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Wisdom from Tolkien’s Middle-earth

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There are only a few books that I’ve read that I read more than once, but Tolkien is an author who’s work I cannot help but return to.  There is a lot of wisdom packed into those pages that consistently brings me back, and continues to shape my worldview.  Below I’ve collected several of my favorite quotes from The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion. 

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“All have their worth and each contributes to the worth of the others.”  – The Silmarillion

“But do not despise the lore that has come down from distant years; for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know.”  – The Lord of the Rings

Frodo: “… I wish none of this had happened.                                                       Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide.” – The Lord of the Rings

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“Don’t adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Someone else always has to carry on the story.” – The Lord of the Rings

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.”  – The Lord of the Rings

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” – The Hobbit

“Where there’s life there’s hope.” – The Hobbit

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“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – The Hobbit

“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.” – The Hobbit

“To him that is pitiless the deeds of pity are ever strange and beyond comprehension.” – The Silmarillion

“Who knows? Have patience. Go where you must go, and hope!” – The Lord of the Rings

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“Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.”  – The Lord of the Rings

“Elves and Dragons! I says to him. Cabbages and potatoes are better for me and you.” – The Lord of the Rings

Frodo: “He deserves death.”
Gandalf: “Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” – The Lord of the Rings

Do you have a favorite Tolkien quote? Let us know in the comments below.

Goodreads Best Books of 2016!

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Well, folks, we made it.  2016 is (finally) drawing to a close, and what a year it’s been.  Depending on where you fall on the political spectrum, you either feel that the apocalypse is near, that the political establishment got what it deserved, or you are just completely disillusioned by the entire process.  Luckily, Goodreads just released it’s Best Books of 2016 list, and you know what will never betray you? Books, that’s what.  So let’s take a look at what Goodreads users voted the best books of this past year, and maybe you’ll find your next favorite book this upcoming year.

Best Fiction

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Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.

Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty takes on the foundations of our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood, and friendship. She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how sometimes it is the most innocent of moments that can do the greatest harm.

Best Mystery & Thriller

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End of Watch by Stephen King

The spectacular finale to the New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with Mr. Mercedes (winner of the Edgar Award) and Finders Keepers—In End of Watch, the diabolical “Mercedes Killer” drives his enemies to suicide, and if Bill Hodges and Holly Gibney don’t figure out a way to stop him, they’ll be victims themselves.

In Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, something has awakened. Something evil. Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the clinic for five years, in a vegetative state. According to his doctors, anything approaching a complete recovery is unlikely. But behind the drool and stare, Brady is awake, and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

Retired police detective Bill Hodges, the unlikely hero of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, now runs an investigation agency with his partner, Holly Gibney—the woman who delivered the blow to Hartsfield’s head that put him on the brain injury ward. When Bill and Holly are called to a suicide scene with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put their lives at risk, as well as those of Bill’s heroic young friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on Hodges and his friends, but on an entire city.

In End of Watch, Stephen King brings the Hodges trilogy to a sublimely terrifying conclusion, combining the detective fiction of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers with the heart-pounding, supernatural suspense that has been his bestselling trademark. The result is an unnerving look at human vulnerability and chilling suspense. No one does it better than King.

Best Historical Fiction

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The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor – engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven – but the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

Best Fantasy

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Best Roman

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It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up—she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan—her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

With this bold and deeply personal novel, Colleen Hoover delivers a heart-wrenching story that breaks exciting new ground for her as a writer. Combining a captivating romance with a cast of all-too-human characters, It Ends With Us is an unforgettable tale of love that comes at the ultimate price.

Best Science Fiction

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Morning Star by Pierce Brown

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Red Rising thrilled readers and announced the presence of a talented new author. Golden Son changed the game and took the story of Darrow to the next level. Now comes the exhilarating conclusion to the Red Rising Trilogy: Morning Star.

Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.

Finally, the time has come.

But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied—and too glorious to surrender.

Best Horror

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The Fireman by Joe Hill

From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of NOS4A2 and Heart-Shaped Box comes a chilling novel about a worldwide pandemic of spontaneous combustion that threatens to reduce civilization to ashes and a band of improbable heroes who battle to save it, led by one powerful and enigmatic man known as the Fireman.

The fireman is coming. Stay cool.

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

Best Humor

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The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

The Emmy Award-winning comedian, actress, writer, and star of Inside Amy Schumer and the acclaimed film Trainwreck has taken the entertainment world by storm with her winning blend of smart, satirical humor. Now, Amy Schumer has written a refreshingly candid and uproariously funny collection of (extremely) personal and observational essays.

In The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy mines her past for stories about her teenage years, her family, relationships, and sex and shares the experiences that have shaped who she is – a woman with the courage to bare her soul to stand up for what she believes in, all while making us laugh.

Ranging from the raucous to the romantic, the heartfelt to the harrowing, this highly entertaining and universally appealing collection is the literary equivalent of a night out with your best friends – an unforgettable and fun adventure that you wish could last forever. Whether she’s experiencing lust-at-first-sight while in the airport security line, sharing her own views on love and marriage, admitting to being an introvert, or discovering her cross-fit instructor’s secret bad habit, Amy Schumer proves to be a bighearted, brave, and thoughtful storyteller that will leave you nodding your head in recognition, laughing out loud, and sobbing uncontrollably – but only because it’s over.

Best Nonfiction

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Hamilton: the Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking musical Hamilton is as revolutionary as its subject, the poor kid from the Caribbean who fought the British, defended the Constitution, and helped to found the United States. Fusing hip-hop, pop, R&B, and the best traditions of theater, this once-in-a-generation show broadens the sound of Broadway, reveals the storytelling power of rap, and claims our country’s origins for a diverse new generation.

HAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION gives readers an unprecedented view of both revolutions, from the only two writers able to provide it. Miranda, along with Jeremy McCarter, a cultural critic and theater artist who was involved in the project from its earliest stages–“since before this was even a show,” according to Miranda–traces its development from an improbable perfor­mance at the White House to its landmark opening night on Broadway six years later. In addition, Miranda has written more than 200 funny, revealing footnotes for his award-winning libretto, the full text of which is published here.

Their account features photos by the renowned Frank Ockenfels and veteran Broadway photographer, Joan Marcus; exclusive looks at notebooks and emails; interviews with Questlove, Stephen Sond­heim, leading political commentators, and more than 50 people involved with the production; and multiple appearances by Presi­dent Obama himself. The book does more than tell the surprising story of how a Broadway musical became a national phenomenon: It demonstrates that America has always been renewed by the brash upstarts and brilliant outsiders, the men and women who don’t throw away their shot.

Best Memoir & Autobiography

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When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away?

Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.

Best History & Biography

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Leonard: My Fifty-Yeah Friendship with a Remarkable Man by William Shatner, with David Fisher

Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner first crossed paths as actors on the set of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Little did they know that their next roles, in a new science-fiction television series, would shape their lives in ways no one could have anticipated. In seventy-nine television episodes and six feature films, they grew to know each other more than most friends could ever imagine.

Over the course of half a century, Shatner and Nimoy saw each other through personal and professional highs and lows. In this powerfully emotional book, Shatner tells the story of a man who was his friend for five decades, recounting anecdotes and untold stories of their lives on and off set, as well as gathering stories from others who knew Nimoy well, to present a full picture of a rich life.

As much a biography of Nimoy as a story of their friendship, Leonard is a uniquely heartfelt book written by one legendary actor in celebration of another.

Best Science & Technology

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Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans De Waal

What separates your mind from an animal’s? Maybe you think it’s your ability to design tools, your sense of self, or your grasp of past and future—all traits that have helped us define ourselves as the planet’s preeminent species. But in recent decades, these claims have eroded, or even been disproven outright, by a revolution in the study of animal cognition. Take the way octopuses use coconut shells as tools; elephants that classify humans by age, gender, and language; or Ayumu, the young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University whose flash memory puts that of humans to shame. Based on research involving crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, whales, and of course chimpanzees and bonobos, Frans de Waal explores both the scope and the depth of animal intelligence. He offers a firsthand account of how science has stood traditional behaviorism on its head by revealing how smart animals really are, and how we’ve underestimated their abilities for too long.

People often assume a cognitive ladder, from lower to higher forms, with our own intelligence at the top. But what if it is more like a bush, with cognition taking different forms that are often incomparable to ours? Would you presume yourself dumber than a squirrel because you’re less adept at recalling the locations of hundreds of buried acorns? Or would you judge your perception of your surroundings as more sophisticated than that of a echolocating bat? De Waal reviews the rise and fall of the mechanistic view of animals and opens our minds to the idea that animal minds are far more intricate and complex than we have assumed. De Waal’s landmark work will convince you to rethink everything you thought you knew about animal—and human—intelligence.

Best Food & Cookbooks

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Cravings: Recipes for all the Food You Want to Eat by Chrissy Teigen

Maybe she’s on a photo shoot in Zanzibar. Maybe she’s making people laugh on TV. But all Chrissy Teigen really wants to do is talk about dinner. Or breakfast. Lunch gets some love, too.
For years, she’s been collecting, cooking, and Instagramming her favorite recipes, and here they are: from breakfast all day to John’s famous fried chicken with spicy honey butter to her mom’s Thai classics.
Salty, spicy, saucy, and fun as sin (that’s the food, but that’s Chrissy, too), these dishes are for family, for date night at home, for party time, and for a few life-sucks moments (salads). You’ll learn the importance of chili peppers, the secret to cheesy-cheeseless eggs, and life tips like how to use bacon as a home fragrance, the single best way to wake up in the morning, and how not to overthink men or Brussels sprouts. Because for Chrissy Teigen, cooking, eating, life, and love are one and the same.

Best Graphic Novels & Comics

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Adulthood is a Myth: A “Sarah Scribbles” Collection by Sarah Anderson

Are you a special snowflake?

Do you enjoy networking to advance your career?

Is adulthood an exciting new challenge for which you feel fully prepared?

Ugh. Please go away.

This book is for the rest of us. These comics document the wasting of entire beautiful weekends on the internet, the unbearable agony of holding hands on the street with a gorgeous guy, dreaming all day of getting home and back into pajamas, and wondering when, exactly, this adulthood thing begins. In other words, the horrors and awkwardnesses of young modern life.

Best Poetry

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The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace

“Ah, life- the thing that happens to us while we’re off somewhere else blowing on dandelions & wishing ourselves into the pages of our favorite fairy tales.”

A poetry collection divided into four different parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, & you. the princess, the damsel, & the queen piece together the life of the author in three stages, while you serves as a note to the reader & all of humankind. Explores life & all of its love, loss, grief, healing, empowerment, & inspirations.

Best Debut Goodreads Author

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Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic.  For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female.

Amani Al’Hiza is all three.  She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead.

Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.

Rebel of the Sands reveals what happens when a dream deferred explodes—in the fires of rebellion, of romantic passion, and the all-consuming inferno of a girl finally, at long last, embracing her power.

Best Young Adult Fiction

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Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction

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A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world torn apart.

Best Middle Grade & Children’s

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The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

How do you punish an immortal?

By making him human.

After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disorientated, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favour.

But Apollo has many enemies—gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go… an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.

Picture Books

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The Thank You Book by Mo Willems

Gerald is careful. Piggie is not.
Piggie cannot help smiling. Gerald can.
Gerald worries so that Piggie does not have to.

Gerald and Piggie are best friends.

In The Thank You Book!, Piggie wants to thank EVERYONE. But Gerald is worried Piggie will forget someone . . . someone important.

Westworld Season 1 Episode 6 Recap: The Adversary

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“The Adversary,” the 6th episode of Westworld’s first season, was the most tense episode yet for HBO’s new drama. But while the tension was thick, the answers (well most of them anyway) we so desperately want stayed elusive at the hour’s conclusion.

Yes, we got tantalizingly close to finding out who’s been whispering to the hosts in the park. And I wouldn’t expect the show to reveal the solution to its biggest mystery with so much of the season yet to play out.

But the longer the answer to that central question is delayed, the greater the expectation will be for that answer to blow our minds.

So here’s hoping “Westworld” can deliver when all this heightened tension reaches its conclusion.

Let’s start this week’s recap with Maeve, who decided it was time to make some “changes” in her life.

Maeve

Maeve’s journey of self-realization continued this week as her guide Felix pulled back the curtain on Westworld for the host. The first discovery Maeve makes is that she can say nothing that has not been programmed into her by a human. That bit of information was very important towards the end of the episode.

After getting the VIP tour of “upstairs,” from Felix, Maeve requests “changes” to her programming. She wants a little less loyalty (or a whole lot less actually) and pain, but a whole lot of wit and perception.

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Felix making changes to Maeve’s programming.

But Felix’s buddy (well not really much of a buddy) Sylvester walks in and is ready to spill the beans on Felix’s unauthorized work. That is, until Maeve holds a knife to his throat with a little side of blackmail. Turns out, Sylvester pimps out the hosts at headquarters for lonely guys (like the one Hughes blackmailed last week).

So Maeve gets the changes she wants. But she’s not the only host we saw make a bit of a transformation this week.

The Man In Black

I liked how “The Adversary” had a unifying theme for most of its major story arcs. The only exception to this was the MIB and his continued march to find the maze with Teddy.

Their next stop is to find Wyatt, the new villain whom Teddy holds a significant grudge against. But what we discovered is Teddy was not so innocent when it came to Wyatt’s many slaughters throughout the countryside. He was right there with his commanding officer taking out any who would get in their way. And to think, we used to feel sorry for Teddy early in the season when he was dying every single episode.

A group of soldiers Teddy and the MIB run into have just been attacked by Wyatt and his crew. But one of them recognizes Teddy and means to tie him up and brand him. But Teddy breaks free, takes hold of an old timey machine gun and blows all the troops away.

The MIB ends the scene speaking for all of us when he says, “You think you know someone.”

Bernard Lowe and Elsie Hughes

Bernard, whose spent weeks with his head stuck somewhere covering up his ears anytime anybody suggested things are anything but hunky dorey in the park, finally wised up and started looking into the questionable behavior of the hosts. And what his investigation produced was some of the best acting Jeffrey Wright has provided the series so far.

With the help of super sleuth Elsie Hughes, Lowe begins investigating whose been stealing data from the park.

First, he heads “downstairs” (just how many dark and mysterious rooms does this park have?) because the hosts being used had to be original models (I won’t go into how he figured that out or new he had to go down there to find his answers because I’m not really sure. Let’s just say it was something sciency).

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Bernard Lowe looking into unauthorized activity by hosts and its source.

But while down there, Lowe notices several hosts in the park that are not registered in the system. Lowe goes to check it out, only to find a family of hosts that only Dr. Ford can control. The little boy we’ve seen wondering around a couple of episodes is there with his family. And that little boy in none other than Ford as a child (anybody else out there besides me predict that earlier in the season?) The hosts representing Ford’s family were supposed to be a gift from Arnold. Lowe doesn’t like unmonitored hosts running around, but Ford insists they’re no danger.

Speaking of danger, Elsie Hughes took the information Lowe found earlier (once again, more sciensy stuff) and discovers a place in the park where someone’s been communicating with the hosts. She finds the computer in a dark room with lots of creepy props lying around. I’m sure there’s no danger here at all.

When super sleuth finds the computer, she discovers that two people have been using it to communicate with the hosts. The first is Theresa Cullen. She’s the one whose been sending data outside the park. She also happened to be spending this entire episode on her “Make Westworld Great Again” tour making preparations to remove Dr. Ford from his position. It also appears Lowe was blind to it because of the sexual relationship he shared with Cullen.

But Hughes found another set of communications on the computer. And those are the ones that have Elsie the most concerned.

Who in the Name of Arnold?

I loved the way three different groups in three different settings all came to the same conclusion at the same time in tonight’s episode.

First, there’s Elsie discovering that “Arnold” has been talking directly to the older hosts. The changes can cause these hosts to hurt guests and lie to humans.

And right on cue, we get our second realization coming from Dr. Ford after he finds little Ford’s dog is dead. The little Ford lies to Dr. Robert at first about the cause of death. Turns out, “Arnold” told the boy to kill the dog so it “couldn’t hurt anyone else.” Dr. Ford is very concerned about this, which means everyone else in the park should get out of there as fast as they can.

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Dr. Ford and Little Ford looking at a host dog that’s been killed.

The third realization comes from Sylvester and Felix. When they are changing Maeve’s programming, they notice someone else has already been doing it.

Now, did anybody else out there scream at their television for Elsie to get out of that room? Of course, super sleuth stuck around too long and got herself snatched in her last scene of the night.

Of Note

-While robot revolution has been the direction of season one from the start, tonight’s episode made very clear that only another human can truly direct the carnage. This means that no matter what actions the hosts take, they are always going to be acting at the behest of someone else.

-Dr. Robert Ford seemed to recognize the maze on the table in the little Mexican village he visited with construction people as a design in one of the books in his office.

-Tonight’s worst first impression award goes to Tom Sizemore, the head of creative whose idea was 100% rejected by Ford several episodes back. Apparently, he’s been taking sick leave since then, drinking all day by a pool at the Westworld resort for guests when they are not out in the park.

But not only does Sizemore hit on a very important executive at the pool, he pees all over the park map at headquarters in front of that same executive, Charlotte Hale.

-It was interesting to watch the MIB take a back seat as Teddy directed the action in their scenes together this week.

-Apparently, Maeve’s previous story (where she’s a mom raising daughter out on the plains) is “just a tweak” from being the madam at a brothel. Really, that change was just a tweak?

-This is also the third straight week where the last line of the episode was uttered by Maeve: “Now boys, we’re ready for some fun aren’t we?”

Questions

-Who is playing the part of “Arnold” and what is their purpose in whispering to all the hosts?

-Who snatched Elsie and what will their identity reveal about the larger thing going on with the hosts in the park?

-Who does Bernard Lowe trust now that he doesn’t think he can trust Dr. Ford or Theresa Cullen?

-What does Charlotte Hale have planned for her visit to Westworld and how will it affect the future of the park?

Just four episodes left in the first season. I’ll see you here again next week.

Westworld Season 1, Episode 3: The Stray

episode-3-ford

For the first time (but unlikely to be the last), I want to talk about what might be the central dilemma a viewer must mull over when watching Westworld: should we feel sorry for the hosts?

The answer seems so obvious with the horrible way many guests use the hosts to fulfill their most sadistic fantasies. And the pattern is repeated for them everyday. Everyday, someone will kill Teddy either while he’s trying to apprehend a criminal or defending Dolores. And Dolores will end everyday raped by someone whose just killed her father and/or the love of her life (because as we learned this week, that is the actual story written for the two cursed lovers).

But as Dr. Ford reminded us so harshly this week, these robots aren’t real. They only feel what’s programmed in them. Even all these memories flooding back into their minds are put there because someone else (with the “who” being a major dilemma for season 1) is telling them to.

So should we feel sorry for these artificial hosts whose every thought, even the rebellious ones, are put their by humans? Or do we focus more on the various motivations of the humans who use them as their pawns?

Let’s start with one of those humans (Bernard Lowe) as we learned more about his backstory and motivations this episode.

Bernard Lowe

We started this week’s episode the same way we’ve started every other episode: a conversation between Bernard Lowe and Delores. Talk to an attractive, sensitive host for two weeks and maybe it’s just a part of your job. But three weeks in a row? It’s clear Lowe is not just talking to Dolores every week because his position calls for it.

The first piece of evidence of this is Lowe making sure Dolores still “hasn’t told anyone about our conversations.” The second is the copy of “Alice in Wonderland” Lowe gives to her. And this is not the first book he’s given to the host.

Now why would Lowe feel the need to talk with Dolores, the park’s oldest host, secretly on a regular basis? It turns out the man had a son die at a young age. The boy’s name was Charlie and Lowe later talks with the boy’s mother over webcam (though we’re never told whether Lowe is still with her).

So as Lowe continues to struggle with the loss of his son, he continues to meet with Dolores and share his thoughts and feelings with her. Lowe is clearly conflicted: does he envy the hosts who have their memories erased every day or does he want to hold onto the pain so he’ll never forget his son?

Arnold

Another significantly important conversation was another between Bernard Lowe and Dr. Robert Ford. And once again, the concern was the cause of the bizarre behavior with the hosts.

Lowe is concerned the “disease” could still be out there. He also has information from Elsie “best damn robot scientist in the world” Hughes that all these hosts are speaking to the same voice: the voice of Arnold.

episode-3-fords-office

Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) discussing Arnold, the other founder of Westworld.

Ford says Arnold was the man who opened the park with him many years ago. But unlike Ford, who just wanted an experience for customers, Arnold wanted to create a consciousness within the robots. He vaguely mentions how Arnold would only interact with the hosts and that it is likely he died in the park. That’s right Dr. Ford. I’m sure there’s nothing more to see here, so we should all just move along (wink wink).

The Stray

Back at headquarters, a “stray” (a host whose escaped its storyline and is now on its own) is discovered. Elsie (mighty convenient she got sent on a mission right after a major discovery I’ll discuss later) and Stubbs (the other Hemsworth) are sent out into the park to track it down and neutralize it.

episode-3-elsie

Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward) out with Stubbs searching for the stray host.

First, they find the party the stray left. Turns out, the host was doing some carving of constellations on the back of a turtle he carved. Then, Stubbs and Hughes follow the trail he left and find he is under that very constellation in the sky, hiding between two rocks and bleeding heavily.

But just as Stubbs is doing work on the host (I bet he was in sleep mode as well), the host wakes up and attacks them. He picks up a rock and is ready to strike Hughes down with it when Stubbs, somehow, gets control of the host and forces it to pound its own head in with the rock. We’ll see next week how Ford and Lowe excuse this behavior from another run amuck host.

Teddy and Dolores

We also got a lot more information on all the gory details of the twisted storyline involving Teddy and Dolores. The pieces we gathered in the first episode were enough to sadden us, knowing these two have love programmed in them that will never come to fruition.

But we learned tonight from Dr. Ford himself that Dolores is meant for the sick bastard who wants to take her after having killed Teddy, her family, or both. So the Man in Black’s “adventure” in the first episode was not just the MIB acting on his own. That was an actual storyline programmed into the park.

episode-3-teddy-and-dolores

Teddy and Dolores talking about their “future” together before he goes off to catch another wanted man.

We also see another part of Teddy’s storyline as he joins a search party seeking out criminals. But this time, the wanted man is rooted in a backstory (that has Teddy once being a soldier) added into Teddy’s programming by Dr. Ford.

But while Teddy is seeking this man (named Wyatt), his party is ambushed. The only members of the party left are Teddy and the female guests who’d been riding with him. As she is getting away, Teddy is surrounded by men in hoods holding axes. Now in an earlier scene, there was a group out in the wild that Hughes and Stubbs found the stray had left. That group had axes, and so do these men. But when Teddy tries to shoot them, his gun has no effect just like it did when he tried to shoot the Man in Black in the first episode. Were these men hosts or guests?

As for Dolores, the love of her life not making it out of the wild still doesn’t keep her from the end of her story. She shows back up at the house. The cattle are out (which “father would never do after dark”), her father is dead, and outlaws are waiting for her when she walks up to the house. At least one of this crew is a guest (we saw him scared of Teddy earlier). But the guy who takes Dolores to the barn appears to be a host. He offers her to the guest, but he refuses, as Westworld has yet to turn him into an unfeeling evil douchebag.

But was it really a host who took her in that barn? Dolores gets thrown down on the hay only to find the gun hiding there waiting for her. We saw the gun earlier in the episode, but it was in her bedroom drawer. How the hell did it get here? And when she shoots it, it actually kills her attacker. Now, that would make us think it’s a host because host aren’t supposed to be able to kill guests. But was that gun she used one that’s been programmed to do that? She did just kind of find it laying in the dirt. Damn you Westworld and all your “Is he a host or is he not” tomfoolery.

William

As for our first time guest from last week, William is starting to gain confidence navigating his way through the world. First, he gets shot (which only leaves a bruise), but gets up and kills a wanted criminal who was escaping arrest. Then, he tells Logan what’s up as he decides to go out on his own adventure, following the directions of a wanted sign.

The final scene has the two men out camping by a fire and Logan pissed off he’s not banging another prostitute when Dolores walks up and faints in William’s arms. William took a liking to her last week when he picked up the can. Is this the continuation of another storyline where Dolores is swooned and won over by an honorable cowboy? Or has she gone off the grid with her escape from the barn?

Of Note

-Elsie Hughes made the big discovery to Lowe this week that in week one, when Walter (the guy who drank the milk) was shooting up the saloon, he was targeting people who had killed him in previous storylines. Lowe’s response: go out and find a random stray we need to track down. Right now, I can’t chalk that up to coincidence.

episode-3-hughes-and-lowe

Hughes showing more odd host behavior to Lowe.

-It was clear this week my initial thoughts on Dr. Ford and his respect for the hosts of Westworld were completely false. When a scientist covers up a naked host, Ford harshly criticizes him, saying “they don’t feel anything.” And the whole story with Arnold made Ford sound like the complete opposite of what I thought he was. Unless, maybe Arnold is not a different person, but actually represents what Ford used to be? I know that’s a wild theory, but I thought I might throw that out there.

-Cullen made a brief appearance tonight.  She was concerned that Ford’s new project he told us about last week is disrupting the park.

-We also see that Maeve, despite her near escape at headquarters last week, was returned to the park. My guess is the two surgeons didn’t tell anyone what happened so they wouldn’t get in trouble for nearly losing her.

-It’s been mentioned before, but Logan confirmed that Westworld cost guests $40,000 a day. No wonder headquarters let’s them do whatever they want in the park.

Questions

-Who is Arnold, and when (not if) is he going to come up again?

-What is the adventure of William and Dolores going to be like? And will Teddy involve himself in anyway?

-Who were those people/hosts who attacked Teddy in his final scene this week?

-What will the fall out be when Lowe’s conversations with Dolores are discovered?

-Will anybody be concerned at all when Stubbs and Hughes return with a host who tried to attack them?

Expect more about the Maze and Dr. Ford’s new project next week. See you then.

Game of Thrones Season Six Obituaries: Part 2

Obits Lancel Wildfire

Time for part 2, featuring the final three episodes and featuring 18 deaths, including 11 alone from the season finale. Let’s start with a great warrior who went out like one, though we are just going to have to take the show’s word on that.

Brynden “Blackfish” Tully

When: Episode 8; No One

How: Fighting His Capture in The Riverlands (off screen)

Obits Blackfish

The “Blackfish” was Catelyn Stark’s uncle who served as an important military advisor for Robb Stark in Season Three. If not for a well timed piss, he would’ve met his end at the Red Wedding. Instead, he escaped, reemerging this season to take back Riverrun from the Freys, forcing Jamie Lannister to intervene.

I was surprised the show kept him alive only to bring him back for just those two episodes. But his commanding presence this season was a favorite among fans for his firmness in holding the Tully castle. A threat to the son of Edmure Tully inspired Catelyn’s brother to take back the seat that was his by rights, forcing the Blackfish to choose between becoming a captive or fight. He chose fight and fought to his death (at least that’s what we were told).

Obits Blackfish 2

The Blackfish helps Brienne and Pod escape before running to his death.

Lady Crane

When: Episode 8; No One

How: Killed by the Waif on her search to find Arya

Obits Lady Crane

Lady Crane was an actress in the Braavosi version of Game of Thrones. While her performance playing Cersei Lannister was universally (well within the Braavosi universe) praised, it did draw the ire of a younger cast mate who wanted her dead and hired the Faceless Men to do the job.But Arya’s convictions that Lady Crane did not deserve to die were enough to spare the actress, leading Arya to abandon the Faceless Men.

Unfortunately, it may have been Lady Crane’s good nature that lead to her death. While caring for Arya’s massive chest wounds (still not certain what miracle medicine she used to heel those cuts), the Waif showed up and killed Lady Crane before setting her sights on Arya.

Obits Crane's death

Lady Crane, after the Waif brutally murders her.

The Waif

When: Episode 8; No One

How: Killed in the dark by Arya Stark

Obits the Waif

The Waif was an assassin for the Faceless Men who never cared for Arya and the “special treatment” she received from Jaqen. Though she worked diligently to help train Arya, the Waif took great pleasure in any punishment she got to dish out out in those training sessions. And it was the Waif who so gleefully took on the task of ending Arya’s life when she decided to bail on the Faceless Men.

But it was that training that, ironically, proved to be the downfall of the Waif. She taught Arya how to fight blind at the beginning of season six. And Arya turned out the lights in their final confrontation and put the Waif’s face up on the wall in the House of Black and White.

Obits The Waif's face

The Waif’s face, delivered by Arya of House Stark, adorning the walls of the House of Black and White.

Rickon Stark

When: Episode 9; Battle of the Bastards

How: Shot With An Arrow By Ramsey While Running Across the Battlefield

Obits Rickon Stark

The youngest Stark has the distinction of being the member of the family whose death drew the smallest reaction from fans. That’s what happens when a character appears little and says less, including not even uttering a line in his final season.

Rickon was in Winterfell his first two seasons, bored out of his mind in season 2 as Bran played the part of Lord of Winterfell before Theon’s invasion. He then left in the middle of the night with his brother, the Reeds, Hodor, and Osha seeking safety throughout season 3.

But it was the decision of his older brother that doomed Rickon. Bran sent Rickon and Osha to the Umbers thinking of them as loyal bannermen who would protect a Stark heir. Instead, the Smalljon Umber turned them in to Ramsey while declaring his allegiance to House Bolton this season. The least significant Stark met his end as the last of Ramsey’s pawns in one of the Bolton bastard’s many games.

Obits Rickons death

Rickon takes the arrow while running towards Jon Snow.

Smalljon Umber

When: Episode 9; Battle of the Bastards

How: Killed While Fighting Tormund Giantsbane

Obits Smalljon Umber

The Smalljon was the complete opposite of his father, the Greatjon. The elder Umber was Robb’s staunchest supporter in season one. But Jon’s decision to allow Wildlings into Winterfell meant the new head of House Umber (because his father died somewhere off screen) was ready to join up with Ramsey in the Battle of the Bastards.

The Smalljon is most notable for turning Rickon in to Ramsey and chopping off the head of the youngest Stark’s direwolf. He met his end in the battle in close quarters combat when Tormund took a bite out of the Smalljon’s neck and finished the Umber off from there.

Wun Wun

When: Episode 9; Battle of the Bastards

How: Taking Multiple Arrows While Knocking Down the Gates of Winterfell

Episode 9 Wun Wun

The last remaining of his race, Wun Wun was a Wildling who joined up with Jon Snow with the rest of the remaining Wildlings in Season 5. No character (maybe other than Frankenmountain) produced more humorous deaths than the giant from beyond the wall. Wun Wun died fighting valiantly, breaking down the gate at Winterfell so Jon and his men could take back the castle for House Stark.

Episode 9 Wun Wun dying

Wun taking many arrows from Bolton men as he opens the way for Jon to retake Winterfell.

Ramsey Bolton

When: Episode 9; Battle of the Bastards

How: Eaten by the Very Hounds He Used to Kill Others

Obits Ramsey

In a show filled with shades of grey that asks you the viewer to decide who you like and who you don’t, Ramsey was one of the few true villains. Along with Joffrey, Ramsey was a character hated by most viewers (yes there are a few sick Ramsey fans out there). And no other death was as appropriate on the show than Ramsey becoming Kibbles and Bits.

When we first met the Bolton Bastard, we didn’t know his name. He was just Theon’s torturer who cut off the Greyjoy’s man parts, making him Reek. But he revealed himself as Ramsey Snow, the bastard of Roose Bolton at the end of season three. He earned the surname Bolton with his actions in season four, securing the North from the remaining Greyjoy invaders. He also defeated a weakened Stannis force at the end of season five, a year where he married Sansa and tortured her as bad as Theon.

But season six took the Bolton bastard to a new level. He killed his father and fed his stepmom and stepbrother to his hounds. With the Stark forces approaching, Ramsey built up a force that outnumbered Jon’s troops by a significant number. But the appearance of the Knights of the Vale spelled doom for Ramsey and his hold on Winterfell.

And it was Ramsey’s tortured bride who released his hungry hounds on a helpless Ramsey that brought his ironic end.

Obits Ramsey Death

Ramsey’s hound sniffing his next meal.

Grand Maester Pycelle

When: Episode 10; The Winds of Winter

How: Stabbed by the “Little Birds” Under Qyburn’s Direction

Obits Pycelle

 

The creepy old maester served the king’s of King’s Landing all the way back to the Mad King. I’m not sure how Pycelle managed to stay living for six seasons when so many other major players met their end. But the irony of Pycelle was a man who survived Aerys, Robert Baratheon, Joffrey, and numerous other major players, met his end at the hands of orphaned children.

Always a loyal Lannister man, Pycelle was Cersei’s informant during season one. He had his beard cut off and was thrown in a cell by Tyrion when he proved he couldn’t be trusted is season two. But he stayed loyal to Joffrey and then Tommen, despite his issues with Cersei that grew in Season 4. Those issues would lead to his end as the Grand Maester finally chose the wrong side.

Obits Pycelle's death.

Pycelle surrounded by “Little Birds” as Qyburn looks on.

Lancel Lannister

When: Episode 10; The Winds of Winter

How: Explosion of Wildfire in the Holy Sept

Obits Lancel

Lancel was a commonly used pawn throughout the first two seasons and last two seasons of Game of Thrones. He was abused by Robert Baratheon, used by Cersei to kill the king, used by Tyrion to spy on Cersei, and used by Cersei in more adult ways when Jamie was away.

But season five brought a change to Lancel as he became a sparrow and member of the faith militant. He served the High Sparrow until his dying breath. He also nearly became a hero as he, despite a significant stab wound, almost blew out a candle that lit the Wildfire that consumed the Holy Sept. But because he failed, we have these next five entries.

Obits Lancel Wildfire

Lancel eyes the Wildfire before it engulfs the entire Holy Sept.

 Mace Tyrell

When: Episode 10; The Winds of Winter

How: Explosion of Wildfire in the Holy Sept

Obits Mace

Lord Oaf was the blustering head of House Tyrell who somehow didn’t pass any of his lack of intelligence on to his children. He was merely mentioned in the first three seasons, appearing for the first time in season four. Mace was in the background of some very important events, including Joffrey’s Wedding, Tryion’s Trial, and the trial by combat between the Red Viper and the Mountain. He served on the king’s small council the last two seasons on the show, but never really seemed to understand what was going on. His most notable quest was a diplomatic mission he was sent on to discuss the crown’s debt with the Iron Bank of Braavos. But even on that important mission, his story was secondary to Arya’s killing of Ser Meryn Trant.

Kevan Lannister

When: Episode 10; The Winds of Winter

How: Explosion of Wildfire in the Holy Sept

Obits Kevan Lannister

The brother of Tywin Lannister was a key advisor on the battlefield to Lord Tywin during the first two seasons. But he vanished from the narrative the next two while Tywin was hand of the king.

Kevan reemerged in Season Five, when he started feuding with Cersei.  He refused her offer to be a Hand of the King only to accept the position while Cersei was locked up in the Holy Sept. The show kept the influence of his role fairly silent right up until the end, when he was one of many who lost their lives in the explosion of the Holy Sept.

Loras Tyrell

When: Episode 10; The Winds of Winter

How: Explosion of Wildfire in the Holy Sept

Obits Loras Landscape

 

Margaery’s brother first appeared in season one as one of the top jousters in the “Tourney for the Hand.” Loras knew all a knight’s proper etiquette.  But that was all on the surface.

In private, Loras was Renly Baratheon’s lover. He supported Renly’s claim to the Iron Throne, but went along with his family’s uneasy alliance with the Lannisters after Renly died. Though many potential suitors were presented to the Lannister heir, he continued his relationships with other men.  But when one of the those relationships was discovered, the newly armed faith militant seized him and threw him in a cell under the Holy Sept.

Though we never saw it on camera, it was greatly implied that Loras was abused in the Sept in order to get a confession. And the rough interrogation methods worked, as Loras confessed to all his crimes and vowed to fight for the faith the rest of his life. But as we know, that vow did not last very long.

The High Sparrow

When: Episode 10; The Winds of Winter

How: Explosion of Wildfire in the Holy Sept

 Obits High Sparrow

The High Sparrow rose to power in King’s Landing thanks to a peasant class bitter with noble rule and the rearming of the Faith Militant by Cersei. Firm in his beliefs, the High Sparrow was as likely to bring a queen to trial as he was a lowly prostitute. He believed everyone should be brought before the gods and be held accountable for the things they’d done.

He held Loras and Margaery in their cells before doing the same to Cersei. He only allowed Cersei out when she completed a naked “Walk of Shame” through the streets of King’s Landing. Believing his force had become too powerful to stop, the High Sparrow pushed forward for religious trials of powerful figures and ignored the king’s commands until he convinced the king to join his side.

But the Sparrow’s pride and absolute  belief in what he was doing were his downfall  when he insisted on staying in the Holy Sept despite the overwhelming evidence (and dire warnings from Margaery) that Cersei had a dastardly plan for everybody in there.

Obits High Sparrow Death

The moment you realize you are about to be consumed by Wildfire.

Margaery Tyrell

When: Episode 10; The Winds of Winter

How: Explosion of Wildfire in the Holy Sept

Obits Margaery

The beautiful daughter of Highgarden had a strong mind for the Game of Thrones from the first time we saw her in season two. She was married to the very “not into women at all” Renly Baratheon before moving into another marriage alliance with Joffrey Baratheon.

Unlike Sansa, who cowered in fear at Joffrey’s presence, Margaery took a guiding hand  in encouraging Joffrey on how to be a king. But we’ll never know how much Cersei’s oldest son would’ve changed with Margaery’s influence as he was poisoned at their wedding. Margaery was undeterred as she married Tommen and used her “feminine persuasion” to turn Tommen against his mother.

Even when Margaery was thrown in a cell because of charges perjury by the High Sparrow, she maintained her resolve, working out a deal to get herself out of the Holy Sept. And while it was clear there was more to her plan than that, we will never know the end game as she perished in that large green explosion. But even before she died, Margaery was the one in that room with a clear head, recognizing quickly the danger everyone was in.

Obits Cover maybe

Loras and Margaery the moment before the Holy Sept exploded.

Tommen Baratheon

When: Episode 10; The Winds of Winter

How: Committed Suicide, Jumping Out a Window in the Red Keep

Obits Tommen

Tommen was way too young and good natured to be king. But maybe if he had a wise advisor like his grandfather to manage his reign, things could’ve been different for the youngest Lannis…I mean Baratheon.

But Tywin died shortly after Tommen’s reign. And the advice Lord Tywin gave his grandson (“A good king listens to his advisor.”) meant Tommen did nothing but “listen” instead of ruling. He listened to Cersei, Margaery, Pycelle, Uncle Kevan, and most importantly in the end, the High Sparrow.

Tommen’s decisions to side with the High Sparrow and to end Trial by Combat moved Cersei to blowing up the Holy Sept with everyone Tommen held dear. And the young king, whether it’s be because he was unable to deal with the pressures of being king, unable to process the loss of everyone he cared about in that Sept, or just frightened that his mom was now his main advisor, took his own life.

Tommen removing the crown from his head

Tommen lays down his crown before jumping out that window.

Lothar and Black Walder Frey

When: Episode 10; The Winds of Winter

How: Made into a “Frey Pie” by Arya

Obits Black Walder and Lothar Frey

I only included these two because I wanted to use the term “Frey Pie” in one of these. It only would’ve been better had Arya waited until Lord Walder took a bite out of his sons before learning they were in the pie. But both of these louts were bigger doofuses than their father, as their inability to hold Riverrun after the Red Wedding required Lannister intervention. Now, there are no Freys holding Riverrun.

Obits Frey Pie

The Pie made from the bodies of Black Walder and Lothar Frey

Walder Frey

When: Episode 10; The Winds of Winter

How: Throat Slit by Arya Stark

Obits Walder Frey

If you forgot about Lord Walder after season three, all I would need to say is “The Old Man at the Red Wedding” and he would immediately come to mind. “The Late Lord Frey” sat in a large castle perfectly situated on a river crossing and collected tolls from all who wanted to cross. He had numerous legitimate and illegitimate sons and was truly despised by all.

But it was at the Red Wedding where Walder Frey made his mark on Westeros. His butchering of Robb and company ended the War of Five Kings and put Lord Walder on the top of our “most hated” lists. Then, he disappeared for two seasons as the narrative left the Riverlands entirely to focus on other things.

The crotchety Lord of the Riverlands reentered the story in season six when his sons lost Riverrun to the Blackfish. Jamie Lannister’s intervention returned Riverrun back to the Freys. But Arya’s blade removed them yet again.

Obits Walder's Death

Arya using her newly acquired assassin skills to kill Walder Frey.

 I’ll continue my Game of Thrones wrap-up week tomorrow with a look at the Tower of Joy (that place Jon Snow was born) and explain how Lyanna and Ned got there in the first place.

Two Days Ago: Season Six Finale Recap 

Today: Obituaries Part 1 and 2

Tomorrow: The Tower of Joy Revisited

Saturday: Ranking the Seasons

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

 

 

New Year, New 4LN!

2015 was a great year for us here at 4LN. Our readership base grew exponentially, thanks in part to some very well received articles, and we also brought on our good friend Jeff Merrick as a full-time member of our team!

Looking forward to 2016, we sat down and discussed what we’d all like to do, and what direction we’d like to take 4LN from here. The idea came up of branching out and writing articles that maybe don’t fall exclusively under the umbrella of “nerd culture”. We thought out loud, “What if we post about topics that are just… culture?” It seemed like an interesting enough idea so we discussed it further and all agreed that at the very least it could be an interesting experiment. We also realized that this medium of nerd culture is constantly in competition with itself, and we don’t want to be a part of that. It doesn’t matter if this site breaks news, or that site gets an exclusive interview. All that really matters is that we share with the world what we love, and we just want to do more of that.

SO! What does all that really mean? Well, it means that alongside our usual comic book reviews, superhero debates, and general empowerment of nerd-life, you’ll also be reading things like…music reviews, satire articles (like what you’d read on The Onion or The Hard Times), food-blog type posts, motivational articles designed to help you organize various aspects of your life, and reviews for books or television shows that wouldn’t have necessarily fallen within the previous topical boundaries we set for ourselves. We’re not limiting ourselves to these few new topics, but they are examples of what you can expect to see pop up.

We’ll also be making more of an effort to feature guest contributor’s the way we did when we first started. We do not make any money off of Four Letter Nerd and at this time we have no solid plans to. For us, this is genuinely about our love of writing and sharing about all the things we love. We want to again, and more intentionally, provide that opportunity to others. We can’t post every article idea we get, but we’ll certainly take a look an let you know if it’s something we’re interested in sharing. Hey, Jeff started out as just a guest contributor and today he makes the big bucks ($0 an hour) to put up with our relentlessly immature shenanigans, all because he loves to write! That could be you one day! (Also, Jeff might also just be a bit of an emotional masochist, I’m not sure.) If you have an idea for an article, or something you’d like to write about, please get in touch with us through our Facebook page!

One thing I do want to stress is this… THE OLD FOUR LETTER NERD IS NOT GOING AWAY. (NO MATTER HOW BAD YOU WANT IT TO!)

We are not burning the whole thing down and starting over. We’re just throwing some other things into the mix to test the waters and see how they go over. Think of it like a salad. Since the beginning we’ve had our lettuce, cheese, croutons, carrots, and Ranch dressing. Now, we’re throwing in some tomatoes, some bacon bits, and maybe changing up the dressing every now and then. Maybe a Thousand Island, or an Italian. Hell, some days it might just be a basic Caesar. In the end though, it’s all still a delicious salad. (Damnit, now I’m hungry.)

Bottom line: We’ll still be posting the same types of article we’ve been posting since the beginning, and we’ll still be putting our emphasis on keeping our articles and posts focusing on positives. You get enough negative bull… I mean… enough negative opinions on literally every other website that exists, so we will continue our commitment to you that our content will be free of pessimism and gloom.

In addition to our new content direction, we’ll also be rolling out a new website and brand design sometime this year. At this point, we do not have a specific timeline for when this will happen. It could be next month, it could be not until the end of the year. But, it’s something we’re exploring and we’ll make an announcement about it once we have confirmed plans.

Thank you, for being a reader and follower of Four Letter Nerd. Could we do this without you? Well… yes, actually. If we were the only ones reading each others articles (and believe me, there are days that’s true) then we’d still be here. But, we appreciate that you girls and guys have joined us on this adventure and we do not take that accompaniment for granted. We want to write things that you want to read, and we hope you’ll continue to support what we’re doing by commenting on what you want to see more of!

 

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We asked and you spoke… We solemnly promise to do our very best to limit the amount of articles that subject all you good, gentle people to Bill. We are so very, very sorry. He is our greatest shame.

Luke Skywalker did not Fall to the Dark Side and is not Kylo F*@#ing Ren

Over the past week or so, theories have been floating around the internet that 1) Luke Skywalker actually turned to the dark side at the end of Return of the Jedi, and 2) Kylo Ren, the new masked villain from Star Wars: the Force Awakens, is actually Luke Skywalker.  For some reason, these theories have made me much angrier than they should have.  I am not going to say that I spent days stewing over how ridiculous these theories are, but I’m not NOT going to say that either.  In fact, as soon as I read these theories I immediately messaged my friend Jeff from the Imperial Talker (the Kenobi to my Luke), and made sure I wasn’t taking crazy pill.  It bothered me so much I decided to offer a counterarguments as to why Luke Skywalker did not (and should not) fall to the dark side and, therefore, could not (and should not) be Kylo Ren.  Instead of just going on an angry internet rant, I will instead try to provide logical counter-arguments to both claims, because I believe in civil discourse.

Pictured: NOT Luke Skywalker

Pictured: NOT Luke Skywalker

Let’s look at the theory that Luke fell to the dark side in Return of the Jedi first.  I read this theory in an opinion piece posted at Huffington Post (if you’d like to read it in it’s entirety, click here).  The idea is that Luke did not actually turn away from the dark side as it appears in the film, but, instead, gave himself to the dark side in order to save his friends and defeat the Vader and Emperor Sheev Palpatine.

The author begins his argument at the Tree Cave in Empire Strikes Back.  In the film, Luke enters the Tree Cave fastening his weapon belt (much to the chagrin of Yoda) and in a trippy, slow-motion scene in which he encounters Vader, ignites his lightsaber and beheads him to reveal that it is actually his own face under the helmet (Mindfreak!?).  The author believes that this is foreshadowing Luke’s own fall to the Dark Side.  I, on the other hand, feel it is more of a symbolic warning to Luke that if he isn’t careful he will make the same mistakes his father did.

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He then uses the following quote issued from Yoda to Luke as he sets off to save his friends to show that Yoda has already predicted Luke’s fall:

Only a fully trained Jedi Knight, with the Force as his ally, will conquer Vader and his emperor. If you end your training now… if you choose the quick and easy path as Vader did… you will become an agent of evil.

But what he leaves out is the second part of the conversation in which Yoda says this to Luke:

Strong is Vader. Mind what you have learned.  Save you it can.

Yoda is still giving Luke advice on how to defeat Vader and not stray to the dark side, which would be pointless if Yoda was 100% certain that Luke leaving Dagobah would inherently lead to his fall.  Earlier in Empire Strikes Back, when Luke asks Yoda if his friends will die on Cloud City, Yoda responds saying, “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.”  Yoda can and does make sound judgements throughout the saga, but he cannot predict the future because it is constantly in a state of flux.  He and Ben also tell Luke that the only way to defeat Vader is to kill him because there is no good left in Vader.  Luke, however, proves both of them wrong on this point, but we will get back into that farther down the page.  My point is, Luke’s failure at the cave is part of Luke’s “Road of Trials” and doesn’t necessitate his fall.  These are learning moments in the hero’s journey (another article on that in the works) that allow for growth towards the hero’s ultimate “apotheosis.”

The next part of the article centers on Luke’s change of character in Return of the Jedi.  This movie shows us a much darker Luke than we are accustomed to seeing.  When two Gamorean guards attempt to bar is entrance to Jabba’s throne room, Luke sends them scrambling back to the wall clutching their throats with a subtle wave of his hand.  Using the Force Choke is obviously not a behavior we would expect of a Jedi.  He is also pretty quick to cut down any of Jabba’s cronies that stand in his way in order to save his friends.  I believe that this does hint that Luke is slowly beginning to be pulled to the dark side (there is a great article on the seduction of the dark side over at Imperial Talker).

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Later in the film, Luke is goaded into trying to strike the Emperor down in hatred.  Luke does indeed show that he is on a slippery slope to full on dark side.  In the final duel between Vader and Luke, Luke constantly struggle between continuing to fight and trying to draw his father back to the good.   Eventually Vader tries to draw Luke out of hiding by threatening his sister Leia.  This drives Luke into a rage and he relentlessly attacks Vader until he cuts off his hand and towers over him about to deliver the final strike.  This attack was almost certainly fueled by anger and fear, which again suggests Luke is toeing the line of the dark side. The author suggests that Luke giving into his anger proves he hasn’t been a good guy at all in Return of the Jedi.  Instead, he believes, Luke failed his Jedi training and is not able to withstand the power of Vader.  The following quote is directly from the article:

When I first saw this scene as a kid I remember being completely confused. I thought that of course Luke turned — but only a little bit. After all, he needed the power from the dark side to beat his dad… right? And he acted like a complete maniac but it was only temporary and phew! he came back from the edge!

This, people, is a plot hole. It doesn’t make any sense in terms of the story and also Luke’s character. It doesn’t follow Luke’s motivation at all because he quite clearly doesn’t have any motivation to stay a good guy. He’s just seen what he could do with his dark powers (defeat the bad guys, save people).

Let me first address his point that Luke has failed his Jedi training.  If we look at the final scene between Luke and Yoda, which I will quote directly out of the annotated screenplay) we see this conversation:

Luke: Master Yoda, you can’t die.
Yoda: Strong am I in the Force… but not that strong! Twilight is upon me, and soon night must fall.  That is the way of things… the way of the Force
Luke: But I need your help.  I’ve come back to complete the training.
Yoda: No more training do you require.  Already know you that which you need.
Yoda sighs, lying back on the beck
Luke: Then I am a Jedi.
Yoda: (shakes his head) Ohhh.  Not yet.  One thing remains: Vader.  You must confront Vader.  Then, only then, a Jedi will you be.  And confront him you will.

Do you see how that changes things for the author’s theory?  Luke did not fail.  Vader was his final test, and Luke passes (although it did get a little hairy there for a bit).  As Luke is standing over Vader, Luke stops his attack and stares at his fallen father then at his own robotic hand, turns off his lightsaber and tosses it aside. This is not a plot hole.  Luke passed the test.  While he did rely on fear and anger to overpower Vader, it is the goodness in him that makes him stop and throw away his weapon.  Luke  tells the Emperor that he has lost and that he is a Jedi like his father before him.  Unless he lying (which is what the theory says) Luke is obviously choosing to turn his back on the Dark Side.  I am not sure why the author sees this as out of character for Luke.  He has been relatively selfless throughout the entire trilogy, always placing the needs of others over his own.  Why is that any different than what he did in this instance?  He was about to take Vader’s life even though he constantly mentions to both Vader and Kenobi that he senses good in him.  This would have been a selfish act unbefitting of a Jedi, but Luke’s selfless personality and the desire to redeem his father snaps him out of his rage and he refuses to finish the task.

My biggest issue with this theory is that if we assume that Luke did in fact turn to the dark side it would ruin the entire point not just the Original Trilogy, but the saga as well.  Anakin is the tragic hero who, in an attempt to save the life of the woman he loved, gets ensnared by Dark Lord of the Sith.  Luke’s tale, on the other hand, is one of redemption.  Luke  is tempted to use the dark side just as his father was, but instead of falling as his father did, he is able to resist its pull.  In doing so, Luke is able to not only embody the actual return of the Jedi (which is the title of the film, mind you), but he also becomes the catalyst for the redemption of his father.

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It also doesn’t make sense in the context of the ending of the film, as well as the recently released four issue miniseries Shattered Empire.  If Luke truly did turn to the dark side, why would he then attend the Ewokian celebration on Endor?  And remember, Luke was visited by both of his mentors and his father during this celebration.  Surely these three would be able to sense if Luke had truly turned evil, right?  And in Shattered Empire, which takes place shortly after the end of Return of the Jedi, Luke is still clearly good and serving alongside the Rebels as they attempt to stop the Emperor’s postmortem call for the destruction of several planets as well as put a stop to the remaining Imperial factions throughout the galaxy.  In fact, at the end of Shattered Empire Luke and the newly minted Rebel pilot Shera Bey set off on a mission to recover some ancient Jedi relics taken from the Jedi Temple after its destruction.  I don’t want to give away spoilers since, unlike Return of the Jedi, Shattered Empire is not thirty years old, but the end of Shattered Empire clearly depicts a Luke that cares for others, which is very unlike the individualistic nature shown by the Sith.

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There’s a lot to unpack in that first theory because the source article was itself a long article.  I will say that I actually do respect the guy the wrote the first theory.  He put a lot of thought into it and backed it up with some quotes (although there are several quotes he left out that sink the theory), but you can tell he’s a big fan of the Wars.  Now we will look at the second theory that Luke Skywalker is in fact KYLO REN.  This theory, on the other hand, is absurd.

The theory goes something like this: we don’t see Luke Skywalker in the trailer, but what if we did?  What if he is actually the masked villain with the fancy, cross-guard lightsaber we see trotting through the snow and looking menacing? Because, why not?

Side note: There’s not a lot of information about the Knights of Ren.  What we we know is, the Knights of Ren is an organization that appears to begin shortly after the end of Return of the Jedi.  The Ren in Kylo’s name is actually a surname taken on by the members similar to how the Sith used “Darth” as a title, although judging from some of the interviews I’ve read it seems that the Knights aren’t actually Sith Lords.  I know it’s confusing for some that the Knights of Ren aren’t Sith.  I mean, Kylo wears all black, wields a red lightsaber, and uses the Force… sounds an awful like all of the other Sith we know.

The first problem with this theory is the argument I laid out above.  Luke turning to the dark side cheapens the saga and would stand in contrast to Luke’s character throughout the trilogy.  If this premise is correct then the possibility of Luke being Kylo plummets to somewhere around 0%, but that’s too easy.  As you can see from the 1,600(ish) words above, I overthink these things.

Another problem with this theory is the we already know that Adam Driver is playing Kylo Ren…  Some have argued that Driver is a body double for Mark Hamill, but if that’s the case then that’s the worse decision since Senator Binks putting forth the motion to grant Chancellor Palpatine emergency powers.  Adam Driver is a really slim, really tall 20-30 something with long black hair and no facial hair.  Judging from pictures of Mark Hamill floating around the internet, he’s not exactly String Bean, has a full beard, and definitely does not have black hair.  They are about as far apart as you can get from each other as far as body type is concerned.  Oh and we’ve already seen pictures of Adam Driver as Kylo Ren sans-mask.

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Pictured: NOT Luke Skywalker

Oh, and we’ve seen some behind the scenes photos of Mark Hamill in full Kenobi-garb:

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Pictured: NOT Kylo Ren

Lastly, it appears that Kylo Ren is serving under Supreme Leader Snoke, played by Andy Serkis, who heads the First Order.  If Luke were actually Kylo Ren, that would mean he would serve under some other guy.  Luke was instrumental in defeating the two most feared in the galaxy.  He bested Vader in combat, took blasts of Force Lightning like a champ, and is most likely one of the most powerful beings in the galaxy now.  Why in the world would he subjugate himself to some other guy we’ve never even heard of?  It just doesn’t make any sense.

So, to summarize, for those of you that scrolled to the bottom just to see the conclusion: Luke Skywalker turning to the dark side would cheapen the Original Trilogy, and when you look at all of the evidence doesn’t make any sense.  Even worse though, is the idea that Kylo Ren is actually Luke Skywalker.  It’s hard for me to express just how absurd that theory is, especially given the reasons I laid out above.  I get that people love to theorize about the upcoming Star Wars film, but please at least try to make it fit into the existing continuity.

 

 

4LN Comic Review: Jughead #1

Series: Jughead
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Erica Henderson
Publisher: Archie Comics
Page Count: 33

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Overview from Comixology: “IN THE GRAND TRADITION OF COMIC BOOK REBOOTS LIKE ARCHIE #1, ARCHIE COMICS PROUDLY PRESENTS… JUGHEAD #1 — FROM THE COMICS DREAM TEAM OF CHIP ZDARSKY (Howard the Duck) AND ERICA HENDERSON (The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl)!

Riverdale High provides a quality education and quality hot lunches, but when one of those is tampered with, JUGHEAD JONES swears vengeance! Well, I mean, he doesn’t “swear.” This is still Archie Comics after all.”

Archie Comics has recently become one of my favorite publishers. They have seriously been putting out A+ quality books. The first Archie Comics series that I got into was The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and that’s honestly one of my top 3 favorite books being published at the moment. The flagship series, Archie, was recently relaunched with the amazing creative team that is Mark Waid (Daredevil, Kingdom Come) and Fiona Staples (Saga). If you aren’t reading Archie, you are really missing out, it’s not your parents version of Archie anymore.

But, back to Jughead, this series is being written by the hilarious Chip Zdarsky. If you aren’t following him on Twitter, you need to right now. He’s the artist on the Image book Sex Criminals, writer of the Marvel book, that constantly makes fun of Spider-Man, Howard The Duck. If you are new to Zdarsky, you are truly in for a treat with this book. The above overview calls Chip and Erica a “dream team,” and I can’t think of a better way to describe their dynamics as a creative team. After only one issue, I’m hooked.

The very first page of the comic opens with Jughead sitting in a chair and playing a video game all night, in a room that looks pretty trashed. At that moment I could instantly relate with Jughead, and he’s playing a game called Dragonicide VII which appears to be an RPG, and Jughead just kills every NPC he runs into, which is exactly what I do in similar games, such as Skyrim (I’m guessing). But, the quest in the game is not as important as the quest Jughead takes in this issue.

The Quest for Burgers.

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Me as of late.

The students of Riverdale get some unfortunate news that their beloved principle is stepping down, and a new, much more intimidating, principle is taking over. And with new authority, comes undesired change. And this change devastates that daily life of Jughead, lasagna day is canceled and a new high-nutritional prison style gruel is introduced. At the sight of this “food” Jughead goes into a panic and passes out from stress, only to have a Game of Thrones inspired fever-dream. (If you are a Game of Thrones fan, then you need to give this book a read, because you’ll find it absolutely hilarious. This is actually the second GoT reference in a Zdarsky book. I think he maybe a fan…)

I want to take a minute and speak about Erica Henderson’s art. It really perfectlt captures the feel of this book, and it’s very much visual appealing. I think it’s really awesome how she was able to capture the feel of Riverdale in a similar fashion as Staples on Archie, but she can also perfectly capture the vibe of Game of Thrones, and her usage of reds, oranges, and yellows really makes it feel like an entirely different book.  And her art during the “Ballet of Ground Beef” was absolutely fantastic.

The conclusion of the issue brings Jughead and the new Principle head to head, and leaves us in suspense of what is coming next. I normally stay away from comics revolving around teenage/high school drama, but just like Mark Waid, Chip Zdarsky has made me extremely interested in the life of Jughead, and when you pick up this issue, I think it’ll leave you itching for more as well.

Music Pairing:
This is a fun book, so you don’t want any heavy music. You want something kinda light and fun. And I can’t think of anything better than the British pop punk band Neck Deep. Specifically their single off of Life’s Not Out To Get You, Gold Steps. It’s for that same feel of early New Found Glory, but has lyrics about pushing through life, and that’s what Jughead is doing while trying to get more burgers in his life.

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 8: Hardhome

A Beautiful Reminder of the Larger Threats Still Looming

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

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

Meereen

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

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

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

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

King’s Landing

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

Cersei in her cell.

Braavos

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

Arya playing her first “role.”

Winterfell

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

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

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

The Wall

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

Jon and Tormund arrive at Hardhome.

Hardhomme

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

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

Jon in the midst of fighting on Hardhome.

Observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did this man used to be someone important in Westeros?

Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-What will Wun Wun step on next week?

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

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