Game of Thrones – Season 3 Finale!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…

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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 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 7

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Welcome back to more of the third season of Game of Thrones! As we have now passed the seventh episode in this season, we are fast coming up on the finale of season three and another long wait as they prep for season four. Yes, the show has been renewed for another season, but is anyone surprised at all? The ratings for this season have broken several records, and HBO can be expected to ride this high for as long as they can.

In addition, I should note that recently it was revealed that this season was in fact just the first half of A Storm of Swords, the third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire Series. Initially, I was curious how they intended to cram all the material from that book in ten episodes, especially at the pace they were setting. However, breaking it into an even twenty episodes would seem like the perfect solution, given all the material that remains and the climaxes that still need to happen.

Anyway, onto this weeks show! Last week, John and Wildlings managed to scale the Wall and were on the way to Castle Black. Robb and his kinsmen, wife and mother were on their way to the Twins for a wedding, the Tyrells and Lannisters where scheing, Sana was betrothed to Tyrion, Petyr and Arys were plotting, Arya was wandering, and Jaime and Brienne were about to be forcibly separated.

Which brings us to the latest episode, also known as…

The Bear and the Maiden Fair:
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The episode opens with John and the Wildings making their way towards Castle Black. As they go, both John and Ygritte are made aware that Orell, one of the skinchangers in Mance’s service, doesn’t approve of their little tryst. He tells John he won’t be able to hang onto her, and warns Ygritte that John is not one of them. That does not stop Ygritte from admitting she loves him though.

As they continue, John tries to tell Ygritte that the Wildlings don’t have a hope of winning and that he fears she and her kin will die. But of course, she does not listen, and they come together and promise to live before they die, together. Not far away, Bran and the Reeds keep moving north, and the going is tough as Osha continues to suspect them of black magic. Jojen reveals at last that they are moving beyond Castle Black to seek the “three-eyed Raven” beyond the Wall. Osha is afraid, since she has seen what happens where the Others strike, and does not want to go back.

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In King’s Landing, Sansa and Maergery talk of their upcoming nuptials and Maergery continues to console her. During their talk, Maergery intimates that he is not a virgin, and much more worldly than she let’s on (as if we didn’t know already!) Joffrey meanwhile confronts his uncle Tywin about the fact that he is holding Council meetings without him and demands details. Unfortunately, he finds his uncle much harder to bully than the others and even appears afraid of him.

On their way to The Twins, Robb and his company are stalled by bad weather, and he learns from his wife, Talisa, that she is pregnant. At the Dreadfort, Theon is freed from his shackles by two pretty girls who begin to ply him with their natural wiles. But of course, it proves to be just another cruel trick of Ramsay’s, who interrupts and threatens to castrate him.

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Daenerys and her army comes at last to Yunkai and assess its defenses. Ser Mormont tells her the odds of sacking it are not good, and they do not need it to reach Westeros. But Daenerys is determined to free it of its slaves and add them to her forces, as she did the Unsullied and slaves from Astapor. They set camp and Daenerys recieves the slave masters of the city to demand their surrender. She is rebuffed, and plans for battle begin…

Melissandre and Gendry return to King’s Landing where he learns for the first time that his father was King Robert. It is for this reason, she claims, that the Brothers wanted him, and why they need him now. Back at their camp, the Brothers learn of a Lannister war party in the area and they decide to ride to south to set a trap for them. This will delay their trip to Riverrun and Arya decides she’s had enough of their lies. She flees the cave, but is captured by Ser Clegane who has returned for her.

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Over at Harrenhal, Jaime prepares to leave for King’s Landing while Brienne is left to her fate. She asks Jaime keep his promise to send the Stark girls back to Lady Catelyn, and he swears he will. On his way out, Locke boasts to him that they will “take care” of Brienne. He learns that Brienne’s father has offered a ransom, one which Roose Bolton rejected, and that Brienne is likely to be sacrificed for his mens’ entertainment.

He immediately decides to turn around and ride back to save her. There, they find Brienne fighting a bear in a pit for the amusement of Hoat and his men while they sing “The Maiden and the Bear”. Jaime leaps into the pit while Bolton’s man shoot the bear with a crossbow. Brienne makes it out and in turn pulls Jaime out behind her, just in time to avoid an hornery and wounded grizzly! Locke is forced to let them go, fearing what will happen to him if he defies both Lord Tywin and Bolton.

Summary:
As episodes go, I liked this one. It had a good deal of faithful material this time around instead of the changes that are likely to annoy a Thrones geek like me! Sure, some of those found themselves being continued in this episode, but they were pretty scant compared to the material that really needs to be included at this point in the series.

Of that, the part with John and Ygritte was probably my favorite. Up until now, his relationship with her and the Wildlings has been the subject of a lot of alterations, including why he’s fighting for them. But they did a good job of capturing the dynamic that is taking place between them, how they love each other but still finds themselves on opposite sides in the fight. The jealousy angle is something that never occurred in the book, but that is clearly just thrown in to accentuate how they come from different worlds and really didn’t detract from things at all.

Naturally, I was kind of bothered that they dedicated more time to Theon again. Throughout this season, they’ve been giving us glimpses into the pain and misery he is enduring at the Dreadfort. It’s all true to what we learn in book 5, but I wonder if they plan to display every single cruelty Ramsay inflicted on him just so they can keep him in the show. Trust me when I say there’s a lot, and a few minutes every episode of Theon getting tortured is getting depressing!

And sure, they’re still going with the whole bit about Gendry being taken away by Melissandre because she needs “kings blood”, but it seems like they are preparing to write that one to a close. What’s more, I did find it interesting how they did the scene with them sailing up the Blackwater, where all the wrecked ships now lay. Her explanation as to why the Brotherhood wanted him was also kind of apt, and the way she revealed the truth of his past was also kind of fitting. In the book, Gendry is sort of written off. This way, he is at least likely to have an ending that is poignant and meaningful.

One thing I didn’t like was the revelation that the man I’ve been calling Vargo Hoat this whole time – leader of the Bloody Mummers – is in fact named Locke. I had to look it up since I didn’t recognize it, and it turns out Locke was actually a highborn member of the Night’s Watch, not one of Bolton’s mercenaries. But the fact that they’ve named him this means Vargo isn’t in the story, and he and the Mummers have been written out of the story altogether!

All I can ask is… WHY?! Is this another simplification for brevity’s sake? Vargo was an awesome character, a man you loved to hate and laughed at because he had a lisp that made him sound somewhat less than threatening. Naturally, he overcompensated for it by being a brutal jagoff who cut off people’s hands. Seeing him do his thing and get his just desserts in the books was something I enjoyed. I’m going to miss him…

Getting back to the purely good stuff, I was also very happy they finally got to the part involving the Yunkai. For three episodes now, they’ve shown it in the opening credits but stopped short of actually showing it. Now that they’ve brought out the tall walls, the pyramids and the Harpy, things are getting pretty cool. All that remains now is for her to assess their strength, and unleash her own on them! Looking forward to seeing it happen!

And of course, they managed to capture Jaime’s rescue of Brienne – although who saved who was open to interpretation – very well. Last time, they skewed why she was being held while Jaime was being set free, but this episode pushed past that and got to good stuff. For some time, people have been wondering if Jaime and Brienne would ever join forces and bond over a shared sense of honor. And this is exactly how it happened.

Now the two are set to go to King’s Landing to see their promises through to the end. But of course, since Arya is unaccounted for and Sansa has a number of people vying for her hand, that’s likely to get a bit complicated. And trust me, it does! Several battles to come and intrigues to take place before the season ends. And this point these include Daenery’s seige of Yunkai, the Wildling’s assault on Castle Black, and two weddings, neither of which are likely to be happy occasions!

Game of Thrones (Season 2 Ep.8)

Quite exciting! It’s no fun being sick as a dog, but one benefit is that it gives you plenty of time to catch up on your TV shows and post about them. And that’s precisely what I did today. After some writing, intermixed with coughing and hacking, I managed to catch up on my GOT!

And I was pretty enthused. Last episode, I had a few gripes about the changes they had made from the original text. Yeah, most were just fine, better really since they avoided some convoluted plot twists or needless events.

But there was one, the capture of John Snow by the Wildlings, that I couldn’t quite see the wisdom of. That represented a big changeover from the text, and I wondered how they planned on resolving it with this episode. And wouldn’t you know it, they did it again! I guess the writers really do know what they’re doing with this one.

Alas, they still managed to change some other things, much to my chagrin. Now I got to wait another week to what happens with that. They sure know how to keep audiences in suspense, damn them! Anyhoo, the recap!

The Prince of Winterfell:
The episode begins with Theon at Winterfell, where his sister arrives with her kinsmen from Moat Cailin to tell him no help is coming. His father has taken exception to his seizure of Winterfell, and his execution (staged, of course) of the Stark children. Rather than withdraw as ordered, Theon opts to stay and fight, even though it will mean certain death.

At Harrenhal, Arya loses her chance to kill Tywin Lannister when he decides to take advantage of the lull in the war and ride south to assist King’s Landing. She meets with Jaqen and arranges a new plan. In exchange for her not naming him as her third victim, he will help them escape. Jaqen honors his promise and kills the guards holding the gate at night. Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie escape!

Meanwhile, Robb returns to his camp to learn that his mother has set Jaime free. He is outraged and orders his mother put under guard. Shortly thereafter, he and Talis finally give into their feelings for each other and get it on! This will naturally cause problems, since Robb is compelled to follow his heart and dishonor his betrothement to the Freys. And of course, Brienne continues south with Jaime, who is driving her nuts and actively planning his escape.

At King’s Landing, Tyrion and Cersei continue to play their little game of cloak and dagger. She plans to blackmail him by seizing the woman she thinks is his whore, but Tyrion sees that she has the wrong woman. He goes to Shae and tells her they must be more careful from now on. However, more pressing is the coming siege of King’s Landing, which is only two days away!

And of course, John Snow faces capture in the North. Interestingly enough, so has Qorin Halfhand, the only remaining ranger in their group. He tells John that he must make up for his failure, and plans to do it by setting John up as a defector. On person who seems interested in this is Ygritte, who has saved his life already by claiming Rayder wants to interrogate him.

Good Points and Bad:
Okay, good stuff first since that is where I left off. Last time, I was wondering how they would resolve the little issue of how John and Qorin were supposed to be captured together, but only after John swore to him that if they were taken prisoner, he’d do what he had to to infiltrate the Wildling’s camp.

Well it seems they came up with a solution for that, probably had it in mind from the beginning. After being captured, John discovers that they took Qorin as well, thanks to the trail he left chasing Ygritte. Feeling guilty for this failure, Qorin decides to tell John that he must defect in order to make up for it. He begins denouncing John in front of the other Wildlings to make his eventual defection seem realistic.

Now the bad stuff, though it really doesn’t amount to much. Again, they made a change, but in this case it was more of an omission and possibly a delay. In the story, like the miniseries, Cersei overplayed her hand with Tyrion when she brought whom she thought was “his whore” forward. Tyrion repayed this by letting her know that she had the wrong woman and the men who she thought were working for her are in his employ. She is pissed, but can do scarcely anything about it.

However, here we see Tyrion play along and leave to find Shae, who he then tells to be careful. Seems wise, didn’t want to let her know she’s missed with her ploy, but unless they show this later, it constitutes a big omission, and this stuff is kind of important. No spoilers, but it does set up something that happens during and after the big siege.

Speaking of which, the stage is now set for that to happen! Stannis and his forces are two days away, the preparations continue, and Tywin Lannister is riding south to drum up what support he can for the defense. What’s more, the Lord of Bones was introduced – very nice by the way! – and John’s “defection” and his relationship with Ygritte stand to be developed further. I’m intrigued and looking forward to the climax. Not to keen on the long wait for season three though!

 

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!

Matrix plotlines…

Before moving onto the final installment in the Matrix trilogy, I thought I’d tackle the big glaring issue that stood out during Reloaded. And that would be that whole subculture that came out between sequels, the one where people seemed to think they knew what was going on, but really had no idea. That was the rationale I asserted in my last review, and yes, its based in part on the fact that I never agreed with them. And that they were WRONG! Yeah, I was too; the theory I came up with to explain how Neo could have neutralized those squiddies in the real world and how it was all going to end… WRONG! That’s the consensus that that friend of mine and I came to once we both saw Revolutions and reconvened. But it just goes to show you how little sense a movie can make when everyone who went to see it had to make up their own ending, only to come away disappointed by the actual one.

But I digress. Allow me to recap on what happened during that eventful summer when Reloaded came out and fans everywhere showed up at the theater to see what was going to happen, only to leave confused and bewildered. Given the need for some brevity, I was only able to gloss over what actually happened in the movie and why it confused the hell out of people to the point where they had to make up their own plot. So to recap, here is what happened:

Reloaded: Okay, now this movie takes place about six months after the first movie. Neo is at the height of his power and is beginning to have prescient nightmares. He sees Trinity die, and is haunted by the feeling that even though he is the One and has realized his potential, he has no idea what he is to do now. Solid, it makes perfect sense that a messianic figure, once they’ve realized their role, would not know how to proceed. After all, the prophecy that was alluded to several times in the first movie never gave any details as to how the One’s arrival would end the war. Just that it would…

We also learn that the machines are tunneling to Zion. This was first mentioned in Final Flight of the Osiris, the animated short that was part of the Animatrix. It is also recapped during the opening expository scene where the Captains of the various hovercraft meet up inside the Matrix, which is difficult given all the squiddy activity of late. Question! Why not just meet up in the real world if its so dangerous? Is it just so they can all be decked out in their leather outfits and shades and Neo can have his big fight with the agents? Who cares? Point is, Morpheus attributes this attack to the success they’ve been enjoying of late. Neo’s powers seem to be a decided advantage now that they don’t have to run and hide from the agents but can actually face them.

So, Neo goes to the Oracle, who tells him that the One must go to the Source. That’s where his path will end and the war too. But of course, there’s cryptic, convoluted answer shit to be sure! He’s also told that his dreams, after a fashion, are true. Once at the Source, he will have to decide between saving Zion or Trinity. Tough call, but one he must make! Why? Because he’s the One. Harsh shit, man! But it sets up some obvious tension. But, wouldn’t you know it, there’s a snag! Smith is back! And he’s brought friends. Like a perfect metaphor for a virus, or “ego” as Hugo Weaving described it, Smith is expanding, copying himself onto other programs and absorbing their powers. That much is cool because it means he’s able to upgrade his software and is becoming more and more of a threat to Neo and the system. And it kind of fit nicely with what the Oracle rambled on about sentient programs running around the Matrix in defiance of the system. Sure as shit, we didn’t get anything else from that speech, like what the hell it meant or how it was significant! She just says it in passing as if it was a segue into the bit about how Neo must go to the Source and how he’s haunted by dreams about it.

Getting back, Neo and his buds, after a long, convoluted series of events, get the Keymaker, who is the key (sorry!) to getting to the Source. He is just one in a long list of characters who we get the feeling were supposed to be complex and inspired, but ultimately served no real purpose other than being stand ins that advanced the plot. Seriously, all they do is show up, make a big speech, and then go! But anyway… the characters do more action-shit to make sure Neo can get to the Source and – wouldn’t you know it?- Smith shows up! Seems that he too has access to the backdoors of the Matrix, he wants everything, he says, and is getting more powerful. They escape him, and make it to the Source where (wait for it!) another character is introduced, makes a big speech, and we get the last, confusing explanation we need.

So here’s how it is… The Matrix is many centuries old. It was, as Smith said in movie one, originally meant to be a perfect world but humanity wouldn’t accept it because the human cerebrum is designed to expect suffering, misery and conflict. That was a cool idea, but here it just gets convoluted like everything else! The solution, after some trials, was what the Architect described as the “choice” option. The Oracle, an intuitive program created to study human feelings (holy obvious case of pairing here!) designed this concept where humans were given an unconscious choice to either accept the programmed reality or reject it. 99 percent of subjects did, but the remaining one percent were like Neo and the rest – they could not bring themselves to embrace the delusion. And of course, every so often a One would emerge who not only rejected it, but could manipulate it to his advantage.

These two phenomenon represented an “escalating probability of failure”, as the Architect said, so something needed to be done. Basically, this was accomplished by a one-two punch. One, force the One to comply by threatening to crash the system and take out every human being wired into the Matrix. And two, sending the squiddies out to destroy Zion. The Matrix would then reboot, the One would take a handful of humans to start a free colony (aka. Zion) where the “red pills”, the one percent who wouldn’t accept the program, would be sent off to. When a new One would emerge, the whole thing would start over again. The machines would head for the new Zion, the system would lurch towards crashing, and the One would be driven in the direction of the Source where he would be given the same choice. Reboot the system and restart Zion, or watch humanity die! Naturally, all the Ones prior to Neo complied…

What was brilliant about this was it successfully managed to subvert everything we saw in movie one. The One seems invincible, but when confronted with this problem, he essentially becomes helpless. Really, what good can such powers do someone when all of humanity is held hostage? Second, the weapon at humanity’s disposal is a prophecy that foretold of victory, but it was essentially a lie. The war would “end”, it said, but it never specified how. In truth, the entire war and ongoing nature of the struggle between free humanity and the machines was something designed by the mathematical genius of the Architect. It serves the sole purpose of keeping the Matrix running and the machines functioning. Very 1984! Whereas humanity believes its been fighting the AI war for over a century, the sad truth is they lost, and what they’ve been doing ever since is been playing a part in play much bigger than themselves. No one knows the truth, because no one is old enough who remembers. Seriously, 1984!

And if you think about it, it was all hinted at throughout the movie. Speech One, where the Oracle says the war would end and how she’s a program and there are others like her who defy the system. Speech Two, where the Merovingian tells them that the true nature of life is cause and effect, and we are all out of control. Speech Three, where the Architect explains how Zion and the One represent a “systemic anomaly” which is the only remaining exception to what is otherwise “a harmony of mathematical perfection” or some such shit! It essentially comes together in the end. Only problem was, NOBODY GOT IT! It was told in such a quick, rushed way between action sequence and using cryptic, expository dialogue that everybody just gave up and accepted the last few minutes of the movie as their truth of what was going on. Which brings me to phase two… what fans thought was happening.

“Matrix within a Matrix:” So like I said, in the months between the release of the second and third movie, fans everywhere formed up and began detailing what they thought was the coolest idea ever proposed! Far from being based on the many, many, big speeches in Reloaded, it was based entirely on the last few minutes and the assumed significance thereof. Perhaps I am being harsh. In truth, it was a cool idea.

To recap! Neo managed to stop those squiddies because they were STILL in the Matrix! Neat! But what would this mean? Well, according to the theory, the Matrix exerted control over the free humans by ensuring that once they broke free from the first Matrix, they were still contained in a second. Some went so far as to say that there were up to seven or more layers of the Matrix, like it was based on some variation of the Superstring Theory or something! Also neat, and years before Inception! One problem… makes no sense! If there were multiple layers of the Matrix keeping humanity controlled, what the hell was the point of everything we’ve been told up until this now. The red pills are controlled by allowing them to form a colony, then periodically destroying it. The One is controlled by crashing the Matrix in time with Zion’s destruction and making him reboot it so that humanity will continue to live.

Why do all that if they’re all still in the Matrix??? If they’re just part of a delusion no matter what, let them have their victory! But even more to the point, if the red pills – i.e. that one percent that was always aware that they were living inside a program – couldn’t bring themselves to accept the program, what were the odds they would accept the program within the program (or any other layer of it for that matter)? It was a cool idea, but in short, it negates EVERYTHING the movie was based on up until this point. But asking the fan community for perfect consistency is even worse than asking it from a writer/director, or worse, two of them!

My Idea!: Lastly, let me get to what I thought was going on. It’s short, so bear with me just a little longer. Basically, I thought Neo stopped those squiddies because his contact with Smith meant that HE was changed too. Smith said his destruction in movie one changed him, and we all saw it in action. So why couldn’t the same be true in reverse? It too seemed hinted at, Neo was always somehow aware of Smith’s presence, as well as the “connection” Smith mentioned. I thought that this would be the means through which Zion would be saved and the war would be won in movie three. Neo would be given insight into the machine’s minds, how they functioned. He would be able to stop them in the real world just like he did in the Matrix. I admit, it was thin, but as far as the rest was concerned – what did this mean, what did that mean? – my answer was, who the hell cares? We’ll find out in movie three. As for what’s happening, the only people who knew that were the Wachoswki’s, and of course the actors and set people.

But of course, that wasn’t going to stop us armchair critics from speculating. And here I am still talking about it now, even though the movie came and went! But what the hell, it was fun while it lasted! And considering how we all ended up disappointed by the real ending, I’m thinking maybe some armchair critics could have done a better job of writing the ending! Speaking of which, stay tuned for the final installment, The Matrix: Revulsions!