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Second Look: GAME OF THRONES Season 4

Second Look: GAME OF THRONES Season 4

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 4… 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 4

GAME OF THRONES is a series of chaos. As soon as order prevails somewhere important, then something shocking comes along to throw it all in the air again there. Weddings are meant to achieve the opposite – but here are often the opportunity for untold horrors. Now, I’m not saying that sadist King Joffrey doesn’t deserve to die foaming at the mouth from poisoning at his own wedding. But considering the fates he inflicted on everyone else, it’s almost too clean and quick a way to go. His beloved crossbow, though, does have a few more important lives to claim after he’s gone, not least in the final episode. I guess it’s what he would have wanted.

This act triggers a big reshuffling – switches of allegiances, escapes and false convictions, and a chance for the perverse justice system of Westeros to play out again. The trial by combat fought in episode 8 (‘The Mountain and the Viper’) is still stunning second time around, and results in arguably the show’s most astonishing death. The way the fight pulls our heartstrings and shocks us throughout, is masterful. We hadn’t even spent enough time with either character to get genuinely attached to them. But it leaves us reeling.

One thing that makes it even more effective is that the show warmed us up for this duel a few episodes before with a very comparable duel, where a champion of Meereen provokes Dany to provide one. That duel has a sudden, unexpected and impressive outcome, that’s also emotionally satisfying. And maybe subtly shapes our expectations of the one to follow, ready for them to be confounded a few times over.

Tyrion’s ordeals in this series are the biggest storyline, tying all the other strands in King’s Landing together. Here the series lays bare the gap between how people are perceived to be, and their true character. Even Tyrion’s own father and sister have always assumed he must be a hateful creature, because his birth – and supposed monstrosity, as a dwarf – robbed them of wife and mother. She was his mother too, but they don’t care about that. And this season they turn their vendetta into a search for ‘justice’, as they exercise all their legal (well, corrupt) powers to punish him for Joffrey’s murder, even though he didn’t do it. But the series plays its usual tricks on them in return too. The richest and most powerful man in Westeros finally dies on the privy – a satisfying irony – and although Cersei’s unrepentant scheming doesn’t truly backfire on her until the next season, her refusal to learn from her mistakes is the true cause of her later humiliation.

As usual, episode 9 packs the biggest punch. The Night’s Watch are attacked on all sides and the battle for Castle Black and the Wall is impressive, and culminates the love-hate romance between Jon Snow and his Wildling fling Ygritte.

A duel between Brienne and the Hound is emotionally involving (first time around) and pretty ugly. On second sight, there are too many serious head injuries for a fight of this intensity to be sustained. We’ve got too used to seeing people clubbed in the head with rocks on our screens, seemingly without having any negative impact on them.

My main complaint is how quickly, and fully, Jon recovers – in this same season – from having three arrows in his body, a stab in the leg, and having his head pounded into an anvil. Seriously? I know we like him, mostly, but it’s unlike GAME OF THRONES to indulge our heroes like this.

Playback rating: 4/5

 

Enjoyed reading this article on Game of Thrones Season 4? Take a look at Ian’s opinion on Season 3 by clicking here. Articles on future seasons are coming shortly!

Second Look: GAME OF THRONES Season 3

Second Look: GAME OF THRONES Season 3

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!

Second Look: GAME OF THRONES Season 2

Second Look: GAME OF THRONES Season 2

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.

 

EPISODE 1: THE NORTH REMEMBERS

Game of Thrones Season 2 DVD extrasNot 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

 

EPISODES 2-10

Game of Thrones Season 2 DVD extrasWith 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…

Second Look: Game of Thrones Season 1 – Episodes 6, 7, and 8

Second Look: Game of Thrones Season 1 – Episodes 6, 7, and 8

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.

 

EPISODE 6: A GOLDEN CROWN

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

 

EPISODE 7: YOU WIN OR YOU DIE

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

 

EPISODE 8: THE POINTY END

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/

Second Look: Game of Thrones Season 1, Episode 5 – The Wolf and the Lion

Second Look: Game of Thrones Season 1, Episode 5 – The Wolf and the Lion

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.

Episode 5: The Wolf and the Lion

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!

Second Look: Game of Thrones Season 1, Episode 4 – Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things

Second Look: Game of Thrones Season 1, Episode 4 – Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things

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.

Episode Four: Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things

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!

Second Look: Game of Thrones Season One, Episode Three – Lord Snow

Second Look: Game of Thrones Season One, Episode Three – Lord Snow

In readiness for the eventual arrival of the final season, Ian Kennedy subjects himself to the whole thing again. Next up is the episode “Lord Snow”. 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.

Episode Three: Lord Snow

First of all, I do some math during the DVD homepage, and create an amusing ratio that demonstrates the series’ very impressive body count. But eventually I accept there is also an episode or two ready to watch.

Ned and the royal party arrive at balmy King’s Landing, and a series of excellent dialogues introduce us to the many powerful men who Ned must now navigate between as Hand of the King, as well as other enjoyable backstory intrigues.

“Someday you’ll sit on the throne, and the truth will be how you make it,” Cersei counsels Joffrey, among other dangerously wise advice. “Everyone who isn’t us, is an enemy,” she says, condoning his view that the Starks are enemies – though he doesn’t realise just how narrow her definition of “us” is, given his real parentage. “War is easier than daughters,” Ned concludes, reflecting the private view of men the world over – you’ll find way more stories by men about war, than about daughters. Sadly.

It’s enjoyable watching Daenerys earn our respect from nothing all over again – and her brother our hatred – as she starts to behave like the Khaleesi (tribal queen) she has become. It’s fun seeing Tyrion still the carefree rich playboy, before a world of cares catch up with him. Quoting his brother Ned, to cut short a pleasantry from Tyrion, Benjen says “nothing before the word ‘but’ matters” – neat. Dany becomes pregnant – something I’d almost totally forgotten about. Her burgeoning relationship with the savage, brutal tribal ruler Khal Drogo is still one of the most distinctive love stories I’ve ever seen, and is executed (sorry, no pun intended) in a remarkably short amount of screen time over this series.

Ned sets Arya a ‘dancing master’ to teach her artful swordfighting, and these are still among the most enjoyable training scenes I’ve seen anywhere, with some rich payoffs later. No coincidence that her tutor is from Braavos, and her transformation comes to fruition there later. Seeing her move with a sword, Ned is taken aback. Maybe he’s surprised that in Season One, she’s not yet really annoying,

Playback rating: 4/5

If you liked Ian’s take on “Lord Snow”, take a look at his thoughts on Episode One: “Winter is Coming” by clicking here or Episode Two: “The Kingsroad” by clicking here!