In readiness for the eventual arrival of the final season, Ian Kennedy subjects himself to the whole thing again. Next up is Game of Thrones Season 3… Can anyone endure Ned’s honor, Stannis, the Red Wedding, and – worst of all – Arya’s unending journey from ‘annoying’ to ‘a different kind of annoying’, all over again? Or will the quality of the writing conquer all foes once more? Spoiler central here, if you hadn’t guessed… but in euphemisms that would make Tyrion blush, most of the time.
GAME OF THRONES SEASON 3
For all the nudity and violations it inflicts on them, the prevalence of strong women characters is a huge strength of GoT. The arrival of Lady Tyrrell, played by captivating old stager (and onetime beauty) Diana Rigg, adds lovely wit and wisdom to the series – not that it was missing before. It’s interesting to hear how Catelyn blames herself for her family’s afflictions, based on an act of faith she once committed.
There’s wonderful use here of the medieval politics of marriage, which clearly overwhelm any sentimental connection we’d like to think they have to love (it’s particularly amusing watching Tyrion squirm as he arrives to reveal the plan for Sansa and himself, in front of his beloved Shae). There are DVD extras about this, and about religion in GoT. which deserves an essay in itself. Evidently, magical and mystical and inexplicable forces are at work here. Maybe even gods, not that we ever see them substantiated or corroborated. But there’s a much deeper indeterminacy and even relativism at work – every culture has its own gods (or god – though evidently not the merciful one we might recognize) but, as in Shakespeare’s King Lear, none of these well-crafted belief systems seem to do their owners any good. The most pragmatic solution seems to be Tywin’s, for now – “he believes in them, he just doesn’t like them very much”. The main embodiment of both religion and magic in the series is ‘the Red Woman’, Mellisandra, who goes to shocking, devilish lengths to help Stannis and others fulfil her visions – but even her visions aren’t proven to any significant extent.
Jaime’s character arc in this series is an interesting one. His experiences with Brienne give him some compassion and honor at last – and the moment he goes back to his old tricks is the moment that costs him his hand. In his turn, he gives a turning point to Roose Bolton, a key Stark ally.
Many important or recurring characters are still being introduced during this series, and many other passages make a lot more sense second time around now we recognize the characters and where they’re headed. Lord Bolton’s brilliantly sadistic bastard Ramsay puts Theon through his – admittedly deserved – miseries. The Brotherhood Without Banners show us the White Walkers aren’t the only ones who can raise the dead. The fallen Maester who treats Jaime’s wound gets an interesting journey over the coming years. Thormund and Mance Rayder and giants show us there’s more to Wildlings than disorderly tribal wild life; where the series puts us on a side, it never fails to show us there are good people and good humor on the other side too. Jon Snow’s love story with Ygritte is a very enjoyable example.
As we’ve seen in Ned’s life journey, winning battles and wars here doesn’t save you from falling prey to bitter truths. Watching the unravelling of Robb’s war – after winning all his battles – teaches us bitter lessons about the brutal logic of George RR Martin’s world. (Personally, I’m expecting a bitter conclusion, to reaffirm the anti-sentimental message of his storytelling in this series. He’s a master at building up our unwitting expectations, then savagely destroying our naïve hopes and expectations.) We’re well distracted by his other storylines – his love story and his wife’s pregnancy – and miss the bigger picture that’s staring us in the face.
Ah, we reach the ever-fatal penultimate episode of the series. After the Red Wedding, first time round, I was shocked and bereft like most people. But after ten minutes’ silence, I concluded that it was entirely right. This time? Yep. When you know what’s coming, it’s all the more glaring how much our own sentimentalism blinds us to what is totally deserved. Bitterly, but totally.
The final episode of the season is almost anticlimactic after that. But Ygritte gets to put a few arrows into Jon for abandoning her. I’m sure a lot of women can relate.
Playback rating: 4/5
If you’ve liked reading Ian’s thoughts on Game of Thrones Season 3, you can read his opinion on Season 2 by clicking here or keep going and read his thoughts on Season 4 here!
In readiness for the eventual arrival of the final season, Ian Kennedy subjects himself to the whole thing again. Next up is Game of Thrones Season 2… Can anyone endure Ned’s honor, Stannis, the Red Wedding, and – worst of all – Arya’s unending journey from ‘annoying’ to ‘a different kind of annoying’, all over again? Or will the quality of the writing conquer all foes once more? Spoiler central here, if you hadn’t guessed… but in euphemisms that would make Tyrion blush, most of the time.
Not easy, introducing and reintroducing so many characters and backstories after nearly a year, with so little screen time for each of them. To make this work, the first episode of Season Two presents some unflinching violence and dark exchanges to make clear who’s in power and who’s powerless in every scene, and how they choose to use those positions – which is a great way to reveal true character, in life-or-death exchanges.
For example, in a fatal tournament for Joffrey’s amusement, we’re introduced to a minor character who is almost killed at the young king’s command. But after surviving thanks to Sansa’s intervention – even when both stand in a position of apparent powerless – he gets a small but vital role later in both Joffrey’s and Sansa’s fates.
These pieces of poetic justice underline how fine the line between success and death is in the series (“you win or you die”, of course!). Cersei holds court, proving her intention is to rule the kingdoms herself – but only to discover that Tyrion has superceded her, and she’s been out of her depth. She still gets her chance to belittle Littlefinger afterwards and teach him a lesson in power – very well-written and wryly dismissive of one of people’s favorite sentimental maxims, that knowledge is power. It’s a good crystallization of the underlying lessons of the series, and sets Littlefinger to change sides later. Meanwhile, the Lannisters start a campaign to slaughter all of Robert’s bastards – since they all have a better claim to the throne than the new king does!
Dany, her baby dragons, and her few dozen followers have their time in the wilderness. The Night’s Watch visit the creepy Craster’s Keep, and we’re introduced to Stannis in another creepy situation, which comes to a head with a fascinating failed poisoning attempt on his sorceress: it’s in situations like these that the series shows its distinctiveness. Robb shows he does have an exit stategy even while the war is going well for him. There are some absorbing exchanges and scenarios, but with an anticlimactic ending and no real fights or battles, it’s a bit of a flat episode by the series’ usual standards.
Playback rating: 3/5
With the series fully in its flow by now, it seems rude to interrupt it by writing about it. There’s lots to relish here second time around, from Brienne’s entrance, Tyrion’s astute politicking and spectacular fleeting military triumph, to the Hound’s crisis of confidence in the midst of the Battle of the Blackwater. It’s fun seeing Jaime still playing the villain; if anything he (or actor Nikolai Walder-Costau) is enjoying it too much, but it’s nice to have someone to hate. As usual, the ninth episode is the spectacularly good – or bad – one, as the Lannisters desperately try to save themselves from Stannis’ invasion.
The real joy of second-time-around is recognising all the minor characters as they appear and reappear. From Ros turning from Theon’s whore at Winterfell, to Ser Loris being the first to reveal himself as a rescuer of King’s Landing – and through it the Tyrell’s decisive change of sides. Recognising the surnames adds just as much value. This is definitely a must-watch-twice series.
One question though, other than Catelyn’s foolish release of Jaime. Why do Bran, Rickon and their guardians run from Winterfell at the end, when Stark allies are about to liberate the castle?
Playback rating: 4/5
Enjoyed Ian’s thoughts on Game of Thrones Season 2? Take a look back at his thoughts on Season 1 by clicking here, and keep an eye out as we continue this series of articles with future seasons…
“Legitimacy is a big theme in GoT; lots of characters think they have it, many are proven wrong brutally (and butchered along with their thousands of dutiful followers), some people who don’t seem to have it turn out to, and in the end maybe none of them will be right...”
In readiness for the eventual arrival of the final season of Game of Thrones, Ian Kennedy subjects himself to the whole thing again. Next up is Episodes 6, 7, and 8. Can anyone endure Ned’s honor, Stannis, the Red Wedding, and – worst of all – Arya’s unending journey from ‘annoying’ to ‘a different kind of annoying’, all over again? Or will the quality of the writing conquer all foes once more? Spoiler central here, if you hadn’t guessed… but in euphemisms that would make Tyrion blush, most of the time. (more…)
“Oh, so much great writing here...”
In readiness for the eventual arrival of the final season of Game of Thrones, Ian Kennedy subjects himself to the whole thing again. Next up is Episodes 6, 7, and 8. Can anyone endure Ned’s honor, Stannis, the Red Wedding, and – worst of all – Arya’s unending journey from ‘annoying’ to ‘a different kind of annoying’, all over again? Or will the quality of the writing conquer all foes once more? Spoiler central here, if you hadn’t guessed… but in euphemisms that would make Tyrion blush, most of the time.
Oh, so much great writing here. Really got my heart pounding when Tyrion’s trial by combat happened, even though I knew the outcome. And Viserys gets the crown he craved – but it’s not the crown he craved – just the first of many times the series gives a character what they say they want, to teach them brutally that it’s really not what they want. Super.
Playback rating: 5/5
Yes, it’s the one with that line from Cersei to Ned which gives the series its name. To be honest, I’m finding the storytelling and dialogue so absorbing that I struggle to break off from watching to write up my thoughts. This is seriously multi-layered – so many characters and references that went over my head last time. I’d forgotten that Renly was such a recurring character in Season One, already set for a tilt at the crown, and that we already knew Stannis was, well, Stannis, many times before we met him. Great stuff, even when you know what’s coming.
Re-watching is a great chance to test out the theories I’ve been forging about the series. I think I’m definitely right that Ned’s – and all the other Starks’ – fatal flaw is being honorable; many characters say as much, in different ways and circumstances. His refusals to play Cersei and Littlefinger at their own games are, in hindsight, laughably naïve – but would be a successful and satisfying strategy in most stories, and GoT hasn’t revealed its hand by this point.
Playback rating: 4/5
One element of the usual Game of Thrones formula is missing – there’s no sex in this one! Maybe no wonder the episode seems to drag a lot after the first phase, even after a bloody coup and with all sides gearing up for war.
Another character who is punished for showing mercy and sentimentalism is Daenerys, when she saves some peasants from becoming spoils of war, and then gets one of them to treat a wounded Khal Drogo. Soon she’ll learn the error of this. But unlike most, she survives it to harden herself for the future.
Playback rating: 3/5
Continue into Ian’s review of the following episodes here: https://writemovies.com/second-look-game-of-thrones-season-1-episodes-9-10/ or go back to the first episode’s Second Look here! https://writemovies.com/second-look-game-of-thrones-season-one-episode-one/
In readiness for the eventual arrival of the final season, Ian Kennedy subjects himself to the whole thing again. Next up is Episode 5,The Wolf and the Lion. Can anyone endure Ned’s honor, Stannis, the Red Wedding, and – worst of all – Arya’s unending journey from ‘annoying’ to ‘a different kind of annoying’, all over again? Or will the quality of the writing conquer all foes once more? Spoiler central here, if you hadn’t guessed… but in euphemisms that would make Tyrion blush, most of the time.
Praise needed here for the title sequence – cost over $1m, apparently, and endlessly watchable, as the locations of the series unfold themselves in fascinating 3D configurations.
The idea of a Clegane-off happening in the final series has been gaining pace among GoT fans, but we actually got one right here in Season One, as the Hound steps in to prevent the Mountain – his brother – from murdering the knight he just lost a joust to. Two oversized monster-men in armour fighting, when we’ve lately heard that it was the Mountain who gave the Hound his huge facial scars as children. And this moment also shows us that – however horrible he might seem now – the Hound will end up on the right side eventually.
The violence steps up several levels early in this episode, and we get our first real fights. For the first time we’ve seen, King Robert gets directly involved in affairs of state, and has a rare heart-to-heart with his wife Cersei – not for the better. The king hears of Dany’s pregnancy, and tries to get her killed – and the ever-honorable Ned resigns his position rather than fulfil the request. Catelyn discovers her sister is not the woman she was – an almost surreal scene as Lyssa suckles her overgrown child. After some chicanery from Littlefinger, Ned is caught out and Jaime and Ned get to actually fight each other! Awesome! But this is cruelly cut short in typical GoT fashion. A very enjoyable episode. And no Dany in it at all, which I think is probably the only time that happens.
Playback rating: 5/5
If you liked Ian’s take on “The Wolf and the Lion”, take a look at his thoughts on Episode Three: “Lord Snow” by clicking here! or Episode Four: “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken things by clicking here!
In readiness for the eventual arrival of the final season, Ian Kennedy subjects himself to the whole thing again. Next up is the episode “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things”. Can anyone endure Ned’s honor, Stannis, the Red Wedding, and – worst of all – Arya’s unending journey from ‘annoying’ to ‘a different kind of annoying’, all over again? Or will the quality of the writing conquer all foes once more? Spoiler central here, if you hadn’t guessed… but in euphemisms that would make Tyrion blush, most of the time.
Yep, it’s interesting to see the young characters and actors while they’re really young again, and Theon while he’s happy to be an honorary Stark. The dialogue is just as fascinating second time around – the way the series gives people short, impactful, snappy dialogues is deep, powerful and wise. Lots of the minor characters, ignored and forgotten soon after we first see them, turn out to be more important later – it’s enjoyable to make connections as I watch the likes of Barristan, Gendry, Hodor (poor Hodor!), Thorne and the rest…
You have to pay close attention to recognise names, faces and details. The joust – and the killed knight at its inception – are part of an easily-missed storyline, part of the cover-up about the dead Hand. Maybe the books are easier on that front for audiences, because narration forces names to be repeated a lot more often, and gives room for direct exposition. Maybe. But it’s a rich tapestry of a series, even without knowing everything we could do.
One clever feature is how the magical features of the series are seeded. A coital discussion is the first reference to many of them at once – a very good place to hide an exposition scene, and Season One is full of others. Lots of magical things we hear about from a minor character later turn out to be true. She asks Viserys about dragons, and Viserys’ answers sound like excuses for them no longer existing. But then in another episode, Arya stumbles past some huge dragon skulls in the cellars of the palace, confirming that yes, they were real in this world, and very impressive.
When she is identified in a potentially hostile inn, Catelyn Stark is the latest woman in the series to earn our admiration, as she unites many rival families’ men to get Tyrion arrested. This is the moment when Tyrion’s playboy lifestyle first judders to a halt, and his own character is formed – he’s falsely accused and his life put in the hands of the twisted justice system of Westeros… for the first of many times.
Playback rating: 4/5
If you liked Ian’s take on “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things”, take a look at his thoughts on Episode Two: “The Kingsroad” by clicking here! or Episode Three: “Lord Snow” by clicking here!
It’s the biggest unanswered question in film. Every year, without fail, it comes up again; battle lines are drawn, families are divided, and the debate rages on. And the question, of course, is…
Is DIE HARD a Christmas movie?
On the one hand, a film about terrorists taking over a building is hardly a happy tale for the holidays. On the other… Well, it’s set at Christmas, and sees our hero trying to reunite with his family for some festive fun. That’s enough, isn’t it? Even if the festive fun is interrupted by bombs, bullets, and bad German accents?
Of course, by that logic, LIFE OF BRIAN is also a Christmas movie. After all, it too is set at Christmas – it opens in Bethlehem on the night that Jesus was born! The fact that it focuses on the stable next door where the hapless Brian is being born, and that the wise men visit him by accident, and in fact otherwise has nothing to do with Christmas…
Okay, let’s face it: there are some films that fall into a grey area. LIFE OF BRIAN probably isn’t a Christmas movie (although I’m sure someone’s bound to disagree!) but at the very least a lot of people have a heartfelt love for DIE HARD around this time of year, and that counts for something.
So, in celebration of this fact, here’s are some of our favorite films that exist in this grey area. Christmas movie or not Christmas movie? Let us know your thoughts!
- THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS: Come on, it’s got the word Christmas in the title! The fact that Santa Claus (or rather “Sandy Claws”) get kidnapped by the king of Halloween, the reindeer are skeletal and led by a ghost dog, and all the presents handed out terrorize the children shouldn’t make a difference, right? Okay, maybe it should. Half Halloween movie, half Christmas movie – maybe this is best watched in mid-November.
- EDWARD SCISSORHANDS: Let’s stick with Tim Burton for a moment. The most iconic scene in this American-Gothic fairytale sees Wynona Rider’s Kim dancing in the snow while Edward carves ice sculptures. A beautiful Christmas moment… Except that Edward is a leather-bound weirdo with scissors for hands. Things don’t end too well for Edward and Kim either, so only watch this one if you want to spend Christmas Day in tears.
- FROZEN: Snow! Ice! Snowmen! Disney songs so iconic that half the world’s population bursts into song at the words “Let it Go” and the other half groans in frustration! On paper, Frozen has all the right ingredients for a Christmas movie and a lot of people will probably give it a watch over the coming week – except that it never mentions Christmas. Not even once.
- GREMLINS: Don’t feed them after midnight. Don’t let them get wet. Once those rules get broken and these little critters get loose, all sorts of chaos ensues. Okay, this one is definitely set at Christmas, but it’s not exactly one to get you into the holiday spirit. Part horror, part comedy, GREMLINS is a film for people who really want to turn Christmas on its head.
- HOME ALONE: Fans rejoiced when Macaulay Culkin recently reprised his role as Kevin McCallister for an advert, but this Christmas classic is actually pretty dark. While Kevin’s traps are dangerous enough to maim or potentially kill the would-be thieves, it’s his parents who are the real villains here. Not only are they neglectful enough to forget about him while they catch a flight to Paris, they don’t even bother trying to phone anyone back home once they realize he’s not with them – not the police, not a neighbour, nobody. Seriously, someone needs to call CPS on the McCallisters – they’re a danger to their own children.
Whatever you choose to watch this week – whether it’s a movie about Santa Claus being kidnapped, evil creatures running rampant, or a skyscraper being taken over by terrorists – we hope you enjoy it. From all the team at WriteMovies, we’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas!
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