Game of Thrones Season 7 Review

by Matthew Thompson

The seventh season of Game of Thrones once again delivered the kind of spectacle and awe-inspiring moments I have come to expect from HBO’s epic fantasy series. Unfortunately as it heads toward the finish-line, the show is simply speeding between these big moments without properly building up to them, often leaving logic by the wayside in the process. The result is a very uneven season for one of my favorite series still on the air Continue reading

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TV Check-In: Game of Thrones Season 6

by Matthew Thompson

I was disappointed with Season 5 of Game of Thrones. It wasn’t bad, but it did not live up to my lofty expectations for the series. My anticipation of this newest season was somewhat muted as a result, but I’m happy to say it has served as a nice rebound for the show. At times things felt rushed this year as various players in the game were given a quick demise or sent hurtling at high speeds to their destinations, but ultimately I just love where all the pieces fell into place. I really like where everything is at heading into the final stretch Continue reading

Telltale’s Game of Thrones Episode 2 “The Lost Lords” Impressions

by Matthew Thompson

When I reviewed the first episode of Telltale’s Game of Thrones, I kept things as spoiler-free as possible. You can check out that review here if you are curious what this series has to offer as this second episode largely delivers more of the same. It is a little harder to talk about the second one without spoilers, so I’ve decided to just make this post for those that have played it and want to see another player’s impressions. What I’m saying is: Spoilers for the first two episodes of the game to follow! Continue reading

Telltale’s Game of Thrones Episode 1 (Spoiler-Free) Review

by Matthew Thompson

(Other than some brief introductory information about the main characters of this game adaptation, I have kept this free of spoilers for the game, the TV show, and the books. Enjoy!)

Those that know me are aware I require a certain amount of engagement from a video game to really get into it. That means Telltale’s new style of adventure titles that eschew puzzles in favor of acting as interactive storytelling aren’t really for me. I can’t deny the quality of the narrative presented in their take on The Walking Dead, but the scant amount of gameplay means it isn’t exactly my thing. Still with my love of both the books and the TV show, I had to at least give their Game of Thrones adaptation a try Continue reading

Game of Thrones “The Children” Review

by Matthew Thompson (Images-HBO. The Game of Thrones site can be found here)

“The Children” picks up right where last week’s episode left off as Jon Snow heads through a field of the dead to find Mance Rayder in hopes of putting an end to their battle. The two converse about those they lost like Grenn and Mag the Mighty, drinking to their fallen brethren. Just when things get heated and Mance realizes Jon’s true intentions for his visit, Stannis and his army rides in taking down Wildings and saving the Night’s Watch. I figured this was how last week’s episode would end, but I guess it works just as well here. I suspect maybe it would have made “Watchers on the Wall” feel even more similar to “Blackwater” if Stannis rode in at the end to save the day like Tywin had a couple of years ago, but who knows the real reason. Regardless I think splitting it up was ultimately fine.

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There were some great overhead shots of Stannis’ forces collapsing on the woods and Mance’s army.

I haven’t really cared for the show’s portrayal of Stannis, but he certainly gets a little time to shine here. I especially loved the moment where he walks towards Mance and doesn’t react as a Wildling takes a run at him whom is then easily dispatched by one of Stannis’ knights. So now Stannis is at The Wall and the battle between the Night’s Watch and Mance’s army is over. This is a development that should really shake things up in the North and Stannis’ presence means the stories told up there have a larger tie into the fight for the Iron Throne. Giving more connections to some of the disparate storylines told in Game of Thrones can only be a good thing.

We also head even further North for a rare sighting on this show: a scene that actually pushes Bran’s story forward. It features a pretty crazy fight that includes skeletons, Bran warging into Hodor, the death of Jojen Reed, and a filthy looking kid throwing some firebombs. It is all a little out there, but it makes up for any leaps my mind had to make by just being a ton of fun to watch. The child they run into is actually one of the mythical Children of the Forest. Along with our first sighting of the Children, we get our look at the three-eyed raven in his human form. I’m not sure either of these characters lived up to their descriptions in the books. Obviously there are limitations in TV. The Child I can live with, but I was hoping the three-eyed raven would look like more than an old man sitting in some roots. Still this is a significant step forward for Bran’s journey. He has reached his destination under the great weirwood tree and the old man has promised him he will fly. Whatever that means will have to wait until next year, but it is a good stopping point for Bran this season.

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Meh…

Meanwhile in Meereen, things are not going swimmingly for the new Queen. Daenerys has two visitors. One a former slave who admits he would like to return to his former life as he preferred it to his current situation. Another man comes and shows what Drogon has been up to, revealing the charred bones of his three-year old daughter. In a sad scene, Dany is forced to lock up Viserion and Rhaegal though Drogon is still unaccounted for. After a couple of seasons of Dany taking whatever she wanted, she has begun to stumble in her attempt to rule. These feel like necessary bumps in the road though if she ever wants to rule Westeros. Better to learn these lessons now I suppose.

I had an idea where Arya’s journey would likely end this season, but I was curious how she would arrive there after recent developments on the show. Things have been shifted around a bit which has resulted in Arya and The Hound spending a lot more time together this season. While they have been in a bit of a holding pattern as they wandered around, they sure made things entertaining as hell in the meantime. They’ve been a riot together and while I am sad to see it come to an end, it did so in spectacular fashion in “The Children” involving an absolutely brutal duel between Brienne and The Hound. Game of Thrones have really stepped things up this season in regards to its fight scenes and this battle was just another example of that.

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This thrilling sword fight between The Hound and Brienne turns into a vicious brawl by the end.

I was really impressed with both Rory McCann and Maisie Williams’ performance in their final scene together. As The Hound laid dying after his fight, he is trying anything he can to get Arya to help end his suffering, but she chooses to walk away and leave him there. From here, she ends up using the coin she got from Jaqen H’ghar back in Season 2 to sail over to Braavos. The brief interaction with her and the Braavosi captain who grants her passage is a pretty fun sequence itself. Her sailing off is actually how the episode ends. It was not the ending I expected, but a nice one nonetheless.

That wasn’t all that happened this week though. I have been saving the events in King’s Landing for last. I’m not sure either of the Cersei scenes worked all that well for me. Due to what I chalk up to some questionable directing earlier this season, I feel the Cersei-Jaime relationship has been a bit muddled over time. I’m still waiting for them to get their arcs back on the right track, but it seems that will have to wait for next season. This week’s scene feels almost like them taking a mulligan on some of the changes made in their relationship in Season 4. The Cersei-Tywin scene fares better, but I think knowing what was coming made it seem a little inconsequential. I suppose it was neat seeing her throw Tywin off his game a little bit and gain the upperhand regardless of things going forward.

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“I am your son. I have always been your son.” -Tyrion’s fitting final words to Tywin.

The main event though is Tyrion’s sequence this episode. It starts with Jaime freeing Tyrion from his cell. He plans to lead him to Varys who will help him flee the city. After the brothers say their goodbyes, Tyrion takes a detour towards his father’s quarters. Before meeting up with dear old dad he gets a surprise: Shae has been sleeping with Tywin. This leads to a confrontation and after a struggle, Tyrion killing Shae. From here, Tyrion marches to find his father, picking up a crossbow along the way and finds Tywin in the privy. Tywin tries to calm his son down, but to no avail and he ends up with two bolts in the chest. After this, Tyrion along with Varys head out on a ship to parts unknown.

This is obviously a hugely pivotal scene for the show. Love him or hate him, Tywin was running things, so his death with ripple out and affect things in King’s Landing and all of Westeros. With him also goes the special performance that Charles Dance put in as the Lannister patriarch. He will certainly be missed. This sequence also sends a couple of King’s Landings biggest players over the course of the series, Tyrion and Varys, elsewhere for some period of time. I think the events themselves were handled pretty well overall, but lacked some of the punch of the book version. Tyrion is given some extra motivation for these events there that really help. Tyrion admittedly has plenty of reason to want Tywin dead, so there is no issue there. The added bit in the book just makes it all a bit more powerful. The only other thing I didn’t love was Shae’s part in the whole deal. She’s a character that never fully worked for me and that continued to be true even in her final moments.

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I loved the twist on the intro theme that played as Arya sailed off in the final scene of Season 4.

A few more things:

  • Scene of the Week: I wouldn’t have imagined me saying this going into the episode given the larger events taking place, but Arya’s stuff was my favorite this week. I’d probably pick The Hound’s death scene as the best, but the fight and her exit from Westeros were all fantastic. Go Arya!
  • Qyburn had a short bit this week doing what looks like some Frankenstein shit on The Mountain.
  • As a big fan of Ygritte and her relationship with Jon, I enjoyed the sendoff she got this week. It was nice. There were some other scenes too like a funeral at Castle Black where Mel is eyeing Jon and a talk between Jon and Tormund about Ygritte. Jon cannot escape those redheads.
  • For someone who walked all over Westeros in search of the Stark girls, I feel Brienne did an absolute shit job looking for Arya after the fight. Didn’t think to look in the area where you knocked her new friend The Hound?
  • I was a little bummed the Epilogue of A Storm of Swords wasn’t included this week at first, but in hindsight, it may not have felt right here. Hopefully they can set it up properly and still do it next year. If they decide to cut it from the show completely, I’ll be bummed.
  • Missing in Action this Week: Sansa/Littlefinger plus the Boltons/Theon were all MIA this week. It was a packed episode even with the extra running time, so we were certainly fine without them.

I thought this was an extremely satisfying season finale for Game of Thrones. There were some notable omissions from the source material here that made some of the book passages a little stronger, but just looking at “The Children” as a TV episode and one meant to close off the fourth season of HBO’s fantasy epic, I think it largely delivers. Not only is it filled with big moments, but most of the storylines feel like they have wrapped up in a satisfying way while still giving viewers plenty to think about until next season rolls around.

That will do it for my reviews for the season. At some point in the offseason, I plan to talk about some of the events I look forward to in Season 5 or maybe even do a bit of an overview of Season 4, both of which would lean more towards those who have read the books. I’d like to thank all the people who read, liked, and especially those who commented on these reviews. Interacting with other fans and hearing your thoughts on the episodes is what made this so much fun.

So one last time, make sure to leave your thoughts on the finale or the fourth season as a whole in the comments below. Predictions for next year are also welcome. And thanks again for reading!

Game of Thrones “The Watchers on the Wall” Review

by Matthew Thompson (Images-HBO. The Game of Thrones site can be found here)

“Watchers on the Wall” isn’t your typical Game of Thrones episode. Despite being set in the midst of a war for most of the series, large-scale battles haven’t featured much on-screen. GoT’s pivotal deaths have been shown to happen more often at a wedding than on a battlefield. Its big moves made just as often by clever people behind the scenes than the generals leading the armies. But that just makes the occasion they do take us onto the field of battle for a big bloody melee all the more exciting. And that is exactly what this week’s episode does. The battle between The Night’s Watch and Mance Rayder’s Wildling army is finally upon us and it makes for a rousing hour of television.

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A giant… riding a mammoth!

Where it excels most is in portraying the action and excitement of the battle itself. This episode is just loaded with memorable moments that will stick with me. Like the giants. They ride on mammoths. They shoot what is probably more of a spear over The Wall skewering a man in the process. When one sees his kin die, he opens the tunnel door in a rage and sprints down the corridor to meet some men in black at the inner gate. And there are the tactics employed by the Night’s Watch. The Wall is their biggest advantage against the massive wildling army and they use it well. Their height allows them to send flaming arrows and burning barrels of oil down at their enemy. Even better was them using pulleys to lower men against The Wall. And best of all releasing a giant anchor that swept along the icy structure knocking off those attempting to climb. And of course the more traditional fighting itself was well-done too. A couple of confrontations that stood out were Alliser Thorne squaring off with Tormund and Jon going at with Styr where he resorts to using a chain and eventually a hammer to win when Longclaw is knocked away from him. On top of all of that, Ghost was also unleashed on some wildling foes at one point from his usual spot in the show: somewhere off-screen.

Another high point of “The Watchers on the Wall” is the direction. They brought Neil Marshall back who directed Season 2’s penultimate episode “Blackwater” which featured the only other big battle shown in the series so far. A few of his shots really stood out to me this week. As the battle begins, we go up to an overhead view. As Ygritte and the wildlings south of the Wall storm the gates, we pan over Castle Black, The Wall, and out to Mance’s giant force to the North and the great fire he started in the Haunted Forest. Not only does it look cool, but it gives us an idea of where all the pieces lie for the battle to come and helps establish the layout of it all better than individual scenes ever could. Later after the fighting has begun, there is an excellent long pan around the interior of Castle Black showing all the individual battles playing out. And there was the long descent of the man hit with the giant’s arrow that helped re-establish the scale of The Wall. That is just a taste of what Marshall was able to achieve in this episode though. Overall he did an excellent job framing the action in this week’s big battle.

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Jon and Styr square off in one of the episode’s many memorable confrontations.

I think the other aspects of the episode don’t shine quite as brightly as those two though. Early there is some focus on the various relationships. In Jon and Ygritte’s case, it helps set up her death scene later on which is nicely handled including a callback to their time in the cave back in Season 3. I will certainly miss Ygritte even if she got what was coming to her. She was an interesting character and seeing her interact with Jon was one of the highlights of the past couple of seasons. Sam’s questions about love connects to Gilly’s return, but I am a lot less invested in that pairing, so it never really hit hard. I do like seeing a more assertive Sam though.

One moment that didn’t feel as big as I wanted it to was Jon being handed the reigns on top of The Wall. Though between it and him taking it upon himself to try to end this battle by going to kill Mance at the end, I certainly see the point of him growing into a leader coming through, so that may be a nitpick in the grand scheme of things.

I think where “Watchers on the Wall” ends up faltering the most is that it doesn’t feel complete at the end. Here we take a whole episode to devote to a single location and it ends up feeling a little unfinished when the credits start. I was expecting it to end on a different note, one we will undoubtably see play out in the finale. Only then will I know if it is the right call (I have a theory on why they stopped where they did that I will broach next week), but I am left wondering now. What we saw tied off the attack on the south side, but as stated by Jon at the end was just a small taste of Mance’s attack on the north side. Would it have been better to cut some of the preamble and pace the whole thing differently? Would it be better if the whole thing was under Marshall’s direction this episode instead of leaving some to play out next week? We will have to look back when at season’s end and see.

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At least Ygritte got to see a proper castle before she died. I will miss her.

A few more things:

  • Scene of the Week: Tough to choose one, but the falling anchor bit caught me off guard. If it was in the book, I totally forgot about it and it looked damn cool. Also a giant riding a mammoth. I didn’t get my zombie bear in Season 3, but I did get my giant riding a mammoth this year.
  • We also lost Grenn and Pyp. Not a great week for Jon’s buddies. Grenn went out like a badass though. Him reciting the vows as the giant charged was a great moment.
  • Some good Sam moments included him diving into the semantics of their vows and this line: “Pyp, open the fucking gate!”
  • I liked Master Aemon talking with Sam just because he was like, “Dude, I was a Targaryen during our dynasty! I had whatever girl I wanted.”
  • Once the kid showed up at Castle Black, I knew he’d end up killing either Ygritte or Styr.
  • Gilly running by the little wildling camp was kind of hilarious.
  • Thorne was actually pretty great this episode. Slynt? Not so much. What a punk.
  • I didn’t want to get into too many comparisons between this and “Blackwater,” but I think what helped that one was how many of the characters involved we were more deeply invested in. It was more than just people involved with the battle, but Cersei and Sansa and other things going on within the Red Keep. But it also helped that Stannis was a character we knew at that point. Mance has been in like two episodes and didn’t even appear in this one. Though I think this episode does the action better than “Blackwater” for a few reasons. It is an interesting comparison for sure.
  • With what I thought would be the end of this episode getting pushed to the finale, it might end up being the most eventful episode of the series. Or they simply aren’t doing things I think they are next week. Who knows. Should be fun either way!
  • Missing in Action this Week: Everyone else. Must have been the shortest acting credits in the intro for the series by far.

Most of my complaints here are either small quibbles or I won’t know are even issues until I see the finale. What was delivered to us this week was a well-directed thrilling action piece that was just a ton of fun to watch. And I think I enjoyed it as much as I did because episodes like this one are such a rare occurrence on the show. One more episode to go and I can’t wait to see how they finish off what has been an excellent season of Game of Thrones so far.

What moments stood out to you about this week’s big battle? Any predictions for what the finale will bring? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Game of Thrones “The Mountain and the Viper” Review

by Matthew Thompson (Images-HBO. The Game of Thrones site can be found here)

It has been no secret that I have been looking forward to the big fight that closed out this latest episode of Game of Thrones. The trial by combat between Oberyn Martell and Gregor Clegane in A Storm of Swords is about as thrilling as anything I’ve ever read and despite my concerns going in, I think the television show did a great job of portraying this sequence on screen. Oberyn is as you would expect  in the fight. Cocky and showy, he uses his quickness to stay ahead of the hulking Mountain. There are moments where he gets caught off guard. A spear is snapped. He finds himself on his back a couple times, but wriggles out of harm’s way before landing what looks like the killing blow.

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“You’re going to fight that?” “I’m going to kill that.”

But it is the other aspect of this fight that does him in. Oberyn spends as much time taunting Clegane as he does fighting him. He wants his confession for the murder of his sister and her children. So when he has done The Mountain in and Tyrion’s life looks to be saved, it isn’t good enough. But Tyrion’s life wasn’t his main concern. He is here for his own vengeance and the confession is something he needs. But unfortunately this is where the rug is pulled out from under us and Oberyn as The Mountain is able to brutally take out Oberyn with what little life he seemed to have left in him. And boy is it gruesome. Even the screams that accompany it from both the Prince and his paramour are enough to give you shivers. And with the Prince of Dorne’s death, Tyrion is pronounced guilty, but we will have to wait and see his ultimate fate play out as this episode ends with the verdict.

Again though the fight lived up to the hype for the most part. Oberyn’s flashiness comes through in both his fighting style and his dialogue, just as The Mountain’s own style comes through in his. I was impressed with the way they managed to work in many of the lines from the book. I was never sure if Oberyn’s repeated, “You raped her. You murdered her. You killed her children,” would come off as goofy on-screen, but they don’t at all. It really works

Unfortunately, that is the end of the road for Oberyn who has been one of the highlights of the season so far and I really am sad to see him go. Pedro Pascal played the part perfectly and I hope to see the actor pop up in more things after his brilliant performance here. I sort of wish he could have had one more scene pre-fight this episode, but that is just because I would have loved to see him just a little more.

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“Have they told you who I am?” “Some dead man.”

While that was certainly the main event, it only accounted for a fraction of the episode and there were definitely some other moments of significance throughout. Jorah Mormont’s spying on Daenerys back in Season 1 is something the writer’s have had in their back pocket for a while and it finally came to light this episode. Jorah’s banishing was definitely a moment of importance, but I didn’t love how the actual scene played out. While I understand Dany felt betrayed, I hope his leaving is something she wrestles with going forward. Because despite his motives for joining her originally, he has done some great things by her side since.

We also get to see a new side of Sansa in this episode. Her speech as a witness to Lysa’s death was calculated and shows she could be a real player in this game going forward after spending much of the series as a mere pawn or worse in some cases. While I felt the turn was a bit sudden, I do think it will make her storyline more interesting going forward, so it is hard to complain. Her dress though was ridiculous.

Another interesting development is the one involving the Boltons this hour. Using Theon to take Moat Cailin is a smart move by the volatile Ramsey and it results in him getting something he has coveted for some time: legitimization. He is a Bolton now and considered Roose’s trueborn son and gets all the rewards that come with that. Their scenes also end with them marching towards Winterfell, our first look in some time at the location that played such an integral part in this series’ earlier seasons.

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“You raped her! You murdered her! You killed her children!”

A few more things:

  • Scene of the Week: The trial by combat for sure. I prefer the book version still and there were a few little things I might tweak in the show (like adding a few lines they omitted or the crowd encroaching on the battle), but I think this was a really entertaining scene. Glad they kept the leaping spear thrust at the end in some form.
  • The Wildlings attack Mole’s Town this episode, but I am just ready for them to attack The Wall already. This scene did help prove the point that Sam wasn’t thinking straight to send Gilly there. I did like the shot of blood seeping through the floor boards from upstairs. A nice detail if a bit morbid.
  • I don’t really mind the Grey Worm and Missandei storyline even if it seems completely unnecessary.
  • Arya laughing at the Bloody Gate was hysterical.
  • The Tyrion scene didn’t light my world on fire, but I guess it is good to have another scene between the Lannister brothers.
  • I guess Oberyn does get his confession. Just a little too late.
  • Moat Cailin in the intro sequence!
  • Missing in Action this Week: Bran and Stannis? I think that is it.

I can only hope that viewers found the titular final showdown as thrilling as I did. It certainly felt like it delivered for me and a couple other substantial moments helped fill out the rest of the episode. We have two episodes left to go this season and if the season so far is any indication, there is plenty of excitement ahead.

Did the trial by combat go as you expected? How do you see things playing out for everyone’s favorite dwarf now? Any final predictions for the rest of the season? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Game of Thrones “Mockingbird” Review

by Matthew Thompson (Images-HBO. The Game of Thrones site can be found here)

My clear favorite aspect of “Mockingbird” was the three visits that Tyrion received in his cell this week. I remember commenting a few weeks back that Tyrion probably wouldn’t have much to do between the wedding and upcoming trial other than some guests he’d be seeing while imprisoned, but Game of Thrones has made the most of these visits. I guess it isn’t very surprising. Tyrion has been the strongest part of the season and arguably the show as a whole to this point. And while Game of Thrones most memorable moments have come in the form of shocking deaths (Ned’s, the Red Wedding) and surprising action sequences (Tyrion’s wildfire trap in the Battle of Blackwater, Dany freeing the slaves in Astapor), placing two of the show’s brilliant characters in a room for an extended bit of conversation can deliver just as great of a scene as those flashier ones.

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“If you want justice, you’ve come to the wrong place.” -Tyrion says before Oberyn disagrees in the absolute coolest way possible.

Of course, Tyrion’s visits this week are all about him finding his champion for his upcoming Trial by Combat. His first two guests are probably the most likely candidates. Jaime knows he can’t win a fight as he is still getting to grips with his life as a lefty. And Bronn decides it is not worth the risk. But what it leads to is a much more exciting proposition. Jaime reveals that Gregor “The Mountain that Rides” Clegane will be Cersei’s champion which makes Tyrion’s final visitor, Oberyn Martell, the perfect man to oppose him. While Oberyn came here for the wedding and stayed to judge the trial and sit on the small council, it has been no secret he has had revenge on his mind. The Mountain and Tywin seemed to top his hitlist and he will go against them both in this duel, The Mountain literally and Tywin more figuratively.

Peter Dinklage was spectacular in the scene as he finally sees some hope in his dire situation, but I also can’t say enough good things about Pedro Pascal’s work here as Oberyn Martell. I may sound like a broken record at this point, but he has exceeded my expectations as the fiery Dornish Prince and this week’s powerful scene with Tyrion is just another feather in his cap. Over the past couple of years when other one-on-one fights have occured, I have alluded to one down the road that I was anticipating even more and now it is almost here. I can only hope that the show can do justice to one of my favorite moments in the series when it returns in a couple of weeks.

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The quiet moments of Sansa building a miniature version of her childhood home of Winterfell act as a nice contrast to the wild events that follow.

There was also some strong material in the Eyrie. It begins on a low-key note with Sansa building a snow castle version of Winterfell. I wish that particular part was given a bit more time to breathe. It is a serene moment before shit really hits the fan with Sansa slapping little Robin, Littlefinger kissing Sansa, and then a jealous Lysa confronting her before Petyr comes in and throws her out the Moondoor. I also kind of wish they would have waited to reveal her and Petyr’s hand in poisoning Jon Arryn until this moment like in the book. It was a chapter that really left my head spinning, but that seems like a small gripe on what was a fairly well-done sequence overall. Sansa has jumped from one bad situation to another, so it should be interesting to see what happens with her going forward.

The rest of the time this episode was spent scattered around a number of storylines. Arya and the Hound come upon a man and relieve him of his suffering. Arya also gets to kill Rorge after he and Biter attack Westeros’ favorite odd couple. The Hound later tells Arya where his fear of fire comes from which along with a rather silly scene with the Mountain reminds viewers that he isn’t the nicest of guys with his part in the Trial by Combat so close on the horizon. I enjoyed Pod and Brienne’s scenes this week as well where they meet up with Hotpie and he gives them a badass piece of Direwolf bread and tells them that Arya could very likely still be alive. It was good to see Hotpie again and both of these odd pairings continue to be a fun way to spend a few minutes each episode.

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“They can live in my new world or they can die in their old one.” -Dany states in Essos’ greatest dress.

The other three storylines touched on here didn’t do a lot for me. Jon and company return to the Wall where he is ordered to lock up Ghost, presumably because Alliser Thorne knows the limitations of GoT’s CG budget, and tries to convince the leaders at Castle Black to seal up the tunnel to no avail. It feels like we have been in a holding pattern up North most of this season waiting for the looming battle. Dany’s scenes came off a bit goofy to me. She sends Daario off to clean up the mess in Yunkai after they finally relieve all of that sexual tension. Jorah shows up just in time to become a little more depressed by his status as the Daenerys’ best of friends, but does impart some much-needed advice that will help things go over more smoothly in Yunkai hopefully. Finally there was a short scene involving Melisandre and Selyse which helped the show to meet its weekly quota of nudity and give us the idea that Mel has some kind of plans in store for Shireen.

A few more things:

  • Scene of the Week: Tyrion and Oberyn’s obviously. These two have been amazing this season wherever they pop up. Putting them together? Even better.
  • So we are on the third actor playing Gregor Clegane. I still think the original (Conan Stevens) was probably the best. His look fit better as the Hound’s brother and he looked a bit more menacing than the newest version. The new guy is huge though which I think makes him an improvement over the second Mountain who was a bit too skinny.
  • “Ummm… you were saying?” Brienne with the burn on Pod.
  • Missing in Action this Week: Just loads of people. Like Yara who is presumably somewhere hoping she can paddle faster than dogs can swim. And Tywin who we actually missed because he is always fantastic.

Season 4 continues to roll along with big events seeming to come every week now, something that should continue throughout the rest of the season. A week off for Memorial Day means a little longer until the next episode, but hopefully it is worth the wait!

What did you think of “Mockingbird”? Is this who you expected to be in the Trial by Combat? How do you think it will play out? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Game of Thrones “The Laws of Gods and Men” Review

by Matthew Thompson (Images-HBO. The Game of Thrones site can be found here)

As I watched the intro sequence start up for this week’s episode of Game of Thrones, I was about to write in my notes how I was disappointed with the intro sequence this season. Sure we got new locations like the Dreadfort and Meereen at the start of the year, but each episode it has been exactly the same, even when swapping Dragonstone for the Eyrie would have made sense. But as if hearing my pleas, Braavos appears! The Titan of Braavos, a towering statue that straddles the entrance to the Venice-esque city, makes for an iconic monument and the rolling coin was a nice way to link the bank into our first look at this new opening location.

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The much talked about city of Braavos makes an appearance this week.

This leads nicely into the first scene of the episode which shows Stannis and Davos sailing into Braavos for their meeting at the Iron Bank. As much as I love to geek out over the intro sequence, it was even cooler seeing Braavos in the show proper. As someone who has read the source material, a lot of my joy in watching the show comes from seeing things I have read about and only seen in my mind come to life on-screen and this includes seeing new locations like Braavos. It is one of the reasons I hope we end up in places like Casterly Rock and Dorne in the show’s future which have only been talked about to this point. Just seeing how they match up to the picture in my mind would be so much fun.

Stannis and Davos discussions with the bankers in Braavos are fairly interesting. They are all about the numbers over there and seem to make purely logical decisions. But Davos gives an impassioned speech noting that Tywin is long in the tooth and without him, the realm will be in Tommen and Cersei’s hands. And that they’d be better off putting their faith in his man, the reliable Stannis. They get the money and Davos is even able to hire back his old friend Salladhor Saan to help bolster their fleet. It was definitely a good showing for Davos this week.

The sequence that follows, the season’s first appearance of Yara Greyjoy, is really the only blemish on an otherwise flawless episode. I get the point of the whole thing is to show just how broken Theon is at this point, but everything that surrounds it just doesn’t work. The random interspersed sex scenes for no reason. Yara and the supposedly, incredibly tough and armored up Ironborn being able to breach the Dreadfort, only to be run off by a shirtless Ramsey and some dogs. It all just falls flat for me sort of like Locke’s final actions last week. The main takeaways are obviously the hold that Ramsey has on Theon and that Yara has sort of given up on her brother after seeing him in that state. Ramsey also talks of using “Reek” pretending to be Theon to help him get into Moat Cailin (or at least I assume this is the castle he was talking about since Roose tasked him with taking it a few weeks back).

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Drogon is getting big!

This week also saw the return of dragons! Or at least a dragon, as Drogon comes in and roasts a goat before snatching it up and flying off with it. We then transition to Daenerys holding court as the Queen of Meereen. Here the goat herder comes to see her with a pile of charred bones, letting her know what her baby has been up to lately, and she agrees to pay him three times over for his trouble. She is also visited by Hizdahr zo Loraq who asks for his father to be taken down from on a post for a proper burial. He was one of the slavemasters that Dany had crucified and Hizdahr paints him in a much different light than she had originally imagined him. She eventually grants him his wish. These are only a couple of hundreds of visitors she had this day and gives us and her a small slice of the kind of problems she will have to deal with as the new Queen of the city.

From here we head over to King’s Landing for an extended stay for the remainder of the episode. It starts with a small council meeting, our first with a couple of new members. I love the stark contrast between Mace Tyrell’s feeble demeanor and Oberyn’s cocky attitude. This scene also helps to tie together some disparate plotlines as they all discuss various issues around the realm like The Hound in the Riverlands and Dany in Meereen. Tywin seems to have plans for both of them, but we’ll have to see what exactly those entail in the weeks to come. Post-meeting we also see a small conversation between Varys and Oberyn that helps further unravel layers of these two fascinating characters.

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“The absence of desire leaves one free to pursue other things.” -Varys tells Oberyn before glancing towards the background of this shot…

After this it is finally time for Tyrion’s trial to commence. As the three judges and Tyrion look on, a number of witnesses are marched out. Ser Meryn Trant talks about the threats that Tyrion made against Joffrey over the years. Pycelle talks of theft of poison and his belief that Tyrion was behind it. Cersei reiterates that one quote that sticks with her and how this was Tyrion’s way of enacting revenge on her. And Varys talks about some threats Tyrion made against the boy King and how Sansa may have made him more sympathetic to the Northern cause.

This is followed by a brief recess where Jaime pleads with his father to let Tyrion live and talks about something that all the viewers were thinking as they watched, that the trial is a farce, one most likely manipulated by Cersei. The two end up striking a deal. Tywin will send Tyrion to The Wall if Jaime will give up his spot in the Kingsguard and become the heir to Casterly Rock. Jaime seems to even get Tyrion to buy into the plan.

But then everything changes as the final witness makes her way to the stand. It is Shae who betrays Tyrion painting a pretty vivid picture of how he and Sansa conspired to poison and kill King Joffrey. From here Peter Dinklage’s performance takes over. As he twists in agony over his love’s betrayal and lies, he finally breaks. He confesses not to this crime, but of the one his father has held against him all his life: the crime of being a dwarf. He calls out the crowd in the throne room, talking of how he saved them at the Battle of Blackwater Bay. And finally he decides to put his fate in the hands of the Gods and demands a trial by combat just before the episode ends. Dinklage was in top form here giving one of his best performances to date and it made for one heck of an episode.

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“Watching your vicious bastard die gave me more relief than a thousand lying whores.” -One of many great quotes from Tyrion during his final speech.

A few more things:

  • Scene of the Week: Obviously the one with Tyrion’s final speech. It was incredible.
  • I can’t get over how much they have nailed Oberyn. I love everything about him in the show so far.
  • I kind of forgot we’d be taking a week off. Not next week, but the one after between episodes 7 and 8. Going to be a long couple of weeks there!
  • Missing in Action this Week: Another focused episode and I love it. No Arya/Hound, Brienne/Pod or anything up North around The Wall, but the show is better when it doesn’t spread itself too thin in a given week.

“The Laws of Gods and Men” was one of the season’s best episodes. While I didn’t care for Yara’s return to the show, everything else was fantastic. The trial and surrounding actions in King’s Landing were the star of the show buoyed by Peter Dinklage’s incredible performance as Tyrion Lannister, but the other smaller scenes across the narrow scene felt purposeful, making the most of their time this hour. This was an excellent episode that should help propel us into the second half of the season.

Game of Thrones “First of his Name” Review

by Matthew Thompson (Images-HBO. The Game of Thrones site can be found here)

“First of his Name” kicks off right where you’d expect an episode with that title to, the coronation of King Tommen. There is a surprisingly small amount of time spent in King’s Landing by series’ standards. What time we do spend there is focused on Cersei. In three separate scenes, she does her best to butter up the judges in Tyrion’s upcoming trial. While she isn’t exactly showing her truest self, some honesty does come through. Like her words about Joffrey to Margaery or Myrcella to Oberyn. She clearly has an ulterior motive this week, but it is still interesting to try to parse out what’s real and what is just her trying to push the judges in the direction she wants.

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“We don’t hurt little girls in Dorne.” -Oberyn brags more about the greatness of Dorne. “Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls.” -Cersei responds.

There are some other tidbits revealed in these conversations. This isn’t the first time we have heard that the crown is in debt to the Iron Bank of Braavos (whose name also came up in a Davos/Stannis plotline earlier this season), but we do learn for the first time that the gold mines in the Westerlands have dried up. And Oberyn like he has multiple times this season sheds a little more light on Dorne with talk of his eight daughters, Sunspear and the Water Gardens. He continues to act as a good introduction to Westeros’ southern-most kingdom. Even if that, namedropping Elia and his sexual exploits have been the focus of his role thus far, I continue to love Pedro Pascal in the role.

Since Dany’s wacky “Where are muh dragons?” adventure back in Season 2, she has been pretty much a non-stop wrecking ball, freeing slaves and sacking cities throughout Slaver’s Bay with ease. That is one reason this week’s scene, where we hear things are not all rosy in Yunkai and Astapor since she left, is such an important one. Not everything is going her way and seeing how she deals with the consequences should make her scenes a little less one-note. Her deciding to stay and rule also means another delay to her inevitable trip to Westeros. While this may frustrate some viewers antsy to see her join the main fray, I personally think her having to deal with some of the issues she has created of late should be a good thing.

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“I will do what Queens do, I will rule.*” -Daenerys says (*Just not in Westeros… never in Westeros).

Littlefinger and Sansa have arrived in the Vale and the biggest takeaway from what happens up in the Eyrie is that Lysa is a bit of a loon. She is crazy for Petyr and crazy jealous of everyone that might have come between them even accusing Sansa of sleeping with him. We also find out that she poisoned her husband Jon Arryn at the behest of Littlefinger which means the whole sequence of events of the show were put into motion by Littlefinger. So Sansa is stuck up in an impenetrable fortress with the devilish Littlefinger and the volatile Lysa. A definite situation to watch going forward.

This hour ends with a long segment depicting events North of the Wall as Jon and his party from the Night’s Watch attack the mutineers at Craster’s Keep. There is a lot to like here. It acts as a great action sequence to punctuate an otherwise low-key episode. Jon going one-on-one with Karl is fun to watch and I think it is fitting that one of Craster’s daughters who had been tortured there played a role in Karl’s ultimate demise. Ghost got his own revenge on Rast and the reunion between him and Jon was rather nice. I even thought how they represented Jojen’s visions was cool. And it was really just good to see this bunch at the Keep get what was coming to them after seeing what they had been up to all this time.

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“I saw you die tonight. I saw your body burn. I saw snow fall and bury your bones.” -Jojen mouthing off to Karl. I like to think that snow bit had a double meaning.

What I didn’t really like during this final sequence was Locke’s plan. Locke seems like a pretty resourceful guy. He gets himself inside Castle Black, buddies up with Jon and even does a bit of spying on him. He manages to get himself in the party headed to Craster’s and gets to be the one to scout things out despite only being a recruit. And then his big plan is to run off with Bran slung over his shoulder? Ignoring the giant wall that would be in his way or the fact that Jon would likely find out about this from Jojen and company? It all seems a little silly. He probably would have been better off letting Jon take Bran back to Castle Black and then trying to steal off with him in the night. So now it just feels like for Bran’s journey to continue North as intended, Locke became a bit of a moron all of a sudden. This really isn’t a big gripe in the grand scheme of things, but after watching it, I was just left scratching my head a bit.

A few more things:

  • Scene of the Week: I’ll take the fight between Jon and Karl. I liked seeing Karl’s two dagger style and it reiterated the idea that Bronn showed Jaime a week ago, sometimes you have to fight dirty. This is one of those weeks where there isn’t an obvious choice for me for best scene though.
  • There were some other small scenes this week that added some comic relief to the episode. Pod’s issues with horses and cooking rabbits for Brienne plus Arya’s harsh lesson about water dancing and armor from the Hound were good for some laughs. It shows these two pairs can be a lot of fun even if not a whole lot happens.
  • I liked the way the show transitioned from Cersei to Arya’s list.
  • I still remember seeing the Eyrie for the first time on the show and I still love the look of it.
  • I’m going to try to make these reviews a bit shorter. They’d been getting out of hand, but that means they might be a bit less exhaustive as far as covering everything. This one feels like a good step in the right direction.
  • Missing in Action this Week: A bunch of people and more if you exclude those who just appeared with no lines in the opening scene. This is only the third episode in the series without Tyrion apparently.

“First of his Name” is another solid entry in the fourth season of Game of Thrones. I think for me personally it was a little lacking compared to other episodes this year as far as really standout scenes go. The ones that stick with me like Arya and the Hound’s scene from the premiere. Or even something less action-packed like Oberyn’s conversations with Tywin and Tyrion so far this season. It was still an enjoyable hour though with some impactful reveals. And I still can’t wait to see where the back half of this season brings us.

What did you think of the latest episode of Game of Thrones? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!