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:
got3_mhysa

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…

got3_mhysa1

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.

got3_mhysa4

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.

got3_mhysa3

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.

got3_mhysa2

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.

got3_mhysa6

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!

Game of Thrones – Season 3 Episode 8

Game-of-Thrones-WallpaperThe season is almost done, and some big climaxes are coming! And without giving too much away, let me just say that I’m looking forward to seeing Robb’s wedding, Joffrey’s wedding, and the Wildling’s assault on Castle Black. I predict the season will end with the weddings happening simultaneously, and perhaps the assault happening next episode.

Could be wrong, but anyone who’s read Storm of Swords – and knows that the next season will be tackling the latter half of it – knows that at this point, those will be the season enders. But before that can happen, there’s all that took place during this week’s episode. Here’s what I thought of it as well…

Seconds Sons:
got3_sons3The episode opens with Arya and Sandor Clegane, who as we saw last time kidnapped her from the Brothers Without Banners. After stopping her from trying to kill him with a rock, he tells her that he is bringing her to The Twins so he can collect the reward from her mother and brother. She also learns that they are traveling here because her uncle, Edmure Tully, is to be wed to Walder Frey’s eldest daughter.

We then go to Yunkai, where Daenerys is meeting with the Captain’s of the Second Sons, the mercenary army for which the episode is named. After looking into the matter concerning Yunkai’s supposed “friends”, Daenerys entreats with the leaders of the sellsword armies the city has paid off to fight for them. She offers them a chance to fight for her, but its clear there’s to be no deal had with their Captain, Mero of Bravos. However, their Lieutenant, Daario Naharis, seems much more amenable to her…

GOT3_sonsBack at their camp, Mero and the others discuss how they will kill her, and they agree that they will have to assassinate her. Daario draws the short straw (in this case a coin) and is sent in to kill her. Sneaking into her tent while she’s taking a bath, he puts a knife to Missandei’s throat. With her attention fixed on him, he presents his Captain’s heads at her feet and declares his loyalty and the Second Sons to her.

In King’s Landing, the preparations are set for the wedding between Sansa to Tyrion and the entire court is in attendance. Cersei and Maergery naturally take the opportunity to exchange false pleasantries, and Cersei is sure to threaten her. Since he had her father killed, Joffrey gives Sansa away. He also takes the opportunity to embarrass his uncle  by removing his stool, thus making it nearly impossible for him to place his cloak on her.

got3_sons1The wedding is naturally an uncomfortable affair as Tyrion proceeds to get very drunk and gets a stern talking from his father. Joffrey then announces the “bedding ceremony”, but Tyrion says there will be done, prompting threats and insults. Tywin intervenes and says they will dispense with the ceremony and Tyrion takes Sansa away to their bedroom. Sansa undresses and prepares to “do her duty”, but Tyrion tells her to stop and proceeds to pass out.

At Dragonstone, Melissandre arrives with Gendry and presents him to Stannis. They prepare him for the sacrifice, which at the moment consists of giving him a room, a bath, and some clean clothes. Below, in the dungeons, Davos continues to learn to read and is visited by Stannis himself. He tells Davos he will be set free, and of their plans to sacrifice Gendry and why. He agrees to set Davos free, provided he doesn’t raise a hand to her again. He agrees, but vows to go on counseling Stannis as he sees fit.

got3_sons4Melissandre also takes the opportunity to meet with Gendry and begins plying him with wine and talk of her God and the destiny Gendry has. And as usual, she seduces and has sex with him, then ties him down and applies leaches to his skin. Davos and Stannis then enter, and she reveals that what she has prepared is a demonstration for Davos’ benefit. Stannis takes the leeches, now engorged on “King’s Blood”, and burns them, uttering the names of his enemies – Balon Greyjoy, Robb Stark, and Joffrey Baratheon.

Whitewalker1In the far north, Sam and Gilly continue to head south towards the Wall. They come upon a shed and decide to set camp for the night. When night falls, they discuss giving her boy a name, and the screaming of countless crows can be heard. Sam goes out to look, and the crows go silent as a White Walker appears. Gilly believes its come for her baby, and after being tossed aside, Sam stabs it with the dragonglass knife he’s kept, which shatters it like ice…

Summary:
Not a bad episode this week, and after seeing it I really have only one complaint, and a few compliments. I’ll cover the complaint first since its a quick one, and I know that’s it’s already been harped on and even spawned an internet meme. And that has to do with the decision to cast Daario as a clean-shaven pretty boy.

In the book, Daario had a long beard that was died purple and braided, much like his hair. This was in keeping with the Tyroshi fashion, as he is from the free cities. What’s more, he wasn’t a Lieutenant in the Second Sons, but the Captain of the Stormcrows, a entirely separate group of mercenaries. On top of that, they were one of three companies that was contracted to defend Yunkai, and his decision to deliver the heads of the other Captains turned the tide in Daenerys’ favor during her siege of the city.

But of course, budgets meant they had to cut this down to one group of mercenaries, and I’m sure the actor’s inability to grow a beard had something to do with his clean-shaven look. Aside from that, I really didn’t have much in the way of complaints. In fact, I liked what else they did, which was to take changes made previously and use them quite effectively to advance the story.

For example, the writer’s took the Gendry plot line, which seemed to be going nowhere for me, and steered it back in the main storyline very well. In the book, the blood sacrifice shown here actually did take place and did involve one of Robert’s bastards. Davos didn’t agree with it, but it took place anyway, during which time Stannis cursed the names of his enemies and asked for their death.

Naturally, the books contained far more characters and the series writers no doubt felt that they had to take an existing character rather than introducing someone new and unheard of until now. This was not only understandable, but it worked quite well. And it portends something very important which will be coming up soon. No spoilers, just wait for it…

And of course, the episode ended with something I’ve been waiting for for a long time! I was hoping to see the scene where Sam stabbed a White Walker with his dragonglass blade for awhile now. In truth, he did it before his brothers were lost to him at Craster’s Keep, which was how they learned that the White Walkers are vulnerable to both dragonglass and Valyrian Steel. It’s also how Sam picked up the nickname of “Sam the Slayer”.

 

GOT Infographic: The History of Robert’s Rebellion

House-a-song-of-ice-and-fire-29965891-1920-1080

Things have been getting weird around here lately. For some reason, people over at other sites have been reaching out to me and offering cool and funny infographics. It’s like they think that I’ve got some kind of following or something. Well, if it keeps me getting stuff like this, I plan to let them entertain this notion. And my followers, whoever you are, can consider yourself the lucky recipient of what they pass on.

Consider this new infographic, courtesy of connectyourhome.com. For fans of Game of Thrones, be it the books or the miniseries, this helpful illustrated and annotated table provides a breakdown of the history of Robert’s Rebellion. For those who are not familiar, this rebellion is what made King Robert ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, and were seminal to the plot of the story that followed.

Rhaegar-Targaryen-Lyanna-StarkThings begin in this timeline with the tournament at Harrenhal, during which Rhaegar Targaryen kidnapped Lyanna Stark, the betrothed of Robert Baratheon. They then escalated when Rickard and Brandon Stark – Ned Stark’s father and uncle and the men his youngest boys are named after – travelled to King’s Landing to demand Lyanna’s return. However, “the mad” King Aerys accused both men of treason, burns Rickard and has Brandon strangled.

Aerys further demands that John Arryn, Lord of the Eyrie and Robert Baratheon’s gaurdian, to deliver the heads of Eddard (Ned) and Robert to him, since their fathers were apparent traitors. Instead, Arryn allies himself with Robert and Eddard and a rebellion is declared. House Tully, with is joined to house Stark through the marriage of their eldest daughter (Catelyn) to Ned, joins them as well.

Battle_of_the_TridentAnd of course, a series of battles follow, culminating in the Battle of the Trident where Rhaegar is killed and the royal army is routed. The rebel army marches on King’s Landing with the intent of laying seige. Tywin Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock, rides there and tricks King Aerys into allowing his forces into the city, and then sacks it. Jaime Lannister, who is then ordered to murder his own father, slays King Aerys and the rebellion is at an end.

Robert Baratheon is crowned king and marries Tywin’s daughter, Cersei Lannister, to seal his control over the realm. The last of the Targaryens are murdered or forced into exile, the two that are publicly known of are Viserys and Daenerys. Ned rides to Dorne where his sister was being held in the Tower of Joy, where he finds her dying and agrees to honor her last wishes.

And that’s what brings us to the first book and/or season with the laying of all the major threads, with the exception of all that stuff involving the White Walkers and the Wall. That stuff goes back… further! But don’t trust my executive summary, go to their website or check out the infographic below:

got-infographicNot only is it a very interesting breakdown of the plot that predates events in the main story, I think it also confirms something that’s been batted around various GOT forums. For some time, people have been wondering about the true identity of John Snow’s mother. Some people have theorized that he was in fact Lyanna and Rhaegar’s love child, and that she asked Ned to keep him safe by keeping his identity a secret.

Targaryen children were being murdered at this time, after all. And saying it was his own love child somehow seemed more humane to the boy and his mother’s memory. Sure, it was a blow to Catheryn to believe her husband was coming home with a bastard born of an indiscretion. But Ned was a man of honor, a boy’s life may have been at stake, and a sister’s dying wish is a sister’s dying wish!

So thanks connectyourhome! And if you got any more, don’t hesitate to send them along. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know I enjoy them 😉

Game of Thrones – Season 3, Episode 6

game_of_thrones_s3It’s Monday, and you know what that means! Time to recap on the latest Game of Thrones episode! And as usual, I was eager to see what would be happening this week. Not only was the name of this episode a clear reference to a major event in the story, they also seemed poised to  show us Yunkai, Daenerys’ next conquest. And there’s still plenty set to happen with Robb and the Freys, Arya and the Brotherhood, Bran and the Reeds, Cersei and the Tyrells, Brienne and Jaime, Sam and Gilly…

Well, you get the idea. By the third book, the story really began to multiply in terms of plot threads. It seemed like there wasn’t the tidy three points of interest of the Wall, Kings Landing and Essos as there was in the first book. Now, its a wartime saga and there’s plenty of people in plenty of places, all with their own story to tell and independent take on it all. So the show makers have their work cut out for them.

So here’s what happened this week and what I thought of it…

The Climb:
got3_climb
Things open in the north, where three of our main characters now find themselves. The first is Sam and Gilly, who are traveling south together after fleeing Craster’s Keep. The second is Bran, Osha, Hodor and the Reeds, who are heading the opposite way. And last, their is John and the Wildlings, who find their way to the Wall at last, and intend to scale it.

As they prepare to follow Tormund, who is reputed for having climbed it dozens of times, Ygritte tells John that she knows he is still “a crow” at heart. While not truly loyal to Mance, she does expect him to be loyal to her. With Tormund in the lead, they begin to scale the Wall. The climb proves treacherous as a section gives way, killing an entire war party in the process. John and Ygritte are almost killed too, but a last minute move by John saves the both of them.

got3_climb2In the Riverlands, the Brotherhood are met by an unlikely visitor, Lady Melissandre herself, who entreats with Thoros. After raising the issue of his previous mission – which was to convert King Robert – she is taken to see Beric. She is astounded to see what Thoros has done with Beric, and tells them they have someone the Lord of Light needs – referring to Gendry. Since he has the “King’s Blood” – i.e. King Robert’s – he is fit to be sacrificed.

At Riverrun, Robb meets with the Freys emissaries to discuss the terms of their continued alliance. He is told that in exchange for an apology, the right to Harrenhal, and Lord Edmure Tully’s marriage to his eldest daughter, they will continue to be friends. Edmure is extremely reluctant, but is compelled since they need the Freys to win the war and because of his failure in engaging the Lannisters. They agree to the terms and plan to travel to The Twins for the wedding.

got3_climb1In King’s Landing, Tywin and Lady Redwyne discuss the possibility of Cersei marrying Ser Loras. Redwyne initially refuses, claiming Cersei is too old to bear him children. But Tywin, refusing to be denied, threatens to appoint Ser Loras to the Kingsguard, a move which will ensure that the Tyrells bear no heirs and the Lannisters will take over Highgarden down the road.

Tyrion and Cersei also discuss their impending nuptials, and Tyrion confronts her about the plot to kill him. He tells her that Joffrey is an idiot for ordering such a murder, but is told that nothing will happen as long as Tywin is around. Tyrion then meets with Sansa to reveal his father’s plan to have them wed, and she is naturally heartbroken. So is Shae, who is on hand to hear about it directly.

got3_climb3Varys and Littlefinger also exchange words in the Kings Hall, where he reveals that he found out about Varys plot to marry Sansa to the Tyrells. He further reveals that Varys’ source in the matter, his assistant Ros, has been removed from his service and has been handed off to “a grateful friend”. This turns this friend is Joffrey, who had her bound and then killed her with his crossbow.

At Harrenhal, Lord Roose Bolton meets with Jaime and Brienne, both of whom have recovered from their time with the Bloody Mummers. He agrees to let Jaime continue on to King’s Landing as recompense for the loss of his hand, but demands that Brienne stay behind since she abetted treason. Jaime is not happy about the decision, but is not in a position to make demands.

The episode closes with John and his party making it to the top of the Wall. Once there, Ygritte fulfills a lifelong dream of looking out at the world from the top. They stand together and share a long kiss…

Summary:
Well, as it turned out, this episode had a double meaning to it. On the one hand, there was the physical climb which John and the others accomplished as they scaled the Wall. On the other, there was Littlefinger’s diabolical speech about how chaos is “a ladder”, which some climb while others fall. And in this clever little double-entendre, the episode finds its true meaning. And overall, we got a fair dose of pl0t advancement, and a good heaping of machinations as all the interested parties continued to scheme.

But of course, there were some changes which once again, I feel obliged to note. Some were the result of previous changes which then forced these new ones upon the writers, but others struck me as being entirely out of the blue. In the case of the former, you’ve got Roose Bolton deciding to send Jaime Lannister on to King’s Landing. In the book, this didn’t happen, since by the time Jaime and Brienne made it to Harrenhal, it had passed back into the hands of the Lannisters.

On top of that, this decision really makes no sense here. Roose claims to be letting Jaime go as recompense, but also because he recognizes that Tywin will pay more or him. At the same time, he’s holding onto Brienne because she’s guilty of treason. Yet, by letting Jaime go, he’s committing an even worse one and putting himself in jeopardy with Robb. Vargo Hoat wasn’t willing to give Jaime back to his father for fear of losing his head, but Roose seems to have no such fears.

But of course, this is all necessitated by the way they cut out how Harrenhal came to be in the hands of Robb in the first place, plus that they rushed this plot thread to get Jaime and Brienne out of the wilderness sooner. And of course, there’s the plot thread involving Cersei’s impending nuptials to Ser Loras, which never happened in the book. True, Cersei was pissed that her father intended to marry her off again to cement alliances, but Ser Loras was never a candidate.

This might seem like a very minor point, but I realized this mainly because in this episode, Tywin makes a big deal about threatening to make Ser Loras a Kingsguard. In the book, that’s exactly what Ser Loras did, and it was because he wanted to so he could avoid being married off to a woman he knew he would not love. And since the Tyrells are gaining the throne through Margaery’s marriage to Joffrey, shouldn’t his threat of depriving them of an inheritance be baseless?

Which brings me to out-of-the-blue stuff, which here includes Gendry being hauled off by Lady Melissandre. Again, never happened in the book and I don’t see why they are doing it here. True again, Stannis needed Kingsblood to make a proper sacrifice to R’hllor, but that didn’t take place til much later and didn’t involve Gendry at all. After deciding to stay on with the Brotherhood, Arya and he parted ways (won’t say how, it’s coming up), and that was that. What they are doing with him here, can’t imagine where they’re headed with it, but I know it will necessitate changes down the road.

Which brings me to my final gripe, which has to do with Theon again. Once more, we have him on screen being tortured, and they don’t even reveal who has him or why. They pull a little misdirection by pretending his tormenter is the Karstark heir, but that of course proves to be false. In reality, he’s the bastard Bolton, aka. Ramsay Snow, and all this again just seems like a whole bunch of filler! But then again, so was Ros’ part, which came to an abrupt end this week since they decided to kill her off.

Looking back on my comments here, I can tell that I’ve become a bonafide Thrones geek, the kind who gripes about changes and nitpicks the inconsistencies between the books and the adaptations. But in all honesty, the longer this show goes, the easier it becomes to notice these things. Though it is still a kick ass series, the way they are diverging from the script can only get worse at this rate.

But of course, I still want to see what they do with it. If nothing else, it will be fun to watch!

P.S. Oh yeah, and they didn’t show Daenerys making it to Yunkai… again. When oh when is that going to happen? They keep showing it on the map at the beginning, when is she going to get there?! Like a few other gems that are yet to be revealed, this one promises to be pretty cool!

Game of Thrones – Season 3, Episode 5

Game-of-Thrones-WallpaperMorning folks, welcome to another work week, and another episode review of GOT! This week, since I’ve got a bit more free time on my hands, I thought I’d get to this review early and avoid what happened last time. I mean, people don’t need to wait til Thursday to hear about a show they watched on Sunday right? Yeah, mea culpa. But its a new week and a new episode, and the mid-season one at that!

Naturally, I was eager to see this week’s episode, since the story was now in full swing and the big plot points were being addressed. For example, Daenerys campaign to raise an army of free people from the ruins of the slave capitol of the world. This was one of the best parts of book III, so I’m quite interested to see how they go about illustrating it. And of course, there’s also Robb Stark’s growing problems, which were not dealt with last time.

But biggest for me was the plot thread hinted at in the title. After weeks of having John Snow’s story only touched on, and with him not even making an appearance last week, I was happy to see that this episode would be dealing with his story. Not only is it too one of the most important in the third book, it is perhaps the most personal and emotionally involved.

Taken together, the promise of seeing all these threads further developed left me feeling eager and antsy…

Kissed By Fire:
got3_kissedThe episode opens in the Riverlands, where Beric Dondarrion prepares for trial by combat with Sandor Clegane. After setting his sword ablaze in true R’hllorian fashion, Beric fights Sandor, who’s naturally afraid of his flaming blade. However, Sandor manages to survive the bout and lands his sword in Beric’s shoulder, killing him. But the death doesn’t last long, as Thoros issues a prayer to the Lord of Light and resurrects Beric yet again. Found innocent by trial of combat, Sandor is released…

Later on, Arya learns that Gendry will be staying behind with the Brothers while she is taken to Riverrun and handed over to her brother. Afterwards, she learns from Beric that he has died many times and been brought back by Thoros, and wonders if her father could be resurrected in the same way.

got3_kissed2In Riverrun, Robb is faced with yet more problems as Lord Karstark take matters into his own hands and executes the Lannister captives. Though he is encouraged to take him as a hostage in order to ensure the continued loyalty of House Karstark, he decides to execute him and swings the sword himself. He loses the Karstarks as allies and laments how unity has broken down in his army. However, he knows he can still march on Casterly Rock, provided he can rebuild his alliance with House Frey.

In Harrenhal, Vargo Hoat delivers Brienne and Jaime Lannister to Roose Bolton. Being merciful, he chooses to let Jaime know that his family prevailed in the siege of King’s Landing and sends him to get the care he needs for his wound. Afterward, he finds Brienne in the baths and shares a tub with her. After agreeing on a truce, he explains to her why it is he killed King Aerys, thus earning him the name “Kingslayer”.

got3_kissed1Moving to the north, we see John with his newfound Wildling companions, sharing what information he can with Tormund about the Wall’s defenses. Afterward, Ygritte leads him on a bit of a chase and they end up inside a cave, where she undresses for him and tests his loyalties by seeing if he will break his vow of celibacy. He does, and the two are joined in Wildling fashion… a couple of times!

In King’s Landing, Cersei reaches out to Lord Baelish for help in dealing with the Tyrells, while Tyrion reaches out to Lady Redwyne for help with the royal wedding. Sansa gets a chance to see Ser Loras, whom she thinks she will marry. However, Tywin intervenes and decides to wed her to Tyrion. After gloating, Cersei is told she will wed Ser Loras, which sends her into a fit of self-pity.

got3_kissed3On Dragonstone, Stannis meets with his wife for the first time in ages. He comes to confess for his indiscretion with Lady Melissandre, but is told that he has done nothing wrong. As his wife is clearly crazed over the loss of her stillborn children, which she keeps in a set of jars, she confesses that she was overjoyed to learn that someone else was able to give him the son he deserved.

Afterward, Stannis meets with his daughter, Shireen Baratheon, who waits in her tower and suffers from greyscale. After learning that Ser Davos, who has always been a friend to her, is in prison for treason, Shireen goes to the dungeons to see him and brings him a book – Aegon the Conqueror. He confesses that he is illiterate, at which point she begins reading it to him and suggest she make a habit of coming to see him.

got3_kissed4In Essos, Daenerys army continues to march from Astapor to Yunkai. This gives Ser Mormont and Ser Selmy a chance to discuss the men they’ve served over the years and discuss how best to serve their new queen. But both agree that they are happy to be serving Daenerys now since they believe in her, though it is clear Mormont also holds a torch for her.

Daenerys also addresses her Unsullied officers and asks them to pick their own names and shed their slave names. Their leader, Grey Worm, tells her he will keep that name, as it is lucky. His birth name was the one he had when he was taken as a slave, whereas the one he has now he held when Daenerys set him free.

Summary:
As usual, high and lows in this episode, though I felt it was mainly characterized by highs. For starters, I was glad to finally see John and Ygritte hook up!  Their thread has been sorely neglected so far and I was seriously beginning to wonder if they would ever get around to showing their relationship or not. I was glad to see that they did!

In the third novel, this was not only an important aspect of the plot but the also one of the most gripping and emotionally involved parts of the story. Here, John’s loyalties are being severely tested, and his newfound love for Ygritte was causing him to break his oaths. Of course, he was only doing what Qorin told him to before they were captured, but that didn’t make it any easier for him.

Though that raises something that I’ve found generally unlikeable about their adaptation. In the second season, Qorin did not ask this of John and instead seemed to condemn him for letting Ygritte go, a move which led to their capture. Granted, it seemed obvious he staged their little “fight” to get John into their good books and sacrificed himself, but John was not in the know and is now groping around blindly.

Perhaps they thought this would make his uncertainty and test of loyatlies more genuine, but I think it only complicates matters. Better to have him playing the role of defector and constantly be wondering if he’s doing the right thing than have him vacillating between two camps for real.

Another high point was Jaime’s confession to Brienne of why he killed Aerys. Not only was the scene accurate and lucidly portrayed, it was a testament to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s skill as an actor that he managed to pull off Jaime’s torment so well. After years of being a cynical bastard because of how people view him as a man without honor, and having lost his sword hand – his only redeeming feature, in his mind – he is naturally in serious emotional pain and wants redemption. Personally, I thought he captured that here brilliantly.

And of course, the machinations that are going on in King’s Landing. As I’ve said before, the Sansa-Pyter plot has been simplified, since it was Boros Blount who arranged for her escape and Pyter’s involvement not revealed until later. But aside from that, they are capturing the spirit of this point in the story quite well, showing how plotting between houses is causing a general atmosphere of distrust that will threaten to boil over. And for the most part, it’s being conveyed accurately.

And as for Robb’s thread, there is a minor change here which caught my attention. His decision to repair relations with the Freys was not part of some brilliant idea to attack Casterly Rock. It was done out of necessity because his decision to marry Talisa Maegyr was basically a big middle finger to his promise to marry Walder Frey’s oldest daughter. What’s more, its hardly big news that he would plan to attack Casterly Rock, home of the Lannisters.

That was his aim in the book all along. Since it sits west of Riverrun and well north of King’s Landing, he knew he had to have it, since to march past it would expose his entire western flank. A nitpick, I know, but sometimes I wonder why they bother with little changes like these. They kind of seem frivolous and unnecessary, like they are trying to sex up the storyline or something. It’s already well-sexed, believe me! Just tell it and move on…

And to end things happily, I like that they brought in Stannis’s daughter and developed his back story some more. Naturally, its hard to give all the characters their worth in a format like television, especially when adapting something as voluminous as Martin’s series. But they managed to get her and his wife in, and show the kind’s of debilitating and tragic things which have effected their family. Oh, and the way they had his daughter singing the song that Patchface  – her jester, who was important in the books but didn’t make it into the cast of the show – always sung her was a nice touch.

And that was the middle of season three, people! Things are shaping up and we are due for some major action, betrayals and intrigue real soon! Stay tuned because I know for a fact that it’s only getting better from here…

Game of Thrones – Season 3 Premiere!

GOT_Season3_teaserWow, what a Sunday! The season finale of season three of The Walking Dead and the season premiere of season three of Game of Thrones, all in one night. Lucky for me I didn’t have to choose between watching one or the other, but unlucky for my followers, it has meant a bit of a delay in terms of both reviews. I can only hope people find my thoughts informative or at least agreeable.

Speaking of agreeable, I personally felt the season premiere improved considerably on last seasons. Though this one was also a bit of whirlwind introduction, it didn’t exactly feel rushed like that last one did. But of course, they also strayed from the text in many ways which I couldn’t help but notice. And as newly minted Thrones geek, believe me when I tell you, I will be griping!

So here is what I thought of this season’s opener!

Valar Dohaeris:
The episode opens exactly where the last left off, with Samwell Tarly running from the White Walkers as they attack the Fist of the First Men. After being rescued by John’s direwolf (Snow) and Lord Commander Mormont, Sam is told to join their party as they beat a hasty retreat south. The fate of the entire Realm depends on them making it back to the Wall…

got3_giantOver at the Wildling camp, John Snow gets a firsthand look at their army and sees a giant for the first time. Ygritte then brings him before Mance Rayder who asks him why he intends to join them. John tells them his reasons have to do with what he witnessed at Craster’s Keep. He says he wants to fight on the side of “those who fight for the living”, and Mance orders him a new cloak.

In the north, Robb and his army march on Harenhall, which they find abandoned. Inside the walls, he finds over 200 Northmen and their horses strewn about, and only one survivor, whom Talisa Maegyr (Robb’s new wife) begins to attend to. The sight of all this death angers his men even further that his mother let Jaime Lannister go, and he orders that she be arrested and restricted to quarters.

got3_tyrionAt King’s Landing, Tyrion has recovered from his wounds and is visited by his sister. Cersei naturally denies any complicity in his near shave with death, and demands to know why he has summoned their father to meet with him. He is then attended by Bronn, who naturally demands more money for his continued service. As the only friend Tyrion has left, he is forced to oblige…

Upon meeting with his father, Tyrion laments the fact that he is no longer Hand of the King and that Tywin did not come to visit him while he recovered. He then broaches the subject which is central to their meeting: his inheritance of Casterly Rock. After letting him know that he will receive a position befitting his name and title, he cruelly reminds him that would never allow one such as him to inherit the seat of Lannister power and sends him on his way.

got3_margaeryAt the docks, Sansa is met by Lord Petyr Baelish who begins discussing his plan for removing her from the capitol. He tells her he has a ship that will be leaving and she will need to be ready to go at a moment’s notice, and she is happy to agree. Meanwhile, Shae and  Ros – who appears to be Baelish’s chief madame – speak privately, and she warns Shae to watch Sansa closely, especially when she is in the company of Baelish.

On their way back from the Sept, Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell are being carried in their litters and she decides to stop and take a walk in Flea Bottom. In the back alleys, she speaks to a group of orphans and hears of how their fathers died in the battle. She promises that Joffrey will be a good king and will take care of them. She and Loras meets with Joffrey and Cersei afterwards, and the seeds of tension are sown.

got3_stannisIn the Narrow Sea, Ser Davos Seaworth is found after being washed up on a rock after the Battle of Blackwater. After identifying himself as Stannis’ man, he is taken aboard by his old smuggler friend, Salladhor Saan, and returned to Dragstone. Once there, he meets with Stannis and Melissandre and takes issue with how he’s burning men alive as sacrifices. Melissandre tells him she could have gauranteed them victory at Blackwater, and tries to pulls a knife on her. Stannis orders him arrested and placed in a cell.

Farther east, Daenerys and Ser Jorah Mormont are on a ship bound to Astapor. Her dragons are growing and hunt freely over the waters, and she and Jorah speaks of their plans to recruit an army of Unsullied to follow her. Upon their arrival, she inspects the garrison and is told of their brutal training. Afterward, an attempt on her life is narrowly averted when Ser Barristan Selmy shows up and declares fealty to her.

Summary:
Okay, first up, the things I liked. After waiting almost a whole year for a new season of this show, I found this episode fit the bill quite well. The setting, the actors, the portrayals and attention to details were all done to great effect and spoke of a serious commitment. It was almost like biting into a meal that took an extra long time to prepare, and then realizing where that time went.

The opening scene where a giant is shown, that was the first thing to impress me. While reading the books, I had a hard time visualizing what these characters would look like, not to mention their mammoths and other such beasts. So naturally, I was impressed with this rendition, and I was pleased to see Mance Rayder and other key characters – like Tormund Giantsbane = being brought to life.

And now for the downside. Like I said, they’ve taken to this intro with some serious changes, many of which were necessitated by changes in the previous season. And for the most part, I didn’t approve. This began with John Snow’s professed reasons for joining the Wildling camp. At no point in the book did he witness Mance’s child being fed to the Others, and this played no part in his staged defection.

Forced to come up with a good reason for why he’d betray, John told Mance something dangerously close to the truth. He told him that as a bastard, he had no place at Eddard Stark’s family, and wanted his freedom to make his own way in a world where that would not hold him back. Being so believable, largely because it paralleled Mance’s own reasons for deserting the Night’s Watch, Mance took him in.

What’s more, they never showed how John’s defection was pre-planned by him and Qorin last season, though they hinted that this was Qorin’s intent when he attacked John and let him kill him. So the entire plot arc of John’s time with the Wildlings is being played a bit more mysteriously, but unclearly. It’s like, is he really defecting? Hedging his bets? Just looking to stay alive until he makes it back to the Wall? All of this was central to his dilemma in the first half of the book, so how they play with it will be crucial.

Second, there was Robb’s march on Harrenhal which, again, never happened in the book. After campaigning in the west and picking up Jeyne, they returned to Riverrun to continue plotting the campaign. The Lannisters did not abandon it, it changed hands thanks to Arya and Jaqen Higarr, who opened the cells to free the Northmen who then took the castle. This facilitated her escape in book II, and allowed Robb’s army to take control of the castle.

But since they changed the means of Arya’s escape (Jaqen simply killed the guards at the gate), they had to find some way of explaining how Harenhall fell and Robb’s men took custody of it. But frankly, this seemed lame, much like John’s phoney reasons for going over to the Wildlings. Might sound like nitpicking, but the only reason these changes needed to happen because they changed things last season. Stuff like that can pile up after awhile, and it is certainly is here…

Ah, then there’s how Petyr Baelish is plotting to get Sansa out, which was not revealed in the book til much later. In the original, Sansa’s plans were made with Boros Blount, the drunken knight whose life she saved. It was he that planned her escape at Baelish’ behest, and upon helping her realize it, he was killed. Clearly, they’ve decided to cut out the middle man in order to save on shooting time and writing.

And the same holds true for Ser Selmy’s introduction. In the book, he was posing as old man who wanted to help out Daenerys, and only later was his true identity revealed, much to her chagrin. Not only that, but they seem to be leaving out Strong Belwas, a former pit fighter who was traveling with Selmy and also joiner her service. I do hope they’re just waiting for the next episode, because he’s an important character and I’d like to see who portrays him!

And that’s about all for the changes and weaknesses for this episode. Aside from these salient issues, I rather enjoyed it and look forward to the rest of the season, with all that I know to expect! I also look forward to the climactic battle in this season, which I shall say nothing of since there are people out there who are not Thrones geeks and don’t yet know what to expect. But trust me when I tell you, if you had read the books, you’d be excited too!

Welcome back GoT!

Dredd 2012

dredd_2012_movie-wide-1024x640

Hey all! My apologies for my absence of late, but life has been very busy on the teaching front. Cold season always brings big stretches of busy work, and I’ve been on call steadily for the past three weeks. Luckily, I find myself with a day or two to catch up on other things, and so I decided I’d get back on this horse and start things off right.

Today, I’d like to share a review of a movie I recently enjoyed, the summer remake known as Dredd. Based on the graphic novel Judge Dredd, this movie was an attempt by writer John Wagner and director Pete Travis to reboot the franchise after the semi-disastrous 1995 adaptation that starred Sylvester Stallone.

Though the film failed to recoup its production budget at the box office, which was expected, it was reviewed much more favorably than the original and earned a small following. What’s more, it is expected the movie will continue to gross now that it is released on DVD and will be available on cable and home movie providers.

Synopsis:
dredd-1920x1080-1024x576The movie opens in the streets of Mega City One, a post-apocalyptic urban environment that stretches from Boston to Washington DC. Dredd’s voice provides voiceover, describing the urban environment in all its bloody, crowded, and dirty glory. We then cut to a scene where Dredd (Karl Urban) is pursuing three criminals that have been spotted by an aerial drone. A tense chase ensues, during which time multiple civilians are killed. After taking out their vehicle and chasing the last man into a Block – one of the cities many massive apartment structures – Dredd concludes that the men were carrying a new drug known as Slo-Mo.

dredd_mamaWe then cut to Peach Trees, another major block, where we meet Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). She is a notorious crime boss that runs Peach Trees and is responsible for the manufacture of Slo-Mo, and who is plotting to expand production and bring it to the rest of the city. We get a glimpse into just how ruthless she is when she dispenses justice against three men who have been dealing in their Block and that she decides to make an example of. This consists of skinning them and then dropping from the top floor to the bottom level, but first giving them a hit of Slo-Mo so it will seem imperceptibly long.

dredd-anderson-2Dredd is then called back to the Grand Hall of Justice to inspect a new recruit named Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who is reportedly a psychic. She and Dredd are dispatched to Peach Trees as part of her final evaluation to investigate the dead bodies. After the paramedic examines them, he explains that they all had Slo-Mo in their system, and gives them a rundown on who Ma-Ma is and how she came to be the master of the Block.

They then proceed to the nearest distribution center on the Block and take it down, securing one of Ma-Ma’s men (Kay) in the process. Anderson probes his mind and deduces he was the one who threw the men over the balcony and they decide to take him in for interrogation. When word reaches Ma-Ma, she has her thugs seize control of building security and lock the entire Block down, which consists of external shields closing in around the structure to resist a nuclear blast. All communications with the outside are cut off, and Ma-Ma announces over the PA system that she wants the Judges killed.

dredd_gunsDredd and Anderson begin fighting their way through several groups of armed residents with Kay in tow. Eventually, Ma-Ma orders her men to bring out their greatest weapon, a bunch of Vulcan cannons, and use them to shoot up an entire level. Dredd and Anderson narrowly survive by breaching the outer wall and calling for help, and Dredd then tosses Caleb, one of Ma-Mas henchmen over the balcony in full view of her. Down below, two Judges show up on the scene, but are unable to get through the Block’s sealed walls, and Ma-Ma’s hacker insists this is all part of a security drill.

Retreating to a school house, Dredd concludes that Ma-Ma is desperate to kill Kay to keep him for revealing her secrets and begins beating him. Anderson intervenes and begins mind probing him instead, learning that Peach Trees is the center for the production and distribution of Slo-Mo. Shortly thereafter, Dredd and Anderson are distracted by some armed teens, which allows Kay to kidnap Anderson and escape using the freight elevator to get to the top levels.

Judge Dredd Still ImageDredd continues to work his way towards the top, prompting Ma-Ma to call in four corrupt Judges. They relieve the men at the front, enter without incident, and agree to take down Dredd for one million credits. Meanwhile, Kay attempts to kill Anderson using her gun, and loses his hand in the process. She escapes and begins working her way down, and becomes a target of the crooked Judges as well. Between the two of them, they manage to take out all four and meet up in the Slo-Mo production lab. Dredd is wounded by Lex, the last of the Judges, but Anderson saves him and the two carry on.

After finding Ma-Ma’s hacker, they manage to obtain the code from him to her private cell. Rather than Judge him, Anderson sees that the man only worked for Ma-Ma out of fear, and that she was the one who took his eyes, forcing him to get bionic enhancements. She lets him go, even though Dredd tells her it could result in an “automatic fail”. She responds by saying she was already taken hostage and her gun was confiscated, which is also grounds for an a fail grade, and they move on.

dredd-lena-headey-ma-maThey finally reach Ma-Ma’s cell and take out the last of her men, though Anderson is also wounded in the process. Ma-Ma then tells Dredd she has the upper levels lined with explosives and the detonator is mounted on her wrist. If her heart stops, the device will go off and everyone in the top 50 floors will die. Dredd shoots her in the stomach and responds by saying the he doubts the device has a range that can reach from the ground floor to the top, and Judges her. Sentencing her to death, he gives her a hit of Slo-Mo and tosses her from the balcony. She falls in slow motion to her death, and the building doesn’t blow up.

Convening with reinforcements and paramedics below, Anderson hands her shield to Dredd and walks away. However, when the Chief Judge comes to him and asks how she did, he replied that she passed. The movie then ends with Dredd providing voice over once again, about how the city is a corrupt mess, and the only thing standing between it and total chaos are the Judges.

Summary:
dredd_mega_city_oneConsistent with what I heard in advance, this movie was actually pretty good. And even though it didn’t do well at the box office, the result of the meme working against it, I can see it developing a cult following and becoming something of a personal classic to many in the coming years. Despite some flaws, such as the excessive gore and some self-indulgent special effects, it had some noticeable signs of quality.

For starters, the look and feel of the Megacity environment was pretty awesome. The gritty, grimy nature comes through immediately, and without any of the overdone campiness of the original movie. Rather than shooting it in a massively constructed environment with flying cars and lavish costumes, the movie is shot in Cape Town and Johannesburg and uses real locations as a backdrop and relies on CGI and models only to supplement the already dense and dirty urban environment.

dredd_atriumAnd of course there was the attention to detail with the centerpiece of the movie, the building known as Peach Trees. As a Mega City Block, this building is essentially an arcology where all the basic needs of the residents are taken care of in-house. This includes schools, medical care, food, entertainment, and all of these were illustrated at one point or another in the film. And you’ll notice that in all cases, their was graffiti on the walls, garbage on the floor, and metal bars on everything, signifying just how dirty and dangerous the environments are.

And I really enjoyed the whole “lock down” procedure, which was more than just a convenient plot tool. In a world where nuclear holocaust has already taken place and every Block acts as a self-sustaining arcology, the concept of shield walls was just plain genius in my mind. Visually it was quite cool, but it also made perfect sense and it beautifully illustrated the shock mentality and survivalist instincts that are so common to this world.

Dredd-1And of course the movie was thematically consistent. On the one hand, you had the nature of the city, which was packed to the brim with 800 million people and with a homicide rate of 1700 people a day. Whereas Dredd is the perfect symbol of social fascism in this context, a man who has little faith in people and absolute veneration of the law, Anderson is the bright-eyed rookie who wants to help people and believes there is good to be found, even in an overcrowded block like Peach Trees.

dredd_peachtreesThese archetypes are offset by characters such as Ma-Ma and Lex, the leader of the crooked Judge. As her back story presents it, Ma-Ma is essentially a sociopathic product of the Mega City environment, a former prostitute who killed her pimp after he cut up her face and who has been on a non-stop mission ever since to bring her own sense of order to the city. Lex, meanwhile, is an embittered veteran who has lost all faith in the system and helping people and is simply looking out for number one.

Through it all, Dredd is softened somewhat by his encounter with the corrupt Judges and Anderson’s gentleness. Naturally, his war of ideology with Ma-Ma ends with him taking her out, but not before a long battle of wills takes place. This is exemplified by the way the two dual for control over the hearts and minds of people in Peach Tree. Whereas Ma-Ma uses their fear to obtain their help in hunting Dredd, Dredd fights back with his unflinching dedication to take her down and anybody who gets in the way. Ultimately, Dredd wins in part because Ma-Ma’s insanity and willingness to kill her own convince people to keep out of the way and let Dredd do his job.

JWhat’s more, the movie was well cast. Karl Urban fits the bill as the surly, sour-faced Judge who never shows his face and is never to be found doing anything other than his job. And Thirlby pulls off the role of the green, untested rookie who comes through in the end quite well. And Lena Headey, whom fans know from 300, the Sarah Conner Chronicles, and (best of all) as Cersei Lannister from a the HBO adaptation of A Game of Thrones, was also very convincing as Ma-Ma.

I was surprised really, seeing as how the previews kind of lent the impression that her role was overdone or just too plain evil. But it is a testament to this woman’s ability to act that she pulls off the psychotic crime boss who knows no mercy. Somehow, between her cut up face, evil eyes and bloody grin, you become convinced she was a victim who turned her abuse into complete madness and shouldn’t be messed with! What’s more, Urban’s usual combination of deadpan frowns and monotone voice worked in his favor, much like how Keannu Reeves same combination of method and monotone allowed him to pull of Neo.

dredd_slomoAnd of course, there were the visual effects. There are those who would say that this movie was just an ultra-violent gorefest with overblown special effects. But to that, I’d say it was a lot more genuine that the original, and much of the gore and violence was appropriate given the setting and tone of the movie. Mega City One is a massively overcrowded, decaying cesspool of humanity, where thousands of murders happen a day and human bodies are recycled for food and goods.

Such a place is neither safe nor sanitary, and violence is a constant, pervasive element. And sure, the concept of Slo-Mo may very well have been an excuse to employ some over the top 3D and slow motion sequences. But after watching the movie, I was forced to admit, it was a pretty damn good one! In the end, you can’t help but feel that these two factors are somewhat excessive but still appropriate.

Naturally, the original movie tried to gloss over this since they wanted to give it as wide an appeal as possible. This failed, as much of the material was just too adult for kids, but the tone and feel of it was too cartoony to be taken seriously. Basically, the movie tried to hedge its bets and ended up flopping for it. But this time around, the directors and producers were going for a cult appeal and stuck to their guns, which I have to respect. By aiming for a smaller range of consumers and a less broad appeal, they were able to keep the movie honest and truer to the source material.

In short, I give it a 7.5/10. And man, I want to see more of Mega City One! That urban landscape had a kick-ass art team putting it together! I’d recommend the movie for that much alone, especially to fans of the Blade Runner, urban noire and post-apocalyptic series’, but the rest of the movie is fun watching too. So get it and contribute to the cult following people. The producers still need to recoup their dough!

Timeline of Game of Thrones

Game-of-Thrones-WallpaperNot too long ago, I realized just how immersed I was in the universe of A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s a funny experience, getting into a series, realizing you’ve finally got some understanding of the universe contained within, and you find that you really like it! As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I really haven’t experienced this since reading Lord of the Rings or possibly Dune.

And in the course of my latest bit of research into the ASOIAF universe, I came across a helpful timeline. This, much like the geography of J R.R. Martin’s world, was something I had been pondering by the time I got to the fifth book. As anyone’s who read the series knows, there’s plenty of references to historical events which can be a bit confusing, at least if you’re the kind of person who likes to know how everything fits together.

And much like Tolkien, Martin’s timeline is very inspired, dense, detailed, and draws on a great deal of real history. And knowing it is quite helpful in establishing the deep background of the series and understanding the interplay of characters and events. So here is what I found, condensed and abridged for your reading pleasure! Enjoy!

The Dawn Age:
south_GOT
This is the prehistoric age of A Song of Ice and Fire, where the important factions know as the “Children of the Forest” and the “First Men” are introduced. The former are a race of magical creatures who feature quite prominently in the later volumes of the story, where Greenseers and prescient dreams start to come up more and more. They inhabited Westeros in the prehistoric period along with giants and other magical creatures that only live in the North anymore. The Children of the Forest are also credited with forging the religion of the “Old Gods” which the Northmen still worship in the story.

ca. 12,000: The First Men invade Westeros across a land-bridge from the east, using bronze weapons to conquer and colonize Westeros. The Children of the Forest fight back and cast a spell to break the land-bridge, giving rise to the island formation known as the Stepstones (Echoes of the Bering Land Bridge here!) However, the First Men rely on ships and complete their conquest after generations.

ca. 10,000: The First Men and Children sign the pact of Isle of Faces, agreeing to coexistence after generations of warfare. This pact gives the First Men dominion over the open lands and lets the Children keep control over the forested areas. In time, the First Men adopt the worship of the Old Gods of the Forest.

Children_of_the_Forest_greenseers
The Age of Heroes
Much like the age of same name in Greek mythology, this age is so named because it encompasses a number of great figures who accomplished noteworthy deeds. These include the founding of many of the Great Houses, who trace their lineage in the story to this period. The include Brandon the Builder, founder of House Stark; Lann the Clever who formed House Lannister; and Garth Greenhand who founded House Gardener of the Reach. Also, this was the time of the Storm Kings who arise in the Stormlands, and the Grey King of the Iron Islands.

ca. 10,000-8,000: The peace between the Children of the Forest and the First Men endures for thousands of years. The houses of Stark, Lannister, Gardener and the Storm Kings are established in the North, Casterly Rock, the Reach and the Stormlands respectively.

Azor-Ahai-a-song-of-ice-and-fire-3437825-905-521ca. 8,000-6,000: Period known as the Long Night in Westeros, a time of the coldest, darkest winter where a single night seems to last a generation. Ice spreads from the North, leading to the advance of the Others. It comes to an end following the Battle of the Dawn, where the First Men united under Azor Ahai (referenced in the text by Melissandre and the Red Priests) to repel the Others back to the north dragonglass weapons. Ahai also wields of a sword of fire known as Lightbringer.

After the defeat of the Others, Bran the Builder leads the raising of the Wall, a massive fortification of ice and ancient magic to shelter realms of Men. The Night’s Watch is formed to man and guard it against Others, Wights and Wildlings who live to the north. Bran then goes on to build Winterfell and becomes first King In The North. Not long after, a Black Brother betrays his oath and tries to install himself as king. The Starks of Winterfell and King Beyond the Wall Joramun join forces to destroy him. Joramun uses the Horn of Winter to summon giants from the earth to help him fight (the horn is buried, not to be found again until Mance Rayder uncovers it in A Storm of Swords)

The Andal Invasion:
The second of three major invasions of Westeros happens in this time period, leading to the Faith of the Seven and the tradition of chivalry being adopted. The divide between North and South is also rooted thanks to the failure of the Andals to conquer north of Moat Cailin.The Children of the Forest also begin their slow withdraw further from the lands of men in this period, retreating deeper into their forests and North of the Wall.

Andal_Invasionca.6,000-5,000: In the Hills of Andalos on the eastern continent of Essos, a new religion called the Faith of the Seven emerges. Supposedly, the supreme deity of the Andals appears to them and instructs them to cross the Narrow Sea and invade Westeros. They come under the banner of the Faith of the Seven, with seven-pointed stars carved into their chests, wielding weapons of steel.

The war endures for centuries and leads to the fall of the six southron kingdoms fall and the destruction of their weirwoods. The kingdoms of the North remain under First Men rule, thanks to the strategically placed fortification of Moat Cailin which resists multiple attacks, thereafter serving as the door between North and South.

Age of Valyria:
GOT_DanyThis period is characterized by the rise of the Valyrians as the dominant power in Essos and the many wars of expansion in Essos. These wars lead to the fall of the Ghiscari Empire, the Rhoynish cities, and the conquest of the Free Cities and the cities of Slaver’s Bay. Other Noble Houses are created during this time, most notably, House Martell of Dorne. It ends with the third and final invasion of Westeros, this time by House Targaryan, and the establishment of the Iron Throne.

ca. 5,000 – 700: On the eastern continent, the sheep-herding folk of the Valyrian peninsula find dragons lairing in the volcanoes that extend across the neck of the peninsula. The Valyrians tame the dragons with magic and gain influence over the area. The Valyrian Freehold is established and Valyrian steel, a magical metal renowned for its sharpness, light-weight and flaming properties, is forged. The Freehold goes to war with the Ghiscari Empire, the greatest power on the eastern peninsula. Valyria wins with the help of its dragons, destroys Old Ghis, and exerts influence over the cities of Slaver’s Bay.

north_GOTca. 3000: The Wildlings Invasion takes place as the northern men unite under the brother Kings-beyond-the-Wall Gendel and Gorne, manage to evade the Night’s Watch and bypass the Wall in great numbers using a network of tunnels that extend under the Wall. However, they are met by the Stark King on the other side and are eventually thrown back.

ca. 700: In the North, House Stark finally subdues House Bolton, their primary antagonists for dominance in the North. Karlon Stark defeats sea raiders from the east and founds the cadet branch of House Karstark. In the West, the Ironborn of the Iron Islands rise to power. At their peak, they control most of the western coast from Oldtown and the Arbor in the south to Bear Island in the North.

ca. 700-500: Valyria’s expansion beyond Old Ghis brings it into conflict with the great cities along the Rhoyne and manages to subdue them, again because of their dragons. Nymeria, a Rhoynish queen, evacuates the survivors and takes them to Dorne where she forms an alliance with Lord Mars Martell and form the ruling house of Dorne.

House-Targaryen-game-of-thrones-20596041-1600-1200ca. 500-200: Valyria expands once again and conquers much of the southern Free Cities. A religous sect known as the Moonsingers leads refugees to a remote lagoon concealed by mountains and mist to found the secret city of Braavos. They build the Titan of Braavos to serve as a defensive fortification. The Valyrian Freehold, under the Targaryens, annex a small island at the mouth of Blackwater Bay, and build a castle whose tower is shaped to look like Dragons, giving its name: Dragonstone.

ca. 350: The Storm Kings expand their control of the Westerlands north to include the territory of the Riverlands up to the Neck. Over time the Ironborn lose many of their possessions but, some three generations before Aegon’s Landing, conquer the territory of the Riverlands from the Stormlands. The Ironborn king, Harren Hoare builds Harrenhal.

a-song-of-ice-and-fire-harrenhalca. 100: The Doom of Valryria begins. The volcanoes known as the Fourteen Fires erupt and shatter the Valyrian Peninsula and laying waste to the city of Valyria. The dragons of Valyria are virtually wiped out and the Valyrian Freehold crumbled apart, its various cities becoming independent city states. Braavos reveals itself to the other Free Cities and eventually becomes the most powerful due to its vast fleet and economic power.

The cities of Slaver’s Bay become independent again and Ghiscari power begins building again in the south. The warrior-nomads of the vast eastern plains arise thanks to the fall of Valyria and their dominant tribe, the Dothraki, begins raiding the surrounding lands. The Targaryens remain safe on Dragonstone, the guardians of possibly the last three dragons in the western world.

Targaryen Dynasty and Roberts Rebellion:
Events of this period direclty precede events in A Song of Ice and Fire. These include the Targaryan conquest of the Seven Kindgoms by Aeon the Conqueror and his three dragons, the death of the last of the worlds dragons, the unification of the Seven Kingdoms under the Iron Throne, and the fall of the Targaryen dynasty during Robert’s Rebellion.

The_iron_throne

 ca. 1 AL*: Aegon the Conqueror invades Westeros, conquers and unites six of the seven kingdoms of Westeros under his banner and constructs a new capital city at King’s Landing. He is unable to conquer Dorne and allows it to remain sovereign. Control of Highgarden passes to House Tyrell, House Tully of Riverrun takes control of the Riverlands and House Greyjoy become the rulers of the Iron Islands. Later Targaryans add Dorne and the Seven Kingdoms are united under the Iron Throne.

282-283 AL: Rhaegar Targaryen abducts Lyanna Stark. Lyanna’s brother and father (Ned Starks uncle and father) demand that Aerys discipline his son, but instead the Mad King kills them both. Aerys demands the heads of Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark from their ward, Jon Arryn. Instead, Houses Arryn, Stark, and Baratheon raise the standard of rebellion. Robert’s Rebellion, also called the War of the Usurper, begins.

The Hand of the King, Jon Connington, is defeated in the Battle of the Bells and is sent into exile in the Free Cities. The rebel army defeats the royalists at the Battle of the Trident where Prince Rhaegar is killed. The Lannisters apparently march to the aid of King Aerys, but instead turn against him and sack the city. King Aerys is killed by Jaime Lannister.

A-Song-of-Ice-and-Fire-RobertPrincess Elia Martell and her children, Aegon and Rhaenys Targaryen, are brutally murdered by Lannister bannermen, causing a rift between Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon. Robert becomes King of the Seven Kingdoms and marries Cersei Lannister. Ned returns home to Winterfell with his bastard son, Jon Snow. Loyal Targaryen retainers carry Aerys’ two youngest children, Prince Viserys and Princess Daenerys, to safety in the Free Cities.

*After Landing: The year that follows after Aegon lands in Westeros, establishing the “common era” of the Iron Throne.

Yes, its long, detailed and dense, and that’s just the stuff I chose to include. But you gotta admit, it does fill in the blanks and answer a whole lot of nagging questions! And of course, there are all those allegories I mentioned earlier. First there’s the invasion of the First Men across the land bridge calling to mind the migration of human beings across the Bering Land Bridge, giving rise to the First Nations and the establishment of American civilizations.

You also have the successive invasions of Westeros calling to mind the invasion of Britain by the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Normans. The Children of the Forest also call to mind the systematic destruction of native populations the world over, and the division between the Old Gods and New is very similar to the conquest of Roman pantheism over the “pagan” religions of the Old World.

And of course, the Red Priests and their dualistic vision of a world divided between the forces of Light and Darkness is not at all dissimilar to Judea-Christian theology, or more likely Zoroastrianism. The fact that the faith comes from the East and is so focused on a war between good and evil that is expected to achieve culmination soon is more in keeping with the Zoroastrian tradition, though the monotheistic aspects of it, forced conversions and burning of “idols” do call to mind Christianity’s conquest of European and the New World.

And on top of that, there’s a very rich history taking place in the East, where Valyria resembles ancient Rome, who’s power base (in this case Dragons) allows them to conquer the Free Cities (similar to the Greek city-states), the Empire of Old Ghis (Persia and other Empires of the East), and whose fall creates a power vacuum that leads to the rise of “Barbarian Hordes” – aka. the Dothraki.

I tell ya, the historical metaphors are thick. THICK!

Source: awoiaf.westeros.org

A Feast For Crows!

a_song_of_ice_and_fire_version_2_by_scrollsofaryavart-d4rabm1We come to it at last, the fourth and final book in the Song of Ice and Fire Box Set! Wait, what? There’s a fifth book, and two more on the way? And I just bought the fifth book and promised to review it too??? Son of a bitch! Sigh… Alright, let’s get things moving and review this bastard. Lord knows George RR Martin isn’t done writing books, nor I in reading them, apparently.

Ha! I joke because it’s fun, and true. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had originally planned to quit after book four, but then decided some months back to buy the latest installment in the Song of Ice and Fire series thanks in part to the rave reviews it was getting from friends and critics. But the choice was cinched just the other night when I finally finished Crows and enjoyed how it ended.

To put it simply, A Feast For Crows felt like an afterthought to the series, a depository for the story lines that weren’t particularly important and didn’t make it into the previous volumes in the series. Hence why it took me so long to complete it – coupled with the many other books I started while in the middle of it – it really was a slow read! But upon completing it, I found that there were some rather interesting twists that made the story interesting gain, not to mention worth following!

What’s more, Martin ended the story with the misleading chapter entitled “Meanwhile, Back At the Wall”, which was really a letter to the audience stating that what they had just read was really only half of what he had planned as a fourth installment. At this point in the story, he had so much to say that he felt the only way he could say it all was to either write a massive single-volume or split it in two. And he could either write all the stories half-way, or write half the stories all the way, and leave the others for the next.

And of course, that’s what he did. Whereas the story lines of Cersei, Jaime, Samwell Tarly, Brienne, Arya, Sansa, and a host of other secondary characters get their due in this installment, the equally (if not more important) narratives of Jon Snow, Tyrion, Daenerys, Bran, and others would be reserved for book five. And like I said before, I could see the wisdom and crass commercial value in this! Damn you Martin, making me buy more of your books! Here’s what happens in this book:

Plot Synopsis:
The book opens with the War of Five Kings coming to an end. With most of the major player dead – Robb Stark, Joffrey Baratheon, Tywin Lannister, Renly Baratheon, and Balon Greyjoy – and Stannis defeated at King’s Landing, the war has reached a lull and it seems that House Lannister seems poised to inherit the entire realm. All that remains is for them to seize the last of the Stark’s strongholds (like Riverrun, which is still holding out) and to push the Ironmen back from all the ports they’ve seized.

However, the realm is still beset by intrigue as old scores are being settled and new plots put into action. At the same time, Cersei finds that despite the removal of all her enemies, as well as the death of her eledest son and father, she is unable to wield absolute power, and gradually begins to turn inward and succumb to paranoia and self-destruction. And of course, Sansa is still hiding in the Vale, doing her best to remain hidden and attending to Lord Baelish’s ongoing schemes…

King’s Landing: As is quickly becoming apparent, Cersei is incapable of running the realm on a day to day basis, which is made worse by the fact that her Council, which is staffed by loyalists, is ineffectual. At the same time, there is her growing distrust of the Tyrells and their apparent attempts to position Margaery to inherit the throne. As such. Cersei begins scheming to bring the House down.

At the same time, she has to come to terms with the crowns creditors, which include the Iron Bank of Braavos and the Faith of the Seven. In the former case, she fails and the crowns assets are entirely frozen. In the latter, she agrees to the restoration of the Faith Militant, a military order that is answerable only to the High Septon. However, in so doing, she allows for the accumulation of armed zealots in the capitol, most of whom believe her to be an adulterer. It also means the Faith now has its own army in place and is less compelled to accept her authority.

In her bid to lessen the Tyrell’s influence over the masses, the court and her son, she sends Ser Loras Tyrell to help with the siege of Storm’s End. He is mortally wounded in the assault and may not survive. Cersei then interrogates Grand Maester Pycelle and learns that he has been giving Margaery moon tea, and that she and her cousins have been having elicit sex with multiple suitors.

She turns Margaery and her maids over to the faith and has Ser Osney Kettleback, whom she has been bedding, testify to her falseness. This backfires however when Osney is interrogated by the Septon and reveals how he has been sleeping with Cersei and murdered the previous Septon on her orders. Cersei is jailed in the temple and hopes Jaime will return to fight for her…

The Riverlands: Jaime is sent north to assist in the siege of Riverrun and assist in bringing order to the war torn region. He succeeds in the former endeavor, ending the siege bloodlessly by convincing House Tully to surrender peacefully. The next step in his task is to locate the Brotherhood Without Banners, Lord Beric Dondarion, who is dead at this point, and Stoneheart (Catelyn Stark, who are still active in the Riverlands and hanging Lannisters, Freys everyone who had a hand in betraying House Stark. Afterwards, he gets word that Cersei needs his help, but tosses her letter into the fire.

Brienne is also in the Riverlands now after following the trail of Sansa Stark. Her companions include Ser Podrick Payne (former squire to Jaime) and Ser Hyle, one of Renly’s old knights. In time, they are set upon and captured by the Brotherhood and brought before Stoneheart, where she learns her true identity. Since she is carrying a Lannister sword, Catelyn believes she is in the service of the Lannister’s now, and demands she kill Jaime as a test of faith. Brienne refuses, and is sentenced to hang along with her companions.

Dorne: Picking up where A Storm of Swords left off, there is the growing plot by House Martell to avenge the death of the Elia and make Myrcella the queen of Westeros. They have not been appeased by the death of Ser Gregore Clegane, as they know it was Prince Oberyn who killed him, and that Tywin Lannister was behind the murder. Doran Martell, the ruler of Dorne, must now deal with the plotting of his bastard nieces – known as the Sand Snakes – who want war and to avenge their fathers death. He has them all locked in the tower, but soon finds that the plot is extending to his own daughter, Arianne.

For some time, she has been bedding Ser Arys Oakheart of the Kingsgaurd, and uses him to abduct Myrcella and try and install her as queen. When this fails, she too is placed in the tower and Ser Arys is killed. But before long, her father hauls her before him and tells her of his true plans. He too wants revenge, but has more subtle plans. This involves sending her brother Quentyn to the east to bring back “Fire and Blood” – Daenerys Targaryen – who he believes was prophesied to restore Westeros to its former glory.

Iron Islands: With the death of Balon Greyjoy and the ongoing war against the other Houses of Westeros, there is a question of who will lead the Ironmen. Aeron Damphair, the high priest of the Iron Islands, calls a Kingsmoot, a gathering to determine a successor, which becomes hotly contested by Asha and Victarion, Balon’s daughter and brother. However, Euron Greyjoy – Balon’s oldest brother, known as the exiled “Crow’s Eye”- is chosen as king due to his promise that he can control dragons with a recently acquired horn. He too sends out a party to travel to the east and find Daenerys with the intent of taking her dragons and conquering all of Westeros.

The East: Arya Stark arrives in Braavos and finds her way to the House of Black and White, a temple associated with the assassins known as the Faceless Men (of whom Jaqen H’gar was a member). She begins her training as an initiate and takes on a new identity, a girl who goes by the name of “Cat of the Canals”. However, her former identity continues to assert itself in the form of wolf dreams, and also when she comes across members of the Night’s Watch who are in town. This includes Samwell Tarly, whom she meets without knowing, and when she murders his companion Dareon for abandoning his brothers. The morning after Dareon’s murder, she admits to the Kindly Man that it was “Arya” who committed it, and is given a glass of warm milk as punishment. After drinking, she wakes up blind the following morning.

Meanwhile, Sam, Gilly and Maester Aemon stop on the way to Oldtown, where they hope to uncover the mystery of the one who has been prophesied. Aemon now believes this to be Daenerys as well, and seeks information about the “Lady with Dragons” to the east so he can help restore his niece to the throne. Sam finds a ships of Summer Islanders who claim to have seen the dragons firsthand and agree to take them to Oldtown. Aemon dies in transit, and Gilly and Sam become intimate over their shared sense of grief. When they arrive in Oldtown, Sam sends her to his family’s holdings for her own safety – as the Iron Men have been reeving in the region. He then proceeds to the Citadel, where he is told that Daenerys is the one prophesied to save the realm, and he begins training to go and find her.

Summary:
As I may have said already, this book largely felt like a depository for threads that were not part of the main story. After events in the previous three novels, one would think that the fourth book would have something on the Wall and the growing threat of “The Others.” However, the ongoing story about Arya’s new life in Braavos, the conspiracy in Dorne, Cersei’s own machinations at King’s Landing, and the leadership struggle amongst the Ironmen – all these felt like diversions from the climactic storyline. And after three books, I was beginning to get quite impatient for it. It’s like, C’mon, when are The Others going to attack? When is all this prophecy going to be revealed?

However, by the end, it became abundantly clear where Martin was going with this. At last, we find out that Daenerys is not just a contender for the Iron Throne, but the subject of the very prophecy that was being foretold since the second book, when the Red Comet first appeared. What’s more, by the end, it was abundantly clear that all the threads appearing in this book were closely related. The Iron Islanders, the Nights Watch, and the people of Dorne are all seeking Daenerys, and it’s clear at this point that she will be coming back to Westeros in force, and might even be seen as a force of liberation after all the infighting.

In addition, Cersei’s fate at King’s Landing was a welcome twist. While there are those who see her as a sympathetic character who’s only doing what any man in her position would do, I see that and all the talk of double standards as crap! Crap, crap, crap! She’s a cruel, selfish, and narcissistic woman who only cares about herself and condemns anyone who doesn’t do her bidding. So to see her get hers after all this time made me quite happy. It was also fitting that Jaime, whom she shunned when it became clear he wasn’t sympathizing with her, would spurn her appeals for help.

All of this was just enough to pique my interest in the series again, which was beginning to wane after Robb Stark was killed and it became clear the war was going to drag out and end in the Lannister’s favor. Not only that, but the War in the North, the prophecy involving the coming darkness (i.e. the Others) and Daenery’s own campaign to return in force; all of these seemed to be dragging inexorably on. As I said before, it seemed like the original story, with its three dominant threads, could have been wrapped up nicely in three books. And with book four beginning with all these secondary threads that seemed unrelated to the main plot, I was really beginning to tire.

However, Martin managed to wrap things up nicely. And coupled with all the nice reviews I’ve been hearing about book five, I will continue to read and report on what comes of things. I really, really hope for the sake of the series and his readers that things proceed towards a climax now. Because of this ends up being a “Wheel of Time” scenario after all, where the story just keeps going and going, I will be sorely disappointed and forced to give up. Here I go with A Dance of Dragons, wish me luck!

A Dance with Dragons, bought!

Hey all. I doubt if anyone remembers, but a few months back when I began reviewing A Song of Ice and Fire, I said that I would be ending the series with the fourth book. After completing A Storm of Swords, I figured one more book was enough. After all, with Dragons just released and the buzz claiming that there would be at least two more books to come, I was sure that I would have to cut myself off or risk being totally sucked in to Matrin’s “Wheel of Time”esque vortex.

But, and here where’s things get awkward, that was a lie… apparently! Last night, I finally finished A Feast for Crows and purchased A Dance with Dragons. And believe it or not, it was the not the cliffhanger ending in book four that made me want to do that, though that helped give me a final push. In truth, friends of mine, such as Goran Zidar, and a slew of other people have been saying how book five is really good and covers all the threads that were strangely missing from book four. So really, the decision to buy it was made several weeks ago, but after getting into the last few chapters, a number of sudden twists piqued my interest and I found myself wanting to know what happened right away!

And, interestingly enough, I also discovered that the final chapter of Crows was not a chapter at all, but a note from the author. In it, he explains that book four was the way it was –  namely, bereft of any information about Tyrion, Jon Snow, Daenerys, or Stannis and Melissandre – for a simple reason. Basically, he went this way because to include what he had planned for all of these characters – plus those of Samwell Tarly, Cersei, Sansa, Arya, Brienne, Jaime, et al, – would have turned Crows into a tome the likes of which had not been seen since War and Peace. Okay, he didn’t say it in those words, I’m just adding them for dramatic license 😉

Hence, he decided to break all he had planned for the fourth installment in the series into two volumes. And instead of telling all of the stories half-way, he chose instead to select half the stories and tell them in full, the rest to be followed up later. I can see the wisdom in this, and the marketing angle, because it certainly worked on me. Damn you, Martin! I swear that this is the last of your books that I’m going to read… It probably won’t be. I’m sure I’ll be checking out book six, especially if this one is as good as they say. I hate you, sir! Keep up the good work!