Marvel: The Defenders Review

Starring Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter, Finn Jones and Sigourney Weaver.

Contains Minor Spoilers.

I should say before starting that I’m not a massive Marvel TV fan. I liked Jessica Jones, despite its overlong runtime, but thought Luke Cage was a wasted opportunity. I didn’t watch Iron Fist because it got savaged in reviews, nor Daredevil because the character doesn’t interest me (thanks, but if I want Vigilante Justice I’ll stick to Batman or Green Arrow). Ultimately though this wasn’t a massive problem (I read a brief summary of Iron Fist first and that sufficed) as all the plot points from Daredevil and Iron Fist are brought up during Defenders dialogue anyway, so its pretty easy to get up to speed. Obviously you’ll get more out of this if you’ve seen all four of its predecessors, but as long as you’ve watched at least 2 of them I’d say its perfectly accessible.

The other Marvel shows on Netflix suffered because they were 13 episodes long, at least 3 more than needed in both Jessica Jones and Luke Cage’s case. The Defenders solves this problem by only being 8 episodes long, and although it’s initially a slow-burner (you don’t see the 4 heroes all interacting together until episode 3 and 4) it feels appropriate. The interaction between the four is definitely the highlight: Luke and Danny make a surprising good pairing, while Jessica holds her own and remains the most stand-out of the four. Luke is far better here than he was on his own show (as Jessica Jones proved, Luke works better as a co-star rather than a leading man) and from what I’ve heard about Iron Fist Danny is similarly improved by being one amongst equals rather the focus of everything. Charlie Cox gives a fine performance as Daredevil, but his reluctance to get back in the suit is something we’ve seen again and again in Superhero stories (Spider-Man 2, Superman 2, The Dark Knight Rises, Arrow etc.) and makes him the least engaging to watch.

Several supporting characters return from the individual shows, though most don’t do an awful lot, with four exceptions: Foggy, Misty, Claire and Colleen. While Claire and Colleen merit more screen time than they get here, Misty’s presence brings back a few of the issues that dragged Luke Cage’s show down. The Police vs. vigilantes conflict is downright tiresome at this point, and Misty’s interactions with Jessica are just frustrating. The final episode renders the whole going above the law issue pointless, something which is irritating when you could have easily cut an episode’s worth of padding out without this plotline.

The villains suffice but don’t really steal the show the way David Tennant’s Kilgrave did in Jessica Jones. Sigourney Weaver is obviously good, but  her character is ultimately too sidelined in the second half (another problem familiar to Luke Cage fans) and the rest of ‘The Hand’, while getting a handful of cool fight scenes, aren’t much better. Speaking of fight scenes, this is where the Defenders soars. Several of the heroes clash with each other in beautifully choreographed sequences, while the group fights against the villains are also a treat, even if you never really believe the heroes are in danger (this is Marvel after all…). The direction as a whole is superb, and the show is nicely complimented by the musical score. The acting is consistently good, as is the production, but ultimately, like EVERY Marvel TV series, the writing lets things down a few too many times. The Defenders is better than Luke Cage and about equal to Jessica Jones, but falls short of DC shows like Arrow, Gotham or Legends of Tomorrow.

Overall its entertaining but carries over a few problems from previous series, and the last few episodes are riddled with plot holes. Classic Marvel: high on spectacle, low on substance, despite its pleasingly adult tone and superb direction.

Rating: 3.5 of 5

Given how good Jessica and Luke were here, I’ll keep going with their shows. Danny and Colleen were engaging enough that I may give Iron Fist a shot, but The Defenders didn’t change my opinion on Daredevil. Still not interested.

Ultimately while the Defenders is cool, Marvel still has a long way to go before they match DC on TV. This was a step forward though.

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Game of Thrones: The Spoils of War Review

The Spoils of War by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS!!!!

WHAT. AN. EPISODE.

That final sequence was simply mind-blowing. Even though it was one of the shortest episodes in Thrones history, it could very well be the best we’ve had so far. Between another long awaited reunion, a fantastic duel between two of the shows most badass characters, Jon and Daenerys growing closer and THAT final battle, it had everything i’d want from an episode and more!

Before I get to the climatic battle, the earlier scenes are worth commenting on because of their own extremely high quality.

First, Arya’s return to Winterfell! Now Sansa and Arya never liked each other in season 1 (the last time they saw each other) so it made sense that their reaction to seeing each other alive was mutual relief and respect rather than unrestrained joy. Arya sparring with Brienne was fucking epic as well, loved every moment of it (especially Sansa’s WTF expression and Podrick’s glee at seeing Brienne sweat for once). Great fight choreography. Sansa (and Littlefinger, more worryingly) now have more of an idea of what Arya’s capable of, particularly after Bran revealed he knows about her kill list.

Bran is a dick. Though seeing him creep out Littlefinger (I.E. the creepiest motherfucker on Game on Thrones) was hilarious, him being cold to Meera after all she’s done for him was very, very cold. Bran was always one of the least interesting Starks (after Rickon) but he’s borderline unlikeable now – though him giving Arya his Valyrian steel dagger was a nice touch at least (money on Arya killing a White Walker has to be high now). It was just great seeing the three Starks reunited for the first time since Thrones’ first ever episode (yes – THAT long ago!), but it was also a reminder of how broken they all are; Arya’s turned into a smiling assassin who loves killing, Bran’s a cold shell of himself who has visions and Sansa’s only just turned a corner from all her trauma in seasons 1-5. Can’t wait for Jon to come back and complete the circle (even if Bran might ruin it by telling Jon who he really is!). Now Arya’s in the North that reunion with the Hound might be on the cards soon too. Could have don’t without the two dickish guards on the gate at Winterfell, whose sole purpose seemed to be a reminder that not all the Stark soldiers are nice guys (the same way Ed Sheeran’s crew in the premiere reminded us that not all Lannisters are heartless bastards – more on this later).

Meanwhile on Dragonstone the groundwork was being laid for the perhaps inevitable union between Jon and Dany. Jon: ‘She’s got a good heart’. Davos ‘Yes, I’ve seen you staring at her heart’ might have been one of the funniest one-liners we’ve got this series, and one which makes it clear Jon likes Daenerys. The one-liners were certainly out in force this episode [Daenerys: ‘What Happened?’ Missandei: ‘Many things ;)’ and Brienne: ‘Who taught you?’ Arya: ‘No one’ were just perfect]. Back to Jon and Dany; their scene in the cave (what is it with Jon and women in caves?) was sweet, and the fact that Daenerys now seems convinced about the White Walkers is a definite plus point – and her opinion of Jon seems to be improving – though for now it seems to be mostly respect rather than anything else. Jon’s brief confrontation with Theon seems to have placed these characters in an uneasy truce for now (Jon hasn’t forgiven Theon for betraying Robb, but spares him for Sansa’s sake) but didn’t really add much to the episode (that said it only lasted like 1 minute).

Before I get into the battle scene, I should note that this is the FIRST ever episode of Thrones Matt Shakman has directed. What a brilliant debut. This battle scene not only rivals Blackwater, the Battle for the Wall, Hardhome and the Battle of the Bastards – it comes mighty close to beating them (I might JUST prefer the Wall and Hardhome but its a mighty close thing – who’d have thought back in 2017 that Blackwater would have been surpassed not one but FOUR times? This show is incredible). The whole battle of Dothraki and Dragon vs. Lannisters was amazing, but there were two simply stupendous scenes (I’m running out of adjectives strong enough to convey how fucking good this was). First: Bronn vs. Drogon. Bronn man’s Qyburn’s Scorpion (a type of Ballista) and actually manages to wound the Dragon (whose plummet almost had me thinking Drogon had it). He hadn’t, but fortunately Bronn survived anyway. Tense and nerve-wracking, this was the first time Daenerys and her dragons had been pitted against a character we really cared about. And in typical Thrones style, the next bit was even more tense.

Still recovering from that last scene. Jaime knows the Lannisters have lost the battle. The Dothraki have overwhelmed them and they have no weapons left capable of killing a dragon. He could run. But he doesn’t. He charges down Daenerys while she’s trying to wrench that bolt out of Drogon. As Tyrion watching on comments ‘You idiot. You fucking idiot’. The music swells (Ramin Dwajadi is the best bloody composer on TV right now). Then Jaime and Daenerys lock eyes. Shivers. For one moment as he charges you think she’s dead – then Drogon swivels into view and Jaime looks certain to die – then Bronn crashes into him and knocks them both into the river. This has to be my favourite scene in the show so far – both Nikolas Coster-Waldau and Peter Dinklage knock it out of the park – and its probably Jaime’s best scene since his bathtime confession with Brienne in Season 3.

I could go on and on about how great this battle was, but more importantly, it does something no battle on the show has done so far. It pits characters the audience all care about against each other and forces them to finally pick a side. In every other battle on Thrones 99% of the viewers were on the same side (i.e. Tyrion vs. Stannis, Night’s Watch vs. the Wildlings, Jon vs. the Walkers and the Starks vs. Ramsay). I doubt that was the case here. Jaime and Bronn are fan-favourites – and they’re on what is almost certainly going to be the losing side this season. Supporting Dany means hoping they die instead at this point and supporting Jaime the opposite (its Thrones – Euron and Cersei won’t be the only two who die in the next 3 episodes – that would be a massive cop-out). That considered, this battle finally made me realise whose side I’m really on (apart from the Starks, but that’s a given – I’ve never felt much for the Lannisters or Targaryens).

I’ve never been a massive fan of Dany (I love Emilia Clarke, but Daenerys has been so irritating for half of her screentime, even if she was badass for the rest of it, that I’ve never wanted her to sit on the Iron Throne). Her arrogant demand that Jon bends the knee didn’t help (whose pride is the issue here Dany? You hypocrite!). But because Tyrion, Varys, Missandei, Jorah and Grey Worm are all characters I like, I thought I wanted her to beat the Lannisters. I’ve realised I don’t – I actually want Jaime, Bronn and even Cersei to win (or at least lose but kill Daenerys in the process). I realised this when Bronn faced down Drogon and I actually punched the air in triumph when he shot the dragon. And then when it looked like it was a clear choice between Jaime and Dany and I was willing him to kill her. I really don’t want him or Bronn to die. Even Sam’s brother Dickon seems like a nice guy. Yes, their side is flawed, but Daenerys is the one burning men alive (and we all know how the last leader who did that fared…) and leading a horde of pyschopaths (the Lannister/Tarly soldiers are a mix of good and bad led fighting for an evil queen – the Dothraki are far, far worse overall when you look at their history – even Khal Drogo wasn’t really the nicest guy). And Daenerys’ right to be on the throne comes from what? That she’s the daughter of the worst king in Westerosi history? No wonder Jon doesn’t want to Bend the Knee. Sure a lot of you disagree with me, but I just thought I’d point out how much the show could polarize its fanbase from this point forward.

Overall everything came together: the writing, the direction, the music, the effect and the acting combined to deliver what was, in my view, the best episode of Game of Thrones to date. If I could give it 6 stars for the last sequence alone, I would, even without the wonderful scenes at Winterfell and Dragonstone.

Rating: 5 out of 5!!!!

Next Time: Who the fuck cares, if its half as good as this I can’t wait!!!

So if we’re talking reality here, Jaime really should be dead (armour that heavy in water will almost always drown the person wearing it), but he probably isn’t – which means Bronn probably survived to, so someone could save Jaime. At least I hope so. It’s gonna be a long wait till next time!

50 min episode = my longest Thrones review. This show is anything but predictable.

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton and Robert Downey Jr.

Warning: Minor Spoilers

Every actor has brought something different to the role of Spider-Man/Peter Parker. Tobey Maguire was a great Peter Parker but never completely convinced me as Spider-Man – apart from his brief turn to the dark side in Spider-Man 3. Andrew Garfield was immensely likeable as both but wasn’t really a great fit for Peter Parker – he has too much natural charm to play a socially awkward geek. Tom Holland was impressive in his brief civil war appearance, but Homecoming gives us a proper look at his take on both sides of the role. As Peter, he’s more believable in the role than Garfield and less wet than Maguire, while as Spider-Man he’s an improvement on Maguire but not quite as loveably cheeky as Garfield.

The script is nothing revolutionary, with a very familiar coming-of-age style plotline, but the dialogue is decent and downright hilarious in places. They’ve prevented this being too similar to previous entries – Harry Osborn and J. Jonah Jameson are nowhere to be seen, Peter has a love interest who isn’t Gwen or MJ and we (thankfully) don’t have to see Peter’s origin story or Uncle Ben’s death for a third bloody time. The direction is generally good, although the final fight between Spiderman and Vulture isn’t all that well shot. The soundtrack isn’t all that memorable. Its the tone of the thing where the film succeeds – the interplay between the cast is very good. Downey Jr. steals all the scenes he’s in (predictably) but is used sparingly enough that he doesn’t overshadow proceedings.

The one aspect the film nails completely is humour. Peter’s friends Ned and Michelle get most of the best lines, while Peter’s youthful ineptitude often raises a few laughs. I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to spoil anything – but its funnier than Guardians Vol. 2 was, so you should definitely go check it out for yourself.

In ways, this film feels like what an Iron Man 4 might have looked like. Between Tony’s significant role in events, Peter’s AI in his suit, a more ordinary villain whose interested in profit than world domination and appearances from Stark’s bodyguard Happy (Jon Favreau) and partner Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow). Given how much I don’t like the Iron Man trilogy (the villains were bland, Paltrow terrible and Favreau dull – Downey Jr. was the only good thing in them) I was surprised how little of an issue for me this was. But for several reasons Homecoming was considerably better than the Iron Man films; the support cast was better, the script was much more humorous, and the villain was considerably better acted. On that note…

Adrian Toombes/Vulture is a more grounded villain than we’ve seen in a long time. He doesn’t want to rule the world or destroy the Avengers – he simply wants to do right by his men and his family and give them comfortable lives. He also has something of a personal code – on two separate occasions in the film he spares/defends Spider-Man despite their rivalry because he has reasons to be personally grateful to him. He’s still a villain, but he’s a relatable one, and his hatred of the 1% like Stark and governments who prop them up probably struck a cord with some of the audience. That said, in other hands, he might not be all that memorable, but Michael Keaton brings a certain gravitas to the role, and while he isn’t spectacular, he has a certain understated intensity that works wonders. His henchmen are less memorable, though their alien weaponry allowed for some cool fights with Spider-Man, particularly his clashes with Shocker.

I liked how they chose Vulture and Shocker for the villains in this film – Spider Man has a huge rogues gallery (only Batman has a better one) but we’ve not seen that many of them in the 5 previous ones, so it was nice to see a different two here. The first post-credit scene also hints at the villain for the sequel, who will be another character we haven’t seen on screen before. Speaking of post-credit scenes, the second one is Marvel massively trolling the audience (kind of a more tongue in cheek version of Deadpool’s ‘why are you guys still here’). So its not exactly an essential one if you can’t be bothered waiting through the credits.

Overall I’d say this was one of the best Spider-Man films. Its funny, entertaining and well-acted, but isn’t perfect – the direction could be better, its a bit clichéd and predictable in places and Jon Favreau’s Happy is a complete waste of space. Still a very, very fun superhero movie though.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Marvel really has been full of surprises this year hasn’t it? I wasn’t expecting Guardians Vol. 2 to have the stronger storyline than Spider-Man or Spider-Man to be funnier than Guardians. Not only that but both films have had strong villains, and its been a long time since two Marvel films in a row have achieved that. Hope Thor: Ragnarok can keep the momentum going!

Game of Thrones: The Queen’s Justice Review

The Queen’s Justice by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS!!!

Ice has met Fire. Book and Show fans alike have been waiting for this for a very, very long time. The first 20 mins of the episode was devoted to tense conversations on Dragonstone, and while Varys and Melisandre sparring was entertaining and Tyrion and Jon reminiscing was amusing, there was only one thing the viewers wanted to see. Jon and Daenerys. Well they didn’t shag (yet). They didn’t kill each other (yet). But it could still go either way judging by their interaction here, as the two argued (both equally stubborn!) but later showed a mutual respect (which stopped short of attraction but give it time guys). It was pretty good, but I suspect the best is yet to come from this pairing, which seemed mostly to be setting things up for next season (when they will inevitably have to unite against the White Walkers). The dialogue was very slick, particularly between Tyrion and Jon, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next in this uneasy alliance/co-operation. The fact them meeting wasn’t the highlight of the episode shows how good the rest of it was!

We’re being spoilt for battle scenes atm. Grey Worm and the Unsullied attacking Casterly Rock (which finally made an appearance!) was a short scene but Tyrion’s narration coupled with a narrative twist meant that it was a memorable one. Tyrion and Dany are really being outplayed by Jaime, Cersei and Euron atm aren’t they? Euron’s making Daenery’s fleets look like a laughing stock, Jaime’s strategy lessons at the hands of Robb Stark seem to have made him into a formidable General who is completely undoing Tyrion’s plans, and Cersei is better at manipulating powerful people than ever, here winning the Iron Banker Tycho (a returning Mark Gatiss) back to her side for now and keeping Euron onside without giving him what he wants yet.

I said at the start of the season Daenerys needed to suffer some setbacks to keep things interesting, but the shows gone further than I expected after only three episodes. Dorne is gone. Her fleets are gone. The Tyrell forces are either dead or have joined the Lannisters. Grey Worm and the Unsullied are trapped in hostile territory with no food. If it wasn’t for her Dragons, Daenerys would be almost certain to lose. Now she’s lost all 3 of her allied Westerosi houses, she’ll be forced to bring out the Dragons and Unsullied, as well as maybe asking Jon for help (though given how far North Jon’s men are i doubt he can do much, unless he wants to leave Davos behind as another advisor for the Queen). Seeing the Lannister armies march on Highgarden was suitably cool, and Diana Rigg fitting got the last word as fan-favourite Olenna was finally killed off (surprised Jaime didn’t lose his cool and run her through after the cunning old goat ensured a painless death for herself).

Mark Mylod can definitely come back as a director for the final season. The last two episodes have looked superb and he’s made two short battle scenes feel quite special. Hope the remaining directors this season are up to his standard!

Lena Headey and Nikolai Coster-Waldau are killing it this season – Jaime’s facial expressions are consistently spot on (whether shock at Euron’s foul-mouthed jibes or stunned realisation as Olenna confesses to killing his son) while Cersei’s glee/triumph at paying back Ellaria in kind for murdering her daughter was a high point for the character (and Lena Headey). For the first time I feel like Cersei is now a villain you can root for – you still don’t want her to win, but she’s now fun to watch the way Joffrey and Ramsay were, which wasn’t the case for most of seasons 1-6. Speaking of villains you can root for, Euron’s hilariously over-the-top style of villainy is a nice wild card in the mix at the moment – the odds on Jaime killing him seem to be getting higher every episode, though I’d settle for Theon, Yara or a Dragon doing it. Euron’s development into a memorable villain is what should have happened with the Sand Snakes and Ellaria, who we thankfully saw the last of this week as Cersei brutally (but admittedly justifiably) exacted revenge for her daughter and cruelly left Ellaria to watch her own daughter die slowly from poisoning. It was a great scene, with the writing and acting (particularly from Headey and Indira Varma) superb throughout.

Bran and Sansa’s reunion was one of the least interesting bits of the episode, but then again, it is Bran, whose newfound coldness (and lack of tact) isn’t making him any more endearing. Sansa’s joy at seeing him alive was nicely played by Sophie Turner though, and it was nice to see that Sansa is actually good at ruling the North (a sign of things to come if anything happens to Jon?). Hopefully Arya will be in the mix next week – as a lot of people have been waiting for a stark sister reunion for a long time. Sam and Jorah’s scene was touching but didn’t add much, though I have to wonder if any of those old books Sam was ordered to copy contains info on the White Walkers? On another note, Dany really needs some good news soon, so hopefully Jorah will be back at her side shortly, now he appears to be cured.

Overall, it was another strong episode with a twist at the end, it kept the momentum going but wasn’t quite as strong as last week’s episode. Still better than anything else on TV atm though!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Next Time: Arya returns to the North, Cersei presses her advantage and Daenerys tries to overcome her recent losses…

Game of Thrones: Stormborn Review

Stormborn by Bryan Cogman

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS!!!

Well that was more like it! After the (nevertheless good) hour of set-up in the premiere, Stormborn delivered some interactions and reunions fans have been waiting years for, as well as a kick-arse battle scene (more on that later…).

Daenerys’ arrival has really shaken things up (in a good way!) on the show, not just because its brought six seasons of disparate plotlines together but also provided some character combinations we’ve never have seen before. Melisandre, Tyrion, Varys and Daenerys verbally tussling with each other over the nature of Jon Snow was neatly mirrored by Cersei and Jaime trying to convince Randall Tarly (Sam’s dickhead Dad) to help them fight her and Jon squabbling with the Northern lords to convince them trusting Daenerys is a necessary risk if they are to have a chance of defeating the White Walkers. These scenes were a joy to watch, and it was nice to see Yara, Theon, Ellaria Sand and Olenna Tyrell joining in with Daenerys council of war. This led to loads of great payoffs and references for long-term viewer, such as; Tyrion squaring off with Ellaria for murdering his innocent niece, Sansa coolly reminding Jon that Daenerys’ father burnt their grandfather alive, and Daenerys testing Varys’ loyalty after reminding him of his history of changing sides and betraying both her family, the Lannisters and the Baratheons.

Another pairing we’ve never seen before was Sam and Jorah, with Sam risking his position at the citadel to try and save a damned Jorah, which was touchingly revealed to be because of the admiration Sam possessed for Jorah’s father, the deceased Lord Commander. The healing scene made for uncomfortable viewing (its a good job this show is on well after dinner time!). Equally tantalising was the tension between Jon and Littlefinger – with Jon making it abundantly clear that Littlefinger’s affection for (i.e. perving on) his sister is not welcome. Doubtlessly this threat will drive Littlefinger to scheme against Jon more actively as the season progresses.

Arya’s catch up with Hot Pie (his first appearance since Season 4 – I swear Hot Pie is gonna be the only character left alive when the show ends the rate they kill people off) served as a nice way to show how much Arya’s changed since the early seasons – as well as a way to provide information to take her North (to a reunion with Sansa? And Bran? And Jon? And maybe even the Hound?! we can but hope). Nymeria’s rejection of Arya was saddening, but given we saw this kind of behaviour from Drogon in season 5, I’d put money on Arya’s direwolf returning and saving her life before the end of the season.

I argued in my season predictions that Daenerys had to suffer some major losses if her vs. Cersei was to take a whole season. I said last week I expected the show to build Euron up as a villain. The groundwork for both was laid here, and in spectacular fashion. Not only did we get confirmation that, thanks to Qyburn, Cersei has weapons (i.e. high-powered ballista’s) capable of hurting/killing dragons, but Euron dealt Daenerys and her followers a severe blow in a thrilling naval battle. This finally established Euron as a force to be reckoned with as he cut a swathe through his opponents (killing not one but TWO of the irritating Sand Snakes single-handedly), before overpowering Yara and intimidating Theon into abandoning his sister and fleeing (damn, Alfie Allen’s performance as Theon was good! Sure, his escape was cowardly, but after everything Ramsay did to him, is it any surprise Theon is still broken? He really needs to have a chat with Varys or Grey Worm about moving past his… deficiency). The battle itself was great, even if the action was limited to two ships, mainly because it came out of nowhere (I was expecting this to happen, but not as early as the end of episode 2!!!)

It also has ramifications for what happens next. Without Dornish forces, the Tyrells can’t take King’s Landing by themselves, so Daenerys will have to unleash the Dothraki (and the Dragons) which will drive more allies into Cersei’s clutches. Dany had better hope nothing goes wrong with Grey Worm’s attack on Casterly Rock… (Given all the effort the show has expended to make us care about him and Missandei – their romance was pretty sweet – THAT sex scene included – I am starting to worry about him. Normally once we care this much about supporting characters on Thrones their lifespan gets prematurely cut short!)

Overall there was a lot of talk and character moments in the first 50 minutes, but these were all of such high quality and were so rewarding for long-term show (and book) fans that I was on course to give this a 5/5 even before it brought out a stonking great naval battle for the last 10 minutes! That battle proved the shows increased budget-per-episode is reaping dividends. Hat’s off to writer Bryan Cogman and director Mark Mylod, both knocked it out of the park this week. Bring on episode 3!

Rating: 5 out of 5!

Next Time: Grey Worm attacks Casterly Rock, Euron returns to King’s Landing in triumph and Jon Snow meets Daenerys!!!!

So Ellaria Sand is Euron’s gift to Cersei. Odds on Cersei killing her daughter Tyene (and then her) in some gruesome way must be pretty high, and I’m not sure Yara’s long for this world either… Also why did they recast the 1 of the 3 sandsnakes that the fanbase actually sort of liked?! (Yes, for her entirely gratuitous prison nudity/flirting with Bronn, but still. At least the others are dead and the Dorne storyline pretty much along with it).

Game of Thrones: Dragonstone Review

IT’S BACK!!!!

Dragonstone by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Warning: SPOILERS!

Thrones’ premieres tend to be the weakest episodes of the season, normally because they’re focused on set up rather than payoff – I’d only give 1 premiere more than 4/5 (Season 3’s excellent Valar Dohaeris). This one is pretty standard, but a kick-ass opening scene, a sense of momentum and a divisive cameo make this more memorable than some opening instalments have been. The increased budget was apparent in a few scenes (Dany’s dragons soaring over Dragonstone, the White Walker’s army in Bran’s vision) but I’m sure we’ll see it to greater effect later on this season.

This was the first ‘cold open’ (i.e. pre-credits scene) a premiere’s had since season 4. And boy, was it a great one. A superb final performance from David Bradley (playing Arya pretending to be Walder) caps off a wonderful punch the air moment as Arya singlehandedly massacres what’s left of House Frey by a mass poisoning. The Red Wedding didn’t work out so well in the end, did it?

Things in the North were fun (Brienne and Tormund is still hilarious, Lyanna Mormont still one of the best characters) while the beginnings of a Sansa-Jon split were sowed nicely. Jon is a decent ruler (his decision to arm and train all Northerners, of both genders, was very practical) but is focused solely on the White Walkers, which doesn’t sit well with Sansa, who (understandably) wants revenge on the houses who sided with Ramsay and is wary of the unpredictable Queen Cersei. You can see both sides, along with the possibility that this rift between them isn’t going to end well…

One of the more surprising sequences involved the Hound and the Brotherhood. Thoros and Beric’s importance is being emphasised a lot for two characters who’ve been missing for 3 seasons, but Beric’s frequent resurrections coupled with Thoros’ apparently genuine ability to produce visions suggest they might be pretty integral to fighting the White Walkers. The Hound’s growth as a character was nice as well – he’s still damaged from the events of ‘The Broken Man’ last season and here he was forced to confront the consequences of old sins, as the Brotherhood stayed the night at the farmhouse where the Hound stole silver from a helpless farmer back in Season 4 (who has since killed himself and his daughter rather than starve). The scene where he buries the bodies and struggles to find the right words for them was probably the most moving part of the episode.

While the sequence with Sam at Oldtown was fairly long, his lack of screentime in season 6 made it a refreshing change, and Jim Broadbent’s role as the Archmaester added some gravitas to proceedings. The revelation that Jorah is now in the citadel’s holding cells (presumably awaiting treatment for his greyscale) was also a nice cameo.

Speaking of cameos: Ed Sheeran. Normally when thrones does cameos the musician is firmly in the background (like Coldplay’s Will Champion at the Red Wedding) but this one stuck out a bit more. But it was relatively harmless, and Arya realising that not all Lannister soldiers are bastards was an interesting character moment as she shared their food and seemed to enjoy herself for the first time in a while. How long this lasts with her apparent mission to kill Cersei is debatable…

Cersei and Euron’s parlay was interesting if unexpected, though Euron’s proposal was a bit of a surprise (though it gave Nikolaj Coster-Waldau aka Jaime some nice material to work with). Theories on what Euron’s gift will be? I can only think of two possibilities – he’s about to (try to) inflict a sizeable defeat on Dany’s fleet or bring Cersei someone she hates (Tyrion, Varys etc.). Should be interesting, because Euron really needs something to make him into a Ramsay or Joffrey worthy villain. Right now he’s a cool-looking support player, but that’s about it!

The final sequence with Dany and Tyrion was cool, hopefully foreshadowing a bit more screentime for them in episode 2. Was half expecting Melisandre to emerge from hiding somewhere, but I’m sure she’ll reappear later in the season. Sam’s discovery about Dragonglass in Daenerys new stronghold seems to point to Jon (or more likely Davos) heading south sometime in the near future too…

Overall, the direction, soundtrack and production standards are as good as ever and while its mostly moving the pieces into place, the episode sets the stage the rest of the season beautifully. Hopefully episode 2 can now bring the action and get things moving…

Rating: 4 out of 5

Next Time: Jon faces trouble in the North as Daenerys, Tyrion and her allies plan the invasion of Westeros…

Game of Thrones: Season 7 Predictions

Here’s my annual predictions for the new Game of Thrones season. Surprisingly most of my season 6 predictions came true last time but this year its far less predictable. There’s virtually nothing left of the books to use as a guide so this is purely based off the two trailers and some fan theories.

Warning: Obvious Spoilers for seasons 1-6. Minor spoilers if you haven’t seen the Season 7 trailers.

Plot Predictions:

  1. Euron Greyjoy will ally with Cersei: Has to happen. Not only does Euron doubtlessly want revenge on Yara and Theon, but Cersei is very outmatched by Daenerys’ forces atm, and Euron is really the only possible ally who might help even the odds.
  2. Littlefinger will use Jon’s parentage to further his (and Sansa’s?) agenda: It’s been half-hinted before in the show that Littlefinger might know about Jon’s real parentage (see his and Sansa’s convo in the Winterfell crypt in season 5). Even if he doesn’t, you suspect him or Sansa will find out and try to use it to get Sansa crowned Queen in the North in Jon’s place. Shots of Jon throttling Littlefinger suggest this doesn’t go down well…
  3. Tyrion and Grey Worm will storm Casterly Rock: The 2nd trailer shows Dragons swooping down on a castle we haven’t seen before, followed by a serious looking Tyrion as well as what looks like an unsullied surprise attack. My guess is this is Daenerys forces storming Casterly Rock (aka the Lannister’s home, which we haven’t seen before) and is probably an early move in the conflict between the two sides.
  4. Starks reunited: It seems certain Bran will reunite with his siblings this season, and I’d put money on Arya doing so as well. How the two of them react to the likely tension between Sansa and Jon should be interesting…
  5. The Hound and the Brotherhood will take the fight to the White Walkers: The Hound’s temporary alliance with the Brotherhood implies he will end up fighting the White Walkers, presumably venturing beyond the wall at some point. Hopefully The Hound might have a reunion with Arya somewhere en route…
  6. Jon gets evidence of the walkers and Davos travels south seeking allies: The trailer has shots of Davos in sunnier weather, suggesting he travels south seeking to rally Daenerys (and maybe the Lannisters) against the real enemy. Jon’s speech about families fighting together against a common enemy could tie into this as well. Odds are he and Daenerys might come face to face by the end of the season.
  7. Some of the Dragons will die or Daenerys will suffer a disaster: This almost certainly has to happen. Daenerys is just too powerful atm – in theory there’s no way Cersei should be able to fight her off. Which means one of two things must happen if their conflict will last the whole season (as you’d expect it to). Either some kind of defeat comes her way (my money’s on Euron and the Lannisters destroying a large part of her fleet) or Rhaegal and Viserion will die (we know Drogon won’t). One interesting possibility comes from Book 5, where Euron owns something called a Dragonhorn (I’ll leave TV fans to speculate on what exactly it does) which if also true in the show could be a major problem for Dany.
  8. Daenerys will attack and take King’s Landing: Despite what was just said, I still expect Dany to win this season and take the Iron Throne. Whether she’ll keep it in Season 8 is debatable but it seems certain she’ll beat Cersei here.
  9. Cersei will die (by Jaime or Tyrion’s hand): While it might be Daenerys who brings her down, fans (especially book fans) will doubtlessly be upset if it isn’t Jaime or Tyrion who kills her. A Prophecy in the books says Cersei must beware her ‘little brother’, suggesting Tyrion, but as Jaime was born seconds after her he is a possibility as well. My personal preference for how she dies would be Cersei trying to kill Tyrion but Jaime killing her to save his brother.
  10. The White Walkers will bring down the Wall: Most Thrones seasons end on a massive cliffhanger (The Birth of Dragons, The Army of the Dead, Jon’s Death, Daenerys finally setting sail for Westeros). While it could be another unexpected character death, my money would be the White Walkers finally attacking the wall – and destroying it (perhaps with the Horn of Joramun, book readers?) I may be completely wrong

Death predictions and odds:

Euron Greyjoy: 2/1. Near certain, given he’s one of only three of the show’s remaining human villains (I.e. Euron/Cersei/Littlefinger). He’s going to die.

Cersei: 2/1. Got to be surely? Hard to see at this point how the Lannisters can do well enough that Cersei will survive.

Yara/Theon: 10/1. People have been bigging up Euron as a villain this season, which inevitably means he’s going to kill someone the fans care about, and his niece and nephew are by far the most obvious candidates (plus I as I’ve said I suspect Daenerys’ fleet may meet with a severe defeat, which would not bode well for the Greyjoys).

Littlefinger: 15/1. More unsure about this one. Littlefinger’s scheming with Sansa may end up backfiring on him. I really want Varys to be the one to kill him (or at least be present to smirk at his death) but my gut says it’ll be Sansa or Brienne.

Grey Worm: 25/1. They’ve put a lot of effort into making us care about him and Missandei. Which doesn’t bode well by this shows record on doomed romances (see Jon and Ygritte, Tyrion and Shae, Dany and Drogo, Robb and Talisa… etc.)

Bronn: 25/1. Judging by all the shit House Lannister will have to wade through this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bronn dies in battle (well, him and Jaime are the only two on the Lannister side we care about, so one of them’s had it surely? Only other option would be him switching sides and rejoining Tyrion.