Vicarious Viewing: Game of Thrones- “The Mountain and the Viper” Review

pedro pascal, oberyn martell, gregor clegane, the mountain, the red viper, the mountain and the viper review, game of thrones review, game of thrones season 4

This week on Game of Thrones: The Wildlings come to Mole Town, A Bastard becomes a Lord, Oberyn Martell fights Godzilla, and Sansa Stark goes full Sith.

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Vicarious Viewing: Game of Thrones- “The Mountain and the Viper” Review

Vicarious Viewing: Game of Thrones: “Oathkeeper” Review

gwendoline christie, brienne of tarth, oathkeeper

Game of Thrones gets crazy this week, as Dany takes a new city, the Tyrells make their move, Brienne sets out on a new adventure with an unexpected partner, and Jon Snow’s story continues to make some interesting deviations from the source material.

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Vicarious Viewing: Game of Thrones: “Oathkeeper” Review

Vicarious Viewing: Game of Thrones- “Breaker of Chains” Review

Game of Thrones suffers what could be its first missteps in an episode that, while still excellent, made a few weird choices concerning at least one character’s development.

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Vicarious Viewing: Game of Thrones- “Breaker of Chains” Review

Vicarious Viewing: Game of Thrones- “The Lion and the Rose” Review

Game of Thrones continues a strong fourth season with an eventful second episode. I’m a bit surprised that this played out so early in the season, but the big development isn’t necessarily who died, but what that death means for certain characters.

The crowd pleasing moment of the death of the show’s most despicable character (a title that must now be passed on to Ramsey Snow, if it hadn’t already) should have been immediately undercut by the fact that Tyrion was immediately blamed, and Sansa had to be whisked away by Ser Dontos (the drunk dude she saved way back in season two who suddenly reappeared last week). I would think fans would be FREAKING OUT now that Tyrion is on his way to the dungeons, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that people’s hatred of Joffrey blinded them to that little fact. Perhaps next week it will sink in.

I’m also a bit surprised that people are just happy that he’s dead, and not calling bullshit on how he died. I know a few people who are upset that it wasn’t Arya who done the deed. Perhaps they need time for that fact to sink in, as well.

With the death of Joffrey also comes another problem…a lack of a central character for everyone to hate. I’ve been wondering how many people have stuck around just to see how he gets it, and now that it’s happened, I wonder if the show’s ratings will fall off (not that it will matter, the show’s already been renewed through season 6).

With those nuggets out of the way, on to the rest of the episode.

We open on Ramsay Snow as he and a young woman hunt down another young woman, a broken Theon Greyjoy in tow. Perhaps opening with this scene wasn’t coincidence…with Joffrey out of the way, this guy is now the resident Nasty in Westeros. Even his father, Roose Bolton (the guy that sold out Robb) can’t stand him.

With everyone talking about the final scene, its easy to overlook the brilliant scene between Ramsay and Roose, the first solid indicator on the show that these two are related. Roose berates his bastard for flaying and castrating Theon, claiming that he wanted to trade Theon for a place called Moat Cailan that has been occupied by the Ironborn (I’m assuming this is where we’ll catch up with Yara, Theon’s sister). Ramsay demonstrates the psychological damage done to Theon by having the broken man (now calling himself Reek) into shaving him with a straight razor and confessing to Roose that he did not kill Bran and Rickon Stark. Theon is so terrified of Ramsay that he dare not attempt to murder his tormentor, for fear of what may happen. Roose sends men to look for the wayward Starks.

Alfie Allen, the actor that plays Theon, is great in this scene, and it’s the strongest performance in an episode filled with killer performances.

In King’s Landing, everyone is preparing for Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding. We get a nice scene between Tyrion and Jaime, who haven’t appeared on screen together since the first few episodes. It was good to see them interact, with Tyrion calling himself and his siblings “The Dwarf, the Cripple, and the Mother of Madness”.

Soon after, Tyrion learns from Varys that Cersei knows about Shae, and Varys is no longer able to protect them unless Shae leaves. This leads into what is probably one of the weaker scenes in the episode, where Tyrion berates Shae into leaving by reminding her that she is a whore. Its all bit overwrought, and since we know that Tyrion is just doing it to protect her, we’d think Shae of all people would realize it as well. Nevertheless, Bronn takes Shae to a ship, where she’ll be taken to Pentos. Or so we think. Bronn is a sell-sword, after all, and Tyrion’s money is Tywin’s money…and Tywin seemed keen on having her brought to his tower.

Elsewhere, on Dragonstone, Lady Melissandre is torching infidels and is sent to discuss religion with Lady Selyse, Stannis Baratheon’s daughter. I’m not entirely sure what these scenes were meant to do except reintroduce these characters. Since Stannis now knows about the threat at the Wall, it would seem he should be preparing to head that way about now, but he isn’t.

We also catch up with Bran, north of the wall. He’s spending more and more time warging out, and the others fear that he may end up forgetting himself and becoming part of Summer, his dire wolf, permanently. The group later comes across a heart tree, and Bran wargs into that, apparently. He has another vision of the three eyed crow, a decimated throne room similar to the one Dany saw in the House of the Undying, and the shadow of a dragon flying over King’s Landing. He also hears a voice telling Bran to keep going North. I have no idea what any of this means, but the implications are interesting. Is Bran going to be set in direct opposition to Dany eventually? If so, what does that mean? Is Bran being duped into unleashing Winter? Or is Dany’s coin going to land on the side of madness? Again, this is another scene that begs a lot of speculation, but will probably be forgotten in the wake of the Wedding.

Speaking of the wedding. The events leading up to the episode’s climax where rife with awkward tension. It was good to see Diana Rigg still killing it as Lady Olenna. Another high point was Oberyn and Ellaria’s conversation with Tywin and Cersei as they smiled through their teeth at each other while trading barbs. The look on Tywin’s face when Oberyn suggest that princess Myrcella is safer in Dorne where “the rape and murder of young girls is considered distasteful”, as opposed to Westeros, is priceless. There was also the great exchange between Jaime and Loras, and Cersei and Pycelle. Then Cersei and Brienne. Cersei was pretty much ruining everyone’s day.

Finally, there were the events leading up to THE event, in which Joffrey has a troupe of actors re-enact a farcical version of the War of Five kings, in which Joffrey is depicted as single-handedly taking down Stannis, Renly, Rob, and Balon Greyjoy (despite the fact that Balon is still alive and the Ironborn are still raiding the North). Joffrey is pretty much the only one laughing as Loras storms off and Sansa goes catatonic watching her brother’s death turned into a joke. The looks on the faces of those in attendance, from Varys to Olenna to Margaery, all show that every one thinks the show is in bad taste, and that there is little love for Joffrey. And yet, when he begins to choke, it is Lady Olenna, ever the shrewd power player, who screams for some one to help him. No one wants to be seen as happy over the King’s death, although most are probably feeling it.

Finally, there was the perfectly paced sequence in which Joffrey systematically humiliates Tyrion in front of everyone, to the point where even Sansa takes pity on him. All of which leads to Joffrey’s final dastardly act, pointing to his uncle as he dies and laying the blame squarely at Tyrion’s feet, tying off what was very nearly a perfect episode.

He just has one of those faces…you know, the kind you want to punch.

In terms of VFX, this episode was pretty light. There was a beautiful matte painting of the Red Keep during the approach to the wedding reception, and the effect of Joffrey’s dying face, likely a combination of make up and digtal enhancement, was also well done. The imagery during Bran’s vision was appropriately stylized and dreamlike, as well.

Season four continues to truck along. Previews for next week promise Dany’s arrival in Mereen and the Night’s Watch preparing for Mance Rayder’s attack. Only two episodes deep, and things are popping off left and right. Let’s just hope they leave some big moments for the second half of the season.

Vicarious Viewing: Game of Thrones- “The Lion and the Rose” Review

Vicarious Viewing- Game of Thrones: “Kissed by Fire” Review

Somebody’s going to need a change of pants when this is over…
copyright@ HBO

Living up to last week’s episode, what with its fiery dragon apocalypse closing it out, would have been a tall order for any show. But damn if this week didn’t do just that, but from a different direction.

If last week was all about moving the plot forward, then this week was all about character. The episode somehow managed to squeeze nearly every member of its enormous cast into it’s hour long running time, and still somehow managed not to feel imbalanced, rushed, or overloaded. The writers of this show have mastered the art of exposition, explaining the world and how it works without sacrificing the story. It truly is one of the best written shows on TV, on a purely technical level.

Three scenes in particular stood out to me. First, the opening scene, and quite possibly the best sword fight of the series, if not the best on TV in some time. This duel is the fulfillment of last week’s sentencing against Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane. Clegane is a monster of a man that few could ever hope to match. He has but one weakness, a fear of fire. Beric Dondarrion knew this and used it to his advantage. The result was an epic face off that was not only visually stunning, but built upon character foundations set down two years ago in the first season. The outcome of this fight also serves to further the Lord of Light mystery, as well as push Arya toward a crucial cross roads in her story.

The second standout scene involved Jaime Lannister (who has quickly become one of the more complex characters on the show) and Brienne of Tarth. This match up was my favorite story in Storm of Swords, and it’s a real treat to see it come alive on screen. It is important to bear in mind that both characters are nude in this scene, though the nudity isn’t primarily sexual. It’s more about emphasizing their vulnerability, Jaime’s in particular, as he finally reveals the full circumstances surrounding his murder of King Aerys Targaryen with a simmering, frustration fueled speech that nearly renders him unconscious due to the festering wound of his right wrist and the heat of the bath. Can a character who once shoved a ten year old kid out of a window in order to cover up his incest ever be redeemed? Maybe not, but this scene goes a long way to do just that.

Speaking of Jaime’s incest, the third scene of particular note involved his sister/lover Cersei, their father Tywin, and younger brother, Tyrion. Cersei spends much of the scene with a smug smile on her face, amused by the secret she knows, but Tyrion is unaware of. Both Petyr Baelish and House Tyrell have designs on Sansa Stark and through her, Winterfell. Tywin doesn’t intend to let either happen. Instead, he intends to wed Sansa to Tyrion, ensuring their supremacy in the north. Tyrion protests, and in another outstanding, low key moment, we are reminded of the horrible event Tywin put Tyrion through years before, when Tyrion says that he’s already been wedded once before.

Cersei watches, smiling that smug smile, but once Tywin is done with his son, he turns to his daughter and tells her that she will be married to Loras Tyrell, thus expanding their power to the South. Cersei’s demeanor changes completely at the drop of a hat as she realizes that she is being shunted off to spend the rest of her life in yet another loveless marriage. The scene ends with Tywin laying down the law to his children, telling them how tired he is of their trudging over the family name before storming out of the room and ending the episode.

While those three scenes were the standouts, that’s not to say there were other goings on in Westeros this week.

Robb Stark’s army continues to falter, despite having won all of their battles. The Lannisters have pulled back and decided to wait the young King out. This has caused discontent amongst the Northern ranks, as Rickard Karstark, one of Robb’s most valuable banner-men,  is still angry at the loss of his son at Jaime Lannister’s hands, and Robb’s inability to do anything about it. So, in his rage, Karstark kills two young Lannister hostages. Both Talisa and Catelyn advise him not to execute Karstark, lest he lose support of the house. But Robb, in his stubbornness, believes that if he stands for righteousness, he cannot allow the murder of those under their care to go unpunished, Lannister or no. There goes that damnable Stark honor again…

North of the Wall, Jon Snow and Ygritte share a nice little romantic moment. It’s worth pointing out that anytime a show of this nature adds a romance between two young idiots, proceedings take a turn for the cheese. Luckily, their love scene somehow avoids this trap, even with Ygritte’s “You know nothing” catchphrase. In fact, the catchphrase is used in a great reversal, as Jon shows her that he does know something, despite “being a maid.”

Across the sea, in Essos, we catch up with Dany and her newfound army. As they march, Barristan Selmy and Jorah Mormont reminisce about the reign of Aerys and the civil war. Barristan says that he has served the drunken and the insane, and that just once he’d like to serve a ruler he’d be proud of. Jorah is in much the same boat, and both of them hope that Dany will be that ruler.

The conversation takes a sour note, however, when Barristan reminds Jorah that his reputation in Westeros has faltered since the war, given his crime of selling slaves. He suggests that, if they are to help Dany win the hearts of the people upon her return to the west, then Jorah might consider stepping away, for her sake. Jorah reminds Barristan that he’s no longer the lord commander, and that they are both nothing more than exiles at the moment. The only wish he follows is Dany’s.

As for Dany, she has the officers of her new army meet with her and choose their own commander. His name is Grey Worm, a name given to him by the slave masters to remind him that he is vermin. Horrified, Dany tells him to choose his own name. Grey Worm chooses to remain Grey Worm, because the name he was born with was cursed, and Grey Worm is the name he had the day Daenerys Targaryen of Westeros freed him.

Finally, we take a trip to Dragonstone, where Stannis Baratheon takes the time to visit his wife. This is probably my least favorite scene in the episode, namely because Stannis is probably my least favorite character, and the whole fetus-in-a-jar-of-green-slime motif that the half crazed Lady Selyse has going on looks borderline Schumacher Batman. This scene does eventually lead to the introduction of Stannis’ disfigured daughter, Shireen, and a brief but sweet scene between her and Davos where she learns that he can’t read and agrees to teach him, a small but important plot point further down the line.

Other bits of Note:

Gendry telling Arya that he was staying with the Brotherhood Without Banners. When she asks why, he tells her that they are a family. Arya says that she could be his family, to which he replies, “No. You would be my Lady.”

Lady Olenna continues to wreak havoc on the status quo when she goes to see Tyrion about the cost of Joffrey’s wedding.  She tells Tyrion that she’d heard he was a drunken, debauched little terror, and that she is quite disappointed to find nothing more than a book keeper. Then she agrees to pay for half of the royal wedding. It seems not even Tyrion can keep up with the Queen of Thorns.

Vicarious Viewing- Game of Thrones: “Kissed by Fire” Review

Vicarious Viewing- Game of Thrones: And His Watch is Ended

Hello, everybody, and welcoming to Vicarious Viewing, a regular column here which I hope to use to discuss television and movies. I wouldn’t really call these reviews as much as recaps and my general opinions on them. The shows I intend to cover at the moment are as follows: Game of Thrones, Justified, Person of Interest, Grimm, Longmire, Hell on Wheels, and The Walking Dead.

“B-but, what about other awesome shows, like Breaking Bad! Surely that’s more worth your time, and ours, than Grimm!”

First off, you’re right. Breaking Bad is amazing. Unfortunately, I didn’t really become aware of it until halfway through its second season and I never watched it until a few months ago when it went up on Netflix, so I’m behind by half a season. Perhaps, eventually, I’ll get to it. I really want to! I may even do retro-viewings for shows that are off the air (Deadwood and Carnivale are two specific shows I already have in mind). Secondly, Grimm has gotten better. But I suppose that’s not really saying much so…onwards and upwards!

(One more thing before I go on…SPOILERS! I’ll try not to be too specific about certain plot twists and character deaths and so forth, but this week’s episode in particular contained a moment so spectacular that I can’t help talking about it. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!)

***

"Lions? Wolves? Ha...ha ha ha...ha ha ha ha!"
“Lions? Wolves? Ha…ha ha ha…ha ha ha ha!”

Holy crap, was this week’s episode of Game of Thrones unbelievably badass. Especially those last ten minutes.

This is a series that has become known more for making the audience clutch at its pearls or wring its hands than making it cheer, so watching Daenerys (to whom I will refer as Dany from this point forward) finally say “I’ve had enough of this s—” and wreck shop at Astapor was probably the first legitimately crowd pleasing moment in the three seasons it’s been on. ‘Dracarys’ is my new favorite word on TV, because every time Dany says it, something AWESOME happens. I need to find a screen cap of the final shot of the episode for my desktop ASAP. (Edit: Hey, would you look at that…found one! Thank you google and the On Top of It people keeping up the Game of Thrones Wikia page!)

Elsewhere in the GoT universe, we caught up with Jaime Lannister, fresh off the chopping block, literally. He’s feeling a bit mopey about having what is probably his second favorite body part being removed at the end of the last episode. When he falls off his horse and falls into a puddle of mud (that is surrounded by dry land, but whatever…budget), his captors torment him and give him a canteen full of Not-Water to drink.

Watching the scene, it’s very easy to forget that Jaime ended the first episode of the show by committing an unforgivable act, and it’s even easier to forget that his captors serve the closest thing the show has to a  traditional “Hero”. But I suppose that’s partly the point. Having read the first three books, I have an idea of where Jaime’s arc is going, and it is very interesting, for such a reprehensible man.

He later refuses to eat, and Brienne of Tarth, his former captor and woman of honor to rival Ned Stark (honor that got them into this mess, much like Ned Stark) reminds him that there’s a whole world beyond his posh position at Royal Court, where people experience loss much worse than his and continue on with their lives. It’s a bit of a tough love moment, and it’s great to watch.

Later on in the episode we are shown a scene in which Varys, a man who had what would have been his first favorite body part removed at a very young age, telling Tyrion, who’s still sitting in King’s Landing waiting for his story to pick up, about the circumstances surrounding his castration. I’m not sure if this scene was intended to echo the loss of Jaime’s right hand, but the writer in me can’t help but see a connection. Where as Jaime is willing to just lay down and die, Varys, a young boy at the time, resolved to survive out of spite and seek vengeance. It’s an interesting play on audience expectations, the soft spoken eunuch hiding a steely desire for revenge versus the more traditionally male Jaime Lannister, who just wants to give up once the status quo of his life is turned upside down.

Margaery Tyrell continues to be awesome as she subtly undermines Cersei’s already faltering influence over Joffrey. None of this material was in the book, but it’s a welcome addition as it actually serves two purposes-giving Margaery (who I understand becomes very important later on) something to do, but also providing Joffrey, the most love to hate character on TV at the moment, some depth. Not sympathy, however, like Jaime…just depth.

We are also treated to another scene with Lady Olenna, another much expanded character from the book, and yet another awesome addition. She’s the take no crap grandma I’m sure many of us are familiar with. When one of the young ladies under her charge shows her the golden rose she’s been embroidering, Lady Olenna tells her it’s a boring piece of crap, and that their house sigil and motto, “Growing Strong”, are boring pieces of crap compared to Direwolves and Krakens and “Winter is Coming”.

This little meeting is interrupted by Varys (verbal sparring between Varys and Lady Olenna…SQUEE!), who greets her very politely. Olenna scoffs and asks if Varys is flirting with her, then wonders, “What happens when the non-existent bumps against the decrepit.” This little exchange leads the beginning of a beautiful relationship as the two take a walk through the garden, discussing how to keep Sansa Stark out of the hands of Petyr Baelish, and Petyr Baelish out of Winterfell.

North of the Wall, things get dicey for Sam and the rest of the Night’s Watch, as hunger and disdain for the wildling Craster lead to a complete cluster f–k of epic proportions. It also provides Sam with the excuse he needs to grab Gilly, one of Craster’s daughters who has just given birth to a son, and run away.

Meanwhile, we catch up with Arya, who gets to where ever she’s going, along with Sandor Clegane, one of the men on her Death List 5-hundred. The Brotherhood of Banners begin flinging accusations of  murder at Clegane, but all of the things they accuse him of can be laid at the feet of his brother, Gregor. It isn’t until Arya speaks up that they have a murder to pin The Hound, and he even admits to killing the boy in question.
The scene ends with Clegane being sentenced to trial by combat, which has always worked in the past on this show.

All in all, this was a great episode that managed to move things forward while also sowing seeds for the future. One of the problems with genre television is the propensity to either draw things out too long (LOST, X-FILES) or blow their load too soon, leaving the rest of the series to kind of dangle out in the wind (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA season 3). For a show based on such an enormous book, I’m amazed how much they continue to ADD, rather than take away. Margaery Tyrell and Theon Greyjoy are pretty much non-existent in the book season three is largely based on, A Storm of Swords, yet both have featured pretty prominently thus far. It’s a delicate balancing act that the showrunners are playing at, and so far it’s working. I just hope they can keep it up.

Vicarious Viewing- Game of Thrones: And His Watch is Ended