GOT Breakfast In The Making

It’s another beautiful Sunday morning, and the bright, uncommonly temperate weather can’t help but stimulate the appetite and put thoughts of Sunday breakfast in my head.  But, since another episode of Game of Thrones is in the offing, what kind of breakfast could help to stimulate a Westerosi mindset as well?  

Our local grocer doesn’t sell wild boar meat or unskinned rabbit, so a little improvisation is in order.  We’ll go for eggs and turkey bacon — the better to remind us of those unfortunate dragon-sizzled Lannister bannermen — some juicy fruit to simulate rivers of blood, and a cantaloupe that will allow me to get out a sharp implement and start flailing away with some satisfying thunks and hackings as I separate flesh from skin.  Put some onion in the eggs to acknowledge Ser Davos Seaworth, the Onion Knight, and you’ve got a feast worthy of Winterfell.

Dragons On The Wing

The current season of Game of Thrones is moving forward at a breakneck pace.  So many big-picture things are happening, it’s easy to forget parts of the story and to overlook the smaller, more evocative scenes that might be giving us some foreknowledge of things soon to come.

We’ve seen the rise of Euron Greyjoy and the further emasculation of sad sack Theon, the obliteration of the sand snakes, Stark after Stark returning to Winterfell, and Sam’s gross yet awesome surgical capabilities.  (Who knew that being a capable doctor just means following a set of written instructions?)  We’ve seen Cersei and Jaime throwing caution to the winds about their incestuous relationship, a bunch of long-anticipated first meetings and reunions, Tyrion’s sketchy abilities as general and war planner, and Bran’s creepy new three-eyed raven personality.  (No wonder the former three-eyed raven became part of a tree.  What living Westerosian would want to hang around with these guys?)  And maybe, just maybe, Littlefinger has maneuvered himself onto Arya’s shrinking death list.

dragon-from-game-of-thrones-season-7And last night, we saw dragons.

Sure, we’ve seen the dragons before, ripping people to shreds, hissing and terrorizing.  But last night, in the fantastic battle of the loot caravan, we finally saw what dragons can do on the battlefield . . . and it’s chilling.  With Daenerys in the dragon saddle, Drogon laid waste to huge chunks of the Lannister forces, leaving dozens of the bannermen of the lion lit up like screaming, flailing torches and turning the wagons of golden booty into melted hells.  Game of Thrones has shown us some epic battles, from the Battle of the Blackwater to the Battle of the Bastards, but last night’s dragon-blasting war scene was the best one yet, a hold-your-breath, what’s-going-to-happen-next jawdropper.   And with the show having no problem with knocking off characters, who knew if Jaime was going to survive his brave yet foolhardy charge at the wounded Drogon and Daenerys?

I’m not sure what I want to see more:  Cersei killed by being immolated in dragon fire, or Cersei killed by the combined talents of Arya and Sansa and the other remaining members of the Stark clam.  Until last night, I would have chosen the latter, but fully knowing what agony befalls the victims of dragon fire is making it a closer call.  And I think it’s high time to introduce the Night King and his staggering, lurching army of the undead to a little taste of what dragons can do, too.

Game of Thrones has gotten so good, with so many interesting things happening to so many characters, it’s painful to contemplate that it’s not going to be on forever.  But for now, we can relish the wonder of dragons — and rewatch the episodes, to make sure we aren’t missing anything.

Go Westeros, Young Man

Like everyone else in America, I watched the first episode of the new season of Game of Thrones last night.  It was good to see the old gang again.

I loved the first scene of the new season, but then I candidly just can’t get enough of Arya Stark killing the Freys.  In fact, I’m really kind of sad that she’s apparently ruthlessly murdered every figure in the Frey clan, from creepy Walder on down to the most obscure cousin once removed.  I’m almost hoping that we’ll discover some rump branch of the Frey family, so that she’ll have the chance to gut or poison them, too.

lyanna-mormont-gotArya was just part of the Stark Ascendant theme that’s playing out in Westeros these days.  With Arya gleefully knocking off Freys and now heading south to take on Queen Cersei, Jon Snow and Sansa ruling in the north and training every man, woman, and child to fight the White Walkers, and eyeball-rolling Bran finally on the Westeros side of the wall, we’re seeing the best days for the Starks since poor Ned lost his head.  Unfortunately, there’s already friction between Jon and Sansa, and it doesn’t look like the remaining members of the Starks will have a family reunion — at least, not yet — but it’s good to see the Starks back as a force, even if it probably will only be temporary.  And with the considerable support of the formidable Lyanna Mormont, who isn’t afraid to call out and face down every aging, bearded windbag leader of a northern house who punked out on the Starks in their time of need, who’s to say that the Starks can’t win in the great game?  If I were going to war, I’d definitely want the awesome Lyanna Mormont on my side.

As far as the great game goes, the pieces are all in position.  Cersei’s got her ally in the Iron Islanders and their horny leader, Daenerys has finally reached Westeros with her dragons, her Dothraki horde, and especially Tyrion behind her, the White Walkers are on the move south, and we haven’t even heard yet what the House of Dorne and the Martells are going to do to stir up trouble.  For now, we can just appreciate the fact that there are unoccupied castles, like Dragonstone, handy and available for the taking if one of the players decides they can use a forbidding base of operations.

I hadn’t realized how much I was looking forward to the new season until I watched the first episode and enjoyed seeing these familiar characters and their fictional world once again.  Now, if only we could get the next book in the series out of George R.R. Martin . . . .

Finally, All On The Same Chessboard

Last night’s Game of Thrones season finale was so chock full of quick cuts and action that the show ran 10 minutes longer than usual, and you almost needed to take notes to keep track of the developments.  But the upshot is that everybody is back in Westeros, or at least well on their way there, accompanied by flapping dragons overhead.  That means we’re heading toward a colossal confrontation next season.

051d9f9d686043c4_pro23-xxxlarge-1Watching the episode, I almost felt like the show’s creators wanted to be sure to touch every major character, and every major setting, at least once.  So we got to see Cersei exact her revenge on the High Sparrow and his acolytes, as well as Margaery Tyrell and her brother and father, by blasting the Great Sept of Baelor to kingdom come.  Of course, Cersei being Cersei, her triumph came at a cost, as decent King Tommen hurled himself from the Red Keep.  So, the old crone’s prophecy was right — all of Cersei’s children are dead.  That didn’t keep Cersei from somehow crowning herself queen, however.  And we also got to see that Cersei is moving well into dear departed Ramsay Bolton territory on the sadism scale, by letting what’s left of The Mountain have his way with Septa Unella, the burly, grim-faced nun who sternly shamed Cersei last year.

In the north, Jon Snow and Sansa have gotten back onto the same page.  Sansa has rebuffed Littlefinger’s creepy and huskily stated attentions — so far, at least, but he’s a pretty persistent guy — and thanks to the gutsy young girl leading House Mormont, Jon Snow has been crowned King of the North by acclamation.  (Wait . . . seriously?  Another King of the North?)  Even more shocking, Bran’s ability to see the past through heart trees has clued us in that Jon is not Ned Stark’s bastard son at all, but rather the son of Ned’s sister Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen.  Since Rhaegar is Daenerys Targaryen’s older brother, that means The Unburnt and the Mother of Dragons is Jon Snow’s aunt.  It’s all pretty confusing, and sets up next season for some further reveals on what happened to start Robert’s Rebellion so long ago.

What else?  Well, Sam’s in the library of the Citadel.  Ser Davos got Jon Snow to throw the child-burning Melisandre out of the north.  Benjen’s brought Bran and his gal pal back to The Wall.  Jaime threw a few insults at Walder Frey and got back to King’s Landing in time to see his beloved sister crowned as queen.  Daenerys cut loose her paramour.  Grandma Tyrell made it to Dorne in time to hush the brash sand snakes and start to plot her revenge against Queen Cersei with the assistance of Varys — who really is getting around these days.  And speaking of getting around, Arya Stark made it from Braavos to the Twins in the blink of an eye and, using those skills learned in service of the Many-Faced God, got to scratch old Walder Frey off of her to-do list.  About the only people we didn’t check in on were Ser Jorah Mormont and his battle against greyscale and Brienne of Tarth.

The episode ended with Daenerys, and Tyrion, and the Unsullied, and the Dothraki horde, and her dragons, in full sail toward Westeros, where she will try to wrest the Iron Throne from Cersei’s cold, dead hands.  So, after long forays into Meereen, and Braavos, and the Dothraki plains, all of the main characters are finally coming back to the Westeros chessboard.

Oh, yeah, and one other thing:  The Citadel has announced that, as the Starks have long warned, winter has finally come.  We may as well start to get ready now for some undead White Walker action when next April rolls around.

Moving Too Far, Too Fast

We all knew that, this season, Game of Thrones the TV show would move past Game of Thrones, the books.  What I didn’t fully appreciate was how far, and how fast, the TV series would progress.

game-of-thrones-season-3-osha-630x355One of the most enjoyable things about the books in my view has been the deliberate pacing.  The stories have taken a long time to unfold, and in the meantime we got to revel in the sigils of the minor houses and what kind of elaborate food was being served at a banquet and the colors and cut of the doublet of some obscure lord who appeared briefly and then vanished from the storyline.  With the TV show, there’s none of that.  Major characters come and go and get knocked off at breakneck pace.

I hate it that characters I really liked are being killed right and left — like the wildling woman who watched after Bran and Rickon after Theon Greyjoy conquered Winterfell — but mostly I’m concerned that the story is just moving too darned fast.  In the George R.R. Martin world, it would have taken 300 succulent pages to get to the point of Daenerys torching the leaders of the Dothraki, and Sansa and Jon Snow resolving to march on Winterfell and try to kill the execrable Ramsay Bolton, but in the series it takes only an episode and a half.  How far are we going to get in the story line this year, anyway?

And that’s the big issue for me.  Much as I think the TV is great, I like the books even better.  What’s going to be left of the plot when this year’s episodes are over?  And if George R.R. Martin doesn’t bring out the next volume until next year’s episodes air, the disconnect is just going to be too much.

Slow down, HBO!

Graphic And Gratuitous

Kish and I enjoy the Sunday night shows on HBO.  The shows are addictive, but boy — they really push the envelope to a very uncomfortable extent.

This week, on Game of Thrones, we were treated to a scene in which a mother and her newborn baby are torn apart by a pack of trained dogs under the control of Ramsay Bolton, who is almost certainly the most sadistic character ever to be portrayed on a popular TV show.  In a partial nod to the sensibilities of viewers, the murderous mauling wasn’t directly shown on-screen.  Instead, we got to hear the screams and cries of the mother and child and the snarls and bites of the dogs and watch Bolton’s sick pleasure as he savored the carnage — which is almost as bad as watching the dog attack itself.

ramsay20and20roose20bolton20game20of20thrones20season206If you watch Game of Thrones, you’re used to seeing bloody death.  In last night’s episode, Ramsay Bolton also assassinated his father, another character threw his brother from a bridge, a knight crushed the skull of a drunken serf against a wall, and a giant swung a member of the Night’s Watch into a stone wall and tossed him aside like a rag doll.  It’s a show in which characters are killed in every imaginable way — stabbed through the skull, throats slit, poisoned, disemboweled, beheaded, shot with an arrow while answering the call of nature, you name it — and kids aren’t off limits.  Last season we saw a sweet young girl being burned at the stake at the order of her power-hungry father and another young girl poisoned as she was sailing home.  But still, this week’s scene of the mother and newborn being killed by dogs seemed to cross a line somehow.

Then, on Silicon Valley, which is normally one of the most hysterical satires on TV, we watched as the founder of a start-up tech venture talked to the company’s new CEO about a business issue while a ready-to-engage stallion graphically mounted a mare in the background.  The point of the horse sex scene apparently was to show the wealth of the new CEO, who mentioned that he’d paid six figures for the stallion’s impressive services, while the founder was visibly discomfited by the horsing around, but . . . did we really need to see that?  Couldn’t we have gotten the same message about fabulous wealth by, say, having the new CEO own a vineyard or a colossal yacht?

I don’t consider myself as a prude, but increasingly I think that popular entertainment consciously searches for new lines to cross and new ways to introduce graphic, gratuitous sex and violence in order to be shocking and edgy.   Such scenes usually distract from the storyline rather than advancing it.  HBO often leads this unfortunate parade.

I’m not going to stop watching Game of Thrones, but now that the story has moved beyond the book, I wish the show would dial it back a notch.  It shouldn’t just be viewer discretion that is advised.

Jon Snow And J.R.

Today we’re killing time before the first episode of the new season of Game of Thrones airs.  Between now and then we’ll probably watch a few of last season’s final episodes to make sure we are fully caught up and current on the characters, but we’ll tune in without fail to see if there is a big reveal on Jon Snow.  Could he somehow, some way, perhaps with the aid of his direwolf Ghost — might turn out to be aptly named, eh? — survive the brutal, literal stab in the back attack by his brothers on the Night’s Watch?

jon-snowI can’t think of a TV show that has has the same kind of pre-season anticipation since the Dallas “Who Shot J.R.?” controversy back in the 1980.  For those who didn’t watch Dallas back then, the controversy was not only who shot the despicable but roguishly charming J.R. Ewing, but also whether J.R. would survive.  Since Larry Hagman was the star of that incredibly popular show, however, everybody figured J.R. would pull through, so the big question was who shot him — not an easy call since J.R. had managed to cheat, outmaneuver, embarrass and humiliate pretty much everybody on the show.

The Game of Thrones cliffhanger is of a different kind, of course, because it’s been clear since the outset that major characters are routinely knocked off — the Stark clan alone has been decimated — but also because there are so many other rich plot threads left dangling.  So Jon Snow could easily be dead and gone, with no more muss or fuss, but there’s lot of other things to wonder about.  Will we get to see Sansa Stark knock off the horrendous Bolton Bastard — hopefully in painful, bloody, graphic fashion?  What about Daenerys, and Tyrion Lannister, and the dragons?  What the heck are Bran Stark and Hodor and the frog-eaters doing north of the wall?  And I’ll be happy just to see any screen time for my favorite character, Arya Stark.

Game of Thrones has become quite the phenomenon.  Who would have thought that a fantasy TV show would develop such a rabid following?