No Shade for the Shadow and Bone Adaptation!

Like everyone and their mother, I’ve been bingeing this series. And like most people, I’ve been absolutely loving it.

It’s the best kind of adaptation. Taking the source material and enhancing it with some big changes, it’s truly a delight for fans (and newbies) to the Grishaverse. I have to confess, I was never a huge fan of the original series, yet really fell for the follow up duology Six of Crows. The prospect of seeing them in later series was what made me so excited about this show. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to wait so long, as this manages to weave the new characters into the older story (giving us scenes I didn’t know we needed!).

Having the Dregs, absolutely improves upon the narrative. Not only do they add oodles of personality and plenty of great new scenes, but it’s also fabulous to have more of their backstory on screen. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the casting is perfect! I can’t imagine these characters any other way.

In terms of the original characters, my favourite is (*drumroll please*) the Darkling. Yes, that’s right, I’m #teamdarkling now. Not because I want him with Alina, I’m just happy for him to take over the world and cover it in darkness 😉Barnes does a brilliant job, bringing intensity and charisma to the role. And showing the Black Heretic’s backstory made it all the more powerful.

I’m still not keen on Alina. For all the commentary on her being more assertive in the show, I just don’t see her having much agency. She’s always reacting to something or being pushed along by the plot. I don’t care about her enough- even now. Yet I can say that I’ve come round to her with Mal… if only because I find them equally boring.

What I appreciate *far more* was the gorgeous effects. The costumes/sets/cinematography all help to bring the Grishaverse to life. The Fold in particular was done so well. I took a breath with the crew as they went inside. It’s terrifyingly tense.

This is definitely one of the most enjoyable adaptations I’ve seen in a long, long time. I did see this being compared with Game of Thrones… which is frankly bizarre. It’s nothing like GOT- and it’s not trying to be. It’s not grimdark and it’s not adult (and it’s not going to have as disappointing an ending). It is, however, a fantastic YA fantasy show. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m probably going to rewatch it 😉

So, are you a fan of the Grishaverse? Have you watched this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Was Game of Thrones Always Going to Disappoint Me?

It’s the tenth anniversary of Game of Thrones… and I wouldn’t have noticed if not for this video on its ruined legacy. And it got me thinking a couple of things- 1) how did time fly so fast and 2) was GOT ruined or was it always designed to go up in wildfire? Obviously, I won’t be using this post to address the former, just the latter 😉

Before GRRM superfans tar and feather me- I’m not trying to take away the series’ merit. Don’t get me wrong: I love the world building, the characters and fascinating themes. However, speaking to my own personal taste, reflecting on some of the concepts does make me wonder if I was always going to wind up unhappy with the ending.

Game of Thrones was always a divisive series. Barely an episode could go by without some kind of critique or scandal. And this is not an accident or merely the showrunner’s doing. Going off of Martin’s own interviews, much of the series is designed to be a counterbalance to traditional fantasy. The traditional fantasy that I, and many other mainstream audiences, love. Lord of the Rings, for instance, is famously hopeful, inspiring and the prime example of good triumphing over evil. Though it has tragic elements, it certainly does not hinge on them. When we set out from the Shire we are assured of a safe(ish) resolution.     

Whereas GRRM promised us bittersweet. And if it is to be a counterbalance to the likes of LOTR then by golly that must be some BITTERsweet ending. Most of the plot points have tragedy written all over them; there is barely a glimmer of optimism in all the books. The best we could hope for is our favourites not dying and maybe, just maybe getting their revenge! In the words of Ramsay Bolton…

That’s not to say all tragedies are disappointing. In the usual ebb and flow of a tragedy, there is often a highpoint that alleviates the characters’ (and the readers’) suffering. Think Tess and Angels’ blissful summer in Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Of course, we know this lovely moment cannot last, yet we can delude ourselves into thinking it will, and this gives us our catharsis. Game of Thrones never really does that. Romantic moments are often told from another perspective or tarnished by the realities of the situation (eg Daenerys may fall in love with Khal Drogo, but she’s also raped by him first).

There’s a reason every moment of “happiness” is framed this way. And that’s because it’s working from a principle of being *realistic in the postmodernist sense*. It’s fundamentally endorsing the idea that meaning is found where you place its value. In the world of Game of Thrones, there are no heroes and villains, there is no good vs evil, there is no right and wrong. There is no objective truth- merely the matter of where you place your sympathy. GRRM takes the morally relativistic view that all his characters will inevitably fall to the dark side… And frankly none of their struggles matter because of that. No happy ending is/was ever possible in this series- for anyone. Which is not so much tragic as it is depressing.

As much as I can appreciate this for its uniqueness, it’s not exactly satisfying. That’s not the point of this story. Rather, it’s designed to push boundaries, subvert our expectations and make us question the genre. While we like to blame D&D for the subversive elements, subversion is pretty much woven into the fabric of the narrative. And that has its upsides… and its downsides. Because sometimes there can be narrative consequences when you try to challenge an existing idea.

Inevitably you may question the story that’s making you question everything. I for one don’t think every concept in GOT makes sense. The critique of Aragorn becoming king, for example, is flawed. Because, I happen to think that if he’s capable enough to get an army of dead people on his side, then he’s perfectly capable of hiring some plumbers to set up a sewage system (and I have no idea why GRRM thinks otherwise). It is entirely possible for a leader to be strategic on the battlefield and with the treasury (and there are historic examples of this). This may seem like nit-picking, yet this is such a foundational element to the story, that it leaves me questioning will I ever be satisfied with the outcome of this series? These issues nag away at me and could indicate that this series was never for me in the first place.

Of course, this whole post is somewhat premature. No matter what I think I know, I have to add the caveat that I don’t know the actual ending (none of us do). There are some incredible theories mapping out sensational conclusions and GRRM’s finale could end up putting even those to shame. So, this post could be meaningless when the final book comes out. Personally, I very much look forward to being proved wrong 😉

So, what do you think? Are you optimistic about GRRM’s ending? Do you have doubts like me? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms on the Edge of a Dark and Scary Night

 

Wow- this episode was magic. From the second it appeared on catch up right up until the haunting notes of Jenny’s Song as it played out, I knew I was watching something special unfold. Despite there being very little in terms of special effects, a focus on dark candlelit scenes and the sense of being on the periphery of the story, there was more tension and atmosphere here than I’d seen in a long time. Focusing on character over action, this was an episode worthy of the earlier seasons and reminded me why I’d fallen for it in the first place.

It’s the kind of episode where you feel like you want to pick up all the pretty pieces and admire them in turn, but never feel like you can put it together in a way that does it justice. Poignant and moving, I laughed, cried and laughed through tears as the impending doom settled over the entire cast. Because while we hold our breaths along with the characters, on the edge of a battle no one can escape, I had this YOU’RE ALL GONNA DIE thought echoing in my mind. Which brings me onto spoilery notes…

spoilers game of thrones

AHHH DON’T LEAVE YOUR WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN THE CRYPTS- the enemy is a necromancer who brings people back from the dead!!! (I can’t take credit for this- though I had a niggling feeling about it the whole time cos as a fantasy rule the place where everyone is safe is not at all safe- but my friend pointed this out to me and when they did I was kicking myself cos of how obvious this is).

It’s not all terror and foreboding though- there were a whole range of the *feels*. Not least from that swoopingly romantic moment when Greyworm and Missandei kiss (she’s not gonna make it guys). But also the point that seems to have fascinated a lot of internet folk: Arya and Gendry getting it on. I could debate whether she was into it or not, but the thing that really strikes me about their scenes together is how far the show has come. Way back in season 2 I’d have shipped that, but now, with the impending doom, it feels less important… which only makes the doom seem more impending. For me, Arya’s best part in this episode wasn’t even that- it was having her deliver the line from the season trailer:
arya season 8.2

I also LOVED the callbacks to earlier seasons. So often we get to see how far everyone has come and the massive contrast with the first series- especially when we see the Lannister brothers interacting. It’s not a perfect episode, by any stretch of the imagination. There are lines I can’t imagine making their way into the book (Jaime confessing to his past sins in the crudest terms, even to his brother). And there are moments in the dialogue that aren’t great (sorry, pointing out that “really bad” is a bad line doesn’t stop it being a bad line). HOWEVER there also some very beautiful moments- with Roman ideas like:

samwell forgetting.png

I also adored this Tyrion moment:

story bran tyrion.png

Especially since I think Tyrion knowing this story could prove important- Tyrion has always been one to prove the adage “knowledge is power”.

On the topic of the Lannister brothers, Jaime’s trial was a bit of a lowpoint, since I felt there could have been more to it. That could just be me though- I made the mistake of watching the teaser and building it up in my head. Not that it mattered too much- there were payoffs in other ways. The entire episode does more than enough to reward fans- not in a fanficy way- but in a way that feels earned. In a way that says: “yes, we know you have been with us on this crazy journey for years, HERE IS YOUR REWARD!” One of the absolute best things was how Brienne and Jaime’s relationship was at the forefront of the episode. And the moment he knighted her was… *electric*. There’s no other way to describe it. I also really liked the build up- where it showed the hardest thing to do sometimes is to admit you want something- but at the same time that’s what really living is. Having a dream and given that dream a voice.

In a different way, I feel like a lot of characters have found their voice now- not least Sansa (hehe please turn a blind eye to the awkward segue). She was the *STAR* of the episode for me- which can’t be too surprising since, in the biggest TV turnaround I’ve ever had, she’s somehow become my favourite character (from being my least favourite in season 1- what does this show even do to us?!) It was one hundred percent confirmed that Sansa gets THE BEST reunions. Plus she she incredibly sharp, forgiving people when it’s politically expedient, she also knows when to stick up for the North’s interests. This isn’t simply looking out for her own self-interest- this is looking out for own people and their best interest.

This is in STARK CONTRAST to Dany (hehe pun intended 😉) All she cares about is the damn iron throne- not the people of Westeros. I will say, for the sake of the part of me that still likes her, that Dany’s hard edge very nearly softened… Until the very end of the episode and her confrontation with Jon- seeing only the worst in him when he has only ever been honourable and calling him a liar (poor Jon looked so bemused- cos, duh, he’s not trying to steal the throne from her). Not that all these squabbles matter cos the Night King is getting the throne…

Okay I jest, I jest. I think no one is getting the throne (and the #forthethrone marketing campaign is similar to last year’s “the lone wolf dies… but the pack survives”).

There were so many other things going on in the episode that I could be here a while longer talking about them all: Tormund being awesome, the little bear, Ghost’s cameo, Jaime and Bran in the God’s Wood. But I think as much as I never wanted to leave this episode, all good things must come to an end…

winter is here

So what did you think of this episode? Did you enjoy it? Are you terrified for what’s coming?  Let’s panic together in the comments!