‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7, Episode 1: “Dragonstone” Reaction

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As far as table-setting season premieres go, Game of Thrones season 7 lead off installment is pretty much as good as they come. Although I wouldn’t put “Dragonstone” in the pantheon of individual episodes, it did set up the board for the ensuing season, as Game of Thrones season premieres always have. It wasn’t the most riveting or challenging episode they’ve ever done, it certainly had its moments and that moved the narrative forward significantly, even though the most unexpected moment was a bizarrely orchestrated cameo by a pop star.  Continue reading

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6, Episode 10: “The Winds of Winter” Reaction

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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.

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‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6, Episode 8: “No One” Reaction

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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

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6, Episode 7: “The Broken Man” Reaction

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Game of Thrones is so stylistically and structurally consistent that every time they do something completely normal for a television show to do, like cutting away from Stannis’ decapitation last season or starting an episode with a cold open as they did in “The Broken Man,” I jump out of my seat with a combination of shock and outrage, thinking that my cable is malfunctioning or that HBO screwed up the broadcast. When the “HBO Entertainment” card faded and the cold open began, I actually rewound the DVR thinking that the cable box had somehow skipped ahead of the opening titles. The reason for the first cold open Game of Thrones has ever employed on a non-premiere was quite obvious to me by the end of the scene, as it was, I suspect, to most viewers. Continue reading

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6, Episode 4 “Book of the Stranger” Reaction

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At the beginning of this episode when Jon and Edd were interrupted by the sound of the Watchman’s cry to “open the gates,” it occurred to me Sansa and her escort could be on the other side, but when the very next edit brought us to the image of the gate opening to reveal exactly that, I was actually shocked out of sheer disbelief that this long awaited and longed-for event could actually be happening. Just so, from the time Sansa, Brienne, and Pod were safely within the walls of Castle Black until the time Sansa and Jon saw each other and embraced, I feared that either one or both of them would be suddenly pierced by an arrow or cut down before the reunion could occur. Once it appeared that they would both at least survive that moment in the courtyard I felt a sense of relief I’m unaccustomed to feeling during an initial viewing of a new Game of Thrones episode. Continue reading

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6, Episode 2: “Home” Reaction

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For me, “Home” is certainly the best early season episode since “The Lion and the Rose” from season 4, and arguably the best early season episode since the “Pilot.” Everything in this episode was as well executed as anything Game of Thrones ever provides the viewer, as usual. “Home” was a classic episode by every metric I can think of to evaluate the show.  Continue reading

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5, Episode 10: “Mother’s Mercy” Reaction

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In the time between this writing and the airing of the Game of Thrones finale, I’ve had ample opportunity to argue with several people, and repeatedly so, about the conclusion of “Mother’s Mercy” and what it might possibly entail for the characters. Now, I love a good argument about narrative and there are few things in life I enjoy more than discussing Thrones, but unfortunately, all these arguments have almost completely distracted from what was not only a brilliantly executed and exquisitely played final sequence, but also a very strong episode featuring some of the best work of the series so far, albeit along side some more problematic material. Regardless, I left this finale with more to chew on as a viewer and consumer of the series than with almost any other episode. Every sequence held significance either for character, plot, Game of Thrones as a series in the grand scheme of television and the larger culture, or in a few cases, potentially all three.  Continue reading

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5, Episode 6: “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” Reaction

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Whenever there’s a wedding on Game of Thrones you know something terrible is going to happen, and the wedding of Sansa and Ramsay was certainly no exception. While I agreed with some of the criticism of last season’s scene featuring the rape of Cersei by Jaime, my criticism stemmed from the fact that it was a mostly unmotivated event that had no repercussions for the characters involved or their relationship. I completely agree with the sentiment that rape and sexual violence as a mere plot device is irresponsible, but I wholeheartedly disagree with the notion that any depiction of rape is inappropriate for the screen. To me, this line of thinking is akin to the argument that high school students shouldn’t read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because Mark Twain uses the word “nigger” in the text. Senator McCaskill is free to stop watching Game of Thrones, as is anyone else, but Game of Thrones is under no obligation to avoid depictions of certain behaviors and actions because they might possibly offend the sensibilities of certain audience members.  Continue reading

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5, Episode 2: “The House of Black and White” Reaction

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Game of Thrones has been so good for so long now that I routinely forget how poorly made this series could have easily been or could be in the hands of lesser showrunners or in the face of greater network opposition to structuring the narrative of the series as closely to the style of the books as they do. The fearlessness with which Benioff, Weiss, and the other writers continually expand the universe on screen is really astounding. The narrative of the series moves constantly and consistently; they may stay in one place for a time, so to speak, as in “Blackwater” or “The Watchers On The Wall,” but it’s only because that’s where they need to stay at that point in time to move the narrative forward. The narrative always moves forward unceasingly, leaving the viewer no time to mourn the deceased but somehow just enough time to reflect on what’s happened.  Continue reading

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 4, Episode 10: “The Children” Reaction

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It was almost jarring to see them end a season on something other than a big “creature reveal.”  That’s not a complaint-and not that there’s anything wrong with big creature reveals, because of course there isn’t. But I really like when seasons (or series, for that matter) end with a central character boarding a vessel or entering a vehicle and going somewhere. It’s a beautiful if obvious metaphor for consuming a serial narrative and also for characters during a “hiatus.” This ending reminded me of the ends of Freaks and Geeks and Six Feet Under, which left me with an unsettling feeling given that those two were series finales. I’m certainly glad I’m aware that Game of Thrones has already been renewed for at least two more seasons.  Continue reading