Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Game of Thrones, Season 6, Ep 1 “The Red Woman”

Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

The Wall: Jon’s body lies abandoned on the snow of the keep courtyard at Castle Black as night begins to fall. Jon’s wolf Ghost recognises that something is wrong and begins to howl. Ser Davos investigates and sees Jon’s body. He calls for help from then handful of men who were loyal to Jon, and they take his body inside. Melisandre comes in, and is shocked to see Jon dead. I think maybe she’ll do some sort of ritual and heal him, and he’ll be right as rain.

But no, she says in a shocked manner that she saw Jon fighting at Winterfell in a vision in the flames. And now this has happened, which contradicts her prophetic vision. She’s clearly shaken, and leaves. Davos and the loyal men discuss what to do. They realise the mutineers led by Alliser will probably kill them, and realise they need help. But there’s nobody there to help them. Davos points out: Isn’t there anyone who owes Jon a favour? The others realise he means the Wildlings, and one of them goes to fetch them. It’s not clear to me why they can’t just all go at this point if one of them can manage to sneak out to get help.

Alliser appears and bangs on the door, but they don’t let him in. Alliser promises them that they are free to leave Castle Black if they surrender by nightfall. But if they don’t… well. The Wildlings better be back before then.

And then in a weird scene Melisandre stares at her reflection in a dull brass mirror. She undresses for bed, but as she does so her body changes from youth to an old crone. She climbs into bed. I guess this represents her failures – to guarantee Stannis victory, and her false prophecy of Jon living to return to Winterfell. She’s a beaten and wrecked woman. The Lord of Light has abandoned her – if indeed he ever supported her in the first place. What she does next is now completely unpredictable. She could wither away meekly, or she could lash out and become very dangerous. I guess we’ll see.

(more…)

Game of Thrones, Season 5, Ep 10 “Mother’s Mercy”

Monday, 14 January, 2019

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

It’s another season-ending episode. Hang on!!

Braavos: Mace Tyrell’s guard is back in the brothel, with three young girls lined up in front of him. He beats two with a stick, eliciting cries of pain. He beats the third, but there is no response. Trying again gets not a sound. He gets an evil gleam in his eye, says he needs to work on this one some more, and dismisses the other two girls. As he turns to face the third girl, she pulls off a blonde wig and reveals herself to be Arya! She attacks the man, stabbing him in both eyes with a dagger, then a few more times for good measure. When he’s incapacitated from pain, she talks to him.

She says her name is Arya Stark, and he, Meryn Trant, is the first person on her list of people she has to kill. Because he killed Syrio – her swordsmanship teacher from way back in season 1 (episode 8)! Reading back on my notes for that episode, I recall that I never even realised that Syrio was dead. The scene cut before seeing him get killed, so I’d always assumed he may have escaped and we might see him again. Well, I guess I was wrong about that one. Anyway, Arya tells Meryn why she’s killing him, then dispatches him with another thrust of her dagger, about 5 seconds after I learn his name. Characters really do die a lot in this show. And we’re only warming up for this episode.

Arya returns to the House of Black and White, with Meryn’s face peeled off his body, and she goes to place it among the thousands of other faces in the giant hall, but is interrupted by Jaqen and the older girl. He says Arya took a life that she wasn’t supposed to, and that the price for a life is a death. He takes out a small vial, no doubt of poison, and the other girl grabs Arya from behind. I think he’s going to force it down Arya’s throat… but Jaqen drinks the liquid himself! And falls to the floor, dead! Okay, this makes no sense whatsoever.

Arya is shocked, but then the other girl turns into Jaqen, and says that the other person was never Jaqen, he was No One. Arya drops to the floor and peels of Jaqen #1’s face, and someone else is underneath. She repeats this, pulling off mask after mask, until finally her own face is revealed. Shades of Luke Skywalker in the Dark Side tree on Dagobah. All right, so all of this stuff is weird and magical and allegorical. And then the new Jaqen says that wearing a face before one has become No One is like poison… and Arya is magically struck blind!

Whoa. I wonder if this is a reflection of what she did to Meryn Trant, blinding him in both eyes. And also, is Arya going to be blind from now on, or is this a temporary condition? So many questions. I dare not speculate, but I hope Arya isn’t going to be blind permanently. Or if she is, that she becomes some sort of hyper-aware blind fighting master and it doesn’t slow her down.

Body count: 1
Cliffhanger count: 1

(more…)

Game of Thrones, Season 5, Ep 9 “The Dance of Dragons”

Sunday, 13 January, 2019

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

The Wall: Jon leads the wildlings rescued from Hardhome back to The Wall. They approach from the North on foot. So, they must have left the ships berthed somewhere on the north side of The Wall. Earlier Stannis lent the ships to Jon on the condition that he get them back. But now they’re stuck in a harbour on the north side of The Wall somewhere. That could be tricky – Stannis would need to march his army back north of The Wall to pick the ships up.

Anyway, they approach The Wall. Ser Alliser is standing on top, looking down at the wildlings with contempt. I think for a minute that he’s going to defy Jon and isn’t going to let them through. It looks like Jon thinks this too. But then, after what seems an eternity, Alliser gives the order to open the gate. Jon looks relieved and leads Tormund and the wildlings through. For a second I think maybe Alliser has set a trap and will slaughter the wildlings inside the tunnel or something, but no such thing eventuates. They make it through and walk through Castle Black, including one huge giant, who looks around curiously.

Alliser and many of the guardsmen watch with obvious disapproval, but defer to Jon’s orders. The boy whose village was destroyed by the wildlings looks defiant and angry. Jon comments to Sam that he failed, thousands of wildlings were killed in the White Walker attack. But Sam points out that he saved thousands who’d be dead otherwise. Alliser comes over to Jon and says, “You’ve got a good heart, Jon Snow. I hope it doesn’t get us all killed.” And walks away.

Well. I thought Alliser would lead a mutiny, but he seems to have resigned himself to following Jon’s orders. The perfect opportunity has passed. If this were any other story, I’d say that Alliser will probably remain loyal from now on, but this is Game of Thrones, so all bets are off. The resentment is still there deep inside, and might surface some time in the future.

(more…)

Game of Thrones, Season 5, Ep 8 “Hardhome”

Wednesday, 9 January, 2019

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

Braavos: In an intercut flashback/forward scene, we see Jaqen asking Arya who she is, and Arya telling him a story about her being an oyster seller down by the harbour, intercut with images of her dressed as the oyster seller, walking around and observing the people of Braavos. She says she takes a turn onto a specific street, and Jaqen tells her not to take that turn, but to walk a different way. Then we see her do that, and pass a man by the docks, who calls her over and buys some oysters, asking for them served with vinegar. While preparing the oysters, Arya overhears the man’s business dealings with a sailor. She tells Jaqen that the man seems to be a gambler, taking bets that the sailors won’t return hom due to some accident at sea. One of the two (I forget which way around Jaqen/Arya had this conversation) asks why a sailor would make a bet that they have to die to win, and the other answers that the gambler would pay a large sum to the family of the missing sailor. In other words, this is a life insurance scheme.

Then for some reason, Jaqen gives Arya a vial of poison, and tells her to put it on his oysters next time she goes out. Maybe he doesn’t like insurance salesmen? Otherwise I think I missed the motivation here. But anyway, Arya has been given her first assassination job! It’s not clear how she’ll go with it, but I think Arya is tough enough to go through with it. She has motivation to please Jaqen and progress through this training of his. It should be straightforward… which means there’s always the chance that something will go spectacularly wrong and Arya will be caught red-handed or something. But I think the odds of that are low.

(more…)

Game of Thrones, Season 5, Ep 7 “The Gift”

Thursday, 3 January, 2019

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

The Wall: Jon prepares to leave north with Tormund to make his offer of safe passage south of The Wall, as snow begins to fall more heavily. Winter is definitely coming, apparently. Jon tells Ser Alliser that as First Ranger he is in charge of Castle Black until Jon returns. Alliser says it’s his duty to inform Jon that he thinks this mission is reckless, dangerous, and stupid. Jon thanks him for his “usual honesty”. Sam gives Jon a dragonglass blade, telling him that it’s what he used to kill a White Walker. Jon says thanks, but hopes he won’t need it. He and Tormund head off north. Alliser, the boy whose village was wiped out by wildlings, and a few other rangers give Jon dark looks as he leaves. You can tell there’s trouble fermenting here. Castle Black may not be the same, or as loyal to Jon, when he returns.

Sam and Gilly sit with Maester Aemon as he succumbs to illness and old age. Aemon babbles a story about his brother, who became the king, before slipping away. The next day, Sam gives a eulogy before they burn Aemon on a pyre. More dark looks from Alliser. He knows Aemon was the deciding vote that gave Jon the title of Lord Commander over him. With Aemon gone, he may start to question the validity of the ballot, and perhaps use this as justification for a mutiny of some sort.

Later, Gilly is doing some cleaning work when two members of the Watch walk in on her. She tries to leave, but they prevent her, and start to make rude comments and request a kiss from her. Then Sam walks in and tells them to leave her alone and get out. The two are primed for a fight, and think they can take Sam. They nearly do, pummelling his face and giving him a good kicking, when Jon’s wolf Ghost comes in and growls at them in no uncertain terms. The two flee, leaving Gilly to pick up Sam and tend his wounds. A bit later, Sam is resting in bed, with Gilly dabbing his bloody face. Then she stops and kisses him. Then she straddles him, and loosens their clothing… and Sam violates the Night’s Watch oath of chastity. Although as he pointed out to Jon, not technically, since the oath is to abstain from marriage, not sex.

Well, Castle Black is prime for a mutiny, and Sam and Gilly may end up caught in it if they’re not careful. And we’ve yet to see if Tormund can really be trusted in his bargain with Jon. It feels like he’s not one to make a deal with the enemy, so I’m suspecting a better than even chance that Tormund will betray Jon at some point.

(more…)

Game of Thrones, Season 5, Ep 6 “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”

Tuesday, 1 January, 2019

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

Braavos: Arya washes more dead people in the House of Black and White, doing her best “wax on, wax off” routine in the hopes of actually getting some of the combat training she came here for. But she’s too much like Ralph Macchio and impatiently asks an older girl what happens to the bodies. The older girl says she’s not ready to know yet. Then she proceeds to tell Arya a story, of how she came to be here in the House, coming from a family torn apart by tragedy, a story with echoes of Arya’s own. Arya is sympathetic, but then the girl asks her, “Did you believe what I just told you?” and walks off.

Jaqen shows up and asks Arya who she is. Arya tells her story, but Jaqen interrupts several times, telling her she’s lying and hitting her with a thin stick. Arya looks like she’s just about to snap, but she keeps her seething bottled up inside. Jaqen says she’s not only lying to him, but to herself. Honestly, I don’t get this mystical Obi-Wan Kenobi crap or why Arya’s putting up with it. I feel like I want her to snap and throw Jaqen to the ground and start punching his face and start yelling, “Just get on with it already!!”

Later, A man comes in with a sick young daughter, telling Arya that this is his last hope – none of the other temples could heal his daughter. She lies in pain on the floor. Arya makes a decision, and goes to the girl, telling her everything will be okay, and to drink the water from the well in the floor – which is poison. She drinks. Next scene, we see Arya washing the dead girl’s body. Jaqen appears and leads Arya down some stairs into a huge chamber that looks a bit like the Hall of Dworin, except the pillars have hundreds of life size clay faces on them. Possibly the faces of all the people who have become Faceless Men? Do they actually rip the faces off? It all seems a bit weird, but suitably mystical and spooky. Jaqen tells Arya she’s not yet ready to become no one, but she is ready to become someone else.

Okay, more cryptic* rubbish. Seriously, I would have lost patience with Jaqen’s schtick long before this. I guess I’m not cut out to be a Faceless Man. I wish he’d just get on with it and tell Arya something straight for once.

* Ha ha!!

(more…)

Game of Thrones, Season 5, Ep 5 “Kill the Boy”

Saturday, 29 December, 2018

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

Mereen: Grey Worm survived the attack at the end of last episode. Ser Barristan didn’t. Daenerys mourns Ser Barristan, while her translator Missandei tends to Grey Worm. He recovers consciousness after three days, and his first concern is for Barristan. He says he failed, and he is ashamed because when he was wounded he felt fear. Missandei says there is no shame in fearing death. He says he did not fear death, he feared that he would never see Missandei again. She bends over him and they kiss. This is a bit strange as Grey Worm, like all the Unsullied, is a eunuch, and previously Daenerys had expressed disbelief that any of them could have feelings for a woman. But Grey Worm is perhaps exceptional in more ways than one. I guess we’ll see.

Daenerys is angry about the attack, and orders that all the heads of the noble houses in Mereen be rounded up and brought to her. This includes the man who has been advising her and asking for her to restore the fighting pits, in order to placate the restless people, and he is shocked and terrified (I still don’t know this guy’s name). Daenerys takes the nobles down to the dungeon where she has two of her dragons chained up, and feeds one of them to the dragons. Then she says she will show mercy, and merely has the rest of them locked up.

Later, Daenerys asks Missandei for advice. Missandei humbly suggests that she is not worthy to offer advice to a queen. But that she has seen Daenerys take advice from many people, and that Daenerys’s best actions have always been ones where she chooses to do something herself, rather than following advice. And sudden;y Daenerys settles on a plan. She heads down to the dungeons, to the cell of the fighting pits guy, who grovels at her feet for mercy. She tells him that she has decided there is a better way to get the people of Mereen to accept her. She will reopen the fighting pits – although for free men only, no slaves – and she will marry one of the heads of the noble houses of Mereen. Oh, and fortunately a suitor is on his knees in front of her already. The guy is suitably stunned.

Okay, well, it’s good that Daenerys has finally decided to show some gumption of her own, rather than dither between various ineffectual bits of advice. Using her dragons is a good step. Hopefully her plan will start to get the people behind her, so she can raise a huge army and go on the rampage back to Westeros. It really feels like Daenerys’s story has stalled for the past few seasons, and I want to see her back in action.

(more…)

Game of Thrones, Season 5, Ep 4 “Sons of the Harpy”

Thursday, 27 December, 2018

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

The Wall: As the new Lord Commander of the Watch, Jon gets to sign a bunch of requests to surrounding lords for more men to man the Wall. Sam hands them to him one by one and Jon works his way through them, until he gets to one requesting men from Roose Bolton. He objects, saying Bolton killed his brother Robb. But Sam points out that they need more men to defend the Wall, and Roose is now Warden of he North, and Jon’s oath is to defend the Wall, not seek vengeance. Having no counter-argument, Jon reluctantly signs.

Later, Melisandre seeks out Jon and tries to seduce him, but Jon manfully resists. He says he still loves Ygritte, even when Melisandre tells him that dead people can’t return love. She leaves, defeated, but gives Jon an ominous sounding parting message. I bet she has more tricks up her sleeve. Melisandre really is a mystery. I don’t know what her game is. She talks to Stannis later and warns him not to make the same mistake of leaving her behind like he did at the Battle of Blackwater, and he says no, he won’t.

Stannis is making plans to march on Winterfell. His daughter Shireen approaches and asks him if he’s ashamed of her, with her facial disfigurement. He tells her the story of how a passing merchant from some land (I think he said it was Dorne, but not sure if I remember correctly) suckered him into buying a wooden doll for her when she was younger. She held it close to her cheek, but it had been infected and gave her the greyscale disease. Stannis’s advisers told him to send her away before the infection spread to others, but instead he sought all the Maesters he could until he found one who could halt the disease. He is proud of her, as a Princess of Westeros. Shireen looks pleased.

So, this greyscale disease seems like a plague of some sort. I’m guessing it’s been introduced as a thing because maybe it will play a part in the story later. Although it’s hard to tell, because this series introduces so many different things. Maybe it’s just another bit of detailed worldbuilding. But presumably Shireen will end up playing some important role later on.

(more…)

One does not simply walk into Mordor

Saturday, 22 December, 2018

One does not simply walk into Mordor: A literature survey and statistical analysis of how far Frodo and Sam travelled from Hobbiton to Mount Doom

So, how far is it to walk from The Shire to Mordor? The Lord of the Rings books don’t say exactly, but that never stopped fantasy geeks from trying to figure it out! In fact, several have tried and come up with the answer.

Or rather, several answers.

Each one that I found, using methods that they claim to be more or less accurate, ends up wth a different figure for the total number of miles that Frodo walked.

Rather than make my own estimate by rereading the books and poring over maps of Middle-earth, I’ve taken the scientific approach of averaging a bunch of independent estimates and taking the standard error of the mean, and arrived at the figure of 1636±76 miles.

Game of Thrones, Season 5, Ep 3 “High Sparrow”

Monday, 10 December, 2018

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

The Wall: Stannis makes another overture to Jon, to accept the legitimised title of Lord Stark and rule the North, but Jon rejects him again, quoting his vows to the Night’s Watch. Jon asks how much longer Stannis is staying at Castle Black, and Stannis comments on the subtlety or lack thereof of Jon’s question. But then he says he will march on Winterfell within the fortnight. Jon tells him that the wildlings will never follow him, so Stannis tells Jon that it’s up to him what to do with them, as the new Lord Commander of the the Watch.

At dinner, Jon is seated at the commander’s position on the high table. The seat next to him is empty, and he asks where Maester Aemon is, to be told that he is ill. Jon then makes some announcements to the men. He starts by declaring that a new latrine needs to be dug, so he is appointing someone to lead the work crew. The camera lingers on Ser Alliser, looking sullen and petulant, and gives the impression that Jon is about to assign him this filthy task. But no, he appoints one of the men, who takes it good-naturedly amongst the laughs of his comrades. Jon then mentions Alliser’s valuable service to the Watch, and appoints him as First Ranger, which takes Alliser by surprise.

Next, he orders Janos Slynt to travel to some other castle (presumably along the Wall a bit) and restore it to service. Slynt refuses and calls Jon a pretender, and that he should order someone who cast their vote for him. Jon calls him to order, but Slynt ups the ante with insults. Jon responds by ordering Slynt held and taken outside, and asks for his sword. One presumes the penalty for blatant insubordination in the Watch is execution. Slynt is placed on the execution block. He panics and begs for mercy, saying how afraid he is, and that he’s always been afraid. Jon hesitates briefly, then swings his sword, beheading Slynt. Stannis looks on approvingly from a balcony.

Okay, so Stannis is going to try to take Winterfell back. That should be interesting, especially given what’s happening there (see next section). Maester Aemon’s illness must be foreshadowing, possibly of the old man’s death, otherwise there’s no plot reason for him to miss the dinner. Aemon cast the deciding vote, so if he dies soon one could see Alliser mount an argument that Jon’s appointment is less than valid. Although Alliser has also lost a supporter in Slynt, so Jon would still win the vote. Jon presumably wants to set a mark for upholding the rules and not taking any flak, thus his swift justice against Slynt. Presumably Slynt figured Jon wouldn’t have the gumption to go through with an execution, otherwise why stand up to him so stupidly? Especially given what a coward he is. Unless something else odd is going on here.

And now Stannis is leaving, but the hints of plot involving Jon and Melisandre, and Gilly and Stannis’s daughter haven’t led to anything yet. So maybe there’ll be more development of those before Stannis leaves.

(more…)