Despite all its charm, grandeur, glut of legitimately great filmmaking and stirring moments, “Beyond the Wall” remains for me one of, if not the most frustrating episode of Game of Thrones to this point due to its relative abundance of logic holes and writing shortcuts. To be clear, I don’t think the flaws I’ll discuss below are enough to completely sink the episode, even in the the aggregate. Nor do they take much away from the experience of the viewing the handful of unforgettable moments the episode contains. However, based on the standard that the series has set for itself, I can’t ignore the amount of compromises made.
An area of particular interest to me when it comes to contemplating and debating A Song of Ice and Fire from a political perspective is the idea of legitimacy, specifically in terms of from where and whom legitimacy is conferred onto leaders/rulers given that democracy isn’t exactly a realistic prospect in this narrative universe. As the field of contenders for control of Westeros has shortened over the course of the series, questions around legitimacy have come into sharp relief this season, especially now that Dany and her army have finally descended on the continent.
Of the myriad ruminating and analytical exercises I enjoy while engaging with Game of Thrones, one of my favorites is to consider the events of the series through the lens of modern political theory and dynamics, especially when it comes to the legitimacy of the leaders, a subject I’ve mentioned more than a few times in this space. I find the concept of legitimacy especially interesting where it concerns monarchy. While it is fairly clear what Dany’s personal motivations are for her quest for the Iron Throne, she’s never made an effective or legitimate case for her claim, and I do not believe it’s a coincidence. I think the reason she doesn’t have one is that she hasn’t developed a positive case to make for herself apart from her own personal drive and desire. Continue reading
Going into the season 6 finale, I assumed that any episode following the exhilaration and brilliance of “Battle of the Bastards” would suffer from at least some measure of anticlimax, regardless of the quality of the episode itself. I am happy to report that I was sorely mistaken in my assumption. I was mistaken to the extent that I must concede that while “The Winds of Winter” was as dissimilar from “Battle of the Bastards” as two episodes could be in such a stylistically consistent series as Game of Thrones, it was absolutely on par with that installment in every respect save for action, which it obviously need not be because that wasn’t the focus of this episode, that being central to the aforementioned difference. Indeed, several aspects of this episode were stylistically unique for the series, not just in relation to the previous installment.
The quality of Game of Thrones in terms of narrative and production value has been so consistently high from the very beginnings of the series that it becomes easy to lose perspective on just how much the show has grown and continually raises the bar for the key elements of the show. The scale of Game of Thrones production is enormous and unprecedented, with a considerable amount of resources at the team’s disposal. What one does with those resources from a creative standpoint, though, is what really determines the quality of programming such as this, and Game of Thrones has reached a new pinnacle in several respects with “Battle of the Bastards.” Continue reading
When Cersei answers Lancel’s threat of “order your man (the Mountain) to step aside or there will be violence” with “I choose violence,” she’s not merely delivering a steely retort to her cousin’s attempt at intimidation through the force of the the Faith Militant, she’s essentially delivering the thesis statement of the episode. In “No One,” Cersei and Arya both “choose violence” in the face of very credible threats to their safety, the Hound chooses violence over the pacifism Septon Ray preached in the previous episode, and the masters of Slaver’s Bay choose violence in defiance of the diplomatic arrangement brokered by Tyrion, Conversely, Jaime and Brienne choose diplomacy, which is undercut by the Blackfish choosing violence by making his last stand at Riverrun rather than traveling north to aid Sansa in her campaign for Winterfell. Continue reading
Before I began watching Lost in 2004, I, as a viewer and certainly as a screenwriter, had always considered flashbacks to be a crutch meant to prop up weak narratives in almost all cases. Much like voiceover, if you’re going to use flashbacks in your script and pull it off, you have to do so masterfully and in a way that is innovative and integral to the narrative, the way that Stanley Kubrick used voiceover in A Clockwork Orange or Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi did in Goodfellas. The voiceover in those films wasn’t used to explain things or fill in holes in the narrative, but rather guided the narrative and fleshed out the characters, adding color to an already rich and detailed on-screen painting. In short, those two films exemplify how to utilize voiceover as a tool rather than a crutch, an integral part of a narrative, much more akin to the way first person narration is used in literature than the lazy, newsreel style of expository narration employed by weaker features. Continue reading
It has been said in so many ways so many times, but there really is something rather obscene about the spectacle of a disproportionately white and male collection of individuals almost completely out of touch with the general population getting together in an exclusive and bizarre setting to essentially pat each other on the back for perpetuating the very things that set up and reaffirm the disconnect and lack of diversity in the first place. Continue reading
I can’t help but perceive a certain distance implied in the title A Most Violent Year. It’s as if the speaker is regarding the year in question with an intimate knowledge of the violence referenced without having actually been a part of it, per se. It’s reminiscent of when one hears of the untimely death of someone one doesn’t know personally and remarks something along the lines of “how tragic;” acknowledging the loss without feeling it. That sort of detachment lays at the heart of the journey of Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) in J.C. Chandor’s film. Continue reading
The manner in which the Civil Rights Movement is typically depicted in American media is problematic to say the least. One is quite frequently presented with a picture of a clearly defined struggle between right and wrong with a foreordained and definite outcome complete with a happy ending. Narratives such as these tend to create overly simplistic narratives with little nuance between and within the constituencies represented. Selma, to its great credit, manages to avoid this trap. Continue reading