Game of Thrones Season 7 Highs and Lows

WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS for all 7 seasons of HBO’s Game of Thrones, all 5 ASoIaF books, and other related material/speculation.

Game of Thrones season 7 has been a mixed bag, and it will likely take more than one watch-through to really let the events and revelations sink in. But now that the first flakes of winter have begun to fall on King’s Landing and the Wall has crumbled against the forces of the dead, I’ve got some thoughts on the “highs and lows” of the penultimate season of HBO’s most popular show.

promo327713341.jpgThe show has been remarkably consistent in its strengths over the years, and one of those “highs” is the acting. The show features a stellar cast across the board. Though we’ve lost so many memorable characters over the years, through tragedy and vengeance alike, the ones who remain have demonstrated vast range and incredible ability, and have engaged viewers across their arcs, drawing them into the individual character stories. As a viewer, I might not like every character, but I cannot deny that every member of the main/supporting cast has done a brilliant job of bringing their characters to life. Some particularly notable moments from this season include:

*Cersei (Lena Headey) and Tyrion’s (Peter Dinklage) confrontation/reunion in episode 7.
*Ellaria Sand’s (Indira Varma) final scene with Cersei and Tyene (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers) in episode 3.
* Olenna Tyrell’s (Diana Rigg) last moments in episode 3 (Slay, Queen of Thorns, slay!).
*Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau)… pretty much all season, but especially in his final moment with Cersei in Episode 7 and the battle/his charging at Dany/Drogon in episode 4.
*Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) losing Viserion and nearly losing Jon in episode 6, and returning home in episode 1.
*Euron’s (Pilou Asbaek) dramatic entrance via Silence in episode 2.
*Sansa (Sophie Turner) adjusting to her title as Lady of Winterfell and handling the stresses of delivering justice over the course of the season.
*Samwell (John Bradley West) struggling with his position at the citadel and ultimately deciding to leave in Episode 5.
*Davos (Liam Cunningham) pretty much whenever he’s onscreen. Same for Jorah (Iain Glen).
*Littlefinger’s (Aiden Gillen) death. Seeing him beg for mercy was so surreal.
*Arya’s (Maisie Williams) reunions with Sansa, Hot Pie, and Nymeria.
*Meera’s (Ellie Kendrick) goodbye with Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright).
*The Hound (Rory McCann) in his “Gravedigger” moment in episode 1, as well as his interactions with Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) and the Brotherhood in episode 6.
*Theon (Alfie Allen) succumbing to “Reek” in episode 2, then rising from the ashes in episode 7.
*Jon (Kit Harington) in episodes 6 and 7, but also his meeting with Dany in episode 3.

Honestly, there are several more standout moments that could be included in this list, but these are the first few that come to mind. The combination of chemistry and strong character arcs over the course of the series has really made fans grow attached to these characters and their relationships, and become invested in where their stories are going, which ultimately makes the audience fearful, yet excited, for the end.

I think a prime example of the complex characterizations is episode 4, “The Spoils of War,” which features the dramatic showdown between the Dothraki and Daenerys on Drogon and the Lannister Army. Watching that scene, with the Dothraki horde cresting over the hill and the Lannister soldiers literally shivering in fear at their approach, I couldn’t decide how I wanted it to end. I was cheering when Drogon dropped through the clouds, but cringing as he incinerated an entire line of soldiers with his flames. You don’t want Dany to die, you don’t want Jaime to die, you don’t want Tyrion to die, you don’t want Bronn to die, you don’t want Drogon to die. Watching these characters face one another on the battlefield is mesmerizing and presents a genuine conflict, because as a viewer, I had no idea what I wanted the outcome to be, and that is the type of complexity GoT is known for, and part of what makes it so great.

The production for this season has also been top-notch, as usual. The effects (especially in “The Spoils of War,” “Beyond The Wall,” and “The Dragon and the Wolf”) are amazing. The costumes are excellent, with embellishments and little touches here and there that actually seem to give clues to character traits and upcoming events. It’s been cool to see fur and more black emerge as the newest fashion staples, but the real style winner of the season is Daenerys’s coat in episode 6. I am predicting an Emmy in 2018; mark my words. The new locations were great, as were the old. I also think this might be the season with the best music; I both eagerly anticipate and lament the approach of season 8 for many reasons, but one of the main ones is that we have only one more season of Ramin Djawadi’s soaring score to look forward to.

Although this season has less – ahem, I mean fewer –  episodes, it has delivered a ton of memorable scenes and moments, and no episode lacks for exciting content. It’s hard to pinpoint my favorite, and I likely won’t be able to make a definitive conclusion until I revisit them, but after first viewing, I think “The Spoils of War” might take the cake. However, “The Dragon and the Wolf” is a strong contender, as well. The “Aegon Targaryen” reveal was quite a stunner, and the Dragon Pit meeting, with so many characters all in one place, was exciting to see unfold.

We’ve also had some spectacular returns and reunions this season, and of them all, I was most pleased to see Gendry (Joe Dempsie) again. Fans (and Davos, apparently) feared that he might still be rowing since his last appearance in season 3, but now he’s back, swinging a hammer just like his father, good ol’ Bobby B. I hope to see more of him in season 8, and look forward to his eventual reunion with Arya.

Game of Thrones is a visually stunning, engrossing, genre-bending, and utterly captivating show, and season 7 is no different in that respect. Every episode had me on the edge of my seat, the emotional sequences moved me to tears, or in some cases, enraged me, and the wait for season 8 (a rumored 18 month wait, no less) will be unbearable, though at least we have 7 seasons to re-watch and 7 soundtracks to listen to (and, hopefully soon, a sixth book to read) until then. After watching the Game of Thrones unfold for seven seasons, with players moving and shifting or being axed from the board entirely, it’s hard to believe that The Long Night has come, and out watch is almost over.

BEFORE I GET INTO THE “LOWS” OF THE SEASON, let me just say, I love this show. It will, barring catastrophe, officially be my all-time favorite show come s8 ep6. After watching several “behind the scenes” from this season and previous seasons, I am consistently amazed and awed by how much work and passion goes into the production of this show. That said, though I’m usually pretty quick to defend the showrunners for the liberties they take, season 7, while amazing in so many ways, did strike a couple of off-notes, but for me, that’s like, giving Season 7 an A- rather than an A+, and I can narrow it down to two “lows;” a combo of writing and pacing.

One of the common issues folks seem to have with this season is the pacing, and I must say, I agree. I will give mad props to the show writers/runners (and especially Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington) for making me care about and notice the progression and chemistry of Jon/Dany A.K.A. “Jonerys.” I have my doubts a “happily ever after” is in the future for them, especially when they find out they’re aunt/nephew and with the war for the dawn creeping ever closer, but I guess the incest blow is softened a bit by the fact that they don’t know they’re related, and at least it’s not as squicky as Cersei/Jaime. I wish their romance had a bit more build-up, but for what we got, I was pretty impressed by their interactions and the development of their relationship, in spite of the short time.

Overall, the pacing wouldn’t be an issue if the rest of the series was as fast-paced as this season was, but it isn’t. If this were an earlier season, it would have taken Jon at least 3 episodes, if not more, to get to Dragonstone, or from Dragonstone to the Wall. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for some things, but compared to how things are handled in the earlier seasons, GoT feels like a different show now. The writing is not bad, and I’m not bashing the writers, it’s just now, the writing is different in tone and pace and how characters make decisions. Season 6 faced similar “logic” issues, but the pacing less so, because there was a full 10 episodes.

I’m not saying that I don’t understand why they are doing it this way. I get it. But that doesn’t make it any less jarring as a viewer since it’s unlike the show in its early years, where more time was spent getting the pieces in place and developing relationships and situations for some grander scheme rather than big moves and power plays happening in quick succession, so swift it becomes tough to process. The big moments lose their impact because there is no time to decompress afterward. The show used to dwell; it used to thoroughly explore situations and expand on intrigue, and this season seems like a lot has been glossed over in favor of flash and spectacle. Generally, the changes the show has made don’t bother me a whole lot, because I know the books will be different and I accept that, but this is the first season that I noticed the “streamlining” as a detriment instead of a strength.

Sure, the shortened season may be due to monetary/budget reasons, or it may be due to the fact that they’ve run out of book material, but the difference in writing (especially in the dialogue) and the pace, while not necessarily bad, is noticeable. Conversations that should be happening aren’t; Why hasn’t Jon brought up Maester Aemon to Dany? Why did Jorah not mention Sam to Jon? Why did Gendry not mention Arya to Jon? Why did Brienne and Sandor only discuss Arya, not Sansa? Why did NO ONE address Varys at the Dragon Pit meeting? Where does Euron have Yara? WHY DOES NO ONE MENTION THE FREYS AFTER ARYA KILLED THEM ALL? WHERE IS EDMURE TULLY? IS MEERA GOING TO COME BACK? WILL WE EVER GET TO SEE HOWLAND REED? HOW DID THE UNSULLIED SURVIVE POST-CASTERLY ROCK INCIDENT? The decrease in meaningful conversations is apparent, and it makes some of these “reunions” or decisions feel hollow, and definitely rushed. Which, if the series continues in that direction, season 8 will likely face similar complaints. If they didn’t have enough material for two final 10 episode seasons, we shouldn’t have even MORE questions rising after season 7.

Also, some characters don’t seem to have much to do (Varys, Brienne, Melisandre, even Tyrion) while others have lost a bit of their spark, and with the end looming, I wonder if there will be enough time to really give all of the great characters the amount of screen time they deserve to close out their individual stories. Granted, the books have a lot more characters and scenarios to deal with (and a lot more freedom due to the whole “no budget” factor), and I know that the show and the books are not the same thing any more, but just because the show has scaled things back doesn’t mean they should be skimping on the story or cutting corners. The non-book material they made for seasons 1-4 was pretty seamless, so they are capable of blending their own ideas in with Martin’s tone, and I hope they hit the right notes with season 8 despite the restrictions they face.

Though the distant final season is even shorter (in episodes, maybe not running time) I hope the show is able to steer back to form for the final run, and address the lingering questions. I don’t envy the showrunners/writers, who are adapting a book series that isn’t finished and have run out of actual book material, though I fail to understand why they believe the story could be wrapped up in a convincing and satisfying manner in 13 episodes after season 6. I hope they can end the show with the detail, nuances, and richness the series is known for, rather than a reliance on fan-service. And I have confidence they will.

FINAL RANT: Can I just say, though… people need to stop shitting on Rhaegar because of the wig the actor was wearing. If you’re going to shit on Rhaegar for anything, it should be the fact that he abandoned his first wife and two children (who were later brutally murdered) in favor of running off with a much younger Northern girl, which threw the kingdom into chaos and caused thousands of deaths. Annulling his marriage is a dick move, too, because he essentially discarded and dishonored the innocent Elia Martell and her two children, Rhaenys and Aegon, and then he NAMED HIS CHILD WITH LYANNA “AEGON TARGARYEN,” EVEN THOUGH HE ALREADY HAD A SON NAMED AEGON. Rhaegar is not a hero; he is flawed, and his romance with Lyanna, however genuine it was, should not be idolized. End of story.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10 (It may seem like I have a lot of complaints, but it is still a top-notch quality show!)

Season 7 M.V.Ps
Beric Dondarrion: HE HAS A F*CKING FLAMING SWORD AND UNFAILING COURAGE. The man is my hero. And he has a voice that could soothe even the most ornery of wights.

Drogon: Our baby is all grown up! Torching Lannisters like nobody’s business.

Gilly: Girl delivered the “Prince Ragger” revelation. Gilly dropping the info bombs this season!

Benjen Stark: The man half-lived alone beyond the wall for years, all for the sake of fighting for life. I wish his mini-reunion with Jon had been a bit longer, but he will be missed. I hope “the pup” has found his peace.

Meera Reed: GIRL DESERVED A BETTER SEND-OFF. SHE BETTER BE BACK OR I WILL RIOT.

Samwell Tarly: The man is all of us when he’s talking to Bran in the last episode. Also, it takes great courage to walk away from a lifelong dream, as he did when he left the Citadel. Samwell is a hero.

Ramin Djawadi: Seriously, this man delivers A+ quality music every single season. Even songs that feature the familiar themes get fresh spins and new twists, and songs like “Truth,” are wonderful additions. It’s going to be on repeat for ages!

Season 7 R.I.Ps
Thoros of Myr: All things considered, death by zombie bear is a pretty badass way to go. Also, Paul Kaye nailed the role of our favorite drunken red priest.

Randyll and Dickon Tarly: Randyll was a real dick, but Dickon didn’t deserve his fiery fate. He should have bent the knee, but whatevs.

Viserion: Due to the episode leak, this pivotal moment was spoiled for me thanks to the title of a youtube video, but I still legit got emotional. I mean… no lie, his wight form is BADASS but it was still so sad to see 1/3 of the dragon troupe get iced.

Littlefinger: I hated the smarmy, weasel-like Littlefinger from his first appearances in season 1, but I cannot deny that Aiden Gillen absolutely killed the role. Seeing him break down in front of Sansa and beg for his life was so shocking, because he’d never acted like that before, and I loved it.

The Freys: Good riddance.

The Sand Snakes: Dorne may not have had the best book to screen transition, but I was sad to see them dispatched in such a cruel way.

Benjen Stark: Mentioned above.

Ellaria Sand: She may be gone, but Indira Varma absolutely owned her final scene.

Reek: The “Reek” has been killed, and “Theon” (re)born!

Ghost: He’s not dead, I know. But he endured a “death by budget” this season, and I’m sad we didn’t see him even once.

SEASON 8 PREDICTIONS (CONDENSED VERSION):
*Dany is so going to get pregnant. They’ve discussed her infertility way too much this past season for her not to get pregnant. It’s the Targaryen way, after all. I also think, once Jon and Dany find out they’re related, Jon’s ensuing identity crisis will drive them apart (if not permanently, it will at least cause some friction) but the whole “being related” issue will be more pertinent for Jon, while Dany would be more bothered by the issue of inheritance, since Jon technically ranks above her now. But it’s also an issue that will probably be resolved fairly quickly, because of the limited amount of episodes.
*I think there’s a good chance that both Jon and Dany will die, but if it’s just one, I think it will be Dany.
*I also think Gendry will be legitimized, will inherit Storm’s End, and (CALL ME CRAZY) if romance is in his future, I think he is more likely to end up with Sansa than he is with Arya. Arya is so different now I can’t imagine her settling down.
*Cersei will not have her child, and will die by season’s end. It will either be via Jaime, or Arya; not sure which, but I’m leaning toward Arya at this point, even though I’d rather it be Jaime.
*Cleganebowl will happen.
*Bran does have something to do with the Night King. I don’t know what, but they are definitely connected.
*The Iron Throne, as a concept, is done for.

 

Shameless plug: My book tour for my YA novel, I’m With You, is still ongoing! Check it out here: LINK! Plus, the ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) on Amazon Amazon UK. 

Advertisements

The Ever-Shifting Hate-O-Meter: Game of Thrones

WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS for all 7 seasons of HBO’s Game of Thrones, all 5 ASoIaF books, and other related material/speculation.

Game of Thrones features a lot of ambiguous “gray” characters, which makes it difficult to love them or hate them. Some of these also apply to the books; some either don’t apply, haven’t yet, or never will. So for this post, I decided I’d share my “Hate-O-Meter” readings for a few of these characters and how my observations shifted or changed their positions on the meter over their appearances. Here we go!

1.) Sandor “The Hound” Clegane (Seasons 1-4, 6-ongoing)
Hate-O-Meter Start: 6
Hate-O-Meter Middle: 3
Current Hate-O-Meter: 1
I was not a big Hound fan in the early seasons; his crass nature really grated on me, and though some early moments – saving Sansa from the riot, saving Loras from his bro, his vulnerability around fire – helped to lift him into likability/sympathy status, a lot of his early “softer moments” are spoiled by something crude he does or says right after. But starting in season 3 and continuing up until his “death” in season 4, the Hound became one of my all-time favorites. His journey with Arya is one of the best relationships in the series, as they both go through a significant character shift as they learn from one another and come together as an (admittedly dysfunctional) “team” of sorts, and, as I mentioned in a previous post, his “death” after his feud with Brienne in season 4’s “The Children” made me cry, I was so moved by Rory McCann’s performance. The Hound’s overall character arc, which picks up again in season 6 and into season 7, has made him drop down to the middle of the Hate-O-Meter, and then to the bottom. He hasn’t lost much of his initial crassness and has kept the coarse language, but now, he’s also garnered a greater sense of humanity and a desire to “defend.” He’s no longer as much of a cynical killer with no remorse, but someone who is seeking a greater purpose from his life. Plus, he consistently has some of the BEST one-liners and insults in the series.

2.) Jaime Lannister (Seasons 1-ongoing)
Hate-O-Meter Start: 8
Hate-O-Meter Middle: 2
Current Hate-O-Meter: 3.5
If he could just snake his way out of Cersei’s clutches, he’d be as gold as his hand! I hated Jaime in the first couple of seasons; he attempts to kill Bran/cripples him, he kills Jory, he stabs Ned in the leg, and generally, he’s a total asshole to everyone except sister/lover Cersei and his family. But starting in Season 3, when Jaime is set free by Catelyn and travels with Brienne, my hatred for him began to wane, especially when he saved Brienne from being raped (and lost his sword hand as a result) and went on to reveal his inner-turmoil over being named “Kingslayer” and the continuing damage it has done to his sense of honor and duty and the perception of him across the realm. From there, I actually wanted to root for Jaime, as his character showed signs of redemption and remorse for his past, and a willingness to change and reform moving forward… until he got back to King’s Landing and reunited with Cersei. In season 4 it wasn’t so bad, but since then, he’s started on the downward slope again. Jaime’s love for Cersei has been his character’s downfall, and seeing him continue to dedicate himself to her despite the fact that she LITERALLY BLEW PEOPLE UP, WHICH IS WHAT HE STOPPED MAD KING AERYS FROM DOING has made me start to dislike him again. I understand his motivations, and it’s clear that he’s at least a bit conflicted about Cersei’s actions, but it almost feels as though all of his character progression has stalled, or even slipped backwards. I still have hope, however, that he will turn it around and break free from Cersei by the end of this season, or early in the next.

3.) Shae (Seasons 1-4)
Hate-O-Meter Start: 5
Hate-O-Meter Mid: 3
Hate-O-Meter End: 8
I was never a big fan of Shae, but I didn’t hate her in the beginning. During her first appearances I found her irritating, but when Tyrion made her Sansa’s handmaiden she actually grew on me a little. To me, it came across that she genuinely cared for Sansa and her well-being, especially in season 2, when she tries to help Sansa hide the evidence of her flowering, when she aims to protect Sansa during the Battle of Blackwater, and in season 3, when she tries to encourage Sansa to eat after the news of the Red Wedding. Shae also warns Sansa about Littlefinger’s intentions and, even after learning that Tyrion and Sansa are to be (forcibly) wed, she is conflicted, but still cares for them both. However, her redeeming qualities are all tossed aside when the scorned Shae, furious at Tyrion’s rejection, testifies against him (and implicates Sansa) at his trial for Joffrey’s murder, then, just to rub more salt in the wound, she sleeps with his father, Tywin. I understood why she did it, since she felt like she had been carelessly discarded by the man she loved, but while that’s a paltry justification, that’s the only reason she’s at an 8 instead of a 10.

4.) Stannis Baratheon (Seasons 2-5)
Hate-O-Meter Start: 3
Hate-O-Meter End: 10
As far as the books go, I’ve always had an appreciation for Stannis “The Mannis” Baratheon, and that feeling more or less carried over to the TV series… up until season 5, with a few questionable points in between. At the start, I had admiration for his ironclad resolve and his leadership ability, as well as his general sense of justice, but his reliance on Melisandre, the murder of Renly, and his near-murder of Gendry were all massive low-points, even though he clearly struggled with some of those decisions. However, his efforts at Blackwater were impressive and would have succeeded if not for the wildfire, his last-minute charge to save the Wall from the Wildling Army was instrumental in saving the Night’s Watch from slaughter, and his grammar was always on-point. His interactions with Davos and Jon in particular were highlights of his arc, and it is clear that he was conflicted on the whole “Warrior of Light” story Melisandre was trying to sell him. Stannis grappled with many of his questionable decisions, but ultimately, his last choice – to burn his daughter, Shireen, at the stake as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light per Melisandre’s suggestion – was what made me turn on him for good. Her murder was reprehensible and though he seemed to realize it was a mistake by the end, he got what he deserved, and I’m glad Brienne delivered the final blow. I’m hoping Book Stannis doesn’t do the same thing so I don’t have to hate him, too.

5.) Tywin Lannister (Seasons 1-4)
Hate-O-Meter Start: 3
Hate-O-Meter End: 4
I almost never agreed with anything Tywin did, seeing as he more or less orchestrated the Red Wedding, was willing to sacrifice Tyrion after Joffrey’s murder, generally treated Tyrion like the contents of his chamber-pot, and considered the preservation of his family name and his reputation the most important things in the world. But it’s so hard to hate Tywin because, even though I wasn’t rooting for him exactly, he was so badass, and Charles Dance played him extraordinarily well. His interaction with Arya in season 2, and the fact that he brought an end to the torture of the prisoners at Harrenhal, were a couple of positive highlights, but everything Tywin did from a militaristic and political standpoint was all about self/family preservation and ensuring his and his family’s position in the realm. He is the perfect kind of villain; you want to hate him, but he’s so compelling to watch and he executes his plans with such cunning, cool precision, you can’t help but admire him at the same time, because he isn’t a mindless demon or a sadistic torturer, he’s just aiming to achieve his goals and stomping on all those who stand in his way. If he treated Tyrion better – and didn’t shack up with Shae in the last season – he’s probably be very low on the Hate-O-Meter, but the scorn he showed his youngest son is the main reason for the hatred I felt toward him. He spurned the one son who was, probably, the most like him in the end, and that was his (well-deserved) undoing.

6.) Theon Greyjoy (Seasons 1-ongoing)
Hate-O-Meter Start: 9
Hate-O-Meter Middle: 5
Current Hate-O-Meter: 4
I absolutely hated Theon as a character in seasons 1&2. His punch-worthy smugness and his betrayal of House Stark, his murder of the two peasant boys and of Rodrik Cassel, and his treatment of women, was almost a “point of no return” for me, as far as characters go. But it’s hard to really hate him once he starts spiraling into the mentality of “Reek” at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. I may not have been a fan of Theon, but it was still very difficult to watch him being tortured, and his complete breakdown and transformation into Reek through seasons 3-5 were some of the toughest scenes to stomach, to the point where I felt at least a scrap of pity for him. But honestly, even though Alfie Allen’s portrayal of him is absolutely brilliant, I still don’t like Theon. Sure, he saved Sansa from Ramsay and has dedicated himself (more or less) to Daenerys, but he still hasn’t shed all of the shame of his past, but he certainly is getting there. I wouldn’t say I hate him anymore, and he still has time to win me over, but I just can’t bring myself to say I’m a “fan.”

7.) Melisandre (Seasons 2-ongoing)
Hate-O-Meter Start: 5
Current Hate-O-Meter: 6
This… is a tough one. Melisandre is motivated by her beliefs; by the Lord of Light, and the “visions” that he sends her to interpret. So even though she’s done some horrendous shit (Shireen’s murder, Renly’s murder, and all the other “burning” she’s done) she genuinely thought she was doing “good,” which is absurd, but she wasn’t acting out of malice or hatred. She even admits of her actions, “I didn’t lie, I was wrong,” which… I don’t know. It doesn’t make anything much better, considering thousands have essentially died because of her, and the second she realized she had “misinterpreted” her visions, she turned tail on Stannis and ran to save her own skin. I still find it hard to hate her, though; and Carice Van Houten plays her so well, I consider her one of my favorite “gray” characters. She is distraught by her failures and mistakes and does not relish in the burnings she commits, but once her faith is restored by the resurrection of Jon Snow, she cannot shed that prior shame, and her poor decisions ultimately come back to haunt her once she is cast out of the North for her hand in the death of Shireen. I do have hope, however, that Melisandre will turn it around by the end, though I also don’t see a happy ending in store for her, after all that she’s done. I think she might contribute to the War for the Dawn and go out in a blaze of glory as penance for her past mistakes; or perhaps she’ll meet her end at the pointy end of a needle.

Tearjerker Moments (S1-6) on Game of Thrones

WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS for all 7 seasons of HBO’s Game of Thrones, all 5 ASoIaF books, and other related material/speculation.

For this post, I’m going to examine five moments on HBO’s Game of Thrones that made me (and may have made fellow viewers) a bit misty-eyed. I will, however, be selecting more subtle moments and will be AVOIDING the most obvious sob-worthy moments, which include, but are not limited to, particular weddings, door-related incidents, merciful pillow-smothering, and all traumatic head injuries, which includes both “loss of” and “smushed like an egg.”

1.) “You would be m’lady.”
My opinion on the “Gendrya” ship wavers a bit (I’m in favor but I think it’s more likely in the books than the show) but one of their final moments in season 3 episode 5 (“Kissed by Fire”) just about made me scramble for the tissue box. After traveling together for about a season and a half, Arya and Gendry part ways when he decides to stay (for a hot second) with the Brotherhood Without Banners and smith for them, while Arya is set to continue north. Though Arya pleads with him to come with her, telling him that she can be the family he’s never had, he tells her that isn’t possible; due to their difference in status, Arya wouldn’t be his family, she’d be “m’lady.” The look on Maisie Williams’ face when she says “I could be your family,” killed me, it was delivered so well. I loved Gendry and Arya’s friendship on the show and was sad to see it end, so I hope they reunite this season or the next… maybe for a pie at the Inn at the Crossroads, so Hot Pie can join in on the reunion.

2.) “Do I have to beg you?”
Of all the deaths (or, I suppose in this case, “deaths”) across the many episodes of the series thus far, I did not expect to get choked up in season 4 episode 10 (“The Children”) when the Hound, broken and dying at the base of a steep drop after his fight with Brienne, was delivering what was believed to be his final speech to Arya, who then leaves him to perish alone and in agony. Honestly, I wasn’t a huge Hound fan until that moment, but after witnessing his last bout with Brienne, his admission about watching over Arya, and his plunge over a cliff, I was swayed. Rory McCann’s performance moved me to actual tears, and on a subsequent rewatch of the series, I developed a deeper appreciation for the character and all of his complexities and The Hound rocketed to a top position on my favorite character’s list, a testament to his development across his initial 4 season appearance.

3.) “I will be your champion.”
Most folks remember Oberyn Martell’s story arc in season 4 for its gruesome end, when hubris gets the best of him and his head gets squashed between the Mountain’s meaty fists. But for me, the most memorable moment comes one episode earlier (“Mockingbird” season 4 episode 7) where Oberyn visits Tyrion in his cell and offers to be Tyrion’s champion at his trial by combat. Hearing Oberyn’s story – about seeing Tyrion as a baby, disappointed that the “monster” he expected was “just a baby”, and how he wants nothing more than vengeance for the deaths of his sister, nephew, and niece – solidified his position as one of my favorite characters in the show, despite his short stint. Though Tyrion claims that he’s come to the wrong place for the justice he seeks, Oberyn asserts that he’s “come to the perfect place” to get the vengeance he so desires, and when Oberyn plucks up that torch and tells Tyrion, “I will be your champion,” I get choked up EVERY TIME.

4.) “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
I know, I know… to which specific Ygritte quote am I referring? Not the last one, actually – that would be too obvious. I’m speaking of the tearful moment in season 3 episode 10 (“Mhysa”) where Jon, having fled the wildlings, thus revealing his defection from the Night’s Watch as a ruse, is tracked down by Ygritte, who promptly aims an arrow at him. Though she has the opportunity to kill him, he confesses that although he loves her, he needs to go home – and when he tells her that he knows she won’t hurt him, she says “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” Ultimately, she shoots him with three non-fatal arrows, which only proves him right. I think the doomed Jon/Ygritte romance is one of the most tragic, shown in scenes like this one, but also their final moment together at the Battle of Castle Black, and also when Jon flees in the rain, and Ygritte watches, dumbfounded, at his retreating back. Love is the death of duty, all right – but Jon’s allegiance to the Watch was not conquered by his feelings for Ygritte. And Rose Leslie was perfect as Ygritte, providing a compelling balance between her ruthless wilding spirit and her moments of vulnerability, which made it so much easier to be moved by her performance.

5.) “Promise me, Ned.”
Like many fans (both book and show) I was not surprised by the confirmation that R+L=J, since the theory’s been tumbling around for ages. I’m actually really proud that I gleaned the theory from the books on my own, before I scoured the internet for details I may have missed post-reading binge. But the way the show revealed it in Season 6’s finale “The Winds of Winter” was so beautiful that I actually shed a tear or two… or twelve. The build-up with the music, (“The Tower,” by Ramin Djawadi) and the on-point acting of both Robert Aramayo and Aisling Franciosi as young Ned and the dying Lyanna, the whisper of “Promise me, Ned,” the seamless transition from brooding baby to “DAKINGINDANORF” vol. 2, all served as the culmination of what Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire fans have been waiting years for. It was done so well, I can’t imagine any fan to be disappointed by that brilliant Tower scene, even if the theory has been kicked around for so long now that it’s basically been purported as the truth long before being officially confirmed. I re-watched the episode before S7 came out and still cried. Definitely one of the biggest tear-jerking moments on the show so far.

Changes from Page to Screen: Game of Thrones

WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS for all 7 seasons of HBO’s Game of Thrones, all 5 ASoIaF books, and other related material/speculation.

I know there are sticklers and purists out there who dislike it when significant changes are made to the source material in order to bring a book or series to the screen, and I totally understand that perspective. But, as I see it, that’s why it’s called an adaptation. Sure, there are egregious adaptations out there, like the Percy Jackson movies, but sometimes, the changes made to the story in order to adapt it to a new medium are more of a positive than a negative, like in The Lord of the Rings, or must be made for timing, plot, or casting purposes. Books don’t function entirely the same as films or television shows, which is why such (occasionally drastic) changes between mediums are often necessary.

In the case of HBO’s hit fantasy series Game of Thrones, many changes have been made from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series in order to bring the novels to the small screen. And while some of those choices have understandably struck a nerve with die-hard fans or even caused some outrage, others have worked pleasantly well. And here’s a list of some of the changes I found myself a fan of, and even a few I found myself preferring. And, for reference, I did read the books first, and I LOVE the books and all of the rich detail they include; I’m just not a “one or the other” type of fan, so I don’t demonize the show or the show runners for taking creative liberties.

Here we go…

Aging the Characters Up
One thing that really threw me in the books is how young all of the characters are. For reference, in the books, Arya is about 9 when the story begins, Sansa is 11, and Daenerys is 13. In the books, it’s a realistic choice because of the medieval setting, as once girls hit puberty in those times they were essentially expected to marry and bear children. But, considering the fact that Daenerys gets sold as a bride to Khal Drogo in the first episode, among various other shocking events that occur to other characters, it’s a good thing that the characters were aged up a few years. Reading about heinous things happening to characters who are essentially children is different than seeing it, and might have deterred less die-hard fans. The aging up also works for characters like Robb, who was 14 in the books, as an older Robb leading his own army makes more visual sense.

Axing Lady Stoneheart
I’m going to be honest; I’m not a huge fan of the Lady Stoneheart plot in the books. I don’t dislike it, per se, I just thought Cat dying at the Red Wedding was more fitting and poignant as the end of her character arc, so when she didn’t make her vengeful return in the show, I wasn’t torn up about it. Admittedly, one of my favorite characters is Beric Dondarrion, and since he dies (for good) in order to bring Catelyn back in the books, I am glad it didn’t happen on the show because it means Beric is still around valiantly leading the Brotherhood Without Banners. I do think Lady Stoneheart might have bogged down the plot a bit too much if she had made an appearance on the show, since so many plot-lines have been shifted around, trimmed, and altered to move the story along. At the very least, it does seem as though elements of her character have been given to others – her daughters, especially. Plus, Catelyn’s influence and impact on the other characters is still felt in the series, roughly four seasons later, a testament to her strength as a character. Plus, we can’t be bringing all much-missed characters back from the dead.

Arya and Tywin at Harrenhal (and other interactions)
One of the perks of the TV show is seeing characters meet face-to-face and story-lines intersect, and the show has a couple of these interactions that did not originate in the books, the most prominent being Arya serving as Tywin Lannister’s cup bearer at Harrenhal in season 2. Their banter and discussions and Tywin’s developing fondness for her is a major highlight of that season, and it orchestrates additional tension, since Tywin has no idea that his new cup bearer is the missing daughter of a family in open rebellion against the crown. In the books, Arya has the same general arc, but serves Roose Bolton at Harrenhal instead, which isn’t quite as memorable. Other such interactions include the Hound and Brienne in season 4, Bronn and Jaime from season 5 onward, and, on a different note, the non-book conversation between Robert and Cersei in season 1 where they discuss Lyanna Stark and their marriage. I think that conversation will bear a lot of relevance in this season and the last…

Expanding Bronn
Not much to this one, except Jerome Flynn is excellent as Bronn, inserting a bit of crass humor into his scenes, and I’m glad he’s been around the last couple of seasons instead of shacking up with Lollys at Stokeworth. Unfortunately, that means he’s in the thick of things and will probably die either this season or the next, but I do hope he gets his lady and his holdfast someday.

Sansa Goes North
I think this is a decision that resulted in some pretty severe backlash, and I understand that perspective; especially since Sansa had already suffered plenty before being handed over to the Boltons, where she proceeded to suffer even more – taking her pain to a near obscene level in season 5. I don’t like that Sansa going north and marrying Ramsay meant she needed to endure even more horrendous treatment right as she was beginning to gain new footing and independence, but it also advanced her plot and put her in position to reunite with Jon, reclaim Winterfell, and get her vengeance in season 6. She’s suffered enough, and though it was tough to watch, she couldn’t stay holed up in the Vale on the show or her plot would have lagged behind the others. Besides, if the show had followed the book plot, Ramsay would be torturing poor Jeyne Poole (being purported as Arya Stark) instead (and in far more gruesome fashion), which doesn’t bear as much emotional or narrative weight in the showverse, and wouldn’t have as big of an impact for the viewers.

Reduction and Streamlining of Minor/Supporting Characters and Plot-lines
Although I don’t think the Dorne story-line or the Iron Islands story-line made the transition to the screen quite as smoothly as they could (here’s looking at you, Sand Snakes) if they had thrown even more characters and intricate plot-lines and twists and turns into a story already has a ton of rich detail, or followed the books verbatim, the show could easily go for ten more seasons – which would be a dream for fans, but also a logistical nightmare and unrealistic. It’s a shame that dynamic characters such as Arianne Martell, Victarion Greyjoy, Arys Oakhart, Quentyn Martell, Moqorro, “Aegon Targaryen,” Jon Connington, and Dark Star were omitted, and others, like Doran Martell, Areo Hotah, the Sand Snakes, and Euron Greyjoy got scaled back, but I do think stream-lining the show, and adding a few character traits of absent characters to those already present in the show (Yara getting some of Victarion’s story, for instance, or Jorah inheriting Jon Connington’s greyscale) was ultimately a smart choice. It’s also a shame that characters like Strong Belwas, Edric Storm, the woods witch, Mya Stone, Patchface, etc, got left out of the show entirely, but again, combining characters (Gendry inheriting Edric’s storyline, as an example, and Daario taking on some of Belwas’s role) has been fairly effective thus far and kept the show from getting too bloated.  I know a few folks who are more “casual” viewers who still don’t know the names of the main characters; imagine if they’d gone full tilt and adapted the books word for word! Other choices, like Talisa replacing Jeyne Westerling also worked pretty well from a narrative standpoint, as the character arc and relationship with Robb was a bit more dramatic to witness, and Vargo Hoat would have been entertaining/ridiculous to see, but I think Locke was an acceptable substitute. Do I wish we could have seen more characters/plot-lines? Yes – but I understand why the changes were made.

 

I know it’s a disappointment to many that so much detail was left out of the show, but let’s be real; the show is pretty darn great regardless. Besides – we always have the books! I think it’s safe to say the show and the books might meet the same general ending, but there are still plenty of surprises to be had from the book series that will not be present on the show, and I’m glad we have deeper plot-lines and a developed mythos to look forward to in the books, even if the show spoils some surprises.

Top 10 Game of Thrones Supporting Characters

In the spirit of the new GoT season, I’ll be posting random Game of Thrones based posts throughout the run of season 7. 

This list only includes characters/actors who have not yet been billed with “starring” status, instead earning either “Guest” or “Recurring” status. Strangely enough, most of my favorite characters are classified as supporting, with the exception of The Hound and Jon.

WARNING: This post contains major spoilers for all 7 seasons of Game of Thrones and all 5 ASOIAF books plus some speculation. 

All photo credit for this post goes to the Game of Thrones Wiki.

Beric_s6_infobox.jpgBeric DondarrionRichard Dormer
THE MAN HAS A FLAMING SWORD, WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE? In all seriousness, Beric’s fight scene with Sandor in season 3 is one of my all-time favorite moments on the show, and his resurrection afterwards gives me chills every time. Beric has had a pretty small role thus far, but whenever he’s onscreen, he delivers an engrossing performance, and ultimately, I think he’s a good fellow for Sandor to be around and even though Sandor would never admit it, I do think Beric (and Thoros) have already influenced his mentality. If not having Lady Stoneheart on the show means more Beric, I am 100% okay with it. His bromance with Thoros of Myr is also pretty fantastic, and as one of the leaders of the Brotherhood Without Banners, Beric wants to defend the realm from those who prey on the weak and bring justice to those who have evaded it, but is also aware of a “greater purpose” which has drawn him and his merry band northward. Of course, that awareness likely means he’s going to meet his demise (for real this time) but if he does, I hope he goes out swinging that flaming sword and taking a chunk of the army of the dead down with him. Also, Dormer’s voice is amazing. I could listen to him narrate books or ramble on about literally anything for days.

Jaqen.pngJaqen H’gharTom Wlaschiha
I’m not ranking him on this list just because Tom Wlaschiha is a fine specimen of a man, but also because he effectively conveyed two different GoT characters, taking on both the eloquent, yet enigmatic Jaqen H’ghar in season 2 and the more somber, unnamed Faceless Man in seasons 5 and 6 (at least, I don’t think they’re the same person, just the same “face.”) However, it’s his initial appearance as the deadly smooth assassin that I found more engaging. His peculiar, but alluring style of speech (Lorathi), suave smirk, and his interactions with Arya make him a major highlight of season 2. Plus, when you think about it, Jaqen and his mysterious ways is the one who sets Arya on the path toward vengeance… however, we have yet to see if that was ultimately a good path for her to take.

Syrio_Forel.pngSyrio Forel – Miltos Yeromelou
Syrio has very little screen time and has not been seen since season 1 (I’m not 100% convinced he’s dead in the books, but in the show it seems more likely) but his impact was immense, and he had significant influence on Arya that persists long after his final scene. Yeromelou didn’t fit the physical description of Syrio from the novels, but he totally owned the role and delivered one of the more meaningful performances in season 1, especially since his mentoring continued to affect Arya well into the series. He was a legend with a sword and a stick, and planted the seeds for Arya’s desire to be a “water dancer.” I attempt to use “Not today,” in my everyday vernacular, now.

Waif6x08.pngThe WaifFaye Marsay
The Waif might not be a “good guy” and clearly bears a grudge against Arya, but even though she’s a somewhat “gray” character, I found Marsay’s portrayal pretty fascinating and I enjoyed her as part of Arya’s story-line, especially since her inclusion gave Arya someone to butt heads with besides Faceless Jesus. In particular, her Terminator-style running and total badassery with the stick was impressive to watch, as was her total mercilessness when it came to carrying out orders or tasks. One standout scene that comes to mind is when she is teaching Arya how to play the “Game of Faces,” and, after she spins her pretty convincing sob story, she demands, “Was that the truth, or was it a lie?” The Waif is mysterious, and also kind of terrifying – and her last climactic showdown with Arya was a fitting culmination for Arya’s journey in Braavos.

Oberyn-Martell-house-martell-37118334-2832-4256Oberyn MartellPedro Pascal
I’ve mentioned it in my “Best Episodes” post, but Oberyn’s speech in Mockingbird is one of my favorite monologues in the entire series. Pascal absolutely killed it as Oberyn and the character was a major highlight of season 4, and he basically set the bar for the Dorne portion of the story, which, unfortunately, has floundered a bit ever since (I do like Ellaria, and I don’t think the Sand Snakes are/were that terrible) but I still carry fond memories of his portrayal, and always look forward to re-watching season 4 and witnessing Oberyn’s verbal ownage of Tywin and Cersei, his pledge to help Tyrion and avenge the loss of his sister, and even his final, gruesome moments… admittedly, I always have to look away before it gets too gross. He was a nice contrasting perspective and brought a unique presence to a series full of so much doom and gloom, and though he’s been gone nearly 3 seasons now, he is still sorely missed.

Olenna_season_6_a.jpgOlenna TyrellDiana Rigg
The aptly named “Queen of Thorns” and her scathing, witty banter are also worthy of the moniker “Queen of Sick Burns.” From her very first appearance in season 3, Olenna Tyrell steals just about every scene she’s in with her hilarious insults (mostly to Cersei) and shrewd behind-the-scenes scheming, steamrolling over her opposition with the sheer strength of her wit, wisdom, and killer verbal smack-downs. I’d love to quote a favorite line from her but there are simply TOO MANY, but her interactions with Varys, Tywin, and Sersei are certainly highlights. She also literally has a hand in committing regicide, and yet, she shows such fierce devotion to her family (well… except maybe Mace) I’d still love to have her as a grandma. I am so TERRIFIED that she is going to die this season because I don’t think I will be able to handle it, but if she does… I hope she goes out in “thorny” fashion and takes some folks down with her.

Season_6_hodor_main.jpgHodorKristian Nairn
I think Hodor’s character is a sure example of “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” because I, like many other fans, was unraveled by his heartbreaking demise in the middle of season 6. For 5 seasons (6 technically, but his story-line was absent from season 5) Hodor has been Bran’s unfailing and uncomplaining companion, carrying Bran north toward his true purpose. He only ever had one line, but never said “Hodor” the same way twice – and Nairn was the absolute perfect actor for the role. He really put the “support” in “supporting character.” The “Hold the door!” revelation will go down as one of the saddest, and most heart-rending moments on the entire show, and even among all the major character deaths, Hodor’s was absolutely devastating; proof of how big of an impact his character had despite a relatively small role.

Aemonepisode5.pngMaester AemonPeter Vaughan
Though “Baelor” is a largely heartbreaking episode for a different reason altogether, the “Love vs Duty” scene between Jon and Maester Aemon where Aemon reveals his Targaryen heritage and how it felt to essentially lose his entire family is one of my favorite interactions across the entire series. Vaughan didn’t have a major role but he had a lasting impact, as he offered guidance to both Sam and Jon (and the Night’s Watch in general) that has had a profound effect on their character development. He had faith that Jon could be a great Lord Commander, casting the tie-breaking vote to put Jon in the position, and helped spark Sam’s interest in becoming a Maester. I got mega choked-up when Aemon died, uttering his heartbreaking last words of, “Egg… I dreamed that I was old!” and in his later seasons, I especially adored his interactions with Sams both big and little. It’s sad that his character never got to meet Dany, or know the truth about Jon’s heritage. And R.I.P. to Peter Vaughan – a marvelous actor who brought many great characters to life over his career, including Aemon Targaryen.

Barristan_Selmy_Sons_of_the_HarpyBarristan SelmyIan McElhinney 
Barristan Selmy’s dramatic (and wrongful) expulsion from the Kingsguard in season 1 is one of the earliest and most memorable badass moments from the show, especially when he tosses his sword at Joffrey’s feet and says, “Here, boy! Melt it down and add it to the others!” It’s just a glimpse of his legendary skill and proof of how revered he is within the realm, especially since Tywin later tells Cersei that dismissing him was “as insulting as it was stupid” and Jaime also comments on his ability (in the books he does, anyway). I was so pleased to see him again in season 3, aiding everyone’s favorite many-titled Dragon Queen on her quest to reclaim Westeros, and was so bummed out by his early demise in season 5. I’m not even that mad that they killed him, because the semantics of it make sense; they had to make more room for Tyrion to squeeze into Dany’s retinue and they have to pare down the cast as the episodes dwindle. It’s how they did it that bugged me. His death was an attempt at shock factor over quality, though the few brief moments we got to see Ian McElhinney’s sword skills were pretty glorious. However, the way his death was handled is one of the few complaints I’ve had over the entire series run, but I am glad they did bring him back after his dismissal from the Kingsguard instead of axing his story-line entirely.

Meera_Season_7.pngMeera ReedEllie Kendrick 
Honestly, I don’t think Meera gets nearly enough credit for what she’s done thus far in the series. She’s a fighter, but she isn’t emotionless or fearless; she’s struggled, but it hasn’t defeated her and she’s persisted in spite of the obstacles. She’s killed a White Walker and fended off the army of the dead. She had to mercy-kill her own brother to end his suffering and so she could carry out what he wanted her to, she had to witness Hodor’s dramatic end, she’s had to drag Bran through the snow and away from wights on a sled all by herself (her calves must be amazing by now) and she’s dedicated literal years of her life and essentially put her life on hold to journey north and live in a cave so Bran can become the Three-Eyed Raven. I think her exhaustion in the season 7 opener was a testament to everything she’s endured thus far, and I’m excited to see what happens to Meera’s character this season and next. Of all the characters who legitimately deserve a happy ending, Meera is definitely near the top of that list, and I also hope we get to meet her father, Howland, sometime in the next two seasons.