Monday, May 19, 2014

Game of Thrones episode 7 "Mockingbird" review

After two really outstanding episodes in a row, the question was whether HBO was having a streak. “Mockingbird” is continuing with delivering great moments, and was extremely was at least questionable at others. And when I say “questionable”, I don’t mean it as an euphemism of “bad”. It’s meant as “questionable”. I don’t have any idea where it will lead, and yes, I’m looking at you, Mr. Ice and Mrs. Fire. Also, we get a lots of visits by the Enterprise’s most notorious crew member, Chekov. But let’s do it as usual again, and start off where it all begins.


This means the credits. The politics behind this one escape me, totally. Why isn’t the Eyrie in there? Why do we see Winterfell all the time? Why the Dreadfort and Braavos, but not Dragonstone? I mean, guys, you already have the CGI. How long can the cutting take? Phew. Cooling down the nerd-rage. Besides these nitpicks, after three-and-a-half seasons, I still enjoy the credits a lot. And that doesn’t happen with many series intros.

In King’s Landing, Tyrion enjoys his very own prophecy of the House of the Undying. Three visits must you suffer, three disappointments you must bear. Again, Peter Dinklage is at his best. The first visit with Jaime is heartbreaking enough, with the two of them joking around and barely being able to hold their emotions back. Try as he might, Jaime can’t really argue with Tyrion’s logic about everything going according to plan for Tywin. The scene also serves some exposition on what Tyrion’s feeling right now, with his hatred toward everyone (when Jaime rightfully scolds him for not being realistic) and how he loves to destroy Tywin’s plan. When Jaime confesses that he can’t fight for Tyrion, you can see his hope shattering on his face, grasping the last straw in demanding Bronn.

When Bronn finally comes after many days, Tyrion immediately knows what the game is. Bronn’s new clothes are testament to the new master putting bread into his mouth, and of course, the rogue spills it out. “I like you, but I like me more.” The plot is more explicit and streamlined than in the books, which works just well for the show, with Bronn explicitly confirming his being paid off by Cersei and his plan to kill Falyse. Their farewell is also an emotional high-point, concluding this relationship by evoking it once more: “We had good times together.” “Yes, we had.” It’s unmistakable that this is the end. I can’t imagine Jerome Flynn not showing up again, but for Tyrion, he’s dead now.

And then, the third visitor. In a scene that is most faithful to the books, Oberyn Martell tells the story of how he met Tyrion the first time, back when he was a babe. Here the show shows once more how it can improve already great source material. While Oberyn tells the haunting story, Peter Dinklage tells another one, just with his face. This is brilliant acting, and although the chapter in question was one of Tyrion’s, such a range of emotions couldn’t be found on the page. Tremendous work. Oberyn’s also one for the drama, taking the torch to light his face before announcing his new identity as Darkwing Duck and volunteering to rescue Tyrion. Really great drama.



After that, we much one of the most awful scenes ever, as Ser Gregor guts helpless victims as “training” and grunts like the Hulk. Man, did I hate that scene. Can’t even put it into words.


There are no other scenes in King’s Landing this week, so we can go right to the Riverlands, where now two bands of merry outlaws are roaming the countryside. Here is where we get the first real strong deviation from the books as well. Instead of a dying Piper soldier, the Hound and Arya meet a dying peasant, and the conversation that ensues is strong and provides a subtext to the whole series. Why do we go on in the face of all this misery? Is it habit, as the peasant suggests? Will the foreshadowing here come true, and Arya balancing it out by denying (or granting) mercy to the Hound later? And does only “nothing” wait at the end, as Arya in a wonderfully flat and emotionless way states? She’s transforming much more strongly into No One than in the books, but I guess it will help speed the plot along without the need for Brusco and his clams, so I’m all for it.

The stranger deviation are Rorge and Biter attacking the Hound and Arya and getting killed by the two. Not that it’s terribly influential – the whole Brotherhood plot seems to have been dropped by now, with the different bands of outlaws and all, so it’s no real waste, and the two have never been strong entities like in the books (can’t really call them characters, can I?). It’s also nice how Arya stabs Rorge; some fanboy alternate universe coming true. Biter’s bite is also a very nice way to get the Hound the deadly infection, with some character building about his past and the fear of fire thrown in as freebies. I like the emphasis in Sandor’s hatred: instead of channeling it all on Gregor, he reserves the lion’s share of it for his father, who protected Gregor. The old man got away too easy in the books.

The other odd couple, of course, is Brienne and Pod. The two of them, now bereft of the possibility to stumble into Rorge and Biter, meet up with Hot Pie. This is becoming the best buddy comedy that was ever told in under five minutes, as Hot Pie ruins the hot pie by telling them in detail how to make hot pies. But he makes it up in telling them about Arya, which short-circuits the whole search and gives them a clear destination, yet another change that I have no clue whatsoever how it will play out. And hands up if you didn’t awwwwwwww when Hot Pie gave them the direwolf-shaped cookie for “Arya of Winterhell”. Awwwwwwww.

With that, we’re to buddies of a different sort. Melisandre’s pair of breasts gives some exposition until it’s relieved by her naked butt, reiterating information from her POV chapter in “A Dance with Dragons” to Selyse. While I understand the need for this information to be given to someone (internal monologues are not done by Game of Thrones), I don’t really understand why this information has to be given now without any other context than the nakedness of Melisandre, which is so unnecessary it hurts. You might want to read it as subtle subtext on the nakedness since it’s lingering very explicitly on said butt, and since it comes directly after naked Daario, but I feel that Game of Thrones is beyond such subtleties where naked flesh is concerned. If it suffices to keep the average viewer with a real life beyond the saga in and the ratings high so we see more of the rest, I’ll keep it and call it a fair deal. Melisandre also insists on taking on Shireen. Wonder why?

Going for the titular Mockingbird, the final scene of the episode is set at the Eyrie, where Sansa is walking into a magical garden of stone and snow, rebuilding Winterfell. I guess keeping it in the credits pays off here, because you instantly recognize the thing. Beautifully done, and all in a very eerie atmosphere, like in a “fucking fairytale” (to quote “In Bruges”, which in case you don’t know it should watch as soon as possible). Of course, this being Game of Thrones, such beauty can’t last forever, which means here approximately one minute. Then little Robyn comes and starts talking about how cool it is to be lord of the Eyrie because you can throw all the bad people “and the ones that annoy you” out of the Moon Door”, offering graciously to throw some people out that Sansa names as well. Good little lordling. So cute.

Of course, even this perverse moment of semi-happiness with Sansa harboring revenge fantasies can’t last, and Robyn destroys Winterfell because it has no Moon Door. Being on the ground doesn’t count. Sansa slaps the boy, and he runs away. Call the curtains for Mr. Creep. No matter how much you age Sansa up, Aidan Gillen’s Littlefinger is just a slimeball that preys on little children. Ewww. Sansa asks him straight away why he killed Joffrey, and he tells her it’s because Joffrey was responsible for Catelyn’s death. Of course, this is at best half-true, since he betrayed the Starks in the first place, but given his suicidal tendency to be honest to Sansa, he might just as well believe it. He promises to bring her back to Winterfell someday, because “there’s a lot of time between now and never”. There’s a certain threat in all of this, and when he kisses her and Sansa recoils while Petyr looks dangerously disappointed. Not a good mood to leave this guy in.

The truth of this is soon learned when Sansa is called to Lysa, who shows her Chekov’s very own Moon Door. It was mentioned so often in the past three episodes that something had to happen, and when Littlefinger enters the hall, lit like the devil in persona sporting the appropriate beard, no one can be in any real doubt as to what will happen. The camera and the lighting both spell it out for the viewer before it happens, and even Aidan Gillen’s usual slight overacting aids the scene instead of being slightly off as usual. I don’t really know how satisfying Lysa’s sudden death will be for people who didn’t know how it all will end already since the women didn’t get substantially more screentime than Hot Pie. I’d weep for Hot Pie, though.

At the Wall, Jon has his Groundhog Day as he once again discusses strategy in a room full of people with Alliser Thorne. Yes, guys, Mance Rayder is still coming, and you still have no people. Thorne is becoming a real caricature at the moment, not exactly aided by the fact that Slynt beside him is an even greater one. When Jon proposes to seal the tunnels, I was thrown off, since he spends most of “A Dance with Dragons” arguing against this move, but I guess it won’t matter in the long run. They won’t seal the damn things anyway and luckily so, since how else would Stannis arrive? Jon is then ordered to cage Ghost (because Thorne is evil) and to guard the Wall on the night shifts, because, in case you didn’t notice, Thorne is evil. I strongly feel that the Night’s Watch plot really would have profited from some nuance. It’s Locke all over again. If they kill Thorne in the battle, I will weep for the missed opportunities with the altered timeline.

We don’t meet the wildlings, whom we haven’t seen in a while. I guess the next episode they will visit Mole’s Town to give our heroes some incentive, since the plot is as predictable as that (man, this sentence could be embarrassing for me real soon). Neither do we get to see some more torture porn at the Dreadfort, so expect the liberation of Moat Cailin to happen in episode 8. I also hope we’ll get another look at what Bran’s doing. And with that, to Essos, where Dany is in her own private quarters in which Daario sneaked, begging to either bed Dany or be allowed to kill someone, either is fine with him. Dany undresses him with her eyes before ordering him to undress, and then has sex with him. Offscreen. Emilia Clarke’s new contract is paying off for her. No more naked breasts from her. I am impressed at the good job they’re doing in connecting Daario with the option of bloody war with Dany. After sleeping with him, she immediately sends him to Yunkai to reconquer the city and slay all the masters. This is one hell of a bad idea, as Ser Jorah (in jealous yet surprisingly level-headed mode) is quick to point out. Dany immediately changes her mind and sends Hizdahr with Daario to bring Yunkai the message to either release all slaves or to die, because that’s just how Dany rolls now.

It’s really no fun to be a subject of Daenerys, that’s for sure. She changes her mind as quickly as Cersei Lannister, if not quicker, and for even worse reasons. Currently, she’s hell bent to start the war that it takes Astapor’s Cleon for in the books, and none of her advisers slaps her across the face to talk some sense into her. That bodes ill for Meereen and Dany’s rule, but it will certainly speed along the storyline and give us more graspable stakes. Again, a choice I’m really curious about how it will play out in the event. They have two more episodes and an entire season to fill with the Meereen plot. Wonder how this will play out.

16 comments:

  1. Heartsbane of HornhillMay 20, 2014 at 3:14 PM

    Now now Stefan, you forgot Gregor's training montage.

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    1. I hated it. Totally tried to erase the memory :P I include it.

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  2. It's nice to see someone really enjoying the f' out of the series. I personally still can't distance myself enough from the books to feel that way. Don't get me wrong, I still very much appreciate what the show is doing overall, but most of the changes and new subplots feel like a stab in the heart betrayal to me. And it does not seem to get any easier.

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  3. HBO, where was Marillion? Or at least another patsy to take the blame for the Lysa push.

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    1. Sure is. I'm going to be thinking for 2 weeks about how LF is going to pin this on some patsy. Sweet Robin maybe? Who else would be a possibility?

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  4. What is Petyr going to say? Lysa tripped and fell? I had high standards for that scene because I'm so attached it it in the books. That CGI wasn't great. And I wish we got more time with Lysa before she flew. Keep on being shady Littlefinger.

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    1. Suicide, perhaps? And yes, the CGI was terrible.

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  5. One other nitpick: at the wall, Ser Alliser tells Jon Snow that the gates in the tunnel beneath Castle Black are 4 inch cold rolled steel. Um, no, not in a medaeival analogue they aren't. They could make steel swords etc, with blacksmiths heat and beat but cold rolled steel is a much more advanced technology. Iron bars were the only product available.
    They could really use Donal Noye, a guy missing an arm and a "d".

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  6. Your grammar and the fluidity of your paragraphs is like swallowing expired milk for my eyeballs, chunky and soured.

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    1. Eh...thanks, I guess? Taking in constructive criticism. Which grammar problems would you like to have eliminated?

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    2. Here is just one of your dozens of mistakes:
      "I don’t really know how satisfying Lysa’s sudden death will be for people who didn’t know how it all will end already since the women didn’t get substantially more screentime than Hot Pie. I’d weep for Hot Pie, though."
      You change the tense, creating continuity errors. You use women when you're referring to a single woman, not multiple. You indicate you'd weep for Hot Pie should he die, but are suggesting a particular instance and not his possible death as a whole meaning this should be referred to in the past tense. One should write this correctly to read, "I'd have wept for Hot Pie though."

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    3. Thanks. I hope to avoid those in the future, but bear with me. I'm not a native speaker, and learning as I go.

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    4. Wow, fellow anon, this is harsh. I enjoy the hell out of these reviews. But then I am also not an English native speaker.

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  7. I am a native English speaker (Californian) and I had assumed Mr. Sasse was British. I am continually amazed by the fluidity of Europeans - actors, writers, airport workers - with my language. Even the sarcasm, idioms, etc used by Mr. Sasse in his pieces seemed to me to be written by a native speaker. Virtually all bloggers write quickly - if every article had to be proof-read like an academic paper we wouldn't get much to read - so an occasional run-on sentence or mangled syntax is an occupational hazard. (And I also enjoy the hell out of these reviews.)

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