Game of Thrones, Season Four – What Went Wrong?

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(WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!)

Just the other day, I saw the finale for season four of Game of Thrones, and it got me thinking. While the episode was hailed by some critics as the show’s best finale so far, others raised the obvious point that Thrones geeks did not fail to miss. That being the absence of Lady Stoneheart from the proceedings. In the novel, A Storm of Swords, which provided the material for seasons three and four, things ended with the appearance of a resurrected Lady Catelyn Stark, who now went by the name Lady Stoneheart.

Like most GOT geeks, I felt surprised and disappointed, a sentiment that has been echoing throughout this season. In fact, though I felt that the finale was the best episode of the season, I also had to conclude that season four was the worst season to date. And the reasons for this seemed to be pretty clear after ten episodes with some pretty consistent mistakes. So I thought I might go over them…

1. Pointless Changes that don’t go Anywhere:
One of the biggest annoyance for me this season was the fact they made some rather drastic changes to the storyline, ones which would have altered the plot significantly if they had been allowed to truly unfold. However, not wanting to get terribly off-script, the writers were then forced to tie these divergences up by making sure they didn’t have any lasting effect. As a result, we were left with sequences that were truly pointless.

Ramsay-406The worst of the lot had to do with Theon. In the novels, Theon was presumed dead after A Clash of Kings after he was betrayed and defeated at Winterfell. He didn’t appear again until book V (A Dance with Dragons) where it was revealed that he had been Ramsay Snow’s prisoner the entire time. At this point, he is compelled by his father to use Theon to persuade the Ironborn to leave Deepwood Motte and other captured territories.

But in the show, Ramsay decides to openly advertise that he has taken Theon prisoners and is torturing him in order to persuade the Iron Islanders to leave the North. This prompts Asha Greyjoy (renamed Yara) to sail up the river and mount a rescue. This made little sense, since the Dreadfort is not reachable by river, but the real fault was in how things turned out. After finding Theon, Asha and her men are quickly dispatched when Ramsay decides to unleash his hounds.

Asha retreats, claiming her brother is dead. Not long before, she claimed that rescuing her brother was a matter of honor and an injury to him was an injury to all Ironborn. But after seeing him terrified and brainwashed, and frightened by Ramsay’s dogs, she decides to leave him to his fate. Not surprising, since there really was no other way this thread could have been resolved without seriously altering the plot down the road. But this only made the whole attempted rescue seem pointless.

la_ca_0327_game_of_thronesAnother pointless change that was clumsily resolved was Jon Snow’s mission to Craster’s Keep to kill the mutineers. In the novel, Jon only real concern at this point was the Wildling army riding to the Wall, not to mention the Wildling raiding party that was making its way towards Castle Black. The mutineers were all suspected of being dead, which made sense since Mance’s army was practically upon the Wall at this point.

Another thing, Jon did not know that Bran and Rickon were alive. And so, he didn’t venture out to Craster’s Keep in part because he figured they would be stopping here on their way further north. As a result, there was no close shave where Bran very nearly met up with Jon but then didn’t. What’s more, the fact that Jon was willing to ride out and risk running into Mance’s invading army, but would not ride south to engage Tormund and Ygritte’s raiding party made even less sense as a result.

got4_aryahoundAnd last, Brienne’s encounter with Arya was something that never happened in the books, and therefore necessitated that it end in a way that didn’t violate the plot. This one they actually did pretty well, in my opinion. Not only was the fight between Brienne and the Hound well executed, but it even made a bit of a sense that Arya would choose not to go with her and slip off, for fear that Brienne was working for the Lannisters. Still, it was a made up addition, and one which has to be included since it necessitated a contrived resolution.

2. Padding/Mining:
At the same time, there were additions to the story that never happened in the books and were pure filler. And in just about all cases, it involved the same threads – Theon and Jon Snow in the North, Daenerys in Slaver’s Bay, and Stannis and co. at Dragonstone. In just about all instances, the writer’s were scrambling for stuff for these characters to do because their storylines were exhausted at this point in the book and did not come upon again until book V, which required that material from that book be brought forward and used.

For instance, Roose Bolton did not concern himself with the whereabouts Bran, Rickon, or Jon Snow upon returning from the Red Wedding. His only concern was cementing his rule by having his son marry a Stark and be declared legitimate, which meant that he never sent Locke to the Wall to find them and kill anybody. And so, Locke’s attempted murder of Bran, his death at the hands of Hodor, and the plot to kill the last of the Starks was entirely made up.

GOT4_mereenMuch the same holds true for Daenerys entire storyline after the sack of Mereen. Having proceeded to cover her sack of Slaver’s Bay in a very speedy and topical way, the writer’s of the show were now left with a very important thread where the characters essentially had nothing to do. As a result, they mined material from book V to keep her busy, or just threw in some added material that never happened in the novels and really accomplished nothing.

In the former case, this included Daenerys’ affair with Daario Naharis and her learning that Drogo has killed a herders child, thus prompting her to lock her dragons up beneath one of the city’s pyramids. In the latter, it involved the relationship between Grey Worm and Missandei, which makes little sense seeing as how he is an Unsullied and completely castrated. But to confound this, the writer’s decided that Missandei was suddenly unclear as to whether or not the Unsullied’s castration involved both the “pillar and the stones”.

Much the same held true for Stannis’ thread this season. After being defeated at the Battle of Blackwater, very little was heard from Stannis until his forces appeared in the North and overran Mance Rayder’s Wildling army. However, to ensure he had something to do, the writer’s added many superfluous scenes where we simply see him and his people droning on about very little. And, similar to what they did with Daenerys, they even mined material from book V where Stannis meets with representatives from the Iron Bank.

GOT4_6_2In the novels, the representatives came to Stannis only after he had come to the Wall and routed Mance’s army. The reason being, Lord Tywin was dead, Cersei was in charge of King’s Landing, and she had made it clear that they would not be making payments to the bank just yet. Ergo, the Iron Bank was backing her enemies to ensure that whoever won would make good on the Thrones massive debts. So basically, they took material that happened later, changed it, and moved it forward to keep Stannis’ story going.

The same held true for Stannis’ decision to sacrifice a child of royal blood so Missandre’s could divine the future. This wasn’t to happen until he reached the Wall, and involved entirely different people than Gendry (who was gone from the story at this point). Here too, the material was moved forward and altered just so the character remained in the show.

3. Boring and Superfluous:
Something else that kept popping up for me this season was the endless array of short scenes with pointless talk, the prolonged scenes with pointless talk, and the scenes that tried to be dramatic but were just filled with superfluous stuff. This I generally filed under the heading of “filler”, and there was some crossover with stuff in item two. Still, I felt that it deserved its own category since there was quite a lot of it.

For example, the episode The Mountain and the Viper was one of the most anticipated of the season, and the fight scene that provided the climax was quiet awesome. However, everything leading up to it was some of the most boring material I’ve seen in years. This included Missandei and Grey Worm carrying on like teenagers, Tyrion talking endlessly before the fight about his simple cousin for no apparent reason, and a slew of other scenes in the North or Slaver’s Bay.

OberynMuch the same was true of Daenerys’ siege of Mereen in episodes five and six. What was essentially a major undertaking in the books was covered in three short scenes in the show. It begins with the fight between Daario (it was actually Strong Belwas in the books) and Mereen’s champion, which ended far too quickly. Then the siege itself which involved them throwing barrels filled with broken chains in, and then a quick sneak attack that opened the next episode.

Speaking of which, episode five, Breaker of Chains – what can you say about an episode where just about the only scene of consequence is a rape scene? Seriously, what were the writers thinking with that? It was completely different from what happened in the books, was ugly and unnecessary, and was the only point of interest in an episode that had nothing but after-the-fact dialogue and a slow, plodding pace to it.

4. No Stoneheart!:
But by far, the biggest inexplicable change this season was the absense of Lady Stoneheart (aka. Catelyn Stark) at the end of the season. Not only was she introduced at the end of the third book to preview what was coming in the next two volumes, it also provided a surprise ending that shocked readers and gave them hope. After getting away with bloody murder, it now seemed that the Freys were going to pay for their crimes! But first, a little explanation as to how Catelyn was up and walking again…

Basically, Catelyn became Stoneheart after she was murdered at the Red Wedding and her body cast into the river to float downstream, where it washed up and was found by the Brotherhood Without Banners. There, Beric Dondarion begged Thoros of Myr to use his Red Priest magic to bring her back to life, as he had done with Ser Beric so many times now. However, Thoros was tired of playing God and refused, which led Beric to kiss Lady Catelyn on the lips and pass his life force to her.

Stoneheart_2Tired of being brought back from the dead, he decided he would let the magic which had resurrected him many times bring her back. Ser Beric died on that riverbank, and Lady Catelyn came back – albeit in a scarred, muted form. Not only did she have a hideous scar on her throat and a bloated face, she was also functionally mute. And she was some pissed, and sought revenge against the Freys for their betrayal. As such, she now led the Brothers through the Riverlands to find all those who had betrayed her family and execute them.

So the question is, why was she left out? Well, Alex Graves, who has directed several pivotal episodes of show, commented on this and other issues after the final episode of the season aired:

They [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] have such a challenge adapting the books into a really focused television experience. It’s very hard, it’s very complicated, it’s much harder then they’ve been given credit for, I think — and they do a brilliant job. But to bring back Michelle Fairley, one of the greatest actresses around, to be a zombie for a little while — and just kill people? It is really sort of, what are we doing with that? How does it play into the whole story in a way that we’re really going to like? It just didn’t end up being a part of what was going to happen this season. And finally one [more] reason: In case you didn’t notice, a lot happens this season … To add that in is something they opted out of. But what’s funny is that it was never going to be in the season, yet it took off on the Internet like it was going to happen.

Wait, so they didn’t want to show Catelyn as a zombie and because they were too busy with other things? Well okay, except that she’s NOT a walking corpse, she’s a reanimated, living being, who just happens to look a bit the worse for wear. As for the latter explanation, that they were busy, this sort of makes sense since they chose to change things in the final episode where Brienne and the Hound fight it out. But as I said, that never happened in the books and it also served little purpose.

GOT4_briennehoundSo if Graves is saying they chose to forgo a major plot point to focus on something that, while fun to watch, really didn’t effect the story, I would have to check my BS meter. As for whether or not Lady Stoneheart will be appearing in the next season, the director basically said that this was up to the writers and they were not being forthcoming on that point:

As somebody who’s worked deep inside the show, begged to have an answer and wants more than anybody, I have no idea. They won’t tell me. They’re very good at being secretive.

Hmm, so Lady Stoneheart may or may not be making an appearance in the next season, huh? There’s just one problem with that. SHE HAS TO! She’s an integral part of the plot as far as the next chapter in the story – A Feast for Crows – goes. To leave her out would be to leave a big, gaping plot hole where Brienne and Jaime’s story threads are concerned. I mean, its one thing to not bring her back just so she won’t be appearing for a few minutes at the tail end of a season. But to leave her out entirely when her character is central? That’s just plain weak.

But that wasn’t the last thing Graves commented on as far as this season’s finale and future shows were concerned. Fans also wanted to know if that semi-tragic scene involving the Hound was in fact his stand. Graves was strongly suggested that it was:

As far as The Hound, as I told the story … he’s gone. How is he going to survive that? The real point of it was that she walks away, it wasn’t that it’s left open ended.

Yet another problem. In the original novels, when Brienne came to the Riverlands and began tracking down leads, she was told that the Hound had been spotted and was carrying a Stark with him. Initially, Brienne thought it might be Sansa, but later learned it was Arya that was with him, and that she left the Hound to die underneath a tree on the Trident. But later on, reports began to circulate that the Hound was in fact not dead, and had been spotted on the move once again in the Riverlands.

GOT4_hounddeadHonestly, Graves’ guesswork on these topics makes it sound like he really isn’t familiar with the source material. But to be fair, only Martin knows for sure if the Hound is coming back, so announcing things either way at this point would be premature.

Summary:
Of course, its easy to pass judgement of television writers for making changes from original material. And Graves was right when he said that the writing team have their work cut out for them and are working hard to bring George RR Martin’s novels to life. But the problems this season seemed to stem from one central thing: they split the book in half. While this seemed logical since it was clear they couldn’t possibly make all of A Storm of Swords fit into one season, the decision to split it into two meant they didn’t have enough materiel for this season.

After all, ASOS is one of the most eventful and shocking installments in the series, and ten episodes simply wasn’t enough to cover the Red Wedding, Joffrey’s Wedding, Tyrion’s trial and escape, the battle at Castle Black, Mance’s assault on the Wall, Stannis’ assault on the North, and Daenerys’ sacking of the cities of Slaver’s Bay. But twenty episodes was too much, which meant the writers had to make stuff up, take stuff from the next books, or just expand what they had to make it fit.

And the result was a season with some bad parts to it. Still, there were plenty of highlights too. Joffrey’s wedding and his death scene was some pretty good viewing, Tyrion’s trial did not disappoint, the fight between Prince Oberyn and the Mountain was badass, the battle at the Wall was hectic, and the Hound’s (supposed) death scene was quite well done. And the finale was one of the better episodes in the series, and perhaps one of the better finales as well.

And the additions, though they went nowhere, weren’t all bad. In fact, the only thing I would say was done poorly this season was the entire Daenerys thread, which gravitated between boring and superficial. I mean, the woman’s leading an army through the entire Slaver’s Bay and conquering cities! Why did they skim these things so quickly and then give her nothing but boring administrative duties for the rest of the season? Budgets? …ah, maybe.

In any case, I will be watching next season, and look forward to what they will be doing with it. Thanks to how George RR Martin wrote books IV and V (A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons), we will be seeing aspects of both books presented simultaneously, but there will be enough material for two seasons this time. Which is good, seeing as how Martin needs time to produce book VI – The Winds of Winter – which will inevitably provide the basis for season seven.

Yeah, the man’s wheels grind slow, and exceedingly bloody! Until next season folks…

Game of Thrones – Season Four Episode 9

got4This past weekend, the penultimate episode of Season Four of GOT aired, and an event which was a long time in coming was finally showed. Yes, after two seasons of build-up, the Wildlings under “King” Mance Rayder’s leadership, assaulted the Wall. Strangely, Mance was nowhere to be seen during this assault, but from the way they ended the episode, I’m sure we’ll be hearing from him soon enough. And as usual, I got some bones to pick with the writers, but not the same reasons others have.

After this weekend’s episode aired, a common thing I noticed from the critics was the statement that the attack on the Wall was no “Blackwater Bay”. Much like Season Two’s smash-up where Stannis and his armies lay siege to King’s Landing, the entire episode was dedicated to this one battle and those involved. And while it didn’t exactly have the same epic scope and grandeur as that battle, I think this is an unfair comparison.

One cannot expect a massive siege every season! It’s just not cost effective. No, in the end, I felt this battle fell a bit short because of the way they changed things around in the story, not to mention the way they shot the whole thing. By the time things really got started, I wasn’t sure if I was watching GOT or Lord of the Rings. Somehow, it felt like Peter Jackson was at the helm and not George RR Martin. But first, a recap…

The Watchers on the Wall:
GOT4_9_1The episode begins with Jon and Samwell standing atop the Wall and discussing love. Sam asks what it was like being with Ygritte, while once again lamenting the fact that he left Gilly at Moletown, where he suspects she died. Jon sends Sam below to get some rest, but he instead goes to the library to learn what Wildlings are known to do to their captives. Aemon finds him and they spend the time talking of lost love.

Going back outside, Sam comes to the gate in time to see Gilly knocking at Castle Black’s gate and asking to be let in. After convincing the Brother guarding it to let her in, he tells her they will never be apart again. Their reunion is interrupted when they hear a horn sound. From atop the Wall, Jon and the other brothers spot a massive forest fire looming in the distance. Mance’s signal to attack is issued, and thousands of Wildlings, giants and mammoths form up.

GOT4_9_2Under the command of Ser Alliser Thorne, the Brothers begin preparing their defenses, and he takes a moment to let Jon know that he will be equal to the task of leading them. The mammoths move forward to the gate while other Wildlings begin scaling the Wall. Sam places Gilly in a chamber below and locks the door, telling her she must hide and he must stand with his Brothers. He kisses her goodbye, and she makes him promise he won’t die.

South of the Wall, Ygritte, Tormund, the Thenns and their raiding party are preparing to make their assault. While they wait for Mance to send the signal – “the biggest fire the North has ever seen”. When they spot it, they launch their attack on Castle Black’s gates. Sam and the others let loose on them with arrows, but are quickly overtaken as the Wildling party moves in and scales the short walls that guard the southern approach.

GOT4_9_4Hearing of the attack on the Castle, Thorne goes below to organize the defense, leaving Slynt in charge. Below, two giants lead a mammoth to the gate and hitch ropes from its harness the doors, intending to pull it off. Slynt quickly proves unequal to the task of leading the defense and begins muttering about how it was so much easier commanding the Kingsguard. Grenn then tricks Slynt and tells him he’s needed below too, which leaves Jon in charge.

Relying on the lessons he learned during his time among them, Jon has his archers fire arrows onto those scaling the Wall and drops barrels on those at the gate. Below, the battle in Castle Black’s courtyard turns bad. The brothers lose many men, Thorne is injured and incapacitated, and Slynt runs and locks himself in the same room as Gilly. Jon decides to go below with Grenn and some others, and orders Eddison to unleash fire on the mammoths.

GOT4_9_3This he does, which kills most of the Wildlings and sends the mammoth running. One of the two giants is then killed by a Scorpion up on the Wall, sending the other into a rage and leading him to begin prying the gate open with his bare hands. Jon arrives below and tells Grenn and the others to get to the gate an hold it at all costs. He then has Sam unlock Ghost from his cage and begins fighting his way through the Wildlings.

In a pitch fight, Jon kills Styr (the leader of the Thenn party) with a blacksmith’s hammer and comes face to face with Ygritte, who has her bow drawn on him. She hesitates to shoot him, and is then shot with an arrow through the chest by Olly, the young boy who mans the elevator. She dies, repeating the same words she said to him, time and time again: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” Inside the Wall gate, the giant breaks through and attacks Grenn and his brothers. They die holding the giant off.

got4_9_5Up top, Eddis sees that they only have the few Wildlings scaling the Wall to deal with, and orders that they drop the “Scythe” – a large metal blade at the end of a chain that combs the wall when released. This kills the remaining attackers, and the rest fall back. In the courtyard, Tormund is wounded and captured, and Jon orders him put in chains. Sam returns below to find Gilly safe, and Slynt cowering in the corner.

Surveying the damage, Jon tells Sam that this was just the first assault, and that Mance will break through before long if they allow him to continue. He then tells Sam that he will meet with Mance, during which time he will attempt to kill him so that the Wildlings once again become divided. They head to for the gate, where they find the bodies of Grenn, the giant, and the others who died holding it. Sam orders the gate opened and says goodbye to Jon.

Summary:
Well, the episode certainly was fun and entertaining. One can’t deny that an incredible amount of time, effort, and good direction went into making it. And it did manage to capture the spirit, if not the letter, of the battle as it was described in the book. But as usual, there were some things that bothered to me that had to do with changes, not to mention how those changes affected the feel and flow of things. Here’s what they were, in chronological order…

First, there was no last-minute reunion between Sam and Gilly. She had been at the castle for some time, and a romance had not quite budded between them. Second, Tormund, Ygritte and the Wildling raider party had already assaulted Castle Black at this point in advance of Mance’s main assault. Having struck at Castle Black days before, they were thwarted by a great deal of ingenuity and booby traps, which were installed thanks to Jon’s help.

Third, there was none of this shuffling around of commanders in the novels. While it is true that Thorne and Slynt did not trust Jon, he was still put in charge of the Wall’s defenses since he had intimate knowledge of Mance’s plan of attack, and because Aemon on his Brothers vouched for him. It was not the case that he had it thrust on him because Thorne had to go below, or because Slynt was a coward. This last aspect they really played up, and it felt like it was just to give us someone to hate.

Fourth, two decidedly cheesy moments happened in this battle. The first was where Sam narrowly managed to get his crossbow loaded in time to take down a Wildling. The second – and by far, the worst – was Ollie going from a frightened little boy who couldn’t stand the sound of fighting to grabbing a bow and killing Ygritte with it. This more than anything was like a scene out of Jackson’s LOTR. It wasn’t nearly as bad as Legolas riding a shield down a set of steps like it was a skateboard, but still!

Fifth, Tormund was not taken prisoner during the battle. After losing his attack force south of the Wall, he fled north again and began rallying Wildlings later. Ever since, even as far as book V, he has not been heard from. And finally, Jon Snow did not decide to venture out and assassinate Mance once the battle was over. In fact, it was Slynt’s idea to send him out in the hopes that he would die while attempting to kill Mance.

You see, after the battle, Slynt and his allies were still nominally in charge since no new Lord Commander had been elected. And he would go on to be a pain in Jon’s ass since he didn’t trust him and saw him as a threat to his possible leadership. However, the way they’ve presented him here, as an incompetent coward, is melodramatic to say the least. It also kind of complicated the plot now, since Slynt disgraced himself for all to see.

In short, it felt like they were trying to sex things up from the original material; but really, I only felt like they dumbed it down. Many things they did get right, like the way the giants penetrated into the gate, or how Ygritte died with Jon standing over her and crying. They also captured the defenders sense of desperation, knowing that they were vastly outnumbered, but still protecting by the Wall’s defenses. And I have to say that this was one episode this season that didn’t bore or disappoint the hell out of me.

Still… where the hell was Mance this whole time? Has anyone else noticed he completely disappeared after his brief appearance last season? He better show up next week, as he’s kind of intrinsic to the plot!

Game of Thrones – Season Four, Episode Four

GOT4_3At last, I am finally caught up with GOT and the many episodes which took place while I was either overseas or in transit. And while I’m pleased with that fact, I have to say this past week’s episode was kind of a disappointment. And there are a few reasons for that. For starters, it was loaded up with stuff that didn’t even appear in the original books. And I don’t mean they changed some things for the sake of adapting to a TV format, as they’ve done countless times in the past. No, this week, they had whole segments that were entirely made up.

Second, there was the way they explained every single aspect of the conspiracy surrounding Joffrey’s death. They’ve done this a lot in the shows, being explicit about things that were implicit in the novels. But this time around, they really spelt it out for us! And last, but not least, there was the whole mutineers at Craster’s Keep thread and the way they turned up the ugliness factor. Forget Oathkeeper, the episode should have been called “C*nt” – as in, how many times can we say it in one scene!

However, there were some parts of it that were interesting and even intriguing, mainly the ending…

Oathkeeper:
GOT4_4_1The episode opens with Daenerys’ attempt to take Mereen, which consists of Grey Worm and other Unsullied sneaking into the city through its sewers. Disguised as slaves, they made their way inside to where the city’s slaves are holding congress and discussing open revolt. Upon their arrival, Grey Worm and the others distribute weapons and tell them that Daenerys is there to free them, and that they outnumber the masters three to one.

The next day, the masters see Daenerys’ banner flying from the tallest of the city’s pyramid and find graffiti denouncing the masters. One such master is caught in an alleyway between dozens of armed slaves and is killed. The slave uprising neutralizes the defenses, and Daenerys enters into the city and is hailed as a liberator. She then orders that the slave masters be publicly crucified in the same fashion as the children that they saw along the road.

GOT4_4_2Back in King’s Landing, Jaime meets with Tyrion for the first time and asks him if he is guilty of Joffrey’s death. He denies it, and Jaime believes him, which puts him at odds with Cersei who continues to hold him responsible. After asking him if he would find and kill Sansa for her, Jaime calls Brienne to him. Giving her a new suit of armor and his sword, he tasks her with fulfilling her duty to Lady Caitlyn and finding her daughter. She names the sword Oathkeeper, and sets out with Pod to find Sansa.

Lady Olenna Redwyne meets with Margaery and tells her in no subtle fashion to begin ingratiating herself to Tommen so she can defuse any attempts Cersei has at poisoning him against her. In the course of their talk, she admits that she is the one who poisoned Joffrey. Out to sea, while traveling to the Eyrie to marry her aunt, Lord Pyter Baelish admits the same to Sansa, and intimates that he did it to please the Tyrells – his new ally.

got4_4_3At the Wall, Locke has arrived and begins to befriend Jon Snow, who is there to kill – on Lord Bolton’s orders. Amidst training the new recruits, Jon comes to learn from Sam that Bran and the Reeds are travelling north of the Wall and suspects they may find their way to Craster’s Keep. He then is told by the acting Lord Commander that he has leave to go there and kill the mutineers before they can fall into Mance’s hands.

Locke and a handful of other Brothers agree to go with him, and they set out. Meanwhile, at Crasters Keep, where Karl Tanner (one of the mutineers) is running things as his own private fiefdom. When a newborn baby boy is presented to him, he is told that Craster sacrificed them to “the gods” (aka. the White Walkers). He orders one of his men to take the baby out, who then leaves it in the snow and goes to a cage where (surprise!) Ghost is being kept.

GOT4_4_4Just then, a cold wind blows in, signalling the approach of the Walkers, and he runs away. Not far off, Bran, Hodor and the Reeds are camped and sense the approach as well. They hear the baby crying, and Bran changes skin with Summer, who then wanders off in search of the baby. His wolf hears howling as well, sees Ghost in his cage, and then falls into a trap. The next day, they approach the Keep and see what’s become of it.

They begin planning on freeing Summer, but are captured by the mutineers. Hodor is chained up so the mutineers taunt and abuse him, and one stabs him in the leg with his spear. Bran and the Reeds are taken inside the keep where Karl comes to them and demands to know who they are. He threatens to kill them and Jojen begins to have a seizure, at which point Bran tells them his true identity. At this point, Karl means to ransom them or hold them hostage.

GOT4_4_5The episode ends out in the frozen wastes, where the White Walker who was seen assaulting the Fist of the First Men is riding his dead horse and carrying the baby with him. After arriving at the foot of a mountain, the Walker comes to a sort of shrine made of ice and places the baby down on an altar. Another Walker comes forward from a large circle of them and touches the baby’s face. It’s eyes turn blue, indicating that it has become an Other.

Summary:
So… where to start? I’m guessing with the stuff I didn’t like since the ending was the big exception to all that. Let’s see if I can’t break it down in sequential order. First off, the sack of Mereen, which was very quick and involved some changes from the original story. As I mentioned last time, the way the show chose to write Strong Belwas and the fact that Ser Barristan Selmy was originally hiding his identity from Daenerys out of the show. As I might have also said, this would come up this week as Daenerys’ forced sacked the city.

Basically, Daenerys learned the truth as she sat outside Mereen’s walls and tried to think of a way to breach its defenses. Not only did she learn that Whitebeard was actually Selmy and in the employ of Robert – the man who usurped the throne from her father and tried to have her killed. His confession also raised the fact that Ser Jorah Mormont was working for Robert as well. At least he was, until he chose to switch sides and prevent her from being poisoned.

Incensed, Daenerys chose to send them on a dangerous mission, which involved sneaking into the city’s sewers at night and opening it’s gates. This was the only weakness they could discern of Mereen’s defenses, and Mormont and Selmy happened to be successful. By contrast, the way they did this in this week’s episode happened so fast and quickly, it kind of made it seem like taking the city was a piece of cake. But it still worked, so no real complaints there. And the way they rendered the city was very beautiful and accurate to the text.

However, the whole storyline in the North is something that I found rather annoying. For starters, Jon Snow never asked to go off and kill the mutineers at Crasters Keep, mainly because they had their hands full with the Wildling party that coming up from the south, and Mance coming down from the north. As Jon knew, Ygritte and Tormund’s whole purpose was to take Castle Black so that they could open the gates and let Mance and his army through without a fight.

Jon knew that the only advantage the Night’s Watch had was the fact that the Wall would be very difficult for Mance’s army to overcome. But that advantage would be lost if the Wildlings managed to seize Castle Black, which seemed likely given how outnumbered the Night’s Watch was at this point. Faced with attack coming from two directions, both of which were practically upon them, Jon’s only thought was preparing their defenses. He gave no thought to the mutineers whatsoever, since they were all believed to be dead anyway.

And speaking of giving something no though, Bolton never ordered Locke to go Castle Black to find and assassinate Jon. While it is true that he was concerned with cementing his family’s rule over the North, this involved him sending his bastard son (after he was made a full Bolton) to Winterfell where he was to marry Jeyne Poole (Sansa’s friend in King’s Landing who was now being forced to pretend to be Arya Stark). This show-wedding would have made the Bolton’s rule over the North legitimate by law.

At no point in the story did Bolton learn that Bran and Rickon were still alive, not for certain anyway. And as for Jon Snow, Bolton never concerned himself with him since, as a bastard, he had no claim to Winterfell. And to top that off, the mutineers never captured Ghost, and Bran, Hodor and the Reeds never traveled to Craster’s Keep to be captured and interrogated. All of this stuff was made-up and filler, and the way they turned Karl Tanner from a background character into Evil the Cat seemed especially overdone.

And while I get that they need to come up with things to keep certain characters and threads engaged, I would think they could do what they have been doing with Theon, who also didn’t appear again in the story until A Dance with Dragons (book five). Here, they simply used what Martin wrote about his intervening time to keep him in the story. With Bran and Jon now, they are making stuff up and diverging wildly from the text.

But at least this week, Cersei and Jaime’s strained relationship seems to have some merit. In fact, it was their disagreement over Tyrion that caused their split in the first place, not to mention Cersei’s growing paranoia and vindictiveness. That whole “you took too long” thing was pure nonsense, and the rape scene of last week was as wrong as it was unnecessary. Not in the books, didn’t fit with their characters, so I liked that this week, they ironed that out.

And of course, the ending! What can I say about that? No, really, what can I say? I ask because it wasn’t in the books either, not in A Storm of Swords (which provides the material for this season) or the two others that have come since. This means that this final scene, which was very cool and cryptic, was also providing hints as to the larger plot, stuff that George RR Martin hasn’t even revealed yet to his loyal readers. What can you say about that? Other than COOOOOOL!

Anyhoo, midseason is coming up, and we’ve got some rather major events in the works before the season ends. These would include Tyrion’s trial – which is going to have its own share of big surprises and consequences! – and of course, Mance’s assault on the Wall, which I am looking forward to with some high zest. No matter what else they’ve done this season, fight scenes and major battles are two thing they’ve consistently managed to do well!

British Columbia Map Recreates Game of Thrones

british-columbia-as-game-of-thrones-westerosWhat would your town be if it happened to fall within the A Song of Ice and Fire universe? That’s the question British Columbia resident Andrew Cuthbert asked himself when he created a map trying parallel the geography from Game of Thrones to his (and my) home province. Specifically, the map has been repitched using locations from Westeros, the setting of much the story, with townships that bear the greatest geographical and cultural resemblances becoming their Westerosi equivalent.

For example:

  • Vancouver (BC’s largest city, though not the capitol) stands in for King’s Landing, the seat of power in Westeros
  • Victoria, the true provincial capitol and second largest city, is Highgarden, the regional capitol of the lush and fertile land known as “The Reach”
  • Fort Nelson, the last stop on the long road to the Tundra, becomes Castle Black – the last stop before The Wall and the frozen wastelands of the north in the series
  • Kelowna, a town of well-to-do people, becomes Lannisport, home of the “rich as a Lannister” Lannisters
  • Kamloops, a town in the “Riverlands” of BC (where it sits at the mouth of two arms of the Thompson River) becomes Riverrun
  • Osoyoos, a town surrounded by desert and some damn good vineyards, becomes Sunpsear, the capitol of Dorne (the desert region of Westeros)
  • Prince Rupert, the gateway to the northern Pacific and a salty city, becomes Pyke, the seat of the Ironborn
  • and Whistler, a place famous for rich people, leisure, and riding things, becomes Dragonstone

As Cuthbert was sure to admit during an interview with CBC Radio’s Rick Cluff on The Early Edition, his comparisons are entirely tongue-in-cheek. As he put it, “The whole map is supposed to be a joke, so it’s meant to be taken in good faith.” Hard to imagine anyone would be offended by something like this, but I certainly understand his point. When it comes to matters of city comparisons and civic pride, one must tread carefully.

And his timing couldn’t have been better, since season four is set to premier in just under two weeks time! After last seasons blood bath, fans are hoping for something a bit more cheerful no doubt. Too bad they won’t get their wish 😉 And I do hope to see more maps like this in the near future. In fact, here’s hoping it becomes a full-fledged meme, with people drawing up maps that compare their home province, state, or territory to the geography from Game of Thrones!

Source: cbc.ca

Game of Thrones – Season 3 Finale!

Game-of-Thrones-WallpaperThis is it! The third season climax, and the follow-up to the most bloody episode the show has ever produced! And naturally, the producers and writers weren’t done with us yet. As I’ve said repeatedly, there’s plenty of blood, intrigue, warfare, and at least one more wedding. And, to my surprise, the damn show featured some additional content from the Red Wedding, the stuff we only heard about in the book. Ugly, ugly stuff…

And after the past few episodes, there are a few threads that are coming together which need a good seasonal finish! These include Bran’s journey north, Arya’s ongoing attempts to get back to her family, Stannis and Melissandre’s campaign to make him king, Theon’s captivity, Jaime and Brienne’s escape from Harrenhal, and of course, the upcoming wedding! Alas, here’s what they chose to do about all that…

Mhysa:
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The episode opens on the brutal and bloody scene that was the Red Wedding, where the Freys are mopping up the Stark forces and presenting Robb in a terrible mock display. Having cut off his head and sown the head of his direwolf on, they parade his body around on horseback chanting “King of the North!”. In  the yard, Arya (barely conscious) is forced to watch the display as Clegane carries her away.

We then move to King’s Landing, where Tyrion is called to council by his father and learns of the news that Robb and Catelyn Stark are dead. Another argument breaks out between Joffrey and Tyrion, and threats are once again uttered. Afterward, Tywin and Tyrion speak privately where the former once again reiterates Tyrion’s need to produce an heir. Afterward, Jaime and Brienne comes at last to King’s Landing and he and Cersei have an amorous reunion…

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In the north, Bran, Hodor and the Reeds find their way to the Nightfort, just south of the wall. While they sleep, they begin to hear a terrible noise that they suspect is the ghost. However, it turns out to be Sam and Gilly, who have also just arrived at the Wall. Sam quickly realizes who Bran is and tells them he is John’s sworn brother. Bran asks for their help getting north, but Sam tells them they must all go to Castle Black. Bran and Jojen tell them he must go north, since only he has a chance at stopping the White Walkers.

Sam then shows them the blade he used to kill one, which Jojen identifies as Dragonglass. He distributes other heads from the collection he found, and tells them there are many more out there. They part company then, with Sam and Gilly heading to Castle Black, and Sam showing them to the tunnel they used so they may go north of the Wall.

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Not far away, Ygritte meets up with John Snow again. He tells her he must go home, despite his love for her. She manages to hit him with three arrow, but John still manages to ride away safely. He arrives at Castle Black shortly thereafter, wounded but alive, and is carried inside. At around the same time, Sam and Gilly come before Maester Aemon and tell him of what’s happened. Aemon grants asylum to Gilly and her son (whom she’s named Sam), and asks Sam to take letters calling for aide from every corner of the Realm…

At Dragonstone, Stannis receives word of Robb’s death as well, and Melissandre claims this was due to her ritual. Stannis is now double convinced of the need to sacrifice Gendry. Making his way to the dungeon, Davos frees Gendry, sets him off in a lifeboat, and tells him to make for King’s Landing and never look back. Stannis sentences him to die, but Davos presents him with the letter from the Wall and tells him of the contents. Melissandre confirms the truth of it by looking into her fires, and Davos is spared.

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At the Twins, Walder Frey enjoys his victory and toasts the death of all the high lords who looked down at him and are now dead. They also celebrate their new positions – now that House Frey is gone Walder is to become warden of the Riverlands, while Bolton is to become warden of the north. The subject of Ramsay comes up, and it is revealed that he is the one who is now holding Theon…

We also get to see Theon at the Dreadfort, who is in the midst of suffering from Ramsay’s latest cruelty. In addition to removing one of his fingers and crippling a foot, he has apparently removed his manhood too now. After cruelly jesting about his latest act in front of him, Theon begs for death, but Ramsay claims they still need him. He also confers a new name on him since Theon no longer seems appropriate: Reek.

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We then move to the Iron Islands, where Balon Greyoy receives a letter from Ramsay. He issues an ultimatum, telling him to remove all his forces from the north. To make his point, he also sends the remains of Theon’s “favorite toy” – aka. his manhood, and threatens to send him more pieces unless he leaves. Balon is unmoved, and chooses to press on, but Asha defies him and says she is taking a ship and their best warriors and going to the Dreadfort to save him.

On the road, Arya and Clegane come upon a small camp of Frey men who are boasting about her mother’s death. Arya hears one of the men talking about how he stitched the wolf’s head on her brother, and approaches them. Offering one of the men the coin Jaqen H’gar gave her, she forces him to bend over to pick it up, and then stabs him in the neck. Clegane steps in to kill the others, and Arya retrieves her coin and remembers what H’gar told her about coming to Bravos.

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At Yunkai, Daenerys and her armies are welcomed by the people for the first time. Their greeting party consists of countless freed slaves, who begin chanting “Mhysa” to her as one. She learns that the name means “Mother” in Old Ghiscari, which the slaves have taken to calling her. She commands her dragons to fly and begins walking amongst the people, who lift her up and begin carrying her on their shoulders.

The episode ends with an aerial shot, showing Daenery’s dragons circling the crowd of thousands of freed people as they hold her above and chant her new name…

Summary:
Not a bad way to end the season, though I have to say I was a little disappointed. After the “Rains of Castamere” episode, I suspected they would end the season with the other major wedding and the first of many showdowns that take place at the Wall. But since they didn’t get into any of that, I’m forced to hold my tongue and avoid any spoilers until next season! Which, by the way, is not until sometime next year…

Sure, it’s a wise policy to keep all those good nuggets until season 4, but it did make for a pretty thin season finale. After the massive bloodfest last week, this episode felt like little more than winding up. What’s more, I know for a fact that much of this episode was mere padding – stuff that wasn’t even in the book and was just thrown in to pace things out. Everything from Theon’s captivity, Asha’s decision to rescue him, to and the many, many conversations between secondary characters. All filler.

But I can’t complain too much. Most of the scenes from this episode did provide relevant information and plot development. And they did bring the season down after a terrible 11th hour high. And some of the content, which was only conveyed through dialogue and narration in the book, was illustrated quite nicely here. I’m thinking mainly of the scene with Robb’s corpse. Though horrid, the production of that scene was quite good! Fucking Freys!

And though I’ve complained repeatedly about them throwing in the scenes with Theon, the part about Ramsay giving him his new “name” was kind of neat. Here too, we see material which doesn’t come up until book five, but which becomes highly relevant by then. I suppose filling in the backstory so we’re not lost later does kind of make sense…

Still, waiting a whole year for another season. It’s kind of criminal, really! Yes I know that a big-budget show like this doesn’t happen overnight, but remember the criminally long wait for this last season? Remember the kind of memes it inspired, like this gem:

got_memeThat’s right! But there might be a silver lining, like if Martin somehow produces the sixth book in the series between now and then… Ha! Yeah, right! See you next season!