“Game of Thrones” Season 6 – Of Payoffs, Drama and Passing the Books to Create a Nearly Perfect Story

Game of Thrones Season 6

     First off I should give a warning. This review is going to contain spoilers. These are books that I’ve been reading for a long time and this was the Season where so many of our questions about where George R. R. Martin is going where finally answered. For non-spoiler thoughts, this was easily the best season of television this year. I’d rate above “Better Call Saul,” which for me was pretty untouchable this year. The reasons behind this is due to this being a story with consequences. There is death and Houses change as new powers rise and others fall. This season was drama at it’s best.

     David Benioff and D. B. Weiss really created something spectacular and took us places we had never been before in the books.

      The story is all about dealing with the consequences of last season. Jon Snow is dead, the High Sparrow nearly controls King’s Landing, Dany is missing in action as the Slavers plot against Meereen, Arya is training and Sansa escapes with Theon from Bolton held Winterfell.

SPOILERS ahead

Hodor

The Pros: The World – The world is expansive this season and in it we get to see the consequences of all the relationships and build up among the survivors and the choices they’ll make to continue surviving or to build something greater. This season really explores what happens when major players in “The Game of Thrones” make decisions to change that world.

The Soundtrack – Ramin Djawadi is one of my favorite composers at this point. This season he gives us probably the greatest song to come out of this series.:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SpHMq8qbfM. Suffice to say his music is a major part of what makes this world so dark and rich.

The Battles – The action is the best this show has been show far with battles on par or surpassing the “Battle of the Wall” and “Battle of Blackwater.”

Siege of Riverrun – This is smaller battle but huge in that it showed that the Blackfish is as prideful as Ned and it nearly costs his family everything…and he can’t even hold Riverrun anymore after Jaime uses Edmure Tully to take control of the castle and have it surrender similar to how Ramsey used Theon to take Moat Cailin.

Battle of Slaver’s Bay – This is a pretty fast battle but it is amazing! Dany flies Drogon and destroys the fleet of the Masters before Grey Worm kills two of the Masters leaving one to spread the word that Dany is not someone to be messed with. The Son’s of the Harpy are also killed by the Khalasar that Dany now owns.

Jon and Sansa

Battle of the Bastards – Battle of the Bastards is amazing! We have Jon and some of the smaller Northern Lords and Wildings arrayed against the Boltons and the major houses in the North. Rickon is killed to spark of the battle and Jon pulls and Ned and almost gets himself killed since he doesn’t listen to Sansa that Ramsey will try to play him. The battle is nearly lost by Jon until Sansa’s letter to Littlefinger leads to the Vale rescuing them and Jon’s final showdown with Ramsey at Winterfell where he is finally defeated and the Stark banner rises again. Wun-Wun dies in the fight.

The Characters – The characters are what drives Martin’s stories and a lot of them have some great moments this season. The list is extensive but I wanted to give credence to as many of the people who had moments.

Brienne – Brienne is Jaime’s consience and helps him find a way to capture Riverrun with limited bloodshed. She is sworn to Sansa now and is doing a great job as she saves her from Bolton troops when Theon and Sansa first escape and is their envoy in the North when they recruiting Houses against the Boltons.

Tormund – This guy is awesome! He is able to convince the free folk to stand with Jon as he believes Jon will be the one who will be there at the end fighting them against the dead. Their friendship is amazing and he a lot of great moments this season and some funny moments where he is crushing on Brienne but clearly doesn’t know how to talk to her.

Roose Bolton – Roose’s role is short in this but what we see is that the Boltons would probably still own the North of Ramsey hadn’t killed him after he and Lady Frey had a son. His death is the end of House Bolton…Roose could have taken control of the North, he is a Tywin type personality.

Ramsey Bolton – Ramsey is pretty unhinged per usual, but manages to show enough diplomacy to keep the big Houses under him in the leadup to the Battle of the Bastards. He has been untouchable for so many seasons and the Battle of the Bastards is his first loss besides Sansa and Theon’s escape. He pays the consequences finally too as Sansa feeds him to his hounds.

The High Sparrow – Jonathan Banks really did a great job creating a charming villain. The High Sparrow is someone who embraces poverty but also takes advantage of people to rule through fear and the power he sees the Seven granting the Church. He wins through most of this season until Cersei’s final plan leads to his end. Banks truly made this role memorable, in the books he never stood out to me.

Littlefinger – Littlefinger saves the day and we see he is still the same creeper who sold Sansa to Ramsey in the first place. He is going to be hardest thing for the Stark’s to deal with as he is the reason Ned is dead as well as Rob and Cat. He can’t be trusted and I hope Sansa uses her influence to blackmail him for control for as long as need be before he is ended.

The Hound – The Hound is back! In this a Sept nurses him to health and he stays with the peaceful folks until the bandits exploiting the Brotherhood without Banners attack and kill them all. The Hounds gets revenge and later joins the Brotherhood. So great seeing him again.

Grey Worm – Grey Worm is a great soldier but has to deal with dealing his injury and diplomacy as Tyrion’s approach is much different from his. Seeing his relationship with Messandie is really sweet too and I can’t wait to see him Westeros.

Messandei – Messandie like Grey Worm is unfamiliar with the Game of Thrones and uncomfortable with it. Much of their arc is acclimating to Tyrion and negotiating between the free people the compromises Tyrion makes.

Yara – Yara is awesome! In this we see her nearly win the Kingsmoot after Euron kill’s Balon, until Balon arrives forcing her and Theon to run. When they run we see she cares for Theon but also doesn’t trust him because of Moat Cailin and the past. We also see she isn’t bad at diplomacy too as she flirts with Dany but is willing to work with Dany’s terms for capturing the Iron Islands and making her Lord even if means giving up the worst aspects of Reaver culture.

Hodor – Hodor is the hero in this. In a flashback we learn he was once a boy named Wylis who loses it all when Bran wargs into his mind when he has traveled back in time as he orders Wylis to “Hold the door!” against the dead and White Walkers leading Wylis to say the command over and over again until he becomes Hodor. It is a powerful scene and one of the more tragic moments in the series.

Melissandra – Melissandra is at least hundreds of years old so we know she knows some of what is going on in the wider world. In this she faces consequences for burning Shireen as Jon exiles her from the North after she brings him back to life.

Davos – Davos is Jon’s Hand at this point and still can’t quite see the bigger picture. He does help recruit houses to Jon though which helps the Stark’s take back the North.

Margery Tyrell – Margery is smart but sadly stupid people keep her from living. In this we see her negotiate for Loras’s release (even if he has to become a Faith Militant in the process) and manages to get her Grandmother out of King’s Landing which ends up saving her mother’s life. Natalie Dormer is wonderful in this role and I’m sad she’s dead from Cersei’s brilliant and horrible plan.

Lady Mormont – Lady Mormont is amazing! She is a 12 year old who is Lady of her House and sends Jon 62 troops to the “Battle of the Bastards” but also comes herself. She also unites the Houses behind Jon as the new King of the North. She is all around amazing and is phased by nothing.

Olenna Tyrell / The Queen of Thorns – Olenna is one of my favorite characters along with Margery (I’m very much a Tyrell). In this we see her attempt to save her grandchildren but is outmaneuvered by the High Sparrow forcing her to leave on Margery’s prompting back to Highgarden so that the Tyrell name will live on. Now she is last of the House and is plotting revenge against Cersei’s for destroying her family.

Cersei Queen

Cersei Lannister – This season is really Cersei’s rise as everyone underestimated the ends she’d go to when she is backed into a corner and still wants everything. In the end she gets everything. She is the one who gains it all (the Throne) and loses everything in the process. She is isolated, alone and ruler of all. What a great villain and Lena Headey really does a great job humanizing her.

Jaime Lannister – Jaime is kind of screwed at this point. He wins Riverrun and we see that he cares for Brienne but he is also willing to do everything for Cersei, though that may not be the case anymore with her going Mad Queen. Jaime is someone who has a conscience and tries to make the best choices for his own ends but also ways that will make it less bad for his enemies. He has awareness that Cersei does not and I can see that coming into play next season as Cersei did the thing that he killed the Mad King over when the Mad King was threatening to do it.

Arya Stark – Arya is a face changer but also not “no one.” Her arc this season is reclaiming her identity and beginning her rampage on Westeros against all the people on her list. At the end the season she feed’s Walder Frey his son’s and kills him.

Sansa Stark – Sansa has risen as one of the major players in the Game of Thrones as she saves the Starks from Jon’s stupidity and even manages to shut down Littlefinger’s advances. Sophie Turner brings so much to this role and it is great seeing Sansa as the one calling the shots in her own life finally.

Jon Snow – Jon is back and still has Ned’s stupidy. He is still a great character but he played easily by Ramsey during the battle as he rushes to save his brother in what is clearly a trap. He also doesn’t want to fight for a long time too as he is done with fighting after the Night’s Watch killing him. After he get’s over himself though he becomes a decent commander who the North is willing to unite behind, eventually crowning him King of the North.

Vaerys – Vaerys is all about the big picture but has his own rightful hangups too as when Tyrion seeks out a Red Priestess he critiques her religion and the followers even as it is shown there is something going on given she was able to figure out his backstory. He also unites Dorn and Highgarden against King’s Landing and as possible allies of Dany in her conquest of Westeros.

Tyrion Lannister – Tyrion is the wisdom in it all as his biggest challenge is integrating into a society that he is alien too as we see when he tries to make friends with Grey Worm and Messandei and isn’t all that successful at it. He is Dany’s hand by the end and we see that he is there to make her aware of the choices and consequences in the game of thrones and to avoid the pitfalls of her father.

Daenerys – This season is where Daenery’s once again rises as she destroys the Khals, the Sons of the Harpy and the Masters as well. In this she gets her army and her ships from Yara when she backs Yara’s claim to the Iron Islands under the condition that they will no longer pillage and rape. Dany is set to be a great leader as from Tyrion she is learning the cost of ruling and the cost of different choices…as the season ends with her sailing to Westeros to begin the conquest.

Daenery’s Destroys the Khals – This scene is amazing as Dany shows she is fireproof and burns the Khal’s alive during their trial of her, leaving her in charge of their people and giving her a giant army in order to take Meereen and Westeros.

Sansa’s Revenge – Sansa feed’s Ramsey to his dog’s after shutting down his mind games. Her look at him is powerful too during it all as you see how hardened she is and that she has become the ruler.

Arya’s Revenge – Arya feeds Walder Frey his son’s before killing him and avenging Robb and Cat. It is such a great moment and one of the best this season.

The White Walkers – The White Walkers were made to be weapons against the First Men is what we learn from the Children of the Forest, Bran even see’s a flashback of the Night’s Kind getting made. It is pretty amazing. We also see the Night’s King’s Power too as by touching Bran in the vision allowed him to enter the lair of the Children of the Forest and wipe out the Children and the Three-Eyed Crow.

The Tower of Joy – R+L does in fact = J! Jon is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen! We get some great flashback sequences of Ned taking the Tower of Joy and his last moments with Lyanna who we saw in past flashbacks.

Hodor’s Sacrifice – This was one of the most powerful moments in the show. The death of Wylis and birth Hodor which was also the death of Hodor. I think he was a hero as he was protecting Bran throughout the series even before all it and was clearly one of the few good people on the show. R.I.P. Hodor.

Cersei’s Master Plan and the Mad Queen – The plan is beautiful. Qyburn and the little birds (homeless kids) kill Maester Pycell, Wildfire is ignited below the Great Sept leading to the death of the Tyrells, Kevin Lannister and all the Sparrows leaving Cersei victories. The cost though is Tommen who can’t handle being without his Queen and the depths of evil his mother would go to.

Overthrowing Patriarchal Power – Patriarchal power being overthrown is a major theme this season. From the Sand Snakes killing Doran and his heir, to Sansa’s killing of Ramsey, Cersei’s destroying of the Church and Dany’s killing of the Masters and the Khals. All of these stick with theme and show it done beautifully as the powerless become powerful.

Okay: Euron Greyjoy – Euron is just a Pirate King and he doesn’t look as interesting as he does in the books where they played that up. In this he is though and looks the role but is almost too generic. He also didn’t protect his boats so Yara and Theon were able to steal them. Hopefully he’s a better villain next season.

Theon Greyjoy – Theon is okay, he isn’t a dick anymore (in more ways than one) but he is nearly invisible. He has a great moment when he stands up for Yara at the Kingsmoot, but I’ve never really liked the character even if I don’t hate him now.

Dorne – The Sand Snakes took over and Doran Martell is dead now. This felt like a waste, I’m putting it as okay because the Queen of Thorns sets them right as they are in it for revenge against Cersei at the end and ready to ally with Daenerys when Vaerys proposes to them that she is their means of avenging their family.

The Cons: Fast Travel – This show does a lot of fast travel and isn’t very good at showing how much time has passed between traveling. This is something I think they could work on next season just so when characters meet and they are separated by great distance…that it means more.

This was one of the best season’s of storytelling I have ever watched. This is the season of drama and payoff and you can tell that they are ready to this show in 2 more seasons. This season really showed that they can. The characters that aren’t as strong still stand out. There are so many big character moments that I had to give them their own section just to really recognize how big those moments where. If you’ve been with these characters for this long and seen their drama in the books everything is even stronger. The choices have consequences and every choice has so much history behind it. This is the Game of Thrones and many will die before the end, but at least their deaths won’t be meaningless as we see heroism in characters like Hodor or the depths of evil that some characters will reach, like Cersei.

Final Score: 10 / 10 The good far outweighs what few flaws there are.

Daenerys and Tyrion

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“Game of Thrones” Season 5 Retrospect – Where Books 4 and 5 of “The Song of Ice and Fire” Were Met, Passed and Changed

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  Since the Season 5 ended I’ve been thinking about how to write about this season. When the show is over I will go back and do episodic review of the show, but when I started watching the show this Season, I was more interested to see where they would go given that Book 6, “The Winds of Winter” isn’t out yet and the show has already chosen to change some things that were not in the books. This season is truly where they break away, but also where they surprisingly true as well even going so far as to kill off an important young character because Martin says it will happen in the books. A warning ahead of time though, this review does contain spoilers. I can’t talk about the show without going into what happened in the show.

    For me this Season gave me a greater appreciation for the Books, which Book 4 I liked while 5 felt like a waste…the show made me see where they were going and helped me appreciate what they did, especially with the Ironborn who haven’t appeared yet and some other minor or major characters who have been cut from the Series.

   I’m going to tackle it by reviewing some of my favorite locations and from there the major events that drew me in and made this Season compelling. I’ll be reviewing individual episodes once the series is over and I do a lookback.

SPOILERS

GreatSeptExteriors

The Pros: King’s Landing – King’s Landing manages to stay interesting the entire time this season! From the High Sparrow slowly taking over, to Tommen and Margery and Cersei’s madness…each of these things make the character interactions strong and give purpose and stakes to what is going on.

The Queen of Thorns – The Queen of Thorns is awesome and has been one of my favorite characters since her introduction in the show. In the books we never got to know her because it is always from Cersei’s point of view. In this we see her get revenge on Cersei for the imprisonment of her grandson and grandaughter by the faith and uses Littlefinger to do so. I can’t wait to see where her arc goes. I want her to survive this series. Olenna Tyrell is fantastic as is her actress Diana Rigg.

Margaery Tyrell – Margery has Tommen’s ear and is pretty much ruling until Cersei uses the faith to imprison her. At that point she has no pretensions of pretending to owe Cersei anything and I really hope she gets out and has her chance at revenge. Her relationship with Tommen is great too. She isn’t given as much to do this season but Natalie Dormer makes her compelling and likable as in the books we only see her from Cersei’s perspective.

Cersei Lannister – Lena Headey really owns this role! From showing Cersei as the bully as she holds her weaponization of the faith over the Tyrells, to her being a victim of the High Sparrow and faith as well when she is forced to do the walk of shame. Throughout it all we see someone conniving and falling into the net that she is making for others as everyone has become her enemy except Qyburn. The show pretty much follows the book with her as it does with the Tyrells.

Littlefinger – Littlefinger is everywhere but the major events he does take place at Winterfell and King’s Landing. I don’t know what his game was giving Sansa to the Boltons and if he is really smart and plans to rescue her and own the North or if he is just a bastard wholly using the Vale as the center of control. At this point he is an unknown and it makes him fascinating. This is extremely different from the books as it is Jeyne Pool who is given to the Boltons as a fake Arya not the real Sansa. Though his agenda is still unknown in the books too.

The High Sparrow and the Faith – The events with the High Sparrow are accurate to the books as he pretty much takes control of King’s Landing and creates a theocracy where the faith judges all those they deem sinful and imprisons them. In this he is made a true idealist though as he see’s what he is doing as a revolution. Jonathan Pryce owns this role, this is a character in the books who I felt I never got to know who he humanized.

Arya-and-Jaqen

Braavos – In Braavos there are two main focuses that make this area compelling. The Iron Bank and the brief appearance Mace Tyrell makes where he is singing to the bank and showing he is classy and Arya and the Faceless Men arc. These two arcs are enough to bring in, there isn’t too much changed here either as the show has not caught up to the books fully here.

Arya Stark – Arya’s arc is her seeking to become “No one” while still holding on her quest for revenge as that is her own personal purpose for the training. In the end she lacks patience though as she assassinates Trant and the Faceless God takes away her sight in the process. It is a good arc and Maisie Williams does a great job.

The Faceless Men – The Faceless Men are fascinating especially Jaqen H’ghar who is truly “No one.” As we see him “Die” but still be alive when he trades a life for a life for Arya killing the wrong man and not the one she was assigned to kill. The art of being a Faceless Man is balance and that is something Arya still seeks.

The Wall – The events at the Wall are mostly true to the books except Mance actually dies in this one and Jon never goes to Winterfell or plans too, instead he is the one who goes to Hardhome and faces the Night’s King, which didn’t happen in the books but because it happens in the show gives us a good idea of what to expect when winter comes as the Wildings are slaughtered and only some manage to escape with Jon.

Davos Seaworth – Davos is wonderful in this, he has a sweet moment with Shireen before her murder by her father and Melisandre and we see him always trying to do that right thing while staying true to Stannis. He doesn’t really do that much this season though besides working with the Night’s Watch.

Shireen Baratheon – R.I.P. She teaches Gilly and Davos how to read, is knowledgeable about everything but is hated by her mother and in the end her father sacrifices her in a battle he is set to lose anyway. Her death is one of the strongest so far in the series…and hasn’t happened in the books yet though Martin says it is going to happen.

Jon Snow – Jon’s arc is similar to the books as we see him seek peace between the Wildings and Night’s Watch to defend against Winter. He succeeds though it costs him his life, just like the books. He is also the only one of the characters to face the Night’s King so far so I hope Melisandre brings him back to life as we last see her back at the Wall. This season had Kit Harrington’s best acting so far.

The Wildings – In this we see the diversity of the Wildings at Hardhome and in the end Tormund and Jon being able to convince the majority to take Jon’s offer of safety behind the Wall when the Night’s King attacks and most of their leaders are killed. It is a powerful scene and the conflict of them choosing to work with the Night’s Watch if the End comes is really well done. Tormund is one of the best characters on the show and I hope he is around for the last battle. Guy killed the Lord of Bones in episode 8 of this season.

Night's King

The Night’s King –  This guy is a force of nature. He massacres the forces at Hardhome and even stands to gloat at Jon and the escaping Wildings. Winter is coming and I hope he kills the Boltons if one of our heroes doesn’t get the chance too.

Sam and Gilly – This romance is wonderful and largely follows the book except Aemon dies at the Wall here rather than on the way to Oldtown as he does in the books. Sam and Gilly care for one another and Sam is more comfortable breaking his vows than he is in the books. Gilly is also strong too and we see her stand her own against bad members of the Night’s Watch and is a big reason Sam stands up for himself and leaves the Wall with her so he can get training to become a Maester in Old Town.

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Meereen – This area follows the books and surpasses them as Daenerys still flies off and is captured by Dothraki but Tyrion is now one of the leaders of Meereen and Jorah is back in her good graces and working with Daario. I liked how this area was handled as there was loss and we get to see just how dangerous the Sons of the Harpy truly are.

Ser Barristan – Barristan dies early on this season to establish the threat of the Sons of the Harpy. It is a sad death and really well done as he is able to tell Dany about her brother the Prince Rhaeger and also warn her about her father and family legacy. His death is meaningful too as we have known this guy for 5 seasons. R.I.P.

Grey Worm – Grey Worm and the Unsullied are a bit out of their game this season as the Sons of the Harpy know Meereen. In the end they ambush them and in the process Grey Worm is mortally wounded and Barristan is killed. It doesn’t stop him from fighting again though or from growing with his lover Missandei. I really like this character and am looking forward to him leading the Unsullied in Westeros against the Night’s King.

Ser Jorah – Jorah is compelling but still a bastard. He gets greyscale at the Doom and hides it from everyone including Dany who he loves and is protecting. At this point he is wholly devoted to her though and enters the fighting pits to fight in her name. He later leaves with Daario to find her too, which is good, if he sticks around Meereen could end up greyscaled. He doesn’t have greyscale in the books and has not met Dany again nor has Tyrion.

Varys – Varys begins transporting Tyrion to Daenerys but after Tyrion is captured he doesn’t appear again until at the end in Meereen. He is good the whole time though as he truly does care about the realm and all he does is to train those who need training (Dany and Tyrion) and help them get the experience they need to bring peace to realm. He is one of my favorite characters and I can’t wait to see where the book and show take him.

Tyrion Lannister – Tyrion’s arc is learning how to feel again as he is drinking himself to death while he traveling with Varys and it is only after he is captured and goes through being a slave that he changes. He is wiser because of all he has lost and gives Dany good council and even advises her not returning to Westeros if she can rule as a just ruler in Meereen. He still is sympathetic to her breaking the Wheel of Noble Houses though.

Daenerys – Dany goes through a great arc in this as she realizes just how difficult it is to rule justly and keep peace between different groups. In the end her marrying a slave master cannot save her from the fanatical slave believing harpies as her free people continue to suffer from her attacks. She even loses Barristan from them when they ambush the Unsullied. She later leaves with Drogon her dragon when the Sons of the Harpy attack the Fighting Pits and her future is up in there as she is captured by Dothraki, who I hope she is able to turn to her side as she did in Season 1 and the first book. She is still the best hope for Westeros that doesn’t involve death from the Night’s King.

Jon's_death

Assassination of Jon – Jon getting killed is just as it happens in the books and it is done well as we see that it is the same idealism that killed Ned that kills Jon. I hope he gets a second chance and loses that idealism as Tyrion has so he can get some perspective and no longer serve with the Night’s Watch…but we’ll see. If this is his death, it was still very well done and powerful as his good intentions lead to his end…a running theme on this show.

Death of Shireen  and Aftermath – Shireen is killed by her father so that the Red God can bless him and bring him to victory and after her mother kills herself out of guilt and Stannis loses anyway when his men abandon him for what he did. He is also most likely killed by Brienne. Good riddance, no King kills his heirs if he expects his legacy to carry on, especially when they would be a better ruler than he.

Triumvirate of Meereen – Tyrion, Grey Worm and Missandei are the rulers who must bring peace to Meereen, Tyrion also has Varys too, which is a nice touch. I really like this group and am rooting for them as Grey Worm survived the slaughter that killed Barristen and all of them are now survivors and ex-slaves fighting for a true free city that is now in full civil war.

The Cons: Winterfell – Winterfell is depressing and no pressure is on the Boltons at anytime. Ramsey’s marriage to Sansa wasn’t in the books and I won’t mind this if it goes somewhere next season but her lack of agency was disturbing and a dislike and I hated how Stannis being at the gate meant nothing. In the books the Boltons were killing their horses to feed the starving lords trapped in the Wall. So far Winter has not truly come to the North, only to certain characters we are following.

Dorn – Dorn was wasted. I was left wondering what they were going to do with the Sand Snakes and the only thing that happened was what was most likely going to happen anyway with the death of Myrcella by the Sand Snakes. It was changed completely from the books as that hasn’t happened and Bronn and Jamie never went to Dorn in the books. It felt wasted really as even Doran Martell is not fully fleshed out…the Dorn story felt rushed both in writing and quality. Bronn is great the whole time here at least and Mycrella and Jaime and the last dinner in Dorn works but that is about it. So much missed potential in this area, just like in the books.

Sansa’s Agency – Sansa’s agency is the biggest issue I had with this season. She was set up as Darth Sansa last season being trained by Littlefinger to be a lead manipulator but instead she is thrown into the victim role again. First Joffrey, Second Littlefinger and now Ramsey….the worst of them all. It doesn’t go anywhere either except by helping Reek become Theon again and them making an escape like how Theon and Jeyne made the escape in the books.

   This wasn’t the best season of “Game of Thrones.” I think the fact that it ended in a Cliffhanger like Book 4 and 5 took away from that as the first few seasons felt more complete as we saw arcs come to a close. This season still has ongoing arcs that need to be resolved even though it resolved some that are still open in the books, which is a point in favor of the show. It’s not for everyone but if some of the characters you are rooting for are still around, I’d say the coming adventure is still very much worth it. For episodes that are a must see I’d recommend 8, 9 and 10 as they have the biggest events that happen that change our characters and the situations they are under.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

Seventh Son (2014): Bland Leads and Would Have Worked Better as a Mini-Series or Videogame

Seventh Son

    “Seventh Son” was okay. For what it is worth it did get me interested on the book it is based on and the side characters are far more interesting and compelling than the leads (Jeff Bridges, Kit Harrington and Julianne Moore) are characters so there is that, but so much of the world feels unfully fleshed out and the story does feel rushed, like it was trying to take advantage of the fantasy in cinema interest going on right now. I’ll get into more of that in the assessment though. This is a decent rental but the limitations of film don’t serve this film justice and the presentation would have worked better as a really good videogame.

    The film was directed by Sergei Bodrov, written by Charles Leavitt and Steven Knight and produced by Basil Iwanyk, Thomas Tull and Lionel Wigram, and based off the story The Spook’s Apprentice by Joseph Delaney.

    The story involves Gregory (Jeff Bridges) searching for the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son since they are gifted at fighting Witches and the Queen of Witches Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) escaped and killed his last apprentice Bradley (Kit Harrington). This leads him to Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) who is the last Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and also has magic in his blood as his mother is a Witch. He must train Tom before the Blood Moon when Mother Malkin will be at full power and impossible to stop.

The Pros: The World – The world is interesting as there are Witches who are shapeshifters and aren’t all bad as well as their being many other creatures and beasts like Bogarts, Wights, etc. Some of whom aren’t bad. This isn’t fully explored though as so much of the plot is focused on Tom and his romance that the plot didn’t need.

Bradley – Kit Harrington does a great job and would have been great in the role of Tom as his character has a lot of personality and is the happy go lucky one to the bitterness of Bridges’s Gregory. He sadly dies pretty early on to Mother Malkin in his Spook Apprenticeship to Gregory.

Gregory – Jeff Bridges is wonderful and I like how you get why he is bitter as Malkin was his lover before he got married and after she killed his family and his apprentices he carries nothing but hate and anger. He makes a great character though and Bridges makes him sympathetic. His relationship with Bradley and Malkin would have made this a great story, but sadly we get boring leads instead.

Mother Malkin – Julianne Moore hams this role up and does a great job of reveling in being evil for the sake of power. She is a good threat and far more interesting than those who follow her. He backstory being Gregory’s lover gives her depth too and motivation for what she does, she wants to get back for being trapped and wronged.

The Cons: Story Execution – The story execution is bad, largely due to the focus on our uninteresting leads of Tom and Alice who are blank slates and contrived love. The actors and script can’t carry those characters and it brings down the dynamic between Malkin and Gregory.

The Lieutenants – We don’t know anything about them though they have cool designs, from an army of stone, a shape-shifter and a multi-armed killer though we never get their motivations and they would have been much funner in a videogame, not a film.

The Other Witches – The other witches are plot devices. Alice and Tom’s mothers dies to show that not all witches are bad and to motivate the characters to change. They don’t ever feel like characters, they are there to drive plot and that is it.

Alice – She is the spy for Malkin but changes sides because she loves Tom. She has no motivation outside of love for Tom which was contrived since all she had was his saving her life. The actress is also really bland.

Tom Ward – Ben Barnes was horrible in this role. He wore one expression the entire time and he was written as a Mary Sue/Gary Stu. He’s half witch and a Seventh Son so he can do anything and has all the magic powers! This felt super contrived and plot armor kept him alive when he should have died on a few occasions. Super weak writing and terrible acting.

 This is a movie that would be fun to watch and mock with friends or if you want something that you don’t have to think deeply about. It’s a throwaway film and not my kind of movie though I do want to read the book now, so there is that. It isn’t good though, it’s okay at best and again, it’s a film that would be most enjoyable mocking with friends and having in the background.

Final Score: 6 / 10

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014): A Time to Fight

How to Train Your Dragon 2

“How to Train Your Dragon 2,” is definitely the best Dreamworks animated sequel and might be the best Dreamworks animated movie…I’d have to rewatch “Prince of Egypt,”again before I say that for certain though.

Everything the first movie did well, this movie did better (though introduces a problem the first movie didn’t have) and the movie also dealt with loss, morality and growing up in a much deeper way than the first film. I’m saying all this now before getting into the assessment, since explaining all these things will be spoilers.

The premise to “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” is that Hiccup has been chosen by his father to the heir to Berk and Chieftain of the clan. Hiccup doesn’t feel ready since his passion is exploring and mapping the world, living free and in the moment. Things come to a head though when Drago and his army arrive on the scene and Hiccup must deal with the consequences of this new enemy.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Here is my assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Music: The music once again is fantastic. It takes the Scottish theme and even incorporates a traditional tune for a love song that appears at one point in the film. Just as great as the first film musicwise.

The Animation: The animation has been improved. I saw it in 3D and in this instance the 3D is definitely worth it. The details of the dragons and the hair upon the people (from slight facial hair to large beards and different hair styles) is fantastic. They’ve improved upon the first one which already had great animation.

The Characters: The characters are once again fantastic, the main Dragon Riders team has grown up and is given more to do. There is even a three way romantic triangle between them (3 way being that the guys competing for the affection of Ruffnutt feel no ill will towards each other). I’m going to go more in depth on the individual characters who stood out next before I get into the relationships.

Eret – Eret the Dragon hunter played by Kit Harrington is a new character in this film, and Kit Harrington (Jon Snow from “Game of Thrones) does a great job! We see this egotistical dragon hunter ruled by fear of dragons eventually come to accept and love them when Astrid’s dragon saves his life. He eventually is taken into the community of Berk at the end and inherits a dragon.

Gobber – Gobber is gay and the reveal is fantastic! It is sad that he is the only explicitly gay animated character that we know about so far. Get on that Pixar! He is great as the supporting character again and he really is part of the family. He is like Hiccup’s Uncle and an adopted brother to Stoick. He has some comedic moments but he always shines on the emotional moments and the fights. His character grew a lot this film.

Astrid – I debated putting her in the okay area, but decided against it. She is used pretty well in this film. We get to see that she is like Stoick, she leads and is stubborn in her beliefs like Stoick against the flighty Hiccup. This is done well, though could have been done better. She kind of disappears again in the third act as mostly support…though she is really active in the first 2 acts and is once again the unspoken leader of the Dragon Riders (as Hiccup becomes the Leader of the Clan).

Stoick – Stoick is one of the best characters in this movie. We get to see how much he’s sacrificed and sacrifices for this people and that though he is stubborn he listens and is willing to try the path of the people he loves. For example when he find his wife alive…which will get it’s own entry further down…as well as what happens to him.

Valka – Hiccup has an awesome mom! You can understand why she left, given that she saw her inability to harm dragons as putting the village in danger…and that there is no way to build a bridge between Dragons and Vikings. Her role as a rescuer of Dragons is really well done. She is essentially the anti-Drago representing freedom of choice verses Drago’s domination of others.

Hiccup – Is great in this in that he is dealing with his desire for freedom verses responsibility to his people as well as how is world is changed when he learns his mother Valka is alive and is living the life he wants to live (saving Dragons and exploring the world to find other Dragons) and also dealing diplomacy verses fighting given that Drago has no desire for peace and goes about destroying everything precious to Hiccup at one point in the film in his conquest for power. Suffice to say we see Hiccup rise to the occasion and become a worthy Chief.

Toothless – This film is as much about Toothless as about Hiccup. He also has an ascension story as he builds relationships with the other dragons and even finds his inner power when he takes on an Alpha to defend to Hiccup and in turn becomes the Alpha of the Dragons, proving the way to a person’s loyalty is sacrifice and not fear.

The Stoick and Hiccup relationship – Is really well done in this film. They develop their dynamic further and we even see Stoick going out to rescue Hiccup after he leaves to try and convince Drago to accept peace. In the end their mother builds a bridge between them as she represents where Hiccup is and when he sees his Father’s patience and tenderness with going where Valka wants to go he begins to accept that he is a part of them both which leads to him beginning to accept his future role.

The Valka and Hiccup relationship – This reveal could have ruined the film…his mom being alive but missing for twenty years…there are more ways than I can count that that premise could destroy the plot. It doesn’t though, it only compliments it. Valka teaches Hiccup about dragons and apologizes for abandoning him. They do start over and we see her reflected in his as the life he wants to lead. He also begins to realize that Drago can’t be negotiated with when she warns him against it because of that time together.

The Dilemma – The Dilemma is perfect and answers the question, is there a time to fight? The answer is yes. Over the course of the film Hiccup realizes he must defend his home and his community from those who don’t want peace and want to dominate and enslave. This is revealed when he talks to Drago who believes the only way to live with others is to dominate them through fear. He realizes that he was wrong after fear is used to dominate Toothless to kill someone close to him.

The Battles – Are really good in this. The fight at the sanctuary is especially given we see nature and technology used in unison in different ways as the two factions (Stoick verses Drago) takes place.

The Loss – I love bittersweet stories, and this one was. Stoick dies…killed by Toothless when Drago uses the Alpha to control Toothless to kill Hiccup which leads to Stoick jumping in the way. It was sad and I’m glad they didn’t bring him back…it motivated Hiccup to become the Hero and also the reason he casts Toothless away until he comes to the understanding that “Good Dragons are being used by Bad Dragons,” and devotes the climax to rescuing Toothless and his people.

Okay: Drago – Isn’t super memorable in this. He is a one not baddie just like the Alpha Dragon in the first movie. They attempt to give him motivation but he spends most of the film just screaming and hurting people. Like the Alpha Dragon in the first film he only exists as a force of nature. There also is a con associated with him.

Cons: Racism – Drago is the only dark skinned character seen in this entire universe…and he is the bad guy. This could have easily been avoided by making him like the other vikings or even having people from his people joining the vikings. It is this factor (poor planning, don’t know if this was purposeful or not, it could just be stupidity like “Resident Evil 5,” but this factor keeps it from being a perfect film). It could have easily been avoided which is a shame. Hopefully we see more dark skinned heroes in future animated films.

The Director and co-writer DeBlois has done it again and I have to say I look forward to the 3rd film. Hopefully with the world opening up from Valka and Hiccup exploring it we can see the wrongs of this one (racism) dealt with. Let’s see a diversity of people just as we see a diversity of dragons and from that a diversity of heroes from this amazing world. I highly recommend this film to anyone, Hiccup’s story and the relationships are the driving factor and the movie achieves these relationships perfectly.

My Score for this film is 9.7 / 10.