Game of Thrones – Season Four Finale!

got4We come to it at last, GOT’s Season Four finale! And I’m sorry it took me this long to post about it, but this week has been mighty hectic (what with school coming to a close for the year) and my computer suffering a broken screen. But thankfully, I was able to watch the episode earlier today, and have finally been able to see the episode and notice all the issues I heard about by other reviewers. Try as I might, I couldn’t help but hear the hype.

In any case, a lot happened that I was very much looking forward to. This included Tyrion’s escape and execution of his father, Stannis’ march on the North, and Bran finding the “three-eyed raven”. All of this made for a pretty good climax to the season. That being said, there were also some letdowns. For starters, there was the much publicized absence of Lady Stoneheart, the confrontation between Brienne and the Hound, and the usual changes and filler added to various story lines.

All of this added up to what I think was the best episode of Season Four, which itself was the worst season of GOT thus far. Kind of dubious spot to be in, but there it is. Anyhoo, here’s what happened…

The Children:
https://i0.wp.com/www.flickeringmyth.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Screenshot-87.pngThe episode opens with Jon Snow meeting Mance Rayder in his camp beyond the Wall. Inside Mance’s tent, they drink to fallen comrades and discuss a possible negotiated settlement. However, their talks are interrupted when riders begin pouring in, bearing the standard of House Baratheon. Stannis and Davos ride up to Mance, who surrenders, and Jon Snow introduces himself. He advises that Stannis take Mance prisoner and burn the dead before long.

Afterward, Maester Aemon gives the last rights to the Black Brothers who fell in battle and the bodies are burned. Stannis, his family, Davos, and the Lady Melissandre in attendance, and she looks to Jon across the flames. Jon meets with Tormund after and talks of Ygritte, and he tells Jon she loved him and that she must be interred in the North. True to his word, Jon takes her body beyond the Wall and constructs a pyre in the forest, where he burns her body.

https://i0.wp.com/cdn.winteriscoming.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/cotf.jpgIn Mereen, Daenerys is troubled by two developments. First, she learns that former slaves are returning to their old professions because they have no means to support themselves otherwise. She is then made aware of the fact that Drogon, who escaped her care, has escalated and murdered a small child. She has Aggo and Jhogo chained up in the catacombs for the time being to prevent any further incidents, though it tears her apart to do so.

In the North, Bran, Hodor and the Reeds finally come upon the Weir Tree he has seen in his visions at last. As they approach the cave under the tree, they find it defended by animated skeletons. Reed is mortally wounded, and they are saved at the last minute by a Child of the Forest who guides them inside. Inside, Bran comes face to face with the “three-eyed raven”, who turns out to be an old man who is rooted to the tree. He tells Bran he will regain what he once lost, and learn to fly.

https://i0.wp.com/d1mxyp5ceukbya.cloudfront.net/images/game-of-thrones-season-4-finale-children-arya-hound-illegal-download-hbo.jpgIn the Vale, Brienne and Pod come upon Arya practicing her sword dance. When they approach, the Hound presents himself, and some difficult introductions are made. The Hound believes she is there to collect the bounty on him, but she insists she is there to bring Arya home. A fight brutal fight ensues, and Sandor is pushed from a cliff and falls below. Arya slips away to come to his side, and denies him when he begs her for a merciful death.

In King’s Landing, Cersei is told that The Mountain is dying thanks to the poisoned spear that Prince Oberyn used to stab him. Grand Maester Pycelle claims there is nothing to be done, but Qyburn assures Cersei he can be saved, though he claims the procedure will leave him “changed… somewhat”. Cersei meet with her father and denounces his plans to marry her to Ser Loras, going so far as to tell him that she and Jaime are lovers.

https://i0.wp.com/cdn.crooksandliars.com/files/imagecache/node_primary/primary_image/14/06/tyrion_got.jpgOn the night before his execution, Jaime sneaks into Tyrion’s cell and frees him, telling him to meet with Varys. However, Tyrion instead goes to the Hand of the King’s room and finds Shae sleeping in his father’s bed. They fight and he strangles her with her necklace, then fetches a crossbow from the wall and finds his father in the privy. After speaking briefly, Tyrion shoots him in the chest with two bolts, and escapes to find Varys. He takes him to the docks, where a ship is waiting to take him to Essos.

In the Vale, Arya comes upon a port and finds the captain of a ship that is about to depart. She asks for passage north to the Wall, but he denies her and says they are going to Braavos. She hands him the iron coin Jaqen gave her and repeats the words, “Valar Morghulis”. The captain responds with “Valar Dohaeris” and welcomes her aboard. They set sail, and Arya says goodbye to Westeros.

Summary:
First, I would like to cover the things they changed or did wrong (in my opinion) since that requires some explanation. First of all, the meeting between Jon and Mance was done very well, but was missing one key element. In the novel, Mance revealed to Jon during their parlay that he still had a major card to play, in the form of the Horn of Winter. Already, Jon had heard that Mance had sent out parties to find this artifact of Bran the Builder’s, and it was here that Mance revealed its purpose.

https://i0.wp.com/awoiaf.westeros.org/images/thumb/1/11/Nights_watch_wall_by_reneaigner.jpg/800px-Nights_watch_wall_by_reneaigner.jpgIn the backstory to ASOIAF, it is said that Bran the Builder, the Northern King who built the Wall and Winterhold, used the Horn of Winter (aka. the Horn of Joramun) to erect the Wall of ice that separated the Wildlings from the “knee-benders”. By using it again, Mance believed he could melt the Wall in one swift move, thus rendering the Black Brother’s only real defense against him moot. It was then that Stannis’ men attacked, and Mance was taken prisoner.

Second, the scene with Bran finding his way to the “three-eyed Raven” was altered a little. In the story, they found their way to the cave with the help of a strange (and helpful) Wight whom they called Coldhands. When they found the cave, other Wights, (not reanimated skeletons) attacked them. And Jojen Reed did not die here, but made it inside to safety. However, there were hints that he thought he was going to die down the road, so his death here wasn’t a total divergence.

https://i0.wp.com/thecelebritycafe.com/sites/default/files/images/GOT760006_got_410_cut_K_1_pub_12_0%5B1%5D.jpgThird, Brienne and Pod never caught up to Arya and the Hound in the books. Rather, the Hound supposedly died from wounds he sustained in the fight at the Inn with the Lannister men. It was in the Riverlands that Arya left him to die, and then rode to the nearest port to go to Braavos. The closest Brienne ever came to her was learning from various sources that he was seen with a Stark girl, who she initially thought was Sansa. She later learned that it was Arya, and that the Hound had apparently died.

Fourth, Tyrion’s escape involved a great deal more last-minute goodbyes and confessions between him and Jaime, and were central to why he chose to kill his father. After freeing him, Jaime told Tyrion that his first wife (Tysha), whom his father had claimed was a whore, was in fact just a lowborn girl. Tywin had her raped by his men and then proceeded to send her away, and lied to Tyrion by telling him she was a prostitute who tried to trick him into marriage.

Enraged by this, Tyrion chose not to descend the steps to get of the cells (which would have led him to the shore where Varys was waiting for him) and instead went up to the Hand of the King’s chamber to confront his father. There, he found Shae, and killed her. He then confronted his father on the Privy and demanded to know why he had become of Tysha. When his father replied that she went “wherever whores go”, and Tyrion shot him through the chest.

https://i0.wp.com/i.huffpost.com/gen/933737/thumbs/r-READ-WINDS-OF-WINTER-large570.jpgThis, like many other elements left out, was a very important part of the story’s rich background. Tyrion’s attraction to ladies of the evening, coupled with a deep-seated mistrust of them, all grows from this romance that ended in heartbreak for him. The story of the Horn of Winter is also one of the more mythical and fantasy-based elements of the ASOIAF universe, so I was sad to see it left out.

As for the confrontation between Brienne and the Hound, this was just another case of tying together threads in the story that never crossed in the original novel. And much like the other aforementioned cases – Jon nearly meeting up with Bran at Craster’s, but then not; Yara going to save Theon, but then leaving him behind – it went nowhere and seemed like an excuse to add a fight scene. A really good fight scene, but still one that never happened in the original text.

(SPOILER AHEAD! DO NOT READ IF YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED NEXT SEASON!)

But by far the biggest issue was the fact that Lady Stoneheart – aka. Catelyn Stark – was nowhere to be seen! Not only was this a major plot point in the story, it was the big finish for the third book (A Storm of Swords). But of course, this requires some explanation, so bear with me. You see, after being murdered at the Red Wedding, Walder Frey had his men throw Lady Catelyn’s body into the river.

https://i1.wp.com/wac.450f.edgecastcdn.net/80450F/screencrush.com/files/2014/06/lady_stoneheart___asoiaf___game_of_thrones_by_azad_injejikian-d5vuvtd.jpgIt washed up downstream where the Brothers Without Banners found it. And it was there that Ser Beric Dondarion, asked Thoros of Myr to resurrect her as he had done for him so many times. However, tired of playing God, Thoros refused, and Dondarion, himself sick of life, passed his life force to Catelyn with a kiss. You may recall these characters from Season Two, where Arya spent time amongst them before being kidnapped by the Hound.

In any case, the resurrected Catelyn was now a rather unsightly thing, her vocal cords cut and her face a swollen, grey mess. And she was some pissed over the fact that her family had been betrayed and murdered. As such, she and the Brothers rode round the Riverlands picking off the Freys one by one. She would sit in judgement on them and sentenced them to death, which is how she earned the name Lady Stoneheart. Why they chose not to preview this is beyond me…

(END OF SPOILER)

And now for the stuff that was done right. Stannis’ attack on the Wildlings was a pretty cool scene. The way they presented a Child of the Forest and the three-eyed raven was also quite neat, and I was wondering how they were going to go about it. And while they were once again mining information form book V to provide Daenerys with something to do, this was one time that I didn’t feel that her scenes were totally superfluous or rushed.

https://i0.wp.com/media1.onsugar.com/files/2014/06/15/168/n/1922283/348b15ef4e9cb95a_760006_GOT410_072313_HS_DSC9740_1_.xxxlarge/i/Brienne-vs-Hound.jpgAnd the fight scene between the Hound and Brienne, while it didn’t happen in the novel and was much like other unpleasant changes, it made for some good watching. While it didn’t effect any changes in the plot, it wasn’t useless like Yara’s attempted rescue of Theon or Jon’s and Bran’s near-reunion at Craster’s Keep. And the way they handled the Hound’s death scene was not only faithful to the books, but really well done!

Shows like Game of Thrones are famous for setting high standards, be it terms of production value, casting, writing, or sets. So when I say that this was their worst season ever, I do hope it will taken with a grain of salt. Still, worst season ever! But, conversely, I would have to say that I enjoyed this episode more than any other in this season thus far, even more so than The Sand Viper and the Mountain.

Whereas that episode had a killer climax, it was horribly boring and superfluous up until that point. In contrast, this episode had fun and interesting things happening throughout, and only a few disappointing points. I’m glad too, since the pace they were setting in this season (which was more like Season 3.5 rather than Season 4) almost made me want to stop watching and reviewing it altogether.

So I guess I’ll be tuning in to Season Five, mainly because I want to see what they will do with it and hope this past season was an aberration. Honestly, I think the reasons for its faults deserve a separate post entirely. So see you all next season, which is another freaking year away, and remember…

https://i1.wp.com/i1281.photobucket.com/albums/a519/psychotic47914791/StarkTheNorthRemembers_zpsb8bdc0f7.jpg

Game of Thrones – Season Four, Episode Three

got4And we’re back with another backlogged episode of Game of Thrones! As expected, the third episode of the season quickly picked up after the events of the “Purple Wedding”, following the escape of Sansa from King’s Landing, Tyrion’s arrest for Joffrey’s murder, and the Lannisters and Tyrells trying to pick up the pieces of their alliance. At the same time, we got to hear from some other threads characters, such as Arya and Sandor as they continue across the Riverlands, and Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch at the Wall.

But arguably, the most important thing to come out of this episode was Danaery’s and her long-awaited confrontation with the city of Mereen, the last great city of Slaver’s Bay. This was the highlight of the episode, which is why it bears the name…

Breaker of Chains:
GOT4_3_1The episode opens on the aftermath of the wedding, with Cersei ordering Tyrion’s arrest and that Sansa be found. She, meanwhile is ferried to the coast by Ser Dontos, who puts her on a small boat and rows her out to meet a larger vessel. Once on board, she finds Petyr Baelish waiting for her, and Ser Dontos is shot with a crossbow and killed. He reveals to her that her rescue was entirely his plan, and Ser Dontos his agent, and that they are now sailing for his home.

In the Grand Sept, Joffrey’s body is arrayed and Tommen, Cersei and Tywin stand over it. Tywin queries Tommen over what kind of king he will be now that his brother is dead. He teaches him that holiness, justice and strength – as epitomized by Baelor, Orys I, and Robert – must take a backseat to wisdom, which his brother lacked and which led to his death. He also councils him to marry soon so he can father an heir before long.

GOT4_3_2Jaime enters after and orders everyone leave him and Cersei alone with Joffrey’s body. Cersei accuses Tyrion of murdering their son and demands his death, but Jaime refuses to believe it. She tries to send him away, but Jaime forces himself on her on the Sept floor. Further north, Arya and Sandor are still on their way to the Eyrie, are discovered by a local land owner, and Arya talks them into getting room and board for the night.

Over dinner, the land owner tries to convince Sandor to stay around, claiming that Frey banner men are raiding all across the land and they are in need of protection. Sandor accepts, but in the morning, Arya finds that he’s assaulted the man and stolen his silver, and tells Arya they are leaving again. She calls him many names, but Sandor insists that the family won’t survive the winter and she needs to learn from her family’s fate that the world is a cruel place.

got4_3_5At the Wall, Sam and Gilly are settling back in. He urges her to go to Mole’s Town for her own safety, but she is hurt to think that he is sending her away. Once there, Sam arranges for her to work in the brothel as a maid and promises to come visit. On Dragonstone, Stannis tells Davos of Joffrey’s death and demands that they press his claim. Short of men and funds, Davos suggests they recruit the Golden Company, and decides to writes to the Iron Bank of Bravos to implore them for gold.

South of the Wall, the Wildling party wipes out a small village and Styr spares one boy, telling him to go to the Wall and inform them of their attack. At Castle Black, they debate what to do, and they agree that their main problem is stopping Mance’s army and that they must shore up the wall and its defenses. More survivors arrive from Craster’s Keep, and Jon orders that they ride there to kill the mutineers, who he fears will tell Mance of their true numbers once they are captured.

GOT4_3_6In King’s Landing, Tywin confronts Prince Oberyn about Joffrey’s murder. He naturally denies any involvement, and asks that he be allowed to meet the Mountain. Tywin agrees, but asks that in exchange, Oberyn act as one of Tyrion’s judges, sit on the Small Council, and bring Dorne back into the Seven Kingdoms, so that they may stands against all the unresolved threats to the Realm. In the dungeons, Pod meets Tyrion and tells him of his impending trial. Tyrion warns him to get out of King’s Landing and says his goodbyes.

In Essos, Daenerys and her army arrive at Mereen at last and are met by a champion of Mereen. Grey Worm, Ser Mormont and Ser Selmy and Daario all volunteer, and Daenerys decides to send him he claims to be the least indispensable. Daario confronts him on foot, and when the champion charges, he takes down his horse with a thrown dagger and then slices his throat before he can recover. Returning the champions opening gesture, he then urinates in front of the crowd standing on the walls.

GOT4_mereenDaenerys then addresses the slaves of Mereen, telling them she has come to free them from their masters. She then has her catapults lob cases filled with broken chains and slave collars from Astapor and Yunkai into the city, which then break and are taken and inspected by the slaves. One slave picks up a broken collar, similar to the one he wears, and looks over his shoulder at a fearful master.

Summary:
All in all, this was a pretty good episode, which provided some pacing and build-up after the previous week’s “Purple Wedding” shocker. Though I must admit, I was a bit disappointed with the climax and how they bit it short. After all this time marching towards Mereen, I had hoped that they would at least show a little bit of the of the siege. However, it is clear that we will have to wait until the next episode to see all that. And there were the numerous changes they made this week from the text that sort of stuck out for me as well.

First off, Jaime never raped Cersei inside the Sept while Joffrey’s corpse lay before them. It was when he returned to King’s Landing, before the wedding, that they had consensual relations. There was none of this vindictive “you took too long” crap and she was naturally very happy to see him. That whole seen seemed odd and distasteful to me, and apparently it was quite controversial with audiences in general. One has to wonder why they did it.

Second, Jon Snow never proposed riding to Craster’s Keep in the books, and no additional survivors made it back from the north aside from him, Sam and Gilly. Given that they were expecting an impending attack from Mance north of the Wall, and they had the raiding party coming up from the south, leaving Castle Black was the last thing they could afford to do. What’s more, no one was believed to have survived up there, so there really was no point to it.

Third, when they reached Mereen, the confrontation was between the Mereenese champion and Strong Belwas, a former gladiator who had been travelling with Selmy. Daario was not the one to kill the champion, but since they’ve chosen to write Belwas out, they had to do a substitution. Also, the fight was short and anticlimactic compared to what happened in the book. It was here that Belwas, a rotund and heavy-set guy, impressed Daenerys and the others by outmaneuvering the man on horseback and slaying him with his arakh sword.

Which brings me to another point that is going to be relevant come next week. In addition to Selmy having Belwas as a traveling companion when he first met Daenerys in Qarth, he was also operating under the assumed identity of Aristan Whitebeard. After he and Belwas saved Daenerys from an assassination attempt in Qarth, she rewarded them by accepting them as her companions. It was only upon their arrival at Mereen that she learned the truth of his identity, which he kept secret since he was in the service of King Robert (her sworn enemy).

This played in an important role in what came next, but more on that in next episode’s review. While I am always likely to gripe about changes made, I did still enjoy this installment and have noted that many of their more profound changes in the past did work out in the end. So I plan to give them the benefit of the doubt as I move onto the fourth and latest episode of the season. A siege awaits, and plenty more intrigue and action on all the other fronts!

GOT gets the Simpson’s Treatment

got_simpsonsYou know a TV show has made it big when someone decides to go ahead and render its characters as Simpson caricatures. And now it seems that Game of Thrones has made that list! Created by artist Adrien Noterdaem for the Draw the Simpsons Tumblr, this latest GOT mashup is making the rounds on the internet and proving quite popular.

In addition to applying some several key character features to the GOT cast – such as Tywin Lannister having Mr. Burns signature beak and evil finger tent – you have Tyrion looking like a Bart Simpson knock-off (young and mischievous-eyed), Samwell’s pudgy frame reminding one of Chief Wiggum, and Daenery’s face looking very similar to Lisa. And is it me, or does Sandor’s face remind you of Homer Simpson?

GOT_simpsons1And just to add a little extra ba-zinga to this parody, Adrien also provided an artists renditions of Mr. George RR Martin himself. The authors pudgy, furry frame is already well known to fans of the novels and miniseries, and it would be just wrong if he didn’t get to stand in here with his creations.

Hope this and other bits of fan-made paraphernalia keep people entertained until the season 4 comes out. No word yet on when that will be, but I’m sure we can expected another looooong wait!

Source: IO9

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”.

 

Game of Thrones – Season 3 Episode 4

game_of_thrones_s3I admit, the delay in getting to this episode was long. But this week has been one of those, the kind that drags out and taxes one’s constitution. You know the kind I mean! In any case, I wanted to get caught up before the midseason show arrives and there’s too much to cover! Plus, things are beginning to get dicey with all the threads the show is laying down this season and I feel the need to comment…

And Now His Watch Is Ended:
got3_watchThings open with Brienne and Jaime being brought back to Harrenhal by Vargo Hoat and the Bloody Mummers. Jaime’s severed hand is now dangling around his neck, and after falling from his horse, Jaime steals a sword and tries to fight his way free, but is defeated. Later, by a night fire, Brienne chastises him for wanting to give up and die, saying he’s finally understands what it means to lose something, but also thanks him for lying to save her life.

In King’s Landing, Tyrion meets with Varys to discuss how he intends to get his revenge. Varys lets him know that the key is to build influence, as he has for years, which he can then use to get revenge on those who wronged him. To illustrate his point, he opens a large box which contains the man who removed turned him into a eunuch as a boy, which he had shipped to King’s Landing from Myr through his myriad of connections.

got3_watch1

In King’s Landing, Margaery is taken on a tour of the Sept of Baelor, with Queen Cersei and Lady Olenna Redwyne in tow. After Margaery convinces Joffrey to stand out in front of a gathering crowd, Cersei begins to fear that Margaery has her hooks in her son. She appeals to her father for help, who tells her she’s allowed Joffrey to “run roughsod” over the city and her. She challenges him to intervene, and he accepts.

After speaking to his sources, Varys learns of Littlefinger’s plans to take Sansa with him to the Vale and approaches Lady Olenna for help. Between the two of them, he thinks they can come up with a better arrangement. Margaery continues to endear herself to Sansa and tells her that once she’s queen, she will be able to marry Loras and relocate to Highgarden, where she would be safe.

got3_watch2

In the north, the Black Brothers continue to toil in Craster’s Keep and plot taking matters into their own hands. Samwell tries to arrange a way to take Gilly and her newborn son with them, as they both know that Craster will sacrifice him to the Others as soon as he learns of the boy’s existence. Afterwards, after a funeral for one of their brothers, tempers break and the men turn on Craster, killing him and Mormont. Sam escapes with Gilly into the night…

Theon, who is now free and being protected by the boy who claims Osha (Theon’s sister) sent him, is delivered to what he believes to be Deepwood Motte. However, he soon learns that his rescue was all a ruse and that he is actually being delivered back into the Dreadfort, where he is now going to resume the torments and the torture he had endured thus far.

got3_watch4In the Riverlands, Thoros and the Brothers Without Banners bring Arya and Gendry to the caves call home. Once there, Sandor Clegane is brought before Beric Dondarion, the leader of their camp, who reveals they are now followers of R’hllor. Sandor is made to answer for his crimes, but as no one witnessed him killing Mica (which Arya accuses him of), Beric sentences him to trial by combat.

In Astapor, Daenerys finalizes her deal with the slave masters and takes possession of an army of Unsullied. After handing over one of dragons, she is given the decorative whip and becomes the Unsullied’s new master. After issuing a few commands to ensure that they will obey, she reveals that she speaks Valyrian and promptly orders her dragon to start burning the slave masters, and her new army to kill every last master in the city!

With the city in ruins, Daenerys declares that her Unsullied are free, and asks if they will fight for her as free men. No one answers right away, but slowly, the army begins to beat their spears against the ground as one and declares for her. Leaving the city with her army in tow, she tosses with the whip in the dirt and begins moving to free the next city.

Summary:
Well, I can tell you that I was pretty pleased with this episode for at least two reasons. One, the ending! Man, I was waiting for that scene. As one of the most badass parts of the book, I was eager to see how they would go about illustrating it. And as usual, they managed to go a good job turning available sets and a small army of extras into a realistic looking rendition of what Martin created, massive cities with ancient structures and hoards of armed soldiers.

The other thing I liked was the fact that they introduced Beric Dondarion at last. Up until now, I thought that the actor portraying Thoros of Myr was supposed to be the knight that had lost half his face but was resurrected by a Red Priest. However, they proved me wrong in this episode and delivered on him, and added the fact that they had all become followers of R’hllor. I was hoping to see the ensuing fight scene between Beric and Sandore, but there’s always next time.

As for the things I didn’t like, well they all had to do with the same basic pattern. Bran’s story received no real advancement in this episode, but they still show a tiny snippet that recalls his big fall and his journey north. What was the point of it, other than to give him screen time? And Theon’s entire thread for this series; since he doesn’t even come up until the fifth book again, where his reappearance is a surprise, I find this whole thread useless. Between items of significance, his torture seems like mere filler, designed to keep his character in the show as they flesh out the real story. Yeah, I know, actors gotta work, but it seems obvious and transparent.

Other than that, I think it’s safe to say this was my favorite episode of the season thus far. I’m looking forward to what happens in the next few episodes, where I trust they will be hitting John’s story with both barrels! I did miss the mention of him in this episode, but am pleased they didn’t give a snippet about him like they did Bran. Better to just leave them out if they’ve got nothing important to do, I always say!

Game of Thrones Season 2 (Episodes 3&4)

Games of Thrones is now well-passed the midway mark, and some things are becoming clear. Much like with season one, their are some changes, some additions and some subtractions, but the end product is still quite faithful. And with things coming to a head vis a vis the war in the south and things beyond the Wall, I thought it was time to delve back in and examine the various episodes so far.

Episode 3: What is Dead May Never Die
In King’s Landing, Tyrion begins to plot a series of alliances, and uses them to flush out Cersei’s informant, which turns out to be Grand Maester Pycelle. In the end, he chooses to send Myrbella, Cersei’s only daughter, to Dorne to marry the Prince of Sunspear. In the Stormlands, Catelyn arrives to entreat with Renly, who is moving towards King’s Landing with a huge force, but still must meet with his brother to decide who shall be king.

North of the Wall, Snow and the Brothers are forced to head north after Craster discovers John spying on him. Lastly, Arya’s group is attacked in the night by the Kingsgaurd and taken to Harrenhal. And on the Iron Isles, Theon Greyjoy arrives to find that his father plans to conquer the North, and decides to join him.

Right off the top of my head, I noticed several things which were consistent with the text. Tyrion’s ruse to flush out Pycelle for one, that was right out of the story and performed quite faithfully. The way he sought to find a position for Shae, his courtesan was trimmed down, but still quite accurate. And Theon’s perspective, the way he returned to Pyke to find that his family now considered him an outsider and the way he was torn, very true and bang on! Beyond that though, I noticed several big differences, but which worked out quite well in the end.

For starters, Arya was not taken prisoner so quickly after her party was discovered by the Kingsgaurd. After freeing Jaqen H’gar and the other prisoners, she, Gendry, Hot Pie and Lommy ended up making their own way north for some time before they were captured by the Mountain (Gregor Clegane), the Tickler, and his party. Only then were they brought to Harrenhal.

Also, the extended parts where we see Renly, Sir Loras and Margaery Tyrell talking about their plans and carrying on with their triangle, I’ll have to check, but I don’t recall any of that happening in the book. After Catelyn arrived in Renly’s camp, the majority of that thread was spent talking about Brienne, and the adversarial relationship between Renly and Stannis, and their negotiations for some kind of alliance. Some hints were given that Renly preferred the company of Sir Loras, but nothing of this sort was ever shown or talked about.

But this really didn’t matter. In the end, these changes were quite effective, either cutting down on things which really didn’t need to be shown or expanding on things which could use them. I even wondered when I read book II why the affair between Renly and Sir Loras wasn’t being detailed more now that he was getting married to Margaery. He marries the woman who’s brother he’s bedding, one would think this would raise certain complications, especially if she knew!

Episode 4: Garden of Bones
After wandering in the Red Waste for so long, Daenerys is invited to the great city of Qarth where her reputation as the “Mother of Dragons” is already gaining her notoriety. At King’s Landing, Tyrion and Bronn try to find a way to temper Joffrey’s cruelty for Sansa, whom he blames for Robb Stark’s latest victories.

In the Stormlands, Renly and Stannis meet for the first time and years and entreat with each other. However, talks break down when neither man is willing to give ground and Melissandre begins to unleash a dark power to kill him.

In Harrenhal, Arya and Gendry are placed in the docks to await torture. They are narrowly saved when Lord Tywin arrives and decides to put their talents to work. Theon still gets the short end of the stick from his father, who hands control of the bulk of their fleet over to his sister. He vows to outshine her however he can. And in the North, John and the Night’s Watch arrive at the ancient fortress known as The Fist of the First Men.

This episode was especially good in two respects. For one, it finally delved into the the thread involving Daenerys’ and her host after three episodes in which she was practically absent. Second, it was in this episode that audiences got to see Harrenhal for the first time, which I anticipated would be a challenge given the description of the massive but ruined fortress. Beyond that, the episode was the usual mix of changes and faithful adaptation that characterize this series.

Of those changes: In this episode Robb gets to meet his future wife, Talisa Maegyr, while campaigning in the Lannister lands. This never happened in the book. In fact, we never even got to meet her until he returned to Riverrun and announced that he had taken a wife, thus endangering his alliance with House Frey.

There is also the scene where Joffrey decides to torture the two prostitutes which Tyrion sent him as a “gift”. This is actually an ongoing difference with the series, where the character of Ros continues to make appearances that never happened in the novel. I’m guessing this was an executive decision on behalf of the creators, who probably guessed that her perspective from season one was something worth continuing.

Finally, there was the scene where Davos Seaworth, Lord Stannis’ loyal Captain, travels with Melissandre to an underground passageway in order to unleash the dark shadow she carries within her. This scene actually took place later in the book when Stannis had unready assassinated his brother and was now using a similar shadow to kill the Lord of Stormwatch, the border fort which was holding out against him. This is why the shadow is being unleashed in an underground passageway, because it was the only way to get into the fort.

Instead, this is all amended in the show to make Renly the intended target while he is in his encampment in the Stormlands. Much like the way they trimmed the plot in episode 3 where Arya and Gendry are captured, they cut out a middle portion in order to make things conclude more quickly. This is not a bad thing, mind you. These and other scenes did a good job of adapting material from the text to the screen. And as usual, there is plenty which was accurate and praiseworthy. The depiction of Harrenhal, a massive burned fortress which Tywin Lannister commander his armies from, was beautifully shot in this episode.

And though Qarth only got the barest introduction, it was a good start as far as depicting a near-Eastern inspired metropolis was concerned. The artists who detailed the cityscape were clearly inspired by Renaissance depictions of what ancient Alexandria, Babylon and other Oriental paradises were thought to look like. And of course, they way they depicted Joffrey’s sociopathic nature, which always seemed to involve a crossbow in the story… quite apt!

So far… so good. Stay tuned for my next post, in which I will cover episodes 5 and 6, where Ygritte and Qorin are introduced, Theon sacks Winterfell, and Arya gets a visit from an old friend who owes her one… or three. Stay tuned!

A Storm of Swords (Song of Fire and Ice, book III)

Back with the third installment in the Song of Fire and Ice series! By the end of book II, A Clash of Kings, a number of interesting developments took place. Stannis Baratheon’s attack on King’s Landing ended in failure, Robb Stark’s campaign south began to suffer some setbacks, and John Snow had taken up with the Wildlings. In addition, Theon Greyjoy was killed, Winterfell was burned to the ground, Arya escaped and began heading north once again, and young Bran began to head for the Wall with his companions, pursuing a prescient dream.

A Storm of Swords:
The third novel picks up where all these strands left off, with the War of the Five Kings, the war beyond the Wall, and with Daenerys Targaryen’s ongoing efforts to secure an army and return to Westeros. Much like book II, Storm contained a sort of climax where a major battle takes place, this time at the Wall. John’s time spent amongst the Wildlings also gives the reader insight into the lives of the Wildlings and what is driving them south.

At the same time, there is a great deal of detail given to the world of the East, where Daenerys is travelling to the ancient slaver cities of Astapor, Yunkai and Mereen. Much like Qarth in book II, these eastern cities are clearly inspired by the ancient cities of Asia Minor and the Middle East (aka. Babylon, Antioch, Jerusalem, etc). However, there were also some rather dire developments as well. Like I said in my previous post, George RR Martin is never one to shy away from killing off main characters or devastating his readers. Whereas he kind of shied away from that in Clash, this book got right into it! But more on that in a bit. First, I’d like to get into the overall plot of the novel…

Plot Synopsis:
Starting at the Riverlands, where Robb Stark and his armies are gathered, we learn that the Wolf has suffered from some serious errors in judgement. For starters, his uncle, contrary to Robb’s orders, threw off his long-term strategy by engaging Tywin Lannister’s armies at the river crossings. Though they were victorious in thwarting them, this move upset Robb’s plans to lure Tywin closer to his home town of Casterly Rock, where Robb hoped to outflank him and end the Lannister’s involvement in the war.

However, Tywin instead deployed the bulk of his forces to attack Riverrun once Bolton began beating him. Tywin failed to take Riverrun, but deploying his forces here instead of further east meant that he was in a better position to redeploy south once he learned that King’s Landing was threatened. Their victory over Stannis also led to an alliance between House Tyrell and the Lannisters, which meant they would be doubly hard to beat.

In addition, while he was campaigning in Lannister country, Robb fell in love with a young woman from a smaller House and married her. This decision was an insult to the honor of House Frey, the Lord that controls the Twins (the river crossing to the north) and one of Robb’s most powerful allies. Now it was necessary for him to travel to the Twins and make amends, promising his uncle’s hand to one of Frey’s oldest daughters in order to salvage their relationship.

And last, but not least, he also has the defiance of his mother to deal with. It seems that while he was away campaigning, she set Jaime Lannister free and told Brienne to escort him to King’s Landing. On his honor, she made Jaime swear that he would return her daughters to her as soon as he arrived at the capitol. A desperate hope, but given what happened to her boys (she believes them both to have perished at Winterfell at his point) she was both desperate and distraught.

Naturally, Jaime has plans of his own and attempts to escape at the first opportunity. Unfortunately for him and Brienne, his escape attempt alerts some marauders to their presence. As soon as he obtains a sword, he attacks Brienne, the two fight for some time and the noise alerts a band of Bloody Mummers. These men are now in the employ of Lord Roose Bolton of Harrenhal, and they are taken captive. To ensure Jaime’s cooperation, Vargo Hoat, the leader of the pack, slices off Jaime’s hand. Without his sword hand, Jaime becomes a depressed shell of his former self, and begins to contemplate his choices and allegiances.

When Robb and his host arrive at the Twins, they are pleasantly surprised. Despite Lord Walder Frey’s reputation for being a bitter and vengeful man, he seems committed to making this new marriage happen. And his uncle is even pleasantly surprised when he sets eyes on the Frey girl, who doesn’t appear to be as hideous as his other offspring! Everything goes well on the wedding night as well. Though the food is not so good, the wine is plentiful and people begin to get soused. However, once the bride and groom are hauled off, Frey has another surprise in store. Crossbowmen emerge from the gallery and begin firing on them! Robb and his banner men are quickly surrounded, and Robb and his mother are killed!

Back at King’s Landing, celebrations are being held! With their victory over Stannis’ forces, the people are jubilant and welcoming House Tyrell as liberators. In addition, Lord Tywin has taken the role as Hand of the King since Tyrion has been bed-ridden with injuries and is suspected of trying to harm Joffrey. Also, it seems that the new hand has made some changes to Joffrey’s wedding arrangements. Instead of marrying Sansa, as was arranged under King Robert, he now wishes to cement the Lannister’s new alliance with the Tyrell’s by marrying Joffrey to Lady Margaery Tyrell. Sansa is relieved, until she is informed that she will be wedding Tyrion instead, who isn’t particularly happy about it either.

Now two weddings must be held. The first, of Sansa and Tyrion, is a sham affair that is rushed through with minimal pomp and ceremony. For the second wedding though, much time and effort are spent and no expense is being spared. In addition, Sansa finds herself being taken into the confidences of the matriarch of House Tyrell. As Joffrey’s previous betrothal, she would like to know just what kind of man her granddaughter is marrying. After learning that the old lady is an honest and gentle person, Sansa tells her the truth: Joffrey is a monster, she says, and her granddaughter should be afraid. The old lady thanks her for her honesty, and begins plotting…

The wedding festivities are lavish and Joffrey appears to be taking well to his new wife, which leaves Sansa fearing for her life. Tyrion is similarly worried, knowing that Joffrey hates him and Cersei and their father both suspect him of treachery. He worries that the boy will try to kill him and his new wife, but they are both saved when something unexpected occurs. In the midst of eating from a massive pigeon pie that was prepared for the event, Joffrey chokes and dies horribly. More to the point, the girl Sansa disappears in the midst of his death. All eyes go to Tyrion, who is promptly arrested for the boy’s death.

After suffering in the dungeons of King’s Landing for a time, Tyrion is brought forth and put on trial. He is forsaken by everyone, including his mistress Shae, who appears to have been threatened into giving him up. All hope appears to be lost for Tyrion, but he then receives an offer from an unlikely source: Lord Oberyn Martell, the Prince of Dorne. It seems that the people of Sunspear still hold the Lannister’s accountable for the deaths of two Martell children who were murdered during Robert’s revolt. The one responsible was Sir Gregor Clegane (“The Mountain”), but they suspect Lord Tywin was the one who gave the order. He agrees to fight for Tyrion if he requests a trial by combat as part of a plot to kill Gregor and eventually put a Martell on the throne.

Without options, Tywin agrees, and as expected, Cersei chooses Gregor as her champion. The fight goes well for Oberyn, who employs cunning and speed to defeat Gregor with a poisoned spear. However, before he can deliver the final blow, Gregor takes Oberyn by the throat and kills him with his bare hands. Tyrion is once again doomed, and Gregor is destined to die a slow and terrible death. However, Tyrion finds help from an unlikely source once again, this time from his brother who has returned.

After hearing of Robb Stark’s death, Harrenhal once again changed hands and Jaime was set free. Having undergone a change of heart, he decided to bring Brienne back with her. Upon his arrival, he and Cersei have a falling out over his brother’s supposed guilt, and he decides to set Tyrion free. This consists of showing him a secret stairway that will take him to the coast, but Tyrion decides to head up instead. Having served as the Hand, he knows the secret stairs lead to the Tower of the Hand, where his father currently resides…

When he enters, he finds Shae warming his bed. She pleads and offers him the usual denials, telling him she was threatened and had no choice. Tyrion, sick of betrayal, decides to strangle her with her own jewelry and then sets out to find his father. After grabbing a crossbow from the bedroom wall, he finds his father in the privy and corners him there. After some harsh words are exchanged, he fires a bolt into Tywin’s stomach and leaves him there for dead.

With both Joffrey and Tywin dead, Cersei takes up the role of Hand and crowns her youngest son, Tommen, as king. In addition, she charges her newly-estranged brother with finding and killing Tyrion. As the new Lord Commander of the Kingsgaurd, it is his duty to track down the assassin, but he is obviously conflicted given the fact that he played a rolein his father’s death. Once the funeral is over, he decides to sets Brienne free and gives her a new sword named Oathkeeper. This was apparently Joffrey’s wedding gift from Tywin, which was reforged from the Valyrian steel of Ned Stark’s old sword. He then tells her to go forth and keep her oath to Catelyn to find Arya and Sansa.

Also, it should be noted, Cersei begins to go nuts as a result of recent events. In addition to losing her son and her father, it is also clear that her incest has become common knowledge. The Tyrells also appear to be positioning themselves to take the throne down the line. It is even intimated that the Tyrell matriarch was the one who poisoned Joffrey because of what Stansa told her about him. Now that Tommen is king, it is he who must marry Lady Margaery Tyrell, but since he’s so young, she believes she must be the power behind the throne.

Sansa is meanwhile ferried away with the help of Lord Donton, a disgraced ex-knight who Joffrey was in the habit of abusing, but whom Sansa was kind to. For some time, they were planning her escape, and when she learned that she would be wed to Tyrion instead of a Tyrell, she agreed to his plans. After helping her escape on the night of the big wedding, she is transferred to a ship waiting for them down by the water. Her rescuer, it seems, is Lord Petyr Baelish, who plans to take her to The Eyrie where he is about to wed her aunt (Catelyn’s sister). After delivering her aboard, Donton is killed to cover their tracks.

She is then brought to the coast of the Vale of Arryn where she meets Petyr and her aunt. While it is clear that Lady Lysa loves Petyr, it is also clear that he doesn’t love her, but instead is carrying a torch for Sansa. After arriving at the Eyrie, he kisses Sansa in the courtyard, sending Lysa into a jealous rage. Later on, she invites Sansa up to the throne room and threatens to throw her out the Moon Door, but Petyr intervenes. After talking Lysa down, he confesses to her that he only ever loved her sister, and then tosses her out the door! He then moves quickly to blame the minstrel and bribes Lysa’s bannermen to ensure their loyalty to his rule.

Meanwhile, Arya’s trip north brings her and her companions into some strange company. Having escaped Harrenhal, she now comes into contact with a group of men known as the Brotherhood without Banners. These were the men whom Ned Stark had sent out to deal with the raids in the Riverlands, but who now are protecting the countryfolk from raiders and Lannisters. Leading them is Lord Beric Dondarrion who has picked up an usual companion, the red priest Thoros of Myr. Here too is another worshiper of R’hllor, who has apparently used his magic to resurrect Beric, a couple of times!

Having been taken in by the company, they soon find Sandore Clegane, who fled King’s Landing during the siege, and put him on trial for his many crimes. Sandore request a trial by combat and narrowly wins when Beric’s sword breaks and he dies. However, Thoros is able to resurrect him yet again, and Sandore is free to go. But before he leaves, he is sure to take a hostage – Arya Stark! The two then travel north together since Sandore is hoping to ransom her to her brother. This journey takes them to the Twins, just in time for Lord Bolton’s supposed wedding. When the pandemonium strikes, Arya is forced to flee and is only saved by the intervention of Sandor himself.

In time, Sandor is critically wounded and Arya leaves him behind. She makes for the Vale of Arryn where she decides to board a ship and head for Braavos. She does this because Jaqen H’ghar, the killer she helped free, gave her a coin before departing which he claimed was from Braavos. The coin contained the inscription “Valar Morghulis”. When she arrives at the port, she speaks these words to a Braavosi Captain, who replies “Valar Dohaeris” and agrees to take her aboard. They set sail for the free city of Braavos and Arya bids farewell to her past life.

To the East, Daenerys and her companions are still busy trying to recruit an army. On the recommendations of Lord Mormont, they set course for Slaver’s Bay believing that they will be able to recruit an army from the Unsullied. These are apparently warrior-slaves who have been raised from birth to fight, feel no pain, and obey any and all orders from their commander. With her new-found friends, Arstan and Strong Belwas, they arrive at Astapor where she agrees to surrender one of her dragons in exchange for a large host. However, she then tricks the slavers by ordering the Unsullied, once they are transferred to her ownership, to kill all the city’s slave masters.

With her new army and a host of freed slaves, Daenerys sets course for the city of Yunkai next. Here, she finds another slave stronghold that is protected by a host of mercenaries. After meeting the enemy’s mercenary brigades, she is aided by the defection of one of their Captains. With his help, they attack the mercenary encampents at night and this city falls shortly thereafter. Finally, she and her host move on to Mereen, the last of the slave cities, but find it walled and heavily defended. They set camp and begin the long process of besieging it.

But first, some revelations are made. On the one hand, she discovers that Arstan is in fact Ser Barristan Selmy, the former Lord Commander of the Kingsguard who Joffrey dismissed. His true purpose, it seems, was to find the heir of the Targaryen line and bring her home. At the same time, she learns that Jorah Mormont was originally sent to spy on her for Robert. However, when the order came that she was to be assassinated, he changed his mind and enlisted with her. Daenerys is outraged. It seems that the prophecy told to her by the Undying of Qarth is coming true. She has been betrayed twice now, which means she will betrayed once more before the end.

To have them make amends, she orders Barristan and Mormont to sneak into the city  through its sewers with a host of Unsullied at night and open the gates. They succeed, and the city is taken shortly thereafter. She forgives Selmy and makes him the Lord Commander of her Queensguard, but decides to banish Lord Mormont. In the meantime, she decides to set up camp at Mereen and contemplate how she will become the ruler that Westeros needs.

Finally, things to the north are also proceeding apace. Having been captured by the Wildlings, John Snow is brought before Mance Rayder. He is asked to explain why he would defect, and wanting to be convincing, John tells him something approximating the truth. He says he defected because he is sick and tired of being “the bastard son” and wants to be free. Rayder believes him, and John is soon reunited with the young Wildling woman he met earlier and spared.

Her name is Ygritte, and she is clearly taken with John. As time goes on, they become close and claim each other, Wildling-style! As a result of all this, John’s feelings of betrayal deepen, but he made an oath to Qorin to learn all he could, so he continues. In time, this bears fruit when he learns that the Others are what is driving the Wildlings south. Hence why they are determined to take the Wall and claim the northern lands of Westeros for themselves.

He also learns that Rayder had been desperately searching for the Horn of Winter which the Wildlings believe is magic. By sounding this horn, he believes he can melt the Wall and take out the Night’s Watch easily. However, in the meantime, he must commit his forces to attacking the Wall conventionally and sends John and Ygritte with an advance party to scale it and do reconnaissance on the other side. Once over, John escapes from the Wildlings once more and rejoins his brothers at Castle Black.

His loyalties are heavily suspect and few believe his story about Qorin orders, but his loyalty is proven when Ygritte and the advance party attack Castle Black. They manage to defeat the Wildling party, and Ygritte is killed by a stray arrow. John is torn by the loss, but there is little time to mourn. On the other side of the Wall, Rayder has over forty-thousand Wildlings, giants, mammoths and seige engines prepared, and begins his assault. John is given leave to command the defense of the Wall against this first assault, and things go relatively well.

Outnumbered but not outclassed, John and his brothers manage to thwart the first wave. John is then invited to parlay with Rayder, who reveals that he has found the horn after all. He tells John that he cold destroy the Wall with a single blast of the instrument, but he would rather capture it intact since it is the only thing that will keep the Others at bay. John considers his offer of a negotiated truce, but their parlay is cut short when Stannis’ surviving armies take to the field and destroy the Wildling encampment.

For months, the Night’s Watch had been pleading for aid and soldiers to be sent north to the Wall, and now it seems that only Stannis has chosen to answer. He tells John what the priestess Melissandre believes, how the return of the Others is just a prelude to the return of her god’s sworn enemy – the dark one. Stannis asks for John’s support and promises him Winterfell in exchange, but John is chosen by the Night’s Watch as their new commander and must refuse.

In the epilogue, we see how the Brothers Without Banners have taken one of the Frey men prisoner. After interrogating him about the massacre that happened at the wedding, the reanimated body of Catelyn Stark arrives and orders his death. It seems that the priest Thoros has used his magic to resurrect her as well, and now she is intent on revenge!

Strengths/Weaknesses:
Book III was, in my opinion, a step down from books I and II. On the one hand, there was plenty of action and plot developments to keep the reader interested, and plenty of surprises besides. However, not all of them were welcome to this humble reader. For starters, when Robb Stark is murdered at the court of Walder Frey, I was incensed! I very nearly put the book and the series down for good! Was it not enough that Martin had to kill off Ned Stark? No, he had to kill his son and Catelyn too? The Starks are supposed to be the heroes of this series, dammit! You can’t just keep killing them off! Yes, I was mad…

But it was not just the fact that sympathetic characters kept getting murdered. It was the confusion it caused. Basically, every story has a set of main characters, people that help drive the story forward. When a character dies off, it naturally falls to another to keep the story going. Now we all know that Martin uses many characters and perspectives in his novels, but most of these are secondary and rarely heard from. It’s the main perspectives that tell things of the greatest importance, and usually there are only a few of them. When these people die, it has the effect of making the reader think that they weren’t so important after all. And if it keeps happening, the reader can become cynical and will not form the usual emotional attachments to characters. When that happens, a story dies, at least from the point of view of the person reading it. It’s all about emotional attachments Martin, you can’t keep traumatizing us!

More than that, I was beginning to feel tedious and depressed by the way Arya and Sansa’s sad stories kept going on and on. For two books now, Arya has been trying to get home, only to be waylayed, taken prisoner, get free, taken prisoner again, get free once again, then only to find out that her family is dead. Thus she decides to go to Braavos because she thinks she’s the only Stark left. And she’s just a kid! How depressing! Sansa, on the other hand, has to endure Joffrey’s constant abuse, the prospect of sex with Tyrion, and then is set free only to find herself a prisoner again, just under different circumstances. As if the rapacious and cruel Lannisters weren’t enough, now she has to deal with the murderous and creepy Lord Baelish!

And even before Robb was murdered, the setbacks he was been forced to endure were beginning to get tedious. In spite of all his early successes, its becoming abundantly clear that he’s going to lose the war. First his strategic plans get interrupted, the Lannisters succeed in the south and make a new alliance, Theon stabs him in the back by seizing Winterfell, his attempts to liberate it fail, Winterfell is then burned to the ground and his brothers killed (presumably). Then, on top of all that, he learns that his alliance is likely to fall apart because he chose to follow his heart. And just when it seems like things are going to be okay on that front, he’s and his mother are betrayed and murdered! It’s like, we get it! War is hell, especially this war, and the bad guys are winning! But can’t you give us some happy news for a change?

But like I said, the book had plenty of things to keep the prospective reader interested. After picking it back up (after about a week or so of stewing), I found plenty of good things to keep me interested in the series. For starters, Joffrey finally got what was coming to him, Lord Tywin also bought it while sitting on the privy, and Catelyn was revealed to be alive (albeit in a somewhat hideous form). This was all nice to read, mainly because I was getting so sick of Joffrey that I was just waiting for someone to give him a “golden crown” as well! His and Tywin’s death also brightened Tyrion’s storyline a lot, seeing as how his constant struggle with his cruel family was also beginning to get Kafka-esque. Given that he is one of the few sympathetic characters from that thread, it was nice to see him get a little payback! Now if someone would just whack Cersei we’d be in business!

And of course there were all the plot developments that kept satisfying my curiosity. Much like in book II, there were plenty of things that I was just waiting to hear about that finally got revealed. For instance, I was dying to know what would become of the Others invasion, of the civil war, of Daenerys’ plans to return to Westeros, and of Bran’s visions. After so much build-up, set-backs and plot twists, I was dying for some resolutions! And as usual, George RR Martin gives it out sparingly, providing clues, some answers, and a few interesting tidbits, all the while ensuring that things keeps rolling into the next book.

All in all, I liked this book. It was a very decent follow-up to A Clash of Kings and maintained the commitment to realism, detail and world-building that the series is famous for. My problems really only stem from the fact that at times, the books are too realistic, too detailed, and contain far too many plot twists. However, it would be unfair to say that any one book fails in this regard when its really a cumulative effect. Anything bad that I can say about this particular novel always begins with “at this point in the series…” Mainly, I was just hoping that things would be close to some kind of resolution. That’s another thing that’s important when writing. When audiences wait too long for a resolution, they’ll also lose interest. I hope Mr. Martin is writing this down 😉

Speaking of which, I am currently nose-deep in A Feast For Crows. See you soon with the review for that one!