This episode was awkward for me. Some of the moments felt a little forced. I get it, the producers want to create both love and tension between Dany and Jon. Jon has always been a character thrust into a role he didn’t want. Bastard, Steward, Lord Commander, Being Dead, Being Alive Again, King of the North, Warden of the North…on and on. Now they want to add, “Heir to the Iron Throne.” Jon has said “Not me.” A lot of rulers have done that in history and stuck to their word. Jon tends to do what he says. Still, it’s a weird position they have moved his character into so late in the proverbial game. Let’s face it, nothing good comes out of wanting to sit in that damned chair…ask the Baratheon brothers.
They are also forcing Dany into a dark place. She lost a dragon this week to Euron Greyjoy. I guess no one thought to have Bran warg into some crows and do some scouting around Dragonstone or Kings Landing. Again, if you have Bran, use Bran. We all knew Missandei was toast when she appeared on a platform with the Mountain behind her. Nothing good was going to follow that. Honestly, I was expecting a shove, not the blade. Will Dany turn to the dark side and get all Targaryen on their ass? We shall see.
Let’s not forget that Tyrion and Varys have maps and know secret ways into Kings Landing (per the Battle of the Blackwater). Also, the opening credits are critical. They show Winterfell and the crypts and the dungeon under the Iron Throne with passages that lead to the Red Keep. Tyrion used those to kill his father. Arya has been down there too, chasing a cat in season one. I think they are very deliberate in giving us that image in the opening. Those passages play some sort of role in the things to come.
I hate Sansa…have I mentioned that this week? Thanks for selling out Jon. That took what, an hour? For someone that claims she hates Cersei, she’s starting to act a lot like her.
Parts of this felt horribly forced. The Jamie/Brienne scene of undressing needs to be done with 1970’s porno music in the background. Gendry proposing to Arya was, weird to me. There was no build up to that moment – and we deserved that.
Things I loved last week – Bronn showing up was one. He stayed true to character, which I loved and predicted. Bronn’s comments about how mighty houses rise to power was wonderful.
I love Arya and The Hound on the road again to Kings Landing. He’s going to be pissed if she kills The Mountain before he does. I loved the buddy-pairings of this series quite a bit, and these two are a classic. We have seen her kill, now we need to see her become the faceless killer again this season. Picture her wearing Jamie’s face to get to Cersei. I know, it just feels right doesn’t it?
While my crystal ball is totally messed up at this stage, I will say one thing. Someone needs to kill Euron Greyjoy, and I hope Yara plays a role in that. I hate that guy. A friend said, “He’s like the Joker – he just does things on impulse,” but I liked that in the Joker. He is arrogance personified and needs to just die. I would prefer him being toasted…but I will settle for anything painful at this stage.
We have some characters at Kings Landing (or on the way) and some in Winterfell. I sort of feel like to wrap things up, we need everyone in the same place. Will the attack on Kings Landing fail and force a retreat to Winterfell? Will something compel Sansa, Pod, Brienne and the gang to get in the Mystery Mobile and drive down to Kings Landing?
The bigger question – is this the week we wrap up the Lannister storyline once and for all? Or will whatever shit is about to go down leave us hanging until the final episode? Will we see Dany and Jon go at each other? I feel they are forcing this on us, but it feels kind of rushed and not true to character. Sansa…grr…bad girl.
We are about to ride through spoiler territory. You have been warned…for the night is dark and full of terrors (and geeks).
This was an episode that closed off several character and story arcs and did so brilliantly. I have heard complaints that the setting was too dark, sometimes confusing, and I agree. I also believe that was deliberate. This is the Night King’s last stand. You do see “night” in his name, right? Battles are meant to be chaotic and confusing, and I think the directors and producers wanted to capture that effect with the viewers. This was not like the Battle of the Bastards where you could put in perspective the entire battle in one or two wide-shot scenes. This was much grander in scope and scale. They wanted to put you in the middle of the fighting, and did so in a way we simply do not see often.
I had some issues with it – that is the geek (and military historian) in my blood. Why were your siege engines poised outside the castle walls, for example? Then when you see how cramped the interior walls were, it make sense. I presume the placement of so many troops outside the castle was to buy time for the Night King to make his move on Bran. That was my eventual take anyway. If I figured out that the crypts were a death trap, why didn’t Jon or Tyrion? Then again, that’s me being senselessly picky.
What unfolded was epic. The Dothraki riding into the night, (The Death Ride of the Dothraki) their swords ablaze, then flickering out – that was a stunning visual that made you quiver in fear. A smart move? Well, in a siege you usually position them outside the walls to hit the oppositions rear. This wasn’t miltiary tactics though, this was a fantasy battle. It was meant to give us a sense of doom…and it worked.
The use of fire as the only source of light was realistic, creepy, and scary. We were bathed in the chaos of the fight. I love the fact that the two dragons collided in the blizzard – it was what would happen in the “real world” in such a conflict. I appreciate it. I run into BattleMechs all of the time in MechWarrior Online, but in the boardgame I would only do it on purpose. It is what happens in combat. The fog of war was deliberate, to put you, the viewer, on the field of battle with the characters – facing the same confusion they were coping with.
The military historian part of me cringes that they didn’t drop barrels of flaming oil over the walls of Winterfell. We did it at the Battle of Castle Black with the Wildlings. It would have made sense, but this was not your typical battle. This was The Walking Dead on steriods. The surge of bodies made even swinging a sword difficult. I would have held the dragons off until later – that was the plan, but Dany got all Leroy Jenkins and rushed in. A human reaction to a horrific loss of her beloved Dothraki. Jon did it at the Battle of the Bastards after all.
Big battles are hard to write about as a novelist, even harder to put on the screen. This had well-executed phases. We saw characters die. Some died true hero-deaths – like Lyanna and Jorah Mormont. Lyanna taking out the zombie giant was a true David and Goliath moment, though I had hoped she would live. Jorah died as he should, protecting the woman he loved. These were epic, the things of song.
Some have argued that the Night King’s death was anti-climatic. It may seem that way if you only watch this episode. In reality, his fate was set up last season. Remember how Bran gave Arya the Valyrian Steel dagger last season…the very dagger that Little Finger used to start the war between the Starks and Lannisters? Also, the move she did, dropping the blade to her other hand while the Night King held her – that was the same move she used with Brienne when they sparred last season. Finally, the Red Witch told her she saw blue eyes in her gaze. It was perfect foreshadowing because it was all laid out before us. Jon went after the Night King with a dragon, Dany had her dragon attempt to roast him. Bran can’t fight him – so the end may not have been a slugfest like a superhero movie, but this wasn’t one of those. This was masterful storytelling that laid out the results over hours of viewing.
The mix of almost horror-like terror with Walking Dead overtones broke up the battle, giving us deeply moving and nail-biting scenes. I love the library scene the best.
This episode used imagery and music rather than words. There was actually very little dialogue in the show. In fact, I think the last words spoken were Bran telling Theon that he was a good man. Arya’s entire library scene was in utter silence. Sansa and Tyrion shared a great deal without saying a word. Silence in the episode made it more meaningful. It let the actors do what they do best – act.
You cannot apply the real world military doctrine or even D&D rules to an episode like this. If you did, Arya seriously took out a million or so soldiers, wights, a lich and an undead dragon. Talk about experience points and leveling up!
So what do we have left? This next week is battle damage assessment – regrouping and planning. Cersei will think she has pulled off a victory. Then comes the next conflict for King’s Landing – where we will see Tyrion’s brilliance shine. He has had two seasons of setbacks, but like Jorah said, “He owns his mistakes. He learns from them.” The time has come for him to demonstrate it. This may less be about raw battle than about him getting back at his sister. That last episode, that will be the icing on the cake.
Okay, week one of this final season we got all of the players on the board. Week two, we said our goodbyes and laid out the plan of battle. This is flowing very much like a chapter or two of a BattleTech novel in all honestly.
This week comes the battle.
No plan survives contact with the enemy and that is the case with this battle. We did not see the Night King on the field of battle – either eluding to a grand entrance on a dragon, or something more sinister. So far, he has not displayed a great deal of strategy. He uses his army like a blunt object to pummel his foe with overwhelming numbers. He has to be a credible threat though, so I would count on strategy. He will whip up a blizzard to obscure his armies. Fear is his greatest weapon. He will not necessarily fight on Jon’s terms.
I surmise the following:
Those crypts under Winterfell are going to be a kill zone. Everyone keeps saying that the crypts are safe. We are putting the innocents and weak there. We see the crypts in the opening sequence. Everyone keeps going down there to chat. They built those sets for a reason! These are red flags. As a D&D player, let me assure you, they are full of dead Starks and the Night King can raise the dead. See where I’m going with this? Those people are locking themselves in with a potential slaughter machine. Even if we don’t get to see headless Ned rambling about, all he has to do is get a few of his troops in there and those poor people will die.
We all expect people to die. If I was one of the writers, I’d kill someone right off the bat, just to throw the audience off.
Jon will ride a dragon in battle. He’s had his training, that was deliberate. Now comes the time to fly and burn.
Bran has a bigger role than just bait. You would have thought someone would have asked him, “How did they defeat the Night King the last time around?” Seems like some pretty useful information.
Arya is the best killing machine Jon has. And she has had a special weapon made. This is no small coincidence. Is it her destiny to take out the Night King, his wights, or perhaps the undead dragon? I can’t fathom that she had the weapon made to knock apart some level one skeletons.
I am hoping Bronn shows up for the big dance.
There will be a moment when the battle will appear lost. We saw it at the Battle of Castle Black and at the Battle of the Bastards. You have to have that moment when the good guys are on the verge of defeat. Otherwise victory is meaningless.
We have only seen a few of the Night’s Watch. I am counting on the rest of the brothers in black to arrive at some point.
Who knows, we may end on a cliff-hanger this week – I can easily picture that. No matter what, we are at the big dance and the music has started. Game on!
You see it on social all of the time now, “When will he be done with the next book for Game of Thrones?” It is overdue on a cosmic scale from a writer’s perspective…years overdue. I don’t miss my book deadlines as an author, so the concept of being years late staggers me.
People want the books because they are different than the series, in some less-than-subtle ways, and they have invested long hours in reading the series up to this point. More importantly, they have watched the stunning HBO series which has gone far past Mr. Martin’s storyline in print thus far.
I’m not anxious about the next book being published. Why? Because George R. R. Martin has done something that I have not seen with almost any other writer – he has made his written books obsolete. His creation has eclipsed anything he might ever write again. The popularity of the HBO series is so big, so vast, so visually compelling, that whatever he writes it will be compared to the series, which is nearly impossible to top. Whatever he produces as an author will be held up against the TV series based on his books! The irony here is incredible. George R. R. Martin has actually created a situation where writing the books is not necessary.
It is hard to comprehend of an instance where an author’s success is so great because of his works, that he cannot surpass it with the written word. Perhaps Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. As good as the book is, when the title is mentioned, we all see Gregory Peck in our mind’s eye. When the sequel to the book two years ago, it was ridiculed and mocked. Her characters and story had eclipsed her own vision. People were saying that she, as the author, had not been true to the characters that she had created! The readers (and viewers) had seized her work and held onto it so dearly that no matter what was published thereafter was destined to be scorned.
Similarly, Mr. Martin doesn’t have to write the rest of the series because he will be remembered for the HBO series far beyond any words he might write. He is facing a problem that every writer dreams of, stunning success to the point where his written worlds are obsoleted by another medium – in this case, television. In fact, producing the books is bound to draw comparisons and raise scorn with fans, because that’s what people do on the internet, they get pissed. Having seen the series, the haters will whine that the coming novels don’t live up to what they have seen on HBO. If the books were released now, wrapping up the series, he would draw ire for their tardiness on top of being late, everyone will expect something miraculous. Writing the rest of the books will only serve to fragment his fan base. I have never quite seen anything like it.
The winning move for Mr. Martin is to not play the game. As a great fan of his work, I honestly don’t know if I would encourage him to publish any more in this series. His body of work, which encompasses the TV series, is stellar and little more can be done that would improve upon what we have all experienced.
As we enter the final season of Game of Thrones, all of the fans have an anticipation of what is coming. I can only come at this as an author/novelist; that is the optic I view the series from. “What would I do if I were writing this?”
As such, I am going to offer my predictions for the final season. I can’t say these are right, but they are how I would approach this as a fiction writer. As such, if I am totally wrong, so be it…I can live with that. As a writer, I look to not doing the obvious for viewers, but what would make their jaws drop.
The Mountain and the Hound will fight…together. Everyone expects these two to fight each other. It is so predictable and obvious that I would go another direction. Rather than battle each other, they will fight side-by-side. Also, the Mountain has taken a vow of silence until all of the queen’s enemies have been killed. That was said at the end of season five. So we may yet hear the Mountain speak. Will the Hound eventually kill him? We shall see. He’s basically dead now, so how will the army of the dead react to him? Will he turn?
We will see Jaqen H’ghar again. The writers have shown a knack for bringing back characters after a long time off-screen. We will see the faceless man again…in fact, he may end up facing Arya in a duel to the death, you never know. The Many-Faced-god demands a price and the girl has been busy with her list.
Speaking of our favorite cold-blooded killer, Arya may very well find herself on the throne at Winterfell. GoT is about putting characters where they don’t want to be. Jon never wanted to be the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, for example. To be honest, no tear will be shed if Sansa dies. Arya has no interest in the northern throne, so she may very well end up there as the Lady of Winterfell.
Cersei will be the death of Jamie. We all expect that Jamie will kill his sister at some point – it almost make sense. I think her actions, or inactions, will result in Jamie’s death. The Queen of Thorns predicted it and I think it will happen. I just don’t picture it being Cersei stabbing him. Her actions (betrayal) causing his death could be the last thing that drives her bat-shit crazy.
Daario Naharis will return with the Second Sons. We all know that Euron Greyjoy has set off to go get the Golden Company (mercenaries) for Cersei. But we have all forgotten about Daario back in Mereen with the Second Sons. Don’t be shocked when he shows up at a surprising moment.
The Redemption of Theon. I know everyone thinks Theon Greyjoy will die…but as a writer I think he will survive all of this carnage. Theon has been part of the series from episode one. It’s too easy to let him die heroically. I think his arc will have him surviving at the end, proving to the world he is a good person.
The Death of the Red Witch. Here’s the thing, you don’t want to be on Arya’s list. When the Red Witch took Gendry, she said that she and Arya would meet again. That can’t bode well for her.
Podrick Payne will emerge as a heroic figure. Our favorite boy with the magic cock has been evolving through the whole series. His character’s arc is such that we will see him become a true warrior. Whether he lives or dies…that is up in the air. Bronn has taught him, so as Brienne – so we can assume Pod will be a full-blown killing machine by this time. From a writer’s perspective, it is important that he save either Bronn or Brienne’s life at one point or another. The student becomes the master.
Bran will fly! The Three-Eyed Raven promised us this. Now Bran has “flown” as ravens scouting the army of the dead. I tend to believe he will warg into a dragon at some point. Otherwise, what purpose does he serve from a plot perspective – other than to tell Jon his true origins – and we have Sam for that.
Ellaria Sand gets her revenge. Captured by Euron Greyjoy and forced into the dungeons under the Red Keep and made to watch her daughter die from Cersei’s poisoning – she is likely to be mad by the time our characters rescue her. I picture her being the one to kill Cersei, closing out that longstanding demand for revenge. It’s either going to be her, or that nun that Cersei left to the hands of the Mountain in the dungeon. That’s right, I haven’t forgotten about her. We never saw her death, so you can assume she has some role to play, even if only a cameo. While we all expect to see Jamie be responsible for his whack-a-doodle sister’s demise, I think characters that create their own demons and bring themselves down is more powerful. Sidebar: I think it is actually more interesting to not kill Cersei but leave her mad, locked away in the Red Keep.
Dany is pregnant. Jon was right, she shouldn’t have taken the word of an angry witch as gospel.
The good guys will win, but… The cost will be high – it has to be. Dany and Jon have to lose some of the folks close to them. Victory has to hurt, it has to come at a cost. Greyworm and Missandei seem ill-fated, and their deaths would be painful for Dany to cope with. Sansa and Bran dying, while a moment of joy for many of us in the case of Sansa, will tear Jon apart. The loss of Jamie will tear at Tyrion and Cersei. Our heroes have to lose something close and dear to them to make them stronger, to give them something to overcome.
Sam the Slayer. Sam will survive this all, I swear it on the old gods and new. Remember he is armed with Heartsbane, a Valyrian Steel sword he stole from his father. Valyrian Steel destroys wights. See where I’m going? The writers put that scene of him stealing the sword for a reason. Sam has killed white walkers before, and it will happen again.
Yara Greyjoy will see the world through Theon’s eyes. Being taken prisoner by a crazy-pirate-uncle is bound to have been horrific for her. She will be damaged, mentally and otherwise, just like Theon had been at the hands of the Ramsey. His inevitable rescue of her will change both of them as characters…if it is done right. What is dead shall never die!
A Hot Pie cameo. I could see that being tossed in.
Beric Dondarrion (the dude with the flaming sword) has a key role to play. It’s easy to say Jon Snow kills the Night King, but I would not rule this guy out. He’s actually a pretty cool character and the fact that he has died six times already may make him some sort of ringer.
Tyrion’s hope for the future. I want him to get what he desires. “One day, I’d like to have my own vineyard. Make my own wine – the Imp’s Delight. Only my close friends could drink it.” Personally, that is how the series should end, in Tyrion’s vineyard, children of the survivors running around, him pouring his brand of wine.
Gendry’s romance. Gendry is as classical character thrust into circumstances beyond his control. Will he find love? Will it be Sansa, Arya, or someone else? Let’s face it, Robert’s bastard deserves more than a glorious death.
Moments We Want to See
The battle of the dragons. You know it’s coming.
Bronn and Pod fighting side by side.
Gendry and Arya’s reunion.
Brienne and Jamie’s reunion.
As creepy as it is, I want Tormund and Brienne to hook-up.
The dragons battle. We have to see this.
Jorah fighting and dying with Dany crying. We love it when Jorah saves her life and I’d like to see it one more time.
Lyanna Mormont. I don’t just want to hear her talk…I want to see her fight. I think it would be great to have a scene with Jorah and her together too, even if just for few seconds.
While I am sure I get a lot of things wrong with these – I’m at least documenting them. What are your predictions?
By now many of you are already preparing to rebuttal this post based solely on the title. I get it. Sam is not the kind of character you think of as important. He’s got that sidekick vibe to him, like Robin to Batman-Jon-Snow. I want to challenge that. Sam is one of the most important characters on Game of Thrones. In fact, if Sam wasn’t around, Westros would be hip deep in undead by now.
On top of this, we are in deadzone waiting for the new season. We haven’t forgotten GoT, but we also haven’t had a lot to get us fired up. It was time for a blog post on Game of Thrones.
I’m not a big fan of Sam’s character personally, but the writers have masterfully cast him in a role that has a lot of far-reaching impacts. Moreover, we tend to not realize the importance of what Sam has done thus far.
Here’s the rundown of the things Sam did to save the world well all care about more than our own:
Sam prevented Jon from quitting the Night’s Watch. When Jon wanted to run off and avenge headless-Ned, it was Sam that tracked him down and convinced him to remain in the Night’s Watch. Otherwise Jon would have been a guest at the Red Wedding and, well, you get it.
Sam found the Dragonglass at the First of the First Men and learned it could kill Whitewalkers. This is kind of a big deal because up to this point, only fire was used to kill the dead. Sam killed a freaking Whitewalker! The first of the Night’s Watch in generations to do so. Sure he almost wet himself doing it, but he did it.
He helped Bran get north of the Wall so that he could become the Three-Eyed Raven. Bran would have just been some guy tripping out every now and then in a drug-like-stupor if Sam had not helped them through a secret tunnel to the North. And let’s face it, if Bran hadn’t become the Three-Eyed Raven, we would still be dealing with Littlefinger, so we owe Sam a lot here.
Sam saves Gilly and her son, depriving the Whitewalkers of another wight in their command.
In the Battle for Castle Black, it is Sam that releases Ghost who helps Jon turn the tide of the battle.
He nominated Jon as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Sure, the Night’s Watch would eventually kill him, but if not for Sam he never would have been made Lord Commander, which would have doomed the Free Folk in the north. Sam’s simple nomination set a great deal in motion from that point forward.
Sam warned the ArchMaesters of the threat of the Whitewalkers. The maesters didn’t seem to know what was going on north of the wall until Sam clued them in. While they didn’t do much about it – yet, Sam did make them aware of what was coming.
He cured Jorah Mormont. Sure Jorah lives in Dany’s friendzone, but he is a kick-ass character that was going to die until Sam violated the rules and saved him. This allowed Jorah to go with Jon’s expedition north, capture one of the undead, and laid the stage for the upcoming season of wacky shennanigans. Without Sam, Jorah would be dying a horrible death.
It was Sam that discovered a mountain of Dragonglass was at Dragonstone. Not only is this a weapon against the dead, it forced Jon and Dany to form an alliance that would be key in the wars to come. If Sam had not discovered this, it is hard to say that the two would be able to find some common ground.
It was Sam that discovered Jon’s true heritage (with Gilly’s help). Bran gets the credit for this, but in reality, Bran was unaware of Jon’s true heritage until Sam told him about the marriage of Jon’s true mother to the Targaryen prince. Without Sam, we never would have known that Jon is a legitimate heir to the Iron Throne.
So there you have it, Sam is critical to the plot up to this point. More than Headless-Ned, that’s for sure.
True crime stuff always pulls me in and I thought it was great that HBO was going to take a run at the Jerry Sandusky debacle at Penn State. Having seen Al Pacino play Dr. Kevorkian in a HBO show, I was hopeful to get some real insights as to what actually happened during the turmoil of the case. I thought with the passage of time, we might get some clarity around the events that rapidly unfolded.
I was disappointed.
The HBO film, Paterno, is a bizarre collage of bits and pieces that barely hang together as a movie. I stuck with it to the end, because I was still in search of some resolution. Don’t make the same mistake I did.
Paterno comes across as entirely unsympathetic from a character perspective. He is detached to the point of senility. The question remains through 99% of the movie as to what he knew and when he knew it. Only in the last few minutes do we get a glimpse of how many decades he covered for Sandusky.
The reporter character who broke the case is about the only character you can latch onto as redeemable and her parts are a jumble of disjointed segments leaving you to wonder what she actually thinks and believes. Her character could and should have been used to guide the viewer through the allegations of misconduct. In reality, you get the feeling she is along for the ride with the rest of us.
We never see the critical scenes where Paterno is told of Sandusky’s terrible infractions or his action. All we see is Pacino’s character struggle to remember the event and blow it off as not important. There are parts of this movie that either were left on the cutting room floor or never filmed in the first place.
Pacino’s acting is great but there is nothing in the character he plays that viewers can or will identify with. The victims of Jerry Sandusky are backgrounds to a choppy plot. What was needed here was a treatment like All The President’s Men or The Post. What we get is dull and filmed with lots of strange moving camera angles and poorly written lines about characters none of us can identify with or care about. It fails as true crime or even as fluff-entertainment.
I was disappointed in HBO this time around, a rarity.