Random Thoughts on Game of Thrones Seasons 4, Episode 2

This week’s episode of Game of Thrones has a few major happenings. Firstly, the episode was written by George RR Martin, the author of the books. Secondly, it has a royal wedding! If you’re a fan of the show then you know that major weddings in Westeros are often dangerous events. The first half of the episode has several location jumps, while the second half is all about the royal wedding. While some fairly important plot points were established in the first half, some of the scenes were dull and full of plot-summary soliloquies. The royal wedding was fun and I’m sure that Game of Thrones fans that hate-watch King Joffrey will love it. Here are some random thoughts on Game of Thrones s4e2. Be sure to turn on your spoiler shields.

Reeking in the North: That bastard Ramsay Snow is hunting a young girl, while the captive formerly known as Theon Greyjoy is now called Reek. This brief scene shows how sadistic Snow is (as if his numerous torture scenes from last season didn’t clue you in) and also shows how low Theon has fallen. Theon has been completely beaten down physically and mentally by Snow. He has no sense of the noble-born human he once was and is now the barely-human Reek. Finally, Snow lets his hounds devour the young girl, as Reek watches.

Brothers’ Breakfast: Meanwhile, back in King’s Landing…the Lannister boys are eating breakfast and speaking in plot summaries. Jaime is still moping over his lost hand, while Tyrion gives a convenient recap of where things stand as of Game of Thrones s4e2. As expected, Tyrion gets in a nice zinger when he refers to his family as, “the dwarf, the cripple, and the mother of madness.”

Jaime confesses that he can no longer fight. He feels empty, as his legendary swordsmanship was a huge part of his identity. In a change from the books, Tyrion tasks his henchman Bronn with teaching Jaime how to fight with his left hand. I’m sure some purists will hate the change, but I’m totally down with it. Bronn owns.

Bolton Family Matters: Back in the North, Roose Bolton has arrived home to Dreadfort. For those of you that don’t remember, Bolton (no relation to Michael) betrayed Robb Stark and helped engineer the infamous “Red Wedding.” Ramsay Snow is Roose’s bastard son and yearns to become a legitimate Bolton. Daddy Bolton scolds his bastard for torturing Theon Greyjoy when he could have been used as leverage.

Snow shows how thoroughly beaten down Reek is by allowing his slave to shave him. It’s pretty ballsy to let a man that you’ve tortured hold a razor to your neck. Snow provides some convenient plot summaries, revealing to Reek that Robb Stark is dead and revealing to Papa Bolton that the other Stark boys are still alive.

99 Problems and a Whore is One: Heading back to the Westerosi capital, spymaster Varys tells Tyrion that Queen Regent Cersei Lannister knows about his whore lover, Shae. The Queen Regent has told their father, Tywin Lannister, who once promised to hang the next whore he found with Tyrion.

In a pre-wedding shindig, guests are presenting gifts to the soon-to-be-married Joffrey Baratheon. Joffrey’s future father-in-law, Mace Tyrell, looks like an ancestor of the Burger King. He gives the boy king a fancy goblet. Tyrion gives his nephew a book and Joffrey feigns gratitude. Tywin gives his grandson a Valyrian steel sword, which Joffrey uses to gleefully chop up the book his uncle gave him. Dick. He then names the sword Widow’s Wail, to “honor” the beheading of Ned Stark. Uber dick.

Back in Tyrion’s room, Shae checks on her beloved lion. Tyrion tries to get her to leave for Pentos. He’s concerned for her safety, but acts cruel. He repeatedly calls Shae a whore and tells her that she’s unworthy to have his children. Shae is crushed, Bronn comes in to bring her to a ship, and Tyrion is heartbroken. The scene was short, but powerful.

Burning Man: Over in Dragonstone, the followers of R’hllor are holding a lovely ceremony. They’re burning infidels as an offering to their god. Stannis Baratheon continues to be stubborn, his wife continues to be a zealous believer, and trusted advisor Davos Seaworth continues to be one of the few voices of reason in Stannis’ camp.

Stannis’ daughter, Shireen, is being discussed at a post-sacrifice dinner. Priestess Melisandre visits the girl after dinner. The “Red Woman” tries to educate the lass on the “true” religion. The creepy scene ends in an abruptly creepy way that leaves you worried for Shireen.

Over the Wall: In the far, far, far North, Bran Stark is warging, enjoying life through his wolf’s eyes. His companions warn him that too much warging will make him go blind is dangerous. If he stays in his wolf too long then he’ll lose all sense of himself. This will, of course, ruin their mission to find the three-eyed crow and figure out how to bring peace to Westeros. Considering that the party consists of a bunch of kids and a mentally-disabled half-giant, I don’t have much faith in their plan. It’s like entrusting the Scooby-Doo gang to bring peace to the Ukraine.

Bran uses his mystical powers to communicate with a godswood tree. A trippy scene of flashbacks, future events, and assorted imagery ensues. He gets a completely obvious clue that the gang needs to head north. Well, duh.

A Nice Day For a Dead Wedding: It’s wedding time at King’s Landing! Joffrey weds the sexy (and power hungry) Margaery Tyrell. After the ceremony, Tywin Lannister and Olenna Tyrell trade barbs. Yeah, they’re two of the oldest characters in the cast, but they’re also two of the coolest.

Tyrion and Bronn chat about their plan to send Shae to Pentos. Bronn tries to assure everyone’s favorite dwarf that things went as planned. Tyrion has his doubts and is concerned for his beloved whore. Bronn ends their chat with the wise advice of, “Go drink until it feels like you’ve done the right thing.” Yeah, I love that Bronn has a bigger role in the television series than he does in the books.

Joffrey is acting like a spoiled brat. Unhappy with the entertainment, he cuts off a dull rendition of “The Rains of Castamere” by hurling coins at the musicians. Queen Margaery announces that the leftovers for the wedding will be given to the poorest people in King’s Landing. Yay generosity.

Loras Tyrell and Jaime Lannister have a brief exchange. Jaime is unhappy that his sister/lover Cersei has been promised to Loras. Being not-so-secretly gay, Loras isn’t thrilled with the arrangement either. Jaime threateningly says that Loras will never wed Cersei. Loras blows off the strong statement with, “And neither will you.”

Brienne of Tarth and Queen Regent Cersei have a conversation. Cersei unveils that fact that Brienne is in love with Jaime. This is an interesting change from the books. Brienne’s feelings for Jaime are implied in the books. In the TV show, it’s said outright…which brings me back to this column.

Maester Pycelle, being a dirty old man, is perving on a young lady. He offers to examine her personally in his quarters. I’m going to have to try that line. Cersei cuts off the proposition and instructs Pycelle to give the feast’s leftovers to the hounds. So much for Margaery’s charity.

Oberyn Martell has a brief but effective scene. He confronts Tywin and Cersei Lannister. Digs are made and differences in the treatment of bastards are revealed. Oberyn not-so-subtly hints that he’s still angry about how his sister and her children were murdered, and also suggests that Cersei’s daughter could be in danger in Dorne. This guy is a bad-ass.

Joffrey cuts off the merriment and presents his own entertainment. He has a band of dwarf mummers perform “The War of the Five Kings.” The show pokes fun at Renly Baratheon’s homosexuality, Robb Stark’s trechourous murder, and more. Joffrey is cracking up at his distasteful show, while Tyrion, Sansa, Olenna, and others look on in disgust.

Joffrey wants Tyrion to join the show, while Tyrion wants his nephew to show off his martial prowess (of which he has none). Embarrassed by his uncle’s clever words, Joffrey pours wine over Tyrion’s head. He then has Tyrion serve as his cupbearer. Joffrey drops and kicks away his goblet before Tyrion can fill it. He calls for Tyrion to kneel and things come to a standstill.

Thankfully, the ceremonial pie arrives. Joffrey goes off to slice the pie with Widow’s Wail. Tyrion and Sansa attempt to slip away quietly, but Joffrey calls his uncle back to refill his wine goblet. Mysteriously, Joffrey’s goblet has been infused with poison. He chokes to death, Fool Dontos helps Sansa escape, and Tyrion is blamed for the murder.

While this wedding wasn’t as shocking as the “Red Wedding” from last season, it sets up the rest of the season nicely. Many fans of the show will feel great satisfaction over Joffrey’s death and some will wonder how the goblet got poisoned. Fans of the books will wonder how the showrunners condensed a fairly intricate plot into several minutes of television. While I didn’t enjoy this episode (especially the first half) as much the season premiere, Game of Thrones s4e2 lays the groundwork for future episodes.

Coffee Talk #620: Dumbing Things Down For Movies and TV

Some purists of A Song of Ice and Fire had an issue with Oberyn Martell’s introduction in Game of Thrones s4e1. In the books, it’s implied that he’s bisexual. In the television show, he forcefully grabs a male prostitute’s junk. There’s a huge difference between subtle implication and ham-fisted delivery, but sometimes it’s necessary for the mainstream audience.

The debate over Oberyn Martell reminded me of another argument fans had about Game of Thrones Season 2. In the books, it’s implied that…continued

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Some purists of A Song of Ice and Fire had an issue with Oberyn Martell’s introduction in Game of Thrones s4e1. In the books, it’s implied that he’s bisexual. In the television show, he forcefully grabs a male prostitute’s junk. There’s a huge difference between subtle implication and ham-fisted delivery, but sometimes it’s necessary for the mainstream audience.

The debate over Oberyn Martell reminded me of another argument fans had about Game of Thrones Season 2. In the books, it’s implied that Stannis Baratheon is sleeping with priestess of R’hllor Melisandre. In the show, he full-on bangs her on his war table. Again, the information is conveyed in drastically different ways, but it’s arguably necessary.

For some reason, the two instances in Game of Thrones didn’t bother me. I didn’t like that subtlety was eschewed for heavy-handed delivery, but I didn’t hate it either. I get that subtlety is lost on some people and understand that the show’s directors wanted these bits of information made clear.

Having said that, I recall one instance where a change bothered the hell out of me. In the Watchmen comics, there’s a great sequence where Silk Spectre figures out that the Comedian is her father. Various memories come back to her and she pieces it all together. In the Watchmen movie, the same thing happens, but it’s punctuated by Dr. Manhattan saying, “The Comedian…is your father.” For whatever reason, that little addition pissed me off. It seemed so unnecessary. Are moviegoers really that dumb?!?

While I understand that book and comics writers can rely on readers’ imaginations, is it necessary for movie and TV directors to be so obvious? I’m not really sure. That’s where you come in! I’d love to hear your opinion on the matter and read some of your examples in the comments section. Does print have to be dumbed down when it’s translated into a movie or television show?

Random Thoughts on Game of Thrones Seasons 4, Episode 1

Now that I’ve watched it thrice, it’s time for some random thoughts on Game of Thrones s4e1. Out of the four season premieres, Game of Thrones s4e1 had the peppiest pacing. The previous three lagged a bit, due to necessary setup, while this episode moved at a brisk pace. Old characters came back, some new ones were established, and a somewhat important character hasbeen recast. Overall, it was a very strong episode that left me thoroughly entertained. It showed me where this season is going, had me wondering how the time flew by so fast, and left me excited for the next episode. Warning: There be spoilers ahead!

Hot Open: Instead of the customary opening credits, Game of Thrones s4e1 starts with a cold open, that was full of fire and blood. The world isn’t done screwing with the dearly departed Ned Stark. Tywin Lannister imported a smith from Volantis to reforge Ned’s sword — the great sword named Ice, made from rare Valyrian steel — into two weapons for the Lannister family. Twyin then throws a wolf pelt into a fire and stares at it with a look of satisfying triumph. Charles Dance has pretty much made Tywin Lannister the coolest cat in Westeros.

Don’t Call Me Lefty: Jaime Lannister is back in King’s Landing, sans right (sword) hand. Papa Tywin wants Jaime to leave the Kingsguard and go home to rule Casterly Rock. Jaime wants to stay in King’s Landing to bone his sister, Queen Regent Cersei Lannister. Tywin delivers one of his patented takedowns and disowns Jaime for refusing his family duties. Yeah, Tywin is getting even cooler with every minute of Game of Thrones s4e1.

My Name is Oberyn Martell…You Killed My Sister…Prepare to Die: At the edge of the city, Tyrion Lannister is waiting for the arrival of the Martells for King Joffrey’s wedding. Ser Bronn is there for excellent comic relief and sexual dynamo Squire Podrick is there to give nerds hope.

Prince Oberyn Martell is introduced in a surprisingly effective way. He’s hanging out a brothel with his paramour and it’s established that he has a voracious (bi)sexual appetite. He messes with some lower Lannisters for having the gaul to sing “The Rains of Castamere” in his presence, establishing him as a bad-ass. Finally, he has a great conversation with Tyrion that establishes his background and motives. Yeah, he’s speaking in plot summaries, but it comes off in a (mostly) natural way that’s dramatic and effective. You’re left knowing a lot more about Oberyn Martell and hoping to see more of this kick-ass character. Normally, I hate when characters in TV, movies, and comics speak in plot summaries, but this was well executed and especially beneficial to viewers that haven’t read the books. Huge credit goes to Pedro Pascal, who owned the screen as the Red Viper of Dorne.

(A lot of people have equated Oberyn with a sexier and nastier version of Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride. I don’t fully agree, but I get it, ergo the title to this section.)

How (Not) to Train Your Dragons: Over in Pentos, Daenerys is tending to her lovely dragons. The scene shows how big and uncontrollable the dragons are getting. It’s also a nice opportunity to show off some incredibly sweet dragon CGI.

Meanwhile, her army is being held up by a childish standoff between Grey Worm and Daario Naharis. A new actor is playing Daario…and I still don’t think he’s handsome or exotic enough. The book version of Daario seems exponentially cooler. Daario does get in a nice jab to Grey Worm about not having balls. Making fun of eunuchs is always a good time and I’m glad it was slipped into Game of Thrones s4e1.

Back to King’s Landing: Sansa Stark isn’t eating, which isn’t surprising. Her brother and mother were killed in a vile act of betrayal in s3e9, so her lack of appetite is understandable. Tyrion is trying his best to console his wife, to no avail. Everyone’s favorite imp is getting stressed out by life in King’s Landing — his wife hates him, his nephew wants to kill him, his father and sister loathe him, and his whore lover wants more attention. While I’ve always been a fan of Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion, I’m surprised by how much Sophie Turner has improved as Sansa. She started as a stupid little girl and has grown into a tortured beauty that you can’t help but feel for.

The Man with the Golden Hand: Book purists are whining about this scene taking place before it should, but whatever. Jaime is getting his stub fitted with a golden hand, courtesy of mad scientist and former Maester of the Citadel, Qyburn. I totally cracked up when Jaime waived goodbye to Qyburn with his fake hand.

Jaime wants to get busy with Cersei, but she isn’t having it. She suggests that she has found new lovers (spoiler: she has) and no longer wants Jaime in that way. Cersei is becoming more depressed, more of an alcoholic, and more unbalanced. Lena Headey has always owned as Cersei Lannister. I’m excited to see her descent into madness.

Where the Wildlings Are: The wildlings south of The Wall are regrouping after Jon Snow’s betrayal. The Thenn Tribe is introduced…and they are scary. The Thenns are a brutal branch of wildlings that enjoy carving scars on their faces and chowing down on a lovely cannibal meal, but they’re also smarter and more aware than they’re scarred visages would suggest. These guys scare the bejeezus out of me. I’m pretty sure one of them mugged me in Queens once…or maybe that was Anthony Mason.

Jon Snow…Acting: Kit Harington pulls off his best acting to date in Game of Thrones s4e1. The Jon Snow he plays in this episode is complex and conflicted, while showing signs of developing strength. He’s mourning for his beheaded brother and dealing with accusations of betrayal. It’s tough being Jon Snow right now. The Night’s Watch leadership has a number of pricks in it since Lord Commander Mormont was killed. Two of them — Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt — would love to see Snow killed. Thankfully, Maester Aemon is there to look out for Jon. Oh yeah, during Jon’s questioning, he manages to deliver a wickedly sharp line to Slynt. That was cool.

Olenna Tyrell Owns: What is it with old people being so cool in Westeros? Fossils Tywin Lannister and Olenna Tyrell seem like the coolest people to hang out with. Lady Tyrell is clearly the sharpest woman on the show right now and probably the second-most cunning person in King’s Landing.

In a transition scene, an awesome statue of King Joffrey is shown. He’s standing triumphantly with a crossbow, with his foot is on a dead wolf. I want one of those statues.

In another part of King’s Landing, Jaime is planning security for the royal wedding. Joffrey is shown being unreasonable and borderline insane. He name drops some famous characters that will delight fans of the books. He also blasts his uncle/secret father, taking a jab at his age and one-handedness.

Daario Loves Dany: Back in Pentos, Daario is trying to educate and seduce Dany at the same time. There’s another Easter egg for fans of the books. Otherwise, this was a throwaway scene (mostly because I don’t yet like the actor playing Daario).

Enter the Fool: Brienne and Jaime are arguing about what to do with Sansa, watching over the Little Dove as she prays. I love the dynamic between these two characters. The actors have fantastic chemistry.

After finishing her prayers, Sansa’s Stark-sense goes off and she feels that she’s being followed. She is…and it’s former knight and current fool Dontos Hollard. He gifts her with a necklace. Fans of the books will know what’s coming and why it was important to establish him in Game of Thrones s4e1. Viewers that haven’t read the books will like seeing Sansa getting a brief moment of happiness in her tortured life.

On the Road Again: “The Hound” Sandor Clegane and Arya Stark are on the road again. This pair is fantastic. Their banter is delightful, with the actors playing off of each other wonderfully. Like many viewers, I would watch an hour of Arya and the Hound on the road. The Hound’s unintentional humor in this scene is brilliant, with him questioning what a “Lommy” is and giving his opinion on people that name their swords. Rory McCann’s deliver is awesome.

The scene is a mashup of happenings from the books. The timing and characters have changed, but the result is effective television. The climax has Arya getting back her sword, Needle, and getting some revenge on Polliver. It leaves you with so many emotions. It’s cool seeing Arya become an effective killer. It’s sweet seeing a Stark finally go on the offensive. And then you realize that she’s still a little girl and the person she’s becoming is completely messed up. Watching Arya’s satisfied smile as she rides off on the road at the end of Game of Thrones s4e1 is a conflicting moment. You’re happy, sad, and afraid for her all at the same time.

Jimmy Fallon’s Game of Desks

Here’s a fun sketch from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon that blends Game of Thrones with the “late shift” hosting politics. As many of you know, Fallon is taking over The Tonight Show from Jay Leno in 2014. While I’m excited for the change and hopeful that Fallon’s crew continues to nerd it up (love the tech and gaming content), there are some that aren’t thrilled with the latest late shift. Some are Conan O’Brien fans that are still angry over the last hosting debacle with Jay Leno. Some are Seth Meyers fans that want him manning The Tonight Show desk. This sketch touches on those issues…and also brilliantly casts The Roots as a pastiche of the Night’s Watch. Check it out and let me know what you think (please!).

Game of Thrones Season 3 Extended Trailer

March is going to be an outstanding nerd month. On the videogame front, there’s a ton going on with titles like Tomb Raider and BioShock Infinite leading the way. On television, millions of people are counting down the days until March 31, 2013. As some of you know, that’s when the season premiere of Game of Thrones hits. The extended trailer below hints that the third season will have as many epic moments as the first two. As a mark for the books and the TV show, I’m so looking forward to another batch of Game of Thrones episodes.

Check out the clip below and let me know what season three happenings you’re looking forward to. While dragons are always fun, for some reason I can’t wait to see the scene with Brienne in the bear pit. That should be cool.