Tuesday, July 25, 2017

(TV) Game of Thrones:Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 3: Preview "The Queen's Justice" (HBO)




(TV) Game of Thrones: Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 2 Review: 'Stormborn'




(Photo Credit: HBO)

Game of Thrones
Season 7, Episode 2
By Garrett Yoshitomi

Last week’s episode of Game of Thrones literally broke the internet. Well, maybe not the entire internet, but at least HBO's little corner of the world wide web. HBO.com crashed during the first half of the seventh season premiere of its most popular show ever. And yes, that's most, with an ‘m,’ popular, with a ‘p,’ and ever, with an 'e.' Despite these website issues, Game of Thrones shattered the record for its most watched single episode, with 10 million viewers. And, if you include live streaming, last Sunday's "Dragonstone" was watched by approximately 16 million people- a pretty solid turnout for the devout fandom that made Game of Thrones HBO’s most watched series, ahead of The Sopranos, back in 2014. For all this record breaking, you'd expect the season premiere to have been packed to the gills with action, but it was a relatively slow episode that got off to a hot start, with Arya wiping out the Freys, but then reduced itself to a simmer for the remaining fifty-five minutes.

“Stormborn” picks up roughly where last week’s “Dragonstone” left off, as Daenerys and her council finally get to work on devising a plan to take back Westeros. It’s not all peaches and creams for the Mother of Dragons; however, as Daenerys quickly learns that her constituents have a very strong, and different, opinion on what her first steps of conquest must be. It’s good that Daenerys faces some push-back on her decisions. It would be boring if her storyline was devoid of internal strife, her supporters unquestionably falling in line behind her every decision. Plus, it’s fitting that Ellaria Sand and Olenna Tyrell are the ones dissenting, since they’re the newest additions to the crew, and motivated more by their thirst for vengeance against Cersei, rather than a firm belief in Daenerys as a ruler. There is a balance that needs to be struck, however. It will get old pretty quickly if Daenerys is being challenged at each and every turn. We’ve waited long enough for the young Targaryen to make her move on Westeros, and to have her progress stalled by contrived, unnecessary infighting would be incredibly disappointing.

(Photo Credit: HBO)
To a certain degree, it makes sense that Daenerys would question Varys’ intentions- after all, he did send an assassin after her, on Robert Baratheon’s orders, back in season one. But still, it’s a little weird that she’s having this conversation with him now, as opposed to two seasons ago, when he first joined her cause. For casual fans, and most non-book readers, Varys has always been a difficult character to peg. His scenes are brief, and filled with double talk and metaphors that tend to muddy their relation to the plot. But, for all his convoluted Master of Whispers babble, he’s remained a reliable ally to Tyrion, and by extension, Daenerys, as well as unwaveringly consistent with his goal of getting a Targaryen back on the Iron Throne. Overall, I find Varys’ explanation for why he will remain loyal to Daenerys, despite his disloyalty to previous kings, to be satisfying. Plus, his desire to find a ruler for the common folk rings consistent with his own rags to slightly-nicer rags story; though, it’s clear that Dany will continue to hold a healthy, and arguably necessary, dose of skepticism towards the eunuch.

Last week, I talked about Euron Greyjoy, and how he'd have to prove himself in the coming episodes to be considered anything more than early season dragon fodder. Surprisingly, (to me at least), the King of the Iron Islands came through, delivering a bad guy performance that would make even Cersei Lannister proud. It was easy to be skeptical of Euron, given that his list of nefarious on-screen accomplishments had been limited to overpowering an old man, and threatening to murder his niece and nephew. Plus, it's a little strange to see this character suddenly arise from obscurity and exile, only to become a major player in the war for the Iron Throne. Regardless, the only thing that matters, when you play the game of thrones, is your final score, and after this week, Euron certainly finds himself towards the top of the standings. It will be interesting to see how his role, and relationship with Cersei, continues to evolve, though I still don't feel like he'll last past this season.

(Photo Credit: HBO)
Cersei spends this episode trying to rally some of the bannermen of House Tyrell against their own Queen of Thorns, Olenna. Notable amongst them is Randyll Tarly, who initially declines Cersei’s offer, and manages to come across as rather noble in the process, despite a long history of mistreating his son, Samwell Tarly. Although initially, Cersei appears to be outgunned against Dany’s set of dragons, it’s easy to see the writers forging a bit of plot armor to even things up in her favor. Jaime’s comments last week, about how the Lannister’s are firmly on the losing side, certainly ring true, but it would be an incredibly boring season if Daenerys and co. steamrolled through King’s Landing, as they realistically should.

For all the excitement that's going on in other parts of Westeros, I think Sam currently has the most interesting individual storyline. He's fairly isolated from the rest of the major players, but he does cross paths with Jorah Mormont for the first time. Despite the two never meeting before, Sam shares a strong connection with Jorah, through the latter’s father, Jeor Mormont, former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. I think it's pretty likely that both Sam and Jorah top most people's list of most adored supporting characters, so it's quite enjoyable to see Sam's bravery shine through, as well as the prospect that Jorah might live to fight another day by Daenerys’ side.

(Photo Credit: HBO)
This season is shaping up to be an all-out war between Daenerys and Cersei, with Jon Snow, and the rest of the North, finding themselves roughly in the middle. As semi-omniscient bystanders, we know that Daenerys and Jon, as the protagonists, are destined to join forces and kick Lannister, as well as White Walker, butt. However, to those in-show, Jon’s choice seems less clear. Everybody, from Sansa to Lyanna Mormont, raises a good point regarding the riskiness of Jon abandoning the North to negotiate with the unknown daughter of one of Westeros’ most tyrannical kings. However, the alliance between Daenerys and Jon Snow is something that both casual fans and book readers, alike, have been looking forward to for years, and even though the scene features well-balanced arguments from both sides, there’s little doubt that Jon will set off for Dragonstone, with the goal of bolstering his forces.


While it’s easy to feel invested in Jon’s storyline, Sansa is the character I’m most interested to see develop in the aftermath of her brother’s decision. Before heading south, Jon leaves the North to Sansa, as the only Stark in Winterfell. For the past season or so, Sansa has been skirting around the edges of leadership, but now her time has finally come to take the reins of House Stark. Sansa’s come a long way from the na├»ve and childish girl she started as, back in season one. She’s faced her fair share of adversities and horrors since then, and just like her siblings, ultimately emerged stronger for it. Of course, the potential for Littlefinger interference will always loom as long as Petyr Baelish, and the need for the Knights of the Vale, hang around. But, it appears that Sansa is aware of his untrustworthiness, and she ultimately might have enough savvy to use this for her own gain.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

(TV) Game of Thrones: Game of Thrones season 7 episode 2 "Stormborn": Trailer (HBO)




(TV) Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 1 Review: ‘Dragonstone’

(Photo Credit: HBO)
Game of Thrones
Season 7, Episode 1
By Garrett Yoshitomi

Game of Thrones is back! But, you probably don’t need me to tell you that. It’s been a long offseason for Game of Thrones, which typically airs in the spring. However, the need for dreary winter skies pushed filming, for season seven, into February, two months later than any of the previous six seasons wrapped. That extra two months might not seem like a long time, but the wait for fans has been real, and season seven figures to be one of the most anticipated seasons of any show, ever. The first trailer for season seven dropped in late May, and quickly reached 61 million views in the first 24 hours, a record for a TV trailer during that time span.

But, it’s not just the extra two months of waiting that has fans riled up. With this Song of Ice and Fire fast approaching its final measure, we’re only two short seasons away from the end of Game of Thrones. In fact, with seasons seven and eight receiving an episode order shorter than the ten we’re accustomed to, in all, there are just thirteen episodes left of Game of Thrones. It's strange to think that this epic tale will soon be reaching its conclusion after gracing our screens for the past half-decade. But, the end is near. “Dragonstone” represents the beginning to this end, as multiple storylines and character arcs that have been teased since the very beginning, finally get put into motion.

(Photo Credit: HBO)
For all the #WinterIsHere hype that HBO has been throwing around, “Dragonstone” is more of a slow burn than some viewers, including myself, might have been expecting. It neither leads with an epic battle, nor ends with a shocking cliffhanger- and that’s okay. Because what “Dragonstone” does is ready the audience for a final act that will unite important plot points that have been scattered throughout the series, and subtly woven into even twist and turn of this six year journey. For a lot of viewers, remembering what an Umber or a Karstark is, or even just understanding the significance of Dragonstone, will seem frivolous. But, these are crucial world-building details that will ultimately make these last thirteen episodes more enjoyable to watch- even if most of what you're watching for is some sweet, sweet Drogon vs. White Walker action.

Last year's reunion, between Jon Snow and Sansa Stark, was one of the high points of the season, made even better by their eventual victory over Ramsey Bolton, and subsequent reclamation of Winterfell. Fans have been yearning for a Stark family reunion since season one, but with the number of episodes, as well as Stark children, dwindling, it’s possible that Jon and Sansa might be the longest lasting one we’ll get. A big storyline heading into this season, though, has been the relationship between Jon and Sansa, and whether Jon's rise to power, in the North, might ignite jealousy and hostility between them. Given how long it's been since the Starks have had a 'W' tossed their way, it would be a shame if Jon and Sansa are brought back together, only to be quickly torn apart by infighting.

(Photo Credit: HBO)
The main point of contention between Jon and Sansa, this episode, is how he handles the punishments, or lack thereof, for the Umber and Karstark families. If you’ll remember, though both houses were loyal to the Starks for centuries, they withdrew their support for Robb Stark, during the War of the Five Kings (season 3), and subsequently swore fealty to the Boltons, who had subsequently taken over Winterfell. The heads of the Umber and Karstark houses, the men who personally decided to abandon the Starks, both died during the Battle of the Bastards, which according to Jon is punishment enough for both houses, though Sansa disagrees. For now, it appears as if the conflict between Jon and Sansa will be kept at bay. Although, it’s easy to see Sansa growing resentful towards Jon, especially if he continues to treat her like his little sister, rather than as a capable and savvy political adviser.

Poor Sam can't seem to catch a break. Even after he manages to leave the dinginess of Castle Black for Oldtown, he still finds himself trapped in his own personal nightmare of soul-numbing, elbow grease-requiring, manual labor. The brief montage of Sam's daily routine of scrubbing chamber pots and eating stew (hopefully not in that order) is incredibly well done, and feels almost melodic. And, in a show that sometimes sees its lighter moments run too few and far between, Sam remains a rare source of levity, and dare I say, even comic relief. It seems fairly obvious that Sam's stay at the Citadel will yield a significant amount of plot progressing information and world-building. But, I'm not ready to completely rule out the possibility of some action taking place, as we get a heavy hint towards one way Sam's arc will intersect with another major storyline.

(Photo Credit: HBO)
We get a nice sequence between Cersei and Jaime this episode, and it will be interesting to see how their dynamic evolves with Cersei's ascension to the Iron Throne coinciding with (and resulting directly from) the death of their last child, Tommen. For the past several seasons, the Lannister twins have moved along opposite trajectories, with Cersei growing more ruthless and vindictive, while Jaime's developed a stronger sense of compassion and honor. The Lannister's have always operated from a position of power, but for the first time all series, Cersei and Jaime find themselves playing from behind. Normally, these two star-crossed siblings can count on their devotion to each other, but it's fair to wonder if this will change, now that their backs rest squarely against the wall, and with their differing opinions on how best to handle desperate situations. Cersei's violent, sociopathic methods, and manic desire to rule, will hardly sit well with Jaime, who infamously struck down his own king (Mad King Aerys) for the same behavior. But, at the same time, Jaime has always cared much more deeply for Cersei than she has for him, meaning that any act of defiance, on his part, will not be made easily, if at all.

In the short term, we’ll have to be content with Cersei going toe-to-toe with the likes of Euron Greyjoy. Euron made a couple of appearances last season, but for the most part, he’s a relatively new and unknown character. He lacks the bad guy resume of a more experienced Tywin Lannister or Ramsey Bolton; and as a Greyjoy, it’s reasonable to assume that his bark is considerably worse than his bite- not exactly the hallmark of a feared villain. But, as far as early season antagonists go, we could do a lot worse (*cough*Sand Snakes*cough*). Euron’s got that iron price swagger to him, and seems just dangerous and sinister enough to provide a compelling first challenge to Daenerys and her forces.  

(Photo Credit: HBO)
Surprisingly, this episode’s namesake, “Dragonstone,” doesn’t make an appearance until the closing minutes. After spending six seasons consolidating power in the neighboring continent of Essos, Daenerys Targaryen finally touches down in Westeros, specifically in Dragonstone, the ancestral seat of her family. This scene by itself isn’t particularly rousing, though we do get some nice shots of Dany making her way through the castle she was born in, and the absence of dialogue throughout is quite powerful. But, it’s more what this scene represents- from timid young girl to Mother of Dragons. The conclusion of a journey six years in the making, to the start of a new journey to reclaim the kingdom that had been under her family’s rule for nearly three centuries.


But, just like Daenerys can’t expect to conquer Westeros with a single trip to Dragonstone, we can’t expect Game of Thrones to dive right into the action with the first episode. “Dragonstone” is unexpectedly action-less save for a scene or two at the beginning, but it’s not uncharacteristic of this show, at all, to have an episode mostly dedicated to exposition. There have always been a lot of moving parts in Game of Thrones, but as we enter the series’ home stretch, the way these parts move and interact is of the utmost importance, and requires deliberate setup. There’s a lot to look forward to for the rest of season seven, as evidenced by its record-breaking trailer, but with the series’ end in sight, even the episodes where swords remain sheathed, and arrows un-nocked, deserve to be savored just as much as the “Hardhomes” and “Battle of the Bastards” of the world.

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