I am completely obsessed with You…

youThe book and TV show… why what did you think I meant? 😉 Kepnes infamous story about social media stalking in the modern age certainly grabbed my attention and now I’d like to share it with *you*. So, what can you expect from this book about a New York love affair gone very, very wrong?

Immediately, you will be struck by the unreliable narrator. Combining a biting wit with an exceptional use of second person pov, you will find the execution of this novel is top notch. This unique style allows for stand out characterisation and a story that captivates and horrifies in equal measure. Now, you might have seen a fair amount of criticism for the crassness and vulgar language… to which I say: what do you expect? Yes, a stalker and dangerous individual is less than polite and uses violent means to get his way. To me, anything else would be a dishonest representation of reality. Naturally, you will agree that it is unnerving to be this up close and personal to evil- but that is what really works about this book (admittedly the show has a different take… more on that later).

Another criticism you might have is that the characters are all pretentious a-holes. Which is true- but given that they’re viewed through the lens of a psycho stalker, you might be inclined to let them off the hook. Again, you will find this an ingenious way of letting you inside his twisted mind. Every portrayal he shows you will be warped beyond recognition and every barb he directs at others can be thrown back at him.

Either way, you will discover there’s something enigmatic about the distinctive writing. This voicey book gives you more characterisation than a thousand thrillers combined. You will come to see it as more of a character study than a typical story.

Most importantly, you will be compelled to the finish line as if someone is chasing you down a dark alleyway. Truth be told, you may find the plot fairly predictable- but that’s because when you’re trapped in a terrifying place with no way out, there really is only one way it can go down. All the bodies littered throughout make the ending inevitable. So if you are like me and you like *BIG* twist thrillers, you might not end up giving it 5*. But that’s okay, because you know it’s a great book regardless. And you may decide that, while you’re not sure you need a series of books in this vein, you’re still invested enough to check out the Netflix adaptation…

Okay, I’m gonna stop with the second person because you get the idea 😉 Also the voice is used slightly differently in the TV show. In fact, there were a number of distinctions between the book and the show: the timeline, the characters and even the relationship have all shifted. Most importantly, the more lovey dovey romance makes the show more of a deconstruction of rom coms than the danger of Social Media. While still present, the idea of stalking someone online is made light of at times when (for reasons I can’t fathom) Stalker Joe tells her he’s been following her?! Aside from the illogical tint this gives the story, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this take. I think that the ideas it was presenting, while not entirely in line with the book, were still valid critiques on society. Plus, on the more positive side, this did flesh out some aspects better.

Characters who weren’t given a proper voice in the book (understandably) did finally get their chance to speak for themselves. I liked that while Peaches made more sense as a character, the tv version didn’t remove her shades of grey. I also loved Blythe and Ethan- as different as the latter was to the book counterpart. Most significantly, we actually got her perspective. And it’s good- it’s very good. She gets to be a far more well-rounded character and her life is given importance its so lacking in the book- which makes the impact of the narrative greater still. I liked that they even had her talk to herself in the second person- it was a nice touch.

Having said that, the show’s desire to fill in some aspects meant that the things Joe does make less sense sometimes. There was more of an attempt to make him likeable and misdirect the viewer into thinking he’s not an entirely terrible person. For instance, he genuinely cares about Paco, which felt strangely out of character for me as someone who’d read the book (and was the first major indicator that the book and show were going to be different entities). Again, I wasn’t quite convinced whether I liked that he was more sympathetic. On the one hand, it made him less predatory… but on the other there was more of an unnerving sense that this could really happen to anyone. It didn’t hurt, either, that unlike the book closing off its ending, the show had a chilling end that left me wanting more.

Ultimately, I found the show just a bingeable as the book was a page turner. Sure, they were different, but this didn’t impact the quality. I gave both the book and show:

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So have you read or watched this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

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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!

Nitpicky Review of Big Little Lies TV Show

*All the spoiler warnings, cos I’m really gonna sink my teeth into this one… enjoy!*

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I made no secret of the fact I was MASSIVELY fond of the book Big Little Lies. So I knew it would be hard for any adaptation to live upto that. The problem I often find with loving something that much is that desire to nitpick an adaptation’s every flaw, even if it’s totally fine. That said, I don’t think I could deny how frustrated I was with this version. While it was a nice take, it simply didn’t bring the book to life for me. By transposing the story from a small town in Australia to glitzy American coastlines, it failed to capture the claustrophobic and intense feel of the original. More than that, it felt like the narrative had a distinctly Hollywood makeover. It no longer felt like a unique and different tale; rather it was boiled down to a generic TV drama. Though I think the cast did a magnificent job- so much so I almost didn’t regret the change of scene for the price of such excellent acting chops- ultimately the characters morphed into nothing more than Hollywood actresses. The spunky individuality of the heroines was lost and the personalities were gutted to make way for extra glamour.

madeline big little liesThe closest the adaptation came to reaching the original’s panache was with its interpretation of Madeline. However, there were still some decisions made for her story arc that I could only respond to with a big fat WHYYYY?! And the answer always seemed to be ***forced drama***. Of course, there were slight changes, like writing out Madeline’s son, which I didn’t totally object to, yet there were some aspects that basically butchered her role as a mother and a wife. For starters I HATED what they did to her mostly-functioning relationship with Ed. One of the best things about the book was that it showed a realistic, lovely (second) marriage. It didn’t present it as perfect- but I totally loved the way their personalities meshed and how they acted as a team. Book Ed himself was intuitive, worthwhile and one of the good guys- a fact that was so important for the ending when it reaffirms Madeline’s love for him. Here he’s a doormat to be cheated on. Yup- one of the big secrets is *they had an affair*- oohh big whoop, like we’ve never seen that one before. All the interesting parts of their marriage were gutted for this cheap, generic drama.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only relationship lost its complexity. Because of the affair takes centre stage, the mother-daughter relationship is forced out of the limelight. Abigail’s resolution is inserted earlier in the plot, so as not to detract from the *ahem* important stuff. To add insult to injury, Madeline’s focus on her child is sidestepped, since this whole subplot ends up centring on the fact she’s still in love with Nathan (umm why). Where in the book she still feels the sting of betrayal, it’s not like she puts their failed marriage on a pedestal and the fear she’s losing her daughter is the most important thing to her.

renata big little liesOne of the best parts of the book was its focus on mummy drama- and this never quite translated into the show. There were some attempts to broaden the conversation, such as fleshing out Renata’s character, which I appreciated, but ultimately this ended up sending out the oh-so-empowering message that all women ought to fit into a certain mould. Gone was the tension of being a career mum vs a stay at home mum, because in this TV show, like everything Hollywood pumps out, the *correct* choice is career mum. Everyone just admires Renata and wants to emulate her life… which is a slap in the face to people who don’t make that decision. What I liked about the book was that it essentially showed that it didn’t denigrate either choice, while showing the friction between the two. Here, it felt like the sting was taken out of that clash far too early because heaven forbid there would be some tension between the female characters.

celeste whatDon’t get me wrong- the female friendships were one of the best things in the book- and that was executed really well here. Even so, the showrunners couldn’t resist changing things. Instead of exploring Celeste’s misplaced shame and how she deliberately hides the abuse, this has to make her more open. This was important in the book, since it emphasised the idea that it could happen to anyone and no one really knows what a marriage is like behind closed doors. The secrecy was also a way for the narrative to show Celeste’s slow her slow realisation just how dangerous her marriage is. Some parts of this were still done really well- Perry was more controlling for one thing and Kidman did a fantastic job of portraying Celeste’s stress. Nonetheless, it wasn’t perfect and I felt it managed to make a mockery of the therapist (since Perry literally admits to her that he hits her… and she does nothing).

jane big little liesThis was far from the most impactful change. Personally, I felt it was really powerful in the book that the reader had to wade through murky waters to find out what had happened to Jane. The book dealt with her shame, her gratitude for Ziggy and her trauma in a far more multifaceted way- especially since it was never clear if it could be classified as rape. That technicality was significant, since it addressed the fact that sometimes the lines between a crime and human suffering don’t always match up. It was a bold move for the book to deal with these grey areas and it showed how hard it was for Jane to recognise her pain in the midst of all that ambiguity. Her uncertainty added to her distress. Here, there was no such subtlety. With the usual desire to show women as strong all the damn time in TV, Jane is a far more certain, angry and put together character. She lacked the vulnerability and agreeableness of her bookish counterpart- so much so I didn’t see them as the same character at all. This sucked out the possibility for her growth and recovery- because, like Celeste, she doesn’t get to make these conclusions in the course of the show, she’s already there. Every part of the story is laid out, since Jane is far more open and so the intriguing Saxon Banks element is stripped in favour of a far more simplistic *I just want to confront this dodgy fellow* plot point.

bonnieNaturally, this ended up having a massive impact on the conclusion. The motivations were stretched thin and subplots (like the French nanny) were discarded altogether. To me, one of the most disappointing changes wasn’t that it was a collective effort to overcome Perry, it was that half the characters who should’ve been there weren’t on the balcony. However, the main problem was still with the characterisation. Like some of the other representations, Bonnie simply wasn’t Bonnie. This meant that the last scene didn’t have the right impact at all. The shift from the sickly sweet hippy to lioness defending her own never happens- so we don’t get to see how kickass this character actually is. It goes back to what I loved so much about the book: the characters were all so much larger than life, and yet so real. In this show, they were all squeezed into conventional types. Worst of all, they all became distinctly unlikeable. In the book it was such a balancing act to find the good in them and I eventually found every one of them sympathetic. Their hidden depths took me by surprise- whereas this adaptation did everything by the book.

Phew- I hope people will forgive this rant. It’s not that this is a terrible show by any stretch of the imagination. The production value was great, it was beautifully shot and the soundtrack was amazing. I was just aggrieved with the direction it took and it didn’t live do the book justice in the way I’d hoped- but as the final song in the note the show ended on says: you can’t always get what you want…

And yes, I went with the Rolling Stones version, cos the original is always the best 😉 Anyway, no banana rating since it’s hard to determine where this lies between its quality and my *feels*. But dare I ask- have you seen this? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

Movies (and TV shows) That Were Better Than The Book

So I mentioned a few days ago that there are a fair number of movies I like better than their book counterpart and I thought I’d share them with you! I should probably say, first of all, that these are adaptations I personally prefer- not that they’re actually better- to each their own and all that jazz. Anyhoo, let’s get to this:

Princess Diaries– to be fair, I really really dislike these books. The main character is whiny, most of the other characters are pretty loathsome and basically this book got on my last nerves. The movie, on the other hand, is a lot of fun (I think the books did get more bearable, imo, although the second film was… ehh).

Stardust– I feel like this comes up in every “better than the book” list ever. And there’s a reason for that- and it’s not that the book is bad- it’s just that the movie is seriously A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! I get all light and happy when I think about it!!

Oliver!- well for one thing, Fagin comes across as slightly less of an anti-Semitic trope in the musical (I’m not even sorry for pointing that out, cos if you think a money grubbing, dirty Jew character that preys on children isn’t anti-Semitic, then maybe have a long hard look in a history book). I do like Dickens, but that last statement should probably explain why I’m not the biggest fan of this book. On the positive side for this musical, it’s practically perfect in every way, so there’s also that. And yes, the musical is more chocolate-boxy than the book, but I prefer it that way.

Game of Thrones– this is a curious one for me to include, because I’m increasingly realising how well these work in tandem. What worked best (imo) was the TV showrunners cutting the fat from the original books. And boy, is there a lot of fat. In fact, some of this is literal- why on earth there needs to be long, tedious descriptions of feasts and food, I have no idea. Add to that a bunch of characters in later books I had limited interest in and, yeah, I’ll happily admit to liking the TV show more (most of the time, when characters aren’t going north of the wall wearing impenetrable plot armour and fighting zombie bears… man that was dumb)

Lord of the Rings– ermm I think I’m about to have my Tolkien-fangirl card revoked for saying this… I just prefer the movies! I’m sorry! Don’t get me wrong, I really love the books- only the LOTR movies are probably my favourite movies ever. The way I see it, the LOTR movies streamline the story and deliver the emotional punch of a lot of the backstories and are simply full of epic awesomeness- okay? (I do however much prefer the Hobbit book, not just because it’s up there as one of my fave books, but also cos the Hobbit movies suck- and yes, I will fight you on that *catch me outside*)

The Last Kingdom– this is another one that might piss of fans of the books. Hear me out, I did actually really enjoy reading the first four books (and am waiting on number 5 at the library) I just think the TV show got my blood pumping with *even more* fervour than the books did. And I also frankly adored the portrayal and slight changes to Uhtred’s character, which made him even more likeable.

Bleak House– poor Dickens isn’t getting very nice treatment from me today, because the main reason why I prefer the tv version is that I saw it first, and that ruined a lot of the book’s impact for me. I do think this translated so well to the small screen and it’s one of my favourite adaptations, while, like many of the others on this list, it’s not one of my favourite books.

Okay, that’s my list! It’s not very long, because I usually like the book better. Anyway, what movies do you think are better than the book? Let me know in the comments!

And thank you so much for your brilliant responses to my last post- I’m still going through them and I’m thoroughly enjoying every single one! 😀

Game of Thrones Season 3 “Chaos is a Ladder”

*Spoilers galore for Season 3*

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Yep, for anyone who keeps a good track of my online movements, this is a day late. But ho hum, I really couldn’t get this done in time yesterday and honestly I wanted to do this phenomenal season justice. Because it is phenomenal. With little details, like starting with the title valar doharis in response to last season’s valar morghulis episode, absorbing conversations and some of the best quotes like “chaos is a ladder… the climb is all there is”. *Ooh shudders all round*. That line alone should explain why I love this season the most.

Daenerys Targaryen

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This is probably my favourite Dany season (I don’t know if I say that every week? Whatever, I loved Dany in all the earlier seasons). I absolutely love how she took on the Masters in this series… and wins! Her liberation of slavers bay is one of the most inspiring moments in the show- heck in TV history! And I love how she uses her wits as well. It’s at this point that I’ll admit my notes devolved into SHE IS A TRUE QUEEN. Plus, she has dragons, and all that dragon-y awesomeness has a tendency to take over my senses.

There’s also *amazing* scenes with Selmy and she gathers many advisors (Missandei, Grey Worm, Daario Naharis). The best advice comes from Jorah Mormont though: “Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly, Rhaegar fought honourably and Rhaegar died.” And I also love how she says “I wish I had known him but he was not the last dragon.”

Anyway, Dany’s role in season 3 one of the reasons I see this as the best series that ever was or will be.

Davos Seaworth

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Speaking of heroes, one of my favourites, Davos, has chance to shine this season. Especially as he constantly opposes the Red Woman. Because she’s totes not evil or anything as she goads him about his dead son and casts her spell over Stannis (and his batty wife). She spends the whole using blood magic (always interesting to wonder how successful this is) and Davos spends the entire season standing upto her. Silly Gendry gets caught in her snare and it’s only thanks to Davos that he escapes. Incidentally, it’s also because of this that Gendry ends up rowing for three years…

 

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And if you’re in any doubt about how much of a sweetheart Davos is, just rewatch those lovely scenes with Shireen, where she teaches him how to read.

Jon Snow

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Jon has a slower ascent to herodom this series. At the beginning of the series, he has to turn his coat and join the Wildlings. A lot of this naturally centres on his relationship with Ygritte (most notably in that cave). Her character is developed so much and they have that phenomenally romantic kiss atop the Wall… but it’s heartrending when he has to reveal his true colours…  

Which is why we’re back to Jon McPoutyface by the end of the season.

Samwell Tarly

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While we’re still beyond the Wall, now would be a good time to talk about Sam, who has a fairly eventful season. Not least because he spends time getting cosy with Gilly (to be fair, he doesn’t have a lot of choice, they’d freeze to death if they didn’t stick together), but also as Ghost saves him from a Walker, he just about escapes the mutiny where Mormont is murdered (such a tragic end for that character, GRRM is amazing at giving people what they least deserve), and finally saves Gilly from a White Walker. Phew- that’s a lot for one sentence! Also it’s a massive testament to how important and interesting his storyline gets.

Still, there is one great mystery about Sam’s character that I’ll never fully understand- how does he spend all that time starving and doing any exercise and never lose any weight?

Theon Greyjoy

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Annnd this character experiences the exact opposite of growth. He is literally broken down bit by bit. It is a sensational, shocking introduction to Ramsay’s psychotic mind games and Theon, stupid berk that he is, walks straight into every trap that he lays. Really, I didn’t have the mind to rewatch any of the torture scenes– they were too much for me the first time round- but the overall feeling is the same regardless. He loses everything of himself, his manhood, his name, and even his ability to accept help from his sister. He becomes one of the most tragic figures on the show. This is cemented by Ramsay’s enigmatic line: “if you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”

Sansa Stark

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Yet another season of misery for Sansa. She gets played, like a fool, by all the vipers in the court. This includes Olenna, who ultimately betrays Sansa and sets her up for a fall later on… but we won’t get into that too much. Either way, we get to see all her hopes sail off, and is married off to poor old Tyrion- all thanks to Tywin’s endless scheming- speaking of which…

Tyrion Lannister

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Oh my goodness, Tywin’s a shit to Tyrion. He bats aside Tyrion’s achievements and makes him master of coin. I’m also pretty sure that when Tywin paired him off with Sansa he never had any intention of keeping them both alive.

In terms of how Tywin’s plotting, it’s both genius and yet has an element of short-sightedness. As powerful as it sounds to say things like: “Let them remember what happens when the north marches on the south”, Tyrion rightly points out: “Every time we deal with one of our enemies, we create two more.” Still, Tywin’s pretty badass, recalling the story of Rains of Castamere and sending Joffrey “the most powerful man in Westeros to bed with no supper”.

Tyrion has his own tussles with Joffrey- and I do love his line: “Monsters are dangerous and just now kings are dying like flies”. Naturally, he has to backtrack a little and is smart enough to play dumb. And to my mind that still makes him the cleverest Lannister- which actually leads me onto one of my favourite scenes between him and Cersei:

Cersei: “You’re a clever man but you’re not half as clever as you think you are.”

Tyrion: “Still makes me more clever than you.”

BURNNN!

Cersei Lannister

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I love to hate Cersei’s character. I mean, she’s a bit of a spiteful idiot and yet, there’s something compelling about her. Now, as Tywin puts it “I don’t distrust you because you’re a woman I distrust you because you’re not as smart as you think you are.” It’s very entertaining watching her trying to outcompete Marjery this season and I can’t help but root for her in these little contests (yes, this I am effectively saying “I have sympathy for the devil”). I guess this just shows how little I care for Marjery. I do like what the show did with Marjery- making her more active in the plot- still I often feel irritated by her shenanigans. Sure, she’s successfully manipulating Joffrey, however, it’s not like her ploy is genius. And I can’t root for her humanitarian actions, because she’s a complete phony and her motivation is bland. It says a lot how much more I am invested in Cersei than her.

Jaime Lannister

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Of course, Cersei is not a character I ever grow to like, unlike Jaime. And this is the season where that finally happens. I won’t say that even here my feelings about Jaime changed overnight- it develops as slowly as his relationship with Brienne. To me, this is one of the greatest relationships on the show and personally I never see it as romantic. It’s simply touching how they come to appreciate and understand each other. They come to each other’s rescue and one of the finest scenes is with Jaime taking a bath, vulnerable and injured, telling her the truth about saving King’s Landing from Aerys Targaryen. At last we get to see that he’s not the evil man he pretends to be, his only fault is pride.

It is this pride, which has cost him his reputation, and is inevitably one of the causes for him losing his hand. Partly, it’s repayment for him saving Brienne (and by GRRM rules, heroic deeds have a price), partly it’s thanks to Tywin’s arrogance doing a deal with the devil (oh we’ll get to that), yet mostly, in that moment, it’s because he never sees that he could come to any harm. And that’s what angers his lowborn captors. They teach him the lesson that no one is safe in Westeros. The thing is, this outcome was easily avoided had Jaime only been a bit cooperative (or had he been as smart as Tyrion, who has a habit of surviving such encounters, just sayin’). Anyway, Jaime’s tragedy is that he is always kind of doomed to always be viewed as the villain, especially when you take moments like this out of context:

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Robb Stark

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As we all know Season 3 was Robb’s most eventful season… and his last (*sobs*). Things kick off with trouble brewing in his camp and the Karstarks completely out of control. They antagonise him, saying “You lost this war the minute you married her” and murder a couple of boy prisoners… so all in all, not good. But things go from bad to worse when Robb decides to execute them, even though he hypocritically didn’t kill Jaime for the same crime. So yeah, this bit of injustice is followed with Karstarks infamous last words: “Kill me and be cursed. You are no king of mine.”

But if you think that’s bad politicking, it gets so much worse. Because despite all the advice I retroactively gave Robb in my season 2 post, Robb’s foolishness knows no bounds when he thinks he can ask the Freys for help. Again, he goes from a position of weakness: “I’ve won every battle but I’m losing this war” and seeks his mother’s “wise” counsel. Cat does have a moment of clarity early in the season when she says (somewhat superstitiously): “All this horror that’s come to my family, it’s because I couldn’t love a motherless child.” That doesn’t make her change her ways- she still thinks the best course of action is to “show them what it’s like to lose everything you love”.  For some reason the best course of action they come up with is to have Edmure marry a Frey and then walk in there for a marriage feast… riiiight. Robb, helpfully, also decides to lock Greywind up outside.

Now, I can’t entirely blame Robb or Cat for what comes to pass– you have to be straight up evil to do what comes next. It’s very deliberately shown how Walder offers his food to the northerners and invokes guest right. So even with the sarky clapping from Walder and crudity as Edmure marries miss “Frey” (is it a Fray? I never know for sure), it’s not like they could see what “The hospitality you deserve” would entail.

And oh man this is the hardest thing to watch/rewatch/read about. Cat is the first to see the song change. She notices the mail under Bolton’s clothes. She does try to act, but alas, it’s too late. As you watch, the music and mood changes from jollity to the sombre notes of Rains of Castamere. What makes this such compelling TV is not whether you know it’s coming or not (in fact I avoided this episode for a couple of weeks when it originally aired, because I knew what was going to happen), it’s that it never gets easier to watch. Far from just shock value, you get added details like Talisa and Robb being in love, celebrating her being pregnant… and ach it’s just too ghastly! All the while Walder Frey drinks as they die and the last thing he hears is:

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Catelyn’s last gambit of grabbing Walder’s wife comes to nothing and her scream is the last thing we hear before everything fades away. I actually always feel sorry for her in that moment (yes, despite everything I’ve said about her). That silence at the end of the episode is incredibly powerful. And that is why all of us GOT fans are still traumatised by the Red Wedding.

Arya Stark

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The person I feel sorriest for this season is Arya. She is both terribly lucky not to be reunited with her family and devastatingly unlucky. Yes, she’s fortunate to get out of Harrenhal before everyone there is killed, but that means she just misses Robb getting there. Yes, she gets away from the Brotherhood and end up in the surprisingly safe company of the Hound, but her anxious excitement over seeing her family is dashed. The upside is she gets to live; the downside is she outlives a lot of her family.

It’s agonising when she sees the betrayal and the symbolic moment when the wolf is killed. It’s heartbreaking to see what happens to the north men. And poor Arya witnesses it all and has to listen to all the horrible things that happens to her family. But don’t mess with Arya Stark- when she meets some Frey men on the road she shows no mercy…

Bran Stark

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I don’t much feel like talking a huge amount about Bran’s journey- he’s not one of my favourite characters- and his journey into becoming an ALL POWERFUL warg (the most special of wargs) never interests me as much as it should. I quite like the Reeds, but I’ve little time for Rickon’s painful acting, apart from *that one scene we all know about in season 6*. What I do like is the story of the rat cook, killing a guest beneath his roof and being doomed to eat his own for all eternity- which is a nice bit of foreshadowing for what will become of the Freys…

But that’s enough *hint hint, nudge nudge* for one review! This is obviously one of the most harrowing seasons in TV history, but it’s probably my favourite (I have no idea what that says about me). What do you think of season 3 of Game of Thrones? And are you still scarred by the Red Wedding? Let me know in the comments!

Game of Thrones Season 2 “A Very Small Man Can Cast A Very Large Shadow”

*This post is dark and full of spoilers for season 2 and plenty of HINTS for later on*

Hello all! I’m back with my second instalment of my Game of Thrones series review! If you missed last week’s, you can catch up here.

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I will admit, rewatching Game of Thrones, I forgot how dark the show was. I guess with the more fantastical, hopeful aspects of the later series, it had slipped my mind. These early stories are all “out of the frying pan and into the fire”. There’s harrowing scenes littered throughout, including the murder of all Robert’s bastard children and Bran’s visions of death. At the same time, there’s grim visual settings, like the Red Waste, Harrenhal and the Garden of Bones. And of course, we get our first look at the army of the dead. While I rarely think of season 2 as the most memorable, there’s certainly a lot to it.

Daenerys Targaryen

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One of the best pieces of imagery that ties the whole first episode together is the red comet and as we’re told it “means one thing- dragons”. I love how this again hints at the connection Dany has to all of Westeros, even in exile. This is of course the cue for Daenerys “Where’s my dragons?” Targaryen. Of course this is the season where she comes into her own as the mother of dragons. It is a season where she has to make difficult choices and sacrifices– so well exemplified by her vision of the throne room covered in ice (not so subtle foreshadowing) where she must leave behind the dream of her husband and child, as life calls her back. And that call is of her baby dragons who need their mother.

She doesn’t have a whole lot of power to begin with, exemplified by her ragged appearance at the gates of Qarth, yet she becomes even more queenly than the previous season. Perhaps it is because even borne so low, she never loses that regal quality. I think this is one of my high points for Dany, because even with so little, she has such a commanding presence in this series.

However, she does some shall-we-say morally ambiguous things in this season too– namely locking the scum who betrayed her in a vault to die. *Ahem*, yeah, I know it’s wrong, but I can’t say I blame her for that one. It does however act as a precursor for some of her more dubious actions later on.

Jon Snow

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I feel sorry for Jon in this (and every) series- I mean he was made to stand out- he’s sharp and has a strong moral compass regarding Craster’s sons- but he’s constantly pushed into the shadows and told to shut up. However: “You want to lead one day, then learn how to follow” is good advice for all the would-be leaders on the show. Highlight for season 7 spoilers: It kinda makes me more forgiving of him bending the knee to Dany, only I wish it hadn’t been one sides and wish they had pledged themselves to each other instead.

Speaking of humility- it turns out that what our hero needed was a wildling girl to tell him “You know nothing Jon Snow”. And as a major plus, he gets one of the best love stories in the show, because Ygritte is simply awesome- SO CHEER UP JON! (alright spoilers, but given how that one turns out, I can’t blame him for pouting there)

He does also have tough challenges like killing Qhorin Halfhand- but he steps up and actually does it- showing not for the last time that he is not a Stark (truthfully, I’ve no idea if the Starks are capable of that, but it’s an interesting question). Personally I think this shows he has both honour and wit.

Moving on to someone who has neither of those…

Theon Greyjoy

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WTF Theon?! Why are you so thick!! Sorry, had to get that out my system. He makes *the worst* decisions this series. It’s bad enough that he decides to switch sides in the war, making him a traitor (though I guess one could argue he was a traitor to his own house before) still, on top of that, he gets a very simple task and effs it up. I mean, I’m hardly condoning the notion of “paying the Iron price”- yet does he really think people need moral support in reeving and raping? Really?! He’s trying to play this honourable leader figure to people whose main purpose in life is to raid and pillage. Plus he gets good advice from people like Yara and Maister Lewin annnd he totally ignores it.

There’s also a ton of things he shouldn’t have said this season:

  • “Winterfell has stood for a thousand years”– that’s TV code for it’s about to burn to the ground.
  • “I’m looking at spending the rest of my life looking at spending the rest of my life looking like a fool and a eunuch”– *ahem*, awkward…
  • “It’s better to be cruel than weak”– are you sure? Tell me that after one of your sessions with Ramsay Bolton.

Okay, I know I’m being excessively harsh, but he did betray his friends, murder two innocent children and a shit ton of other things. My sympathy for Theon at this point in the story was at rock bottom.

Onto other mistakes…

Robb Stark

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Ahh poor Robb, a great military leader, but OH MY GOODNESS he makes *so many* mistakes. Let’s go through them shall we:

  • Trusting a Greyjoy. Actually, scratch that- just trusting Theon- that guy has snake written all over him.
  • He should’ve stayed in the North. I know, it’s closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, but at this point, they didn’t have all that much to gain from military action. Once Ned was dead, the cause feels more aimless and trying to get to King’s Landing seems like a waste of time. Even if you say “oh it’s to save Sansa”, that’s nonsense, because the Lannister’s would have killed her before he ever reached the capital. I dunno, maybe I’m crazy saying they could’ve sued for peace- I just know, tactically speaking, they could have held the North on their own and they couldn’t take the South, so…
  • Not attempting to trade Jaime earlier, before things got out of hand. And then, like I said, RETURN TO THE NORTH. With Sansa and compensation (crazy idea, I know).
  • Yeah marrying someone for a bridge is pretty dumb- but do you know what’s more dumb? Marrying someone else when you’re already engaged for political reasons. Look, I get it, I used to love his romance with Talisa- however knowing everything that comes to pass… it’s too hard to watch it with blinkers on. I did like his little jibe at Cat though when she criticises him: “the only parent I have left has no right to call anyone reckless.”

Honestly, I don’t know if my suggestions would have made things better, it’s just speculation on my part, but I think we can all be certain (knowing the events of season 3) IT COULDN’T HAVE BEEN MUCH WORSE. I feel like this entire season is laying groundwork for the catastrophes that are to come. Yet, if you think I’m letting Cat off the hook for her part, you have another thing coming…

Catelyn Stark

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Now I’ve already said that I think there was an option for a prisoner swap (actually, I didn’t mention this last time, but there’s a lot of times when she’s partially right- still she only ever gives enough advice to have leeway to say “I told you so”, never mind that the other half of her advice is always godawful). *However* swapping the Kingslayer for two girls had to come with more provisos- aka money and peace. Yet, Cat’s still got her eye on revenge, when she should be taking in the whole bloody picture.

Again, her negotiation style leaves a lot to be desired– how can you say to two grown men who call themselves kings “I’ll knock your heads together”? Really, Cat? Thanks for your oh-so-helpful input. But if you want to talk about non-negotiations- letting Jaime go in exchange for his word is INSANE! If you really believe the Lannisters are the villains you say they are- then what the hell are you thinking?!?

Stannis Baratheon

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From one awful character to another- and I’m not just talking about Stannis. I’m of course referring to the Red Woman. She’s one of the most evil characters in the show- and that’s saying something! She kills people for no reason and says charming things like “You will betray everything you once held dear”- good pep talk I guess? She also is a bit of a fraud- I mean, she had to know sticking a random sword in a fire wasn’t going to make it Lightbringer- or is she a fool? It’s a possibility, since her catchphrase is “the night is dark and full of terrors” and doesn’t realise she’s evil.

Not to say that Stannis isn’t awful too. Let’s discuss some of the things he does wrong:

  • He sleeps with some bloody weird priestess, not only breaking his vow to his wife, but creating a demon baby to kill his brother.
  • He decided not to align with the Northmen out of pride that they were taking half your kingdom- dude you lived under the Targaryen’s and never thought to be king- why are you so attached to it?
  • He has this righteous arrogance and thinks he’s the chosen one- which he uses to justify *anything*.
  • He has no heart– I mean not only does he not care when people are burned alive in his name, he also sacrifices all of his men at the battle of Blackwater and is pretty callous about it.

So yeah, not a fan of Stannis. There was a point later when I almost liked him, but that’s a story for another post.  The Onion Knight is awesome though.

Tyrion Lannister

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On the other side of the Battle of Blackwater, Tyrion gets the chance to shine and boy does he LIGHT IT UP WITH DRAGONFIRE BABY! Okay, I’m getting carried away, but this is one of Tyrion’s best moments. He shows he’s a master manipulator and the best Hand of the King. He manages to get Varys on side, use Littlefinger and expose treacherous Maester Pycelle. He also blackmails Lancel to spy on Cersei and puts Joffrey in his place. All whilst looking out for people like Sansa.

Sansa Stark

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Poor Sansa has a crap time of it this season. Cersei and her monstrous son take full advantage of her vulnerability. I did have one criticism for her this season in that I always thought she should have had courage to go with the Hound– she knew he’d protect her and frankly even if Stannis had won the battle, she’d have just flitted from one cage to another. BUT I did appreciate some of the smart things she did, like how her quick thinking saves Ser Dontos from being murdered and how she plays her part very well when she’s released from her engagement.

Cersei Lannister

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With more freedom afforded her, we get to know Cersei better this season. Her saying “love no one but your children” to Sansa sums her up completely. There’s interesting elements in Cersei developing Joffrey’s sadistic stupidity (both this season and the last filling his head up with arrogance and idiocy). However, I appreciated seeing Blackwater from her personal angle. When I think of season 2, I often get images of her, entertaining the frightened hens of her court, getting drunk, wishing she could be a part of the man’s world and having the only courage afforded to her, waiting on the throne with Tommen as the battle rages. Sure, she does terrible things and she’s not that smart (calling Joffrey away from the battle kills morale) but I can’t deny there’s something very iconic and human about her on the brink of taking her own life, telling a story, with the notes of Rains of Castamere starting up in the background.

Arya Stark

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Now I would be remiss to not to talk of another strong female character. With her sharpened wits and her little blade, she begins her adventure with Jacquen. Well, I use the term “adventure” very loosely. She watches people get murdered, tortured and everything in between. There’s a very poignant scene when she asks “how do you sleep?” And with everything she’s seen, it’s no wonder she has trouble. Yet she does not let that deter her, constructing a scheme to help her and her friends escape the horrific Harrenhal.

One of the best things about this season is her interactions with Tywin. I know this is fictionalised for the show, yet it works so well. And of course, I haven’t had time to talk about Tywin in either of these reviews, but let’s just say, I think the character, introduced last season symbolically skinning a deer, is enigmatic.

So how did you feel about season 2? What did you all think of some of the character decisions? In particular, what do you think about my alternative Robb Stark strategies- yay or nay? I’m open to hearing all your suggestions! 

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…

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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!