Most Doctor Who stories can be divided into one of two categories: ones where The Doctor is basically forced to confront an old adversary and ones where he chooses to confront or investigate something unknown out of curiosity. “Under The Lake” is a fine example of the latter category and one of the better installments thereof in some time in terms of quality.
I’ve come to almost fear two-episode story arcs on television for the simple reason that the concluding episode is almost always disappointing. Having compared “The Magician’s Apprentice” to the Season 6 premiere “The Impossible Astronaut”, I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that the last time a concluding episode delivered relative to the first on Doctor Who, in my opinion was “The Impossible Astronaut”/”Day of the Moon,” the latter episode being every bit as engaging and satisfying as the first installment, if not even more so. While I wouldn’t go that far in describing “The Witch’s Familiar” (or “The Magician’s Apprentice,” for that matter), I was certainly pleasantly surprised by how no momentum was lost between the first two episodes of this season. Indeed, “Familiar” possessed several qualities and raised several questions that the previous episode did.
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
As if we weren’t already, I think we’ve officially moved into the period of Game of Thrones the television series becoming its own coexisting and interrelated but separate entity from the A Song of Ice and Fire book series. While I cherish Martin’s books in a way that is different from the way(s) I regard the television series, I don’t view this as a positive or negative development, necessarily, it’s simply the new reality. Continue reading
While I harbor no sympathy for assertions of quality for one work over another across media (i.e. “the book was better…“) and have zero tolerance for people who complain that an adaptation isn’t sufficiently representative of their personal experience with or perception of the source material (“wah wah wah, they cut this, they changed that“), I will freely admit that as someone who has read and loved the Ice and Fire book series, there is something extremely disconcerting about watching what was once an exceedingly faithful adaptation begin to diverge from the source text to such an extent that it fundamentally changes the experience of viewing the series. I don’t mean this as a total negative; it is exhilarating as well as disconcerting to know that in any given sequence one of my favorite characters I haven’t prepared myself to say goodbye to because they’re alive in the books might be killed off. This must be what the non-readers feel when watching Game of Thrones. Continue reading
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
Reek-it rhymes with week, which is about how long it took me to finish this episode because my six-month old puppy Fredo reacted and responded in kind and unceasingly to the dogs barking in the Winterfell kennel scene where Sansa is “reintroduced” to Theon/Reek. But when I could actually hear the soundtrack over little Fredo’s incessant barking, I really enjoyed this episode, especially the Winterfell content. I think Iwan Rheon gets Ramsay just right in the way that he’s threatening, odd, off-putting, and totally unhinged without being over the top and cartoonish. He goes right up to the line and stops exactly where he needs to.
Game of Thrones shares something with Lost in that every episode is required viewing for a follower of the show, not necessarily because of plot developments, but because of character. To be sure, each episode of Game of Thrones features plot developments, as was the case with most Lost episodes, but the heart of the series in both cases is the various ways those developments affect the characters. Plot is meaningless without character in any case, but especially on series like these with ensembles this extensive. My point here is that with shows like these, there are no throwaway episodes; every installment is compulsory viewing if one is going to follow and experience the show in the most optimal way possible. Continue reading
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
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