Episode 2

Game of Thrones Episode Companion – Season 5 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.

Meereen looks a bit like Aku-Aku from Crash Bandicoot in the opening credits.

ikr
ikr. Mind blown.

Let’s kick off with Arya’s story in Braavos. We saw Braavos very briefly in season 4, when Stannis and Davos visit the Iron Bank to ask for money. But now we get to see the city alive. So, Braavos is one of the Nine Free Cities – that is, cities in Essos (the eastern continent) that do not follow a king. Instead, Braavos is ruled by a Sealord. Cast your mind back to season 1, and the wonderful Syrio Forel (“not today”). Syrio was the First Sword to the Sealord of Braavos. Kind of a big deal. Braavos is a bit like Venice with Britain’s weather. It’s built on a load of canals, so boat travel is the most efficient way of getting around. We follow Arya as she finds the House of Black and White, the episode’s namesake. This is home to the Faceless Men: the organisation of assassins that Jaqen H’ghar is part of. OMG book spoiler – the old man in the books is never actually revealed to be Jaqen, though there were theories, so this is an interesting turn of events. Side note: one other thing that I did notice is that Arya’s list has gotten substantially shorter…no more Thoros, Beric or Mel, or Ilyn Payne. Has she forgiven or just forgotten…?

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Sticking in Essos (it’s a pretty gosh darn big place), we caught up with Varys and Tyrion on their way to Meereen via Volantis. Volantis is another of the Free Cities, located at the very south of the map (Braavos is pretty north). Notably Volantians include Talisa – Robb Stark’s baby momma. Whilst we wait for Varys and Tyrion to catch up, let’s travel to Meereen ourselves, kids! As you can see, this episode saw Daenerys making a tough ol’ decision. The title House of Black and White may well refer to Dany’s decision of killing Maran…Meren….Maranana…I can’t remember his name. Not important. That guy. Personally, I think she did the right thing, though as we saw, it led to a riot between the old Masters and the freed slaves. Interesting, parallels can be drawn here with both Robb and Joffrey: Robb had to execute Rickard Karstark for killing his prisoners, just like Daenerys. Joffrey had to run from the lynch mob throwing rocks and poo, just like Daenerys (though maybe not the poo). What does this mean? Who knows!

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Over to Westeros. Once again, Brienne’s bad track record proceeded her. Though, I can’t help but think that she didn’t try very hard before running off in a huff….though it did prove how bad-ass is she is. Notice as well, Sansa’s bird-like outfits, mirroring Baelish’s mockingbird sigil. Could the title Black and White refer to them too, or is that too tenuous?

Selyse Baratheon, remind book readers that no one is safe.
Selyse Baratheon: reminding book readers that no one is safe.

In King’s Landing, we see just how highly Kevan Lannister thinks of his niece. Kevan is very much his brother’s brother. He idolised Tywin, so you can imagine that Tywin’s death has affected him pretty badly. But Kevan ain’t no fool. He can see right through Cersei for what she is. Along with complimenting bumbling (but wonderful) Mace Tyrell, Cersei seems to be slowly manipulating what remains of the Small Council. She obviously hates Pycelle (who doesn’t?) and is trying to worm Qyburn in there. I’ve talked about Qyburn before, but we’ll have a quick recap. We first met him in season 3 in Harrenhal, where he came to serve Roose Bolton. After Jaime lost his hand, Qyburn stitched him up and escorted him and Brienne back to King’s Landing. Qyburn is a Maester, like Pycelle, Aemon and Luwin (RIP). However, Qyburn was banished from the Citadel (their HQ) for…unethical experiments. What these were exactly, we don’t know. But we do know that he used his knowledge to potentially save a dying Gregor Clegane (the Mountain) and he had a curious fascination with the dead dwarf’s head…hmmmm.

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At the Wall, Stannis finally starts being awesome like his book counterpart, offering Jon Snow the goddamn North. The letter that Stannis received was from Lyanna Mormont, who is niece of Jeor Mormont (the old Night’s Watch Lord Commander) and cousin of Jorah Mormont. The letter is pretty awesome as it declares that, even though Roose Bolton holds the North and Stannis wants to take it, the Northerners bow to one king, and his name is STARK. Frickin’ awesome. One day, I hope that the Seven Kingdoms are ruled by the Starks and Martells. WHICH BRINGS US NICELY ON TO:

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Dorne. Hell yeah. Personally, the Martells are my favourite house. About 300 years before the events of Game of Thrones takes place, Aegon Targaryen, known as Aegon the Conqueror, landed in Westeros with his dragons and armies and tried to take over. The whole country bent the knee, apart from Dorne. The Martells words “Unbowed. Unbent. Unbroken.” is a symbol of their resistance. Throughout the ages, the Martells have often been pissed on, but have never faltered and always risen above it. They are a strong house, somewhat isolated (both geographically and politically) from the rest of Westeros. Our first encounter with the Martells was through the fantastic, late Oberyn. We know that he was bent on revenge against those that murdered his sister, Elia, and her children. Elia, if you remember, was married to Rhaegar Targaryen, Dany’s older brother. The Mountain “raped her. Murdered her. Killed her children.” But you know all this. So the Martells are a bit bitter. But do they incite open war? No. Doran Martell – Oberyn’s older brother and head of the family, Lord of Sunspear – is cleverer than that. We briefly meet Doran in this episode. He is pretty much wheelchair bound due to severe gout (caused by the lavish Dornish lifestyle, some say). Doran may seem weak, but he is patient. He will bide his time, like so many Martells have before him. Partially, this is why I am so scared for Jaime and Bronn going to Dorne. I love the Martells, but gosh darn I hope those two are safe (this is a diversion from the books so I have no idea what’s going to happen!). We also briefly saw Myrcella (who has been recast) walking around the Water Gardens with a young man, Trystane Martell. Trystane is Doran’s son. In the books, he has another daughter, Arienne. Unfortunately, she seems to have been omitted from the show, but it appears though Ellaria Sand, Oberyn’s ex-gf, is taking on her character responsibilities. So there’s a little history lesson to wrap up this week’s episode companion. Now, please join me in staring at Daenerys’ ridiculous eyebrows until the sun rises.

EqualIllinformedBilby

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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.

 

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.