ITV Liar Series Review: …And Justice for All.

Tomorrow night will see the conclusion of ITV’s six part rape drama, Liar. Since this blog will be looking at the series and specifically what it has to say about rape, if this is a sensitive subject or a trigger for you then you may want to skip this particular post. I have no intentions of upsetting or offending anyone but this is a series about rape victims and how they are portrayed within society and it is difficult to discuss the show without also addressing the show’s message, so please be prepared for discussion of rape culture ahead.

For those curious but too busy to watch, Liar concerns Laura, a high school teacher who goes on a date with doctor and parent, Andrew. Andrew seems like the perfect man; he’s kind, funny and intelligent and the date goes swimmingly. At the end of the date, Andrew’s phone dies and Laura allows him to come up to the flat in order to call for a taxi. A couple of glasses of wine later and Andrew and Laura end up spending the night together…except Laura wakes up feeling sick and unable to remember chunks of the night before. But one thing she does remember is that she said ‘no’.

What follows is Laura’s attempts to convince friends and family and the police that she is telling the truth. But Andrew’s upstanding character proves hard to crack and she becomes increasingly frustrated at the ability of the police and the law to provide the justice she seeks. Instead she turns to her own methods; posting about Andrew online, sneaking into his home to search for clues and even attempting to drug and frame him for a second attack. These actions wind up doing more harm than good, hurting Laura’s case against Andrew when no evidence turns up to incriminate him.

Joanna Froggart plays Laura Nelson, a teacher and rape victim in ITV's Monday night drama, Liar.

Season 2 will be Laura hunting down and tying up other rapists.

Worse yet, Laura’s own past makes the case against Andrew seem like the actions of, at best, a mentally ill woman, or at worst, an attention-seeking harlot. Truth of course is more complicated, but the mere fact that Laura had previously dropped a case of inappropriate sexual behaviour against a former headmaster is enough to have the case against Andrew thrown out completely. Laura continues her own investigation though, uncovering other women Andrew has raped though they are unwilling to speak out. With no evidence and no witnesses, Laura struggles to find a way to catch Andrew, while at the same time he files a lawsuit against her, claiming defamation of character.

This is all a case of dramatic irony, as we the audience are privy to the knowledge that Andrew did indeed drug Laura and that she is telling the truth. And we also witness him rape one of the detectives working his case. And it’s around here that I felt the show began to slip into the absurd. I don’t have a problem with Andrew being a rapist. In fact, I said to my wife after the first episode that he had to have committed the crime, otherwise the show would be painting Laura as a liar, which would only validate the opinion some people have that rape victims in some way misunderstood the situation or wanted it at the time and then came to regret it later. The show couldn’t support that viewpoint, so Andrew had to be a rapist.

My problem is mainly how Andrew’s character changes once the show reveals that he is a rapist. I don’t mean that Andrew is too nice in the beginning to be a rapist and that they should have painted him as an asshole from the start. Nice guys can harbour dark, hidden secrets. I mean how he suddenly becomes a lot more brazen. When he rapes Laura, there’s a lot of distraction and deception. They have a whole date and he acts the perfect gentleman and then he tricks her into allowing him to come up to her flat where he drugs her. There’s a lot of planning to make it seem like a good date and that she choose for him to come up to her home.

Conversely, the detective comes around to his house to tell him that the case has been dropped and he invites her in for a drink. Now we the audience know what that implies and the detective herself is understandably wary. But it also doesn’t seem to fit his pattern. Andrew’s methods are subtle and leave an opening for doubt, but how did he plan to swing this one? Raping the detective in his own, a member of the police force that was investigating him, is really on the nose and shows zero forethought.

For one, DI Vanessa Harmon is a lesbian, and her detective partner would be able to attest to her commitment to her spouse with whom she was having a child, and her unwillingness to likely sleep with a former suspect. And on that point, the rape of a member of the police force would cause his case to likely be reopened because two allegations within a short space of time would throw up serious red flags, especially, sorry to say, because one of those victims was a police officer herself. Her allegation would have a lot more weight behind it. Inviting her into his home is just really stupid and on the nose, especially for a rapist who had been shown to be more devious and smart than this already.

Ioan Gruffudd portrays Andrew Earlham, nice guy doctor and rapist, in ITV's Monday night drama, Liar.

Comic Book fans will already know Reed Richards to be a bad husband.

Of course, some of that does happen anyway, because Vanessa is raped later when Andrew sneaks into her house and drugs her juice. However, since there is no indication that Andrew was at her house it’s harder to tie him to rape at all. This seems much more like Andrew’s usual M.O. but it’s weird that it’s plan B. It’s also concerning what advice the show seems to be giving to rape victims. The events of the series suggest that law won’t help rape victims, unless they’re a police officer or a member of the law themselves. So the best course of action is to act outside the law.

This sort of vigilantism is dangerous and so far it hasn’t paid off for Laura but she’s been shown to be more satisfied with her own results than that of the law. While I agree that the law needs to do more to for rape victims and that public perception needs to change in regards to how we attribute blame, I would be cautious about leading women into taking justice into their own hands. Laura’s plan to frame Andrew almost works, had she just tied his ropes a little better, but it could also have went fatally wrong for her had the detective not shown up. The revenge fantasy may make for some exciting viewing but in real life we need to work on bettering the law surrounding this issue, not spurring women on to violence.

As I said, it was a difficult subject this week. If you stuck with me, thank you for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts and views on the matter, and you can share them either by commenting below or though social media links to the right. Also to the right is the follow button to keep up with new blog posts, or you can hit up the archive to read previous posts. And if at the end of that you’re still found wanting, you can read my own fiction novel, Carrion Youth, over at swoonreads.com.

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Trust Issues: The Gifted Review

Marvel’s Inhumans has been on my list to review for a while now but honestly cannot bring myself to sit through the first episode. Everything I’ve seen from this series has looked terrible, from the effects and production to acting and premise. Best case scenario Iwan Rheon is amazing and makes the show worth watching but I highly doubt even stellar performances from the actors can save this show.

I think in part I’ve been put off by the fickle development of Marvel’s Inhumans. Initially it was intended to be a phase three film in the MCU, then that was scrapped and after a while in limbo there was talk of a television show. Instead of a tv show proper, the Inhumans group was integrated into Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Since Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had improved since its initial season and the Inhumans story seemed to help connect the show to the wider MCU , there seemed to be a renewed interest of Inhumans at Marvel. But what they’ve put together just looks so cheap and I can’t help but feel that if there had been a more focused and dedicated development I’d be more interested. If anyone has watched the series and thinks it’s better than it looks, let me know and maybe I can be convinced to give it a chance.

Instead I have watched The Gifted, another superhero television drama that premiered this September. The Gifted isn’t part of the MCU because it concerns the X-Men expanded universe which is owned by Fox rather than Marvel Entertainment. It also doesn’t concern the X-Men team itself, being set some interterminal time after the X-Men have all but disappeared. The government are actively tracking and arresting mutants. One member of the government involved in prosecuting said mutants is Stephen Moyer’s character, Reed Strucker.

The Strucker family get caught meeting with the mutant network in Fox's superhero tv drama, The Gifted.

What do you mean Wolverine isn’t coming?

One night, at a high school dance, during an instance of bulling, Reed’s son, Andy, played by Percy Hydes, lashes out and causes earth tremors and other destruction. The school hall begins to collapse and Andy only makes it out thanks to the mutant powers of his sister, Lauren, played by Natalie Alyn Lind. In order to protect his family from the government he works for, Reed makes contact with an underground mutant community that helps sneak mutants across the border to sanctuary, similar to the real life underground railroad that helped slaves in the 1800s.

My main concern going into The Gifted was that the focus would be on the parents and not the children, especially as Stephen Moyer is listed as a lead character. And it turns out to be a justified concern, although not perhaps as bad as it could have been. Reed Strucker is the one who interacts with mutants and makes deals with them, and the show is obviously playing on the conflict of this government guy now having to work against the laws he once upheld. But it’s a predictable conflict and there are much more interesting plots at play instead.

For instance, I think it would have been more interesting to delve into the family dynamic. We do see a couple of scenes of Lauren and Andy bonding over their mutant abilities, but it is also revealed that Lauren has known about her powers for three years and has kept secret about them because of her father and his work. This certainly suggests a level of distrust but yet after the incident she goes straight home and just gives herself up to her parents. The potentially more interesting conflict here would have been for the kids to seek out the underground on their own because of the distrust of their parents and then for their father to have to hunt them down like he normally would but with the intention of saving them.

Even the underground community itself and its inner workings are more interesting than the mundane struggle of the father being caught between duty to family and of that to country. Even a series focusing on an underground group smuggling mutant refugees over the border would be entertaining in and of itself. Instead, the show feels the needs to invest the underground group in helping the kids even more by having one of their own captured and needing Reed’s help to free her.

Andy Strucker, played by Percy Hyde snaps and unleashes his latent mutant powers in the premiere of Fox's superhero TV drama, The Gifted.

Andy Strucker goes full-Carrie

This is not to say that The Gifted is over complicating itself. The point is only that by focusing on the father the show has also chosen to focus on what is arguably the least interesting plot point. It also says something about the stakes of the series. It implies that a powerful, high-tech government seeking to erase an entire species or race isn’t serious enough. It suggests that audiences will need a personal reason to be able to relate to the danger that the characters face when really the idea of a government singling out a particular group of peoples for removal is more relatable now than it ever has been in recent times.

In truth, X-Men greatest strength has always been the social and political themes and if The Gifted can tap into even a fraction of those it will be able to capture the imaginations of its viewers, no problem. As it is, it’s a decent show that’s got some good actors attached and some real storyline potential.

But what were your thoughts on The Gifted? Like, dislike, love or hate? Feel free to let me know. You can contact me via the comments below or through any of the various social media profiles to the right. You can also keep up to date with new editorials and reviews by hitting the follow button or check out old posts in the archives. And finally, if you’d rather read some fiction, you can my second novel is available over on Swoonreads.com.

Pax Penguina: Fear and Loathing in Gotham

Fox’s pre-Batman crime drama Gotham has never exactly been stellar television. Occasionally, it has been outright bad but on the whole it is entertaining but it occupies a rather peculiar spot in regards to superhero media. On paper, the idea of Jim Gordon as a beat cop stamping out crime without Batman sounds dark and serious, but in execution the series seems completely self-aware of how bizarre the source content can be. On the sliding scale of Adam West to Nolanverse, Gotham leans slightly towards the campier, over the top antics of the earlier incarnations, fitting far more snugly with Batman Returns and Batman Forever than it does with anything DC is currently doing with Batman.

This week Gotham returned for a fourth season. Following last season’s finale, wherein Ra’s al Ghul (played by Alexander Siddig) brainwashes Bruce Wayne and released a weaponised virus into the streets of Gotham and descending the city into chaos. Although the virus has since been neutralised, Pax Penguina reveals that crime has been further brought into control by Penguin issuing licences to criminals. The idea of licenced crime, especially at the hands of Penguin doesn’t sit well with Benjamin McKenzie’s Jim Gordon, who sees it as destroying the relevancy of the Gotham City Police Department.

There are also some criminals who don’t like having to pay respect to Penguin in order to do their business, and one such group of people acquire the services of Jonathan Crane who they bully into creating fear gas. Crane does so, but quickly descends into his own personal madness, eventually becoming Scarecrow outright, setting up what is likely to be the main villain, at least for the first half of this season. This is a good move by the show; Scarecrow’s particular brand of psychological warfare will be a refreshing change after the political and social antagonists like Theo Galavan, Mayor Cobblepot and the Court of Owls. Some of the special effects are a bit laughable, but hey it’s a network TV show, you can’t expect dragons and direwolves.

Oswald Cobblepot, also known as Penguin, played by Robin Lord Taylor, showcases his iced Riddler centerpiece in Pax Penguina, the season 4 premiere of Fox's superhero crime drama, Gotham.

Ed. Still on ice.

Another new plot for the fourth season is Bruce Wayne wearing a mask and fighting crime. The mask is lacking pointy ears at the minute, but the young vigilante has taken to the streets to prepare himself for Ra’s Al Ghul’s eventual return. So far it has only been some light detective work and knocking out a few muggers, but right at the end of the episode Bruce lands himself in a more dangerous situation and potentially even risks revealing his identity.

I’m in two minds about the portrayal and progression of Bruce Wayne in Gotham. On the one hand, this feels a bit cheap. Like they don’t want to give us Batman just yet, but they’re also running out of ways to keep Bruce away from crime fighting. So they’re compromising and just having him fighting crime but not as Batman. It’s rather reminiscent of Smallville where Clark Kent started wearing a different outfit and fighting crime but he wasn’t Superman because he wasn’t wearing the costume and he couldn’t fly yet. He was superman in every part but name, and Bruce Wayne is now edging closer to being Batman but he likely won’t actually call himself that just yet.

My problem with this is that it undermines the basic premise of the show, which is Jim Gordon fighting crime in a pre-Batman Gotham. If Batman is introduced to the show, in any form, the show moves from being about Gordon’s war against crime and his desire to clear out corruption from the GCPD and other government organisations, and switches to Batman cleaning up Gotham City, as we watch from Gordon’s perspective. Batman has been done before, in many incarnations, in film, in television, in animation, but there are far less depictions of Gordon and how he brought order to the GCPD and became Commissioner. That’s a very interesting premise with a lot of potential by itself, and I do worry that introducing a Batman like figure is going to make Jim Gordon look rather ineffectual, only being capable of doing anything because of the masked vigilante cleaning things up first.

Alfred, played by Sean Pertwee, interrupts a conversation between David Mazouz's Bruce Wayne and Carmen Bicondova's Selena Kyle in Pa Penguina, the season 4 premiere of Fox's superhero crime drama, Gotham.

And thus began a life long obsession with ledges.

Yet, it is understandable because Bruno Heller also has to deal with the young actors David Mazouz and Camren Bicondova aging and they can’t slowburn the development of Batman too much because any season could really be their last. Though critical reception has been continually positive, ratings are dipping and all it would take is a strong slew of new shows to force Gotham onto the chopping block. So, to keep the series compelling and relevant, Heller has been forced really to begin introducing Batman. I’m simply apprehensive. It is such a delicate balance to strike between Bruce Wayne becoming Batman while still allowing Gordon’s character to appear capable and effectual.

As season premiere’s go though, Pax Penguina was enjoyable and did enough to set the ground for future episodes. Gordon and Harvey Bullock, played here by Donal Logue, continue to delight with their banter, with the two characters playing off each other well. David Mazouz continues to stand out as well, displaying why he was well cast. Two notable moments are his scenes with Penguin and the roof top scene with Selena Kyle. Both scenes are filled with nuance, especially the latter where Selena is teasing Bruce and he just rather steely, tells her she looks good in her dress. In earlier seasons, Bruce might have reached out for her, but it’s clear they’ve developed a level of trust and maturity in their relationship. Gotham often struggles tonally but where it excels is in these little character moments.

Gotham isn’t likely to topple Breaking Bad or The Wire in terms of excellent quality television any time soon but I still find it a lot of fun to watch. If you agree or if you have an argument for why Gotham is the best thing going today, I’d like to hear it. Or if you’ve got any other flawed but fun shows you watch, shoot me a comment or message and let me hear ‘em. As always you can keep up to date with these posts by hitting the follow button or through any of my social media pages. Or if fiction is more your thing, check out my very own original novel, Carrion Youth, over on swoonreads.com.

Pack Mentality: Fixing Winterfell

If there is part of Game of Thrones Season 7 that is universally hated, it’s the Winterfell story. Sansa fans hate it, Arya fans hate it and Littlefinger fans hate it. The narrative does nothing for the characters and doesn’t progress the story in Winterfell in any meaningful way. It’s basically an entire area of the map treading water while it waits for The North to be relevant in the escalating wars with Cersei and The Night King.

One thing I was taught when I studied creative writing was not to just say that something is bad. It’s not constructive, and it’s not constructive to simply say that the Winterfell story is stupid or that Sansa and Arya are acting out of character. Especially if you’re a writer or an artist yourself, because just dismissing something means you aren’t able to learn anything from it. So with that in mind, rather than simply saying that Benioff and Weiss don’t know what they’re doing, let’s look at what they were trying to do and how it might have been done better.

So why didn’t it work? One of the key issues is perspective. It seems as if Benoiff and Weiss were attempting to deceive the audience with a narrative sleight of hand. First, they set up Sansa and Arya arguing and suggest that one might kill the other, then at the last minute they flipped that on its head and revealed that they were actually both plotting against Littlefinger. But in order to pull that surprise off they had to have Arya and Sansa act in ways that didn’t sit logically with how they previously behaved. It was unbelievable that Sansa would want to hurt one of the few members of her family left, when she’d previously been very happy to be reunited with Jon, a half-brother that she regarded coldly in her youth. It was uncharacteristic of Arya to have ever wondered what it would have been like to wear dresses and be a lady of a castle.

Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams as the Stark sisters, Sansa and Arya, standing on the Winterfell battlements following their trial of Littlefinger for treason.

Surely there’s somewhere warmer to do all this reflecting.

This is a problem with the way that the story is shown to us. The audience only see Sansa and Arya arguing because Benoiff and Weiss didn’t want to show them discussing how to trick Littlefinger or talking to Bran about what he knows. To show that would spoil the reveal but actually they spoiled the reveal when the characters had to act outside of their normal behaviour to labour the tension between Arya and Sansa. Not only did it backfire because Sansa and Arya act out of character but it also raises serious questions about how Littlefinger didn’t also see the reveal coming given that he too should have been able to tell that Sansa was turning against her sister too quickly and that Arya has never desired what Sansa had.

So how should the Winterfell story have been written? The entire Winterfell story stems from the fact that there was really nothing more for Littlefinger to do. The story was being streamlined to fit within the shorter final seasons, and in that story there wasn’t really enough time to also deal with Littlefinger attempting to plot his own way to power. And while that’s understandable from a production and development standpoint, storywise it seems odd that Littlefinger has schemed and murdered his way to become acting Lord of the Vale just to use that authority to reseat the Starks. It doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t fit his power-hungry character.

Littlefinger is a character who has been constantly playing both sides against each other and never revealing his true allegiance. There are theories that he instigated the War of the Five Kings so that he use the ensuing chaos to gain more power in the Seven Kingdoms. It’s unbelievable that he would side with Sansa and then just remain in the North. It would be much more like Littlefinger to have aided Sansa while also keeping in contact with Cersei, telling both of them half truths and lies. Maybe this could be what led to him being tried for treason or could have just triggered Sansa’s suspicions. Either way, it would make Littlefinger into the much proactive character that he has been previously.

Petyr Baelish, portrayed by Aiden Gillen, better known as Littlefinger is shocked to find himself on trial and at ther mercy of the Stark siblings.

One battle he forgot to fight in his mind.

With Arya and Sansa, much of the problems with the Winterfell plot could be fixed by simply letting the audience in on the scheme. Allow the audience to see Arya and Sansa secretly discussing how to trick Littlefinger and asking Bran for information while publicly arguing and being cold with each other. The tension then moves from whether Sansa and Arya are going to attack each other, which no one wanted nor believed would happen and was never intended to have any pay off, and switches to a scenario where the audience is anticipating whether Littlefinger will be duped or not. It moves the perspective so that the audience are on the side of Sansa and Arya, where they should always have been.

With a few simple changes, the Winterfell story could have been so much more compelling and avoided making characters act abnormally. Narratively it would still have been relatively detached from the real of the events happening in the Seven Kingdoms but perhaps this could also have been explained by Littlefinger only telling Sansa what would most benefit him. But Game of Thrones has always had simultaneous plots that unaffected by each other so it’s not necessarily a problem. So, the lesson here is perspective. Don’t force a certain point of view on a story to force a reveal. It doesn’t work and your audience will see through it right away.

Thanks for reading. Got any ideas how the Winterfell story could have been improved? Get in touch. Or if you’d like to read my thoughts on Game of Thrones season 7 episodes, you can find the individual episode reviews in the archives. To keep up to date with new reviews and editorials, hit the follow button here or on social media. And if you’d like to read the fruits of my creative writing studies, you can find my second novel, Carrion Youth, over on Swoonreads.

Defenders Review: A phase short of great.

Welcome back. This week I’m going to take a break from Game of Thrones to talk about Marvel’s The Defenders. I do have a few Game of Thrones articles planned for the future that you will likely see before Christmas but it’s going to be a long night between now and Season 8 so I will have to talk about something else at some point and now seems like the perfect opportunity to talk about Marvel’s big next Netflix team up series.

In case you haven’t been following, The Defenders is a serial version of The Avengers, the big superhero team up set in the MCU. The Defenders is set in the MCU as well and sets superheroes center stage as well, but instead individual movies it’s heroes got individual shows. Like the cinematic version, these shows ranged from great (Jessica Jones, Daredevil season 2) to ‘has potential’ (Luke Cage, Daredevil season 1) to the bad (Iron Fist). All of these individual shows were building, or so we were told, to The Defenders where these four heroes would come together to form a collective unit to defend New York.

What we got though didn’t feel nearly as cohesive as it needed to be. For instance, Rosario Dawson is present in every individual show as Clare Temple, acting like Nick Fury or Agent Clouson. Several times during their series’ Clare suggests that she knows the other heroes and could bring them in to help but the heroes always decline because it’s something they need to do alone (despite already usually having help). So it stood to reason that the easiest and most logical way of uniting these heroes would be to have Clare do some introductions.

Mike Colter, Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter and Finn Jones reprise their roles as Luke Cage, Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist in Marvel's miniseries team-up, The Defenders.

Defenders clumsily assemble.

Not so in the show. Instead, Luke Cage and Iron Fist meet by coincidentally following two separate leads to a single location and duke it out for a bit. On the other hand, Foggy, now working for Hogarth from Jessica Jones, passes some cases on to Matt Murdoch, one of which happens to be Jessica Jones who is arrested after a death in her apartment. It’s an awfully convoluted way of bringing all of these characters together and it winds up feeling like they’re stumbling around and bumping into each other rather than actually needing each other.

Part of the problem is that only two out of the four shows seemed to get anything up for The Defenders. Daredevil introduced the Hand, Madame Gao, Nobo and the Black Sky, characters and organisations that Iron Fist then developed, whereas Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are doing their own thing. The Defenders tries to tie Luke Cage’s character in by having one of the five leaders of the Hand (known as fingers) be involved in the criminal operations of Harlem, but it feels tacked on because it was never mentioned in Cage’s own series and White Hat is never developed enough in The Defenders for it to have any real significance.

Annoyingly, it seems like it would have been simple to tie the Hand into the character’s stories. Replacing Diamondback, who was already less interesting than Cottonmouth, or simply making it clear that Diamondback answered to White Hat would have integrated Luke Cage into the story seamlessly and the series would already have invested some time in making the leaders of the Hand a credible threat. This is especially irritating with Murakami, who is revealed to have been pulling the strings behind Nobo but has none of the character history and the audience is simply informed that he’s an incredible hunter. With Nobo, we’d already seen his brutality and skill. It would have made much more sense for Nobo to simply be one of the five leaders, which would have added another level of complexity and depth to the conflict with the Hand. My only explanation for this is that someone has plans for Nobo in Daredevil season 3 and didn’t want him dying (again) in The Defenders.

Elodie Yung returns as Daredevil's lover and foe, Elektra Natchios, in the Netflix superhero mini-series, The Defenders.

Yet another red woman who defies death.

On the whole The Defenders simply just feels like a third season of Daredevil. Sure, Iron Fist has his purpose of defeating the Hand, and supporting characters from every series such as Misty Knight, Collen Wing and Trish Walker make appearances, but much of the central conflict is exclusive to Matt Murdoch. He’s the one having an identity crisis about whether to be who he wants to be, he’s the one who mistrusts Stick, he’s the one who has history with Elektra and the ending is there to set up his third season. This isn’t an issue that necessarily bothers me because I loved the Daredevil series but this wasn’t supposed to be Daredevil and friends, it’s meant to be The Defenders. In The Avengers, the titular team all had reasons to be invested in Loki attacking Earth with the Tesseract, it wasn’t just a Captain America or Thor story with others slotted in. All of the heroes needed to be invested in the narrative ofThe Defenders and sadly that just wasn’t the case.

It sounds like I hated The Defenders but on the contrary, I enjoyed the series as a whole, but it does have some glaring issues that pulls it down from great to ‘had potential’. Characters are all on point though, with the actors doing a phenomenal job of bringing the same uniqueness of their characters from their own series to this team up. Matt Murdoch and Jessica Jones especially are easily the most fun pairing when the foursome breaks up into doubles. But for all it got right, there was too much attention to aesthetic and not enough focus on the story.

That’s my verdict, but what’s yours? You can share your thoughts in the comments below or through social media. I’m on most of them. If you want to read my reviews of Game of Thrones, check out the archive, or to keep up with upcoming content, hit the follow button on the right. Or check out my novel, Carrion Youth, on Swoonreads.

Game of Thrones Season 7 finale ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’ notes and looking ahead to season 8

We’re now a week removed from the Game of Thrones season 7 finale and upon watching and reflecting over the past few days I’ve settled on the opinion that it was a fairly decent finale and a fine episode. There are a few places where I think some creative misjudgements were made and I’ll get into those in a bit but on the whole I found the finale enjoyable. The season as a whole has been pretty good bar perhaps one glaring issue, but it was certainly an improvement upon season 6, even with the sped up timeline and shorter episode count. That said, a couple extra episodes would really have helped flesh out some of the character stories, namely Jon and Daenerys, but also Messandei and Greyworm, but again I’ll get into that in a moment.

Bran Stark watches the vision of his aunt Lyanna to Rhaegar Targaryen through a vision in the Game of Thrones season 7 finale, The Dragon and The Wolf.

He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake.

  • It’s a little disappointing that Cersei’s scheme was basically to agree to the armistice with her fingers crossed behind her back. I mean it’s a very Cersei thing to do, to just lie, and it’s not unlike Tywin sitting out Robert’s Rebellion until the end but I really expected something a bit more dramatic for the finale. You’ll notice and Euron left after the wight was revealed and before Jon’s ultimatum or Tyrion’s plea. So, it never mattered what either one said, Cersei never planned to help and always intended for Euron to transport the Golden Company to Westeros.
  • Jaime also made some good points about Cersei having to face whoever survives. Of course, she’s intending to fight a crippled, weakened enemy, but it was all the more reason why I expected her to attempt something at King’s Landing. As it stands, Cersei only really has the Lannister armies and the Golden Company. A decisive blow here would have allowed her to consolidate more power from the other kingdoms which the Targaryen forces have currently cut her off from. Then she could have just left the North and Daenerys remnant forces to battle the White Walkers and then taken out whoever was left with her greater force. On the whole it feels like she’s taking this whole thing a little lightly, though admittedly that too is a very Cersei thing to do.
  • Much like the last couple of episodes, I did enjoy a lot of the little character moments such as Tyrion, Bronn and Pod catching up, Tyrion appealing to Cersei and Sandor Clegane and Brienne bonding over Arya. These scenes have been some of the funniest or heart-warming all season long and it’s a nice juxtaposition to the first few seasons where anytime two characters met they were duelling wits or scheming against another. Now there’s a real, life or death threat and pretty much everyone agrees that they need to get along in order to survive.
  • Jon not lying and doing the honourable thing is such a Jon thing to do. I liked that he brought up Ned’s death because it’s an argument that a lot of people make, but it also underlines how honest and trustworthy Jon is. He’s correct that his word means nothing if he says one thing to one person and denies it in the next breath. Also note that Cersei had already planned not to march North regardless. It didn’t matter if Jon accepted the terms or not regarding Cersei’s allegiance because it was never really on the table to begin with.
  • The Theon/Jon exchange was strange. I get that it was basically to motivate Theon to get off his ass and stop being so cowardly but it’s been week since Yara went missing. These scene feels like it needed to happen a lot earlier in the season. And the fight club-esque brawl with the boat man was equally embarrassing because the coup de grâce is low blow that Theon no-sells because he has no balls. Har har. And again, why is this happening now? Yara was captured ages ago in the show and these men have no respect for Theon or allegiance to Daenerys. They’d have sailed for the Summer Isles weeks ago.
  • The Winterfell storyline finally reached its close with the reveal that Arya and Sansa were plotting together to take down Littlefinger. The trial scene was nice, with Littlefinger becoming increasingly more desperate as his excuses and manipulations proved fruitless, but the whole thing was ruined by the lame, nonsensical build up. What should have been great was merely good because rather than revelling in Petyr getting his retribution, we were all too relieved that it was finally over.
  • Also Sansa’s ‘this is what Jon does’ line made me laugh. Like Jon as an appointed ruler has to have the right and ability to make unilateral decisions. He can’t be expected to constantly consult Sansa or every other Northerner about events that affect his kingdom. One because they appointed him so they should trust in his decision making and judgement, two because he’s miles away and waiting on ravens would delay agreements, especially in situations like King’s Landing where he has to make the decision there and then and finally, three, because no one is going to take him seriously as a ruler if he has to go ask permission. Literally none of his decisions have been wrong so far; he’s got dragon glass and he’s convinced practically everyone that the white walker threat is real. Hopefully this was just more of the shoddy character writing they were using to trick viewers during the Littlefinger plot because otherwise this seems very petulant of Sansa.
  • The big moment of the episode though had to be the boat sex between Daenerys and Jon, a literal climax of their romance from this season. Though it was a fine scene as far as these go, I did find it a little abrupt for them to go from Jon knocking on the door to rolling naked on the bed. I’d have liked a scene in between with Jon and Dany talking and admitting to their feelings, possibly trying to talk the other out of it before just giving in and deciding to worry about regretting it later. It would have added another dimension to the sex as a whole and given the audience some clarity regarding their feelings.
  • I do question the decision to intersplice the sex with Bran and Sam discussing Jon’s lineage and Rhaegar’s marriage to Lyanna. That was not the time to assert Jon’s right to the Iron Throne or his relation to Daenerys. It dampened the impact of the sex, effectively hobbling a romance that Benioff and Weiss had been building up throughout the season. Separating it to have Sam and Bran’s conversation along with the vision after the sex scene would have had the same effect without hurting the romance prior.
  • The wall coming down with Beric and Tormund stranded at the top was a spectacular way to finish the season. The army of the dead is now officially in the North just as plans are being made to bring all of the Northern and Targaryen forces there. And with Beric and Tormund having to walk along the wall to the next castle the Night King and Viserion will have a head start before anyone can be notified. The visuals were great and it set the stage for next season.
Arya Stark executes Littlefinger on the orders of Sansa Stark for crimes of treason and murder in the Game of Thrones season 7 finale, The Dragon and The Wolf.

He who passes the sentence should swing the sword.

As I said above, the season was enjoyable, although looking back it is clear that the only reason its seven episodes long is because Benioff and Weiss are eager to move on to a new project. That’s understandable but I’m disappointed that we’re only getting by with good when it could have been great. Moving Theon’s story to earlier in the season and actually having a rescue attempt for Yara could easily have been done. A few extra episodes would also have allowed them to show Jon and Dany getting to know each other on a personal level rather than only showing the important political or military moments and trying to squeeze romantic tension out of gazes and hand holding. The whole Messandei/Greyworm romance is also never revisited past episode four. Instead much of the season felt as though the show was sprinting towards the finish line and I’d quite like to enjoy it while it lasts.

Looking ahead to Season 8, what can we expect? I’ve seen a lot of commenters who think that Daenerys and Jon are doomed because it would be too much of a fairy tale ending. There’s an article in Rolling Stone magazine from 2014 where George R R Martin talks about Aragon becoming King at the end of Lord of the Rings and the question of how Aragon would rule inspired Martin to write Game of Thrones. That article is usually taken as evidence that Martin doesn’t like the kind of ending where the expected hero gets the girl and takes the throne but that interpretation is kind of missing the point. It’s not that Martin dislikes Aragon because he’s the hero or that he’s too good, but that we have no idea what kind of ruler he would be. There’s no reason for anyone to support him outside of his birth right because no one knows his policies or opinions on political and economic matters.

On the other hand, Martin has gone out of his way to show what kind of rulers Jon and Daenerys are; kind and considerate, capable of making hard decisions and trusting their own judgement, of being fair to the poor, being responsible and making sure the needs of their subjects are met. Jon was trained for command by Jeor and ran the Night’s Watch as Lord Commander, keeping it stocked and manned. Daenerys too explicitly remains in Mereen rather than sailing for Westeros so that she can learn to rule effectively. We have every reason to believe that people in Westeros can trust Jon and Daenerys to be just and capable rulers.

Besides, the ending is likely to take the fairy tale ending and turn it on its head, in true Game of Thrones fashion. For one, despite having the stronger claim Jon doesn’t care about the Iron Throne, and even if some kind of parliamentary democracy is put into place it is likely to be a constitutional monarchy with someone as head of state. By the end I can see Daenerys as Queen with Jon as her King consort, an inversion of the typical fairy tale ending where the prince takes the throne and marries the princess. And besides, how many fairy tales do you know that portray an aunt and a nephew marrying as a happy ending?

Jon Snow and Daenerys attend the summit in King's Landing to discuss the army of the dead in the Game of Thrones season 7 finale, The Dragon and the Wolf.

“It’s fine, my ancestor Jonnel the one -eyed Stark married his niece too”

In terms of the narrative and plot, it now seems likely that the Night King will be dealt with first, followed by Cersei, flipping the expected order. On that schedule I imagine that the army of the dead will be beaten by episode three, maybe episode four by the latest in a battle that will have largely depleted the combined Northern and Targaryen forces and possibly even cost another dragon. It also seems like they’re setting up a victory where by someone, most probably Jon, will defeat the Night King and the rest of the army will just collapse. It’s a bit of a cop out but it’s already been set up in ‘Beyond the Wall’ and it will create a nice visual and save time.

With a reduced army and only one dragon left to play Cersei will be on much more equal footing. But she also has no commanders left, except Euron who is erratic and aggressive and whoever commands the Golden Company, whereas Daenerys side will have some of the best commanders we’ve seen over the series, such as Jaime, Greyworm and Jorah, if he survives. And Cersei doesn’t seem like the kind of person to hedge all her bets on one battle, so perhaps she’ll attempt something a bit more underhanded beforehand. I do think that the battle will mainly be a distraction though while Jaime, The Hound and a few others (possibly Briennne or even Arya) sneak into King’s Landing. Jaime will confront Cersei and probably kill her while The Hound has his showdown finally with his brother.

All of this might happen in the last episode or even in the penultimate episode, which would leave the finale to wrap up some loose ends, but, given the pacing of season 7 and that season 8 has even fewer episodes, I can just as easily imagine a five minute vignette tying everything together. But at the very least it should still be entertaining and we can look forward to a few big action moments.

Those are my predictions for next season. Think they’re bollocks? Let me know in the comments below or on social media. Maybe I’ve missed something; feel free to fire me questions on your preferred platform and I’ll respond asap. Either way, thanks so much for reading, especially if you’ve been following along with the series. If you haven’t, you can go back and read them in the archives. To keep up with what comes next, hit the follow button on the right. And finally, if you’re looking for something to fill the time until season 8, you can check out my novel ‘Carrion Youth’ on Swoonreads. Til next time.

Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 6 ‘Beyond the Wall’ notes and Episode 7 ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’ trailer thoughts

AH it’s finally here. The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale is finally here. It’s been a long road for a season that only had seven episodes. There’s been leaks. We’ve lost some people (though no major fan favourites just yet…) and a dragon. Jaime bested Tyrion in military strategy, Arya acted wildly out of character, Missandei and Greyworm consummated their relationship, Sansa got her first chance to properly rule and immediately decided she was better at it than everyone else, Jon led an expedition beyond the wall, The Hound threw a rock, the Night King threw a spear, Daenarys agreed to fight the army of the dead, Jon bent the knee, Daenarys learned that taking a knife to the heart wasn’t a figure of speech, in a moment of unprecedented tenderness for Game of Thrones Jon and Daenarys just held hands and Cersei may or may not be pregnant. And after all that, Cersei and Daenarys are set to meet for the first time in the dragonpit in King’s Landing. But that’s for the finale, first my thoughts on episode 6.

Kit Harington,Joe Dempsie,Richard Dormer, Paul Kyle, Rory Mc Cann, Iain Glen and Kristofer Hivju as Jon Snow, Gendry, Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr, Sandor 'The Hound' Clegane, Jorah Mormont and Tormund Giantsbane in the seventh episode of Game of Thrones' seventh season, 'Beyond the Wall'.

All my friends are heathens, take it slow…

  • The group that went beyond the Wall allowed for some interesting conversations that we haven’t seen yet, ranging from the humorous exchange between Gendry and the Hound to Beric and Jon discussing religion and their purpose in the Lord of Light’s plans.
  • On the same note, I liked Jorah declining the sword. Jorah is always looking out for Daenarys best interests, so allowing Jon to keep the sword was really a mark of respect and understanding that they’re both on the same side, not simply two characters with opposing interests that have been thrust together. Besides that, it shows that Jorah has no aspirations to claim his family house , not that Lyanna Mormount would likely give it up, which only confirms to me that Jorah is either going to die before the end or end up on the Kingsguard.
  • That ‘pass it on to your children’ remark was one of many mentions of the next generation that came up recently, including Tyrion and Daenarys discussing how a successor might be selected and Daenarys herself mentioning to Jon that the dragons are the only children that she’ll ever have. Seems quite clearly a set up for something.
  • It seems fairly likely that this episode is taking place over a few days and that the group didn’t actually travel terribly far from the Wall itself, which explains Gendry’s ability to run back and send a raven and for Daenarys to fly North.
  • If I did have one criticism, the group emerged from the battle relatively unscathed. With a mission this dangerous the fact that they got away with just losing Thoros and a dragon is out right miraculous. I definitely expected a couple more characters to die in this episode but my guess is that they didn’t want to distract from the loss of Viserion.
  • I liked the parallel between Daenarys talking to Tyrion about heroic men, who do stupid things and die, and Jon, who immediately did the heroic thing by distracting the wights so that everyone else could board Drogon. Her criticism was also very clearly grounded in her not wanting him to die. A lot of people have noted that this romance between the pair has felt very rushed but I’ve liked a lot of these little moments of the characters clearly developing deep affection for each other.
  • Sansa and Arya continue to fight amongst themselves, with Arya demonstrating that she isn’t a threat by handing Sansa the dagger. The whole ‘pack survives’ line has been bandied around since the pre-season trailer, so I’ll be very surprised if Sansa and Arya do end up hurting each other. I’m still convinced that this is a trap for Littlefinger but I do wish they would just pull the trigger on it already so that we can move on.
  • As if the Night King and the White Walkers weren’t enough of a threat, they now have a dragon. Of course, none of the gang saw the Night King raise Viserion. Everyone already reacts to dragons with awe, so imagine how they’ll all react when they see one coming, followed by the army of the dead.
  • I would have liked if Jon flew off on Rhaegal. This season has made a point of showing Jon’s connection with the dragons as an indication of Jon’s Targaryen heritage and him actually flying his own dragon would have been the culmination of those scenes and would have allowed the writers to save Benjen for a later battle with the White Walkers. However, I do understand why the dragons hauled ass out of there when the Night King started killing dragons and it also allowed for a scene where Daenarys saw Jon’s scars.

The finale episode of Season 7 is titled ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’, which most likely refers to Daenarys and Jon. That would suggest that this episode will focus specifically on their relationship, probably with it becoming a bit more overtly romantic after the season long build up. Although if the title does refer to Jon, shouldn’t it be The Dragon and the Direwolf?

Another theory is that the title may refer to Rhaegar and Lyanna, Jon’s parents. If that’s true then this episode could finally reveal, officially, to Jon, that he is a Targaryen. Although, I also wouldn’t be surprised if Jon’s lineage was revealed but not to Jon. As in Sansa and Arya are talking about Jon in front of Bran, maybe Arya even has Robb’s letter of legitimacy from the Freys, and mention Jon’s Stark-ness, and in response Bran mentions that Jon isn’t a Stark, he’s a Targaryen. It’s pure speculation but it’s a scenario I could see Benioff and Weiss doing.

It’s also possible that, along the same Rhaegar/Lyanna line, that we might get to see some of those events, much like how we got to see the Tower of Joy event last season. I think this would be the most interesting interpretation given that most of what we know about Rhaegar and Lyanna is from Robert Baratheon, who is biased to say the least. We know that Rhaegar was motivated by the Prince who was Promised prophesy and that he humiliated his wife by publicly declaring Lyanna to be the Queen of Love and Beauty, but we don’t know much about Lyanna’s feelings. Was she abducted or did she go willingly? Did she share Rhaegar’s affection or was she raped? This episode could reveal a lot of those details.

Or maybe the title literally refers to dragons and wolves. Ghost has been noticeably absent this season, likely due to much of the CGI budget being spent on the dragons and their various battles. Perhaps Jon’s direwolf could play a part in the Sansa/Arya/Littlefinger story. Jon did say he’d kill Littlefinger if he touched Sansa. With Jon at the meeting in King’s Landing, perhaps Ghost could fill in and rip out Littlefinger’s throat.

Aiden Gillen looks smug as Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish in the Game of Thrones season 7 finale, The Dragon and the Wolf.

I love it when my 59 concurrent plans come together.

The finale trailer itself focuses on build up to the aforementioned meeting in King’s Landing. The Unsullied and the Dothraki are posted outside King’s Landing, prepared to sack the city in the event that Cersei initiates an attack against their Queen. On the other side, Euron’s Greyjoy fleet makes a show of force as Tyrion and Theon arrive by sea. There’s a brief scene of Sansa on the ramparts of Winterfell, and a few scenes of Jaime and Bronn looking out over the Targaryen forces. Then everyone arrives, with shots of the main characters walking into the dragon pit. Not shown is Daenarys and her dragons, so it’s likely that she won’t be walking in but rather making a more dramatic entrance.

Common consensus is that Cersei will try something here, a la the Red Wedding or the destruction of the Sept of Baelor, and I agree. Cersei attempting to break guest right and using wildfire to kill her enemies is likely, and it’s obvious that she’s trying to catch as many flies as she can in this trap given how she invited Sansa a few episodes ago. Tywin, however, was smart enough not to directly involve himself in the Red Wedding, and I think putting herself in the same arena as Daenarys and Jon will be her downfall. Aside from the fact that Jaime will have reservations about this plan, I expect it to backfire spectacularly. Even if she somehow doesn’t die here by episode’s end Daenarys and her allies will hold King’s Landing.

Thanks for reading my thoughts on ‘Beyond the Wall’ and my theories on what we can expect in the finale. If you liked his article, click the follow button to the right to keep up to date with new articles like this one or check out the archive. If you have any thoughts on what I’ve shared I’d love to read your comments below or send me a message on social media. Finally, you can read my novel ‘Carrion Youth’ over at Swoonreads.

Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 5 ‘Eastwatch’ notes and Episode 6 ‘Beyond the Wall’ trailer thoughts

Welcome to another week where I give my thoughts about the most recent episode of Game of Thrones and look ahead at tonight’s episode and what I reasonably expect to happen. Before I get into that though, this week also saw yet another leak. This time it was apparently unintentional as HBO Spain aired the entire episode and released it digitally. It was quickly taken down but it was up long enough for it to be copied and distributed on the internet. This comes after multiple script leaks before the season began and the leak of episode 4, for which four people have already been arrested. HBO are bound to be furious and frustrated at this point, and are likely making extra assurances to prevent the finale, or the next season, from being leaked. Hopefully though if you haven’t wanted to be spoiled that you’ve avoided any of the major reveals. Now, regarding Eastwatch:

Joe Dempsie as Gendry Waters, the bastard son of Robert Baratheon, with a war hammer in Game of Thrones season 7 episode 5, Eastwatch.

And my axe…uh…I mean, hammer.

  • Eastwatch was much more comedic in tone, successfully lightening the mood following the brutal battle at the end of ‘The Spoils of War’.
  • Benioff and Weiss still seem to be teasing Daenarys as a mad queen but I still don’t see it. Randall and Dickon didn’t really give her much wiggle room.
  • I’ll admit that I didn’t expect Bronn to pull Jaime out of the water but given the shorter seasons perhaps I should have. If this were any of the longer seasons maybe they’d have let his fate dangle in the wind for a while but there’s really no time for that now.
  • I don’t believe that Cersei is actually pregnant. The timing of the reveal following Jaime’s conversation about how they can’t win and then his meeting with Tyrion seems suspicious. This seems like an intentional ploy by Cersei to keep Jaime on side as she plots a way to deal with Daenarys off the battlefield.
  • The Valonqar prophesy isn’t in the show but the three gold crowns/three gold shrouds is, implying that even if Cersei is pregnant her days are numbered.
  • I enjoyed all of the Davos scenes of him smuggling Tyrion into King’s Landing and bringing them plus Gendry back. The scene with the guards on the beach was especially good and shows why he’s lived to a ‘ripe old age’.
  • I honestly thought that Gendry was going to be brought to Dragonstone to smith the dragonglass. Bringing him back to fight seems a little odd. Hopefully he doesn’t die before he has another meeting with Arya. More on that later.
  • Gendry’s use of the war hammer is a clear reference to Robert. A more subtle homage was his exchange with Jon where he calls Jon short, harkening back to season one where Ned remarks that Robert is too fat for his armour.
  • This entire mission to capture a wright and bring it to Cersei seems like suicide. Ignoring the white walkers for a moment, walking into King’s Landing and expecting Cersei to just let them go is incredibly naïve and of all her advisers Tyrion should know better. That is if they can somehow even capture a wright from the army of the dead without becoming part of it themselves.
  • How turned on did Dany look when Jon said he didn’t need her permission to leave.
  • Over at King’s Landing, Littlefinger is clearly playing on the sister’s old rivalry. I think it makes sense that after the reunion that the sisters would fall into old patterns of interacting with each other. It’s fairly common for people to fall into familiar habits when they’re around family and Sansa and Arya have always had quite conflicting personalities. Bran is pretty much a no go, so Littlefinger is playing the sisters against each other.
  • That said, Arya was written very strangely in this episode. Her suggestion of beheading anyone who even spoke out against Jon was arbitrarily violent in a way that Arya has never been before. Not to mention that she’s spent a long time hiding out with shape shifting assassins. She understands the art of being subtle and manipulative without being forceful or aggressive.
  • I enjoyed the scenes at Eastwatch. It’s hilarious in itself to imagine Tormund putting the brotherhood in a cell in the first place but seeing everyone having to put aside their differences was a nice moment and underlines the importance of this war.

Turning now to episode 6, Beyond the Wall, it seems like an episode that will, as the title suggest, largely focus on the North and Beyond the Wall. Most of the scenes from the trailer follow Jon’s group facing the army of the dead with only Sansa at Winterfell and Daenarys and Tyrion in Dragonstone getting any love. I expect the episode to follow suit, devoting most of the run time to the mission beyond the wall in much the same way that Daenarys attack on the Lannister armies in The Spoils of War took up the last twenty/twenty-five minutes of that episode. I don’t expect the battle to be as gut wrenching though. That battle in The Spoils of War was so tense because fans have come to love Bronn and Jaime as much as Dany and her dragons. We didn’t want to see either side die. But here there’s only one side the root for, and it includes a lot of fan favourites such as Tormund, Sandor Glegane and Gendry.

While we’re on the subject of Gendry, there’s a brief moment at the end of the trailer where the Hound is wielding the war hammer, leading a lot of people to suspect that Gendry will die. I don’t doubt that it is possible and I definitely expect a few high profile deaths in this episode, such as Thoros, Beric or even Jorah, but I don’t think Gendry will be one of them. I think it would be a waste of the character to bring him back only to send him North of the wall to die. If that’s what’s happens I’d rather have much rather that they kept him in Dragonstone to forge dragonglass weapons.  I suppose the same argument could be made for Jorah, given that he only just got cured but I can imagine Jorah dying trying to complete the mission because he knows how important it is to Daenarys.

Personally, I believe it’s possible that rather than capturing a wright that one of the companions will die and be raised and that’s the dead person they they’ll use to try and convince Cersei. I think Jorah would fit in that role well, though it could be Gendry. It obviously won’t be Jon and it’s likely that the Hound will survive because he still needs to have his show-down with The Mountain. Of all the people who could possibly become a wright, I think Jorah would resonate the most with both fans and with Jon and Daenarys.

Kit Harrington and Iain Glen as Jon Snow and Jorah Mormont respectively, face off against the White Walkers and the army of the dead in the Game of Thrones season 7 episode 6 trailer.

The winds of winter, otherwise known as a blizzard.

Last week I predicted that the battle beyond the wall would begin in Eastwatch and wrap up in episode 6 when Daenarys would ride in to save the day, possibly losing a dragon in process. I was wrong about the battle starting in this week’s episode but I still hold to my prediction that Dany and her dragons will rescue the group beyond the wall. The mission is so dangerous and suicidal that it really seems like something superpowered will be necessary for it to even have a chance of succeeding.

The trailer does give us some shots of Daenarys brooding while looking out a window and Tyrion being worried. This is likely related to the mission beyond the wall and Daenarys concern for that group. I doubt it is related to Cersei who is unlikely to provoke Daenarys while still planning her next mass-murdering scheme. Over in Winterfell there’s a brief image of Sansa closing a door while Arya’s voice over accuses someone of being scared. Since the divisions between the sisters are going to last until the end of the season at least, Sansa is probably investigating Arya and Arya is likely talking to Sansa and they do confront each other later in the trailer but I expect their suspicions to turn on Littlefinger soon.

That’s all for another week. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it and if you’re interested in reading more there’s plenty of articles in the archives for your perusing pleasure. To keep up with these reviews, click the follow button on the right. To get in touch leave a comment or fire me a message through social media. And if you still want more, I’d greatly appreciate it if you check out my own fiction writing, Carrion Youth, which you can read over at Swoonreads.

Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 4 ‘The Spoils of War’ notes and Episode 5 ‘Eastwatch’ trailer thoughts

Welcome back everyone to another week of me discussing the Game of Thrones episode from last week and looking ahead to what we might be able to expect from tonight’s episode. We’re currently past the half way mark now and are rapidly moving towards the season finale. This would usually mean a gear change in terms of action and drama but this season has been moving so quickly already. I can’t believe the end of the series as a whole is only nine episodes away… let’s not think about it, ok? For now, we can just focus on The Spoils of War.

Daenarys Targaryen rides her dragon Drogon into battle against Jaime Lannister and the Lannister soldiers in Game of Thrones season 7 episode 4, The Spoils of War.

Drogon used flamethrower. It was super effective.

  • Damn, that battle man…
  • That Battle
  • Daenarys finally taking to the field with Drogon was the heart-stopping affair that it needed to be. From one moment to the next, I was holding my breath and sitting on the edge of my seat worried that Jaime was going to get burnt, or Bronn would get eaten, or Drogon would take a spear to the face or Daenarys would get thrown off. There was so much tension and suspense in one battle and it was wonderful.
  • Maybe one can remove armour underwater but can it be done one-handed? On the other hand, I doubt that Jaime is just going to sink to the bottom and disappear. Unless they fish him out and the audience see a body everyone will be expecting him to show up at pivotal moments for the rest of the series.
  • The battle also marked a nice compromise between not burning the innocent and still utilising the dragons and the Dothraki in combat. The only people who got burnt were enemy soldiers (and their supply chains).
  • I also enoyed the sparring match between Brienne and Arya. Some people are decrying the fact that Arya was able to match a seasoned fighter blow for blow but I’m also not sure that Brienne was actually going all out anyway. And she did manage to knock Arya down so it’s not like Arya was completely untouchable.
  • Bran’s ‘Chaos is a ladder’ comment to Littlefinger was perfect. Littlefinger is always trying to find an in where he can make himself indispensable. Bran immediately shut that down. And his giving the dagger to Arya also seems important. Most likely Bran has seen the body she stabs with it. I doubt that she’ll be on the front line against the army of the dead.
  • The cave scene and some of Davos comments confirm that they’re moving towards a Daenarys/Jon romance. Neither of them have time for that just yet but I expect there to be a lot of these little moments of drawing the two closer and closer over the next season and a half.

Looking ahead to episode five tonight, one of the bigger points to mention is what the trailer doesn’t show than what it does. There are no shots of Bronn or Jaime. While Bronn likely swam out of the lake and just didn’t make it into the trailer, the absence of Jaime suggests he won’t be fished out in this episode. Maybe they didn’t want to give away that he survived, but if he did I feel that the trailer would have wanted to show Daenarys in the process of deciding his fate. Instead we simply see images of the dragon Queen addressing the surviving soldiers and images of Tyrion looking disturbed by her ‘bend the knee or die’ stance.

Following on from that, Varys is challenging Tyrion to make Daenarys listen to reason. There’s a tactic in film and television to insert lines into trailers implying a conflict when the line in the final release is actually said about something else. I think this is one of those cases. I believe Benioff and Weiss are trying to paint Tyrion and Varys as being wary of Daenarys following her use of Drogon in battle but that line could just as easily be in relation to Daenarys’ refusal to help with the attack at Eastwatch or a possible planned assault on King’s Landing.

The reason I mention King’s Landing is because the trailer does show us Cersei and Qyburn, with the former declaring that they will stand against any attack. It seems that she may have heard about the Lannister defeat but not about Jaime. This only further strengthens the theory that he is still in the water because I have no doubt that any after action reports would have mentioned that Jaime was eaten by a dragon. And I’d have to believe that if Cersei thought that she’d lose Jaime that she’d be a bit more emotional here. Losing her children is one thing but Jaime and Cersei have been inseparable since they were children. Jaime went so far as to join the kingsguard just to be close to Cersei. Their bond is so deep that I imagine Cersei would be inconsolable were Jaime to be killed. Instead she is shown as cold and stoic as she has been in these past few episodes, and her words suggest that they’re preparing to defend the capital.

The White Walkers and their army of the dead descend on the realms of men in Game of Thrones season 7, episode 5, Eastwatch.

Cause this is thriller, thriller night.

The main issue, however, is undoubtedly the pending attack on Eastwatch by the sea, the east most castle of the Wall. This is where Jon sent Tormund Giantsbane and where the Hound and the Brotherhood without Banners were last seen on route to. So at least it’s likely to be defended. But the trailer reveals that Jon is petitioning Dany’s support to defend the castle. And it’s nice to see Jon being open minded about Bran’s visions, given everything he himself has seen beyond the wall. I could see Dany again pressing the need for Jon to bend the knee, causing Tyrion and Varys to feel that they must convince her to help regardless. There’s also a theory floating about that Jon already bent the knee in that cave, in which case perhaps Daenarys is willing to help and Tyrion and Varys are worried about taking their eye off Cersei? Either way, I fully expect to see another dragon in action soon, this time burning wights and taking names. Whether the White Walkers will be as defenceless as the Lannister army remains to be seen though.

Major battles in Game of Thrones have been traditionally saved for the penultimate episode of the season. This can be seen in season 6 with the Battle of the Bastards or in season 2’s battle at the Blackwater. But this season we’ve already gotten a major battle in the 4th episode and another one looks to be coming in the 5th episode. Either tonight’s battle will continue next week or they’re building to something even more substantial in episode 6. Personally, I think it’ll be the former. The battle at Eastwatch will begin with those already there battling to keep the White Walkers back and end with Dany and her dragon, possibly with the Lannister soldiers that she recruits, arriving. Next week will see a long, drawn out battle accumulating in the fall of the wall and possibly the death of a dragon, leaving episode 7 to show our protagonists regrouping and possibly Cersei taking the opportunity to strike back in some way. On the other hand, that sequence might be kind of obvious but from my perspective that’s where the season looks to be heading.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts. Let me know what you think in the comments below or through social media. To keep up with this series you can hit the follow button on the left and be sure to check out my other reviews and opinion pieces on this site. If that isn’t really your thing or you just love to read, you can also check out my novel, Carrion Youth, over at Swoonreads.

Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 3 ‘The Queen’s Justice’ notes and Episode 4 ‘The Spoils of War’ trailer and leak thoughts

Welcome to another week of Game of Thrones in review, where this week I’ll be looking at interesting points from ‘The Queen’s Justice’ and what we can expect next week judging from ‘The Spoils of War’ trailer. So let’s get into it.

Jon Snow meets Daenarys Targaryen at Dragonstone in Game of Thrones season 7 episode 3 The Queen's Justice.

This is Jon Snow. He knows nothing.

  • I like to imagine that the dragons were just trying to get a closer look at the secret other Targeryen.
  • The much awaited meet between Daenarys and Jon wasn’t quite as intense as the Daenarys/Varys exchange from last week but it was still an engaging scene full of great rebuttals on both sides. In particular, Ser Davos shone in this scene.
  • It was a nice touch, and very in character, for Jon not to want to go into the whole ‘brought back to life’ discussion. However, it does feel like a very intentional delaying tactic in the writing so that it can be a more powerful reveal later.
  • Of all people though, Daenarys should have more of an open mind. Before she came along, dragons were thought to be dead. So why should the White Walkers and the Night’s King still be myths? I imagine it’s part of her ego but does she really believe that the one who was promised exists to simply dethrone Cersei?
  • Cersei has been very efficient so far, but Cersei’s main flaw has always been that she’s thought herself smarter than she is. She sees herself as Tywin come again, and there were comments made to that effect in this episode but, as was also alluded to by Olenna, she has a cruel streak. Both seem likely to come back and bite her on the ass soon.
  • The use of Robb Stark’s tactics to take the Reach while the Unsullied are isolated at Casterly Rock was nicely done. But I do wonder about Jaime’s comments about Casterly Rock’s importance. It may not be of strategic importance but it will be of moral significance. Robb himself once stated that a ruler who could not hold their home was no ruler at all.
  • Bran’s arrival and statement that he needs to talk to Jon implies that we will be getting the R+L=J reveal as soon as Jon gets back to Winterfell…which doesn’t look to be any time soon.
  • In the books there’s a slow drifting apart of Jaime and Cersei as Jaime starts to feel that his total devotion is one sided. That hasn’t happened in the show but Olenna’s admission could be the start of the rift between the siblings. I can totally see Cersei refusing to believe that anyone other than Tyrion killed Joffrey.

In the trailer for ‘The Spoils of War’ we see Cersei discussing her intention to bring Westeros under her control with the Iron Bank. So far Cersei’s dealings with the Iron Bank have been amicable but there’s always an ominous about the Bank. I imagine Cersei sees the Iron Bank as just another pawn but the Iron Bank aren’t like the lords of Westeros. They aren’t in this war for ideals or self-preservation. They’ll back Cersei for as long as it’s profitable and then…

That dagger from season one that almost killed Bran and led Catelyn to kidnap Tyrion also makes an appearance. The weapon hasn’t really been seen since or played much of a part in the story. The only people it’s of any relevance to are Starks and Lannisters so it’s probably making its appearance in either Winterfell or King’s Landing. This season has enjoyed its call backs to previous events so I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the dagger’s only part to play in this episode but the darkness of the scene suggests it’ll show up at Winterfell.

Speaking of Winterfell, there’s a brief shot of Arya on horseback upon a hill looking on the castle. Last week saw Bran return to Winterfell and tonight looks to bring another sibling home. Given that Brans return was a little more creepy than sweet given how much he’s changed, I wonder if Arya’s return will be more emotional or just as awkward.

Daenarys Targaryen rides her dragon Drogon in Game of Thrones season 7 episode 4 The Spoils of War.

This is also how the NeverEnding Story ended

Another important shot is Theon’s return. Much of the trailer sees Daenarys lamenting her loss of allies and defeats so far, and Theon’s personal account of the battle is unlikely to make her much happier. There are some shots of Daenarys in a cave with Jon leading the way, which are either to do with dragonglass or maybe caves are just where he takes all of his lovers. With the war not going her way, Daenarys may come to rely more fully on Jon. Though we also see her riding Drogon so perhaps she may not have to rely on Jon too much just yet.

Tonight’s episode however is also unique in that it was already leaked a few days ago. Game of Thrones has always been fairly susceptible to spoilers but this year has seemed particularly vulnerable. A few years ago the first three episodes got leaked but this year scripts for many of the episodes got leaked and now a full episode. Hopefully though if you haven’t wanted to be spoiled that you’ve managed to avoid them, though in this day and age that’s next to impossible unless you swear off the internet between episodes.

That wraps up another week. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed my thoughts and if you’d like to read more, check out the archives or follow me on social media. To keep up to date hit the follow button to the left. Or to read my novel, check out Swoonreads.