Tag Archives: Maisie Williams

The Long Night Review

MAJOR SPOILERS!! Well what did you expect?

How the f*ck do you review this one?

Ask one person: its a cinematic masterpiece of filmmaking and entertainment.

Ask another: its a disappointing end to Thrones’ longest running story arc that refuses to break any of its toys and wasn’t lit properly.

Both are valid opinions.

Let’s focus on the good first. The director Miguel Sapochik deserves all the plaudits and awards he gets for this episode – the set pieces were amazing, and he managed to cram them full of tension. Yet, the lighting was low (good job my tv display has a ‘cinema’ mode) but its a bloody Night Battle. It’s hard to light it more and keep any semblance of realism. They probably could have done better with the first half, but let’s move on.

The physical acting of the cast was very strong throughout – the way they epitomised the characters’ despair, fear and exhaustion was universally strong – particularly from Maisie Williams. Given the sheer scale, the focus wasn’t lost on individuals – most of the characters had a chance to shine at some point – which isn’t easy in an episode with little dialogue.

Analysing the whole battle will take ages, so I’ll just highlight what I thought were the standout scenes. The build up (with Ramin Djawadi’s expert tension-raising music) and the Dothraki’s doomed charge was great. Arya being hunted through Winterfell was a tense masterclass. Jorah and Theon’s last stands were brilliantly heroic. But there were two that really stood out for me. First was Jon taking on the Night’s King. The dragon fight was epic enough, but Daenerys failing to roast the Night King (and the Night King’s smirk) was absolutely awesome. Then the best bit: Jon charges the Night’s King. He turns round. You expect them to fight… and then the Night’s King raises his arms and resurrects a whole new army. That must has caused more ‘of fuck’s from the audience than any other moment. After the whole way the show has set these two up as rivals, the Night’s King simply outplays Jon and turns his back on him. Brilliant.

Then that last scene. Jon killing the Night’s King would have been too predictable. Daenerys’ dragons killing him would have been too boring. Someone like Bran or Beric doing it might have been a nice twist – but I doubt anything would have compared to Arya’s stupendous drop, grab and stab execution of the White Walker’s leader and the entire Undead army. Damn girl, you deserve a few more sessions with Gendry – or anyone else you damn want.

So in summary, an epic, record-breaking masterpiece of film-making, direction and action that rivals the best battle scenes from TV (Spartacus) or Film (Lord of the Rings).

Now the flip side of the argument – and the reason this episode hasn’t got perfect scores from critics or a moderate chunk of the fanbase.

The White Walkers are the main threat on the show – they’ve been slowly built up ever since episode 1. While this was an epic battle, it is slightly anticlimactic both that they were beaten in one episode and that they won’t be around for the final episode. You have to ask how on Earth the last 3 episodes can avoid an anti-climax. Sure, we all want to see Cersei and Euron die, and there’s scope for one more huge battle, but where’s the tension going to be? Fighting for the throne (in a battle the plot dictates the heroes pretty much have to win) is hardly a compelling substitute for a battle for the survival of the living. I severely doubt the books will deal with the walkers this early. How much better might it have been if Cersei had been destroyed (either by Daenerys or by the White Walkers) first, and the Battle of Winterfell represented a true last stand? There would have been a genuine doubt in viewers minds that the heroes would win then. There’s also a sense of it all being a bit rushed; the Walkers dying a mere 3 episodes after breaking through the wall feels a slight waste – I feel like either them winning an inconclusive victory at Winterfell and forcing the heroes to join forces with Cersei, or the Night King destroying King’s Landing first, might have been more dramatically satisfying.

Those concerns may all be unfounded. The last 3 episodes might be masterpieces and any sense of better endings will be forgotten. There is, however, a bigger problem here that will probably linger. It’s a problem the show has had since the ‘Battle of the Bastards’. It refuses to kill its core characters.

A huge factor in Thrones standing out from the crowd early on was its ability to shock its audience. Ned Stark’s beheading. The Red Wedding. Joffrey’s death. Shireen’s sacrifice. Hodor. We haven’t had anything equivalent since then – which is a problem. Take the marvellous ‘Spoils of War’ in S7. It probably remains the best battle in Thrones history. But if the show was being honest with itself, Bronn and Jaime should both have died in it. Especially Jaime – Bronn’s last minute rescue was one thing, but if a soldier as heavily armoured as Jaime goes into a river, they drown. No exceptions. Only one thing saved him: plot armour.

Plot armour is commonplace in stuff like Marvel movies: putting characters into impossible situations their survive for no other reason than the show/film/book doesn’t want to kill them yet. The first five seasons of Thrones had no issue with this – Jon, Daenerys etc. never was backed into a corner they couldn’t conceivably get out of. Season 6 started to have issues – Arya’s wounds and her plunge into a probably disease ridden canal rightly raised some eyebrows. The battle of the bastards was epic, but the deaths were all predictable. Had Davos or Tormund brought it, i’d have been truly shocked. But Ramsay, Wun Wun and Rickon? Called literally all of them 4 episodes prior. Beyond the Wall pissed some fans off last year for similar reasons – Daenerys’ rescue was epic but ludicrous, and of the 7 major characters in the episode, only Thoros and a bunch of nameless extras died. Sure, Viserion was a surprise, but really Tormund and Jon shouldn’t have made it out of there.

Battle of Winterfell. The Living vs. the Dead. Surely a load of the main cast had got to die right? Wrong. Sure, some survivors were inevitable – Jon and Daenerys needed to still be there for the final episode. But for most of the deaths to be predictable ones was disappointing. Lyanna, Edd and Beric are supporting characters. Theon and Jorah were always likely casualties protecting more important characters. Melisandre’s return was well done, but her death hardly counts as much of a shock. Too many characters were clearly in dire straights in that battle – for all of them to survive is, bluntly, lazy writing. Sam, Brienne, Jaime, Grey Worm, Tormund and Gendry were all on the front lines. None died. All were clearly overwhelmed in the Courtyard. None died. Sansa, Tyrion, Varys and Gilly were completely unarmed and caught off guard in the Crypt. None died. Both dragons and Grey Wind were losing the fights they got into – all are still alive next week. Honestly… this might not be an issue if the final 3 episodes put some major surprises – but if they don’t, than the shows’ refusal to break risks will be an immensely annoying one.

There you have it, both sides of the argument. I can’t mark an episode this impressive down. But my reservations won’t let me give it a perfect score either.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (It’s Civil War all over again)

Overall, this episode was a landmark in TV history – as an individual episode it was hugely engaging and massively impressive. As the payoff for a long-running and once-shocking series… it leaves a bit to be desired. But whether its shortcomings are an issue is down to the last 3 episodes. Come on Benioff and Weiss. Down let us down.

And turn the lights back on!!

Game of Thrones: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms Review

Warning: Spoilers.

One area of Thrones I don’t talk about perhaps as much as I should is the writing. Given how successful the show has been, its surprising to think that the show only has ever had six writers work on it. Only three of those writers have written more than 4 episodes. While the Lion’s share have been done by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the two showrunners, a lot of significant episodes, such as Jon Snow and Ygritte’s romance in ‘Kissed by Fire’ or Tyrion’s trial in ‘The Laws of Gods and Men’, have been written by a third writer: Bryan Cogman. Cogman’s episodes tend to be character-driven ones rather than epics with tons of fight scenes, and that’s exactly the case here (surprisingly, this is one of the VERY rare Thrones episodes where no one dies – not even an extra!). ‘A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms’ is Cogman’s swansong (all 4 remaining episodes are written by Benioff and Weiss) and its fittingly one of his best entries for the series.

If the point of the first episode was to reintroduce the characters, reacquaint them with each other and get them in the right places for the season, this episode is designed solely to remind you why you should care about all of them. With the Battle of Winterfell looming in episode 3, its likely some, perhaps even many of these characters won’t make it. So episode 2 decides to focus all its energy on spending some time with them, to make the inevitable gut punches of the next episode hit all the harder. Almost every character, from main players like Daenerys and Davos to supporting characters like Beric Dondarrion and Gilly, get something here. The action being entirely focused on Winterfell helps immeasurably, as diversions to King’s Landing wouldn’t have added anything.

There’s a fair amount of humour here, both from scathing one-liners from Arya and Tormund’s latest, hilariously futile attempts to seduce Brienne. None of it falls flat, and the actors and actresses hit the right notes consistently. Maisie Williams owns this episode, particularly her sex scene with Gendry (it had to happen eventually) and her reconciliation with the Hound. Sansa and Daenerys’ conversation also made for a great scene, with Daenerys initially successful attempts to break the ice ultimately failing to sway a Sansa who clearly distrusts Dany’s intentions.

There’s a few more meaningful reunions too, mainly involving Jaime, with Nikolas Coster-Waldau being the other standout actor in this episode. His reminiscing with Tyrion, his sweet gestures to Brienne and his earnest apology to Bran were all perfectly played. It was also nice to see Jon and Sam reunited with Edd and Tormund.

This episode did seem to both set up potential endings and draw character arcs to a near close in case the ones involved are killed next week. Theon and Jaime’s redemption arcs are now complete, while Grey Worm and Missandei’s romance is set for either a dream ending or, more likely, a tragic outcome. Pod seems to have learnt most of the lessons he needs to from Brienne, who finally achieves her dream of becoming a knight in what may be the episode’s standout scene. Arya and Gendry’s romantic connection is finally brought to the fore, Daenerys’ mistrust of Tyrion’s abilities seems resolved and Jorah found some measure of peace after a conversation with his cousin Lyanna.

Speaking of Lyanna, Jon really has no sense of timing in terms of delivering truth bombs does he? The potential for a late season Jon-Daenerys conflict seems to be growing with every episode… assuming they both survive the coming battle of course. The White Walkers are finally at Winterfell – and while Bran’s plan of taking out the Night’s King seems viable – you can bet it won’t be that simple…

Overall, episode 2 is a heartfelt, character-based, very entertaining hour of television, which sets the stage perfectly for the upcoming battle. If you’re complaining about the lack of action, you’ve missed the point entirely. Bryan Cogman’s reminded us all why these characters are some of the most compelling on TV, and why we should miss them if they don’t survive next week…

Rating: 5 out of 5!

If I had to guess casualties of the upcoming battle, my money would be on Grey Worm, Theon, Beric, The Hound and Tormund. But as gut-wrenching as those would be, there is the possibility that it could be much, much worse. Let’s hope those crypts are as safe as the alliance thinks they are…

Next Week should be a hell of an episode. We’re all worried about character deaths, but I swear if there’s an undead Hodor in the White Walker’s army…. tears are coming.

Game of Thrones: Winterfell Review

Warning: Spoilers Follow (Obviously…)

It’s kind of tradition for Game of Thrones premieres to be the worst episode of every season. Not that they are bad episodes (the lowest I’ve ever given a Thrones episode is 3.5/5) but its just that they tend to be uneventful ones. There’s often a focus on humour, character moments or set-up for the more important episodes. The most memorable bit of a premiere episode I can remember is the Hound and Arya slaughtering several Lannister soldiers for some chicken in Season 4. The only important character who has ever died in a premiere is Mance Rayder, executed by Stannis back in S5 (No I’m not counting any of the Dornish characters as important – I know a load of them got killed in S6’s premiere, but honestly, who cared?). So any ‘fans’ claiming the premiere was terrible are talking out of their arse. Sure, it’s (hopefully) going to be the most non-eventful episode of the season, but what else did you expect? It was still entertaining and set up the season in just 51 minutes. I call that a good episode’s work, if not a great one.

The episode does a lot in terms of character reunions and moving things into place for the rest of the season. Looking at King’s Landing, Cersei now has her mercenary army, has reluctantly slept with Euron to maintain his loyalty going forward, and has dispatched Bronn to assassinate Jaime and Tyrion. I mean, we all know Bronn won’t, but this is Thrones, and Jaime has broken enough promises to Bronn that there is a ever so small possibility… Aside from all that, Theon rescued Yara (surprisingly easily) and headed off for Winterfell to help the Starks fight the dead, while Yara takes back the Iron Islands to serve as a refuge if things go wrong…

At Winterfell, there’s several joyous reunions and a LOT of awkwardness. Fans have waited years to see Arya reconnect with Jon and Gendry, and those interactions didn’t disappoint. Things were a bit frostier with the Hound, but its the Hound, what did you expect? Part of me wonders if he might end up dying to save Arya later this season, letting the two finally reconcile, but we will wait and see. Sansa’s reunion with Tyrion was well-played – there’s some mutual respect still there, but let’s face it, Sansa at this point has kind of eclipsed Tyrion both as a leader and a character (with Tyrion largely relegated to telling predictable jokes, which Varys calls him out for) and her slightly dismissive reaction to him is justified. It’s also VERY clear how Sansa feels about Daenerys – while there was tension with Jon last season, at least’s he’s family. Daenerys isn’t, and I don’t she’s going to win Sansa and the Northern Lords over anytime soon.

The episode sets up some interesting threads going forward. We all assumed the series would either deal with the White Walkers first, then see another round of the civil war for the iron throne, or would see the alliance fail at Winterfell and the Walkers march on King’s Landing. Now there’s another element in the mix: everyone vs. Daenerys. Let’s face it, nothing Dany has done in the past four seasons has demonstrated that she would actually be a good ruler – she made a mess of things in Meereen, burned the Tarlys alive for nothing (poor Sam) and has spent more time arguing with her advisers than listening to them. She’s an inspirational leader, sure, and a capable general/warrior, but a queen? Sansa, Jon, and Tyrion all have stronger moral compasses and would be better than her. Even Gendry might be able to do better. The show/Jon Snow could still redeem her, but at this point her becoming an Aerys-esque mad Queen is starting to look somewhat likely. At Sam point-blank asks Jon: would Daenerys give up her crown for her people? I doubt it. Her bend the knee obsession from last season showed she is utterly fixated on her ‘right to rule’, and that’s Joffrey territory right there. Once the dead are defeated, would Jon really ask the Northerners to fight for Daenerys? Would any of them actually do so? Assuming they are both still alive in the finale, things could get very interesting.

The acting is strong throughout ‘Winterfell’, but the episode belongs to Kit Harington, John Bradley and Maisie Williams (though Sophie Turner gets a few moments). Bradley is terrific as a heartbroken yet determined Sam, Kit has to portray a wider range of emotions than anyone else in the episode, and Maisie works wonders with a couple of well chosen facial expressions and sly quips. The White Walkers are conspicuous by their absence, with only the aftermath of their attack on Last Hearth seen. Quite what the Night King’s message is meant to signify is unclear, but it certainly left a sense of foreboding hanging over things – just in time for the episode to end with Jaime and Bran coming face to face. That should be an interesting conversation to open next week’s episode with…

Overall, a well-acted, funny premiere, if not one that will ever top anyone’s ‘best ever episodes lists’. But now most of the set up’s done, we can really get down to business – and find out if the grand alliance can dealing with the various rifts between them before the White Walkers turn up…

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Expect weekly reviews of this series, but for time reasons, they’ll always go up on a Tuesday evening.

P.S. Bronn’s clearly no Podrick if the prostitutes were getting that distracted. Just saying 😉

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.