Month: April 2014

Game of Thrones Episode Companion: Season 4 Episode 4

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This article is to be read after the episode has been seen, as and as a result may contain spoilers up to the episode that it’s covering, but no further. So if you haven’t seen the episode yet, go and watch it. Then come back and read this. Then watch the episode again. Then read this again.

I want Jaime’s coat duster.

After the slight disappointment of last week’s episode, “Oathkeeper” restored my faith (that was never really dwindling) in the series. And it did something even more magical: it made me actually quite excited at the prospect of the series differing from the book. Stay tuned to find out more.

A big theme in “Oathkeeper” seemed to be character relationships – some deteriorating, some growing – most of which had Jaime at the centre. It seems like the show is pulling an X-Men: Origins and bypassing the rape-that-may-or-may-not-have-actually-been-a-rape. So Jaime is back to being likable: huzzah! We’re treated to some wonderfully performed scenes between him and Brienne, Cersei, Tyrion and Bronn. So let’s tackle them in reverse, just for fun. The idea to have Bronn fill Ilyn Payne’s shoes just keeps getting better and better. This week Bronn didn’t just deliver funtastic banter – he actually showed some humanity and persuaded Jaime to go and speak to Tyrion. Not only did give Bronn’s character more depth, but it also showed that he does actually care about the fate of Tyrion, which is nice to know. So, Jaime and Tyrion. Despite the fact that they are obviously quite close, we haven’t really seen that much interaction between the two of them, apart from in the first couple of episodes and some of the most recent, so this is always a welcome scene-share to see. It’s also very reassuring to see that Jaime doesn’t believe that it was Tyrion that murdered Joffrey…for what good it does. As much as I’m sure everyone would love to see Jaime fighting his way out of King’s Landing with Tyrion on his back (waving an axe, obviously) after breaking him free of the cells, I don’t think that that is going to happen. Jaime faces an eternal predicament – does he side with his brother whom he loves and knows is in the right, or does he side with his sister whom he loves and knows is a total bitch. As one relationship grows, the other fades. I think that he is in love with the idea of Cersei rather than Cersei herself: they have been together their whole lives, quite literally, and thus that has become the norm. Anything else is different. And different is scary. Cersei, on the other golden hand, blames Jaime for everything. “You took too long”, “you let him die.” Bear in mind that since his departure, she has also been having sexy sex with her dear cousin Lancel et al. Perhaps the most heart-warming scene in the episode, was Jaime and Brienne. I still don’t know how Brienne sees Jaime: does she love him as a brother, or a lover (though, this is Game of Thrones, so are the two mutually exclusive?) Either way, their relationship grows and grows, and as I said before, I just want to see them ride off and have wacky adventures (with Tyrion on their backs waving an axe, obviously). But unfortunately that also doesn’t look like it will happen anytime soon. Though Pod is joining her!

Pod
And we are all very excited for it.

Part of the reason why the Jaime and Brienne scene (in which he presents her with the eponymous Oathkeeper) was so powerful was because of Brienne’s background: despite being a highborn woman, she has never been treated this kindly before. Her life has been ridicule after ridicule. It wasn’t really until Renly that she saw any kindness, and that ended very quickly. Speaking of Renly, the blue armour that Jaime gifts Brienne may be a nod to, in the bookiverse, Renly’s Rainbow Guard. Yes, the book didn’t have any scenes of Renly secretly porking Loras. Instead, his homosexuality was portrayed via subtle/not subtle hints. Instead of naming his king’s guard his King’s Guard, he names them the Rainbow Guard, and gives them all lovely rainbow cloaks. There were seven members of the Guard (seven gods, you get the picture) and Brienne was ‘the Blue’. The blue colour may also allude to her home of Tarth, the Sapphire Island. So there are some fun facts!

"I...just have to stay here for a second."
“I…just have to stay here for a second.”

Book fans will rejoice at the inclusion of Tommen’s cat, Ser Pounce. Though he is a kitten in the books, I think that this will suffice. After seeing this story progress a little, I take back my comment about Tommen being too old. It looks like they are drawing on the nativity that he may face as a pre-pubescent male behoved to a super-hot sex diva. I mean, that scene in the bedroom was like every boy’s wet dream. “Shh, it’s our little secret”.

The title “Oathkeeper” may also refer to the scenes surrounding the Night’s Watch. The story up north is perhaps where this episode differed mostly from the books (if you were to draw a book to series comparison chart, it would look like a spikey double-helix, methinks) but it all works. Firstly, Locke is there. You know, the Bolton man that cut Jaime’s hand off. He was told by Reek via Ramsay that Bran is still alive, so it seems that he has come to Castle Black with hopes of finding and eliminating him, thus strengthening Roose Bolton’s claim to the North. Jon has a lovely “oh captain, my captain” moment as he recruits Brothers to help him take back Craster’s Keep, where Bran has now been captured. Interestingly, in the books Jon has literally no idea that Bran is still alive – but it appears that Sam dropped the ball and let it slip. The whole story at Craster’s Keep is written solely for the show too. After the mutiny there, and the death of Jeor Mormont, the Keep is never revisited. But the show gives Jon good reason to go back there, what with Mance on the way, to silence his traitorous ex-Brothers. Also we get to see more of Burn Gorman, White wlaker kingwhich is always welcome. Furthermore, the climactic scenes gave us something that even the book hasn’t covered yet: a look into the Lands of Always Winter, which is, like, mega north. And (now this very exciting) the White Walker community! So it’s confirmed that Craster’s sons essentially became Wights (quick recap, the Others, or White Walkers, are the beings that ‘bring the cold’ and create the Wights, whereas the Wights are the zombies). This is big, guys. This ‘leader’ of the White Walkers has been nigh confirmed as a character called the Night’s King. Long story short, this is a character who features quite majorly in A Song of Ice and Fire lore. He was a Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and fell in love with a female White Walker. Some say that he was a Stark, as his brother (who later killed him) was the King in the North. If he is the Night’s King and/or leader of the White Walkers, this answers a lot of as of yet unproved theories…whilst, obviously, raising even more. HBO referred to the character in various episode guides. Since the episode premiered, the name has been changed to ‘White Walker’. Now, did HBO make a typo, or have they accidentally revealed a major spoiler that not even the book readers have seen yet? This is exciting.

Goodness I’m all giddy. I’ll close with a few comments on Dany’s opening scene, which was very strong, especially considering recently hers have been a bit meh. Talk soon becomes action as Daenerys takes Meereen, the final city in Slaver’s Bay. Grey Worm’s character is fleshed out a lot more than it is in the books, which is brilliant. And Daenerys…well, make what you will of her. Is she doing the wrong thing for the right reasons? Barristan Selmy, who served her father, tries to dissuade her from punishing the slave Masters, but she doesn’t listen. Perhaps, for that moment, he remembered that she was her father’s daughter. Daenerys has already shown a few signs of slight madness – are we seeing her slowly, but surely, fall deeper into insanity?

Mereen

Oh, also, so Joffrey’s murder was pretty much unraveled (go back and pay close attention!) But now new questions arise: were Littlefinger and Grandma Tyrell working together? Or did Littlefinger find out about Olenna’s intentions and take advantage of it? What’s clear is that Margery was not involved, and had no knowledge of the plan, yet still knows that now she must manipulate Tommen as she did Joffrey. These Tyrells, man – they have a game plan. A Game of Thrones plan. Ayyyyy!

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Game of Thrones Episode Companion: Season 4 Episode 3

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This article is to be read after the episode has been seen, as and as a result may contain spoilers up to the episode that it’s covering, but no further. So if you haven’t seen the episode yet, go and watch it. Then come back and read this. Then watch the episode again. Then read this again.

TOMMEN IS TOO OLD.

Sorry. Episode 4.03, “Breaker of Chains”, was definitely one of the weaker episodes as of late, and one of the weakest overall, IMO. I don’t think that anything has stirred the fanbase up so much more than the “rape” scene, tywinbut we will touch on that later, as well as how our opinions on certain characters change. I have very mixed feelings about this episode –  there were some fantastic scenes such as Tryion and Pod, the sept (pre-rape) and that one bit with Daario…but equally, there were some very disappointing, almost seemingly pointless additions.

Let us begin, as most do, at the beginning. Following immediately after the Purple Wedding (feat. Jack Gleeson as ‘Corpse’), we see Sansa escaping with Dontos, across the water, and into the sly arms of Petyr Baelish aka Littlefinger. It has been heavily implied that Joffrey was poisoned. ‘The Strangler’, it’s called, not to be confused with the 1970’s English punk band. FUN FACT it’s the same poison that Maester Cressen used to try and kill Melisandre all the way back at the beginning of season 2, remember? Probably not. Anyway, if you’re wondering how it got in to Joffrey’s chalice, go and watch the scene again and keep an eye out. It’s awesome. What’s Pete doing out on the sea, you ask? He has recently been made Lord of Harrenhal (that big place where Arya and Tywin were), and needs to “acquire some sons”. He has sailed off to the Eyrie to marry Lysa Tully. Lysa, if you recall, is the late Catelyn’s sister – the one with the annoying breast feeding son. Baelish allegedly took her virginity, and since then she has apparently been infatuated with him, though it seems that he had eyes for Catelyn. Only Cat. So I imagine that that’s where he is taking Sansa – to meet her lovely aunt. I don’t know what he’s been doing since he left King’s Landing almost a season ago though…fishing, I imagine.

Staying in King’s Landing: with Joffrey’s death, his younger brother Tommen is now heir. As mentioned in me last post, Tommen has recently been recast presumably for a more experienced actor, due to becoming a larger character. I have yet to be impressed with this new (see: old) guy, though. For one thing, I think that he is too old. Tommen dans le books is supposed to be about 8 or so. A lot of characters ages have been upped (Daenerys is about 13…) but for them it makes sense: Tommen is supposed to be a podgy, naïve kid who would rather stamp envelopes and play with kittens than rule. Can you see this guy playing with kittens? I can’t. Of course, they may be taking him in a different direction, with his nativity possibly stemming from the fact that, at some point, he needs to get Margery preggos. Poor Margery. I think that she just wants to get laid… Tommen didn’t have too many lines in this episode though, so it’s still quite early to judge. Though I have to say I loved how blunt that scene between him, Cersei, Tywin and dead Joff was – Tywin outright insulting the recently deceased king – his own grandson – in front of Cersei, who remains brilliantly quiet and poker faced. Obviously, Tommen seems like a much nicer chap than Joffrey, and Tywin wants to break him in early. Perhaps Westeros will finally have a good king?

Meanwhile, locked away like the little rascal he is, Tyrion is awaiting trial for Joffrey’s death. The trial will be headed by Tywin, Mace Tyrell (“who will do whatever Tywin tells him to”) and Oberyn Martell. “But don’t the

#Heartbreak
#Heartbreak

Lannisters and the Martells hate each other?” I hear you scream at your computer/smart phone/tablet. Well, to an extent, yes. As has been established, Oberyn blames Tywin via the Mountain for his sister, niece and nephew’s deaths. However, Tywin knows that he needs Dorne. Interestingly, this is the first time that we see Tywin actually concerned about Daenerys and her dragons across the world. In the olden days, when Aegon conquered Westeros with his dragons, the Dornishmen were the only nation to resist due to their perseverance and promiscuity (that last one may be speculation…) Tywin seems an alliance with the Martells as completing the so-called Seven Kingdoms, and Oberyn probably sees it as an easy way to eliminate Tyrion Lannister, should he want to. All in all, Tyrion is pretty fuzzed, it seems. The discussion between him and Podrick was heartbreaking, ending with perhaps Tyrion’s only true friend leaving him. The fact that Tryion, who in a lot of ways is quite selfish and scheming, would willingly sacrifice his life (by having Pod ‘confess’) to save his squire’s is a credit to the growth of his character, and indeed their relationship.

So dem’s the good. Now the bad.

The scene that has the internet howling for blood: the rape scene. Some context of how this scene comes about: so in the books, Jaime was not present at King’s Landing for Joffrey’s wedding/death. He arrives afterwards, essentially when this scene in the sept takes place. He arrives to find a disgruntled Cersei, who has been longing for him (albeit sleeping whilst sleeping with about 5 other guys) as much as he has her. The result is a consensual, animalistic sex scene, from Jaime’s POV, next to the corpse of their illegitimate son. Cersei protests at first, as you would if you were about to have sex on your son, but soon gives in. In the series, however, he has already been back for weeks, which completely changes the dynamics. Since he’s been back, Cersei has not touched him. Bear in mind that these two had a super secret sexy relationship before Jaime was captured, so for Jaime to go without for so long, well, one can only imagine! But all he gets is rejection. His blood, and penis, are boiling. Then, when Cersei gives an oh-so-slight, but noticeable, recoil to his golden hand in the sept, that just triggers it. “Why have the gods made me love a hateful woman?”. And then…the series, in my opinion, dun goofed. What follows essentially undoes all of the character building that Jaime did in the last season that made him a fan favourite. But is that such a bad thing? At the end of the day, we have to remember that this is still the man that pushed a young boy from a tower window. This is still the man that attacked Ned in the street and dagger-eyed young Jory. Jaime Lannister is not a good man. But we want to like him, which is why so many book readers are upset over this scene – not just because ‘that didn’t happen in the book’, but because this changes EVERYTHING about his character. Yes, the series and the books are different, but at the end of the day this is still an adaptation of a novel, and changing something this big seems…well, ridiculous. This isn’t like making Sansa a bit more wet, or cutting Strong Belwas (look him up…but don’t read too much) – this is a character defining moment, and as a result, our opinion on (show) Jaime has dramatically changed. Because, as a wise man once said, “rape is never ok”. This isn’t the first time that the show has changed a consensual sex scene into one of rape, however. In the very first episode of the very first series, we see Drogo (who also later becomes a fan favourite) rape Dany on her wedding night. In the books, thirteen year old Daenerys, after a bit of fumbling, let’s Drogo have her way with her. So there’s some food for thought.

Oh, sweet, gentle Sam!
Oh, sweet, gentle Sam!

Speaking of opinions on characters changing, what about that Hound fellow, eh? That was a dickish thing to do. The point of this (show only) scene was to seemingly show that, like Jaime in many ways, Sandor Clegane is still not a good person. Sorry guys, looks like we won’t be getting that “Arya and the Hound” spin off any time soon! Sandor Clegane just wants to survive, and as a realist (see “everyone’s a killer) he will do that however he can.

Goodness this has been long. Erm what else should be covered… Angry Wildlings? That was a bit OTT, but I guess it just shows their ferocity. These guys are pissed. At the Wall, Grenn and Ed return from the north north, bringing news of what happened at Craster’s Keep. Jon wants to send a party back to Craster’s to eliminate the Night’s Watch Brothers there, who killed Craster, Lord Commander Mormont and several other Brothers. When Jon was travelling with the Wildlings, he told Mance that Castle Black was garrisoned by over a thousand men, when in reality it is only a few hundred. Jon fears that if Mance’s army falls upon Craster’s keep, he will find out – one way or another – from the ex-Brothers there about Castle Black’s real numbers, giving him no reason to hold back: “he’s already got enough to crush us; he just doesn’t know it yet”.

The last scene, and perhaps the most climatic, saw Daenerys at the gates of Meereen. Meereen is the largest city in Slaver’s Bay – the other two being Yunkai and Astapor, which Dany has already, erm, liberated. Meereen is

Strong Belwas, by Sir-Heartsalot.
Strong Belwas, by Sir-Heartsalot.

a lot different, and a lot richer. They send out a rider to defeat Daenerys’ champion in one-on-one combat, which fails when Daario kicks arse and takes names. In the books, the aforementioned Strong Belwas performs the act, proceeding to poo on the corpse of Meereen’s champion, but Daario was a good choice in Belwas’ absence. Daenerys then uses her loud voice and barrels to intimidate Meereen (and, you know, not her three fat-off dragons), causing fear and mutiny in the city. The Mother of Dragons is building her army!

I’ll finish off by just elaborating a bit on something that has been mentioned a few times already: the Iron Bank of Bravos. What is this? Well, pretty much what it says on the tin. The Iron Bank is an extremely wealthy bank…in Bravos…with clients all over the world, including the Crown in King’s Landing. Tyrion, in season three I think, goes as far as saying that the Bank will begin funding the Crown’s enemies if they are not careful, to ensure they get their money back quicker, which is precisely what Davos’ little epiphany was.  One way other another, the Iron Bank will have its due.

Well that’s it for this somewhat dark episode. I mean dark as in lighting. Seriously, someone in Westeros should discover electricity. Maybe then they could start distributing music too, and people wouldn’t have to only sing “The Rains of Castamere” and “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”. Maybe that’s why everyone is so angry and aggravated? Ahh I’m so funny.

Game of Thrones Episode Companion: Season 4 Episode 2

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This article is to be read after the episode has been seen, as and as a result may contain spoilers up to the episode that it’s covering, but no further. So if you haven’t seen the episode yet, go and watch it. Then come back and read this. Then watch the episode again. Then read this again.

Murder! But who dun it?

Ok, the ending of “The Lion and the Rose” was arguably the most climatic scene in the episode, so we’ll pop on to that last. Firstly, let’s look at some new characters and concepts introduced.

 

GoT - MaceMace Tyrell, the Lord “Oaf” of Highgarden. Mace is Margery and Loras’ father, and Olenna’s (the Queen of Thorns) son. We don’t see too much of him in this episode, but what we do is fantastic. Mace is supposed to be a bumbling fool – on paper, he may be the head of the family, but everyone knows that really it’s his mother ruling the roost. Roger Ashton-Griffiths does a fantastic job of perfecting Mace’s ridiculous facial expressions, mannerisms and characteristics; the epitome being the scene where he’s plodding down the stairs, looking so chuffed with himself, to acknowledge his other… who completely disregards him. Also, that facial hair.

Meanwhile, in the north (not the NORTH north, just the north) we get to spend some loving time with Ramsay, Reek and a girl called Myranda. Myranda is a character created solely for the show, though as of yet I’m not entirely sure why. She was one of the minxs that tantalised Theon before Ramsay cut off his todger.  In the books, Ramsay has a band of merry men called “The Bastards Boys” who do his bidding. Myranda seems to have replaced them in the show.  I’m still not sure how I feel about this, as having a female counterpart arguably humanises Ramsay, and shows that he does hold compassion towards some people. But we shall see, eh?

Briefly we also saw Roose Bolton’s new wife, Fat Walda. If you cast your minds back to episode 3.09 (prior to the Red Wedding), Roose explains to Catelyn that Walder Frey said that if Roose would marry one of his daughters or granddaughters, he could have her weight in gold. So, Roose, the sneaky devil, chose the fattest one he could find. Oh Fat Walda, you don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself in to…

 

M’kay, scene and themes breakdown. Firstly, Alfie Allen’s portrayal of Reek was…incredible. Every tiny movement was thought out – the way he hobbled along during the forest, the way he barely looks Roose or Ramsay in the eye, and the sheer heartbreak you see on his face when he learns of Robb’s fate. There has been some criticism that his transition from Theon to Reek was too rapid, but I don’t think there was really any other way they GoT - Reek shavingcould show the ‘brainwashing’ without it getting boring and tedious. I mean, judging from the state that Theon was in at the end of the last season, you can imagine how much torture he must have gone through up to this point.

Staying with the Boltons (sounds like a sitcom), it was great seeing some interactions between Roose and Ramsay. Ramsay seems to have major daddy issues, and is constantly reminded that he is a Snow, not a Bolton. Parallels can be drawn here with Oberyn and Ellaria Sand discussing bastards with Cersei and Tywin in King’s Landing: “bastards are born of passion”. Dorne has a completely different way of looking at bastards compared to the rest of Westeros. Just look at Jon, for example. He joined the Night’s Watch because he knew that, as a bastard, he would inherit nothing, and become nothing. Ramsey probably feels the same way. Bastards are frowned upon in the majority of Westeros, whereas in Dorne they are accepted for who they are, not what they are.

Over on Dragonstone, we were reintroduced to Stannis’ lovely wife Selyse, and get a deeper look into his belief in Melisandre’s god. The scene opened with some sacrificial burnings. No biggie. One of the lucky chosen was Selyse’s brother, Axell Florent. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that Stannis is becoming obsessed with obtaining the Iron Throne through any means. He seems Melisandre as his key, and doesn’t seem to mind if he has to use black magic to obtain his goal. I mean, we’ve already seen Melisandre birth Shadow Baby, so what else is she capable of?

In the north north north north, Bran is becoming a moody teenager who just wants to be a wolf. The three that he caresses is a weirwood tree (also known as a heart tree). These trees have been mentioned a few times (one appears prominently in Winterfell) as they are remnants of the Old Gods. The trees all have faces carved into them, which, combined with the blood-red sap, makes them look like they are crying. Upon touching the tree, Bran is presented with a strange and interesting vision that hasn’t been getting enough internet attention!! This is Game of Thrones, so one can assume that all the visions had some significance somehow: Ned in the black cells, Ned honing Ice, Bran falling, the three-eyed raven, the crowstorm from when Sam killed the White Walker, the undead horse, and, perhaps most prominent, King’s Landing: once covered by the shadow of a dragon, and again in the throne room. This one, if you remember, is exactly the same as Daenerys’ vision at the end of season 2 – the Red Keep, destroyed, coated in snow (or perhaps ash?), in ruins. Is Bran seeing what is to come, what may come, or what has come? Either way, a voice spoke out to him, and now he must continue north north north north…north.

GoT - WineAlright, King’s Landing. It’s wedding day. And OH MY GOD SO MUCH FORESHADOWING. Let’s firstly pay quick homage to the scene between Jaime and Bronn sparring. In the books, Jaime enlists the help of mute Ilyn Payne (the King’s Justice), but tragically, Payne’s actor, musician Wilko Johnson, has terminal cancer and will not be reprising his role. The choice to have Bronn step up to the mark, however, was a great one by the show’s writers. At this point in the books, Bronn kind of drifts off into the background, for the most part. But Jerome Flynn’s portrayal of the sellsword has been brilliant, and it makes sense for him to remain in King’s Landing as a semi-prominent role: Jaime needs someone who will be discreet – if  word got out that he could no longer fight, he would lose his dignity and what little remains of his honour. That, or if his king died whilst he was supposed to be protecting him. Oops. Plus, we get to see some awesome banter between him and Jaime.

Ok, right, the Purple Wedding. I think that a lot of respect needs to be paid to everyone that made this scene possible. It’s shot in real time, and features (I think) the most members of cast in one place at a time. It managed to jump from character to character, without feeling disjointed or erred. It would have been nice to see more of the actual  wedding, but the afterparty was where it’s at. So, Joffrey’s dead, eh? That makeup was outstanding. In fact, that whole scene in general was just…ahh. I imagine his death was met with screams of both joy and regret – joy because he is an evil bastard (heh) and regret because he’s such a good character, and Jack Gleeson played him brilliantly. It’s a shame to see such a talented actor go: it’s something really special to make an entire fan base absolutely loath and despise you! Jaime and Brienne’s inclusion at the wedding was interesting too, as in the books they’re not near King’s Landing at this point. Though one thing that did bug me was Brienne’s lack of interaction with Sansa – you’d think that she would at least acknowledge her, maybe mention her mother or something, instead of just walking straight past her. But Jaime’s presence added a new level of emotion: as mentioned, all he can do now is protect the king. I think that he is aware that Joffrey is his son, but his sprint to the dying king’s side wasn’t out of love for a child – it was because he knew that this was his one task, his one duty, his one chance to redeem himself. And he failed. That’s just my opinion anyway. Having a ‘villain’ die can often feel a bit clichéd, but this scene was written and shot in such a way that, in the end, we’re looking at a scared child, looking to his mother to help, and she watches her firstborn die in her arms. It really humanised both Cersei and Joffrey, even if for only a second. Sidenote, on recasting, that blond boy sat next to Cersei was Tommen, the youngest of Cersei and Robert’s Jaime’s children. He was played by a different actor in previous seasons, but has recently been replaced. The actor playing him now actually played Martyn Lannister – one of the children that Robb captured before Rickard Karstark murdered them.

So, who did it, and how was it done? Was it Tyrion? What about Sansa, escaping with Dontos at the end? Could it have been Oberyn, with his hatred for Lannisters and knowledge of poison? Or the Tyrells, perhaps? Tywin, wanting to be rid of a useless king? Maybe Melisandre and her leeches – remember them? If you would like to find out, there have been a few explanations as to how it was brilliantly done and filmed online, such as this one nyah – http://imgur.com/a/2DtPH (click at your own risk!).

 

So that’s it for “The Lion and the Rose”. Next week’s episode, entitled “Breaker of Chains”, will have Westeros realling in the aftermath of the Purple Wedding. Who sits on the Iron Throne now? Dun dun duuuuun.GoT - Joff slap

Also, don’t go to a wedding in Westeros.

 

Games of Thrones Episode Companion: Season 4 Episode 1

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This article is to be read after the episode has been seen, as and as a result may contain spoilers up to the episode that it’s covering, but no further. So if you haven’t seen the episode yet, go and watch it. Then come back and read this. Then watch the episode again. Then read this again.

“Two Swords”

Let’s kick off with the big new characters introduced in this first episode of the new season (squee). As the Game of Thrones cast is so big, it can sometimes be difficult to keep track of who everyone is in relation to whom.

DorneSo here we go. Let’s start with arguably this season’s most prominent new character, the Red Viper himself, Oberyn Martell. The Martell’s are the presiding family over Dorne, located at the very south of Westeros. The lord of Dorne is Doran Martell, who suffers from gout, and is rarely seen in public as a result. The men of the Martell family are also known as ‘princes’, though this is just Dornish custom, and essentially has the same meaning as ‘lord’. Oh, Dorne is also where Myrcella (Joff’s younger sister) was sent in season 2, to be betrothed to Doran’s son. Oberyn is a fan favourite, as well as one of my own, and is often described as a ‘wild card’. He’s a sexual deviant, fathering many bastards, and hell-bent on seeking revenge for the death of his sister at the hands of Gregor Clegane, the Mountain. His sister was Elia Martell, who was married to good old Rhaegar Targaryen before he ran off with Lyanna Stark. Marriage, guys; it’s complicated.  Also Oberyn’s paramour, Ellaria (not to be confused with Elia!) is a bastard – her surname is Sand. Obvs King’s Landing frowns upon bastards at court, so this will be fun to watch.

We were also introduced to Styr, the Magnar (leader) of a group of Wildlings from a place called Thenn. He was the big Xerxes-looking guy, with the bald, scarred head and crazy eyes.  Since Jonathan killed Orel (Mackenzie Crook) last season, the Wildlings south of the Wall don’t have a Scooby as to where they are going, so the Thenns have come to lend a not-so-helping hand. These guys are terrifying. Interestingly, in the books these guys aren’t cannibals, and are actually implied to be a lot more civil than the rest of the Wildlings, so it will be interesting to see the developments in their characters.

Now some recurring characters who we haven’t seen in a while! The drunk guy that was following Sansa is Dontos Hollard. Cast your minds back to the very first episode of season 2 – Dontos was the knight that was too drunk to fight at Joffrey’s name day, so Joff tried to kill him. Sansa spoke up and Dontos was made the serve as the court’s fool instead. He just stopped to say hello. At the Wall, Jon was seen speaking in front of a board of Night’s Watch members, including Alliser Thorne (the guy that made Jon’s life hell in the first season), and Janos Slynt, who was the old commander of the City Watch at King’s Landing, before Tyrion sends him to the Wall for betraying Ned. Oh Ned…. Lastly, in the climactic scene of the episode, we see an old friend of Arya’s, Polliver. This was the guy who killed Lommy and took Needle from Arya back in season 2. God that last scene was awesome. And has sprouted various Sandor Clegane-chicken memes. Rightly so.

One last shout out to a recast: Daario Naharis. He was introduced at the end of season 3, played by actor Ed Skrein, but was recast after Skrein went on to pursue other things. I’m still not sure how I feel about this – Michiel Huisman seems like a better actor, but I miss Skrein’s smarminess. And something about Huisman just makes him look like generic guard #5. Still, it’s early days to judge.

The title of the episode – “Two Swords” – comes from the opening scene, where we see Ned Stark’s fat off greatsword Ice melted down into two brand new Valyrian Steel swords. One went to Jaime, and the other….?

IceOverall this was a great first episode to what promises to be an outstanding season. The speech-less opening was very powerful, and symbolised the Lannister triumph over the Starks, whilst the end scene almost represented the opposite: one Stark sword is lost; another is gained. The Hound was hilarious, and you can real feel Tyrion’s growing disdain for his family. Also Jaime picked up on Cersei’s drinking. Well, someone needs to tell her. I didn’t really like how Oberyn’s ‘characteristics’ were almost spoon-fed to the audience though – oh, he’s in a brothel. Oh he’s obviously in an open relationship. Oh he’s bi too. Oh and he wants to kill every Lannister he sees? Still, Oberyn’s character goes a lot deeper than that, so maybe this was just a preliminary introduction to establish his nature: he will either kill you, or have sex with you. Soon we will see why House Martell is so freaking awesome. Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.

 

Also, Jaime’s 40?Jaime wave

 

Bioshock Infinite: Burial At Sea Episode 2 – Review

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A fantastic end (?) to an outstanding series.

This review will not contain any spoilers for Burial at Sea Episode 2, I promise. It may contain teeny weeny slight spoilers for Episode 1, Infinite and Bioshock 1 and 2. If you haven’t played these games then oh my god go and play them now. I’ll be waiting here.

Well goodness me and my giddy aunt. I’m going to cut right to the chase and say that if you’re uming and aring (erring?) about this, bloody play it. It’s quite pricey at £11.99, the same as Episode 1, but it’s worth it for the story. Episode 2 gives players approximately 5 – 6 hours of new story, and takes place immediately after the events of Episode 1. As opposed to playing as Booker as you do in Infinite and Episode 1, Episode 2 puts you, for

This was my face throughout playing.
This was my face throughout playing.

the first time, in Elizabeth’s feminine shoes.

The gameplay is more or less what you would expect from a Bioshock game – you have a small armada of weapons (more than two, which is nice) and access to vigors/plasmids, which you must use to overcome enemies large and small. You can also use the Air-Grabber (Rapture’s counterpart of the Sky-Hook) for melee weapons, although as Elizabeth is dainty and squishy as plums, this only briefly stuns enemies and deals no damage. Due to her squishy nature, playing as Elizabeth feels completely different from Booker, Jack and especially Big Daddy Delta. You can’t just run in gung-ho with weapons blazing – if you do, you will end up sleeping with the fishes. Heh. Because it’s underwater. No, instead, Episode 2 advises you to take a more stealthy approach. Whilst this is quite a nice change of pace, the stealth mechanics are definitely the worst aspect of this wonderful DLC. Overall, it feels like a bad Dishonoured clone. Dishonoured did stealth right, so it’s no surprise that a game will try and mimic it, but unfortunately, Bioshock hasn’t done this too well. The main problem is the environment – it just doesn’t feel like it was bit for stealth. Whilst arguably this creates more of a challenge, it’s just frustrating. It’s quite hard, at times, to gage where enemies are, even with the help of the new “Peeping Tom” plasmid. There is also no real quick way to move around the rooms, apart from the occasional vent or hanging hook. But even that takes quite a while. There is also ‘cover’ mechanic – you just have to rely on crouching behind a wall and assuming that no one can see you. One new addition that does work quite well is how different terrains change the volume of your footsteps. But eventually this becomes less of a tactical, strategic decision and more of a “I shouldn’t walk on all that broken glass over there” scenario; you just learn to avoid it. I guess if they added too many new mechanics then this wouldn’t feel like a Bioshock game, but eventually I just grew bored of the combat. But then, we don’t play Bioshock for the combat, do we?

No, we play it for the story and the environment! I promised that this would be spoiler free, so I won’t delve too deeply into it, but I will just say that it rounds the series off stupendously. I was on the edge of my seat, begging for more. As Episode 2 takes place directly after Episode 1, the date is 31st December 1958, which, as every Bioshock fan knows, is the day that Rapture fell. As a result, players get to witness Rapture pre-decline, albeit not as much as in Episode 1. Even still, the story, along with the numerous audio logs you find along the way, sheds new light on Rapture, unveiling still hidden secrets, and giving you a deeper insight into certain significant figures. Indeed, if you thought that Burial At Sea was just Elizabeth and Booker gallivanting around in an alternate reality Rapture, by Jove are you in for a treat!

 

It’s hard to say more without giving too much away. But I will summarise with this: the Bioshock series is proof that games are an art form. Burial At Sea brings the incredibly intelligent and compelling story to an brilliant close, and answers a lot of unanswered questions, whilst opening up more (gosh darn it…). Whilst Irrational Games has, very sadly, recently gone under, I can only hope that the Bioshock franchise isn’t dead. I don’t know when or how we will see another game, but I, for one, cannot wait.