When I heard this miniseries was coming from HBO I wondered how they would walk the tightrope between realism/documentary and thriller. As it turns out, they did it masterfully. HBO sucks you into this horrible event, taking you on twisty and deadly twists and turns along the way. In the wastelands of the post-Game of Thrones era, Chernobyl is nail-biting, tense, and sad.
Chernobyl is the story of the most horrific nuclear disaster in mankind’s history. I’ve read two books on the subject so I wondered how close HBO would stick to the real story. As it turns out, they do adhere to the events…with some added drama. Some of the characters are quite real, where others are composites. Some of the events, like the helicopter crashing because of the radiation…well, I don’t remember that instance. It is okay, HBO doesn’t wander far from the grim truth here. I can suspend reality for an hour dose at a time.
What I like the most is that the series mirrors the real world events. For months the Soviet Union did not know what had caused the explosion of the reactor. I am four episodes in and they are only beginning to piece it all together.
You get a feel for the Soviet Union I remember from my younger years. This was a place where even the KGB head is followed by the KGB – where the phrase, “bullet to your head,” is tossed around like a casual threat. It is easy and comforting to forget how oppressive the Soviet Union was – and how their air of secrecy actually contributes to the disaster.
The series has music that makes you edgy. The effects of radiation on the victims makes you cringe. It is strange that all of the cast have accents other than Russian, but oddly, it makes it passable.
Episode Four is hard to watch because it involves shooting pets. It really was gut-wrenching.
Like Game of Thrones, you shouldn’t expect a good ending to this series either. The fact that it really happened should resonate even more with people. If you are not watching Chernobyl, get started now! You will come away with sleepless nights and an appreciation of disasters caused by man’s folly and arrogance.
I call this episode, “Well, that went to shit pretty fast.” Danyrs got up without her makeup and a bit of an attitude. You had Varys running out to meet Jon Snow on the beach: “Hi, welcome to Dragonstone. Have you considered betraying the woman you love for the job you don’t want? I know I look like a creepy pedophile, but give me a chance…” There were some brilliant moments in this episode, surrounded by countless WTFs? Here’s my summary:
“If you have a secret way into the Red Keep, why don’t you use it to send in a group to secure Cersei and end this without any significant bloodshed whatsoever?” Tyrion had a map of all of the ways into Kings Landing, why not use those to get the Unsullied in to take out the scorpions? The show’s writers needed to play this out as if it were a Dungeons and Dragons session and it would have been a lot more entertaining.
Jamie is the dumbest Lannister. I enjoyed this reversal scene from when Tyrion was in chains.
“So the scorpions which were so accurate and deadly become worthless?” Yeah, no one even winged the dragon (pun intended).
“Watch for the Hun in the sun!” This is a WWI aviation reference when the Germans would dive with the sun behind them to strike a blinded enemy. This was the first and only time in this episode where we saw actual battle tactics, diving in on the Iron Fleet.
My “Holy Shitballs!” moment was when the Golden Company deployed, looked formidable and ready for combat, then the gate exploded behind them and they were all fried in a matter of 22 seconds. Well, I’m glad they didn’t bring the elephants because the PETA people would be outraged. It was pretty awesome but hit on one flaw I felt with the entire episode. There was no credible threat. This was the BIG battle we have been waiting for, and it was a lopsided affair, with Dany flying a weapon of mass destruction that was impossible to stop. Even against the dead, there was a threat of a loss of a dragon. No one even fired an arrow or spear in her direction. I’m sure this was deliberate by the show runners, but it took away from the eventual victories.
A total waste of Ser Davos in this episode. Not even a quippy one-liner.
The Dothraki riding through the streets of King’s Landing – we have waited long to see it. Unfortunately with the Dragon Queen’s slaughter, they didn’t matter. Likewise, the attack by Grey Worm on the surrendering troops was made non sequitur by Daenerys laying waste to the civilian population. Dany just plain ruined the battle for the rest of us.
The explosions of the wildfire caches – Dany has become the mad queen. Incredibly good tie back to the mad king. Even he didn’t go that far. He’d be so proud of his little girl… “Look pumpkin, some fleeing civilians. Burn them all!”
The big map was a nice touch. The images of debris falling on the map of Westros was brilliant symbolism.
Euron just happens to show up where Jamie is, and decides to kill him. Mortally wounding Jamie didn’t add anything to the story at all. Euron deserved a much more painful death than what he got. They blew a chance for Jamie to say, “She’s pregnant with my child!” So many squandered opportunities.
“When you kill the big bad guy/gal, you need to do it right.” After all we have been through, Cersei’s death was boring. Crying and in Jamie’s arms? She got what she wanted, to die with him. After all of the build-up over the years, we got her weeping in a collapsing tomb? Boo…hiss! She needed to be bit in half by a dragon – or at least get in that last verbal taunt with Dany before being roasted alive.
“Thank you Sandor.” I don’t get Arya changing her mind about revenge at the last minute, but the line was perfect. So you live your whole live for vengence but at the last minute, you flip?
CleganeBowl! The zombie-Mountain vs the Hound! Here the episode delivers. I actually cheered, “Dilly Dilly!” when it started. This was one part of the episode that was exactly what we all expected. Consider this though. If you delete this scene from the episode, there is little really enjoyable that is left.
White horse arrives unscathed and calm…really? Yes, I get it, “Death rides a pale horse.” At this point we all expect Arya to go after Daenerys …but the horse showing up was just poor writing.
Everyone whines about Dany being alone, but so is Tyrion at this point.
So where does this leave us? It is clear that Jon and Daenerys are going to have to face off. He told the secret, and that cost Varys his life – and Jon is a serious threat. I want her to have the dragon breath on Jon and nothing happen to him because his is a Targaryn, but the writers haven’t showed a lot of creativity this season. We still have a number of characters at Winterfell, and I think we need to see everywhere together one more time. Maybe Jon will march home and Dany will go after him because he’s a threat. I’m split between Tyrion being killed by Daenerys or being the last one alive to take the throne. “You either win or die,” and Tyrion didn’t live. Emotionally, I think we all want Jon to get it at this point. I just don’t see a way for Dany to recover at this point as a character with the whole “fire and blood” thing.
One thing is for sure – it is Game of Thrones – so it is not going to end the way we thought it should.
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.
I will preface this by saying I don’t like serial murder docudramas that glorify the killers in any way. Our fascination with serial killers exists though which invites films such as Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. We are drawn in by serial killers. It is one of the things I like about writing about cold cases, you can’t sensationalize the killers because you don’t know who they are.
I did not want to watch a hack-and-slash take on the Ted Bundy case. I also was not expecting anything really new or revealing. Bundy has not been news for years – though some new facts do emerge from time-to-time.
This is not that kind of docudrama. Instead it focuses on how Ted lied and deceived his girlfriend and how he manipulated those around him. That was a sigh of relief.
I am from the generation where Mark Harmon played Bundy years ago. I will say that Zac Efron did a reasonably good job at portraying this waste of a human being. Comparing him to Mark Harmon is fair, but not necessary. Efron looks like him. At the end of the film, you see some of the real-life scenes that were recreated in the film and you realize that Efron was pretty close to the mark.
I was surprised at a few things I didn’t know about the case that were presented – so it was good. I think the producers took the safest angle they could, leveraging the book by Bundy’s former girlfriend. There are some things the docudrama omitted, most likely for dramatic effect. If my memory serves, she found plaster of Paris and he stole the crowbar from her. Bundy used fake casts to lure in his victims – which was much more than what her film-version revealed. Other things were added for dramatic effect. That’s what happens when Hollywood gets ahold of source material. I understand it, but no one should watch Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile and think of it as a documentary. It is, at best, in the ballpark with the facts.
I’m not disappointed, but I wasn’t overwhelmed either. It is worth watching, but I am going to tune in a documentary to get some real facts and refresh my memories of these cases. Overall, it is 3.5 stars (ish) out of 5.
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!
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?