Monkey at the Movies: TV Roundup!

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Don’t worry, for all of you who are afraid of more Game of Thrones rants, I’m pressing the big PAUSE button on that! Instead, I wanted to talk about some shows I’ve watched in the last few months that I actually liked. Now, it takes quite a bit for me to finish a series/continue watching a programme these days (I’m a serial TV show quitter) so it’s no surprise that what I did finish got *all the bananas* from me! Starting with…

The Last Kingdom (Series 3)– once again, I am half monkey, half Dane! It’s no secret after my post last year how much I FRICKIN LOVE THIS SHOW! It is an excellent example of an adaptation done well. Still, I managed to forget how much this packs in. The story is both eventful and emotional and just keeps getting better and better! Certain promises from the writer in earlier seasons (though not all) are delivered with fatal blows. *This* is exactly how you give the audience what they want; this is the best example of set up and payoff in TV right now. It was even more twisty and exciting than the first two series- and that’s saying something, given how much I loved those too! Once again, the characters are amazing and worth getting invested in. I especially love that Uhtred doesn’t always do the right thing- he’s smart, but impulsive, and he often pays the price for that. It does wrap things up rather well, implying there wasn’t going to be another series- but luckily for us, it’s been renewed and there is plenty of room to continue. Forgive my boundless enthusiasm, but this is the kind of show that makes me squee every time! The only *frankly appalling* thing about the Last Kingdom is that every season comes to an end and I WANT MORE. No doubt I’ll be renewing my Netflix subscription just in time for season 4 😉

Umbrella Academy (Series 1)– this was one hell of a wacky, fun, bonkers ride- and I loved every minute of it! I don’t even know where to start with this show. The moment I knew I *had to* watch this series was when I saw the dance like no one is watching clip on Youtube. It so aptly sums up what makes this show so bloody marvellous- the humour, the poignant emotion and the characters. My goodness- the characters! They are so fabulously original and I think everyone can find someone to root for here- my favourites were poor old Klaus and dubious Diego. Oh and 5 is awesome!  From the hilarious script, to the brilliant soundtrack and world-ending plot- this is definitely one of Netflix’s best new additions. Definitely worth checking out if you like superheroes/are looking for something a little bit very different.

The Good Place (Series 3)– this is another show I’ve mentioned on my blog before. I discovered it through Kat’s amazing blog and I REGRET NOTHING. I will freely admit it’s not as good as the first season, or even the second, but it is always worth a watch regardless. Super thought-provoking and funny, this is one of those rare shows *everyone* (and I do mean EVERYONE) can get something out of- and I don’t say that lightly. I’ve seen people of all different backgrounds and beliefs coming together over this philosophical sit com- and that is quite the testament to what a work of genius it is. I’m also incredibly proud of myself because I figured out the twist for this season 😉

Angel (Series 1-2)– this might come as a bit of a *shocker* but I haven’t actually seen this before- despite rewatching Buffy many times. I know, I know, I should’ve given it a chance sooner, but I never cared much for the character of Angel or had much interest in the (seemingly) minor ways it linked up with Buffy. Well, I stand completely corrected. This show is great! It ended up being super emotional, action-packed and with fab characters! All those people you think “eh what do I care about them?” after they leave Sunnydale, suddenly get a new lease of life in LA. I really liked the evil law firm as Big Bad as well (and the minor antagonists along the way totally work!). I’m glad I finally watched this and look forward to sinking my teeth into series three!

So, have you seen any of these? Do you plan to? And have you watched any amazing TV lately? Let me know in the comments!

Why I Love the Last Kingdom

*No spoilers*

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So I’m feeling some resentment towards this series at the moment. I mean, it basically took over my life so I *had to* binge watch it, made me preoccupied when I wasn’t watching it and then had the audacity to end?! (well, I ran out of episodes) I’ve been bereft since I finished! Really, it was TOO GOOD. I’ve not been able to watch TV properly since I finished it a few weeks ago (no joke!) And with the time I haven’t been watching the show- in typical bookworm fashion– I’ve been reading the books (I’m already upto number 4 and loving it!) I just can’t get it out my head! Ach, I love it so much, too much. But- you might ask- why do I love it?

Well, I’m glad you asked 😉 It’s simple really: I love a damn good story. Each episode/chapter is action-packed and also manages to build up to a dramatic crescendo. Meaning, I didn’t have to wait forever for something to payoff, while there’s always the promise of bigger, better things to come. My heart was in my mouth the whole time I was watching it- there was tumultuous relationships, tender friendships, brilliant fight scenes, and pain that was all too REAL. Simultaneously agonising and cathartic, it crushed me and rebuilt my hopes over and over. I felt so alive with it that it made me want to go out and have adventures of my own– and you can’t give a series a better compliment 😉 In short, it was EPIC.

It was also stunningly shot. I know it’s nots big budget, but I don’t think that’s always necessary to do a story justice. And there was something authentic in this– it felt super gritty. This may sound like a weird thing to mention, but one thing my mum used to complain about with BBC productions is how often they have clean faces- they go to all the trouble of getting the costumes right and then make everyone spotlessly clean, even poor people super clean (even though in the book it mentions how royalty bathe once a month). I know historical cleanliness is something that’s up for debate- but having people who’ve been fighting or farming be somewhat grubby makes this feel more realistic to me.

For all this, the show still has a very lively spirit and this is thanks to… the main character. Oh my goodness, Uhtred is a fantastic hero. Funny, clever, slightly immature, arrogant as heck, all heart, but strong as a blade- he’s pretty hard not to love. One thing I did notice is how the book and TV show highlight different aspects of his personality, though all of the ingredients are the same. In the book, he’s more head than heart- and I did like seeing him being more calculating and particular successes being more down to cunning. However, I feel like this was swapped out for a tad more joie de vivre and so there was something ineffably charming about the TV iteration. There were also some other necessary for TV changes- like ageing him up faster- but again I feel like they played with this by making him younger in mind rather than physically showing it.

On top of that, there were so many interesting side characters and the show certainly played around with them. In particular, I found myself intrigued by King Alfred, both ally and on-and-off antagonist. He’s one of those weirdly complex individuals who I both dislike and respect at the same time. Some characters did feel superfluous earlier on, but the best ones always get intriguing storylines, which adds a little more depth.

Something else I loved, in both versions, is how the story explores the meeting of Saxon and Dane cultures. I believe (from what little I know of the period) that there eventually was cohabiting and intermarriage between the cultures- and I do like how the show allows this to develop organically. Plus, I think the depictions of *world’s colliding* is brilliantly done. Obviously, Christianity is in the ascendancy in the story, though that clash between the old gods and the new is still a consistent cause of tension. And one of the best ways this is done is through Uhtred’s inner conflict about being a Saxon vs being a Dane. This struggle then ripples out to the how others interact with him and how he moves within the world. I appreciated how subtly this is tackled- both in the book and the show- so it simmers in the background, infrequently boiling over and yet never fully flooding the other aspects of the plot.

Likewise, I liked how this tied into historical events (what little I know of them anyway), without being overpowering. The music and setting go a long way to creating a convincing atmosphere for this peculiar, fascinating, lost world. I know it’s filmed abroad, still it feels like a lost corner of England, if that place had been frozen in time.

What is most amazing about The Last Kingdom was that when I finished my first question was “why don’t we learn more about the Saxons/Vikings in British schools?” And then, with some fateful research, I read online that this was what had inspired the author. Now, call me crazy, but when an author actually manages to light the same fuse in its audience with their book, I think it’s pretty special. Any story that manages to get across its exact premise is a success to me. And this most definitely fed my hunger for history. It’s like the creator passed over the torch to the showrunners, and they passed it over to me (and hopefully other viewers).

I personally am very happy I watched the TV show first– I felt it conveyed the atmosphere brilliantly and I had *so much* fun with it. While I liked the books- they are written with plenty of clarity, are funny at times and Cornwell has a strong voice- I did find they are foreshadowing heavy (which is fine, I often like that, but in the case of spoilers, I liked going into the show fresh and unaware where the plot was headed). Either way, I believe the two exist very well as separate entities and stand on their own just fine.

I can safely say the show will go into my very selective hall of *favourite shows*. I am absolutely enthralled by this story and think it’s a MUST WATCH. And yes, I am saying this so that more people watch it (it’s on Netflix! Go now! #nonspon). While they’ve commissioned season 3 (*mush mush*) I need this show in my life for longer! Or I will make like a Dane and get an axe… *ahem* in case you can’t guess, I kinda want to to BE a Viking warrior now…

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(yes I know the helmet’s historically inaccurate, but c’mon, doesn’t my monkey look cute?)

Okay, I will admit, I got a little carried away in that last paragraph- but can anyone blame me? This show is awesome! Have any of you seen it? What do you think about it? Do you plan to watch it? Let me know in the comments!

Game of Thrones Season 1 “You Win or You Die”

*Spoilers for season 1- I’ve tried not to spoil anything later on- but there will be massive HINTS*

 

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Well hello! I know I’m posting later than I normally would, but I hope this is a pleasant surprise- because I’m launching another series today… I’ll be doing weekly reviews of seasons 1-5 of Game of Thrones! In case you didn’t know, I’m a massive fangirl for the show and books, and naturally did reviews of Seasons 6 and 7 on here. Bereft at the end of the seventh season, I decided to go back and rewatch from the beginning and a few weeks ago I made it upto season 5 (yup- I’ve already rewatched it– though someone will inevitably ask how I watched all of this in a week 😉 )

Anyhoo, this was a really fun trip down memory lane and it was great (and in parts traumatic) reliving it all whilst knowing what happens to all the characters. I was moved from the opening shots of Winterfell, I chuckled to myself at the opening title “Winter is coming” (yeah in 6 years), enjoyed the artistry of the show, got to see those sharp Littlefinger vs Varys go scenes again, was reminded of all the storytelling aspects and got to pick up on a few more Easter Eggs this time round.

Now obviously, I can’t touch on everything in the review, especially since I won’t be doing it episode by episode (given that I did that for the last two seasons, there was a lot I had to leave out). Plus, this isn’t my raw reactions, so while I’ve tried to keep my spoilers to a minimum, my opinions are clouded by later impressions. Formatting this was also pretty hard, so rather than go through this episode by episode, I decided to divide it up into more-or-less POV characters (pictures won’t be taken from just Season 1)

Daenerys Targaryen 

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We can start with Dany, because she’s a little bit out of the way. I love how she’s brought into the fold of the story, just after Ned and Robert discuss the downfall of the Targaryen’s. It puts her on the edge of the narrative and yet still very relevant.

Of course, as the series progresses she becomes ever more important. No, becomes is the wrong word- she takes control of her own story. It is no inconsequential feat that she becomes the mother of dragons. From very unpromising beginnings in a forced marriage, she wrests control from her husband, develops relationships (especially with the very unsubtle Jorah) and begins to develop her own cult of personality. It is little wonder that she ultimately walks through fire and comes out the other side unburnt.

However, she’s not without faults. There are hints of her ruthless side– especially in how disturbingly cold she is when Viserys gets executed- though it does tell us something important: “He was no dragon, fire cannot kill a dragon.” And most importantly, we see her making mistakes early on, particularly trusting the witch woman (to paraphrase Jon in season7 why?!). But, we can never forget her rebirth at the end of the season and the subsequent return of the dragons! It’s no wonder everyone loves her!

Tyrion

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Speaking of characters everyone loves and “speaking for the grotesques”, there can be no one better than Tyrion! With some of the best quotes in the entire show, like “A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone”, it’s no wonder he’s a fan favourite.

And early on, he is one of the few characters with the wit to save himself. Admittedly, he often uses old tricks like “I wish to confess my crimes”, but you can’t go wrong with the classics 😉

One great way to examine Tyrion is in relation to his family– especially in terms of how he’s pretty much the only one apart from Cersei who seems to get on with Jaime (who admittedly is a total prick in season 1, even to characters like Jon, for no apparent reason). Yet for me, one of the best ways to look at him is through the characters he clashes with- notably Cersei (incidentally I forgot how she was in early episodes too, with bizarre lessons to Joffrey saying things to the effect of you can have everything you want and you can’t… ugh, why does she even think she’s smart?). Still, I’d be remiss not to mention one of the best character bonding that I completely forgot about when we got to Season 7…

Jon Snow

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And that’s Jon and Tyrion! OMG I loved their relationship, because Tyrion is the only one who is candid with him. That doesn’t mean treating him with kid gloves, but actually telling him the truth about the wall (WHAT THE HELL BENJEN AND NED?! I thought you were looking out for him!)

And crikey- the Wall is not what it’s cracked up to be. I mean there’s crude meritocracy, with Benjen saying: “A man gets what he earns, when he earns it.” Let’s be honest though, mostly it’s just cold as-eff and a great place to brew some enemy relationships (*cough* Allister Thorne *cough cough*). Also, he gets called a bastard a lot, which never ceases to make me fist-clenchingly mad!

Still, it’s not all bad- he gets to act like a hero defending Sam. Full disclosure: it took me a good while to warm to Sam in season 1– but his truly horrible backstory and Neville-like loyalty eventually wore away at my defences.

Plus on the positive side, he spends some of the series being groomed for leadership, gets to kill a Walker, earns himself Longclaw, hangs out with Ghost more than he ever gets to in later seasons and has a great FORESHADOWING scene with Aemon. So really, it’s not so bad, you can cheer up now Jon!

Catelyn Stark

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Another positive for Jon is that he’s finally away from Cat. Heck- I’d go North of the Wall to get away from Catelyn Stark nee Tully.cannot stand this character. Even her whining first line- “do you have to?” instantly made me yell at the screen “shut up Cat!”

So why do I hate her? Well, let’s start with the fact that she couldn’t be even halfway decent to a motherless boy- in fact she doesn’t even let him have a proper, peaceful farewell with Bran. It’s her unsavoury anger that drives him away in the first place. And that’s not the only problem her anger causes.

I mean WTF was she thinking kidnapping Tyrion!?!? That has to be one of the stupidest power plays in the history of mankind! It makes literally no sense- not only does she have poor evidence that Tyrion did anything, but it instantly puts Ned and her daughters in unnecessary danger. I mean, I know she warned them not to go to King’s Landing, but like I said, she’s a whiner (no one listens to whiners- the way she says things is so off-putting, I’d do the opposite of everything she says too). The whole way through the series my notes are full of “Cat does dumb Cat-like things”– even, with a nice hint of what’s to come, going to visit the Kingslayer *slow clap Cat, slow clap*.

So yeah, she spends a vast amount of time hating Lannisters… and yet for some *ridiculous* reason trusts Littlefinger?! The practically MOUSTACHE TWIRLING VILLAIN! Are you daft? I mean, when you have friends like Littlefinger, who needs enemies? Her character judgement is so wayyy off base!

Robb Stark

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Phew- got that out of my system, mostly. Let’s talk about a character I actually like again: Robb Stark. Or “poor Robb” as I often think of him.

He’s definitely presented as a lord-in-training, quoting his father, gracious and with his fearsome direwolf Greywind. What I like even more is that through him you get to see some of the Northmen’s personality- such as Lord Umber getting two fingers ripped off and standing there laughing! And you get some nicer scenes like THE KING IN THE NORTH (which makes me all teary eyed).

BUT that’s not to say he doesn’t make mistakes. Straight off the bat, we have evidence for this when Theon calls him stupid- I mean, if Theon’s calling you stupid… welll I don’t know what you do with that- don’t ask Theon for advice kids!

His major mistake, however, is allowing his mother to negotiate with the Freys on his behalf– and it’s a mistake that has ripple effects across the seasons. Because, as I’ve made it clear, Cat is not the smartest person! And she enters into to one of the most disastrous negotiations. I’ve had many discussions over the years with friends about this, but I’m pretty sure this would have been a better way to go into the talks:

“Hey, we need to use your bridge.”

“Well, I quite fancy having your children marry mine…”

“Already betrothed, sozzles! (cos in this version Cat’s not a moron) About that bridge- you can let us through or we can take it with our shit ton of men… whaddya say?”

Could you have at least tried to have spoken from a position of strength Cat? I guess whining at someone is your default setting. Not to mention the fact that, as the show makes clear, Freys ≠ trustworthy. Even though Cat’s known them her whole life, she strikes the dumbest deal in the history of deals. Ugh.

Bran Stark

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Speaking of people with rotten luck, let’s briefly touch on Bran. He’s not one of my favourite characters- however I do feel sorry for him. We get a lovely bit at the beginning of episode 1 with him scaling the walls… and then he has his big fall at the end of the episode- or rather gets pushed. Yeah- that scene will never cease to shock me. GRRM is the king at taking away what a character really cares about. And I completely get why he’s mad at Cat- leaving him to go on her stupid secret mission that goes disastrously wrong… (this is turning into the I-hate-Cat show).

Moving on, one of the best things we get for Bran, is mostly just the foreshadowing, which, let’s be honest, this show has plenty of…

Ned Stark

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Starting with that dead stag and the dead direwolf (and the *hint hint* “no mountain lion”) they find in the woods. This scene, where the Starks get their direwolves, is one of my favourite and is so loaded with symbolism (Jon: I am not a Stark, Theon: it’s a freak!) that I could have put it under any character. But it is Ned who first recognises the Direwolf– the sigil of his house.

And this is an omen for the start of all his troubles. For it’s not long after that the Baratheon king comes to Winterfell (ah Robert, you crass lout!) and because Ned’s an honourable fool, he decides to accept the position as Hand of the King. Now, I don’t totally begrudge his decision (though my goodness, it was a BAD one) because a lot of this comes out of him trying to be a good friend to said terrible king.

However, as much as I don’t want to disrespect the dead (RIP Boromir… err I mean Ned), he was awful as a politician. If there was a mistake to be made or a trap to walk into, Ned did so like a lamb to the slaughter/fish out of water/wolf not in the north. Even while acknowledging that the crown is bankrupt and can’t afford to host a costly, dangerous tournament, he ends up just turning a blind eye to it- which is not good enough.

Then of course he does loads of other dumb things, like giving away his household guard, not leaving when he has the chance and confronting Cersei about her (incestuous!!!) extramarital affairs! The only reason I love his character is because he’s so noble while doing all these stupid things- plus he teaches us that vital lesson that in the Game of Thrones you win or you die.

And everything that happens to him is SO AWFUL– though in a very callous way, rewatching it after season 7, I can’t help but see how poetic it is for him to get stabbed from behind in his fight with Jaime (also, it’s funny that this time round, I don’t blame Jaime, since this is right after his idiot wife kidnapped Tyrion and Jaime’s lashing out for that)

Also, Ned serves as a brilliant and stoic patriarch– giving us that wonderful “lone wolf” speech that pays off all the way over in season 7. I absolutely adore that “War was easier than daughters” line too. Which brings me onto…

Sansa Stark

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I will be frank, in this season, I found little to like about Sansa. She was a vain, pretty fool. I also will say I think a lot of my initial dislike for this character came from me transferring some of my hatred of Cat onto her- I saw her as Cat 2.0 and thought she was primed to make the same hot-tempered mistakes her mother did.

However, my initial analysis of her character was fairly wrong. Not that she doesn’t start out as air-headed- she most certainly does. She’s utterly ridiculous and forgiving of Joffrey- even though he quite literally swung a sword at his sister and threatened to torture a random kid. On top of that, she *lies* about it after! Watching it back, I did find myself being more forgiving (as will be apparent in later posts, I ended up respecting and appreciating Sansa) especially since she pays the price immediately for her lies and ends up losing her wolf.  Plus, if I can forgive Jaime…

In all seriousness, the reason why I don’t mind Sansa’s vapid-bordering-on-insipid actions early on is because she is just playing the role fate gave her. She acts the lady, as she was always taught, and you can’t really blame her for it. She’s even told “no one can ever hate you” (all the while Littlefinger drip-drips poison in her ear, but I digress…). She trusted in Joffrey to spare her father (though see above why she really shouldn’t have) because the lady trusting in her gallant prince is a story she’s always been told. What’s interesting is that her playing this role so well is actually evidence that she’s not clueless- she knows enough that to get ahead she has to conform. In playing the part, she’s actually being smarter than I thought. Even if I didn’t love her in season 1, her character was being built to go in a very interesting direction.

Arya Stark

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Ah what stark differences between the sisters! I always loved Arya! Sharp as a needle, wild and a non-conformist, I think it’s impossible not to like her straight away. In the first season, I loved her courage and her relationship with Sirio Forel. I also liked how her “dancing” lessons were used to show a simultaneous flashback and foreshadowing. In one of the more interesting scenes, as Ned watches her learn to use a sword, we see a brief look of horror building in his eyes and his laughter turns to a scowl. It’s subtle, but it’s there- and I believe it is a sign of the horrors that Ned cannot stop befalling his children.

And Arya has one of the most heartwrenching stories– partly because she survives. She may initially be only playing with the sword, yet by the end of the season she’s made her first kill and lost her father. She’s heading down a very dark path….

But more on that next week! As with my episode reviews- I’d love to know who will be sticking around for this series? Are you a fan of GOT? Let me know in the comments!

Watch Out Eastwatch!

Wow, if you’re not a bundle of nerves right now, I salute you, cos this episode ratcheted up the tension.

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It started out fairly gently, where the last one left off, with Jaime coughing up half a river. While it was a great opening scene, I do have to say my first thought was HOW?! I was amazed Jaime wasn’t capture- it seemed like too close a call. That said, I didn’t concentrate on that too long, because five seconds later we find out what Dany would have done had she caught poor Jaime in her talons (I can’t tell you how grateful I am that didn’t happen!)

As for Dany’s treatment of POWs… well I was in the middle of writing “wow what a rousing speech from Dany…” and then it all went downhill. Because she had a nice little “burn them all!” moment. I have to admit, I’ve been struggling to root for Dany “bend the knee” Targaryen for a couple of seasons now. It’s bad enough that she’s getting increasingly dictatorial, but I don’t see how I can make allowances for all her brutal decisions- she got a pass for executing traitors however she wanted, I couldn’t bring myself to care for the slavers she killed, but C’MON you can’t just roast honourable soldiers who won’t break their vows!! It’s not good enough in my book that she keeps claiming to do this to “break the wheel”. If she’s a better person, she has to act like it *every single second* and has to be awake to her own potential for malevolence. Right now she is doing the most evil in her pursuit to rid the world of a greater evil- and she can’t even see it. I found it a tad ironic that she said “Sometimes strength is terrible” in her weakest moment. Maybe, just maybe her advisors can make her aware of this, as they seem alert to this moral conundrum in a way that she isn’t right now. Here’s hoping Dany can redeem herself.

While Dany loses it, Jon Snow is becoming more awesome. I’m pretty much hanging on his every word and my favourite moment of the week was when he stroked Drogon. That scene was just… WOW!! And of course the showrunners are delivering time and again with the easter eggs for him being a Targaryen (I have to admit to screaming at the screen for Sam not picking up on Gilly saying that Rhaegar got an annulment and married someone else- but at least we have official confirmation that Jon is *in no way* a bastard).

And the other part of this episode that made me massively happy was the reintroduction of Gendry.

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Yes, we all thought that! I have to admit I didn’t expect to see him again- but I’m so glad he’s back- and with a Robert Baratheon style Warhammer! I was super excited for him to meet Jon and to have some actual onscreen action- with any luck he’ll get a reunion with Arya. Although speaking of which, I have a ton of hopes (and dreads) for Arya’s storyline.

With Arya, we did have a glorious scene with her stalking her prey… and her prey stalking back. Quite clearly, Littlefinger was never going to be a straightforward target. What I would love to see is the Stark children working together to bring him down and I have even heard some people saying theories that her rivalry with Sansa is all for show. HOWEVER this is Game of Thrones we’re talking about. It’s not big on wish fulfilment. So as much as I’d like to see Jon and Arya hug it out, Littlefinger get stabbed with the dagger that started it all, and the Starks remain undivided- I just don’t think the writers are gonna be that kind to us poor long-abused viewers.

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Because as creepy and skilled as Arya gets, their foes are still formidable. And speaking of the horrible things we’ve witnessed on the show in the past, Cersei’s hint that she has another Red Wedding style betrayal in mind has me stressing out. She doesn’t seem especially moved by the fact she got it wrong with Tyrion (as predicted) and is only using the information that Olenna killed her son to be mad at Jaime… go figure. But really- let’s take a vote: who really thinks Cersei’s gonna go quietly?

And speaking of fear- as we move towards this series finale (*sob*- I don’t want it to be over!) we get more and more hints that terrible things are coming. That scene with Bran and the ravens, in particular, was chilling. And I swear every time they say “the wall has stood through it all” I get a shudder of fear running through me- because that’s writer code for “pahahaha we’re gonna bring that shit down”. And of course, no one will believe any of the doom mongers, so they’re all screwed.

Naturally, in case you weren’t terrified enough, they have come up with a really really bad plan in response. By now, I should be used to Game of Thrones setting up an intense conclusion, but this was a very strong episode in its own right. The pieces are on the board – we have only to wait and see how this turns out. All I can say is WATCH OUT EASTWATCH!!

So what did you think of this episode? Any predictions? Let me know in the comments!

Spoils of War: This Series is Gaining HEAT

(Anyone else think this is ironic that an episode with this title was spoiled for a lot of people? Either way, if you have somehow managed to avoid hearing about/watching this episode and don’t want it spoilt… look away now!)

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This episode was the definition of EPIC! I don’t even know how to coherently express myself anymore. I was tempted just to write !!!!!!!!! this week and leave it at that- cos that pretty much sums up my emotions right now. In fact a lot of my notes were just “arghhh!!” and “ahh” so it took a while to decipher.

So let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start 😉 ). That opening scene between Bran and Littlefinger (or as I like to call him “fuck off Littlefinger”) was quite excellent, because it really showed the huge development of Bran as a character. He is a million miles away from that cripple in the bed being defended by his mother- now he’s one creepy bugger. I just loved how Bran said back Littlefinger’s infamous line: “chaos is a ladder”. It gave me the shivers! But seriously, my takeaway from this scene was still someone needs to kill Littlefinger already *ahem* Arya *ahem*. (Speaking of which- was Bran giving her indirect permission by giving her the knife? Theories anyone?)

And now we come to the ahh-my-emotions part of the episode. Because although this episode packed punch after punch of *feels*- including Meera leaving- the real hiccupy tears started to rise from the moment Arya set eyes on Winterfell again. I think the reunion, as good as it was, was nothing compared to that moment. Although Sansa’s line made me laugh:

when he sees you his heart will stop

LOL! So yes, this episode definitely succeeded in making me as emotional as the last one. I do have to say that as nice as it is to see them all back at Winterfell, none of them are anything like the children that left it. That point when they talked about how everyone that knew their father is dead and Arya replies “we’re not” hit home even more in a way, because it made me wonder have any of them really survived?

So we’ve revisited some old relationships, let’s talk about the new ones building. I adored the scenes on Dragonstone- not just Dany and Jon admiring some wall paintings together, but also the Onion Knight paying lip service to that ship. I just love how they’re slowly softening towards each other coming together. It was especially inspiring to see Jon managing to talk a fiery Dany down from  just turning King’s Landing to ash- talk about a dream team! And you gotta love Davos’ priceless line:

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I also did like Brienne’s initial reaction to seeing them all together, however, as good as all this was, I did find the training scene between Arya and Brienne a bit strange, unnecessary and fanfic-y. I could be wrong, but I just can’t picture something like that happening in the books and it’s the more jarring scenes like this which make me wonder how it will go there- I guess now would be a good time to take bets 😉

We certainly got reunions all round in this episode. I honestly didn’t know how Jon would react to Theon and it looked like Jon didn’t know either. I have to say that was one of Kit Harrington’s best moments, because he packaged so much into that one moment- shock, uncertainty anger- it all made the scene feel utterly authentic. In the end, I was glad they didn’t just hug it out, cos (and I have to remind myself of this too since it was so long ago) Theon’s the reason Rob is dead.

Okay- now what we’re all really here for is that battle sequence 😉 And what a battle it was!!

First of all, the build-up was so so good!! I loved how they didn’t rush into it, starting with a rumble and whinny of horses. The tension snuck up steadily, with everyone waiting for pandemonium to hit. Jaime’s line just before they hit was perfect:

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No you really, really can’t. Because my, my, my- the dothraki brought the chaos. All due credit to the showrunners- they know how to shoot a battle. This is by far the best I’ve seen on television- in fact it would be more than worthy of a summer blockbuster. It was so brilliantly done, from the way it was shot to the CGI fluttering of Drogon’s wings as he crashed to the ground… but more on that in a bit.

Because this wasn’t just about the visuals. Someway, somehow, the writers managed to build characters in the thick of it. You got all the emotion on fear on their faces as they feared for themselves and others. You had little moments, like the Dothraki saying to Tyrion “your people can’t fight” or Tyrion saying “you fucking idiot” as he watched Jaime charge towards the dragon. There was even that perfect moment between Dany helping Drogon on the middle of the battlefield, where suddenly it was just a girl and her dragon.

Seriously, I was so scared for people on every side- and even as my heart was pumping for Dany to finally get on the scoreboard of this war, I was absolutely terrified about what that would mean for Jaime (who by the way, did amazingly for a guy with one hand). But I couldn’t even think this would be a breeze for Dany, what with them trying to shoot POOR DROGON out of the sky. Of course you don’t mess with a mother-effin dragon if you want to live…

And that crazy cliffhanger with Jaime nearly dying is where I will leave you. I am absolutely on tenterhooks for the next episode. But I am delighted to say this was one of the most hard hitting, emotional episodes I have ever seen… and that’s saying something! The showrunners are really delivering on everything now, from long awaited reunions, meetings, characterisation, wars, and even the occasional, lingering notes of Rains of Castamere in the middle of a battle. And once again they have proven WHY THIS IS THE BEST DARN SHOW EVER!!!

I can also say, from me to you, this is definitely worth rewatching 😉

So what did you think of this EPIC episode? Did it make you happy? Scared? Something in between? Let me know in the comments!

The Queen’s (In)Justice

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*As usual, there will be spoilers, proceed at your own peril if you’re not caught up*

Okay that title’s a tad misleading because not only did some of the characters have their just desserts, we as fans were served up more than our due! So so much of our patient waiting was paid off in this episode. Yet, for all the JUSTICE of this episode, this is Game of Thrones we’re talking about- and for every bit of satisfaction there was a nail-biting moment to set us on edge again!!

In the first five minutes we get a Tyrion/Jon reunion and one of my favourite scenes:

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cue dragons

(I also believe the red dragon is Rhaegal- so it was doubly poetic!)

And next we had a decent interaction between Melisandra and Varys (I love how they understand each other). I loved her last spooky throwaway line “I have to die in this strange country just like you”. Either way, tata Melisandra… at least for now.

Then we get something to really rant over. Okay… I have a confession- I’m one of those people that’s been shipping Jon and Dany since season 1. I really reallllly want it to happen and now it’s in touching distance and I can’t breath and arggghhhh. As you might be able to tell I’m losing my cool now- this show is killing me. To be honest, I have literally no idea if this will ever happen, but I did enjoy their scenes on their own merit regardless.

Firstly, I loved the character development here. I think the screenwriters have come a long way from the Tyrion/Dany meeting (that felt very fanfic-y to me) because both Dany and Jon were so true to form here. First of all, it was fun to watch how stubborn they were, both bringing up good points, even while they butted heads with each other. I also loved how Dany spoke for herself, whereas a more humble Jon had to have the Onion Knight stepping in for him. To be honest, this was done so well that even though I know and like Dany I never expected her to cave, but was glad she did.

Add to that a brilliant script this week and we had some real television magic. It was so nice to have a bit of humour injected this week (who noticed the Onion knight’s short: “This is Jon Snow- he’s king in the North” to the super long Dany introduction). I even liked how it seems like Tyrion’s light-hearted touch has rubbed off on Dany because she had some very witty lines too. But really it was Tyrion back to his old ways and stealing the show again cos he had some real zingers:

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dreary in the north tyrion

Now to talk a little about the Greyjoy situation. I might get a bit of stick for this, but I kind of started thinking about how Theon’s experiencing a bit of a character reversion right now (which to be honest brings back a lot of old anger I still have pent up for the character because if he hadn’t been such a shit at the start…) Either way, the one I feel sorry for is Yara, because she’s done everything right and doesn’t deserve this. Euron’s a total sleaze and I’ll admit, I’m beginning to dislike him, especially cos of how he’s treating poor old Jaime (still far from my fave villain though)

And speaking of villains… That Cersei scene was chilling. I was even moved by the sandsnakes’ plight- that’s how much I hate Cersei. (I can appreciate the rather biblical measure for measure justice she metes out though…) And I have to also say that her talk with the bankers made my skin crawl- I mean ewww to that “sometimes tragedies are necessary” line. Ultimately, Cersei is finally showing that she actually has a wicked clever brain- “a Lannister always pays their debts… Do dragons?”

But she’s not the only clever woman on the block now- she has a budding rival in the north. Let’s face it, Sansa is getting cleverer and cleverer with every episode- and I must say how much I appreciate this development for the character. I love her sarky tongue and how brilliant the dialogue was. And of course, one of the best things we had this week was her reunion with Bran!! (admittedly this did have a creepy tinge to it though I was relieved he doesn’t plan to take Winterfell off Jon).

Strangely enough for Game of Thrones, we got more than one sweet scene this week (I know- two in one week?!) I don’t usually get gushy over Jorah or Samwell moments- but *oh my goodness* this was done perfectly and got an “aww” out of me!

And then, just when we were all thinking this episode was going down without any action… We got *another* battle! I swear- the showrunners are not letting us down this season. What I liked about this was how it was shot differently, so we didn’t actually see as much bloodshed, but we did get the tactical narration in the background which was a change from the usual. It was nice to see Tyrion’s brain work with his super smart Trojan horse trick… for all of three seconds. Because damn it this is Game of Thrones and things never go to plan. It does not seem Tyrion is getting very far in this Lannister vs Lannister shenanigans.

But for all that, the theme this week was actually queens- and while we did get more than a little *woman power*, ultimately it was the Queen of Thorns who stole the show. As sad as it was to see the Tyrell’s wiped from the face of Westeros, Olenna’s swansong was EPIC! Because we got that final piece of justice, where Olenna confessed to killing Joffrey (although I predict this will still have no effect on Cersei’s view of Tyrion or Sansa- I do think her reaction could be something that pushes Jaime further away- but we will see…).

I can happily say that this was one of my favourite episodes to date- it was just done so well. Yet more players have been wiped from the board and there were many, many perfect moments. I can hardly wait for next week- so if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to rewatch scenes from this week for the umpteenth time!

So what did you think of this week’s episode? Are you dying for more? Let me know in the comments!!

Stormborn was a BLAST!

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*Spoiler alert!*

Well this episode ended up surprising me more than the last. I wouldn’t have believed it, partly because of how thrilling last week’s opener was and also since the beginning of this episode was much more mellow.

Given that the first scene featured Varys- an always welcome- but more of a Machiavellian than a dramatic influence on the show- I did not think we would see fireworks. As enjoyable as it was to see them discussing their war council, I felt like this episode was going to set things up like a game of chess, and this hour would be devoted to getting everyone into position… how wrong I was.

There was some stellar character development before we got to any of the action though. I was especially delighted with Tyrion’s plan and coded message- it is *so long* since we’ve seen that brilliant brain work! That was more than welcome reminder of why he is one of my favourite characters!

Along with this, there were some lovely tender moments and some ughhh-what-are-you-doing-scenes (with Cersei- they’re always like that though). And in terms of Game of Thrones trademark gore, this episode starred some hardcore greyscale, and I have to say this was the grossest thing I have ever seen- on this or any show! I mean: ewwwww!!

The other notable moment, before we get to *that explosive conclusion*, was when Arya and Nymeria were reunited. Bittersweet and heartbreaking, it wasn’t the reunion we’d hoped for and raised so many questions for me. I know that the showrunners have talked about how it shows that Nymeria found her own life… but I wonder if it hints at a dark ending for the Stark assassin. For instance, I’ve always thought the execution of Sansa’s wolf is the symbolic moment when she becomes more Tully than Stark- so is this too symbolic of Arya’s estrangement from her wolf? Does it show that she will never be tamed? Does it suggest she will never make it home to her family?

And finally… THAT ENDING!! I wasn’t expecting that. Of course I should know by now it was never going to be straightforward, but I really didn’t think I would see a full scale battle in the second episode. Like the battles last year, it was beautifully shot. They only get more exquisite to look at: the ashes falling, the fire dancing, people dying everywhere… and yet it was oddly stunning to look at. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from this grotesque spectacle (one of those moments that will sift the GOT fans from the Guardian writers- I saw yet another article complaining about the violence in this show and wondered why are they still watching it 7 years on?!? Anyway, I digress…).  I can’t say I’m sorry to say goodbye to the sandsnakes- but what happened to Theon and Yana was *devastating*. I will say, this is the first time in a while that I’ve begun to wonder about what would/will happen in the book…. Only time will tell (or not). Either way, I can’t believe how much has already happened here- the showrunners are not letting us down this year. God only knows what will come next (okay, I have some inkling from the trailer and I might have screamed).

Anyhoo- hope my thoughts weren’t too all over the place this week- it was a very exciting episode and all my coherence went out the window after that final scene. Have you seen this yet? What did you think about it? Let me know in the comments!

And sincere apologies for this coming so late- the old Mad Hatter (my computer) is acting up (well, more than usual…)

 

 

Eek Game of Thrones is back!!

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Hello all! Exciting news today: as I did last year, I will be reviewing all the Game of Thrones episodes now that it’s back! This will be full of spoilers because, dudes and dudettes, if you haven’t watched it three days after the premier, I don’t know what you’ve been doing!? Go away and come back when you’ve watched it!

Righty ho…

shall we begin

Let’s get straight onto what I loved about this episode, namely… THAT OPENING! Man, only in Game of Thrones do you get a payoff in season 7 for something that happened in season 3- but it was so worth the wait. That line “winter has come for house Fray” was literally killer. I mean, I knew from the fact that the recap alone gave me chills that I was in for a thunderstorm of emotions, but I didn’t expect for it to blow me away so quickly. Five minutes in and it was already the best TV I’d seen in a year.

There was of course that same old recap element to the first episode of the season. And even though it felt like I’d been grabbed by the throat by that beginning, the pressure did ease off a little as other characters were reintroduced.

That said, I enjoyed the initial character development you got in this episode. I do appreciate how dark Sansa has gotten- but, and I say this with the utmost respect for her character, her advice was shit. It almost reminded me of all the times I’d groaned at Catelyn Stark’s bad advice. I know I might get flak from her super fans, but Jon’s plan just seemed far more sensible- especially when you want to unite the north and don’t want lasting grudges to distract you from killing the Night King.

I did feel like there were probably more people crammed into this episode than was absolutely necessary- you had everything from a glimpse of Jorah Mormont’s arm to a cameo of Ed Sheeran (no joke!). And then there were a few story arcs that just slowed down the pace considerably. The middle lagged- especially when the Hound got his moment in the spotlight. I’m also struggling to get excited about Euron Greyjoy as this seasons’ big bad- unless he does something especially egregious (I mean worthy of Ramsey Snow egregious) I don’t think I’m going to buy that he’s so dastardly- only time will tell. Couple all that setup with a number of scenes of Samwell Tarley cleaning up bodily fluids and my attention started to wane.

Fortunately, the ending did perk me up again. With all the build up and talk of Dragonstone tying the episode together, I did have a hint this was where it was going- but there was always that worry that it would take weeks for Dany to cross the narrow sea. Luckily we didn’t have to wait that long! No- just wham bam thank you mam, she’s in Dragonstone.

And that’s where I’ll leave you too! All I will ask you today is how excited on a scale of 1-10 are you feeling about this show?! Let me know in the comments! (even if your answer is zero 😉 )

Outlander vs Outlander

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Hello all! I’m doing something a little different today with this review, because I pretty much read the book and watched the show alongside each other. So I thought I would share my experiences by comparing them. Though to be honest, my biggest impression of it is a massive spoiler for the end of the story… That said- let’s get to some of the other comparisons first.

Characters

TV Show: I preferred the main character in the TV show for sure- she had more of an edge to her and the actress breathed life into the narrative. All in all, I think the TV show does a really great job of bringing the characters in the book to life.

Book: Despite the words being the same, for the most part, this can come across a little flat in the book.  One of the main criticisms I had was that the rapey Randall came across as a moustache twirling villain– which I promise we’ll get to, in excruciating detail…

randall

Atmosphere

TV Show: easily has the better atmosphere– not just because of the amazing shots of Scotland, but because of the wonderful soundtrack:

Book: The prose is slightly clunky, so this can get in the way of the atmosphere, but it’s still enjoyable enough

Plot

TV Show: For the most part it’s fast paced and interesting.

Book: Sometimes feels slower in the book due to the aforementioned clunky prose, but not much difference, apart from some parts being drawn out in the book as opposed to the show. Plus I have to give the book credit for the unique concept, if not to the way rape is so integral to the plot…

*Okay time for the very long spoilery bit*

The Rape

TV Show:

So like I said, there’s a lot of rape in the book and I didn’t have a problem with it for the most part because it’s set in the 18th century and contextually accurate. Plus for the most part I personally have a pretty strong constitution. But when it comes to summing up my emotions for the episode when Jamie is raped I’m really struggling not to just let out a stream of swear words– cos let’s be honest, there was *a lot* of swearing in my notes. It was over the line for me- for many, many reasons- but mostly because it was fucking ridiculous (yeah, sometimes only swearing will do…). It wasn’t even REMOTELY realistic.

It wasn’t just that the setup was strange (I mean we could start with the fact that Randall attempts to rape everyone but only “succeeds” once) but that the progression of emotions is really weird. Now it’s not that the emotions don’t make sense- or that the writers’ intentions to show the varied psychological affects is a bad idea- but that it skips through all of these emotions far too quickly. At the same time, rather than jumbling the emotions to show how mixed up Jaime feels, it goes through each feeling on its own, which makes for a super weird viewing experience.

In fact a lot of what was wrong with the pacing. I could deal with how jarring it was to go from his recovery to the rape- yet calling this “flashbacks” would imply speed. Instead we’re “treated” to long, drawn out sequences that I can only describe as torture porn. Now that’s totally fine if that’s your jam, but it was really not what I signed up for. For some reason the show makers took the artsy route. Everything is taken slowly and shot in such a way that it actually comes across as ridiculously romanticised. Not to mention the fact that they hammer you over the head with messages and imagery- not that, say, a subtle hint of the sacrificial Christ imagery would have been a bad thing, they just felt the need to point this out to the audience, in case we hadn’t already got the allusion. The writers become so caught up with trying to *say something profound* that they actually get it all wrong.

Book: It’s a little strange to say this, but I thought this was portrayed better in the book.

There are so many reasons for this- starting with the attitudes to rape in book being more matter of fact. In a way that took away some of the stigma that becomes impossible to get over in the show. They’re all tiptoeing round and speaking in hushed tones in the show, which makes me wonder how Jamie is supposed to recover in the course of an episode. Which- to be fair- is one of the biggest differences- because what takes up 10% of the book is only 1/16 of the series. It’s a slight difference- but to be honest it felt a lot less jarring because it was given more space. Even little things, like the confession scene, feel less out of the blue.

By comparison, the book doesn’t show nearly as much detail of the rape, paying far closer attention to Jamie’s emotions and recovery. This makes the psychological drama that’s playing out in Jaime’s head work so so much better. I got the sense of him surviving, yet not being able to live with it. His speech in the book is perfectly done:

“Now it’s like … like my own fortress has been blown up with gunpowder—there’s nothing left of it but the ashes and a smoking rooftree, and the little naked thing that lived there once is out in the open, squeaking and whimpering in fear, trying to hide itself under a blade of grass or a bit o’ leaf, but not … but not … making m-much of a job of it.”

And without all those long drawn out scenes, there’s a little bit more ambiguity which works better for creating a horrifying atmosphere- imagination is a powerful tool after all. Yet even with this ambiguity, some careful distinctions are drawn- such as between arousal and enjoyment, and between participation and coercion. It is a shame then that the show dance right over these lines into some pretty murky territory.

Finally, the cleansing ritual in the book, where Claire and Jamie re-enact bits of the rape and come to terms with it, is left out. Now I get why they didn’t put it in. The logic behind the scene is almost like saying “I’ll help you get over physical abuse by punching you in the face”- which is why I’m surprised that I’m saying I think it worked in the book. As illogical as it is, it actually symbolically deals with some of the psychological scarring, making Freudian links to the Oedipal desire to return to the safety of a mother’s care, allowing him to conquer his demons and find a safe space inside his own skull. Yes, yes, I know that still sounds weird- I for one am not normally a fan of Freudian psychology- still this actually gave a small sense of closure that is completely lacking in the show.

Verdict

Ultimately, neither the show nor the book (which I rated 2.5 bananas) were good enough to continue. Everything I liked about one, I didn’t like about the other. I find it very hard to give up on things- but when it came to this, I have no hesitation saying I won’t be continuing. I guess if I want to know how it ends I’ll read spoilers online.

And if you got to the end of through this very long (and very ranty piece) I salute you!

So have you seen/read this? Did you prefer one or the other? And what did you think of that infamous rape? Let me know in the comments!

TV “Tuesday”: A Song of Ice and Fire

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Well it’s not Tuesday for me anymore, but Tuesday somewhere, I guess… Either way, thanks to Codie’s awesome new meme, I have an excuse to talk about my all-time favourite shows Game of Thrones and do a roundup of what was a spectacular Season 6 (I’m biased).

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At this stage, Game of Thrones really needs no introduction- especially not from me. As you all know, I’m completely obsessed! (Obviously, since I couldn’t even go a week without talking about it- and let’s face it- I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the year without it- unless by some miracle Winds of Winter comes out). But just to give you some context, I watched Season 1 wayy back when it first came out and was so in love with it that in the summer I whizzed through all 5 books…. But when I finished A Dance with Dragons, I was dismayed to discover that  George R R Martin takes quite a while in between books :/ Like, a really, really long time (for anyone that doesn’t know). So I, like everyone else, waited with baited breath to see what would happen next, and this year, when the series finally overtook the book, fans of the show were rewarded with some spectacular reveals and some of the best scenes I’ve ever seen on TV!

For a more in depth look at each episode, feel free to check out my reviews for episode, feel free to check out my reviews by episode.

Game of Thrones Goes Off Book

Now That’s More Like It! Game of Thrones Comes Home

Game of Thrones is “Completely Effing Mad”

I Wish the Book of The Stranger Had Set Me On Fire

*OPEN SESAME* When One Door Closes…

Blood of My Blood Was A B+

*Episode 7 or Man Chops Wood was too dull to review*

No One Wins in Game of Thrones

Battle of the Bastards Fought off All My Doubts for this Season

The Winds of Winter Have Arrived

And that’s all for now! (Sadly!) If you enjoyed this meme check out Codie @ReadersAnonymous– its awesome creator!

Are you a Game of Thrones fanatic? What coping mechanisms are using in the long wait for the next series? Let me know in the comments!