Game of Thrones s8 ep 6

*For one last time: SPOILERS*

Snow and ash falls onto the bodies and rubble that once was Kings Landing, as the weary, dejected Tyrion makes his way to what’s left of his family and grieves. Jon and Ser Davos, grimly picking their way through the eerily quiet streets, try to prevent more slaughter but Grey Worm, if he ever cared, doesn’t now. Lannister soldiers on their knees isn’t enough for him or his Queen: the Mother of Dragons will not hide behind small mercies any longer.

“How much more defeated do you want them to be?” asks Ser Davos, but it’s the wrong question. “How many more defeated do you want there to be?” turns out to be more apt, as the First of Her Name proclaims, Targaryen banner and Drogon flying by her side, that this victory isn’t enough either, it will never be enough: “From Winterfell to Dorne, from Lannisport to Qarth, from the Summer Isles to the Jade Sea”, she will never stop.

Because they have been raised to fight and to kill / because GOT‘s racial optics have always been problematic (you choose) the Dothraki and the Unsullied cheer her on, while the two white men who fell blindly in love with her look on in horror. This is the Queen they chose. This is the liberation they fought for? Tyrion gives up on the dream, surrendering his pin and his freedom but Jon can’t quite let go yet: not when Arya tells him what Daenerys is, not when Tyrion tells him what Daenerys is, not till Daenerys herself tells him what she is. “You are my Queen”, he vows, “Now and always”, and I don’t understand at first – did you hear her, Jon? Do you understand? – but then I do. As Tyrion says, Jon Snow has always tried to do the right thing, no matter the cost. And in this game, at least, duty really is the death of love.

If you believe Jon Snow did love Daenerys Targaryen, that is. I was never quite convinced by their relationship, but he told us enough times and Jon has never been able to lie, so I suppose we must accept that he did. Drogon certainly did, though, so he destroys the Iron Throne that brought her to this, and flies away with his mother’s body, leaving her nephew alone to face whoever’s justice comes next.

And breathe.

Like the ending or loathe it, the first part of the series finale is visually stunning. Grey, cold, snowy, with the increasingly unreachable Daenerys atop an endless series of stairs, now almost wholly detached from Jon, from righteousness and from all those small mercies that might have made her a good Queen instead of a power-crazed one. The part which comes next, then, while shot perfectly well too, is jarring in its contrast: prisoner Tyrion, dragged blinking into the courtyard bathed in sunshine where the lords and ladies of Westeros are to decide where they go from here. Or really, as Tyrion decides where they go from here.

There are perfunctory threats amongst the arguing, of course, but Ser Davos has had more than his fill of violence: “we’ve been cutting each other’s throats long enough”, he says, and they all know he’s right. There must be a better way. Sam’s suggestion of Westeros’s first mass elections is laughed at, as it should be, because polls and campaign posters would be a fine idea in a 21st century world but a profoundly boring ending for this one. Edmure, who hasn’t been seen since the Red Wedding and is only being seen at all now because Arya is exceptionally good at assassinations, tries to take charge but Sansa’s “Uncle, please sit” is a joy. Olenna may be gone, but she taught Ned Stark’s daughter a thing or two before she went. Sadly, she didn’t get to teach Tyrion much, though, or I suspect his choice for King might have been different.

“Who has a better story than Bran the Broken?” About three quarters of the cast, since you’re asking, T, and at least three or four people in that one scene, including yourself. All the people railing at the show runners do need to remember though that this must have been GRR Martin’s choice: he told them how the Song of Ice and Fire is meant to end, and he, like Tyrion has “a tender spot in (his) heart for cripples, bastards and broken things” (his words, not mine, apologies) so I assume he chose to crown King Bran the Broken, First of his Name. I can see why, I suppose. If you want to subvert reader/audience expectations, you can’t give the Throne to the handsome, virile “rightful heir”. If you want to break the wheel, birth and “birthright” are to be disregarded. If you want to give it to the person with the best story….. well, I remain unconvinced that the boy who spent years mired in mystical guff in the snow and now speaks almost exclusively in riddles is the right choice, but you do you, GRRM. You do you.

The rest of the finale’s choices are just about perfect, though. Bran will be King in name only: he will warg about doing not very much, while the real ruling is done by Tyrion and his bantering, buoyant Small Council made up of former outcasts Brienne, Davos and Sam who not only made it this far but proved their worth along the way, and Bronn who apparently lands on his feet, no matter what. Their cheerful teasing made me smile, while Brienne writing Jaime’s entry in the book made me cry. And the rest of the Starks? Arya is off into the unknown, to seek the adventures she’s always wanted. Sansa is the Queen in the now independent North, exactly as she should be. And Jon Snow comes full circle: back to Castle Black (“there’s still a Night’s Watch?”), back to Tormund and Ghost (sob) and back to the free folk, who’ve never cared who his parents are, to be King Beyond the Wall. It might not be the ending everyone wanted but, other than King Bran, I thought it was the right one after all.

So that’s it for Game of Thrones, then, the biggest tv show in the world, except of course for the debriefs, the petitions, the memes and the spin-offs: a cultural phenomenon like this is never really over, these days. It’s been eight seasons of very high ups and crushingly low downs, with the show’s uncompromising brutality, somewhat erratic pacing – a few years of treading water in the middle, a headlong rush at the end, entire seasons of Ramsay Bolton torturing folk along the way – and troubling attitudes to women causing me all sorts of distress and frustration, but I kept coming back, as did millions of people all over the world because, as Tyrion says, “there’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story”. And Game of Thrones, for all its many flaws, was a rich, sprawling tapestry of a tale, spread across years and continents, with a host of iconic characters brought to life by an enormous, often magnificent cast. How could I resist?

Of course, I’ll miss talking about it as much as I’ll miss the show, so thank you so much to the online and offline friends who read or commented on these posts and indulged all my ramblings. Who knows if there will ever be another show with the global reach this one had? As one Petyr Baelish once said, the past is gone for good, and a lot can happen between now and never, so I’m just glad we got to share this one: we loved the characters we loved, hated the characters we hated and had the best time swapping them round every now and again. Now Winter has been and gone, goodbye Game of Thrones. You know there’s no other way to finish this post: Our Watch has finally ended.

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Public Service Announcement 31 of 2019: What We Do in the Shadows

Fans of Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s delightfully deadpan mockumentary about vampire daily “life” in Wellington, New Zealand, may be interested/ pleased/ a little apprehensive to note that the FX tv adaptation of What We Do in the Shadows arrives on UK terrestrial tv screens this weekend. Beginning tonight (Sunday) on BBC2 at 9pm with a double-bill, the vampires are now Staten Island residents instead, and it’s a ten-part season (already renewed for a second one) instead of an eighty-ish minute movie, so I’m not sure how it’ll measure up, but Clements is the creator of the tv version and he and Waititi are both executive producers, so signs are a lot more promising than I would otherwise have suspected. I’m a big fan of Waititi’s, I love a supernatural flatshare and I really liked the original film, so I’ll be giving this version a go at least.

Blindspot s4 ep 19

I’ve dawdled a bit with this post since Blindspot, having only just returned,  is taking yet another break – I think the announcer said it won’t be back till 3rd June – but in the meantime, against the odds, the show’s been renewed for a fifth and final season. I’m fine with that. I would’ve been happy enough with it ending this season too, but as long as the fifth season involves plenty of Rich and Patterson and the continued possibilities that a) PATDOTCOM might happen and b) they get their own spin-off, I am ON BOARD.

This instalment, meanwhile, not only has plenty of Rich and Patterson, but so many other things going on that, when sitting down to write this, I couldn’t remember the case of the week, even though the case of the week is characteristically demented: Russian spies, Juliet from Lost and a satellite equipped with live nuclear missiles which can be launched from space. Sure, why not?

All of that’s wrapped up with minimal fuss and minimal staff, though, since most of the cast is occupied elsewhere. Kurt dips in and out of satellite-gate, since he’s busy tracking down his mum, finding out from Jane that he didn’t quite know the truth about his childhood after all, paying cash money to save Mrs W from gangsters she’s in tow with (that bit seems counter-intuitive for, y’know, FBI agents), and possibly sending her to rehab. Jane makes tea (so. much. tea.) and provides sympathy for Ma Weller. And Rich and Patterson are alarmed (as am I) by the fact that Krazy Kathy – who, let’s not forget, kidnapped two FBI agents, electrocuted them with shock collars and threatened to kill them – is not only out of jail after serving about five minutes of her sentence, but is up to her old hacking tricks again, complicating their lives somewhat since Reade is not going to be able to ignore the Three Blind Mice issue forever.

I liked it all, but Patterson and Rich’s story is far and away the funniest and the best, as usual, thanks to Kathy’s dream wedding plans, Rich’s “tongue”-coloured suit, Patterson just having “so much money” and the completely ridiculous twist at the end. Good times.

The Good Fight s3 ep 7

*SPOILERS*

I’ve been increasingly confused and a little distressed by the way this season’s Good Fight has very quickly changed from the best show on TV to… something else, so I don’t know if the new uber-wackiness has just worn me down and I was just relieved to get a reasonably traditional episode, but I really liked this?

Of course, when I say “reasonably traditional”, we did still have Lucca in a fledgling romance with Gary Carr from Downton Abbey playing Gary Carr from Downton Abbey (or so TGF and IMDB tell me, I don’t watch Downton Abbey). I didn’t quite understand why this was happening, to be honest – I mean, Rose Leslie was also in Downton Abbey and I know she wasn’t in this ep, but surely the fact that they specifically chose another person from Downton Abbey and not, say, some dude from Call the Midwife (I don’t watch that either) wasn’t a coincidence? What point am I missing? My distress levels are rising again….

Still, Cush Jumbo made it work and the very meta “wallet” scene was cute, so, despite my unshakeable suspicion that not only was something going over my head but it was all a bit unnecessary, that sub-plot worked out ok. It was very much a side dish to the bigger, better storylines of the week though, which, probably for the first time, wholly successfully married up the arcs involving the Book Club, the work and history of the firm’s characters, and the unspeakable Blum in a way which felt organic and meaningful, as opposed to gimmicky and weird.

Essentially, the firm took on a class action about dodgy voting machines; it turned out to be a cover for the next phase of the Resistance, giving Liz and Diane not only their now-weekly conflict of interest but an astronomically-high stakes moral dilemma too; and, in the midst of all of that, Blum started sniffing about threatening to air the dirty Reddick laundry if he didn’t get a permanent gig at the firm. (NO. JUST… NO.) Great scenes included Adrian shoving Blum up against a wall, and, at one point, when Blum was splayed across the window ranting about horned beasts and revenge or something, everyone turning round and completely ignoring him. Heh. And Diane actually getting to be a lawyer in court again – as opposed to an axe-thrower or whatever – for the first time in weeks and being fantastic at it was fab too. MVP for the night, though, was Audra McDonald’s Liz (with Christine Baranski assisting) – her scene explaining to Diane exactly why history isn’t one of the things they share was both utterly devastating and absolutely tremendous, as well as a reminder of why we’ve stuck with the show this season, wackiness and all.

Game of Thrones s8 ep 5

*ABSOLUTELY MASSIVE SPOILERS*

In television, as in life, you can’t always get what you want. With this deeply frustrating episode and the one before, though, Game of Thrones seems determined not to give us much of what we need, either.

We begin with Varys, plotting away till the end. ls that last chat with his last little bird about trying to poison Daenerys? Or just trying to cheer up Her Royal Sadness with a tub of the Seven Kingdoms equivalent of ice cream? (Haagen-Daariozs? Ben’n’Jorah’s? Never mind.) Maybe we’ll find out next week, maybe we never will – either way, Tyrion adds another to his very long list of bad decisions, and shops him to the increasingly moody Dragon Queen who seems more upset about her nephew/ boyfriend’s “betrayal” / reasonable refusal to hide his own identity having waited 8 seasons to find it out (you say potato, I say potahto, etc) than anything else. Still, at least she doesn’t let it spoil her sense of the dramatic – Varys, er, “goes Dracarys” on a dark, windy Dragonstone night, with everyone but Her Grace and Grey Worm looking profoundly uncomfortable because nothing says “I’m not going the full Targaryen” like flame-grilling the guy who suggested you might be.

Goodbye, Varys. Conleth Hill’s performance over the years has been such that l’ve forgotten practically all the deceitful things the Spider ever did and will remember him with fondness. His death is sad but it’s fitting, in terms of the development of the character and the story over the years, and it makes sense. Would that the same could be said about some of the others this week, though, as the show lays waste not only to Kings Landing but to years of writer and audience investment in Jaime Lannister who, it turns out, is doing exactly what he told Brienne he was: going back to Cersei and, in the process, as legions of distressed fans have pointed out today, going back on years of character development because, in the end, everything Jaime did to redeem himself in our eyes and his own matters naught to him. All that matters is Cersei.

Sigh. At least he gets a sweet, final scene with Tyrion first, as his little brother repays a favour and helps him escape. I don’t believe he means it when he says he’s never much cared for the common people either – the very reason he became the Kingslayer gives the lie to that. That’s just some of the old Golden Lion bravado coming through, but it’s the old Golden Lion that the show seems determined to leave us with: battling his way back to Cersei’s side to save her or die trying. It’s a sad, ignominious exit for a character who should have been one of GOT’s greatest triumphs – when we first met him, he pushed a child (a Stark child!) out of a window, to stop his own nasty, seedy family secret getting out. You’d think there could be no sympathy for him and there could be no coming back from that but, somehow, thanks to patient writing, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s fantastic work, and his wonderful partnership with Gwendoline Christie’s Brienne, there was and he did. Until this week. Jaime and Cersei dying together is an ending that makes sense too, yes, but Jaime and Cersei dying together with him back in her arms as if he never left them is an awful, nihilistic one that doesn’t, made even worse by that smirking idiot Euron being a smirking idiot right till the end.

Sigh. I’m talking around rather than about the basic plot, I know, but then the basic plot is exactly what I thought it would be: Dany has a tantrum because she’s lost her friends, and she might not get the cool crown she wants, so Kings Landing and everyone in it has to burn.

The outrage on the Lannister army’s faces when they realise their surrender is being dishonoured in this way; the horror on Jon Snow’s as he tries fruitlessly to stop the fighting; the men, women and children of the city running from the flames and the fighting but dying in their thousands nonetheless – it’s all beautifully, majestically shot and fantastically acted, with each scene its own perfect tableau of violence, terror and senseless, merciless bloodshed. None of this needs to happen, none of it, but Daenerys must be queen, or kill everyone else trying because the First of her Name has always sought revenge and the throne above all else. She only wants the wheel broken if she’s the one who gets to do the breaking, and since the only people she would have allowed to talk her out of fire and blood before are now either dead or standing in her way to the Iron Throne, then fire and blood it must be.

What Dany does this week, then, what she has finally become is, unconscionable but, like Varys’s fate and unlike Jaime’s, it’s fitting and it makes sense. Contrary to a lot of online chatter and a lot of criticism I’ve levelled at GOT over the years, I don’t think this particular twist is misogynist, and I don’t think it’s sexist – I just don’t think she was ever the hero people thought she was, and the show did a better job showing that over the years than it did with Jaime, even if the ultimate goal was to show that neither of them could ever really escape the families and family traits that made them what they were.

In one sense that is the ultimate theme of the episode, I suppose. After all, the Hound and the Mountain are family who couldn’t ever truly escape each other too, albeit their mutual self-destruction is both horrible to watch and absolutely perfect. And at least their ending gives rise to one of the few moments of humour in the episode when Cersei, realising that the Mountain is more interested in fighting his brother than looming about behind her any longer, quietly slides past them and scoots off. I don’t know if I was supposed to, but I smiled.  The Hound’s also semi-responsible (in a very roundabout way) for the one time I laughed during the episode, too. His last redemptive act may be one of vengeance and death, but his last truly good deed is to persuade Arya (if nobody minds me borrowing from Wham here) to choose life. Nothing funny in that, even though Arya’s subsequent doomed attempts at heroism as she tries and fails to save Michelle from Line of Duty (!) and various other unfortunates border on the farcical. But the sudden, random appearance of a horse for Arya to ride out on reminded me of this and made me shout “HORSE!” again for the first time in years. I know I wasn’t supposed to, but I laughed. After all that, I needed it. See you next week for the big finish.

The Good Fight s3 ep 6

*SPOILERS*

Blum is camped out at Reddick Boseman, ingratiating himself with Adrian and Julius, and even getting under Marissa’s skin, much to the frustration of Diane, Liz and yours truly. Lemond Bishop drops in to raise my hopes that we might be going back to some Good lawyering, only to dash them again by giving the show more excuses to keep Blum around. (Mike Colter’s Lemond is terrific, do something non-Blum-related with him please.) And Lucca is consulted in the most bizarre, roundabout way about a potential celebrity divorce. Whose? Jay thinks it’s REDACTED and REDACTED, but turns out it’s actually EVEN MORE REDACTED and REDACTED. Or maybe it isn’t. I think by the end of the episode we’re to understand that EVEN MORE REDACTED is a fake, but by then I just wanted it over with.

The initial stuff with Wade V and Zelda Raye, the hatbox of phones, everyone’s excitement that it might be the people it turned out not to be – all that’s fun, and Cush Jumbo battles valiantly to try and keep the rest of it on the right side of strange. Unfortunately, though, she’s saddled with a storyline that’s just a bit too weird and arch to work. Also, I’m no fan of the individual portrayed, but the “short” of the week is just obnoxious too. So it’s an episode best forgotten as far as I’m concerned. And everybody can just knock it off with the talking to camera, just STOP.

Game of Thrones s8 ep 4

*SPOILERS*

“We may have defeated them, but we still have us to contend with.”

Which is the problem, isn’t it? The various factions camped out in Winterfell can agree that the end of the Night King is a victory and that the loss of their people is a tragedy but that’s about it. With that distraction and the memorial service out of the way, they have no more excuses not to confront their issues, both with each other and themselves.

Not that a feast is a bad way to start doing that, but the increasingly (and justifiably) paranoid Daenerys can’t even have a party without an agenda since, as she’s all too aware, it’s very much not her party, these are not her people, and no amount of dispensing titles and toasts is going to change that. Begging Jon to keep his secret is desperate, arrogant and doomed to fail, as is just about everything else she does this week. She should have listened to Sansa, she should have listened to Varys, and she should have got over herself, but this is Dany we’re talking about, so instead she loses her (bizarrely easily-dispatched) dragon, her best friend and any chance of keeping it together for the rest of the season. As Varys points out, every tyrant talks about destiny and, as far as I can see, the only difference between this one and the others was dragons and Jon Snow by her side. Two down, two to go.

As well as being a bad week for Team Dany, it’s a terrible week for Team Love and Romance, with shippers’ hopes and hearts being stomped on all over the place. Lord Gendry Baratheon, drunk on happiness and legitimacy, asks Arya to marry him, because he might well love her, I don’t know, but he certainly doesn’t know her at all. Ouch. Tormund Giantsbane fares somewhat better – he insists that Brienne’s broken his heart but he finds someone to mend it thirty seconds later, so I think he’s fine. (I’ll miss him if he really does head up north with Ghost and we don’t see him again, but his farewell to Jon is lovely.) Grey Worm has to watch Missandei die in credulity-and-patience-stretching fashion. And Jaime? Jaime gives Brienne joy, love and the chance of everything she ever wanted, and then he rips it all away.

Of course, the idea that Jaime could stay behind and live a happy, quiet life with her was only ever a fantasy, and it’s no surprise when he does go. For what it’s worth, I don’t believe he’s going back “for” Cersei in the same way he tries to convince Brienne he is; I think he’s going back to rip his sister out of the world, root and stem, and he‘s deliberately cruel about it to try and stop Brienne from following him, but it’s still awful to watch this strong, magnificent woman who has come so far over the past few years, reduced to sobbing and begging this man, who hasn’t come quite far enough, to stay.

It’s a bad week for women in general, too, though. I’m largely indifferent to Missandei as a character but, as plenty of people have pointed out, putting the only woman of colour in the main cast in chains and killing her to give her boyfriend and his white lady boss something else to be angry about isn’t a great look for the show. Sansa essentially telling the Hound that she wouldn’t be this awesome if it weren’t for all the horrors she’s gone through isn’t entirely inaccurate – our experiences shape us all, absolutely, and yes, Sansa wouldn’t be the same if she’d just stayed at home and maybe married a Tully – but it does seem like a) an unfortunate attempt to justify the show’s terrible treatment of women over the past few years, and b) a very old-fashioned, borderline misogynist view of character development. After all, there are many ways for women to grow and evolve which don’t involve repeated rape and torture at the hands of various men. It’s just a shame they didn’t write any of them for her instead.

A curiously unsatisfying week then, which, despite the two “shock!” deaths, ends with the principal cast almost exactly where we all expected them to be. Daenerys, angry and spoiling for a fight. Tyrion and Varys wondering if they’ve backed the wrong Targaryen. Jon and co on their way to Kings Landing for the show’s last big battle. (This week’s skirmish was something of a surprise, but not a massively impressive one, given its consequences – I’d have saved it till next week). Arya, the Hound and Jaime not far behind. Cersei and Euron smirking away in the Red Keep. And Sansa and Bran at Winterfell waiting for whoever wins. Hm. For all it was a bad week for so many, ”The Last of the Starks” wasn’t bad in itself, exactly, but whatever comes next really does need to be better.