Tuesday, May 3, 2016

GoT 6 - Episodes I & II - A few quick thoughts

"Bran, this will begin to make things right."
All right, wow and stuff.
My initial misgivings about watching Game of Thrones Season 6 have totally vaporized in the heat of Melisandre’s fires.
Not knowing the details of what’s to come made watching these two new episodes so much more exciting than I thought would be possible. During episode 2, Home, last night I was literally jumping a few times. And I’m telling myself, don’t worry, you read the first three books ten times each and loved it every time, it isn’t that crucial to be unspoiled before The Winds of Winter is published in 2019.
So now I feel free to enjoy the TV series, and yeah, it became a very different experience for me, stepping into the post-Dance world. Although there are bits going all the way back to A Storm of Swords…and even further back. Lots of surprises, then, excitement, shock, and also a few moments where I’m like, /facepalm.
Let’s delve into The Red Woman (okay that sounds weird) first, and then Home.

Solid acting from the Red Woman herself, Carice van Houten
I have to say, The Red Woman was a surprisingly solid episode. There was a lot of excellent cinematography making it, for the most part, look like an excerpt from a high budget movie. Lots of great camerawork, lots of memorable shots. There is a particular shot of Sansa where Sophie Turner really looks like the Sansa I always envisioned in the books. There was a lot of interesting parallels and seemingly carefully constructed developments to the point that I completely forgot how uninteresting I found the first episodes of the previous scenes. The theme of how people react to a death runs through the entire episode, making it feel like a unified, cohesive story, more so than I have experienced with the show before.

As a TV episode, I guess it can’t get much better, and having bypassed Dance also makes it feel easier to accept what I see and hear on the screen. Still, I could complain about the Dorne plot (like everyone else), but at the same time I don’t mind that it moves furiously fast (compared to the books). I liked book Doran, but whatever. I like some of the callbacks in the episode, such as Daenerys suffering the same fate as her brother Viserys - walking captive by a Dothraki horde; I liked Ser Davos, and while this is far removed from the books (at this point) I could understand his motivations. The reveal of Melisandre’s true decrepit nature didn’t come as a surprise, but was still a stunning revelation.

I feel they have lost the Varys character in the midst of everything happening, though, and that feeling goes for Home as well. He’s just… there, instead of being the proactive character he is in the books (and was in the TV series). I expected, at least, a gasping and surprised Varys when Tyrion came walking back from freeing the two dragons just like that.

Home managed to up the ante, and had me excited all the way through (granted, I knew nothing beforehand, whereas I knew the plot of episode I almost scene by scene). It was cool to not be in the know, forcing me to really watch and listen. The opening with Bran back in Winterfell with Ned and Benjen practicing swordplay, and Lyanna riding in, that was great stuff. Almost brought a tear to my eyes, though I was surprised at how much older Lyanna seemed than Ned. For a hardcore book nerd, hearing Hodor talk was of course super-surprising, and a sweet treat. The closing scene was obviously not surprising but I found it well constructed, with the right pacing. Well, it was surprising in the sense that I’ve been 100% convinced Jon would spend some time within Ghost first, but that can of course still totally happen in Winds.

In between these book end scenes there was a lot to like, I admit (I almost feel bad for liking this heh). Sansa/Theon scene was touching, the arrival of Euron Greyjoy was much better than expected (it was just fricking cool - “I am the storm”, indeed) though I still feel they should’ve given the actor an eyepatch. Oh well. Not a big deal. Yara ‘s cool, too. Didn’t realize I missed the Iron Islands so much.

The biggest WTF moment for me was the stabbing of Roose. I didn’t like it, because I feel Roose as a character should be smarter. As a favorite villain, of course, I was bound to be disappointed by his demise anyhow. The scene itself was excellently shot, though - for a moment there I thought it was Roose who stabbed Ramsay. Eh, anyway. Nice callback to Roose stabbing Robb, though. Perhaps that’s why I thought Roose had the upper hand there. But I have a hard time buying Roose’s demise, the way it surprises him, and I also think they kind of telegraphed it too bluntly. Incidentally I also find that Ramsay’s character isn’t as (morbidly) interesting as he used to be. As much as I enjoy the actor, I will never forgive GoT for not making Roose a little more like the Roose in the books (without making him Dracula).

Oh well, time is running, hence the short recap/review, but generally speaking GoT has me excited about Martin’s world again, and as we forge ahead the path to the end of the story is becoming clearer…which is kind of sad at the same time that I’ve been bemoaning the lack of an end for sixteen years.

Life is weird.

On a scale from 1 to 10, where season five consistenly lingered around 6, I'd rate The Red Woman a solid 8 and Home a solid 8.5. That's a pretty strong start to a season that will play havoc with my thoughts and emotions regarding Ice & Fire. As the TV show begins to close in on the endgame, it will be sad to see how certain things are wrapped up. The end of Roose Bolton is unimpressive within this narrative; same with Stannis last season. It feels like their arcs just .. stop. Hopefully the books will be more poetic in a sense. Right now it feels like the showrunners are simply whittling away characters to get to the end, without ,,, I don't know, it feels more like the narrative doesn't need them along anymore than the narrative naturally culminating in these deaths (especially for Stannis - could we be in for a surprise?)

One more thing, said he - in the rush to deliver shocking and an (admittedly good) fast pacing, certain elements that need answering (for coherence's sake) are just left by the wayside and in my opinion it weakens the overall believability of the tale told. One grating example is that for two episodes we've had Melisandre and Davos together, yet there is no mention of the deaths of Stannis and Selyse (and their daughter Shireen). Well, all right, maybe Melisandre isn't interested in telling Davos (fearing he might kill her?); why not have a quick exchange where she lies to postpone the truth, for example? In While we're talking about these characters, doesn't Stannis, an important character through four seasons, deserve some closure? Technically speaking we can't even know if he's dead or not? Could Brienne, at the last moment, have pitied him and found mercy?

The show also botched the Sand Snakes and Trystane aboard the ship and the Snakes left on the docks of Sunspear and suddenly appearing and.. yeah, all that. Ideally, following the assassinations of the princes of Dorne, the Sand Snakes and Ellaria committed suicide and, just before wheezing his last breath, Areo Hotah would wink at the camera and say, "So...ends...Dorne..."

1 comment:

  1. Clearly there is not enough time to do things like this, but I would really have liked John in Ghost for a while too. They should have immediately somehow snuck JS into the Ice cells we've heard a little about, but haven't really been used to much effect yet but for some torture of an Umber (or a KArstark?) anyway - I got excited when some more of Mel's broach power was revealed. Hoping maybe Davos would put it on, and be glamoured into a JS doppelganger for a while - Take back the NW, and head south For Revenge. Meanwhile Ghost/John ranges up north and links with Meera (set up now to do some ranging herself.) Mel stays back at Castle black (not in danger of being raped), and eventually Kisses John back alive as her final curtain call. John of course goes North to join forces with the Nights King. I just have a hard time with Jon and Dany joining forces. Two armies, and 3 dragons against the zombie horde? With LAnnisters up mucking around for Revenge on the Boltons? And what about Winter? No snow yet in KL?