The Noughts and Crosses Adaptation Drew a Blank

*Spoilers for both the show and the book*

Full disclosure: my opinions are entirely biased due to my love for the book. If I didn’t adore the series so much, I might have enjoyed this, so take my opinion with a pinch of salt. Unfortunately, this was just one of those times where I felt like constantly whining “but the book was soooo much better!” Even if there were parts of the show that were somewhat compelling, I couldn’t get past the changes enough to appreciate it.

I really should’ve predicted that I wouldn’t like this when I got (unreasonably) irritated by the description of the world as “dystopian” (suggesting that the show was tilting away from the alternate history model to make a different kind of social commentary… something that I was soon proved right about). From the opening shots centring on the subject of police brutality, I could tell we were in for a very different story. Already, I could see this was a more modern take on the novels, but I couldn’t quite get my footing as to how different it would be.

You see, initially I was rather taken with the world of the show. While I had the vaguest impression of the setting from the books, the showrunners went to a lot of trouble bringing Albion to life. With its African music and bright visuals, I was immersed in this alternative Britain, seemingly modelled on South Africa during apartheid. While there were some inconsistencies, like a jumble of different accents, I did get a clear sense of place. I can safely say this was a vast improvement on Blackman’s world building… it’s just a shame about everything else.

callumMy first major issue came from Callum. Instead of having the humble ambitions of going to school, he now wishes to join a military academy. Now, I get that they had to adjust aspects of the story to suit the screen, but this was already a leap too far. It immediately takes away his character arc of being a sensitive and intelligent boy, pushed to violence. Of course, even with him in this new role, they can’t fully commit to him being violent from the start. The writers tried very hard to shoehorn him into his original arc, but without any sign of his original personality… which just made me beg the question why make this change at all?

There is much the same issue with Sephy: her personality has been completely neutered. Aside from being a do-gooder and occasional terrorist sympathiser, she doesn’t have a whole lot going for her. Unlike her book counterpart, we don’t get to see what a scrapper she is or any of her interests (beyond Callum). Worse still, with the characters aged up, her naivety isn’t really excusable. In the book, Sephy loves her father, yet slowly realises what he is truly like. Here she comes across as just a bit thick for not seeing through him. Which leads me onto…

noughts and crossesWTF is going on with the rest of the characters?! Jasmine Hadley is not nearly distant enough; Kamal Hadley apparently has mind control powers (cos I’ve no idea how he somehow convinces everyone to do his bidding). And everyone is oddly redeemable- even Jude. There’s no sense of real development, because from the beginning we know Dorne is the real villain and thus all the other character’s evil deeds can (conveniently) get pinned on him. Everything is more black and white in this version, with far fewer shades of grey. Forget the nuance and tragedy of the book- it’s been brushed away for far less satisfying commentary and lacklustre conclusions.

And on that note, the plot is a mess. While I liked some aspects of the romance (because in this case remembering the book made it easier to enjoy) it moves way too fast. The twists about Kamal and Jasmine Hadley are revealed too soon. Vital characters, like Lynette, are written out. Instead we get waste-of-time subplots, like Yarrow Hadley. Then there are another million pointless changes- that only every make the narrative worse. For starters, there was the “blanker” incident, which the Authentic Observer has already done a great video about. Plus, there’s the time when “gentle” Callum fires live rounds at a crowd of noughts, including his brother (?!?!) And the fact that Jude bombs a hospital instead of a shopping centre (??!?!) And for some reason there’s a lot of speeches in the trial explaining said terrorism… which apparently persuade the judge to go easy (?!?!) And to top it all off that Callum doesn’t choose to go after Sephy OR choose to save Sephy until he knows she’s pregnant OR make any significant choices (beyond the supremely dumb one of going off to live in the woods with a pregnant girl… let’s see how long that lasts 😉).

Naturally they also had to change the ending. I could see from the start the showrunners weren’t bold enough to kill off Callum. And clearly they found other aspects of the story too problematic as well- which is disappointing, not because I wanted to be emotionally scarred (as I was with the book), but because the dark elements were something that stood out in that case. Blackman didn’t talk down to teens or give us the longed-for happy ending, just because that’s what’s expected. She had the courage to tell a story that wasn’t easy, that didn’t make us comfortable, that offered only glimmers of hope.

jude noughts and crosses 2Weirdly, the show’s preachy speeches and teary melodrama demand you take the story seriously. And yet, for all that, it’s less powerful. Putting forward the argument that the world is unjust is far less powerful than showing injustices unfolding. Blackman had the courage to put the story and characters first- and the message was more impactful for it. This adaptation put the message first and butchered the heart of the story. Sadly, the only tragedy here is how much this failed to live up to a beautiful book.

I’m really curious- how many of you have read the series or seen the show? What did you think of either of them? Let me know in the comments!

Monkey at the Movies: TV Roundup! #2

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It’s been a while since I talked about my TV habits– and to be honest that’s cos in the last 6 months, I’ve only watched 4 shows of note… which is why I’ll be recommending them all today. Seems like a good time to kick back and relax 😊 Let’s just jump into it!

Lucifer– I watched the pilot a few years ago, but I wasn’t crazy about it… until I tried it again. Two episodes in and I was hooked! It was more fun than I’ve had in a long time with a TV show- it reminded me of old seasons of Supernatural. I mean, it’s a buddy cop show… with the devil! And if that puts you off, hold on! Because who doesn’t love a good redemption story? And who is a better candidate for that than the one and only Lucifer Morningstar. I absolutely adore the concept and the execution is perfect. The chemistry between Lucifer and Chloe is amazing. The first series was entertaining as hell, the second had a beautiful ending and the third had an incredible plot (though some of the stuff with Pierce was annoying). There was a death I never thought I’d mourn as well- but it really got to me! Plus, there was so much Gaiman, which I loved! Looking forward to catching the last two seasons on Netflix when I get the chance 🙂

Poldark (season 5)– this is the kind of show where I legit cry at every episode. Now, I will admit this was an unusual season, because it wasn’t following the books anymore annnnd it wasn’t perfect. Gonna get a bit spoilery, so be warned. I for one wanted to see the finale tie into the plot that had been going on all season- perhaps have the end link up with the fact the villains had been involved in the slave trade and have their demise be tied into the abolition of slavery. Instead, that whole plotline was kind of irrelevant and it reverted back to the whole fighting France plot- which worked in some ways, it was just a shame it felt a bit old hat at this stage. The pacing wasn’t great either- since George’s madness kept hitting the on-off switch. Still, it was as emotional as ever and there were some real highlights to the season- especially with Caroline and Ennis. So, while I’d say the last season could’ve been better, I’d definitely recommend this series as a whole.

Keeping Faith– I loved this series. Focused on a mysterious disappearance that leaves a loving wife and mother in the lurch… and in increasing danger! It was emotional, moving, entertaining. The story builds and builds, until the dramatic finale. All the acting was amazing- even the children- who are often the weak link yet here shine with some of the best performances. The heroine is *the best*- a nuanced woman, which we rarely see on tv. She’s a mum, she’s accomplished and she’s unapologetically female. The landscape, scenery and atmosphere star as well- really showcasing the beauty of Wales. Many critics were surprised that this seemingly small Welsh thriller ended up being such a huge hit- especially since it was shared pretty much by word of mouth- but I think that’s why it did so well. There’s no frills, no funny business, just good old-fashioned storytelling- and there’s not much more you can ask than that.

His Dark Materials– this. is. the. perfect. adaptation. I’ve waited *forever* to see a good version of one of my all-time favourite fantasy series and THIS WAS IT!!! I am so grateful to finally get to watch this- so you’ll just have to forgive the gush!! I’m not actually someone who is hypercritical of the old adaption- though there were obvious things wrong with it if you’re a fan of the books. As Pullman said, there wasn’t enough room in that movie. Thankfully, the story is given space to breathe here and it’s glorious for it. There is so much to love about the BBC’s His Dark Materials. I adored so much of the casting- McAvoy is an *awesome* Asriel, Lin-Manuel Miranda brings swagger to the role of Lee, Ruth Wilson is chilling as Mrs Coulter and I think the new Lyra is incredible!! Just amazing!! I did like the old cast, but I am *so happy* with this one!! The graphics are beautiful as well! I also love the foreshadowing and crossover with The Subtle Knife– that’s a sharp touch I wouldn’t have thought they’d include. It seemed determined to make me cry every episode as well. I’m just completely buzzing about this!

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!

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!

As Predicted, Good Omens was More Than Just “Good”

Well this was a thoroughly enjoyable read… about the apocalypse. Yup- you read that right. This a comedy about the end of the world. The likes of which only the combined genius of Pratchett and Gaiman could have come up with. Melding their equally sharp wits and sense of humour, they created one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a long while. And obviously, it’s packed full with lots and lots of laugh out loud moments!

Brilliantly written, chock full of hilarious and colourful characters and with a great story to book- it’s no wonder this became a cult classic. Happily, there’s a great story as well. In an elegant fashion, we move from the beginning of the universe, right up until the point when it’s doomed to end. As you might expect, it’s an incredibly complex story, with a lot of layers, and the absolute worst thing you could do as a reviewer for such an ineffably multifaceted work is lose one’s notes… which is exactly what I’ve gone and done. Either that or I was too distracted by the book to write anything down, cos it’s just that good 😉

So, I’m working on the fly here, which is a little tricky when we’re talking about such EPIC scale things like god, global catastrophes and intriguing philosophies. Because of course this is more than just surface-level entertainment. As I’ve come to expect from these two powerhouses, this is a fascinating approach on the nature of good and evil, the shades of grey in between and whether angels can indeed dance on the head of a pin.

Ultimately, this small book packs a punch and is one I’ll more than happily reread (maybe next time I’ll manage to take notes 😉). Fortunately though, the fun didn’t stop there, because I managed to catch the adaptation on Prime!

Now, you’ve probably heard about the (patently absurd) scandal around this, which spectacularly backfired, so you might have already heard more sane people rising to the show’s defence and raving about how good it is!

Visually stunning and with a lot of great performances- especially from Tenant and Sheen (no surprises there)- this managed to both fully reflect the qualities of the book, whilst not being the exact same thing. There were changes- as expected- but nothing that was detrimental to the original. Some parts were streamlined and there were brilliant additions (I’ll get to in a moment), but most importantly, this captured the spirit of the original.

Speaking of parts not in the book (told you I’d get there), the opening to episode three, which explored Crowley and Aziraphale’s relationship in full was beautifully done. While taking up half the episode’s run time, it was so seamlessly integrated that I almost felt like I must have read it. What I liked best about it, however, was how it felt like a tribute to Pratchett and Gaiman’s friendship- and it felt all the more poignant for that. In fact, the whole backstory of how this show ended up being made makes me pretty emotional.

So, let’s hop skip and a jump to that final showdown before I tear up again! And gosh, it was done well. While a little different to the book, I did love the show’s twist ending and it certainly did its job of keeping me on my toes.

Gotta give these both 5 bananas- meaning ten in total- after all there’s no need to be stingy since they saved us from the end times…

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Have you read or watched this? What do you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

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!

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!