldest host. She does her usual routine of heading into town and saddling up her horse. But she struggles with image of all these hosts laying dead in the streets from the shootout she witnessed last episode. She also runs into Maeve and repeats the words her father told her last week (“These violent delights have violent ends.”). Those words sent Maeve on her spiral and seem to be the “contagious” part of the issues the park is having with their hosts.

Dolores’s scenes were shorter this week. But her impact was felt with each moment. Not only did she send Maeve on her spiral, she also met William (who might have found the only thing he likes about the park in her). And then there’s the gun she found buried outside her house. Now, whose gun was that buried out there in front of Dolores house? And why was it buried there?

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Dolores finding the gun buried outside her house.

Robert Ford

Though the show did it subtly, we finally got a real insight into the mind of Dr. Robert Ford, the creator of Westworld this week. The first thing we see is the man (at least at the moment) has complete control over his world. He can control the snakes and people built for his world with simple hand motions. He also carries on a conversation with a robot boy whose dressed very similar to Dr. Ford himself. But he also sends the boy away with a simple command and the host obeys without question.

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Dr. Robert Ford conversing with a boy host.

The second is the high expectations he has for his world. Lee Sizemore, the man behind the narrative stories at Westworld, had only criticized Ford up to this point. Sizemore thought Ford barely pays attention to the stories anymore.

But not only does Ford pay attention to what’s in those stories, he flat out rejects Sizemore’s latest narrative, only taking the shoes from one of the hosts with him the next time he walks into Westworld with Bernard Lowe. That’s when we see a church steeple standing by itself as Ford proclaims he’s ready to work on his next big idea.

Of Note

-I have to agree with Dr. Ford rejecting Sizemore’s idea. I mean, what about it was any different than anything else going on in the park right now?

-One of the real stars of the episode was Elsie Hughes, an employee in programming who first noticed that the issues with the hosts seemed to be contagious. Then, she had the quote of the night when studying Maeve and her recalling of memories: “If they remember everything we’ve done to them, we’re fucked.”

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Elsie Hughes, played by Shannon Woodard, is the prophetic voice of Westworld.

-We have our first office romance as it was revealed that Lowe and Cullen have been shacking up for awhile now. But apparently, they usually don’t talk much afterwards.

-From his conversation with Maeve, it sounds like Teddy is not always the idealistic cowboy he presents himself to Dolores when they meet up in a story line. One of the guys who used Teddy as his host last week hinted as much.

-After Teddy was shot by the random guest at the brothel, I expected Maeve to shout “Oh My God, You Killed Teddy!!!!” Then bartender would throw in for good measure a “You bastards!!!” The death count for Kenn…I mean Teddy is currently three in two episodes.

-So the man in black has been going to the park for thirty years. And the last major incident with rebel robots was 30 years ago.Are those two incidents connected?

-I also wondered last week if anybody noticed the free reign the MIT takes while walking through Westworld. As it turns out, they do. But he’s a guest, so he’s allowed free reign.

Questions

-What is Dr.Ford’s new creation going to involve? And did anybody else think that little boy Ford was talking to a host version of Dr. Ford as a kid?

-What do Teddy’s sinful adventures out in the wild look like?

-Was that gun Dolores found a part of a previous host she played? Or will it push her to pursue a new, more violent Dolores? And how far will William go in pursuing the whole dropped can story line that, as we found out this week, isn’t just for Teddy?

-Will Maeve join the decommissioned robot army? Or do the higher ups at Westworld dare put her back into the park?

-Will Ford’s complete control of the park be in jeopardy as more hosts pick up the urge to rebel?

-Just where the hell is the man in black heading and how is it all going to tie up to everything going in Westworld?

-And finally, is anybody purposely sabotaging the hosts at Westworld? And if so, who? See you next week.

 

Westworld Premiere Recap: The Original

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Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?

That’s the first question Dolores Abernathy, the oldest host in the sadistic adult amusement park known as Westworld, is asked by Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright). As Lowe goes through a series of questions, we are introduced to the scenery of this fantasy world that is the setting for the new HBO drama that premiered last night.

As we learn later in the episode, that is a standard question all “hosts” (another name for the robots in this world) are asked when their behavior moves outside the programmed scripts. And I imagine many a hosts will be asked that question before the end of the debut season considering that the clear theme of the series premiere was all the various ways these hosts can possibly end up outside the script. But they aren’t able to kill “newcomers” (another name for humans), so everyone should be perfectly safe the rest of the season (wink wink).

So let’s try and sift through all the new characters and information thrown at us in the first ever hour of Westworld.

Take 1

While Dolores is being questioned by Lowe, we see her wake up, walk down the stairs, and greet her father in the morning. A man named Teddy is also on a train at the start of this day as guests talk about the various adventures they are looking to experience in the park. Teddy sees the local sheriff asking for help in apprehending Hector Escaton, a wanted criminal. He visits the local saloon and gets propositioned by a prostitute before eyeing Dolores, whose just rode into town.

Dolores and Teddy are hosts programmed to be together. Well, not exactly be together, but to always chase each other (kind of heartbreaking ain’t it). They throw every movie western and romantic movie cliche they can before approaching Dolores’s house, when thinks get dark and twisted.

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Teddy (James Marsden) and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), the star crossed loves of Westworld.

First, Dolores parents are killed by a man whom then dumps milk on their dead bodies (more on him later). Teddy rides up and takes out the man and his partner. Then, a man in black (Ed Harris) approaches Dolores. None of this made sense until the Man in Black explained to us what’s going on: he’s a guest. And he’s a frequent guest, recognizing Dolores and later Teddy when the male host tries to kill him. Here, we learn that hosts cannot kill guests. Their shots will fail every time. And the guests have free reign over the hosts, as the man in black shows by killing Teddy and dragging Dolores to a barn to rape her.

But as the sun rises, Dolores wakes up in her bed in the same position as the day before, and Teddy is on that same train riding into town.

Take 2

As it turns out, everyday for these hosts starts the same way. They’ve been programmed with a series of scripted story lines and can only respond to those story lines. The robots are constructed and the park is monitored in a single lab where Lowe builds the hosts, Lee Sizemore writes their stories, and Teresa Cullen steps in when there are issues with the hosts. And I suspect Cullen will be staying busy throughout the first season.

Though next day in the park starts the same way as the previous, it takes a different direction as Teddy is cutoff by a group of guys before he can reach Dolores. And she’s greeted by the Man in Black, who informs her he won’t be spending anytime with him this evening.

In fact, neither story for Teddy or Dolores is particularly exciting this day. But a”newcomer” does take the offer of the sheriff to go find Hector. Unfortunately for the guests, the robot sheriff malfunctions when a fly lands on his cheek.

As it turns out, a recent update of the hosts is causing a glitch. And Mrs. Cullen is very concerned. But repairing the problem requires pulling about 200 hosts from the park, threatening to lessen the experience for guests (and we wouldn’t want those sin seeking freaks to be disappointed, now would we?). Cullen and Sizemore later discuss their issues with Lowe and Dr. Robert Ford (the guy who owns the place, played by Anthony Hopkins). I won’t recall their entire conversation here. But bottom line, be watching for a power struggle to develop between these four throughout the season.

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Lee Sizemore (narrative control) and Theresa Cullen (Quality Assurance), discuss their issues with the power structure at Westworld.

The Photo

The end of the second day is when the fears of all the staff at Westworld begin to show signs of happening. First, Dolores’s father finds a photo of a girl in modern day New York City. He is so thrown off by it that the next morning, he starts fidgeting, unable to continue with the usual scene he has with Dolores every morning. Then, the man in black kidnaps a card dealer in the saloon. He tells the robot that he hopes to reach “a deeper level in the game” as he cuts off the robots scalp, finding a circular maze underneath.

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The man in black (Ed Harris) right before he chopped off the scalp of a host, to seek a “deeper level.”

And lastly, the milk man comes back and starts shooting people randomly in town that are not a part of his script (so he wasn’t supposed to be at the Abernathy’s house the previous night). Security and quality control are forced to step in and follow through with the plan mentioned by Cullen earlier: to pull all updated hosts out of Westworld for inspection.

Take Three

All the pulled hosts means that Sizemore must do a slight rewrite. He moves Hector Escanton’s arrival in town a week earlier. And the criminal doesn’t ride alone. His entire gang helps him steal the safe in the saloon. And a female sharpshooter named Armistice (I only know that because I looked that up) takes out every host trying to stop Hector in an amazing display of marksmanship.

But just as Hector is about to give the town the big speech Sizemore had written, the guest who went to find Hector earlier shows up and shoots him in the neck.

Dolores, who was in town seeking medical help for her father, got caught in the crossfire with Teddy, who was shot and “killed.” But as Dolores is mourning the loss, the crew of Westworld shut things down and take the remaining updated hosts back to headquarters, where we finally get to see an important scene from the actor with the highest pedigree in the show.

Dr. Robert Ford

The biggest surprise for me about the premiere was how little Anthony Hopkins (Dr. Robert Ford, the creator of Westworld) was featured. Before this last scene, Dr. Ford had two short conversations with Bernard Lowe, revealing little about the man. Most of what we know came from the dialogue of the other higher ups at Westworld. But the issues with Peter Abernathy (Dolores’s father) were enough to get him personally involved.

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Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) preparing to speak with host Peter Abernathy.

Ford handles the questioning of the only updated host having any major issues. What Ford discovers is that Dolores’s dad is trying to help his daughter, and he’s angry with all the violence she endures because of Ford and Lowe. Bernie (as Lowe is called by several of the staff at Westworld) informs us that “none of this is programmed”  as Peter Abernathy vows revenge (You mean you didn’t program the hosts with a desire to vow revenge against you for all the pain they must endure in Westworld? Thank you Captain Obvious).

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Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) pondering the various issues hosts are having dealing with the most recent update.

Dolores’s father and the milk killer are taken out of commission, which means putting them in a room with a large number of hosts who’ve needed to be pulled from Westworld previously. Now, I’m sure that potential army of robots is nothing any human should be concerned about.

Dolores, on the other hand, answers every question she’s given as she’s supposed to and doesn’t seem to suspect a thing about her creation or her creators. Stubbs (the security guy played by the third Hemsworth brother) tells one of the scientists that Dolores is the oldest host in the park and that she’s always stays faithful to her story. She does reveal that her father whispered “These violent delights have violent builds.” Nobody, including myself, knows what that means yet. So we’ll just leave it at that for the future.

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Dolores, while Stubbs gives her the usual questions.

Take 4

A new morning dawns and Teddy is alive, riding the same train he rides every morning. And Dolores wakes up in the same bed, walks down the same stairs, wears the same dress, and greets her father with the same greeting she says to him every day. Except, this time, it’s a different host playing the role. Dolores doesn’t notice as she looks off into the distance, killing a fly on her neck as the scene fades.

Of Note

-The show established in the premiere a very steady pattern for day to day operations. So at least in the early going, we’re going to know when something is wrong based on the changes in that routine.

-So hosts can be programmed to play different characters? This provided a really easy alibi for Ford and Lowe to dismiss Peter Abernathy’s ramblings despite all the alarm bells that should have been going off in their heads.

-I hope a reason is given for why insubordinate robots are not just destroyed. It may be the creator not wanting to destroy his creation, but it really seems like a BAD idea to have all these rebellious robots in one room.

-This week’s saloon playlist included “Black Hole Sun” and “Paint in Black.” I hope modern music played in the saloon style is a regular feature every week.

Questions

-Will Dolores stay in her ignorant slumber about her true existence?

-What is this “deeper level” the Man in Black is aiming for?

-Will Teddy and Dolores ever just get to be happy (Well that’s rhetorical. Of course they won’t)?

-Will frustration continue to grow amongst the creative team at Westworld with Dr. Ford? And are we going to learn any more about the park’s creation and its creator in the coming episodes?

-Can each show just include five minutes of Armistice shooting and hitting everything in sight?

I was really impressed with the premiere of Westworld and I’m really looking forward to following the rest of the season. Also, expect these recaps to evolve over the coming weeks as I am still working to establish a format for them. See you next week.

Westworld Recaps Coming to 4LN

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HBO’s next big drama (at least, it will be if the reviews are right) premieres this Sunday night. Westworld, the new science fiction drama about a futuristic theme park where people go to live out their fantasies is looking to step in as HBO’s new signature drama after “Game of Thrones” finishes its run in two years.

And Westworld has the pedigree to fill that large void. There’s top notch people behind the camera (Jonathan Nolan, JJ Abrams, Bryan Burk), a “how the hell did you get all these people in one show” cast (Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, James Marsden), and a unique concept that gives it a chance to really standout.

Now, HBO’s not the only one on the lookout for new hit shows with GoT nearing its end. And I plan on providing weekly recaps of “Westworld” every Monday analyzing the key moments of each episode and what questions there are to ponder for the week that follows.

Here’s a trailer for the premiere season. And be on the lookout for my recaps every Monday afternoon/early evening.

Ranking the Emmy Dramas (Well, Most of Them)

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Honoring the best of television for the 2015-2016 season, the Primetime Emmy Awards air next Sunday Night. And while I normally don’t watch the show (and I don’t intend to this year either), I was struck by the fact that I am a loyal viewer of five of the seven shows nominated for Best Drama this year.

Now, I’m not exactly sure what this says about me. Maybe I have great tastes when it comes to choosing the television shows I watch. Or maybe I just choose the shows that have done the best job marketing themselves to the Academy of Television of Arts & Sciences. It also appears I have too much time on my hands if I can keep up with this many dramas.

But whatever the case may be, having so many of my shows nominated puts me in a great position to piss people off with my subjective rankings of them.

Before I do that, I want to make it clear that these are not predictions of who will win (that has as much do with marketing by the networks as it does quality of the shows). I will also not be including the two shows in my rankings I don’t watch (“Mr Robot” and “The Americans.”) It wouldn’t be fair of me to judge shows I’ve yet to see. If you are a regular viewer of these shows, let me know in the comments where you think they belong in the rankings.

I’ll start the countdown with a beloved British import that just completed its sixth and final season.

5. Downton Abbey

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I’m still not sure how “Downton Abbey” ever became so popular in today’s climate of American television. But the popular British historical drama received a well-deserved nomination (it’s 4th for Best Drama) for its final season. And though I have no inside sources on the subject, it wouldn’t surprise me if “Downton” takes the big prize this year to pay homage.

4. Homeland

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I go back and forth with my opinion on “Homeland.” Did I prefer seasons 1-3, which were all connected by similar plot lines? Or do I like each season since that plays out like its own individual miniseries with just a few connections to whats happened previously?

But as long as “Homeland” has Carrie Matheson (played brilliantly by Claire Danes) using her Jack Bauer like instincts to thwart terrorist attacks all over the globe, then Homeland will always be in the Emmy conversation.

3. House of Cards

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After a subpar season 3, House of Cards came back into form with an eerily relevant narrative we Americans are experiencing right now with our own dysfunctional Presidential election.

Season 3 meandered on primarily because the Underwoods were in a horribly weakened state. And the drama suffered accordingly. But Season 4 not only put the claws back on Frank and Claire, it also gave them their strongest opposition to date (in the form of the rival candidate for President and members of the media closing in on the Underwood’s past).

2. Game of Thrones

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Placing my favorite show at number 2 has more to do with the show in the top spot than it does with “Game of Thrones” sixth season, which might have been GoT’s best.

The show turned up the heat (literally if you’re talking about the woman sitting in the chair just above this write up) by setting up and landing some of its biggest game changing moments to date and bringing the show’s overall end game into view.

And with the audience growing to 25 million people (on all platforms) tuning in every week this season, the general public seems to agree with GoT’s nomination.

1. Better Call Saul

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut and Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill - Better Call Saul _ Season 2, Gallery- Photo Credit: Ben Leuner/AMC

Putting Vince Gilligan’s understated drama ahead of the show that brought me to 4LN in the first place should tell you how good Season 2 was.

In truth, I put GoT’s and BCS’s most reason seasons on equal footing. But I don’t believe in creating lists just so I can declare ties. So I have to nitpick here and put BCS just ahead of GoT due to a few continuity errors with the latter.

Now as to why “Better Call Saul’s” second season takes the top spot? Because in a world filled with dramas pushing mulitple story lines and stellar effects, Gilligan and his crew take the simplest moments (like the delivery of ice cream or the stopping of a tape recording) and produce insane amounts of tension and drama out of them.

It also didn’t hurt to have Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Michael McKeon, and Rhea Seehorn giving performances that at least equaled (and mostly surpassed) their performances from Season One.

What was your favorite of the Emmy dramas from this year’s choices? And how many ways did I get this list wrong?

Fantasy Books to Read While Waiting for Game of Thrones Next Summer

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The sad news, though it’s been expected for awhile now, is official: Game of Thrones will only run seven episodes next season. And thanks to the appearance of winter (finally!!) in the story line, producers will start shooting later than usual. That means our usual April start date for a new season is getting pushed back to sometime next summer.

So what do you do this extended offseason while waiting for Game of Thrones’ delayed return? How about sinking your teeth into a solidly written fantasy book series.

Here’s a couple of exceptional works to check out while enduring the long wait for Season Seven:

1. The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss

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Patrick Rothfuss, a modern day fantasy writer whose received much acclaim from George R.R. Martin himself, wrote the first “Kingkiller Chronicle” book, “The Name of the Wind” in 2007. The story follows a great adventurer named Kvothe as he recalls the story of his life over the course of three days (each book representing a different day).

Much like Tolkien, Rothfuss really focuses on detail, emphasizing the mundane parts of Kvothe’s journey as well as the landmark events. And though the world in “Kingkiller” has political complications similar to Westeros, Rothfuss exposes the reader to situations through the eyes of someone of “low birth” as oppossed to the members of noble families Martin uses to tell his story.

Now much like Martin, Rothfuss has been slow to get his third book finished (A Wise Man’s Fear was released in 2011). But at least “The Kingkiller Chronicle” is likely to be finished before Lionsgate makes a film/tv version of the series.

2. The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

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“The Stormlight Archive” follows the Martin style of alternating third person perspectives as Brandon Sanderson presents a world coming to grips with both a looming threat and the reemergence of mystical powers lost thousands of years before.

But while Sanderson’s world has as similar scope to Martin’s, he centralizes it on a hand full of characters in one central location instead of bouncing around all over the map. This makes his story easy to follow, but (at least at this point) lack some of the “punch in the gut”moments that make Martin’s work so special. He also does a nice job anchoring his story with a flashback arc for one major character that provides insight into why they think and act as they do in the present.

Sanderson has currently released two of his books: “The Way of Kings” and “Words of Radiance.” The third book of five (with a possible ten if a second set of five books goes on as planned), “Oathbringer,” has a tentative release set for sometime next year.

3. Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

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Yes, the artwork on the covers of these books is really cheesy. But the story absolutely is not. It also takes two books for the story to really establish itself. But once it does, “The Wheel of Time” is very hard to put down.

Robert Jordan focuses mostly on a group of central characters who begin the story together (much like Tolkien’s “Fellowship of the Ring”) only to take distinct paths as the story progresses. And like Martin, Jordan’s world is full of distinct political alliances and situations. But while Martin bounces back and forth between all these different areas, Jordan mostly uses the central characters to introduce and update us on the conditions of these diverse locations.

The downside to Jordan’s books is they are a long haul. The series is comprised of 14 books and 1 prequel book. In fact, Jordan died before the series was completed. So Brandon Sanderson (the author of the previously mentioned “Stormlight Archive”) stepped in to finish it.

But if 14 books is not too large a commitment for you, I strongly recommend Jordan/Sanderson’s masterpiece.

4. Read the Classics

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Or you could just stick with GoT’s source material. If you haven’t read “A Song of Ice and Fire,” jump on Martin’s series first. Though Martin’s books can be just as long as the previously mentioned authors, they read much quicker. And the experience is a distinctly different one than the TV series, so don’t let the spoilers you already know from the show discourage you from reading the books.

The same goes for J.R.R. Tolkien, the father of modern fantasy. Yes, it is a chore to get through the first half of the first “Lord of the Rings” book, “Fellowship of the Ring.” But if you’re willing to see it through, Tolkien rewards you with, arguably, the best work of fantasy fiction of all time. And much like Martin’s work, the books are a much different experience than the movies.

And if you’ve been through all of Tolkien’s works (including “The Hobbit”), check out “The Silmarillion,” the Middle Earth origin story that is much darker than Tolkien’s previous works. 4LN’s Cam Clark wrote this piece about the Silmarillion. He also recently did a brief history of Middle Earth using “The Silmarillion” and other works by Tolkien.

I’m currently working my way through the Wheel of Time series. And I’m also hopeful “The Winds of Winter” will be available before Season Seven starts (though I’m not holding my breath on this). What are some other works you’ve been reading or plan to read while we wait on the next season of Game of Thrones?

A Song of Ice and Fire vs Game of Thrones: Which is Better?

Books vs Show

For the last two seasons, “Game of Thrones” the TV Show has taken a fairly drastic departure from it’s source material, the “Song of Ice and Fire” novels by George R.R. Martin. Just how drastic is that departure? Well, until Martin (finally) gets the long awaited next installment of his series out, we won’t really know. But over sixty hours of television content and thousands of pages of Martin’s work do give us enough material to evaluate the clear distinctions between the two entities.

Books vs Show 2

(From left to right) DB Weiss and David Benoiff, producers of Game of Thrones, posing for a picture with “A Song of Ice and Fire” author, George R.R. Martin.

Now before I move forward, I’ll go ahead and make clear that I will not be directly answering that question I started the article with. I do not think one piece of creative material is necessarily better than the other. But I do think there are many things Martin did a much better job with than the HBO show based on his work. And (contrary to what some book purists will tell you) there are things the show did a much better job developing than Martin did. So first, here’s five things Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” did better than the show, followed by five things the show did better than the source material.

(Of Note: I will not be including any characters or arcs that were present in one, but not in the other. Though feel free to include those items in your comments)

What the Books Did Better


1. Jamie Lannister

Books vs Show Jamie

Martin’s transition of the Kingslayer from hated villain who pushed a young boy out a window to awesome anti-hero is one of the best I’ve seen represented in literal fiction. Using the loss of Jamie’s hand and his relationship with Brienne, Martin transforms the arrogant Lannister into someone we actually sympathize with. We see a man who’s been forced to choose between multiple oaths that left him no choice but to betray at least one of them. And by the last time we’ve seen Jamie in the text, he’s masterfully negotiated a siege at King’s Landing, channeling his father Tywin for the first time.

The television show tried to follow this arc. But a poorly directed scene where Jamie rapes Cersei in the Holy Sept, a worthless excursion to Dorne, and a lack of any real development from the character in Seasons 4 and 5 left something lacking when the Kingslayer negotiated a peaceful end (well, for everyone except the Blackfish) to the siege at Riverrun. I mean, it was still a great scene watching Jamie “influence” Edmure to take back Riverrun. But Martin did a much better job moving Jamie to the point where he was a shrewd negotiator, while the show seemed to bring Jamie’s sudden diplomatic capabilities out of left field.

2. The Wall Battle

Books vs Show Wall Battle

Season 4’s “Watchers on the Wall,” featuring the Night’s Watch defending Westeros from a Wildling invasion, is one of the best episodes the show has ever done. But while the production value of the episode is superb, the buildup and logistics of the actual battle leave much to be desired.

Martin splits the assault on the Wall up into three different attacks. The first was from the crew Jon was with that climbed the Wall and tried to take out the Night’s Watch from the Westerosi side of the Wall. After that attack was stymied, two more invasions at different times happened that the Night’s Watch was able to repel before Jon was sent out to negotiate with Mance Rayder.

The show, on the other hand, chose to save this battle for its showcase ninth episode. The problem was they did nothing over the course of season 4 to build up to this Wildling invasion. Instead, the Night’s Watch sat around the Wall waiting for the Wildlings to arrive. And the man leading the largest Wildling invasion of the North, Mance Rayder, did not appear until after the battle was over. How can you not at least show one scene of the Wildlings marching toward the Wall in Season 4 before that ninth episode? And by turning three separate invasions into one, the show confused non bookreaders as to why the Wildlings were split up into two separate forces.

So while I understand the decision to make the Wall Battle the ninth episode and the budgetary reasons for making it one battle instead of three, those decisions also made the show’s presentation of the events lack the cohesiveness Martin’s did.

3. Euron Greyjoy

Books vs Show Euron Greyjoy

Euron Greyjoy in the books: The brother of Balon Greyjoy is banned from the Iron Islands for sleeping with his brother’s (not Balon, Victarion, one of two Greyjoy brothers not included in the show) wife. Known as the Crows Eye, he goes pillaging and raping the coasts throughout the lands of Essos and beyond. He reappears after Balon’s death, is crowned King of the Iron Islands, and becomes a terror throughout the West Coast of Westeros. He sets his sites on the Iron Throne and sends his brother Victarion to secure a marriage alliance with Daenarys and her dragons.

Euron Greyjoy in the show: He shows up. He throws his brother of a rickety bridge. He wins the Kingsmoot, becoming King of the Iron Islands, and means to build a thousands ships (entirely from rocks) and ride them to make his alliance with the Mother of Dragons in hopes of ruling Westeros one day.

Which one of these characters seems a greater threat to the throne of Westeros? Benoiff and Weiss only used Euron to get Theon and Yara to Meereen. Martin appears to have a much larger plan for the character, and his development was way stronger in a “Song of Ice and Fire.”

4. Loras Tyrell

Books vs Show Loras Tyrell

In the books, Martin creates a multi-dimensional character who is a brave warrior with exceptional skills and a confidence/arrogance only rivaled by Jamie Lannister before he lost his hand. The part of him being gay is never directly confirmed, but is heavily implied.

In the show, Loras is Margaery’s brother who is gay. That’s pretty much it. Yes, characters talk about his abilities as a fighter. But the only combat we ever seen is Loras’s ability as a jouster in the first season. After seeing the one dimensional treatment the Tyrell heir (which he’s not in the books) receives on the show, I developed a much greater appreciation for the multi-faceted book character Martin created.

5. Doran Martell

Books vs Show Doran

Now, many would include the entire Dorne plot on their personal lists here. But I personally didn’t think Dorne was a strength of Martin’s books either. When his books should be moving towards an end, he opened up a whole new front in the southern part of Westeros that I believe is one of many reasons “The Winds of Winter” is taking so long to be released. Yes, he did Dorne better than the show did. But meerkats at a zoo could’ve accomplished that.

Books vs Show Meerkats

Adorable meerkats debating what went wrong with Dorne in Season Five.

But I did love Doran Martell’s character. In a world filled with people who act first and think later, Doran is a character who hides his manipulations behind his weak physical condition. Every move he makes is calculated and every one who tries to usurp his authority as Prince of Dorne is found out and dealt with immediately by forces loyal to Doran.

And while some of the plans he comes up with look a little too far in the future to be relied upon, he has prepared a plan b and moves quickly to it once his previous plan goes awry.

I believe the show was planning on moving Doran towards this character arc in season 6. But when reality set in of just how disastrous the Dorne storyline was in Season 5, the producers decided to cut their losses and the character Martin created was a victim of that.

What the Show Did Better

1. The Whitewalkers

Ranking the Seasons 5 Night's King

Martin established in the very first chapter of his series that the Whitewalkers were going to be the most significant threat to all those in Westeros. How many times in the books have they shown up since? Twice. Both times were with Sam in the third book, “A Storm of Swords.” But where were the Whitewalkers in books four and five? The gravest threat to all of Westeros did not appear in either Martin’s most recent works.

The show, on the other hand, has built-up this growing threat at least once a season. Not only did we have Martin’s opening scene and Sam’s run-ins with the Ice Zombies. We also have a pair of “Where Whitewalkers come from” scenes. And most importantly, we have Hardhomme: the most dominant showing of Whitewalker power to date.

So while Martin may be holding back his ultimate build up of the Ice Zombie army for “Winds of Winter,” it’s the show that to this point, has made a far more convincing case of just how bad ass the Whitewalkers are.

2. The Red Wedding

Books vs Show Red Wedding

This one is a little unfair to Martin. His portrayal of the Red Wedding in “A Storm of Swords” is just as much the gut punch the show’s version was. The problem for Martin is he’s restricted to his chosen medium, which forces him to simply list all the things that are happening at the Twins as the carnage ensues.

He can tell you the “Rains of Castemere” is playing in the background. But he can’t use the editing techniques of television to start the song as the doors are locked and show Catelyn Stark’s face as she suspects something is up. He can describe the brutality of everyone being slaughtered. But to truly appreciate just how awful an event the Red Wedding was, seeing and hearing the events is far more effective.

So while both portrayals of the Red Wedding were excellent in their perspective mediums, the show version packed a greater punch because of the multiple senses the medium of television can appeal to.

3. Margaery Tyrell

Books vs Show Margaery

Martin used the daughter of Mace Tyrell and the pride of Highgarden as a pawn in the “Great Game.” At least, that’s the impression we are given from the various characters we hear about her from. She’s never a Point-of-View character in any of Martin’s five books, so we only get to hear about her character and actions from others. And considering one of those POV characters is Cersei, you’re not always left with a favorable impression of Queen Margaery.

But the producers of the show saw a chance with Margaery to include a savvy game player who kept all the key figures in King’s Landing on their toes. I personally can’t imagine the last five seasons with a diminished role for Margaery Tyrell. It also helped that Natalie Dormer was the actress portraying Margaery. And the last place for someone of her quality is in the background.

4. Daenarys Meets Tyrion

Books vs Show Dany meets Tyrion

Everything was building in Martin’s last installment (“A Dance With Dragons”) to this encounter. Tyrion and Jorah were in Meereen, in reach of the Queen of the Dragons so this epic encounter could happen. But instead, Daenarys flies away on a dragon. Tyrion gets caught up in some politics involving the numerous sellsword companies in Slavers Bay, and the book ends.

To build up to that encounter only to have it taken away was a bit cruel to readers (yes, that is a Martin trademark, but still). The show recognized this and made this meeting happen before Daenarys flew away in Season Five. I’m sure this epic meeting is coming somewhere in “Winds of Winter” after Daenarys returns. But I loved how the show placed this first meeting where it did so these two characters can feel each other out. It really makes no sense for Tyrion to be named “Hand of the Queen” if they hadn’t met previously.

Now of course, Martin may be going in an entirely different direction with Tyrion’s role after he meets Daenarys. But I still like this meeting happening where the show placed it instead of making readers wait five more years (at least) before seeing this happen.

5. Winding Down the Story

One of the strengths of the first three books was the way Martin took his centralized story and expanded it, organically introducing new players and new stories to the larger narrative as he moved towards the exciting conclusion to the third book, “A Storm of Swords.”

But then, Martin followed his third book with “A Feast for Crows” and “A Dance With Dragons,” two books that decentralized his story even further. The story has spread so far out that it took Martin five years to write “Dance” and we are at five years and counting waiting on “Winds of Winter.”

The television show made a clear decision with season six that they were going to move towards a conclusion. If that meant beloved characters and story lines were taken out, then so be it. And I know many disagree with some of the plots and characters who were not included at all or were taken out prematurely by the show’s producers.  But these decisions have all come with the central goal of moving the narrative to its conclusion, the fruits of which were clear after seeing the Season Six finale.

Episode 10 Dany on her way

Daenarys finally boarded the ship to Westeros in the season six finale. Will Martin have her doing the same in “Winds of Winter?”

Now, I hope Martin brings a similar effect to the book story with “Winds of Winter.” But while Martin has yet to prove he can move his story to its conclusion, producers David Benoiff and DB Weiss left no doubt after season six they can.

What are the things you think the show has done better than the books? What have the books done better than the show? Also, if you haven’t done so already, check out some of the other season wrap-up articles from the past week.

Monday, June 27th: Season Finale Recap

Wednesday June 29th: Obituaries Part 1 and Part 2

Thursday, June 30th: Why was Lyanna in the Tower of Joy?

Saturday, July 2nd: Ranking the Seasons

Today: Book vs Show: Which is Better?

 

Ranking the Seasons: What Season Has Been Game of Thrones’ Best?

Ranking the Seasons compilation poster

A popular thing to do in this generation of the internet is to take a popular TV show and discuss which season of that show was the best (and which ones sucked horribly). And with few exceptions, most shows that go for five seasons or more have their fair share of truly brilliant and just awful seasons.

Game of Thrones is no exception to this rule (though I do think there’s been more good than bad). And with season six in the books, I felt inspired to take the plunge and rank all six seasons going from worst to first. I’m sure there will be disagreement over these, so feel free to state where I went wrong in the comments.

Worst Season: Season Five

Ranking the Seasons 5

I liked Season Five better than most. Sure, it was painfully slow for most of it and took a long time to really find it’s footing (though some will say it never really did). But in a lot of ways, Season Five was better than Season Four. Unlike Season Four (which I will discuss its flaws shortly), Season Five kept a consistent flow in the story lines of all its central players. It also produced one of the best episodes in the history of the series (“Hardhomme” in episode 8) and several great moments (Cersei’s walk of shame, Dany flying on a dragon for the first time, Jon’s “death” (wink wink), and the realization of just how awesome a threat those Whitewalkers were.

Ranking the Seasons 5 Night's King

The Night’s King in the episode Hardhomme, the high point of Season Five.

However, Season Five also produced some of the show’s most controversial moments with Shireen’s death(still makes me cringe thinking about it) and Sansa’s marriage to Ramsey. But what really makes Season Five the worst is Dorne.

No other season had a central plot line that was has poorly written, acted, or executed. The results on screen were so bad that producers David Benoiff and DB Weiss decided this past season to spend as little time as possible in Dorne, restricting the southernmost kingdom to two five minute segments. Dorne was poorly done and mostly pointless, taking season five down in a heap with it.

5. Season Four

Ranking the Seasons 4 revised

 

Yes, Season Four had some really major moments. Joffrey’s poisoning got the season off to a particularly memorable start. Tyrion gave his great courtroom speech (which would have won an emmy for Peter Dinklage if not for some guy  named Walter White in his final season). Arya and the Hound produced one the best arcs of any season, an arc that would end with the epic Brienne vs The Hound battle royale.

This was also Oberyn Martell’s season, portrayed brilliantly by Pedro Pascal. His trial by battle vs. the Mountain produced one of GoT’s most gruesome deaths. Tyrion finished Season Four with another defining moment; taking out his former lover (Shae) and his father while the latter was sitting on a toilet. And there was also “Watchers Against the Wall,” Season Four’s entry for “best episode of all time.”

But in Season Four, several locations raced ahead of others, forcing the producers to hit the pause button in places like Meereen (where Dany sat in a pyramid the whole season), Dragonstone (where Stannis did what he did for all of season 3: sit on a rock and stew over his loss at the Blackwater), and the Wall (where we were constantly reminded the Wildlings were coming while seeing little evidence this was actually happening).

So while season four had some massive moments we’ll always remember, the time wasting in between those moments really hurt the overall quality of the season.

Ranking the Seasons 4 Tyrion on Trial

Tyrion’s speech at his trial in King’s Landing was a highlight of Season Four.

4. Season Two

Ranking the Seasons 2

Most of Season 2 was a season to breath for the audience still coping with the reality that what we were watching was not a traditional heroes and villains drama. Ned Stark’s beheading loomed large over most of the season’s start, with the Stark children especially struggling to deal with it’s aftermath.

It was during this bleak early part of the season that the show did a nice job introducing new, vitally important players to the game (Stannis, Davos, Melisandre, Brienne, Margaery, Roose Bolton) before charging up the engines again for the climax at “Blackwater.”

But unlike Season Four’s Wall Battle, the battle at “Blackwater” was built up strongly throughout the season, with each arc brought to a mostly satisfying conclusion in Game of Thrones’s first epic battle episode.

Overall, season two proved to be a great bridge season between the morale shattering endings of seasons one and three.

Ranking the Seasons 2 blackwater

Our introduction to Wildfire was at Blackwater, Season Two’s climax and the show’s first major battle scene.

3. Season One

Ranking the Seasons 1

I often wonder if we won’t look back years from now and point to this season, the first season of Game of Thrones as a game changer in the history of television.

If it’s not considered the game changer, it will be included among many other shows that represented a change in what we expect from the episodic television format. Before Game of Thrones and shows similar to it in this modern era, TV shows had very clear heroes and villains. The actions of heroes were always rewarded, while the dastardly deeds of villains proved to be their undoing.

But in the first season of Game of Thrones, the honorable Ned Stark, who always did the right things, always kept his vows, and was the central character in the show, got his head chopped off for it. The first season made clear Game of Thrones was going to be different. The honorable way would get you killed in this world we were watching.

Season One was also notable for staying almost entirely true to the books. All seasons following would drift increasingly farther from the source material as the producers began plotting their own course for the TV edition of Martin’s world.

Also notable: Peter Dinklage won an Emmy for his portrayal of Tyrion, creating a certified fan favorite from the start.

Ranking the Seasons 1 Ned Stark's beheading

Ned Stark’s life came to a tragic end at “Baelor,” the ninth episode of Season One.

2. Season Three

Ranking the Seasons 3

No season is defined more by one single event than Game of Thrones third season. And my what an event it was!! Robb Stark’s fall at the Red Wedding was sudden and shocking. Though we all knew things would not go well when Robb and his family entered the home of Walder Frey (or when he shacked up with the foreign nurse in the first place, for that matter), no way did we think the carnage would be as sudden and effective as it was. The Red Wedding is still one of the defining (if not the defining) moments of this show. The term itself has become a synonym for shocking television moments.

Ranking the Seasons 3 Red Wedding

The Red Wedding, the climax moment of Season Three.

But Season Three didn’t just have the one shocking twist. Some of the best character moments happened in Season Three. Brienne and Jamie’s relationship developed and produced a real character change in the Kingslayer. Arya had some of her best moments hanging out with The Brotherhood without Banners and the seeds were sown for her Season Four arc with the Hound.

And the first signs of Daenarys Targaryen’s rise to power were felt when the Mother of Dragons put her beasts to use for the first time. “Dracarys” was the command that burned a slave master, allowing Dany to walk away with an Unsullied army as she began her march to conquering the rest of Slavers Bay and (one day) Westeros.

Overall, Season Three had the best balance of character moments, plot development, and shocking reveals of any of Game of Thrones six seasons. But that was not quite enough to make it the best season.

1. Season Six

Ranking the Seasons 6

The battle for the top spot went down the very end. But a lackluster 8th episode (“No One”) had me ready to declare Season Three the champ.

But then “The Battle of the Bastards” gave “Game of Thrones” its best battle scene (at least from a technical prospective) to date. To be considered the best season in the history of Game of Thrones, the ninth episode of the season must be up to par, and “Battle” certainly was. And while episode 9 got Season Six back into contention, episode 10 delivered the finishing blow.

It didn’t matter what followed those first 25 minutes of “Winds of Winter,” Cersei’s blowing up of King’s Landing clinched the title for Season Six. The technical brilliance of that scene and the bastard battle were enough to merit consideration. But midseason also had the loss of Hodor, a scene that amazingly comes in third for it’s technical presentation behind the Green Sept and the Battle of the Bastards. The increased pace kept the action moving as the show moved furiously towards an end game. And did I mention the confirmation of the long time fan theory, R + L = J?

Episode 10 The Holy Sept blown up

Cersei looks on after one of the signature moments of season six (and the series in general).

Now, Season Six was not without  flaws. Euron Greyjoy’s introduction to the narrative (though purposeful) lacked any real impact other than getting his niece and nephew to Daenarys. And there were a couple of plot holes (Arya standing on a bridge in the open in Braavos and Sansa not telling Jon she had more men for him) that had fans scratching their heads.

But I can look past those because of how overwhelmingly fantastic the great elements of Season Six were, better than any previous season in the show’s run.

How would you rank the seasons? Share your thoughts in the comments. And coming Monday, I’ll be finishing my Game of Thrones wrap-up week by comparing the Books to the Show and asking the question: Which is better? I’m sure that won’t get anybody fired up.

Monday, June 27th: The Season Finale Recap

Wednesday, June 29th: Obituaries Part 1 and Obituaries Part 2

oy?

Today: Ranking the Seasons

Monday: Book vs Show: Which one is better?

Why Was Lyanna in the Tower of Joy?

Flashbacks Tower of Joy

 

The Tower of Joy in Game of Thrones Sixth Season was a glorious moment for most of us who’ve read the books and were anxiously anticipating the big reveal of whether one of the most accurate fan theories in the history of fandom was true.

But if you are just a show watcher, the reasons for Lyanna being in that tower in the first place may have you a bit confused. Yes, Game of Thrones has mentioned the events that put Lyanna in that tower. But remembering all those references over the course of six years can be difficult, especially when most of them happened in the first season.

So here a brief synopsis of the events that led to Ned Stark finding Lyanna and a baby Jon Snow at the Tower of Joy.

Rhaegar and Lyanna

The Tourney of Harrenhal

Prince Rhaegar was Daenarys brother and was married to Elia Martell (“you raped her, you murdered her, you killed her children”) when the Tourney of Harrenhal took place about a year before Robert’s Rebellion. Rhaegar successfully won the jousting tournament, defeating Barristen Selmy and three other knights of the king’s guard to claim the championship.

At the end of the tournament, the winner was given the duty of crowning a “queen of love and beauty.” Rhaegar put the crown (made of blue roses) on the head of Lyanna Stark instead of on the head of his wife.

Lyanna’s “Kidnapping”

A year later, Rhaegar “abducted” Lyanna and took her to the Tower of Joy, a tall tower in the mountains of Dorne. Lyanna may have been abucted. She may also have gone willingly. We still don’t know for sure. Ser Arthur Dayne was one of the Knight’s of the Kingsguard that assisted in taking Lyanna to the Tower. This event was the first of several that led to Robert Baratheon (the man betrothed to Lyanna), with the Starks, Arryns, and Tullys, rebelling against the Mad King.

Tower of Joy Arthur Dayne

Ser Arthur Dayne accompanied Prince Rhaegar to the Tower of Joy and was still there when Ned Stark arrived to find his sister.

The Trident

Robert’s forces scored numerous victories during the early part of the Rebellion. When word of Robert’s progress made it to Rhaegar, he decided he needed to take action. Leaving Dayne behind with orders to guard the Tower, Rhaegar left to lead the Targaryen forces in open combat at the Trident (where the Rivers in the Riverlands meet). It was there that Robert defeated Rhaegar, striking him down and killing him in single combat.

Ned Seeks His Sister

After King’s Landing was taken with the help of the Lannisters, Ned went to end the siege at Storm’s End and find his sister. But Arthur Dayne and the other King’s Guard who had been assigned to protect that tower stood true to their oaths and fought Ned to their deaths. Only Ned Stark and Howland Reed survived the fighting at the Tower, but Ned found he was too late to save his sister, who was already dying when he found her.

Lyanna’s last words to her brother were “Promise me Ned,” words thatd invoke the vow Ned would take from that day forward: to raise Jon Snow as his own son (Robert would likely have killed him if he’d known Jon was a Targaryen) and protect him.

Ned holding a baby Jon Snow as Bran looks on.

Ned holding the baby Jon Snow as Bran looks on.

The confirmation of Jon Snow’s true parentage is a wonderful moment for book readers and show watchers alike. But I think it’s pretty obvious this information will have a significant impact on events going forward.

Questions Going Forward

-Will Jon’s Targaryen blood give him a claim to the throne of Westeros? I doubt the current queen is beloved by many after blowing up so many in the Holy Sept. But discovering that “The White Wolf” has dragon blood and the support of the entire northern region could make him a popular choice to usurp the throne from Cersei.

Episode 10 Baby Jon

Jon Snow after he was born in the Tower of Joy.

-What will Daenarys think if/when she discovers another in Westeros has dragon blood? But there’s already a dragon queen on her way to take out the Green Queen. Does she voice support for her nephew (that’s right, Jon is technically Dany’s nephew) and look to unite Westeros together? Or does she see him as a threat to her claim to the throne of Westeros?

-What about Jon’s claim to the throne in the North? Lyanna Mormont’s fiery speech voiced her support for Jon because he had “The blood of Ned Stark in him.” Well, technically, that’s true. But everyone in the North assumes Jon’s a direct male heir to Lord Eddard. Do they question their allegiance if/when it’s revealed that Sansa actually has a more direct line? I suspect Littlefinger, who already has suspicions about Jon Snow’s true parentage, to use this very piece of information when attempting to drive a wedge between Sansa and Jon Snow.

-If it is revealed, who will be responsible for revealing it? As I mentioned earlier, only Howland Reed and Bran Stark know the truth. But one of those is crippled, will need to be carried to Winterfell, and brings the risk of a Whitewalker invasion with him if he’s to reveal that information. And the other has yet to appear on the show. There’s also Meera, who doesn’t know at the moment. But I don’t imagine Bran holding that juicy information from her for long. Maybe she finds a way to get the information to Jon Snow and the rest of Westeros.

So while we can’t be for sure the reveal of Jon Snow’s parentage will make it beyond Bran’s visions, I really don’t see how it doesn’t. It has to be used in some way to move us towards the end game. The question is how. Who delivers this information? Who do they deliver it to? And what will everyone’s response be once Jon’s Targaryen blood is revealed?

It should be a lot of fun to sort out in season seven. As far wrapping up season six, I’ve got two more articles until I disappear into my own personal Tower of Joy for awhile. Saturday, I’ll be ranking all six seasons of Game of Thrones from worst to best. Be preparing your list and see if you agree with me.

June 27th: Season Finale Recap

Yesterday: Season Six Obituaries Part One

Also Yesterday: Season Six Obituaries Part Two

Today: Why Was Lyanna in the Tower of Joy?

Saturday: Ranking the Seasons

Monday: Which is better: The Show or the Books?

 

 

Game of Thrones Season Six Obituaries Part 1

Obits Hodor

It’s a bloody show we follow, Game of Thrones viewers. And this season was the bloodiest of the bloody, as we continue a tradition here at 4LN eulogizing those who’ve passed during the season we’ve just watched. In fact, so many characters fell this season that I’m going to have to split this years obits into two parts. Click if you want to read the Season 4 and Season 5 obits (there may be some photos that need to be updated, so I apologize if some photos do not appear) if you’d like to review deaths from previous seasons.

As for this season, twenty nine important characters appeared for the last time this year. Today, we recall the lives of characters that died in the first seven episodes.

Doran Martell

When:  Episode 1, The Red Woman

How: Stabbed by Ellaria Sand

Obits Doran

I have real mixed emotions about this one. Book Doran Martell is (and I emphasize is because he’s still alive in the text) a pragmatic thinker who acts when he has the resources to do so. And I would have mourned the loss of that character more fervently. But show Doran Martell sat in a wheelchair and did nothing. I think he would have been the central character of the Dorne story line. But season five butchered it so badly that the show producers decided to cut their losses and limit the Dorne narrative so that it wasted as little screen time as possible. Doran was a victim of this decision by show producers.

Doran's Death

Doran Martell, Prince of Dorne, stabbed by Ellaria Sand after he discovers she poisoned Myrcella Baratheon.

Areo Hotah

When: Episode 1, The Red Woman

How: Stabbed by Tyene Sand

Obits Areo

Another misrepresented character from Dorne, Areo was the head of Doran Martell’s personal guard. Doran’s gout makes it essential that he has strong, loyal protection. And Areo was all of that in the books. But he was made weak by his only scene in season six, when a Sand Snake who should have never been allowed to get behind him stabbed him in the back.

Areo-Hotah-murdered-630x483

Good thinking, Areo. Let the fiery, rebellious niece of the prince stand behind you. Nice work.

Trystane Martell

When: Episode 1, The Red Woman

How: Stabbed through the face with a spear by Obara Sand

Trystane Obits

 

We hardly knew the only son of Doran and Myrcella’s betrothed, who seemed prime for an interesting change of scenery in King’s Landing following Myrcella’s poisoning. But the producers’ purging of Dorne left few survivors and Trystane was immediately put back on a boat, where he was stabbed through the face with a spear by Obara Sand. The purging of Dorne, with the Sand Snakes magically sneaking their way onto a boat that managed to get itself between King’s Landing and Dorne in record time, was the worst bit of storytelling in the history of the show. But at least it meant we only had to spend five more minutes in Dorne later in the season instead of wasting valuable screen time down there like we did in season five.

Trystane Martell death

Trystane Martell turning to Nymeria Sand as Obara prepares to stab him in the back of the head.

Roose Bolton

When: Episode 2, Home

How: Stabbed by Ramsey

Obits Roose

Roose Bolton was a key adviser to Robb Stark during the War of Five Kings. But as Lord Bolton started questioning Robb’s decision-making, he turned on the young wolf, helping to arrange the Red Wedding and putting the final wound into the dying Stark.

Bolton became Warden of the North and, with the help of his son Ramsey, defeated Stannis at Winterfell.

Bolton was also known for his shrewd political maneuverings,especially with Ramsey. But one of those moves (holding the threat of a true born heir over his bastard’s head) proved to be the end for Roose. Ramsey killed his father right after the announcement that the baby had been born.

Ramsey Kills Roose

Ramsey standing over his dying father.

Walda Frey

When: Episode 2, Home

How: Eaten By Ramsey’s Hounds

Obits Walda

A candidate for the season’s most gruesome death, Walda was the wife of Roose Bolton and the granddaughter of Walder Frey. Lord Frey offered a dowry of silver equal to the weight of the bride Roose Bolton chose from the available Frey girls. So the shrewd Lord Bolton chose the fattest Frey available.

Roose did grow fond of Walda and the affection she had for him. But it was the son the two had together that proved to be their downfall as Ramsey killed his father, stepmother, and baby brother to gain control of House Bolton.

Ramsey with Walda

Ramsey holds Walda’s child before committing possibly his worst act.

Balon Greyjoy

When: Episode 2, Home

How: Knocked off a bridge by his brother, Euron Greyjoy

Obits Balon

Balon, middle, talking with his children during season 2, discussing northern invasions.

The Lord of the Iron Islands was central to the plot for only season two. Balon threw his hat into the ring for the war of five kings when he sent Iron Born ships to invade and take over lightly defended cities in the North.

Even up to his death, Balon held on to his misguided notions of the Iron Born ruling a great empire again. His fathering skills were also lacking as his poor reception to a returning Theon led the latter down a path that cost him some pretty important parts.

After a two season absence, Balon returned just long enough this season to meet his end on a poorly constructed bridge in the rain. He was the last of the five kings remaining when he met his end as his brother came home to take his place.

Balon and Euron

Balon and Euron having their final conversation.

Alliser Thorne

When: Episode 3, Oathbreaker

How: Hanged for Killing Jon Snow

Obits Alliser

Alliser Thorne threatening Jon during the first season.

Thorne was the proper name for the man who was Jon Snow’s Professor Snape. Thorne never liked the Stark bastard, often referring to him as “Lord Snow” (a name that would one day be true of Jon). Thorne played the adversary of Jon with the exception of one night: the Wall battle where the two men put aside their differences to keep the Wildlings from invading Westeros.

But it would be the focus of that fight that would prove to be Thorne’s downfall. When Jon, seeing the Whitewalkers as the greatest threat of all, made an alliance with Tormund Giantsbane and the rest of the Wildlings, it was too much for the man who dedicated the last 15 to 20 years of his life defeating the ones Jon now welcomed.

Thorne conspired with other members of the Night’s Watch to kill the Lord Commander at the end of Season Five. But as we all know, Jon didn’t stay dead and came back to execute Thorne and his fellow conspirators for their crimes.

Thorne, however, stood by his choice, hoping he’d make the same decision again even if he knew it would cost him his life.

 

Thorne Obit pic

Thorne before his hanging by Jon Snow

Olly

When: Episode 3, Oathbreaker

How: Hanged for Killing Jon Snow

Obit pics

Olly’s final look at Jon before he was hanged.

We first met Olly in Season 4 when Wildlings (Led by Tormund Giantsbane) killed his entire village on their way to the Wall. He was kept alive so he could warn the men of the Night’s Watch what was coming.

Jon took him under his wing immediately, training the young man how to fight. But Olly said he was good with a bow and arrow. And this proved true with Olly’s most heroic moment: saving Jon’s life when he shot Ygritte.

Olly saving Jon

Olly after shooting the arrow that would save Jon’s life.

Olly would become Jon’s steward before the Lord Commander took the step Olly could not accept. It’s the same decision Ser Allister made with different motivations: Olly couldn’t align with men who killed his entire family.

Olly turned on Jon, leading him into the trap and being the last one to stab Lord Snow at the end of season five. But Jon’s return meant the unfortunate end for Olly, who seemed to hold onto that bitterness up until the moment he was hanged.

Osha

When: Episode 4: The Book of the Stranger

How: Stabbed by Ramsey Bolton

Obits Osha

Another victim claimed by the Bolton bastard, Osha was a wildling who helped Bran and Rickon escape Winterfell back in season 2 while Theon was in charge.

She came to Winterfell as a captive, one of a party of three who were fleeing the North to avoid Whitewalkers. But she proved herself useful in the service of Winterfell and worked hard as a servant right up until Theon’s invasion. She then used her “feminine persuasion” to give the Stark boys the chance to escape.

When Osha had no interest in staying with Bran and crew as they headed north of the wall, she agreed to take Rickon to the Umbers for safe keeping. But the once loyal bannermen to the Starks joined Ramsey and turned Osha and Rickon in to the new Warden of the North.

Though I hated for such an instrumental character to meet such a sudden end, it was a very logical move for Ramsey to take out the Wildling before she worked out another Theon-like escape.

Osha's Death

Osha right before Ramsey stabbed her in the neck.

Hodor

When: Episode 5; The Door

How: Killed by Wights Holding the Door so Bran and Meera Could Escape

Obits Hodor

A true fan favorite passed in season six and his death was as heroic as any the show has seen. Hodor was the stable boy who became of service to Bran Stark following the accident that left him unable to walk. A simple task for a simple man, it would appear. But that task would take Hodor to the very far reaches of the North where he would also serve as a deadly weapon whenever Bran would warg into him.

We all know the fateful moment when the boy named Wyllis “Held the Door” and became Hodor, losing his life and mental abilities saving the boy and friend he served loyally right up to the end.

The Three-Eyed Raven

When: Episode 5; The Door

How: Struck down by a Whitewalker in his mystical cave.

Obits Three Eyed Raven

We barely new the wise old treehanger before his time came to an end. A different actor greeted Bran at the end of the fourth season. But the show gave Bran and crew Season Five off, so we had to wait almost two years to find out what purpose this mystical being served in the story.

The Three Eyed Raven was a mentor Bran, showing him his family’s history, the origin of the Whitewalkers, and perfecting (well not quite as Bran’s training had to finish early) Bran’s ability to warg into the past.

Though the Raven was gone after only three episodes, he was responsible for a trio of the show’s biggest reveals: the events at the Tower of Joy, the Children’s role in creating the Whitewalkers, and the origin of the name Hodor.

Rey

When: Episode 7; The Broken Man

How: Hung by Rogue Members of the Brotherhood

Obits Ray

There’s a number of one episode characters that died this season that I will not be writing about. However, I felt it was important to include Rey, the man who saved and reformed the Hound before meeting his untimely end.

Rey was a reformed soldier who renounced violence entirely as he and his followers attempted to build a new village out in the country. But his stance on nonviolence proved to be the end for him and his followers. At least, I don’t believe his death will be in vain as we ended Season 6 with a newly inspired Hound and a possible team-up with the brotherhood in the works.

Episode 7 The Hound and Ray Hanging

Ray hanging from the Sept his people were building as the Hound approaches.

Tomorrow, we’ll remember all the characters we lost in the final three episodes. Also, here’s what else is planned for this Game of Throne wrap-up week.

Monday: The Season Finale Recap

Today: Obituaries Part One

Later Today: Obituaries Part Two

Thursday: The Tower of Joy Explained

Saturday: Ranking The Seasons

Monday: Book vs Show: Which is superior?

 

 

Game of Thrones Season 6 Finale Recap: The Winds of Winter

Episode 10 Cersei

Two weeks ago, I asked the question of whether Game of Thrones, with so many unanswered questions heading into basically it’s final episode (because “Battle of the Bastards” was going to be so Northern Centric), could truly give us a satisfying ending in the Season Six finale. Would the show truly be close enough to a conclusion that thirteen episodes (the number of episodes rumored to be left) would be all that it takes to end the show’s run?

Well, after the longest episode in the show’s history, the answer to that question is an emphatic yes!!! All it took was a giant green explosion, a Targaryen queen setting sail, and a stirring speech from a bad ass ten year old girl to tell us that indeed, thirteen episodes is all we need to get to the end.

That’s not to say that I’m happy thirteen episodes are all that’s left. I would love to see two more full ten episode seasons before parting with the show I’ve loved for the past six years. But last night’s episode helped me to understand why showrunners David Benoiff and DB Weiss thought thirteen was possible to bring a satisfying conclusion to the show.

It makes sense because, after last night, we are basically down to three sides: Jon in the North, Cersei on the Iron Throne, and Daenarys on a boat with three dragons and multiple armies at her side. Working out the politics of Westeros between those three (along with a few other players floating around in various locales) is a much less daunting task now that the Boltons, Freys, Tyrells, and Meereen (not destroyed liked those others, just left behind in the narrative) are all out of the way.

Now, I know the Whitewalkers are looming. And with Bran about to cross that wall, the connection they need to attack the armies of men may not be that far off. But dealing with the army of the dead was going to be much more difficult with all the other factions fighting with each other for power in Westeros. And while I  don’t expect these three sides to necessarily align with each other (at least two of these groups should be fighting each other come season seven), the fight for control of Westeros has become more centralized than it’s been at any point since the first season.

And to get to that point, “Winds of Winter” began with Cersei taking out all her enemies (and I mean every stinking one of them) in one fell swoop.

And for this review, I’m going to do things a little differently. Instead of taking each of the different locations in the story and combining all their narrative parts, I’m going to recap the show as it happened (with a few exceptions), bouncing back and forth between the various locations.

King’s Landing

In a season filled with amazing technical achievements for GoT (“The Door,” “Battle of the Bastards”), the opening sequence of “Winds” might’ve been the best one yet. The slow build of the music begins with all the invested parties preparing for the morning’s trials. The build for this scene was fitting considering that the King’s Landing story line has been like bomb with a long fuse waiting to blow all season. Everything between Cersei and her enemies seemed small in scale. But all those little events lit the fire that would eventually lead to the seasons largest explosion (both literally and figuratively).

Looking back, it’s interesting to see how well Cersei dressed for a trial she had no intentions of attending. The choice to wear all black, however, was clearly not an accident.

Loras’s trial is first and he confesses to everything he’s been charged with. He wants to serve the Faith now and plans to renounce all previous holdings and titles to do so. I was saddened here by the slow death of House Tyrell. Little did I know of the full obliteration that was coming.

Episode 10 The High Sparrow and Loras 2

Loras on trial in front of the High Sparrow.

Back at the Red Keep, Tommen is ready to head over to the Sept. But Frankenmountain won’t let him leave his room (hmm…) Pycelle is called down by one of those “little birds” Qyburn hired into his service with candy several weeks ago (hmm…again) to aid the king. But instead of finding the king, Pycelle finds Qyburn and more little birds. But these little birds have knives and they stab the Grand Maester to death.

Lancel is sent to find out what is keeping Cersei. He sees a “little bird” with a torch head into the underground tunnels of King’s Landing. Lancel follows and discovers the large amounts of Wildfire being stored there before the “little bird” runs out and stabs him.

In the Holy Sept, Margaery strongly suspects Cersei is up to something. But the High Sparrow won’t have it. Ser Holier than Though insists there will be a trial, ignoring all that astute political sense that got him to where he is at this point. Margaery tries to flee with Loras, but the Faith Militant won’t allow it.

Lancel sees the small candle lit on top of the leaking Wildfire and slowly crawls over in a futile attempt to stop what is about to happen. The music that’s been building through this entire scene accentuates Lancel’s agonizing crawl to blow out that candle. Lancel is too late. The flame meets the Wildfire, creating an explosion that kills everyone inside the Holy Sept. Cersei looks on and the condescending smirk we haven’t seen since sometime last season returns to her face.

Episode 10 The Holy Sept blown up

The Holy Sept blown up as Cersei looks on.

And just like that, Cersei takes out every person that’s been opposed to her since the beginning of Season 5. Well, all but one person. Septa Unella, who tortured her frequently when she was a captive, is tied up in the Red Keep. And though the large Septa is ready to die, Cersei won’t allow it yet. Instead, she’s leaving the Septa with Frankenmountain and locking the door.

Tommen sees the carnage at the Holy Sept and is horrified. The young king as been on edge all season, doubting his abilities as king as everyone took turns using him as their puppet. Finally, the stress of being pulled between family, faith and his queen bubbles over as Tommen puts down his crown and drops himself out the window to his death.

Cersei looks over the dead body of her last remaining child, but is not weeping this time. One thing kept Cersei sane and human: her children. Now with her children gone, what kind of monster will King’s Landing be subjected to? She wants Tommen burned, his ashes laid on the Holy Sept to join those of his brother and grandfather.

The Riverlands

Completely unaware of his lover/sisters actions, Jamie is at the Twins where the Freys are hosting a party celebrating the recapture of Riverrun.  And no one in Westeros is better at taking credit for something he didn’t do than Walder Frey. His family had to be rescued by Jamie and the Lannister army, yet here he is boldly proclaiming their equal victory.

Jamie is quick to point this out to the Lord of the Riverlands saying “It’s House Lannister they fear, not House Frey.” Jamie also asks, “If we have to ride north and take them back for you every time you lose them, why do we need you?” A serving girl also takes an interest in Jamie during the dinner. But I’m sure she’s just an attractive extra cast to make googly eyes with Jamie.

Episode 10 Jamie and Lord Walder

Jamie makes clear him and Lord Walder are not the same.

Oldtown

We have a new location folks!!! Oldtown, the richest city in Westeros and home of the Citadel, where the Maesters train. But it’s a little scary that the men in charge of keeping the history of Westeros are so behind on there’s. Apparently, they stopped watching Game of Thrones after season 2, as they still think Jeor Mormount (the Old Bear) is Lord Commander. Of course, Sam’s note, coming from Lord Commander Jon Snow, is out of date as well. So I guess everyone in Oldtown needs to have a GoT binge watching party soon to get caught up.

Sam is allowed study in the library, but Gilly and little Sam are left in the lobby. It’s funny how this entire episode sees a real female empowerment movement take hold, but the Maesters are still just a big men’s club. Sam is in awe of the many shelves of books his eyes behold. I’m curious what information Sam will be finding here that could aid GoT’s end game next season.

Sam at the Citadel

Sam at the library of the Citadel. Did anybody else recognize that large golden object from the opening credits?

The North

Speaking of the former Lord Commander, Jon stands in the halls of Winterfell talking with Melisandre when Davos walks in and throws the toy stag at the Red Woman. The Onion Knight demands she confess what she did to Shireen, and the priestess admits to everything, including being wrong about Stannis. Melisandre’s had a real crisis of confidence this season and she finally admits why here. I really didn’t think after last week that Jon could sentence the woman who brought him back to life to die. But he does send her south, demanding that she never return.

At the start of this scene, a white raven was sent by the Citadel, signaling that Winter has finally come. I find it odd that this raven was sent North, where it’s been winter for two seasons. But these are the same people who revealed earlier in the episode that they are about four seasons behind in their Westerosi history.

Sansa meets to talk with Jon and apologizes for not telling him about her talks with Baelish and the Vale. To which, Jon says, ‘Yeah, I know Sansa. I mean what the hell?” Well, no he didn’t say that. And unfortunately, we never really got a good explanation for why Sansa didn’t tell her brother that more men were available. But Jon knows he can’t trust many people and he’s choosing to forgive her (or not really understanding how terrible of a thing it was not to be told that) and trusting his blood, as he doesn’t know who all he can trust at this point.

Dorne

One of the real strengths of Season Six was the lack of Dorne in the narrative. So I don’t think I imagined that very large collective groan from Game of Thrones viewers when the Dornish scenes from the season premiere were shown in the “previously on” segment.

But at least this scene had the Queen of Thorns representing the entire audience when she told the Sand Snakes to shut up. That needed to happen well before the Sand Snakes ever spoke a word last season, but better late than never.

Lady Olenna wants revenge for the death of her entire family and she’s seeking out the Dornish, who hate the Lannsiters just as much as she does. But to her surprise, Ellaria Sand has already been in talks regarding a major alliance. Two weeks ago, you’ll recall that Lord Varys left Meereen to secure an alliance for the Dragon Queen. That alliance was Dorne. And if the Sand Snakes can maintain their vow of silence established this episode, it might actually be watchable.

Episode 10 Varys in Dorne

Varys arrives in Dorne to establish an alliance between Daenarys, Dorne, and the Tyrells.

Meereen

Speaking of Daenarys, she’s finally secured peace in the former Slaver’s Bay (nice touch having her change the name to “Bay of Dragons” before she left). Now, I’m not going to analyze how rushed and simple that process became because I really don’t care. Bottom line, the Mother of Dragons is finally exiting Meereen and is on her way to Westeros.

But before that can happen, she has to tie up a few loose ends. One of those is Daario, a potential complication if she arrives in Westeros needing a marriage to secure the peace. She’s leaving Daario and his Second Sons (at the recommendation of Tyrion) in the “Bay of Dragons,” where they will be tasked with maintaining the peace she’s leaving behind. Then it’s on to talk with Tyrion, who she officially appoints as her “Hand of the Queen.” Before receiving that title, Tyrion advises Dany on the Game of Thrones, saying “You’re in the great game now. And the great game is terrifying.”

Episode 10 Dany and Tyrion

Dany and Tyrion discussing “The Great Game.”

Riverlands

Back in the Riverlands, one of those game players continues to gloat as a servant girl he doesn’t recognize walks in and gives him pie. He wonders where his sons are, and an ominous feel not felt in that hall since the Red Wedding sets in. The girl says “Your sons are right here” and another collective sound (this one of anticipation) could be heard among book readers all over in the world.

Lord Walder has been presented with a piece of Frey Pie. The ingredients; his two sons. Frey pie was a strongly suspected part of a dinner that took place in “A Dance with Dragons.” And now here it is, placed perfectly as Arya removes the face she was wearing and reveals herself to a horrified Lord Walder.

Episode 10 Arya and Walder Frey

Arya reveals herself to Walder Frey after serving him some “Frey Pie.”

I worried a few weeks ago that the two seasons Arya spent in Braavos would be wasted. If she was just going to come home as Arya Stark, what was the point of spending all the time becoming “No One?” As it turns out, it was all worth it to have her peel back that face and become the cold blooded assassin she means to be now that she’s back in Westeros. She slits Lord Walder’s throat (the very same treatment given to her mother at that ill-fated wedding) and the look on her face while Lord Frey bleeds out is just terrifying. I expect Arya’s sudden appearance to become one of the best elements of the show’s remaining episodes.

The North

While Arya is playing super assassin, her sister is dealing with creepy uncle Petyr. Despite serving her on a plate to her rapist, Baelish still thinks he can pursue creepy romantic feelings with Sansa. He does make clear his desires in this scene: he wants to sit the Iron Throne and wants Sansa as his queen. And he’s got a compelling case. Who are the people more likely to follow: a true Stark born in the North or a bastard born in the South?

Beyond the Wall

That was your cue Bran to confirm the worst kept secret in the history of literature/television. Benjen has taken Meera and Bran as far as they can go, as he reveals the Wall has magical powers that kept him (and other ice zombies) from crossing it. He places Bran in front of a Weirwood tree, where he decides he’s ready to find out what was in that tower back in the third episode.

He follows young Ned up the steps to see his sister Lyanna with blood all over her bed. He wants to help her survive, but his little sister knows better. She’s about to die and needs Ned to do something for her. Hearing her whisper “Promise me Ned,” the iconic lines Ned heard in his thoughts throughout that first novel were extremely satisfying here as a nurse put a baby into young Ned’s arms.

Ned holding a baby Jon Snow as Bran looks on.

Ned holding a baby Jon Snow as Bran looks on.

The North

Right after seeing Jon born, we see Jon today, overseeing a hall of northern lords and the Knights of the Vale as they discuss what to do now. Most seem ready to prepare for winter, but Jon informs them of the battle that is coming. Jon’s taken a season away from the looming Whitewalker threat to focus on getting Winterfell back. But now, he appears poised to play Paul Revere for the rest of Westeros, screaming “The Whitewalkers are coming!!!!”

But first, he must secure the other houses of the North. And for that, he needs the help of LYANNA FREAKING MORMONT!!!! This girl needs wrestling theme music playing every time she’s getting ready to speak with famous wrestling announcer Jim Ross screaming “LYANNA MORMONT IS HERE!!!!

The Lady of Bear Island scalds the other Northern Houses who didn’t aid Jon in his quest to take back Winterfell. She says that House Mormont will only stand behind one king, and his name is Stark (or Targaryen, but I guess we can figure how that works next season).

In response to her fiery speech, the other northern lords apologize for not coming to aid Jon when he called. They kneel, and the room raises their swords, erupting with the chant “The King of the North, The King of the North.” Sansa is pleased at first, but the smile quickly leaves her face as she looks back at Littlefinger, who is not pleased with this development as he looks on in the back of the room.

Episode 10 King of the North

Jon the “White Wolf” being declared “King of the North.”

King’s Landing

While one throne is established in the North, the first ruling queen of Westeros is crowned in the South. With Qyburn now wearing the pin for the Hand of the King, Cersei takes her seat as Jamie walks in, unsure of what he’s seeing. His men returning from the Riverlands arrived to find the Sept burning.

Episode 10 Cersei on the Throne

Cersei on the Iron Throne.

But while there’s a king in the north and a queen in the south, another queen rides the waters, her boats headed to Westeros with an army of unsullied, another army of Dothraki, and three dragons flying overhead.

Episode 10 Dany on her way

Daenarys on her way to Westeros.

Of Note

-I wonder how Jamie will respond to Cersei’s bit of “diplomacy,” especially considering how he just ended a siege without shedding any blood.

-This season has seen the development of a true “express lane” to get between Westeros and Essos. The Greyjoys and Arya both quickly transported between the two continents. But neither of them hold a candle to Varys, who made it Dorne and back to Meereen in the same episode.

-The reveal of magic at the Wall brings back the importance of Bran being touched by that Whitewalker. If Bran should ever cross the Wall, could the Whitewalkers follow?

-The Tyrells and Martells have been bitter enemies throughout Westerosi history. So for them to be meeting to form an alliance shows just how desperate both sides are and how much they desire revenge against Cersei.

-The Frey Pie scene in the books was the work of Wyman Manderly, who is strongly suspected to have killed two Frey messengers who’ve disappeared and backed them into a pie that he feeds to Bolton and Frey guests at a dinner. The Lord Manderly presented tonight did not initially resemble the master manipulator from the text. But being that he’s the Lord of the North’s richest city (White Harbor), he should be extremely important moving forward.

Questions for Next Season

-How long before Daenarys is on the shores of Westeros?

-How will Jamie and Cersei’s relationship change now that she’s blown up half of King’s Landing?

-Will Littlefinger use his knowledge of Jon’s true parentage to create friction in the North? Or will that knowledge come to Jon’s aid for the major battle to come?

-Will Arya proceed to take out everyone on her list? Or will she have other targets in mind more central to the show’s end game?

I have a huge week of articles planned to wrap up this season, including the annual season obituaries (with two parts necessary) and a look at whether the show or Martin’s book is the superior work (I’m sure that won’t get anybody worked up). Here’s the launch schedule:

Tuesday: Obituaries part 1

Wednesday: Obituaries part 2

Thursday: The Tower of Joy Explained

Saturday: Ranking the Seasons

Next Monday: Which is Better: The Show or the Books?

Thank you so much for reading my recaps throughout this season. Now let’s help each other get through another long ten months of waiting until season 7.