May 27th, 2019 – Game of Thrones Season 8 and Discussion (Spoiler Alert!!)

(Spoilers Included – Fair Warning!)

So having had a few days to digest what has happened with Game of Thrones and its conclusion, I was left with contemplating why it was I was feeling so dissatisfied with the outcome of it all.   I haven’t signed any petitions for the re-filming and re-writing of the entire season, but there are parts of me that think that this would be more satisfying than how it was left.

So why exactly was Season 8 of GOT so damn disappointing and I think I have a few answers.  Doing an exercise like this somewhat feels like looking upon the mess that Star Wars has become.  There are just so many things that you can bring forward, that by definition identifying a few will always leave out many, many more.   But still, some thoughts on the topic would be worthy of a debate anyway.

Daenerys

First and foremost I think the treatment of the two principal characters (well at least since Seasons 4 or 5, being Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen or “Danny”) is most disturbing and disappointing.  I preface this discussion with the fact that my disappointment has nothing to do with me losing a bet after episode 3 of this season on whether Jon would be doing what he did at the conclusion of episode 8.  Not at all!  But I digress.     Danny was a reason to watch this show and Emilia Clarke played her so well, from this mild and meek young woman, being sold off to a savage (Dothraki leader) to appease her sniveling and annoying brother’s desire to take back the throne of his father who was assassinated by the Kingslayer and being given to Robert Baratheon, with Cersei Lannister as his wife to then becoming a powerful leader with the greatest army ever seen (followed by those of many persuasions who believed in her and her vision for the world).   Danny from early on became a woman of greater and greater power by being firm but fair.  She eliminated the bad people (like slave owners) and sided with the layperson.   The poor and the average who didn’t have a voice.   She hated injustice and was quick to punish the privileged.    She readily acknowledged that her Mad King father was a bad person and did wicked things.   She was going to end that circle of destruction.    Danny also made allies and forged alliances with promises that she kept and vows that she made.   She was able to deliver.    She was to be feared as the Mother of Dragons, but also her ability to vanquish her enemies, like the Dothraki leaders who wanted to marginalize her and keep their brutish and male-dominated ways.   That is background.    Then this season comes along and there are cracks starting to form.   Those close to Jon see Danny as a threat.   Sam has a moment of surprise when he hears from Danny directly that his father and brother were executed by Drogon on the battle field.    He shockingly is all upset about this for a father who disowned him, and threatened to kill him in a “hunting accident” if he didn’t take the Black and leave forever (never to marry, never to have offspring, and forever he at the Wall).   Nice life.  He also later disowned Sam once again for bringing a wildling (Gilly) into his home.   I would think Sam would thank Danny for killing the prick.   Instead he got all emotional and spoke harshly about Danny.    What?!   Danny loses her closest advisors, and those that love her, and starts feeling “all alone” in Westeros – even forgetting her Starbucks cup of the table at the party in celebration of defeating the White Walkers and the Night King.    She is feeling more and more alone.   But all of this doesn’t add up to the genocide that she instigates in King’s Landing.

Let’s unpack the attack in a little bit more detail.   Danny has her forces ready to invade and attack King’s Landing by force.   She has decimated the fleet in the nearby sea, and further wiped out quickly the large crossbows meant to take down her dragon (and have effectively killed her other dragon).   So she has air superiority and her forces have used her dragon attack to gain access inside the castle walls.    Tyrion meanwhile has been trying to work a peace, and have the bells ring when Kings Landing and her troops will surrender to Danny.   The bells start to ring and King’s Landing forces lay down their arms.   Danny then loses her shit and decides on a scorched earth policy.   But her beef really is with Cersei moreso than the people of Kings Landing.   Cersei may be using her subjects as human shields, since after all she hates them, and they hate her, but the distance to travel to the main castle (the Red Keep) isn’t far at all for a dragon.    And what about this wanton destruction of this city?   Didn’t Cersei herself wipe out thousands and a good chunk of her city when she eliminated the Sparrows and leadership with the green matter?     Surely the people of King’s Landing remember this, as well as I am sure haven’t repaired the massive damage that was sustained.   So why doesn’t Danny focus her rage on Cersei?   Ride her dragon to the Red Keep and attack Cersei head on?    Why all this collateral damage which does nothing for her except give her more to repair in her own future home as New Queen?   She kills and destroys the innocents that have always been her focus to win the hearts and minds.   She ignores the advice of Tyrion to not lay waste to the city she wants to rule.    It is all so out of character that we have no frame of reference for it.   She was the hero.   She was the one you cheer for.   And then this character lineage argument comes around that lazily argues that you must follow in the path of your father (family name).   Why must Danny become a Mad Queen and tyrant?   Unhinged and incapable of reason.   Why does she make her plea and victory speech before the remaining Unsullied and Dothraki that their wars and battles have just begun??!   Wasn’t this the end game?  Why is it all so reminiscent of the Nazi speeches in WWII and the First Order Speech in Force Awakens.    We are left with a result that puzzles and is frustrating.   It is lazy writing in my mind, and a conclusion without a proper build up.

Jon Snow

So what of the other hero in all of this, Jon Snow?   The bastard child of Ned Stark initially, who turns out to be much more.   He was Head of the Black, even killed by them and brought back to life.   He was King of the North and brought back Winterfell to its rightful family owners from the hateful Ramsey Bolton (truly one of the best bad guys ever written for a series).   He is a rightful heir to the throne and offered a possibility to the share in the leadership by Danny herself.   He has been loyal and a true friend, one who keeps his word, telling the truth even when it causes him trouble throughout the series.    He is loving and protective of those he cares about.   He is the hero that again viewers followed and cheered as he made his way through all the trials and challenges that he faced.   Jon makes up his own mind and does things that he feels are right, and will take them on himself (like volunteering for the lame mission to gather up a single White Walker to prove to Cersei that there really is a threat from the North).   But what happens to this brave warrior?   After seeing all the senseless destruction as outlined above, he is convinced by Tyrion in a jail cell that he must do what must be done.   He must protect his sisters from Danny, for when in future they likely show they have no interest in bending the knee to the New Queen.   Query whether Danny would ignore what she acknowledged was a great heroic feat made by Arya in the Battle with the Night King, whether she would have any harsh intentions to the saviour of the known world?   I doubt it, especially if Arya takes on her next set of missions as she sees them from the ending here.    If I were Danny, I would give her all boats and men and provisions that she would ever want.   So really it would be saving Sansa, and quite frankly she would get whatever she deserved as an ungrateful and privileged wanna-be Queen.   Any person who would pine over Joffrey Lannister isn’t worthy of praise nor protection.   But I disgress.   So Jon does what he does and is banished, yet again, to the Black!!  WHAT?!   But with the Wall destroyed and open for all to pass, and the Wildlings as friends, there is nothing to do there.   He abandons his post, again something he wouldn’t do, and heads north, where there is literally nothing.   So Jon kills those he loves, he is disloyal and doesn’t follow through on promises which he made throughout the series.   Some may argue he is keeping a promise to protect the realm generally from an unhinged tyrant, but that presupposes that he couldn’t have impact upon her.    She even offers to rule together.   So another unsatisfying aspect of the ending, that was hastily put together without the proper build up, and not enough time for the viewer to catch up.

Cersei Lannister

The ending of Cersei Lannister and her reign has to be one of those most disappointing in recent memory.  In a series where especially wicked and dastardly people meet fitting ends (think Ramsey Bolton or Joffrey or Lord Varys – scheming and plotting to the very end) this ending is especially unsatisfying.   Cersei had ordered the death of her own brothers, including her lover and father of her children.   She had blown up thousands.   She will, in short, do anything and kill anyone to keep her position.   She is the focal point of the hatred with Danny, and she has backed out on her word countless times, including failing to send troops to fight the White Walkers in the North.    Wouldn’t it have been better served to have Danny fly in on Drogon to the top of the Red Keep and blow fire and cause destruction there.    Hell, even Arya and The Hound could be there to attack and finish off The Mountain, before reaching and addressing Cersei.   Perhaps the Hound can kill The Mountain while he is threatening Arya, to protect her and sacrifice himself to be more human and more like the father-figure that Arya had lost to the executioner’s sword as ordered by Joffrey.    A beaten and bested Cersei could then be brought before her own people to be tried for genocide herself and the betrayal of the New Queen.   Cersei is defeated and shamed and left to live her life out in pain and obscurity.   The New Queen might use her to set an example of others and strip her of her name and titles.   Cersei may choose to take her own life, but it would be in misery and alone.   Defeat at being remembered as a villain and ultimately forgotten by the people.   Instead, she is re-joined by her brother Jamie, who seems to forgive that he has been ordered killed by her.    He accepts that he is wicked, and deserving to die (or at least accept banishment) and goes to her side.    Ultimately the walls literally come crumbling down and the Keep becomes a tomb, but even one where in episode 5, I am not altogether certain that she is even dead.    It takes until Episode 6, where miraculously and incredibly she and Jamie are found in the rubble by Tyrion that she is confirmed dead.   There is no head on a spike, or parading her around for all to see.   It is anti-climactic.    All the force and emotion of finally defeating a strong and difficult opponent is lost.    Even think to Arya killing House Frey en masse and you get a sense of how powerful a fitting ending can be, in retribution for The Red Wedding (one of the most shocking and remarkable sequences in recent series history) and you know this series knows how to do this right.   Instead for the most important defeat, the repayment of the execution of Ned Stark, they fumble the ball.

I could go on and talk about the ultimate head-scratching resolution for the new ruler of Westeros, and the choice of Hand.   I could question how the Dothraki could ever accept such a choice.    Or wonder about a people like the Unsullied who are incapable, by definition, of replenishing their troops and how they can ever be satisfied about finding a track of land to settle in.   Or speak to strange new parties showing up in the final meeting as presumably leaders of Westeros.  Or how they present a book called A Song of Ice and Fire which mirrors the name of the actual books that George R.R. Martin wrote for this story.   All of it was cheesey and a bit ridiculous.   There was so much right about GOT in getting to Season 8, that the resolution feels hollow and not worthy of the episodes and road travelled to get here.   What was really a character based drama of intrigue and betrayal became in the end action sequences that left the characters behind.   Weak storylines like the Brann story as cripple who can become the three-eyed raven (yea, okay…but so what?) become a greater focus while more developed and emotionally satisfying lines were moved to the sidelines.   Other storylines that were so important, like Arya and her ability to be No One and take on any face, is sidelined in moments (like the killing of Cersei) when it could have been very effective.   No one really got to see the powers that she had mastered, and how those could be used.    The whole Lord of Light story and the followers of that entity are ignored.   Melisandre was not the only one.  How does Sam become a Grand Maester so young?   But suffice it to say that this was time well spent.   I thoroughly enjoyed the series.   Making this 8 Seasons and 73 episodes was way better than had it become a three hour movie (like Hollywood wanted to do).   George R.R. Martin did right by making this come to life this way.   It also became a new benchmark for fantasy series and quality in writing and production value.   No one can say that they scrimped in this production and that the CGI was sub-par.   Far from it.     They eventually had the money to put quality together (especially the cast) and to put good scenes around them.   I wish the books had finished off what was started, but you can’t make an old writer write.   So we close off another chapter in quality TV like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and others.    The fact that so much debate can arise from a series shows that it has captured the imagination of the people.   No one wants to debate something they just can’t stand.   Winter has come and gone.   On to Summer!

April 29th, 2019

This past week I caught the release of Sharkwater: Extinction on Crave.  It was being released there as part of Earth Day.  This is the sequel to the much praised first film entitled Sharkwater, where the filmmaker was the young, Canadian Rob Stewart.  In 2006, he had pointed out the remarkable shark fin industry to address the primarily Asian wish for shark fin soup.   Certain countries, like Costa Rica, were allowing or turning a blind eye to these activities taking place in their waters.   The resulting outcry of support galvanized a public that didn’t really know what was happening around them.    Stewart began in 2016 filming the sequel, and then giving nothing away perished in a freak diving accident while using a rebreather.   These inventions do help divers by taking up less oxygen and don’t have bubbles so they can get closer to fish and they can dive deeper and longer.   Like many machines, if they fail they have serious consequences.   Rob Stewart’s failed.   He died.   The half finished film was stuck in limbo but those involved chose to finish it.   The result is a weak follow up to the original.    The original premise of shark fin soup being the reason for all this destruction is supplemented with the idea that dog food, and other things that we eat contain shark.   There is a even a test on these products to show that there are traces of shark.   But it isn’t as compelling.   We have no idea of the scale.  Heaven knows what’s in a hot dog.   Yet tell people at a baseball game to refrain from eating and it will fall on deaf ears.   Still in the end the number of sharks killed are staggering.   Millions and millions, and then there are those who kill them for “sport”.  The bigger, the better of course.   I really feel as though to make it a fair fight, the shark should be in the water with the potential killer there armed with what he could carry.  Then bring it on.   Who is the apex predator now?  We’d find out.   Having opposing thumbs and being able to utilize tools shouldn’t give us the right to wipe out a creature who has lasted millions of years before we ever arrived.   And that really is the message, and it’s one the bears repeating.   So Rob Stewart, although you have move on too early, your message was delivered.   Maybe people can wake up again.

A GOT thought or two, for episode 3.

First and foremost I was really surprised by how darkly this was lit.   I get that it’s at night and there is no electric lighting (in castles or on the outside) but damn, this was hard to discern who was doing what to whom!  This was also probably one of the longer moving pictures with so little dialog in 80+ minutes.   So very little is said, that the pictures tell the whole story.   Some die, some are redeemed, some live to die another day presumably.   I won’t spoil too much because lots happens.   I will note that Dothraki were always major horse-riding bad asses, and in this battle (even with supplemented fire swords) they last painfully little time.  Also we have the Night King showing an ability that so far I have never seen from any character, by controlling the weather.   And if he didn’t in fact control a pending storm, then the timing would be uncanny!   Finally I note that this battle with the White Walkers was overwhelmingly one sided.  I likely will need to see again.   Still.  Much better episode than number 2, but that wasn’t that hard a bar to overstep.

April 22nd, 2019

For this week, I was looking at what is currently in theatres and I am underwhelmed.  Nothing captures my interest, and certainly not my movie-going dollar.   So I go back to Netflix, and these days Crave.

This weekend I watched Tulip Fever, which has an impressive cast including Alicia Vikander, Christoph Walz, Dame Judy Dench and that guy from that sci-fi mistake Valerian and Thousand Planets or something or rather.   How can you spend so much money on quality talent and then hand then a rudimentary story.   All of this is framed around the famed Tulip exchange and marketplace from the 17th Century in Amsterdam.   We were all reminded of the Tulip curve as Bitcoin went on its maniacal stretch run late last year reached $22,000 a coin to back to earth nowadays.   Gordon Gecko also had a picture of the price on his office wall.   In short, a marketplace can sometimes turn inexplicable.   Anyway, that backdrop where certain characters get caught in the buying and selling frenzy of tulip bulbs is interlaced with a slow story about an older, established man (Walz) who has had a previous marriage where his children were taken and he “buys” the services of a new wife (Vikander).   All that he wants is another baby (I think there is a song kind of like that) and they are having a tough time conceiving.   He decides, out of the blue, to have a portrait painted of himself from a young local artist.  You see, nothing says virility amongst your friends and community like having a hot wife on your arm.   Seems not much changes over the ages.   So he wants a picture of him and her.    She then connects with the painter and then all stories head in various directions.   The absurdity of the Tom Hollander aspect of this mess comes to light quickly.   But maybe that is the point as the whole tulip market was an absurdity in itself.    But quality actors are wasted in this tale.   It spent very little time at the theatre, and I am pleased that I managed to see it at home.    Pass on it.

The second episode of Game of Thrones was last night, and I have to admit to being underwhelmed.   And without giving anything away, and truly there wasn’t much to actually give away in this episode, the turning point in my viewing was when a number of characters are sitting around a fire and one says “does anyone know a song?”   Really?!   I was half expecting them to look at one another and say “No” but then Ed Sheeran would peer out from a back curtain and belt out a tune!   And can I mention a word about episode one of this Season 8, where for the first time that I recall has anyone ever talked about the practicalities of feeding and providing for a sizeable army.   Sansa Stark has her Captain Obvious moment where she mentions “I have provisions for the people of Winterfell, but not all these additional people”.  Horses, people, tents, weapons, etc.   It’s a fair point, but could have been brought forward early in Season 1.   But never mind.    Episode 2 was and is the pre-cursor to next week where FINALLY we have an epic battle between the White Walkers and those in Winterfell.    It’s taken an eternity to come to this point.   But bring it!!   Instead we get this kumbaya moment of characters awaiting their fate and deciding what they wish to do with it.   It’s almost as though we have a listing of current characters for the Death Pools that have run rampant on the Net.   Who will live, and who will die in this battle?   Yawn.   This has been a series that from the beginning has just gotten on with it, and this felt like filler.    Next week should be a different story as we see dragons again, doing what dragons do!!

July 24, 2017

There was a recent be a story that a veteran from Calgary wanted to attend the film Dunkirk as he was there when it happened.  He came out praising the film and realism.  I will add my voice to many who have sung the praises of this film.   Christopher Nolan has put together an excellent war picture that builds on the previously successful stories like Saving Private Ryan.   He accomplishes this by using a story with multiple tales that in quite a few cases overlap.  You need to pay attention to ensure you stay straight on this mostly linear storyline.  He also in many cases keeps the dialogue to a minimal including the opening sequence with a young man running through the streets and onto the beach.
This is gripping, intense and emotional.  It is scary.  But scary because of the realism and randomness of war.  As German attacks begin on British and French troops lined up like bowling pins along the desolate beach (with no cover) you can sense the anxiety.  And fear.
I didn’t notice the Hans Zimmer score as much here as I did in Interstellar.  But I did notice the high pitched buzz like in Batman as things began to ramp up and tension is rising.
This is worth seeing on a big screen.  I did not see in IMAX but did in AVX.  I fully expect that there are a number of awards that this should garner.   Maybe even Best Picture.   Maybe even Best Director.   Performances are very good with Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branuagh being notable.   Few female characters at all.  Rylance is so very good once again following his Oscar performance in Bridge of Spies.

Episode 2 of Game of Thrones thankfully was better than Episode 1.  Somebody at long last has put together the idea that the dragons may be useful against the white walkers.  There are also alliances being forged that seem inevitable and necessary.   Battle lines are being drawn and it is going to get interesting.  The production value here is remarkable.

July 17, 2017

I have some commentary on a number of fronts today.  First a further comment about expectations and how they impact one’s viewing and filter on a film or show.  After much anticipation and reviewing of the previous final episode Game of Thrones returned last night.   It was in a word underwhelming.  Very little seemed to happen and it was more of a set up for the rest of this short season.   I am hopeful that it gets ramped up quickly.  Although I will say that the looking to mine dragon glass isn’t an episode I look forward to much.  My memory of the past episodes can be fuzzy and I wonder about Danny in that war room that looked like Stannis was there previously – I just don’t remember the dragon stuff everywhere.  More to come.

I saw Baby Driver in the theatre last week.  It had some positive reviews but I knew very little about it.  It had Jon Hamm (Mad Men) Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey.  Add to this a young unknown actor to me as the baby faced driver.   There are times when it becomes almost a music video with dancing and choreography.   They almost lost me with that.  But the underlying story about a young boy (Baby is his name) who keeps to himself and suffered a horrible accident when he was a child is compelling.  He “owes” Kevin Spacey’s character and drives with various crews to pull off bank heists.   He meets a girl and the story moves on from there.   I like the performances.  Some over the top a bit but it held my attention.   Unlike GoT I didn’t have anticipation or preconceived ideas on what I was about to see and how good it will be.  That helped.  It is worth a viewing but likely can be seen on Netflix or TMN with not much lost.

I found Off Camera a show that interviews various celebrities and I have watched almost four.  Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chris Pine and almost finished Lake Bell.   It talks about the movie industry and the experiences of these actors.   I was interested to hear about the commitment to the craft and unfailing belief that they would be actors.  There was no Plan B and they knew at around age 8 or earlier.   Damon and Bell both wrote screenplays to create roles for themselves.  Pine’s parents were both working actors – Dad was the sergeant from Chips Tv show.  I didn’t know that.  He is so grounded.  Damon too.  So I will continue to watch as I see others who intrigue.   There are plenty more seasons than those on Netflix.  It seems that Pine of those four had the easiest path since Star Trek came to him fairly early on and he has never looked back.   Lake Bell dominates conversation and really is a one person show all herself.  She wrote, starred in and ending up directing In A World.