Game of Thrones: A Final Perspective

***WARNING! THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SEASONS 1-8 OF GAME OF THRONES AND THE ASOIAF BOOKS!***

I’ve defended some of Game of Thrones‘s more questionable or controversial decisions, or, at the very least, accepted them, even if I didn’t always understand them. Literature and television are different mediums, and translating one to the other is not always seamless. I appreciate the hard work that everyone – cast, crew, producers, everyone involved in the making of this series – put forth into turning a beloved book series into an epic genre-bending show that drew in millions of fans across the world. It built an enduring legacy, and has deserved the huge amount of awards and recognition it has earned across its run. This is obviously a show made with a huge amount of dedication and passion, and people have watched it so closely and loved it so dearly because of that.

That brings us to Season 8, which recently finished airing after a year and a half hiatus after season 7. The final season, where viewers learned the fates of their favorite characters and the identity of who would reign over Westeros from the fearsome Iron Throne. But now that it is over, and the dust has settled, there has been a massive amount of backlash from fans and critics. For the first time in the series, I agree with a large portion of it.

Do I think the ending sucked? No. But I was left wanting.

I’m not opposed to Daenerys as the “Mad Queen,” and the ultimate “villain” of the show. I’m not opposed to Jaime turning back to Cersei. I’m not opposed to Bran being elected king, and I’m not opposed to Sansa being made Queen in the North. In fact, I have very little issue with what was done this past season on Game of Thrones… my issues lie in how they happened. The root of that is in the pacing. And the writing.

Game of Thrones used to shine because of it’s subtle scenes – conversations between characters which may seem trivial at first, but convey motivation, emotion, and shed light on other plot points and decisions in a meaningful and often masterful way. Of course, much of this can be chalked up to the source material, the ASoIaF books by George R. R. Martin, but some – such as the conversation between Robert and Cersei in season 1, where the pair discuss their marriage – are a show-only invention. Those scenes – introspective scenes, scenes were characters let down their barriers, where we can really get into their thoughts and feelings and see into their development, have always been more vital to the show than cool battles and brilliant effects. Yes, those scenes are excellent too – the battle at the Blackwater and Battle of the Bastards are some of the most visually striking and powerful battle scenes ever seen on television. But scenes like Ygritte’s death carry more emotional weight because we saw the full development of her relationship with Jon, and we knew how she felt being betrayed by him, and how he felt knowing he would have to betray her. Scenes like the revelation of Jon’s parentage through Bran’s vision of Jon’s birth tugged at the viewer’s hearts because we knew how Jon felt about being a bastard, and we simultaneously come to realize how much Ned loved Lyanna – and Jon – to keep that secret for so long. The Red Wedding was shocking, but even that has a ton of build up, with Robb making error after error, paying the ultimate price to learn that love cannot always overcome oath breaking and losing the loyalty of your followers and that inexperience can be a fatal flaw. Cersei blowing up the Sept of Baelor has an incredible amount of multi-season build-up, with Cersei’s desperation and paranoia over Margaery and the High Sparrow culminating in one final explosive act, pushing her beyond redemption and causing her to lose her last beloved child.

I can think of several more examples from the earlier seasons, but overall, the small, intimate scenes are vital to the show’s success because they lead to larger scenes – such as those big battles or dramatic climaxes – having a more significant impact. Huge events often have a series of little events  building toward them at a balanced pace. And what season 8 (and 7, for that matter) lacks is those small moments. The result is rushed conclusions that bear less emotional weight, and payoff that feels both disappointing and underwhelming. Game of Thrones has always been so much more than dragons, occasionally gratuitous nudity, and grueling battles. It’s been about political sabotage, intricate human relationships, racism, the fallout of war, religion, and a multitude of other issues and subjects. But the final season feels superficial, falling short of she standards set by the GoT of seasons 1-4… even 1-6. 

In season 8, Jon – a man who has believed his whole life that he is a motherless bastard – learns that he is a Targaryen. Not only that, but he is the true, legitimate heir to the Iron Throne. In the same moment, he discovers his lover is also his aunt. And yet, other than a few shocked looks and some brooding expressions… do viewers really know how Jon feels about this bombshell? Sure, he continues to swear himself to Daenerys (though he discontinues their romance), and denies wanting the throne… but we never get into his head or dig into his emotions over the ordeal. How does he feel about Ned really being his uncle? How does he feel knowing that his true father is Rhaegar Targaryen and his history is linked to Robert’s Rebellion overall? What does he think of Lyanna? How does he feel about being related to Maester Aemon, who he so admired at the Wall? Just how devastated is he to lose his relationship with Daenerys? He went from thinking he was a lowly bastard to discovering he is basically the center of intense conflict, and the product of two noble houses. We never get immersed in his emotions the same way we have in previous seasons, and so, his character development over the season feels stunted. It made him seem like a distant shadow of himself – a ghost, if you will.

Cersei did nothing this season but lament the lack of elephants, sleep with Euron, and stare out of windows… oh, and die. We never get tapped into her thoughts or emotions at all. Lena Headey does a brilliant job with what she was given, but there is so little reflection on Cersei’s character it comes across that the show didn’t know what to do with her, and her death is lackluster. Viewers expected her to die this season, but when the fateful moment comes, there is nothing surprising, nothing to make the viewer feel for her, nothing to signify or emphasize Cersei’s arc across the seasons. It’s like she only existed in season 8 to be taken down, and that is a poor tribute to Cersei’s character, who fans have loved to hate since season 1. She peaked in season 6, when she blew up the Sept.

Daenerys’s descent into madness, her almost fated Targaryen fall from grace into paranoia, took place in basically half an episode. Sure, there are hints of it in previous episodes and seasons – her initial instincts toward violence only being curbed by her advisers, her family words and legacy being “Fire and Blood,” the losses of her closest allies and friends and her steadfast belief in her destiny as a “liberator” pushing her to the brink. It’s not as though there is no build up at all. It makes total narrative sense for her character to take the turn she does in “The Bells,” and I personally love the idea of Daenerys becoming the conqueror she used to imagine eradicating. But because the pace over the last two seasons basically warped into hyper-drive, the change in her character feels far too abrupt, even if the seeds had already been planted long before. I suspected it might happen, and yet, seeing it unfurl in a blaze of death and ashes felt far too sudden. And honestly, Daenerys (and Emilia Clarke’s portrayal) deserved better, and the backlash is completely justified. The twist lacks the depth of previous seasons – it’s a detonation instead of a slow burn. Audiences – especially those who do not delve quite as deeply into the theories and book lore – felt like they had the rug ripped out from beneath them.

Even more egregious (to me, anyway) is Jaime Lannister’s return to his sister and lover, Cersei. Again, it’s not totally unbelievable that this would happen… but Jaime has had seven seasons of redemption, of trying to shed the “Kingslayer” moniker and prove himself as a man of honor. He finally turns on Cersei “for good” in the season seven finale, to fight for the living and go north. But when that fight is done, he sleeps with Brienne, then leaves her once he hears that Cersei is in danger… all in a single episode. And then, in the next episode, he meets his fate first at the sword of Euron of all people (which… I’m not even going to go there) then dies embracing Cersei as the ceiling caves in around them. So, what do viewers take from that? That seven seasons of building up one of the most intriguing characters, with an arc that explored the roots of his actions and his struggles with how people perceive him and how he hoped to leave the shadow of his tainted legacy behind, meant nothing? Again, narratively, it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that Jaime would do this – but seeing his turn in character take less than one episode is so sudden, so abrupt, it fell completely flat and carried no emotional weight whatsoever. Jaime was one of my favorite characters, and I didn’t even care when he died. Sure he died in the arms of the woman he loved, as he said he wanted to. He and Cersei left the world as they came into it; together. The seeds were planted for his decision, but were given no time to flourish, and the presentation of it was way too rushed, which made his fate feel anticlimactic.

I could go on. For example, there’s no way the other six kingdoms would be totally fine with the North remaining independent, and many of the other Highborn lords likely wouldn’t approve unanimously of Bran being king, either. Is there still a need for the Night’s Watch, if the White Walkers are gone and the freefolk are content beyond the remains of the Wall? How could Icy Viserion take down the Wall but not that rock that Jon was hiding behind? How could Drogon single-wingedly take out Cersei’s forces, including the Iron fleet and the Golden Company, when one episode before, he had to flee a portion of Euron’s ships to avoid being killed? What was the Night King really after? Did the Night King ever really matter beyond being a little speedbump if he and his forces were defeated in a single episode, and the rest of the Realm never knew the true danger they were in? Where the fuck is Meera? Who gets Dragonstone? Why does it matter if Jon goes to the Wall if Grey Worm and the remainder of Dany’s forces are leaving, anyway? You might think these are trivial questions, and maybe that’s true… but they are questions that the show would have answered in previous seasons. Instead, the final two seasons were a race to the finish with no time to dwell on emotion or development, when the show used to truly thrive when it did take time to dwell on those things.

Of course, I assume many of these endings and storylines will unfold differently in the books. There are more characters and situations involved in GRRM’s story than the show was able to portray without alienating the casual viewers, such as the fAegon arc, Victarion’s plot, and the schemes of Doran and the Sand Snakes. And if some of these points raised in the GoT finale remain in the intended book ending – such as Daenerys torching King’s Landing – I believe they will have much more development, and won’t feel unwarranted or unjustified. Readers will see character growth and motivation more clearly. I’m only sad that the version we got on the show lacked the intricacy of the previous seasons and the books, the little moments that made Game of Thrones so powerful and made the characters easier to connect with.

If fans out there loved the final season, then that’s great – and I hope that many folks did love the finale. There are parts of season 8 that I thought were amazing – Cleganebowl was excellent, and Drogon nudging at Daenerys after she was stabbed broke my heart. I will still watch the entire series over and over again, and there are so many elements that I have admired consistently over the years. I went to the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience back in 2017. I have a lot of merch, and will continue to wear my GoT shirts and such with pride. I don’t hate the show just because I found fault with the finale, and I don’t think those faults negate the incredible impact that GoT has had on the fantasy world. I just wish we had been given two full seasons to close it out – a little more time, and a little more depth, would have gone a long way.

Game of Thrones Season Eight Predictions

Finally, winter is upon us… this Sunday, HBO’s epic fantasy Game of Thrones returns for its eighth and final season. And, to celebrate what is sure to be a dramatic conclusion, I thought I’d share eight predictions for the upcoming season!


1.) Dany will be, or already is, pregnant and will bear Jon’s child. They mentioned her inability to have children last season far too much, as though they really wanted to remind the audience of her alleged infertility. Though the idea of the Targaryen cycle of incest continuing on any longer – even though they are unaware of it at this point – is a bit questionable.

2.) Gendry will be legitimized, inherit Storm’s End, and marry Sansa. I waver on the idea of “Gendrya,” and see him instead making a match for Sansa, who is in need of someone who won’t be cruel to her and will see her as a partner. However, if he does marry Sansa, I think that would be a show-only thing, as I doubt that will be the outcome for her in the books.

3.) Either Jon or Dany will die, but not both. Probably.

4.) Bronn will finally get his castle – and I think it will be Walder Frey’s old domain, The Twins. Bronn’s been through a lot trailing Tyrion and Jaimie around, and I think he’ll make it through whatever comes next. Plus, I so hope he teams up with the Hound, Beric, and Tormund somehow.

5.) Tyrion will betray Dany. I don’t know how he will do it or what the long-lasting implications will be, but he wasn’t fully on board with much of Daenerys’ strategies last season (frying the Tarlys, flying beyond the wall, and hookin’ up with Jon), and I see his faith in her waning. Will he turn to Cersei because of it? Maybe. I hope not, but I don’t think he’s happy with his position right now, and see him seeking to change it.

6.) Cleganebowl will happen but it won’t be as satisfying as years of hype has built it up to be.

7.) Arya will kill Melisandre. They are meant to meet again, after all, according to Melisandre’s statement in season 3 – and it hasn’t happened yet. Plus, she’s on Arya’s list.

8.) And – just for the heck of it – Cersei and Jaime are secret Targaryens. I don’t necessarily think this is true (though I do think it is more likely than Tyrion being one) but if it is, I want to be able to say I called it.


Whatever is to come in the final season, I cannot wait to see it unfold onscreen!

Expectations vs. Reality

Last week, I went into Star Wars: The Last Jedi knowing nothing save for the scenes included in the two trailers. Sure, after three viewings of The Force Awakens in 2015 I had concocted some theories about what was going to happen in the next installments. Though I’ve never been an active member of the fandom (as in, I don’t participate in any discussions online, but I am a big-time lurker on forums and such) I had a general knowledge of some of the more intense fan theories, and had a few ideas of my own rattling around about Rey’s parents, Supreme Leader Snoke’s true identity, what the return of Luke Skywalker would entail, and all the other questions that have been plaguing both die-hard and casual fans for the last couple of years.

Though some of my theories were wrong, a couple were confirmed, and some remain unanswered, I genuinely loved The Last Jedi. I had a couple of quibbles with it as far as the plot goes (no spoilers) but all in all, I felt that it was a strong film with excellent performances and some moments and scenes that I consider the best to ever feature in a SW film.  So, when I broke my social media ban and discovered that a vocal part of the fandom had major issues with the film (to the point of making a petition to have it struck from the canon, apparently) I was surprised. I mean, last I checked, the RT score for the critics was hovering in the low 90’s, but the audience score is in the 50’s, even lower than all, or most, of the prequels. Reading through the litany of complaints and the diatribes about all the things that “went wrong” with the film, I do see and understand how folks didn’t like it. Obviously not everyone is going to love a film – I know folks who didn’t like TFA, either, so I’m not trying to invalidate those who genuinely didn’t like TLJ. But with such a polarizing reaction to a film with such a passionate, dedicated fan base (for the better and the worse) behind it, It leads me to wonder; how much do our expectations of something color our opinion of it once we experience the reality? Does over-hype and rampant speculation lead to lukewarm reception?

I mean, I may not actively participate in the SW fandom, and my experience with the media outside of the films (novels, comics, the EU stuff, etc) is limited, but I am invested in it nonetheless. But there are folks out there (not a criticism, btw – I admire people with this level of dedication so long as it doesn’t interfere with life) who spend a lot of time to crafting theories or speculating about what is to happen next in a galaxy far, far away. So obviously, these die-hard fans might have crafted some theories or grown attached to ideas about TLJ and the new characters and plots in the SW universe that Rian Johnson and the creative crew behind the film have effectively taken a lightsaber to.  But just because it isn’t what fans expected, does that necessarily mean it’s “bad?” Or is it just a jarring contrast between expectations and reality that sours the experience for some fans? And while that perspective is valid – and people levying criticism at the film are justified – I think it’s important to separate folks who simply didn’t like the film from people who claim TLJ is “bad” because it didn’t go the way they thought it would.

Game of Thrones is another prominent fandom that suffers from this expectations versus reality mentality, and it makes me dread the reaction to season 8, which is pretty much guaranteed to debut before GRRM releases the final book. Fans of both the show and the books have grown so invested in the character journeys and the overall story and for years have come up with countless theories about “Azor Ahai” and who will marry who and who the “valonqar” is that I cannot fathom an ending that will satisfy everyone. There will be backlash, no matter what, because folks are attached to certain pieces of speculation that, if proven false, might affect the way viewers will perceive the ending. I think there are so many theories that if none of them turn out to be true (as unlikely as that is, a good number of them are going to turn out to be nonsense) a certain strain of fan will be incredibly disappointed. But it’s the nature of the fandom beast.  I know how I want the story to end, and which pieces I want to fall into place, but even if it doesn’t go the way I’ve theorized it would, that doesn’t mean I’m going to write it off as “bad.”

The closest I’ve come to this mentality this year was when Justice League came out a couple of months ago. After the resounding success of Wonder Woman, I was all in for JL, expecting the DCEU to finally turn itself around and prove that it can produce a well-balanced, engrossing ensemble film… which didn’t exactly happen. I did make the mistake of looking at the RT score beforehand, which dampened my excitement. I still enjoyed it, and it had some compelling strengths, but my expectations definitely weren’t met; and yes, that’s disappointing. That’s not the easiest thing to stomach, as a fan who is attached to the characters and the lore. But there’s nothing else to do but accept it, appreciate the good parts, and continue to have optimism for the future.

Honestly, the more popular something becomes, the more passionate and dedicated the fanbase is, and the more disappointed fans are bound to be with the outcome of the next installment, whether it be a book or film or episode. It’s the double-edged sword of popularity and fandoms, and the intrinsic nature of the idea that “you can’t please everyone.” But “different” doesn’t have to mean a “let down,” and “unexpected” shouldn’t automatically equate with “disappointment.” Unless it’s the finale of How I Met Your Mother, because that was straight up garbage and I literally can’t even watch reruns anymore without the shadow of that disaster looming overhead.

That’s why I’m more grateful than ever that I went into The Last Jedi with virtually no expectations and no idea what to expect, because I had no preconceived notions or outside opinions of the film to color my experience while watching. I may have had some theories kicking around in my head, but I was not so attached to any particular outcome or potential theory confirmation that I was disappointed when the reality strayed from how I’d imagined it would go. I have hopes for the future of the franchise and Episode IX, a spark that will not be snuffed out, but I don’t let my hopes get so high that they will inevitably come crashing to the ground and shatter when the outcome is unexpected.

This is my last post of the year; we’ll kick off January with a new Manga Monday!

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If you’re in need of a new read, or need something to spend your holiday money on, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.

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.