New GOT Trailer – Season Four, Part II

GOT_4posterAt long last, after many months of waiting, fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones have finally been treated to the first teaser trailer for the second half of season four! And as you can see, the series producers decided to give the fans just enough to whet their appetites, while not giving too much away. But of course, us A Song of Ice and Fire geeks could tell what’s in store, not that it helps much!

As the preview opens, we see King’s Landing with a dragon’s shadow passing over it (purely symbolic, don’t worry!). We also get Joffrey speaking to the newly returned Jaime about the progress of the war, which – after the events of last season’s Red Wedding – he is claiming victory in. And of course, we hear from Daenerys, who continues in her campaign to overthrow the slave cities of Essos and build an army to retake the Iron Throne.

And between all that, we get hints and previews of other threads and plots, all punctuated with plenty of voiceovers. These include the trial of Tyrion (won’t say for what); the arrival of Prince Oberyn (Pedro Pascal) and his duel with Ser Gregor Clegane (now played by Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson); and of course, Jon Snow rallying the Night’s Watch for the Wildlings’ much anticipated attack on the Wall.

The show premiers on April 6th, and if their previous records are any indication, this one is sure to be one of the highest rated premiers of all time! Enjoy the trailer…

Game of Thrones – Season Three Episode 2

game_of_thrones_s3Welcome back to another episode of Game of Thrones. I think I speak for everyone when I say that last week’s episode was the whirlwind intro, a big high after waiting almost an entire year for the new season to air. And as expected, things were visually appealing, exciting, and eye-popping from time to time. At the same time, in what is fast becoming the trend for this show, differences from the source material are becoming all the more apparent and obvious.

This is largely due to the fact that changes in the last season have required the writers to make further changes this season. These include rewrites, additions, things left out, and late introductions. And with this second episode now aired, I feel like I’m beginning to sense how these will play out. At least I think so, but I’ll keep them to myself to avoid any potential spoilers, especially for those who haven’t read the books yet.

Needless to say, the central theme of this episode was the bad news that becomes so manifest in book three. Between the shifting fortunes for Robb and the Stark family, the chaos that grips the Seven Kingdoms, the ongoing battles of Daenerys, and the fate of lesser players (Theon and Jaime being foremost amongst them), everyone seems to be suffering from setbacks, debacles and ill omens. Here’s how it all went down this week:

Dark Wings, Dark Words:
got3_jojenreedThe episode opens with Bran having more dreams about the three eyed crow. This time, a young boy appears telling him that the raven is him. He wakes up to the company of Hodor, Osha, and the direwolf Summer, his companions as they continue to make their way north. On the way, they encounter Jojen and Meera Reed, who claims that they have come a long way to find him. They inform him that he is a Warg, and can control animals and experience “greendreams”.

North of the Wall, John and his Wildling companions move towards the Wall and learn from one of Mance’s wargs that the Fist of the First Men has fallen and is littered with bodies of the Night’s Watch. Sam and the others are still retreating south, battling cold and starvation, and Sam seems ready to die. However, Lord Commander Mormont refuses to let him yield and orders his brothers to help him along.

GOT3_brienne_jaimeRobb meanwhile is summoned back to Riverrun when word of his grandfather’s death reaches them. His mother is perturbed by the news, but not nearly as much as by word that Winterfell was burned to the ground and that Brandon and Rickard are missing. They begin the march back to Riverrun to attend the funeral, during which time Catelyn and Talisa (John’s new wife) get a chance to bond.

In the Riverlands, Brienne and Jaime continue south, and it is hard going as the two find each other’s company quite difficult to endure. While attempting to cross a river, Jaime grabs a sword from her and they fight. Unfortunately, this gives their position away and the two of them are fallen upon by the Brave Companions (aka. Bloody Mummers), another free company that currently owes service to House Bolton.

got3_joffrey_margaeryIn King’s Landing, everything is being dedicated towards the preparations for Joffrey’s wedding to Lady Margaery Tyrell. Cersei is naturally suspicious of his newly betrothed, but Joffrey refused to listen to his mother’s counsel. Sansa, meanwhile is introduced to Margaery and her grandmother, Lady Olenna Redwyne – the Queen of Thorns. She asks Sansa for the truth about Joffrey, and after some convincing that she is safe, she confides that is he is an absolute bloody monster.

She gets a taste of this when Joffrey summons her to him and interrogates her about her marriage to Renly and why it didn’t produce an heir. However, Lady Margaery manages to skillfully manipulate him, hinting at Renly’s interest in men and lying about their night together. In the end, Margaery plays to his weaknesses, tapping into his endless appetite for cruelty, and clearly has him wrapped around her finger.

got3_aryaElsewhere in the Riverlands, Arya and her companions, Hot Pie and Gendry, wander freely now that they have escaped Harrenhal. While seeking out the way to Riverrun, they come upon Thoros of Myr and the Brotherhood without Banners who take them into their company. Over food and ale, they see the Hound brought in shackled, and Arya tries to sneak out unseen. However, the Clegane recognizes her and identifies her as Stark’s daughter.

In between all of this, we see Theon being tortured in an unidentified dungeon, which includes his finger being flayed and his foot being mangled by a screw. His tormenters are unknown to him, and he is asked only one question. “Why did you take Winterfell?” He finally answers truthfully, and is left alone for the night. A young man comes to him and claims he was sent by his sister and will free him in the night.

Summary:
Overall, this episode was not bad. In fact, they did a few things here which I thought were pretty interesting, which included using material taken from the latest book (A Dance with Dragons) to fill in some areas that were not mentioned in the third book, but which happened during the course of it and were not covered. This includes what became of Theon after he was betrayed at Winterfell, though it was by the Bastard of Bolton, and not his own men.

However, that small technicality they seem to have glossed over quite well by simply saying the Northmen torched the city before the Bolton’s army arrived. The rest is true to the text, Theon being taken captive and tortured mercilessly as part of Ramsay Bolton’s predilection for cruelty and villainous schemes. And, having read the fifth book, I know what lies in store for Theon, and I pity the poor bastard! I approve of the way they are parceling it out though, not revealing just yet who his tormenter is or what he has planned…

Other changes which I didn’t like much included Robb’s return to Riverrun. Here, the show is once again working with changes that were forced on it by previous changes. Robb did not take his mother or Jaime Lannister with him as he fought his way to Casterly Rock. They were left behind in Riverrun, hence he did not see him until he returned for his grandfather’s funeral and to confront his mother about her treason (letting Jaime go). And it was for this reason that she didn’t meet his new bride until he came back.

Which reminds me, Robb’s return to Riverrun had little to do with his grandfather’s death. It had more to do with his mother letting Jaime go and his uncle, Lord Emdure Tully, deviating from the orders he had left him with. While Robb was campaigning in the west, Edmure chose to engage the Lannister forces in the Riverlands, forcing them to attempt to ford the rivers and causing them many losses, which included wounding Ser Sandor Clegane (“The Mountain”).

While this seemed like a good idea to Edmure, it had the effect of making Tywin refocus his troops to defend the south and not pursue Robb’s forces as they neared Casterly Rock. This deprived Robb of a chance to commit an outflanking maneuver and deal Tywin and his forces another stinging defeat. Because of this, Robb was not only facing troubles for breaking his betrothal to the Frey daughter and the loss of his hostage, but also because he was no longer in a dominant tactical position.

In addition, Bran’s introduction to the Reeds was quite different than it was in the book. There, the Reeds had come to Winterfell to pay homage to the King and meet Bran. They did not come to him in the wilderness. But since they were not introduced last season, it was necessitated that they be dropped in at this point in season three.

All of these represent changes that are now being forced on the show because they chose to omit or alter things last season, most likely due to budgets. I get it, but it still can be annoying, since they do seem to have a cumulative effect. However, in just about everything else, they managed to get things right. Aside from the fact the Ser Thoros was supposed to be missing part of his face, due to his earlier death and resurrection, the storylines appear to be faithful.

All I can say is that I wish the episode got into things a little bit more. Much like the first episode, this one felt kind of whirlwind-esque, with plenty of nuggets being left for later. But of course, that seems necessary since the story is branching out, with three main threads turning into half a dozen or so. Since they feel obliged to show how all characters are faring at this point, it only seems logical and natural that they parcel things out and try to cover all their bases.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to the reveals and I believe others should be too. If you haven’t read the books yet, you’re in the perfect position to witness some rather big surprises, and I envy you that. As for the Thrones geeks out there, you know what’s coming and I’m pretty sure you’re anticipating it as much as I am. So stay tuned. Things get pretty interesting from here on in, and pretty bloody!

Game of Thrones (Season 2, ep.9)

On this Sunday past, we came to it at last… the siege of King’s Landing! After eight episodes building up to the climactic battle, it finally got underway. And as expected, it was pretty damn epic and bloody! And more importantly, it last all episode, no breaks!

And as usual, I had some observation to make just as soon as the episode was over.

Blackwater:
The episode opens on King’s Landing just as Stannis Baratheon’s galleons begin moving up the Blackwater towards the city gates. With so many ships and troops upon them, Tyrion and his right hand man, Ser Bronn, unleash their big surprise, wildfire that sets the water ablaze! Stannis responds by ordering his men ashore at the Mud Gate where they begin to lay siege.

Meanwhile, Cersei ferries Sansa and all the women retainers into a hall where they take shelter and waits things out. True to form, she has several cups of wine and begins acting like a total bitch, telling Sansa off and wallowing in self-pity about her life. Rather than let her son do his duty and defend the gates, she has Ser Kevan take him from the battle for his own safety. And then leaves the women to their fate when Ser Kevan says that the gates have fallen.

Sansa takes up her place as morale officer, but Shae tells her to take the opportunity to run. She returns to her room to find a drunk Ser Clegane who says he’s running off, and offers to take her with him. When she refuses, he seems hellbent on raping her, but instead fades off into the night without another word.

At the gates, Tyrion takes command of the city guard when Joffrey leaves and leads them into battle. They secure the gates, only to be beset by more of Stannis’ men. Things are desperate and Tyrion is nearly killed by one of his own, a member of the Kingsgaurd in Cersei’s employ. Luckily, his squire, Podrick takes the bastard down with a spear through the head and shelters Tyrion in his arms. Good ol’ Pod!

And wouldn’t you know it, help finally comes when the Tyrells, led by Ser Loras and Tywin Lannister, show up to drive the last of the Baratheon host off. Stannis yells at his men not to retreat, but between the loss of their boats and the outflanking maneuver, the siege has been broken. Tywin arrives in the King’s Hall to announce to his daughter that the battle has been won… Cue music and roll end credits!

Good Points and Bad:
I’ll just start with the obvious stuff. The battle was pretty freaking awesome. Some might be so bold as to compare it to Lord of the Rings and say they’ve seen better, but to them I would say it takes a lot to pull of an epic battle when you don’t have hundreds of extras and a whole lot of digital effects at your disposal. And given their limited budget, I’d say they pulled it off quite well.

My only complaint about the imagery would be the wildfire scene. I’m not sure, but somehow, all that green just reminded me of industrial light and magic, aka. artificial. It was faithful to the book, mind you. In the text, George RR Martin stipulated specifically that wildfire burnt green.
Still, I couldn’t help but feel like there was something inherently alien about it, like it was something out of Green Lantern (Which I refuse to see! Ryan Reynolds, what were you thinking?).

And of course, there were some changes that deserve mention. For starters, they left out the part where Tyrion deployed his other little surprise. You see, it was originally Cersei’s idea to use wildfire, something Tyrion would not get credit for in the end because of it. But Tyrion perfected the idea by commissioning the construction of a massive chain that would be lain across the mouth of the Blackwater.

When he gave the order, the lighthouses there pulled the chain up, thus preventing Stannis’ fleet from escaping from the river. THAT was when they unleashed the hellfire, only after Stannis’ many man boats had clogged the river. It was an ingenious plan, using Stannis’ own numbers against him, hence why I was disappointed that they chose to leave it out.

But beyond that, everything was done quite faithfully. Joffrey’s own incompetence and brattyness, the desertion of Ser Clegan, Cersei’s bitchiness in the face of death, Sansa’s attempts to play the innocent fool, Tyrion’s brave stand, the betrayal… All of it was downright faithful to the original novel. And the pacing and intensity of it was really awesome to watch.

And let’s not forget Cersei’s outfit for this episode, an armored bustier. Already there’s been a lot of talk about this bit of wardrobe, and for good reason! Look at and tell me it’s not the perfect melding of medieval armor and high fashion chic!

Yes, with everything this episode had going for it, the hour just flew by and left me wanting to know how they would wrap things up next week. But of course, I didn’t want to wait when the episode was over, I wanted to know NOW! The mark of a great production if ever there was one 😉

Well, only one episode left to go, then I imagine all us GOT geeks will be in for another long wait until season 3 comes out. It’s a blessing really that Martin keeps on writing, otherwise we’d all know exactly when the show would be over. And I do wonder just how far they’ll go with the HBO adaptation. Probably until it becomes unprofitable! In the meantime, check out this video clip I stole of the big scene where wildfire meets the Blackwater: