Game of Thrones s7 ep 6


“Smart people don’t come up here looking for the dead.”

A very cold, mitten-encased hi-five to the delightful, no-nonsense Tormund for pointing out what’s obvious to all except the rest of the Wight Recovery Team: the plan to catch an ice zombie and bring it along to Show and Tell is the STUPIDEST PLAN IN THE HISTORY OF PLANS. Yes, I understand that it’s an opportunity for the Snow men (sorry) to bond, chat and remind us of a few plot points and themes of profound significance (fathers and sons, the foolish pride of kings, nobody wants to hear whinging on a road trip, that type of thing) while enjoying the bracing air of somewhere incredibly beautiful yet quite clearly FREEZING. But, on the negative side, EVERY OTHER THING YOU CAN THINK OF. If these idiots needed to talk, could they not have gone to Dorne on a lads’ weekend?

But you’re not doing anything the easy way when you’re Jon Snow, are you? Fancy a challenge? Here have some Ice bears! Escaped with your lives? Try a Wight Scouting Party for size! Still not done? Ha! Bring on the DEAD HORDES.

A bajillion ice zombies against, er, six – since Gendry’s busy putting on a very special performance of The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner – dudes in fur coats should, of course, be a walk in the snow-covered park, but here comes Dany/NotDany to even up the odds and, wow, for all the sheer insanity of the plan and the plot, it’s still an astounding series of scenes to watch and listen to and feel in your very bones: the bleak, gorgeous brutality of the landscapes; the ominous rumbling of the enemy in the distance; the terrifying army of the dead in all its implacable, unstoppable glory; and, finally, the Dragon Queen swooping in to save the day, at unimaginably terrible cost…. That last shot of the giant, ice-blue eye? I can’t be the only person who screamed. Could you not have found an easier way to get a look at Jon Snow’s manly chest, Your Grace?

Mind you, if all that hand-holding and “My Queen” and “you know I can’t have kids, right?” business is anything to go by, I presume Daenerys will be seeing a lot more of her nephew (yes, her nephew, just a reminder) than just his chest soon enough. Whether this will be enough to assuage Tyrion’s worries about the succession, I don’t know, but for once I’m inclined to agree with Daenerys: Crown first, everything else later, dude. Calm down.

And as for you, Arya – sit down. And behave yourself. I’m surprised it’s actually taken this long for the younger Ms Stark to turn on the elder, but I’m also disappointed that Sansa is still confiding in Littlefinger and sending Brienne away again (although it does mean we’ll get a Brienne/Jaime reunion – yay!) and that Arya is now, in her own way, almost as frightening as the Night King. For all the terrors in this episode, the moment where she points out that “I could even become you” might just be the scariest of the season.

Nashville s5 ep 16

Well, it didn’t take long for Maddie to discover that Daphne and the appalling Liv were behind the online attacks on her. She quite rightly kicks Liv out of Raynadu, and Deacon – who, let’s be fair, really didn’t ask for this – decides that the best punishment would be to take Daphne’s phone away from her for a month. This simultaneously enrages both Daphne (whoa, all I did was make fun of my sister) and Maddie (whoa, Maddie’s Life Matters), who spend much of the episode sniping and sulking. It’s a return to the bad old days of The Girls.

But then this storyline thoroughly redeems itself: Maddie (managed, thank the Lord, by Bucky, one of the very few grown-ups around these days) has some interviews to take care of, then she retreats to her car and sobs uncontrollably. It’s the most moving scene of the episode, and it underlines that while, yes, Maddie and Daphne haven’t distinguished themselves over the last couple of weeks, they are, after all, a couple of teenage girls who have just lost their mother. So everyone makes up. Apart from Liv, who I’d like to think we’ve seen the last of, unless she and her squad mount a Manson-esque home invasion.

It’s not a particularly fun storyline, though, and the gloom isn’t lightened by anything else going on this week. Access Hollywood excitedly reports that the “online shipping community” – I think I’m part of that – is buzzing because Scarlett has a baby bump, and Gunnar is the presumed father. Then Scarlett sits down with a journalist, who starts babbling about how she and Damien hit it years ago. And, before you know it, Scarlett has wordlessly communicated that she’s carrying the fruit of Damien’s loins. I couldn’t make out whether the journalist was employing a technique, or just a total idiot. Either way Gunnar has now been publicly cuckolded, which probably isn’t going to help.

And even that is more joyful than this week’s turmoil in the house of Julvery. Hallie’s recording her debut album, with Avery behind the desk, and he sides with Deacon against Juliette when she tries to get some bland, bombastic nonsense released as Hallie’s first single. From then on Juliette appears to, well, completely lose her mind, accusing Hallie of being a user, and suspecting her of trying to seduce Avery. He, in turn, back in his accustomed role of the guy who patiently has to explain things to Juliette, reminds her that all Hallie did was rescue Juliette when her plane crashed; thereafter, it was Juliette who chased Hallie. I really do wonder if we’re being set up for a PTSD story arc.

The thing is, though, I could kind of get behind #Havery. Not because I’m that bothered about Hallie, but because Juli’s behaviour towards Avery is so intolerable that he deserves a little fun. In short: she’s not being nice to him, and Hallie is. Being nice to people is underrated, and I suspect it’s also undercounted as a factor in infidelity. Why wouldn’t you prefer the person who’s being nice to you? So fire in there, Avery, and good luck.

Game of Thrones s7 ep 5


Dude…. where’s my battle?

After a few weeks of GOT surprising me with a big bloodbath at the end of each episode, I was ready for “Eastwatch” to whack me sideways with an all-out White Walker offensive, but, disappointingly, the closest we get is a brief Branfommercial about the Night King and his subjects being on the march – the Night Crew might want to be a bit more stealthy about it, now Raven-boy’s onto them – with the actual fighting put off till another time because this week is all about getting the gang(s) back together to prepare for the battles ahead. Yes, it’s reunion week on GOT, with a variety of people getting reacquainted, including a number of people who’ve been apart so long I’d forgotten they’d ever met each other in the first place.

Before we get on to the Friends Reunited segment of the ep, however, there’s the post-ep 4 clear-up and set-up to be done. At Winterfell, the Northern Lords are moaning again, the theme this time being that Sansa would be a better ruler than Jon is. Sansa, for her part, is pretending not to agree with them. Arya is furious with her for not pretending hard enough. And Baelish is playing them off against each other. Obviously, this can’t end well; the only questions are for whom and how quickly?

While the Stark girls consider their next moves, Daenerys does one of her “I’m not like Cersei, I don’t murder people” speeches before being exactly like Cersei and murdering people, and if I didn’t already detest her and her hypocrisy, this week’s matter-of-fact but merciless “Dracarys” would have sealed the deal. (Goodbye Tarlys, we barely knew you.) With the smell of Mad King in the air a little too pungent for both Tyrion and Varys to ignore any longer, then, they have a great scene where they fret about their own roles in providing Drogon and co with flambé fodder, and for a moment, I’m hopeful that Varys at least will start looking for a new saviour of the realm sooner rather than later. Disappointment number two of the week, however, is that he doesn’t, and the current plan is apparently to continue to try and talk Daenerys into sanity instead – good luck with that one, boys.

Jaime and Bronn meanwhile, can apparently breathe underwater a lot longer than most people since they somehow survive last week’s dragon/drowning combo, manage to swim to the other side of the lake undetected by Team Barbecue, and head safely and quickly back to Kings Landing. Despite their losses, Cersei’s still not for surrender – in fairness, she has a point about fighting and dying, or surrendering and dying being the only two options, or at least she does till the Dragon Alliance comes up with crazy option number three – and instead reels Jaime back in with talk of another child and formally going public with their relationship. Since the child part only comes after Jaime’s fraught but not unproductive meeting with Tyrion – another great scene – and is followed by a deeply menacing “Never betray me again,” I’m not sure I believe her. If it’s just a ploy to keep him on side, it’s a good one, but how long it’ll work is another matter.

Not that Cersei’s the only Queen using her offspring for political gain, of course. Back at Dragonstone, it’s time for Not-Actually-A-Bastard-At-All Jon to impress Daenerys by petting her “child” Drogon like he was an overgrown puppy – wait till she finds out what Gilly found out! – and for Ser Jorah to interrupt the, uh, family affair, by popping right back up to “serve (his) queen.” And stop her getting any “service” from anyone else, if you know what I mean. Ugh. Guys, Ser Jorah’s obsession with Dany is not noble. It’s creepy. And now that it involves him having eye-wars with Jon over which one of them gets to “serve” the Queen (I’m even grossing myself out now) it’s even creepier. I’ve been struggling to see the much-vaunted chemistry between Jon Snow and Daenerys this season, but since Ser Jorah and the King in the North are now ready to arm-wrestle for the privilege of leading a suicide mission for her, I guess they must think it’s there. Ugh again.

Anyway, love triangle between Jon and two people who suck aside, my initial reactions to the “Kidnap a Wight, Show Him to Cersei” plan were a) “WTF, this is a stupid idea”, b) “Cersei won’t give a stuff” and c) “will he not melt?” before I remembered that, regardless of whether Wights can be destroyed by fire, they are, in fact, zombies not snowmen, and it’ll take more than the balmy weather in Kings Landing to finish one off. At which point, I went back to initial reactions a) and b). I appear to be alone in my scepticism, however, since everyone at the Dragon Court is somehow immediately convinced that interrupting the Lannister-Targaryen hostilities by going off on this bizarre tangent is the way to go, so off Jon and Ser Jorah trot – obviously squeezing in a quick competition as to who can take flirtier leave of the Dragon Queen on the way – to gather up some pals. As well as Tormund (whose hopeful, hilarious “The big woman?” makes both Jon’s and my year, HEE), the Hound, Thoros of Myr and Berric Dendarrion also happen to be ready and waiting to go kidnap a bogeyman, but since they’ve only been missing for a couple of weeks, the much bigger news is the return of fan favourite Gendry, last seen rowing a boat about twelve centuries ago, and now ready to rock’n’roll. Gendry! Well! Not only had I forgotten about Davos being the one who saved Gendry from Melisandre, I still can’t remember Thoros and co handing him over to the Red Witch in the first place, but never mind. As Jon – who’s getting funnier, better one-liners every week – points out, “We’re all on the same side…. We’re all breathing.” Heh.

It’s a very good place to end a very good episode but, intriguing and important to the story though it is, “Eastwatch” can’t really compete with the rush of the past few episodes. Which doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, of course I did. I just wish we could have fought some zombies along the way.

Public Service Announcement 31 of 2017: Atypical, Valkyrien, False Flag, The Man Who Fought The Planners: the Story of Ian Nairn

More Netflix. Atypical is an eight-part family comedy about 18-year-old Sam, who is on the autism spectrum, and starting to take an interest in girls. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Michael Rapaport play Sam’s parents. The critics kind of like it, mostly (Netflix, available now).

And more Walter Presents. Valkyrien is a drama from Norway, although – refreshingly, perhaps – not about dysfunctional cops dodging the snow to solve the inventive and brutal killing of a young woman. Instead it picks up and runs with a device familiar to those of us who watch American procedurals – the underground doctor who provides clandestine treatment to those who don’t want to go to normal hospitals. The first episode is going to be broadcast in the old-fashioned way, then the whole thing will be available on All 4 for (ew) “bingeing” (Sunday 13 August, 9pm, Channel 4).

The next two fall into the ICYMI category. Israeli drama False Flag (Kfulim) started a couple of weeks ago, but both of the episodes shown so far are still available on catch-up. Five apparently ordinary citizens suddenly find themselves drawn into an international crisis when they discover, via media reports, that their identities have been stolen and used by the perpetrators of the abduction of an Iranian politician from an Russian hotel. It’s loosely based on the real-life story of the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, alleged to have been carried out by Mossad agents using false passports; and it’s supposed to be quite good (Mondays, 9pm, FOX UK).

Finally, something I can recommend because I’ve seen it, although I’m prepared to concede that it’s a little bit, uh, niche. The Man Who Fought The Planners: the Story of Ian Nairn is a terrific documentary about the incendiary and brilliant Nairn, an architectural critic, writer, and broadcaster whose tragically early alcohol-related death robbed us of a unique voice. If you’re interested in architecture, journalism, post-war Britain, or urban planning, this is for you (Sunday 13 August, 12.15 am – i.e. early Monday, if you see what I mean – BBC 4).

Nashville s5 ep 15

Nashville doubles down this week on #Maddiegate. Maddie’s trapped in her huge house – Raynadu, let’s call it – because the press are at the gates. Which is both endearingly old-school, and somewhat unlikely for an incident as trivial as this. Bucky – sacked, but somehow still around – hints that she might want to apologise for the sake of her career. But part of the reason that the incident won’t go away is that Daphne’s exciting new friend, the dreadful Liv, has posted an video mocking Maddie online. Then Clay breaks up with Maddie, which I thought he’d done last week, and Daphne – presumably wanting to make amends for what Liv did, although Maddie doesn’t yet know about that – helps Maddie to make another video, this time offering a partial apology: yes she overreacted, but no she’s not sorry for standing up for Clay.

At Highway 65, meantime, Rachel Bilson has turned up as perky “Chief Strategy Officer” Alyssa Greene, at the behest of perky zillionaire Zach. She points out to the H65 family, gathered round a table, that the record business as it used to be is dying, and (quite sensibly, IYAM) suggests brand partnerships as a way of making some bank. There are varying degrees of scepticism on the Highway 65 faces, but once again I feel obliged to observe that Zach’s only sin, thus far, has been trying to keep H65 afloat through disasters such as Juliette’s ‘The Whitest Gospel Album In The World’. Anyway, Will is ambivalent until Budweiser come calling, then he’s all about brand synergy and selling his soul.

Juliette herself mounts a Hallie showcase at the Bluebird, as a result of which Deacon wants to sign Hallie to H65, with Avery desperate to produce her. The only problem is that they want her to sack her backing group. Hallie isn’t having it, but then Avery arranges for her to sing with some proper musicians who aren’t just her mates and her married boyfriend, and she’s kind of convinced. Juliette also records the song which was meant for Maddie: I think I should allow that it’s better than I said it was last week, although still nowhere near as good as ‘Beautiful Dream’.

And Scarlett is being what is now her usual insufferable self. Babe, if you’re not interested in Gunnar, let him go. “For the first time”, she whines to Deacon, “he’s steady…”, which suggests that the writers are going to keep trying to sell us this fantasy of season 1-4 Gunnar being flighty while loving, loyal Scarlett bravely did her best. We do, though, get a scene of the two of them hanging with Will and Avery, and those are always good. It’s not a great episode, though, and the show needs to move on from Maddie and the video.

Poldark s3 ep 9


It’s the season finale and the prospect of a French invasion – we saw three ships come sailing by – has the gentry on edge, with Cap’n Poldark appointed to head up a band of peacekeepers, ready to quell riot and revolution quicker than you can say “sauvez-nous!” The main causes of agitation, both public and private, across the county are rooted firmly on this side of the Channel, however, with the only thing resembling an uprising arising out of George Warleggan’s determined and deeply annoying persecution of poor, sad Drake who now has a burnt-out business and a collection of serious injuries to add to his broken heart. “Tom Harry is a thug, and I want him dismissed,” too, Elizabeth. But your awful husband is just as bad.

The would-be revolt is nonetheless quelled by the dashing Poldark – only just, mind – with the crowd persuaded to disperse, not by the threat of gunfire and bloodshed, but by Ross graciously deciding that he will stand for Parliament next time he’s asked, since everyone’s so keen on the idea. I wouldn’t have thought this would be an immediately attractive short-term solution since George has only just taken up the only available seat, but perhaps elections in eighteenth-century Cornwall were even more frequent than they are today. Anyway, it may be a tad late to realise Sir Francis and Demelza were right after all, Ross, but better than nothing.

The politics are little more than a distraction from the real drama of the week, though, that being the tumultuous love lives of most of the main cast. Except for Caroline and Dwight who have settled into adorable bonbon-filled bliss, and long may that continue; now Dwight’s post-traumatic stress disorder has settled down, everyone else’s post-romantic stress disorders are keeping the writers more than occupied.

The Morwenna/ Osborne/ Rowella storyline I found so discomfiting last week gets even stranger this week, with Rowella’s plan turning out to be extortion to pay for her marriage to the librarian. Again, bafflingly, the show plays those scenes as if they’re funny; I presume I’m supposed to be impressed by Rowella’s moxie and pleased that the repellent Rev has been hoist by his own petard, but the idea (and the sounds! Ugh, the sounds!) of a woman literally using sex to blackmail her sister’s abusive husband while the wife is drugged to prevent her interfering is anything but amusing, as far as I’m concerned. Particularly when Morwenna’s plight is so horribly acute and distressing.

With any luck, Drake’s little posy might signal fresh hope for Morwenna in season four, though – please, writers, give them a break and a bit of happiness, would you? Osborne has irritated us long enough. As has George, whose villainy this week reaches such heights that even Elizabeth the enabler can take no more. Taking Poldark’s advice, she confronts her appalling husband, and for the first time in a long time, grasps back some of her own self-respect. Yes, marriage should be based on honesty and affection, so lying to your husband about the paternity of your child is perhaps not the best long-term strategy as far as most relationships are concerned, but since the repugnant George’s unhappiness tends to lead to poverty, famine and mortal peril for all the blameless ordinary people he likes to take it out on, it’s certainly the most constructive solution for this particular household.

Lying hasn’t worked quite so well for the Nampara Poldarks, of course, as Prudie – whose eagerness to push Demelza into the arms of the sappy, mopey Armitage and do further harm to her marriage utterly confounds me – spills what she thinks are the freshest beans about Ross and Elizabeth, and Demelza decides that she’ll finish what she started in season two, and get her revenge by cheating with yet another besotted soldier. All this could obviously have been avoided if Ross had told her the truth in the first place, but two idiots do not make a brain trust, Demelza – I hate this storyline, and the only thing that saves it from totally ruining the show for me is Ross’s reaction at the end, when, having regressed to season two standards of boorishness over the past couple of weeks, he suddenly remembers three years of character development and, with great sensitivity and patience, just takes her in his arms and lets her cry. Poldark is at its best and his best when Aidan Turner’s allowed to be the brooding but kind and caring romantic hero, and thankfully, in that very final minute, that’s what we got. Hopefully season four will bring us more of that best, less of the Warleggan worst and no more Reverend Osborne. We shall see.

Game of Thrones s7 ep 4

My. God.

Another episode starts deceptively slowly and sedately, with every scene a significant, compelling one, heavy with import but light on actual action. Till Bronn hears something, faint at first, but louder and more ominous as it nears. And yet another episode I thought might be quiet turns into a cacophony of whoops and hooves, and the Lannisters’ first encounter with the Dragon Queen a breathtaking, nerve-shredding spectacle of flames and carnage.

I should have guessed, I suppose, going by the last couple of weeks, that there would be even more to “The Spoils of War” than the Lannisters scooping up the fruits of the Reach and the long-awaited Stark sibling meeting. But in the calm before “Dracarys!” there’s so much going on that it seems like calm is all there can or needs to be.

At the Reach, there’s Bronn wisecracking, Jaime in an Olenna-induced depression, and Lord Tarly wanting to flog stragglers. At the Red Keep, Cersei’s entertaining Mark Gatiss and reminding us that the Lannisters pay their debts. And at Winterfell, the Starks are having another family reunion, with Arya bamboozling a couple of justifiably suspicious but unconscionably stupid guards, before a sweet, moving, hopeful reunion with Sansa with both sisters, having survived unimaginable horrors, reminding each other (and us) that their “stories aren’t over yet.” Aw.

Arya’s reunion with Bran is slightly less emotional, of course, since Bran is “not really” Bran any more, and his main job is to creep everyone he knows the f**k out. (He is awful, Meera, but you’re better off. Safe travels!) But at least Arya gets Littlefinger’s dagger out of it, and everyone keeps saying “it’s Valyrian Steel,” so we can all shout “that kills White Walkers!” and get very excited about who she’s going to stick it into. Ideally of course, she’ll use it on Littlefinger himself first, since NotBran clearly knows enough of Lord Baelish’s activities to promote him to Arya’s kill list. And Baelish knows he knows; Littlefinger’s smirk is now so permanent, I tend to struggle to work out what he’s thinking, but his abject fear at “Chaos is a ladder” breaks through very clearly.

Three live Starks in one place being something of a record, nobody has time for Littlefinger this week, though; no time for a ceremonial jousting tournament to celebrate either, albeit Arya and Brienne make do with a sparring session which delights both of them, if Sansa not so much. No Sansa, your baby sister isn’t joking about the kill list. And you probably aren’t the Stark with the most darkness in your heart after all.

Big “brother” Jon, meanwhile, stuck at Dragonstone, forgoes fun with one set of relatives for an increasingly awkward, prolonged stay with another, as he tries to give Auntie Daenerys a hieroglyphic-based history lesson about the importance of doing things together – albeit not the kind of things Davos is suggesting. Daenerys’s record-player being stuck on “Bend the knee,” however, I’m not sure how much progress he makes. Especially since the irony of Ms Targaryen suggesting it’s Jon’s pride preventing him from saving his people when she’s the one insisting she rule the world is apparently lost on everyone in the show, and even Davos is beginning to believe the Missandei propaganda machine.

The silver halo does slip a little when Daenerys starts to throw her Valyrian Steel toys out of her Dragonglass pram over the fall of Highgarden, but it’s Jon who talks her round this time, reminding her that she’s different. Is she, though? Well, she doesn’t attack the Red Keep. But her attack on the Lannister forces is astonishing and merciless nonetheless, and all the more shocking for its unexpectedness: relentless Dothraki hordes, panicked Lannister forces and the Dragon Queen herself atop one of her children, swooping down and setting her enemies ablaze. My GOD.

Are we supposed to root for her? I didn’t. Bodies, spears, horses, flames everywhere and through it all, Jaime Lannister refusing to abandon his men, while all around him fell and burned – my sympathies and my screams were with the Lannister forces this time, at least.

Bronn ultimately brings the beast down, though, and we’re left with two possible deaths of significance. Or are we? If Drogon dies, there are two more dragons to replace him, but there’s nobody to replace Jaime, and he can’t possibly be done yet. For what it’s worth, no matter how bad it looks, I don’t think either of them is gone – we’ve been here before with Drogon, and Jaime’s Kingslayer/Realmsaver arc can’t just end in a pointless, random death now, can it? As Jon Snow taught us, even death on GOT isn’t immune to some of the rules of storytelling, and I think those rules means Jaime Lannister lives. For now. Either way, though, this was astounding, incredible television and I’ll be thinking about it for days.