Posted in Television

Beginning of the End

Shock and awe, particularly the former, have been the hallmark of “Game of Thrones” from the very beginning. Ned Stark’s execution, Tyrion’s regaining consciousness on the slanted perch of the Eyrie’s Sky Room, the Red Wedding, the sacrifice of Shareen…all these and so many more. And the warfare—with or without dragons. What bothered me about this season was the absence of a “Wow!” element of surprise, even with last week’s Battle With the Wights. Instead there’s been a pervasive feeling of fulfillment, as if the show runners were simply ticking items off a “To Do” list. That is, until this season’s final episode, “The Dragon and the Wolf.”

Few events have been as satisfying as Littlefinger’s demise, not even Ramsey Bolton’ s metamorphosis into doggie dinner. I literally applauded the confrontational sleight of hand Sansa managed to pull off. While I suspected Stark blood would prove thicker than water, I must admit the show runners had me second-guessing their intentions with their ambiguous build-up in the last couple of episodes. I thought Arya’s twirling the dagger and handing it off to Sansa last week was nothing short of “Kill me if you dare.” The tip-off in the final confrontation should have been the sight of Bran the Three-Eyed Raven at Sansa’s side, but Arya is such a commanding figure that all eyes were on her. Kudos to the show runners for such a delightful payoff.

It’s hard to pick Littlefinger’s worst crime: The attempt on Bran’s life? Lying about it to create eternal warfare between Starks and Lannisters? Betraying Ned Stark? Selling Sansa to the Boltons? For my money the most pathetic was dropping poor addled Lysa Arryn through the Moon Door. The one swift slash by Arya that ended his life was too good for him.

This episode also proved to be Old Home Week in the reunions leading up to the Big Confab: Tyrion and Bronn, Bronn and Podrick, Brienne and Jamie of course, but Brienne and the Hound was one for the ages. I half expected Brienne to sing that wonderful line from the Leonard Bernstein musical, “Candide”: “You were dead you know.” It was wonderful to see the Hound smile like a proud papa over Brienne’s testimony to Arya’s duelling prowess. I only hope his threatened fight to the death with Brother Mountain, sure to be a highlight of next season, finds him the victor.

If nothing else, “The Dragon and the Wolf” proved how many events in this saga were the result of lies and evasions. Littlefinger’s plotting put so much in motion, but on it goes: Jon needs to know that his real name is Aegon Targaeryan (normally I’d say “Too late, he’s already bedded his aunt,” but incest is coin of the realm on GoT), Sam needs to be told he’s really Lord Tarly and should be in a command position. By the way, it seems to me that Bran’s Three-Eyed Raven radar needs fine-tuning if he didn’t see that Rhaegar Targaryan and Lianna Stark were secretly married. Is it possible that the maester’s diary Sam read was just a fantastical allegory? Maester-time could get pretty dull, I would imagine, and spicing things up with tall tales could be great entertainment. And speaking of wrong-number prophecies, I fully expect the first big “Wow!” of next season to be the reveal that Danaerys is pregnant. The show runners love to bookend, and this twist would be the perfect companion to both Cersei/Jamie and Rhaegar/Lianna. Though I have to say the moral might be a little odd: “See, incest can be good”?

Two other developments did surprise me (no, not Jon and Danaerys—if you didn’t sense bedtime was on the horizon, you need a new show). I never expected Jamie to leave Cersei under any circumstances, particularly now that she’s pregnant. It’s true that he’s always tried to uphold honor, but still, given all he’s done on her behalf in the past, his riding North to presumably join up with his brother was a huge surprise.

As was the destruction of the Wall, which proved to be a fitting end to this season. How is it the dragon Viserion can still spew fire after he’s been frozen? And what’s the Night King’s secret command to get him to do so? It sure isn’t “Dracarys!” I only hope Tormund survived the debacle, just so we can see him with Brienne once more.

Another long lonely winter without “Game of Thrones” awaits. Only six more episodes to savor.

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Posted in Television

Gendry Redux

“By George, she’s got it!”

I’m surprised the “Game of Thrones” showrunners haven’t stuck it on a billboard by now.

In case you were busy, unconscious or otherwise occupied during GoT’s Episode 5, “Eastwatch,” Gilly’s perusal of a musty text at the Citadel revealed that Rhaegar Targaeryan was both divorced and immediately thereafter married on the same day in a secret ceremony in Dorne. And who do you think the (un)lucky lady he took to the altar was? Could it—no, it couldn’t be!—Lyanna Stark?!?! Well, duh. Those signals have been blaring for months, and this latest felt like being hit over the head by a 2 x 4. If true, Jon’s not really a Stark bastard, but the rightful and legitimate Targaeryan heir. And if any doubt at all remains, notice how he made friends with Drogon. Awwww, cute puppy! So, Danaerys—who has to bend the knee?

This penultimate season keeps chuddering along with relatively few surprises to date. Notice how quickly both news and people travel these days–this show seems to be on speed dial. It used to take Jorah Mormont half a season to travel from Point A to Point B, and here he is, from Citadel to Dragonstone in the blink of an eye. Fortunately things are kept lively by choice one-liners from our favorite quipsters. Tyrion to Jorah: “Nobody glowers quite like you–not even Grey Worm.” And Tormund remains in rare form. When he’s not lusting after Brienne, he’s getting straight to the heart of things, as witness his attempt to clarify Jon’s mission to north of the Wall: “How many queens are there now?…And you need to convince the one with the dragons, or the one who fucks her brother?”

Speaking of which, Cersei is once again with child, cooking up more Lannister devil-spawn. Jamie may be a proud papa, but I’m not so sure he’s looking forward to being paraded about in public as Cersei’s incestuous brother. He’s got the smarts to realize that even a queen may not be able to get away with this one.

Other developments that bear watching: As the result of yet another dragon barbeque, Sam, no longer an apprentice maester, is the new Lord Tarly though he doesn’t know it yet. I suspect the bookworm will eventually turn warrior. And with the return of Gendry, we now have a Baratheon in the mix who wields a hatchet like nobody’s business. If he keeps a list like Arya does, I would imagine Cersei and Melisandre are Items 1 and 1A on that document.

I have to confess I had my hands over my eyes during the Arya/Littlefinger mutual spying scenes. It’s my fervent hope that her time as “No One” will tip Arya off that he’s manufacturing the basis of a split between her and Sansa, leading not necessarily to Arya’s death but more likely, to her banishment from Winterfell. Trouble is already outpacing Littlefinger. Arya has always had Sansa’s number, even when the two were children. Arya rightly senses that Sansa wants that crown as Queen of the North—“You don’t want to, but you’re thinking it right now.” Despite their history, my money’s on the Stark girls to prove that blood is thicker than water, with Littlefinger as the loser (And if the girls don’t come through, I suspect Bran the Three-Eyed Raven will).

So we end with two major events pending: a confrontation between Jon’s ragtag army of Tormund, Ser Jorah, the Hound and the Dondarrian boys with the Army of the Dead, and a sit-down between Danaerys and Cersei. The suspense is building.

Posted in Baseball, Television

Home At Last

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

What riches in this week’s “Game of Thrones” episode, “The Spoils of War:” Arya back in Winterfell! Theon washed up (in more ways than one) on Dragonstone! Bran knowing Arya’s list without even peeking! Historic cave hieroglyphics! Dragons incinerating an entire Lannister army! Jamie dunked!

Arya’s long-awaited return to Winterfell is one of the Top Ten highlights of the entire show. Her verbal sparring with the sentries was delicious, though her uncertainty as to who was currently wearing the title of “Lady Stark” underscored a bit of vulnerability (I suppose as a non-head of House she’s merely “Lady Arya”). Her sad gaze around the castle courtyard spoke volumes—see what happens when Greyjoys and Boltons don’t bother with upkeep? Her reunion with Sansa was chock full of treasures. When Sansa, referring to Jon, remarked, “When he sees you, his heart will probably stop,” did you yell at your screen “It already did”? However, there was a superb moment of ambiguity that followed Arya’s reference to her list. At first blush she’s a deadly serious adult thirsting to kill her remaining enemies. Sansa’s reaction is pure shock, then riotous laughter. Does she see this as a joke, or is she taken aback by the gravity of her sister’s intentions? Or both? At the sound of Sansa’s laughter, Arya suddenly smiles, a truly rare reaction from her, as we see her instantly revert from experienced killer to cute younger sister. Kudos to Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner for realizing the subtleties of this scene.

This could only be topped, and it was, by Arya’s training session with Brienne. Remember Catelyn’s smile when she first met Brienne back in Season Two? You knew exactly what she was thinking: “This is my daughter in ten years,” though she had no way of knowing it wouldn’t take quite that long. The Brienne/Arya sparring match was made even more impressive (and amusing) by the fact that Gwendoline Christie is about a foot and a half taller than Maisie Williams, though the latter can definitely twirl a sword like nobody’s business. A mutual appreciation society is born. And aside from their fighting prowess, the ladies obviously share the same view of Littlefinger. If looks could kill, their mutual glare at him would have made him an undertaker’s delight. By the way, that dagger Bran gave to Arya? He might as well have instructed her: “Go, sis, and plant it in Littlefinger’s chest.” I doubt Lord Baelish is long for this world.

One by one the loose ends are being tied up. When Theon came ashore at Dragonstone, I expected Jon to kill him in short order for selling out brother Robb. I would have thought Theon’s leaping rescue of Sansa did nothing more than square Greyjoy debt vis-a-vis House Stark, not created a Stark I.O.U. However, Jon evidently has his own bookkeeping system and thinks otherwise. And speaking of what is owed, Bran’s send-off of Meera Reed was awfully harsh. I’m glad she read him the roll call: the deaths of her brother Jojen, Hodor and his own direwolf Summer in his service, not to mention the numerous times she risked her own life to save his hide. I know the Three-Eyed Raven is taking over Bran’s consciousness, but that’s no excuse for treating her without a breath of empathy.

Catching up on Lannister business, they continued to pay their debts…with the money of other Houses. Given the extensive pillage at Highgarden of both gold and grain, it appears there wasn’t even a Tyrell second cousin once removed left to fight back—Lady Olenna was evidently the last of her House. While we’re on the subject of Lannisters, does anyone really think Cersei’s going to go through with a marriage to Euron Greyjoy, war trophies or no? They may make it to the Sept, but you can bet her apothecaries are already whipping up a wedding night special.

The end of the episode was worth waiting for. A full twelve minutes of screen time, from first rumble of dragon thunder to a sinking Jamie, Dany’s unleashing her dragons for a Lannister army stir-fry proved to be one of GoT’s epic battles. There was even a blink-and-you-missed-it guest appearance by GoT fan and Mets pitcher, Noah Syndergaard, who at 6’6″ made the perfect Lannister spearchucker (Celebrity has its perks). Nevertheless, it was slightly ridiculous to see everything surrounding Jamie go up in flames while he remained untouched. I was hoping to see Bronn incinerated—his constant kvetching about being awarded a castle has become tiresome—though upon repeat viewing this did not seem to happen. A pity.

Although the next episode seems to be North-centric, here’s hoping we learn Jamie’s fate in short order, not to mention that of poor Drogon (can he still fly?), the cured and presumably homeward bound Ser Jorah Mormont and the still missing in action Gendry (Remember him? Robert Baratheon’s bastard). And when oh when will Dany give up her obsession with knee-bending and rule the school as co-equals with Jon?

Only three more episodes in this season.

Ride ’em, Dragon Girl!