Game of Thrones – Season 3 Episode 9

Game-of-Thrones-Season-3-game-of-thrones-33779424-1600-1200Wow… This week’s episode of Game of Thrones certainly made the waves and shocked the pants off of numerous fans. One episode shy of the season finale, and the episode writers decided to reveal one of the bloodiest scenes from the series. All I can say is wow! My condolences to the fans who didn’t see this one coming. I wish I could have warned you, but you know how spoilers are! And I thought it best if you saw it for yourself.

Lord know I too was wondering how they would go about presenting the “Red Wedding”, a climactic part of the third book. And wouldn’t you know it, it just happened to be the bloodiest scene to date for the miniseries. Fitting, seeing as how its description was nothing short of brutal and shocking in the original novel. And much like with Ned Stark’s death, it left fans aghast and traumatized…

But of course, Robb’s death wasn’t the only highlight of the episode, and there is still plenty more bloody goodness to be had. So for those who are having second thoughts about watching after this episodes horrific twist for the Starks, I can only insist that you stick with it. Bad people will die too before its all over…

The Rains of Castamere:
got3_rainsThe episode opens with Robb and his bannerman arrived at the Twins to meet with Lord Walder Frey. After trotting out his daughters to recieve Robb’s apology, he inspects Talisa Maegyr and makes some extremely vulgar comments. Meanwhile, Edmure Tully is sure to keep a close eye on the Frey girls, as he knows that he is betrothed to one of them. However, their initial meet and greet ends before he can, and the date for the wedding set!

On the night of, as Robb’s camp is liquored and fed outside, Frey introduces his daughter to Edmure, who is pleasantly surprised. They say their vows, are joined in the sight of the Seven, and the festivities commence. Dinner is served, the wine flows in abundance, and the band plays merrily while everyone dances and carries on. A toast is made by Walder, and the bedding ceremony is called for!

got3_rains5Over in Yunkai, Daenerys’ and her captains, which now includes Daario Naharis, prepare to invade the city. He suggests using a rear gate that is frequented by his men when seeking ladies of the night. Volunteering to lead Grey Worm and Ser Mormont inside, he plots to open the gates from within and let the Unsullied inside to sack the city before its defenders realize they are under attack.

Moving at night, Daario is true to his word and enters the back gate, kills the guards, and leads Grey Worm and Selmy inside. They are attacked by several more guards once inside, and hope seems lost… Many hours later, Selmy, Grey Worm and Daario return to Daenerys, claiming victory and presenting her with the Harpy flag of the city. Yunkai is now hers to rule and the slaves are set free!

got3_rains2Not far away, John and the Wildling party led by Tormund come upon a horse-breeders farm. Finding one man there alone, they plot to kill the man and take the horses, but John insists they leave the old man alive. He is ignored, but managed to alert the man’s horses before they get the drop on him, and the old man escapes. His other horses are taken and several of the Wildlings go after him.

Just south of the Wall, Bran and his companions find their way to “The Gift”. land that was entrusted to the Night’s Watch by Brandon the Builder. Finding an abandoned windmill, they decide to take shelter for the night and wait out a storm. They notice the horse breeder riding by, and have the perfect spot to watch as he is overtaken by the Wildlings. Hodor’s yelling begins to give them away to the Wildling party. He is stopped only when Bran uses his “skinchanging” technique to invade his skin and take command of him.

got3_rains1When John and the rest catch up with them, John is told to kill the old man as a test of loyalty. John is unable, and Ygritte steps in and kills him with an arrow. Tormund orders John dead and begins fighting with them, and is saved by the intervention of Bran and Rickon’s direwolves, whom Bran managed to take control of with his skills again. However, Orell manages to get his hawk to deal some gashes on John, and he rides away injured, leaving Ygritte behind.

In the windmill, Bran says his goodbyes to Osha and Rickon. After saying yet again that she won’t go beyond the Wall, Bran tells her that she need not come. And Rickon he insists needs to stay behind, due to the dangers they are likely to face. He leaves them then, ordering them to head to House Umber’s holdings. Since they are the bannermen of the Starks, he knows they will keep him safe.

got3_rains6In the Riverlands, Arya and Ser Sandor “The Hound” learn of the wedding as they get closer to the Twins. They arrive just in time to find that the outside of the castle grounds is littered with tents and men, Robb’s entire host which has been billeted there for the evening and is raucously partying. Inside, Edmure and his new wife are taken from the hall to be bedded, and things quickly turn bad!

The band, which until now was providing joyous music, begins playing “The Rains of Castamere” and the doors are shut. They then produce crossbows and lets loose on Robb and his bannermen.Talisa is stabbed to death in her stomach, killing their unborn child, and Robb is hit by several bolts.

Outside, Sandor comes up to the gate and is refused entrance. Sensing a chance to escape, Arya jumps from Sandor’s cart and tries to flee, making her way to the nearest table with Stark bannermen. However, she comes upon them just in time to see Frey’s men begin killing them and to watch Robb’s direwolf get killed. She is narrowly saved when Sandor, having come back for her, hits her over the head and carries her away…

Catelyn tries to take Walder’s wife hostage, but succumbs to grief when Roose Bolton returns to finish Robb with a stab to the heart. She cuts the wife’s throat, and then has her own cut by one of Frey’s men. The episode ends with her bleeding from the neck and collapsing to the floor, her face stricken with grief…

got3_rains4

Summary:
Like I said… wow. Having read the books, I was somewhat prepared for the event, but that didn’t make it any easier to watch. Not only did they convey the “Red Wedding” in all its horror, they even upped the ante by adding an extra horrorific. In the novels, you see, Talisa was not at the wedding, and was therefore not amongst the victims. Which meant that no one stuck a blade in her belly and murdered her unborn child. That was truly horrible and bloody, and makes me want to see Walder’s head smashed with a rock!

But that would be nothing new. Both the Freys and the Boltons are scum and deserve to die in terrible ways. Guess we’ll all just to have to wait to see that one take place. And in the meantime, like I said, there’s several more not-so-horrific things which need to happen. And some comments I want to make on this episode…

Aside from the bloody resolution to the Stark’s campaign to avenge Lord Eddard Stark and establish a “King in the North” (which I still think sucked!), there was Robb’s journey north and John’s all-important escape from the Wildlings. After being lost to his brothers for so long, he is now free to return to them, and knows the Wildlings plan of attack. And said attack is coming soon!

In addition, Daenery’s private little empire now accounts for Yunkai and her power is growing. Now, only the port city of Mereen remains, with its vast array of ships and slaves to be freed. And of course, there’s plenty of intrigue still to be had in King’s Landing, where – as is the them for the end of this season – another wedding is about to commence. And believe me when I tell you, it too is going to have its share of surprises!

And this week, I’ve decided not to be so nitpicky. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed, its that the show has a way of taking changes and steering them back into the fold. For example, Roose’s Bolton earlier betrayal of letting Jaime go now makes sense in the context of his betrayal at the wedding, which was true to the novel. In addition, having Talisa around for much of the show now, and having her at the wedding, made for a much more emotionally-involved spectacle when she died.

And sure, the part involving Daenerys’ forces infiltrating Yunkai, that too happened differently in the book. You see, in the novel, Selmy had been in disguise prior to this point and his the true identity had just been revealed. At the same time, she learned that Mormont was originally involved in the plot to poison her after she married Drogo. Incensed, she sent both men into the city using the sewers and managed to take it from the inside. Here, they changed that, but I would imagine they’ll steer things back soon enough.

And Catelyn did not take Walder’s wife hostage in the book, but rather his “simple” son, who due to Walder’s cruel and inhumane nature proved to be a lousy hostage. But that mattered little in the face that performance. Her anguish was palatable as her son died and she sliced the poor girl’s throat out of anger and grief, only to then die herself and look almost indifferent about it.

And David Bradley was just so believable as the miserable and loathsome Walder, I almost forgot how much I hated him as he watched everyone die. The only downside was how it overshadowed everything else in this episode, including John Snow abandoning the Wildlings, which included the woman he loves, and who loves him…

But who could expect anything to compare to that bloody, awful wedding? Though heartrending and horrible to behold, I respect the hell out of the actors and writers for how they conveyed it. The subtle addition of “The Rains of Castamere”, where no one said that it was playing, they merely trusted the audience to make the connection, was quite brilliant. And we already know from last episode the significance of this song that tells of a great House falling due to its ambition.

Like I said, there’s plenty more to behold, and its all coming in the season finale. Trust me, traumatized fans. You’ll want to keep watching!

Game of Thrones (Season 2 Ep. 7)

Back with the lastest in Game of Thrones Season 2! As I finished with saying last time, it is by this latest episode in the series that the differences between book and series become most apparent. These were not a bad thing, mind you. But they did hint at a sort of pattern this time around.

Episode 7: A Man Without Honor:
Theon begins looking for the escaped children, but to no avail. He decides to stage their deaths and sends news to Robb in the south. Daenerys begins looking for her dragons, only to find that she’s in the middle of a plot launched by Xaro and the Undying to seize control of Qarth. Robb travels from his encampment with Talisa to deliver his terms to the enemy, leaving Jaime behind to attempt his escape.

Meanwhile, war is on its way to King’s Landing. Tyrion and Cersei worry about Joffrey’s ability to lead. Sansa meanwhile reaches womanhood and is terrified that she must now bear Joffrey’s children. While trying to make his way back to their encampment, John Snow is taken captive by the Wildlings.

Good Points and Bad:
In short, the big threads from episodes 5 and 6 come together and the divergences really become clear. To break them down succinctly: Robb never left his encampment to deliver terms, thus giving Jaime a chance to escape. Nor did he kill his cousin in order to make this happen. To top it off, Catelyn did not let him go to keep the peace in the camp while Robb was away. All this happens quite differently in the text.

Robb is off on campaign, his romance happens off-camera, and he returns to learn that Catelyn has set Jaime and his cousin go with Brienne because the (fake) news of her son’s deaths has shaken her terribly. She wants her daughters back and is even willing to trust Jaime at his word, and Brienne to deliver him and bring her daughters back. And, as said before, this all took place at Riverrun, not in some encampment along the way.

Second, John did not get lost in the wilderness with Ygritte only to get captured by the Wildlings. He let her go, returned to his camp, and was only taken prisoner after they caught a glimpse of Mance Rayder’s forces and were overtaken. Before that, Qorin made John promise to allow himself to be taken and learn what he could about their plans. By being taken prisoner against his will, the subplot about John’s supposed defection is now gone.

Last, but not least, there was no plot by Xaro to take over Qarth. Nor was there any attempt to steal her dragons to lure into the House of the Undying. She accepted the invite and went in, and Xaro’s plot never went beyond offering her marriage. Clearly, they were trying to sex this plot line up since there really wasn’t much going in the book compared to the other threads. But this constitutes a major addition, not just a change.

Out of all this, I can see where things are going: John will now be a captive in the Wildlings camp and have to convince them he’s willing to betray his brothers. This was already present in the text, but part of what made it convincing was the fact that John had made a promise to Qorin. What’s more, Qorin died in a staged fight between them, which means they’ll have to find another way to kill him off in the show.

Daenerys plot thread will pretty much resolve itself given what happens next (no spoilers!), but this still feels like a major divergence. And the changes involving Jaime, Robb, and Catelyn will also re-converge with the set storyline easily enough, just the particulars have changed. For example, now it will just be Brienne and Jaime travelling south, which is fine considering that his cousin dies in transit anyway.

So aside from some necessary rescripting, the makers are still being faithful to spirit of the books, if not the word. What’s more, I find myself approving of some of the changes they’ve made. It honestly seems like the writers were looking for more plausible resolutions and explanations in a number of cases, not to mention opportunities to flesh out things which only get mentioned in the text.

And of course, the big battle at King’s Landing is still yet to come. Ohhhh, so exciting!

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Fire and Ice, book II)

As I’m sure I said in my last post, George R.R. Martin is known to his contemporaries as the “American Tolkien”. This is a fitting comparison for me seeing as how Game of Thrones was something I had no real interest in until after I saw it adapted to screen. It was only after I saw the whole first season, which is book I in the series, that I decided to start reading it and get informed! I’m now on book four in the series and like all GOT geeks, am eagerly awaiting season two which premiers April 1st (This better not be some kind of prank!) But anyway, here is book II in the Song of Fire and Ice series, which is appropriately named:

A Clash of Kings:
As with Lord of the Rings series, I decided to read the second book first, mainly so I could get a head start on all the material that was to come. However, since the series is ongoing, I did not dare wait til I read to the end before going back to cover the original. And I can honestly say that book II improves upon the first, bringing more action, more intrigue, and more fantasy-fiction to the fore. I tell ya, its a rare thing when a sequel actually surpasses the first in a series, but that was to be expected here. Whereas Game Of Thrones set the scene, introducing the major plot threads and building up the action, Clash of Kings incites it all and brings it all to an explosive semi-climax. The most important element of which is the battle at Kings Landing, which I cannot wait to see adapted to the screen!

Plot Synopsis:
The book opens with a celestial event. A red comet, which goes by various names, has entered the heavens and seems to mean different things to different people. To some, its a portent of evil, but to others, its a sign of impending victory. Picking up where the first book left off, the realm of Westeros finds itself divided between five powers who are now in a state of civil war. In the south, power is divided between Kings Landing, where the Lannisters rule through Joffrey, and Robert Baratheons two brothers – Renly and Stannis. The former now controls the southern area of Highgarden while the latter controls the island Dragonstone. While a Baratheon alliance would surely defeat the Lannisters, the brothers are divided because both are determined to sit the Iron Throne.

While Stannis, the elder, has the better claim to the throne, Renly is the more charismatic of the two. He is just as determined and has a much larger army, but Stannis has a secret weapon which he has yet to unveil: a sorceress named Melisandre, a priestess of Asshai who worships the fire god R’hllor. The cult of R’hllor, which is monotheistic in focus, is quite popular in the East but relatively unheard of in Westeros. To many, her backing of Stannis, whom she sees as the Azor Ahai (prophet of R’hllor) reborn, is merely a power play, a means to introduce her religion to the Seven Kingdom should be triumph in the war. But according to Melisandre, the civil war is merely a prelude to a much greater war against a dark force that has been coming for some time…

Meanwhile, to the north Robb Stark has been crowned King of the North by his bannermen and continues in his long campaign south. Though they are outnumbered by the Lannisters, they win victory after victory, and soon even Tywin Lannister is forced to move the bulk of his forces south when they hear that King’s Landing is threatened. For the wolf, victory seems possible, but a there are a few complications to his plans. For one, King Joffrey and the Lannisters are still holding Sansa Stark hostage and Arya Stark is still missing (in truth, she and the Night’s Watch recruiter who saved her are moving north with a band of convicts and recruits). The only thing keeping Sansa safe is the fact that Jaime Lannister is in their custody, but he’s proving to be a tricky hostage…

What’s more, the Iron Isles, where Theon Greyjoy hails from, are up in arms. With the wolf marching south and civil war dividing the realm, his father seems intent on carving out his own kingdom in north as well. His daughter is chief amongst his Captains, a fact which annoys Theon to no end. Determined to upstage her, he leads an attack on Winterfell and takes it. In time, Bran Stark and his newfound friends from the Riverlands, who’ve convinced him he’s having prescient dreams, decide to escape to The Wall. Something is up there, it seems, that is calling to Bran. When he flees, Theon decides to stage their murder to avoid the inevitable embarrassment of having lost them.

To the far north, Jon Snow has taken up with the Nights Watch and is with them as they begin a large-scale reconnaissance north of The Wall. Apparently, the Wildlings have been abandoning their villages in droves, moving to a large encampment where a man named Mance Rayder. Apparently, he has declared himself “King-beyond-the-Wall” and plans to lead a united army of Wildlings south to take the lands they have been historically cut off from. In time, it becomes clear that he himself is fleeing something, they very thing that Jon Snow and the Watch have been worrying about. It seems the White Walkers have been getting around, and just about everyone in their path is looking to flee…

To the east, Dany and her host travel across the desert to the great city of Qarth. Once there, Dany becomes the focus of much attention and fascination, given that she travels with three dragons. Despite this, she is unable to raise an army because the only coin she has to barter with is her dragons, which she refuses to give up. When she goes into the House of the Undying, where the warlocks of Qarth reside, she is told that her life is threatened and that she will be betrayed three times. When the warlocks try to attack her, her dragon burns the House down, sparking emnity between her and the Qartheen. An attempt is made on her life at the city harbor, but she is saved by two men – an old warrior named Arstan Whitebeard and a mercenary named Strong Belwas. They were sent by Illyrio, the man who sheltered her and her brother, and join her host. Together, they begin to plot where to travel to next to find her an army.

After a failed meeting between Renly and Stannis, which Catelyn Stark travelled south to host, Renly was killed by a “shadow”. It becomes clear that Stannis’ priestess was involved, because all those who oppose Stannis have a way of winding up dead. As a result, Renly’s former bannermen declare fealty to Stannis and add to his power, and Catelyn is forced to flee north with one of Renly’s staunchest supporters. A woman named Brienne of Tarth, a formidable fighter whom Renly made a knight. They return to Riverrun, the domain of her brother, where Robb is rallying his forces and her father lies dying. Upon her return, she learns of what happened to Winterfell and her two youngest sons and is heartbroken. Between Ned, her ailing father, and now her two boys, it seems everyone she loves is dying.

Back to King’s Landing, Tyrion has taken up the role as Hand of the King. Before him is the challenge of defending the capitol from Stannish Baratheon, who is quickly approaching by land and sea with his combined armies and navy. At the same time, he must cover his ass seeing as how his sister will stop at nothing to do him in. A game of chess ensues, with both sides employing bribes and whatever blackmail and threats they can to gain leverage over the other. For a time, Tyrion seems to have the upper hand, but soon, battle comes to their doorstep, and he must forgo all that to lead the defense of the city.

Meanwhile, Arya is captured while traveling north by men loyal to the Lannisters. The survivors are taken to Harrenhal, a major castle that is currently in Lannister hands, where she is forced to serve as a peasant girl. Her identity remains a secret, but she is forced to endure all kinds of abuse as a serving girl. However, one of the captives who was part of their caravan comes to her and tells her that he owes her three lives for saving him and the lives of his companions. Instead, she uses him to help free a bunch of Stark men who then seize the castle. However, her fortunes do not change much, as she is then forced to act as cup bearer to Roose Bolton who comes to occupy the castle. She escapes shortly thereafter with her old companions and continues north.

Tyrion’s preparations pay off in the end. At sea, the large chain link he had constructed is used to close off the river once Stannis’ fleet enters it. In addition, their forces use a their vast stores of Wildfire he had prepared to set them ablaze once they are trapped. On land, things go a little more poorly, but Tyrion manages to lead a successful defense of the gates and is eventually saved by his father, Tywin. It seems that he travelled to Highgarden before the conflict and enlisted the help of many of Renly’s former bannermen. At just the right time, they perform a flanking maneuver which routs Stannis’ forces and saves King’s Landing. Sensing that he will not die in battle, one of Cersei’s assassins attacks and nearly kills Tyrion. When he wakes up in bed, he finds that Cersei has gained the upper hand on him by preying on their father’s good graces.

North of the Wall, the Black Brothers find a base amongst a ruined tower and begin sending recon forces further north. Jon is part of a force dispatched to the Skirling Pass, where they find the bulk of Rayner’s army massing. In addition to thousands of Wildlings, they see giants, mammoths, and wargs complimenting their force. In time, the Wildlings fall upon them and they are forced to flee. Before they are captured, Qorin asks Jon to betray him when the time comes so that he may infiltrate the Wildling camp and learn their secrets. Jon reluctantly agrees, and when they are cornered, Qorin fights him and lets him win. Jon is now a prisoner of the Wildlings and is reunited with a young Wildling woman that he met and set free earlier. She convinces Rayner to take Jon in, as he himself was once a Black Brother who defected.

Back in Winterfell, Theon finds himself with his back to the wall when Robb dispatches one of his bannermen and an army to remove the Iron Men from Winterfell. All hope seems lost to him, when a new force enters the field and saves his butt. It seems that one of the sellswords who joined him earlier was in fact the Bastard of Bolton, a usurper who fell into disfavor with Robb’s men and was imprisoned in Winterfell. When Theon set him free, he returned to his home, took up the cities army, and returned to save him. However, he quickly betrays Theon, kills him, and orders Winterfell razed…

Strengths/Weaknesses:
As I said before, this book packs some serious action into its binding! After much build-up in the first, the climactic battle of King’s Landing takes place, and it was quite unclear how things were going to go… In fact, much of the book is unpredictable. One gets the impression that the Lannisters are bound to lose well up until the battle finally takes place. In addition, the fate of House Stark is something which is tenuous at best. As always, one can’t get too emotionally attached where the characters of George R.R. Martin is concerned. They tend to die suddenly and haphazardly. However, unlike in book I, none of the major characters die off, just the supporting cast. This I would consider a strength considering that I tend to get sour when people I like get killed!

That being said, there were a number of inexplicable plot twists in this book, so many that it began to feel a little contrived after awhile. For starters, the battle of King’s Landing suddenly turns when all hope seems lost. In itself, that was a pretty good twist, but there were many like it. When it came to the rivalry between Renly and Stannis, it seemed apparent that Renly was destined to win, but then he’s suddenly killed by Melisandre’s shadow, thus completely turning the tide. And then there’s the part where Theon Greyjoy is defending Winterfell. Everything seems said and done when at the last moment, he is saved by the intervention of the Bastard of Bolton, only to then be killed! That’s three major plot twists in one book, and the last one was like a… a compound twist! Kind of grows thin after awhile.

In addition, like all the books in the series, the story can become drawn out and emotionally taxing. It seems that despite whatever hopes the reader might have for a satisfactory resolution, the plot threads just seem destined to go on and on. Whether its Tyrion, Arya, Sansa, Robb, Catelyn, or John, it seems that they are just destined to suffer and endure more and more in the way of bad news. Unless of course the character dies suddenly, but that too is emotionally taxing for the reader! Just once, I would have liked for a character who I sympathize with to be able to put their feet up and say, “Whew! That was tough, but we got through it! Time to relax…”

However, this makes for a more respectable and realistic read all around. More than anything, the book conveys a genuine sense of desperation and discomfort, which is fitting since its about a civil war. These things are not comfortable, especially in a medieval setting! They are dirty, painful, bloody and festering, and the innocent constantly suffer. In all fairness, my feelings on this last note could be the result of the fact that I’m still reading the series, and after four books, all the war and death can get exhausting. However, this does not take away from this particular novel. It’s still awesome, and a very good follow-up to the first. My advice, check it out and then catch the miniseries. That way, you’ll have a frame of reference!

Check out the trailer:
GOT Season 2 Teaser Trailer (Youtube)