The Last of the Starks *DUN DUN DUNNN*

 

Sorry for the melodrama- but I gotta admit when I saw the title for this week’s episode it scared me a little 😉 (okay a lot!)

game of thrones freak out

And there’s a fair amount to be theatrical about here. *SPOILERS AHEAD* The episode has a strong start- beginning on the same note the battle of Winterfell ended on (I swear the people who do the music need a round of applause!) The goodbyes were poignant- especially Sansa pinning the Stark sigil on Theon.

Buuut it very quickly went downhill from there and I ended up mildly frustrated. While I guessed this would mostly be setup, it was vastly overshadowed by its powerful predecessor. It was as I feared: after the big battle nothing feels as awe-inspiring. Believe me, they tried spur on the momentum- I just wasn’t feeling it. For me, it was like all the energy had been sucked out of the show and it didn’t strike me in the same way. I think this line ended up summing it up:

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I mean, don’t get me wrong- it’s a strong statement, but it’s also the crux of the issue. You can’t kill the Night King and then expect Cersei to look even half as scary. Worse still, Euron *STILL* comes across as a pantomime villain (and is too thick to realise he’s not the father of Cersei’s child?!) It actually angers me that he’s given this Great Villain status.

I may as well address the dragon-falling-into-the-sea symbolism. This did not have the effect I’m sure the showrunners wanted- cos I AM PISSED. And not in the “oh what are those Game of Thrones folks like”- I’m just annoyed that this is the lamest way for a dragon to go. Maybe if Lena Headey had turned up and personally shot it out of the sky I’d have been more impressed. Or Qyburn. But Euron?! Ugh. (Perhaps I’m just in the *RAGE* stage of grief though- we all know how I feel about dragons!)

I’m guessing this is major symbolism for Jon to NOT GO SOUTH! (as if poor Ghost’s whine when Jon doesn’t give him a pat on the head isn’t enough). Really though, it feels like they’re axing GRRM’s “the dragon has three heads” storyline. I could be totally wrong and maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I’m not convinced the books are heading in this precise direction (at least I’m hoping Martin’s not so cavalier when it comes to his dragons- please Lord of Light no!)

And I know people are coming at my QUEEN Sansa for leaking Jon’s secret, but I just think she knows how to twist the situation to her advantage and this is a sensible strategy. To paraphrase what Varys said: of course the man that wants the throne the least should have it.

Roping in the Lannisters was a nice stroke on her part as well- not just because a Lannister pays his debts, but because the Lannister lion is a protector of the realm and won’t stand by to watch Dany destroy King’s Landing. At least not without consequence. Of course then, Jaime is headed to get himself killed in the crossfire, yet it also looks to me like Tyrion is about to betray Dany for love.

Dany looks like she’s about to have it coming. She’s acting jealous, selfish and a little unhinged. Sure, she’s trying to play the game, making Gendry a lord (called it) and is understandably upset about Missandei (also called it), BUT that doesn’t give her the excuse to roast the citizens of King’s Landing alive. There’s pretty much no way she wins this fight without coming out the other side a monster. So I guess kudos to the writers for pushing her into this corner.

Relationships are fraying at every edge of the board. Disappointingly, Tormund has cleared off to the North, leaving Brienne to share a brief moment with Jaime (sadly the teased Tormund/Brienne union was just a distraction after all). Gendry and Arya ended as I suspected. And let’s not even get into the old Bronn-Lannister bromance. Still, Sam/Gilly shared some cute moments. I also liked Arya and the Hound going south together- what a great parallel to draw with the old seasons.

Forgive me if this was a bit more muddled than usual: there was a lot of going up-and-down Westeros to get players where they needed to be this episode. They’ve definitely decided to resurrect the whole time-jumping, news-travels-fast, who-cares-about-pacing style from last season. Plus, I’m beginning to have the sneaking suspicion that they’ve jammed two storylines together that don’t meld well (aka I’m thinking the whole North storyline is likely to be in Winds of Winter and the south might be in a Hope for Spring… though perhaps more on my guesswork there another time). Needless to say, this wasn’t the tidiest of episodes.

So what did you think of this episode? Were you let down after episode 3 or did it capture your attention just the same? Let me know in the comments!

The Long Night Cometh

 

*Spoilers abound*

Shiver inducing. Heated battles. Pure, stunning madness. That’s the way I’d describe this episode. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The opening sequences takes us up close and personal, slowly allowing us to witness some of the heroes on the ground. Then, the intimate camera shots pan out and suddenly we’re seeing the shadow of dragons overhead. Quickly now, we’re thrown head first into the battle. A visual spectacle that Game of Thrones knows how to deliver.

One major complaint I’ve seen is that this episode was too dark and it was hard to see what was going on. Personally, I was just fine with it- it matched THE DARKNESS IN MY SOUL MWAHAHAHA 😉 In all seriousness, I think they created enough contrast for me (plus I watched it in a darkened room in the middle of the night… I make good life choices 😉 ) It evoked a sense of war- unclear, foggy and not so pleasant to look at.

I have to mention that moment when the Dothraki started disappearing into the lines of the dead. It sent chills down my spine (actually, to be honest, I couldn’t stop shaking the whole time I watched). I can’t say their tactics were any good… unless they thought feeding the zombie army was a good idea 😉 BUT it was c-r-e-e-p-y af.

not a great planBecause the tactics are so bad, I don’t suppose it matters all that much that Dany deviates from the plan. Also, it allowed for a whole lot of chaos to ensue. And for there to be really cool dragon fights! So yeah, I’m happy she messed up and made it more terrifying.

Though there was lots of scope, there were also exquisite character moments in the midst of it all. Sansa with her killer lines bonding with a witty Tyrion; Clegane coming through for Arya once again; Theon making amends with Bran.

Plot armour has (somewhat) been discarded. There were some hard-hitting deaths; there were some people I’m shocked survived. Skipping ahead a little, I found the Red Lady’s most poetic. And the saddest was by far little Lyanna Mormont. I can’t say I cared as much about some of the significant deaths, since all my favourites were nice and safe (presumably because they still have roles to play?)

Still, even if a lot more lived than I thought would, the tension was such that I didn’t feel I was robbed of true stakes. For so much of the episode I was convinced Winterfell would fall- keeping me on the edge of my seat- that I ultimately felt like the relief at the end felt well earned. Funnily enough, that sense of *there’s no escape* made me realise about five minutes before the big finale that they had to win or no one would make it out.

Well, specifically the moment the ominous music started playing, which means I didn’t really predict anything, I just took the cues I was given. As those notes played, I knew we were in for something special- though I could never have guessed just how special.

That ending was… *WOW* I have no words. I’m not including any gifs of THAT moment, in case anyone is scrolling through this site and sees it, but let’s just say I’ve watched it a lot. There is beautiful symbolism in that Arya killed death. It is the culmination of her story arc in the most perfect way imaginable. In terms of theories, there’s still a lot of the puzzle pieces to put together, yet I can safely say the meaning in the moment comes together in exactly the right way. The lines that have been woven into this song of ice and fire from the start: “Valar not todaymorghulis”, “valar doharis” and “What do we say to the god of death?” “not today”. And the cutting use of the Valyrian steel dagger to protect Bran- the same one that started it all and that he significantly gave to her last season. I’m actually really glad it wasn’t Jon or Dany- though both of them expected to do it and hoped they would be the hero. There couldn’t have been a better end to the Night King- both because it is totally unexpected and really fits at the same time. To say I was blown away would be an understatement- more like I was stabbed in the gut and shattered into a million pieces 😉

QUICK ASIDE: I have seen a number of articles calling people out who (allegedly- I haven’t seen any receipts) say Arya’s a Mary Sue. For the record, no, she isn’t a Mary Sue: she trained for six seasons, is an accomplished assassin and anyone making this claim has been watching some other show for the last 8 years. Also no, this doesn’t devalue the term (otherwise we’d have to scrap a bunch of terms people misuse on a daily basis) so please stop using this ridiculousness to defend actual Mary Sues, k?

Back to the show! I can’t believe what I’ve just watched; I also can’t believe we’re getting more episodes after that *epicness*? I usually see that point as more or less the end of the story… yet here we are on the brink of another war. I always thought the two would link- now I think I’d better quit making predictions. I have far too many questions and no idea what’s gonna happen (beyond the Cleganebowl of course 😉) I have no idea how it’s gonna trump an episode like that- but I’m excited to see where it does go from here…

So have you seen this already? What did you think of it? Let me know 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:

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I also adored this Tyrion moment:

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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!

Hot Stuff: Returning to Winterfell!

Well, we’re back! It feels like forever since we were in the great game- I almost feel out of practice. And though I’ve tried to be a little bit vague, I’m still gonna have to put a *MASSIVE Spoiler Warning* cos I don’t want to ruin a second of this for anyone looking forward to this as much as I was! Personally, I will admit I’m often so conflicted about the newer seasons, because they’re never as good as when it followed the books- AND YET it’s always so entertaining!! There were some low points- particularly in the dialogue- yet there were some definite upsides and the last 3-4 scenes ultimately restored my faith. But we’ll not get ahead of ourselves…

Let’s take a quick detour down south, before we discuss the main meat of the episode. Even if I’m never that excited to go to King’s Landing anymore, I have to say Lena Headey puts in one hell of a performance. On the other hand, even if Cersei says Euron is not boring, I’m afraid that’s exactly what he is. He’s diverged so far from his book counterpart that there’s really nothing left that’s interesting about him. Actually, thank goodness for Theon (never thought I’d say that), cos his rescue saved those scenes from feeling interminably dull.

I will say that there are many, many moments that feel fanfic-y. I don’t believe for a second that the dragon scene will go down like that in the books. Buuut at the same time, it also made my heart swoop out of my chest. I mean, who doesn’t love watching dragons fly? (fools, I tell you, fools!) And that knowing look from the dragon was a nice touch 😉

The emotional heart of the episode revolved around Samwell’s scenes. Not only did he find out what happened to his family, but he also had to tell Jon the truth. And wow, I don’t think they could have done that scene any better. What I especially liked was how it followed the Tarly reveal and Sam pointing out that Dany would never give up her throne for her people. It was a nice touch and pretty much explains why I’ve gone off the character.

Which I guess is why if it comes to a proper Sansa vs Dany fight, I’d be on #TeamSansa all the way. What can I say? The girl speaks sense. And yes, I see it as a logical progression of her character. At the same time, I’m not entirely sold on the Stark camaraderie OR the incessant squabbling. It feels less like political manoeuvring at this stage and more pointless drama- especially when you consider what they’re up against- which is brought into focus by the end of the episode. And yeah, that ending was *s-p-o-o-k-y* and that JUMPSCARE freaked me out! What a horrific reminder of what they’re all fighting.

There were so many reunions in the episode, I don’t know if I can go through them all. The Jon/Arya scene was pretty close to what I’ve wanted since season 1- though weirdly I think I preferred Sansa/Jon, Sansa/Arya and Sansa/Tyrion (basically Sansa is the queen of reunions for a range of reasons). Even more strangely, my favourite reunion of the episode had to be Jaime’s little *surprise* when he finally arrived at Winterfell. Can’t wait to see where that goes!

And that’s all I have for this first episode. It’s not the best season opener I’ve ever seen- I guess cos there weren’t so many shocking death scenes… hey, I don’t watch this show for the romance 😉. Because of that though, I still have time to do some death predictions. Here’s all the people I think will die:

Yeah, I think we’re getting cleganebowl and I’ve put both Dany and Jon on there to be safe- although I think Dany is more likely to kick the bucket.

Let me know if you think I’ve missed anyone! And what did you think of the first episode? Disappointed or excited? Hit me up in the comments!

Reviewing and Ranking ALL of Buffy

 

 

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Spoilers, duh (I mean, it’s stopped airing 15 years ago… which makes me feel so old right now)

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So here’s the lowdown: Buffy was one of the first TV shows I ever really loved. I watched most of it when I was younger- though stopped after season 5 because it annoyed me that she came back from the dead and spoiled that perfect ending. Years later a friend of mine was aghast and told me to finish the damn thing- I mean missed a lot of classic episodes like Once More with Feeling! (I know, the horror 😉 ) Anyway, those are my pre-blog Buffy credentials, and should explain my intense love for this show and why over the last few months I couldn’t resist rewatching the whole thing on Prime 😉 Also it should tell you why I decided to dress up for this post as vampire orangutan:

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And why I got my sister- the slaying monkey baby (who sadly won’t be joining us today)- to dress up too:

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Yes, I know Halloween was in October 😉 Anyhoo, onto the reviews!

Season 1– this first season did a great job of establishing the world and has some classic episodes. I loved the quirky characters and everyone seems really zesty at this stage- including Giles. And while not the most interesting, the Master was still a scary villain. So I guess what I’m trying to say is the original is always a good place to start 😉 The one minor thing that bugged me with season 1 was how little I cared for the romance- sorry to all the Angel fans!

Season 2– this definitely felt like the show reaching its stride. What I particularly love about season 2 is that it’s the start of Willow’s journey into witchcraft. I also thought Angel made a much more compelling baddie than a love interest. That twist made it far more emotional and enjoyable. Plus, Spike’s introduction added to the entertainment value tenfold!

Season 3– so I had more mixed feelings about this series. I liked that it started out with a more beleaguered Buffy and dealt with the consequences of being a slayer really well… That said, Faith sucked. I never liked her as a character or an antagonist or any other role she jumped into as the show progressed. The Mayor didn’t excite me as a villain either. Even so, the individual character episodes in season 3 were GREAT. I especially loved the way it explored the sidekicks- Xander and Willow are developed so well and inject the show with consistent humour. What I did find was that my opinions on certain aspects had changed a lot as an adult. I didn’t realise quite how much of a “nice guy” Xander was. And I also didn’t understand why on earth Willow would ever want to be with him- she’s so accomplished and Oz is amazing (discounting later developments as well). I think one of the best episodes for me in this series though is when Anya enters the fray.

Season 4– what I really appreciated about this season was how effectively it focused on the leap from school to college. The way it dealt with that transition was particularly clever, since it showed how dealing with adulthood can be more of a struggle for some (*coughs* Xander and Buffy *cough cough*). I also felt the romance with Riley was far better developed than the one with Angel. And on a similar note, I squealed when Tara was introduced- best love interest in the show by far. I also especially liked the direction the show took with Spike’s character at this stage. There were a couple of standout episodes for me as well: the Gentlemen was terrifying and Something Blue was hilarious. The overarching storyline worked better for me than season 3 overall- though ultimately it wasn’t as exciting. Where season 3 took a while to build, season 4 kinda peters out when the whole government conspiracy thing just morphs into *generic Frankenstein monster battle*.

Season 5– I found this to be the most beautiful, emotional and addictive series by far. In the opening episodes, we already get Dracula, Dawn’s introduction and Xander’s double. Speaking of Dawn, I reallllly liked how that was handled- it was such a crazy, clever twist. Now, at this stage, I didn’t hate her character, though as an older viewer I definitely admit she is irritating. I do think on balance she has a great deal to cope with and really liked how it adds a new relationship dynamic. Buffy adjusting into the sister role was a lot of fun to watch. It also worked brilliantly when it came to the more heart-wrenching stories this season dealt with. Because, while Glory made a terrifying villain, it’s amazing how this show explored that the hardest thing Buffy would ever have to face was the loss of her mother. Episodes like The Body were so well observed and took the show to another level. The one downside to this series was watching Riley turn into a plank of wood and wishing him gone for most of the season- I always forget that he stayed on the show wayyy longer than I remembered. On the flip side, Spike’s growth is great. As flawed and unstable as he is, I really did love his character. Yes, he’s needy and selfish, but also funny and endearing. His story breaks my heart a little and it’s amazing to see a literally soulless character choose to be better- but I’m getting a little ahead of myself… Either way, Season 5 was where it was at for me. I loved the finale so much and thought it was a fatal mistake when they just couldn’t let dead things lie- which brings me onto…

orangutan zombie enhanced

Season 6– So much of season 6 for me is taken up with the Spike/Buffy angle- which ended up being a pity for many reasons. Firstly, because the Dark Willow story, foreshadowed from the first episode, is ultimately overshadowed by this development. Secondly, cos it allows Buffy to deflect a lot of her hurt at being back in the world to her dysfunctional relationship. And boy is it dysfunctional. Now, I love Spike- I know he’s the bad guy, I know he’s largely unapologetic for six seasons, but I also I love a well done redemption arc. And the crucial thing about Spike is he isn’t magically redeemed by love- he has to work at it. At first because he desires Buffy and then because it’s the right thing. So there was definitely a part of me rooting for him to win Buffy’s heart… and yet, not to be an ungrateful fangirl or anything, I genuinely wish it hadn’t gone there. As much as THAT kiss at the end of Once More With Feeling (possibly the best Buffy episode ever) gets me every time and as much as it’s WOW when they are together, it’s never very fulfilling as a viewer cos Buffy is just. not. into. it. That means it’s not just the bathroom scene that sucks- it’s all of it. I’ll admit when I first watched this season I was excited to be handed scraps by the writers- however rewatching it ruins it for me. It’s horrible to see two awesome characters- on their own heroic journeys- destroying each other with their relationship. No, this doesn’t do the whole “love will save you” thing and yes, it makes a certain amount of sense that it went down like this- but the alternative didn’t have to be so depressing. I get the concept- nonetheless the execution for me was off and perhaps there were lines the showrunners shouldn’t have crossed. I did like some of the transgressive elements the series explored though- especially how the big bad was one of their own. It was a bit unfortunate that Willow had to be a little annoying in this season though. But I liked how the show upped the ante and defied expectations by both making the villains useless jokes… and then turning the tables on us. I did like how it was resolved as well. And it’s one of the few times in TV history that a resurrection storyline has worked for me- so I was glad I did cave on my principles and watched this all those years ago 😉

Season 7: now, where season 6 managed to defy my expectations and delivered some cool TV (especially for a show I thought was dead and buried), season 7 ended up making me think it was a shame they’d resurrected it. Let’s talk about some of the things I did like first. I liked how much characters had grown. I thought Willow’s ups and downs this season were more in character. I did also like how the “big bad” and Spike’s redemptive arc were woven together. HOWEVER I was never that fussed about the First Evil. The whole “we’ve got to fight a concept” thing is a bit naff. I’ve since seen this done a few times in shows and I don’t think it works for me. Nor did I take to how it was done here. Especially when it came to later in-fighting, which felt contrived and didn’t utilise this theme as well as it could have. Pointing out that there are flaws- Andrew saying “what kind of name is the First”- is a lazy way of addressing issues and does nothing to diminish them. I also HATED the potential slayer aspect. Most of the new characters are annoying, there were too many of them and they overshadowed some of the actually interesting people in the show. Plus, the British potentials have *the worst* fake British accents ever!!! It’s also a shame that so many characters were sidelined for them and many old favourites were gone- and no, bringing back Faith was not a solution. Nor was including Andrew- I spent most of the series wondering why he was there. While Willow’s relationship with Kennedy started out strong- it ended up feeling like the disappointing whoosh of all the air being let out of a balloon. The whole mutiny thing didn’t work- especially spearheaded by Dawn- because so many characters have done a lot worse and their alternative plan was much the same as the original. Of course, she turns out to be right- even though she was acting *super* out of character by putting a bunch of teenage girls in danger. It all felt contrived for needless drama. James Marsters did a fantastic job as Spike this series- however his relationship with Buffy is so weird and highlights some of the flaws from the previous season. His sacrifice in the end was a perfect end for his character though. Ultimately, I found this season lacklustre, lacking the excitement of earlier series and failed to grab me. I hate to end on a sour note- I guess that’s just the way the vampire crumbles into dust.

So with all that said, here are my rankings for Buffy:

#1 Season 5

#2 Season 2

#3 Season 1

#4 Season 6

#5 Season 4

#6 Season 3

#7 Season 7

So have you seen this classic show? What do you think of it? Do you agree or disagree with any of my thoughts? And how would you rank the seasons? 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!*

monkey at the movies 2

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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! 😀