As the title suggests, spoilers follow.
The second half of Season 4 made a couple things clear. Nobody much cared for farmer Rick. Even in a world overrun with flesh-eating zombies, people are the biggest danger.
In the second half’s opener, we found out Carl really hated farmer Rick. To the extent he even went so far to say he was okay with Rick dying. Later in the season, Daryl doesn’t come out and blame Rick, but he regrets letting things get lax enough to where they let the Governor come in and destroy their home. Let’s not forget that Carol was an early adopter of the “Farming? Are you kidding me? Club”. In the season finale, we see even Rick himself was slow to come around to farmer Rick. Herschel had to convince him to try to build a life worth living for his family, and that life probably shouldn’t include family trips to the fence to poke zombies in the brain.
That’s just counting the people in the show. I have a sinking suspicion fans REALLY didn’t like farmer Rick. I don’t follow a lot of people on Twitter, but my small sampling of responses to Rick tearing Joe’s throat out with his teeth had a tone of “Finally!” I have no reason to believe that wasn’t representative of most people’s thoughts. As fans, the reasoning is we’re blood thirsty monsters. Okay, that’s probably a little harsh. But it’s fair to say we tune into a zombie show to see zombie kills and zombie escapes. When the characters are safe, the show lags and fans get antsy.
Within the show, the complaint about farmer Rick is that it’s not realistic. To survive the zombie apocalypse, you have to embrace the badass. Herschel’s idea of building a life worth surviving for was nice, but the problem seemed to be it makes survival more difficult or even impossible. Rick and Herschel tried to embrace the idea that you could go back to the person you were before “the turn”. The second half of Season 4 seemed to argue that not only was that it wasn’t possible, but it will get you killed.
Why? That brings us to my second point. Even in a world overrun with flesh-eating zombies, people are the biggest danger. That’s been shown time and time again. Sure, the main characters have had to escape zombies and they’ve all had their share of close calls, but the show’s true villains have always been people. Whether it was Shane, the Governor or Joe and his band of rapists, the parts of the show that make you whoop the most are when people who haven’t “turned” but have gone bad get theirs. In other words, even when there’s zombies, people are the worst.
Here’s the bad news. We’re people. Just like Rick and the rest can’t turn their backs to the brutal facts of their new environs, the show’s creators can’t turn their backs on the wishes of their viewers. It wasn’t just Joe’s gang and Terminus that forced the return of badass Rick. It was us. We watch the show and like to think the villains are bad guys like The Governor and Joe. What we found out in the finale, though, is we are the Governor and Joe. We demand that Rick be the brutal leader who bites jugulars and disembowels threats to his son. It turns out that as fans, our true nemesis was Herschel. Now if you’ll excuse me, Imma go try on some eye patches.
I confess I’ve spent the summer acquainting myself with Breaking Bad and Mad Men. I was able to “get current” on Breaking Bad just in time for the second half of the final season. I’m still a good deal behind on Mad Men. I enjoy both shows a great deal and it seems the one I enjoy more is whichever show I’ve watched more recently. Here’s my problem.
I watch them alone. My wife has zero interest in either show, so I end up watching them either when she’s gone or when she’s gone to bed early. Not only that, since I’m “binge watching” on Netflix, I’m watching them alone in a grander sense as well. When I’m sitting thinking, “Joan did NOT just say that!” everybody else was doing the same two or three years ago.
The other day I was watching the season finale of Season 4 and Megan was talking to Don about her college roommate who is an actress. She complains that her roommate told her she could never be an actress because of her teeth. My thought was that’s kind of meta on a few levels. First of all, Jessica Pare plays Megan and she obviously could be an actress with those teeth. More interestingly, though, somebody who works on Mad Men had to have had a conversation with Pare about her teeth. I mean, they either wrote the season and then cast Pare as the secretary with big teeth or they saw Pare’s teeth and wrote a line about her being self conscious of them. Either way, the Mad Men staff had to bluntly broach the topic of Pare’s teeth in a way similar to the way Megan is complaining about. This led me to wonder, “Is Mad Men actually a commentary on Hollywood?”
All this was spilling out of my brain as I watched and while I thought it would be an interesting point to discuss, there was nobody with whom to discuss. Sure, I could go on Twitter or Facebook and jot down some thoughts, but the likelihood of that generating any conversation is slim and one should really be careful about the topics you try to discuss in a 140 character medium. I could scour the internet for discussions, but the odds of that being fulfilling seems remote. When a future civilization comes across the ruins of our society, they will point to internet comment sections and wonder, “How did they not realize the end was nigh?”
I had a similar experience of pent up critique after reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I had thoughts and theories on various aspects of the book and nobody to share them with. Frustrated, I started a book club. That’s been running for about three years now. That leads me to wonder: are there TV clubs? That would be kind of cool. Agree to watch, say, half a season of some show on Netflix and then convene over beers to share your thoughts.
Reeling this back in to my original point, it’s interesting to me that with DVRs and Netflix and streaming we are taking what’s already a fairly solitary act – watching a TV show – and making it even more solitary. It would lead me to believe we don’t really care to talk about the TV we watch, but if that’s the case, why are we watching shows that generate so much conversation? Of course, I’ve found that when I actually ask people if they watch Mad Men or Walking Dead or Breaking Bad, a tiny percentage do. Nielsen ratings are dominated by shows like Big Bang Theory. When we watch so much television that’s not worth discussing, maybe we don’t realize we’re missing out when the other kind comes along.
I confess this is probably my worst effort ever at shoehorning what I wanted to talk about into the “Confession” template. With that in mind, I’ll toss a real confession out there. I love playing golf. Paradoxically, as a rule, I hate doing so with other people who like to golf.
I confess today’s Friday Confessional is going to borrow heavily from the Spoiler Alert Thursday genre because I don’t have much in the way of confessions or even silly fake confessions. Therefore, my focus this week will be on this week’s episode of Louie. There truly are spoiler alerts, which I’ll put below the break.
I confess I’m a little obsessed with Louis CK the comedian as well as his show. I’ve spent so much time thinking about what it is he does that I like, I’ve started doing research for an essay about why it might have so much appeal to so many people. I confess a big part of the reason I’ve decided to do this research is it requires re-watching all the episodes and digging up clips from YouTube. Oh, and dropping $90 for two tickets to his show in Detroit in October.
I confess I enjoyed last night’s episode immensely. It might have been my favorite episode of the series, and I thought Parker Posey was amazing. I admit it it’s a little strange that I think that, though, because I barely chuckled. I confess when I realized that, it dawned on me that I’m not even all that sure Louie is a comedy series anymore. Continue reading
In response to an observation by Adam on Twitter that the “fantasy” genre is largely about dominating and owning women, I quipped that Game of Thrones was clearly a latter day The Color Purple. That observation didn’t go anywhere. Too bad because while I was joking at the time, it is clearly a plausible interpretation of the series, both the novels and the show. Indeed, even more so of the novels than the show, which leads to the interesting question of why the redemptive aspects are missing or, in terms of those events in the “source material” which have not yet happened, why they might be muted?
I complained last season that the show isn’t particularly clear on The Hound and Sansa relation–for instance, why does he stop her from trying to push Joffrey off the catwalk when Joffrey is showing Sansa her father’s head on a spike? Or, in the most recent episode, the premier to the second season, why The Hound supports Sansa’s intervention on behalf of Ser Dontos? The answer goes back to the first day of the Hand’s Tournament when a drunken Hound escorts Sansa back to the Hand’s Tower and tells her, himself–not Lord Baelish, the story of The Hound and The Mountain.
It isn’t clear to me why Sansa’s development–which would make her much more sympathetic rather than merely “prissy self-involved naive bitch with a princess complex gets what she deserves” that she’s been portrayed as so far (not that the source material produces much sympathy for her; we are just better able to understand her motivations)–is obscure in the interest of developing other characters. For instance, Ros is referred to but does not appear in the source material, but suddenly not only was she the best whore near Winterfell, and not only did she ride a turnip cart to King’s Landing in record time, but now–after a few months!–she’s running Baelish’s main brothel? Really? The scene itself was important and could have been done without her; indeed, it would have been more powerful, given the previous scene where Cersei threatens Baelish’s life, to have Lord Slynt and his Gold Cloaks force Baelish to turn over Robert’s bastard. I’m just not sure what Ros added to this. Likewise, not only do I find the accent they have Shae using to be really, really annoying, but it seems like her role is being increased–unduly. Tyrion’s relationship to Shae is important–especially once he becomes Hand–but in the source material, Shae is always the refuge that Tyrion seeks and he spends most of his time worrying what Cersei and his father will do if they ever find her. He doesn’t trapse her around the Hand’s Tower!
So, why make Shae and Ros more important, but cut down on Sansa, which would make her more sympathetic? Why are they cock-blocking the The Color Purple reading? I just hope they don’t do the same to Arya–everyone’s favourite single-minded ten year old sociopath in training.
Returning to the episode itself. In terms of locations, this is the most expansive episode yet. We go beyond The Wall, to Winterfell, to the camp of Rob’s army, to Dragonstone, to King’s Landing, and to the Red Waste across the sea.
Beyond The Wall, the Night’s Watch expeditionary force arrives at Craster’s Keep–really just a long log cabin with some sharpened stakes out front. The Night’s Watch has passed through a number of Wildling villages along their way, but they’ve all been abandoned. Craster’s Keep is the first place they found people. Craster himself is not especially trustworthy and certainly disreputable: he rules as a despot, marries his daughters, and treats them as his own property–he’s kind of the northern version of Lord Frey, if you will. He doesn’t like the wildlings and he doesn’t like the Night’s Watch, but he is willing to exploit both for supplies, especially steel weapons and wine. Samwell and Jon notice that there aren’t any males at Craster’s Keep and wonder what happened to all of his sons. During their meeting with Craster, Jon gets impertinent and Craster tells him off. Later, Lord Mormont tells him off: “You have to learn to follow before you can lead.” We can see the outcome of this expedition a mile away.
At Winterfell, we begin with Bran acting as Lord of Winterfell with Maester Luwin doing most of the deciding. One minor lord is complaining that his holdfast is crumbling because Robb has taken all his men south to war. Luwin points out that lords are responsible for the upkeep of their forts themselves, but ultimately relents and lends him four masons for a week. Luwin points out that sometimes to make problems go away, you just have to give in. New we see Summer running through the Godswood, but the perspective and colours are off. We cut to Bran who suddenly wakes up, exactly the same way he woke up from his coma the first time around. Clearly, there is a connection between Bran’s “dreams” and his direwolf, Summer. Bran and Osha trace Summer’s footsteps through the Godswood–Bran is let down and crawls on all fours–like Summer–to the pool and looks in, just as Summer did. They’re virtually the same! They then notice a comet in the sky and discuss what it means: its red for Lannister, its red like the color of Lannister blood, or, more presciently, Osha asserts it means that the dragons are back.
At Robb’s camp, we have two scenes. First, Robb talks to Jaime who is still being held prisoner. Outcome: Jaime is a better fighter, but Robb is more devious. “I trust my bannermen with my life; I don’t trust them with yours.” But, the best part, of course, is when a fully-grown (we hope!) Grey Wind walks into the cell. Grey Wind is easily half the size of Robb and, thus, as large as a small horse. For the first time ever in his life, Jaime is clearly afraid. Next, Robb summons a captured Lannister–a composite character apparently named Alton Lannister–who will be an envoy to King’s Landing where the terms of peace are laid out: return the girls, return Ned’s body, recognize northern sovereignty, etc. Robb knows the terms will be refused, but his goal is to use this time to send Theon to the Grey Isles to get the Greyjoys to join his cause and to send Catelyn to Renly’s camp to make an alliance with them. Before leaving, Theon says something to the effect of, “Your father raised me to be honorable.” We’ll see about that.
At Dragonstone we are finally introduced to Stannis Baratheon, Ser Davos Seaworth (styled “The Onion Knight”), and Melisandre, a priestess of some sort from across the sea. Two major things happen here. First we see Melisandre conducting some sort of rite whereby statues of The Seven, the most widely worshipped gods in Westeros outside the North (the so-called new gods in opposite to the old gods of the First Men–whose cult is connected to the weirwood trees), as burnt as an offering to her own god, R’Hllor. Melisandre’s religion is manichean, posed in terms of an eternal struggle between R’Hllor, the Lord of Light who is associated with fire and life, and “the god whose name should not be spoken” (sometimes called “The Great Other”–note: in the novels, The White Walkers are called The Others!) who is associated with ice and death. As part of her ritual, she declares Stannis to be “Azai Ahai,” some sort of messianic figure who will lead the final win the final battle between fire and ice, life and death. He is armed with a flaming sword, which Melisandre has him pull from one of the burning gods. Many of Stannis’s men have apparently converted to this new religion, but two have not: Ser Davos Seaworth and Maester Cressen. The Maester believes that Melisandre needs to be stopped and Davos seems to agree, but he thinks it is too dangerous to make any overt move against her. Nonetheless, at a strategy meeting, Cressen attempts to poison Melisandre despite Davos’s warning. He drinks from the poisoned wine offering the rest of the glass as a peace offering to Melisandre. Cressen immediately begins to hemorrhage and dies. Melisandre then drinks the poisoned wine without any ill-effect.
To this point, all that we have been told about Stannis is that no one likes him at all. He doesn’t disappoint in the strategy/failed assassination scene. He has his junior Maester writing a letter which is to be distributed all over Westeros declaring himself to be the rightful king, outing Joffrey as the bastard incest offspring of Jaime and Cersei, and calls Renly an imposture. The Maester originally has “my beloved brother, Renly” in his letter. Stannis has him strike “beloved” from the letter because he does not love Renly. Overall, I really like how unlikable Stannis is. Sadly, he is somehow more likable in the show than he is in the source material.
At King’s Landing, we see that Joffrey is a completely incompetent and psychopathic ruler. We begin with a poorly attended tournament celebrating his name day. It would seem that the tournament is foregoing the standard jousting, archery and melee competitions. For Joffrey there is one-on-one elimination combat, preferably ending in death. We begin with The Hound brutally killing some knight of no importance and throwing him from the ramparts. A certain Ser Dontos is called upon to fight next. He is fat and drunk and cannot even get his armour on. Joffrey has him force-fed wine and orders his execution. Sansa intervenes pointing out that it is bad luck to execute someone on your name day, which Joffrey dismisses as the superstition of women. The Hound, however, intervenes on behalf on Sansa agreeing with her point. Sansa then suggests that it would be more suiting if Ser Dontos were made the new court fool and Joffrey seems satisfied with this humiliating punishment.
At this point, Tyrion arrives on the scene with his hill tribe entourage. He goes out of his way to recognize the younger two bastard children of Cersei and Jamie–named Tommen and Myrcella. He mostly mocks Joffrey. Thereafter Tyrion crashes a meeting of the Small Council where, to Cersei’s horror and Tyrion’s delight, he announces that he has been appointed Hand in Tywin Lannister’s absence and that his stock has been elevated in their father’s eyes while Cersei’s has been somewhat devalued. To try to regain favour with her father–after being mocked by Tyrion for having lost Arya and his suggestion that Arya and Sansa is all that will secure the release of Jaime–Cersei seeks out Arya and orders the murder of Robert’s bastards. While Joffrey is having the throne room renovated, Cersei slaps Joffrey and Joffrey threatens to have her killed if she does that again. Joffrey is so out of control that not even Cersei is able to control him. Finally, we see Janos Slynt, the leader of the Golden Cloaks, hunting down all of Robert’s bastards and murdering them in the streets. The cityfolk, needless to say, are not especially impressed and Joffrey continues his winning streak in terms of securing legitimacy from the populace. Not.
Lastly, across the sea, Daenerys and her khalasar are running out of food and water, all of their horses have died, and her dragons are refusing to eat. Her khalasar is starving to death. Upon the death of her Silver, the wedding gift she received from Drogo, Daenerys resolves to have each of her bloodriders go off in different directions in search of cities dead or alive.
Oh, and the results are conclusive: the Long Summer has come to an end. It is fall.
As those who follow me on Twitter likely noticed, I found Sunday to be really stressful: there was nothing worth watching on at all. This offended my warrior spirit and the general consensus that you get it your way on your birthday. Before anyone feels obliged to say something like, “Happy belated birthday!” or whatever, you should take into account who I am: I’m the sort of person who is absolutely puzzled by the institution of the birthday. Seriously: who gives a fuck? The point is, in the mythology of “the birthday” you are supposed to get what you want, when you want it, and how you want it. And I don’t want some prissy show about the 1% circa decades ago.
We noticed while discussing these issues that we don’t really watch any shows that do not, in some way, thematize violence. We found this odd, but I’m not sure why. (Although, presumably, “Mad Men” is likely the most structurally violent television show currently being produced given its focus on the well-off, advertising, and its apparent celebration of casual sexism.) I have no good explanation for this other than that, on average, non-violent shows just suck or, alternatively, that we have a mean streak. Both are likely true.
As a result, we decided to re-watch “Game of Thrones” in preparation for season two’s premier on Sunday. (This would also be after having watched “Generation Kill” for the sixth time–in a row.) On New Years Eve–because we are winners–we attempted a re-watch of “Game of Thrones,” but our TV died just as we were beginning and it was too late to go buy a new one. Like all of our TVs, it was handed down from my parents. The general pattern is they get a new “main” TV, the old “main” TV is moved into the basement, and then the basement TV is put into their SUV and carted off to our house the next time they stop by. Thus, for the past few years, our TV has been an ancient–albeit giant–rear projection TV. The bulb finally broke just as we were set to return to The Wall. So, in an absence of anything else to watch–and, besides, why would you watch “Mad Men” when you could watch “Game of Thrones,” which is the best show presently being produced–we initiated a re-watch.
Fortunately, “Game of Thrones” was available On Demand and, fortunately, On Demand was working. It is not uncommon for On Demand to not work for no good or discernible reason. (It is also the case that TV channels randomly disappear from the guide for a few days and then reappear. A few weeks ago, Showcase disappeared; now Dusk has disappeared.) We made it to the fourth episode when On Demand began to fail. Although the episode was clearly listed as available (as is the entire season), the fourth episode hadn’t actually been uploaded to the On Demand system. Yes, I pay roughly $180/month for this shit. Fortunately, it was easily available online and I downloaded the Torrent. This was likely the first time we had watched anything in high definition on our new TV–so, blacks aren’t pixelated and so on. (We’ve since downloaded the entire season and will be watching it this way.)
What follows is an episode-by-episode recap of the first half of the season. I’m aiming to post an episode-by-episode recap of the second half of the season on the weekend.
Winter is Coming–Like all of the novels, the first episode begins with a prologue that is secondary to the plot of the novel, but which sets into motion subsequent events. We begin Beyond The Wall with a ranger excursion seeking out Wildlings, which, apparently, is all that the rangers do: kill Wildlings if they stray too close to The Wall. One of the rangers comes across a number of dismembered bodies arranged in a strange pattern. Sensibly, he returns to the leader of the excursion revealing what he has seen. The leader, clearly an arrogant noble who is likely of limited skill, insists they go back to the site only to discover that the bodies are gone. Soon thereafter, they are attacked by a rather large looking hominid creature with pale blue skin–the killing of the head ranger is especially good. The original ranger is certain that this is a mythical White Walker (apparently renamed such from the novels because HBO producers didn’t want the Others of the novels confused with the Others of “Lost”–of course, given that “The Walking Dead” had recently aired on AMC, it isn’t clear why they had no problem with “White Walkers”). The ranger manages to escape, perhaps because the White Walker allowed him to do so, and, next, we see him below The Wall (which clearly indicates that The Wall isn’t the least bit impervious to penetration) running through the North. He is summarily executed by Lord Ned Stark, but gives his warning that the White Walkers have returned.
On the way back to Winterfell, the castle of the Starks, there is a rather significant scene. The party comes across a giant stag that has been gutted. They wonder what could have taken down such a large stag (the sigil of the Baratheons). Certainly not (mountain) lions (the sigil of the Lannisters). They follow the blood trail into the woods and find a dead female direwolf (the sigil of the Starks) with a number of pups trying to nurse from her. She has a chunk of the stag’s antler stuck in her throat. They briefly discuss the direwolf: Theon Greyjoy, a ward of Ned Stark’s, wonders why the wolf is so huge–he’s never seen one before. Ned says that it is a direwolf, but direwolves have not been seen Below the Wall in a long time. (Note: we are now at two creatures that should not exist: White Walkers and direwolves.) Ned insists that the puppies be killed because they won’t survive on their own. Jon Snow, the bastard son of Ned, intervenes, pointing out that there are as many direwolves as there are legitimate children and, coincidentally, that their genders match: two girls, three boys. Ned relents and allows the children to keep the direwolves. As they leave, Jon finds a sixth direwolf, the runt of the litter who has been forced away from the mother by the rest of them. Perhaps Jon isn’t a bastard after all…
Upon returning to Winterfell, Ned learns that Jon Arryn, the Hand of the King (a sort of vizir), has died. Ned, his brother Brandon, and Robert Baratheon had previously been the wards of Jon Arryn. At the time of Robert’s Rebellion–which had the goal of rescuing Lyanna Stark from Rhaegar Targaryen–Jon Arryn had also been Hand to King Aerys–the “Mad King”. When Rhaegar Targaryen, the oldest son of Aerys, was accused of kidnapping Lyanna Stark, Brandon Stark rode to King’s Landing to insist that Aerys command Rhaegar to release Lyanna. Rather than releasing Lyanna, Aerys took Brandon hostage, which in turn forced Lord Rickard Stark to go to King’s Landing and insist upon the release of both of his children. Ultimately, Aerys determined that all of the Starks and their allies should be taken hostage and ordered Jon Arryn to bring him Ned and Robert, dead or alive. Arryn refused this order and organized resistance to Aerys which ultimately led to Robert’s Rebellion which ends with Robert killing Rhaegar, Aerys murdering Brandon and Rickard, Jamie Lannister murdering Aerys, Tywin Lannister having all of the surviving Targaryen children murdered, and Lyanna dying under uncertain conditions. Point being, both Ned and Robert owe a lot Jon Arryn and his death affects them greatly. The death leads Robert to bring his entire court north where he asks Ned to become the new Hand of the King, a position which Ned only reluctantly accepts.
Otherwise, in this episode we learn that Jon Snow wants to go to The Wall with his uncle Benjen and join the Night’s Watch; Joffrey, the firstborn son of King Robert and Queen Cersei, is a nasty psychopath; King Robert is an incompetent king who prefers to whore, drink, and hunt rather than rule–warriors, it would seem, make bad rulers–and who prefers his long-dead fiance, Ned’s sister, to his actual wife; Jamie, the Queen’s twin brother, is super-arrogant and supremely confident in his martial abilities; Tyrion, Jamie and Cersei’s younger dwarf brother, is the lowest in his family pecking order so he delights in outrageous behaviour and is able to get away with it because he is, more often than not, smarter than everyone around him; and, most importantly, that Jamie and Cersei are, in addition to being twins, are also lovers.
This last bit of information is what ultimately sets up what is to follow: Bran, the second youngest Stark child, is an avid climber who scales up an abandoned tower at Winterfell and finds Jamie and Cersei going at it. Cersei panics–as she is wont to do when confronted with a crisis–while Jamie treats it as a joke. However, given Robert’s obvious jealousy, Jamie only has one option: he must kill Bran before word gets out and Robert kills them in a fit of rage. Significantly, prior to Bran’s climbing up the tower, his direwolf, Summer, is rather anxious and whines, pointing to the strange fact that the Stark children are somehow “bonded” with their wolves and that the wolves have a greater clarity of vision than do humans.
Across the sea, in a somewhat disconnected plot (at this point, at least), we are introduced to the two lone surviving Targaryens: Daenerys and her older brother Viserys, both of whom are siblings to Rhaegar, the Targaryen who pissed off Robert and Ned and which lead to a regime change. We learn that Viserys is an arrogant and ambitious idiot who is exceptionally cruel to Daenerys. In order to secure an army to help him regain the Iron Throne, which he takes to be his by right, Viserys, through the agency of a local magnate named Illyrio Mopatis (who appears to be generally sympathetic to the cause of the Targaryens albeit for rather opaque reasons) essentially pimps out Daenerys to Khal Drogo, the leader of a horde of horse-riding barbarians similar to real-world Mongols. At their wedding, we are introduced to Ser Jorah Mormont, who has apparently sworn fealty to Viserys, who gives Daenerys books about the history of the Seven Kingdoms. Illyrio Mopatis also gives the gift of three dragon eggs, which are thought to be dormant or petrified, but nonetheless valued for their beauty and rarity, not to mention the symbolic connection the Targaryen family sigil, a three headed dragon: we have two dragons so far, where’s the third?
The Kingsroad–With the basics of the plot set in place, the second episode initiates a change in scenery and location: Jon Snow, accompanied by Tyrion Lannister, Benjen Stark, and some other recruits for the Night’s Watch make their way to The Wall; Ned, his two daughters Sansa (now betrothed to the psychopath prince, Joffrey) and Arya, join King Robert’s retinue making their way back to King’s Landing, the capital city of the Seven Kingdoms; Catelyn Stark begins her vigil over Bran who is in a coma and looks to be crippled; and, finally, Khal Drogo begins his trek to Vaes Dothrak, the “city” of the Dothraki, to present his new wife to whichever other Khals might be in the city at the time.
This episode–other than the final scene with Bran and his direwolf Summer–is the first time we are shown the significantly grown wolves demonstrating aspects of their personality. First we see Arya and Nymeria packing their belongings. Jon comes into Arya’s room to give her a parting gift–a rapier-like sword–and Arya tries to show Jon how well trained Nymeria is by asking her to go get a pair gloves. Nymeria, clearly understanding the command but not understanding why Arya would ask her to do it, more or less declines. (Gordon and Mica both liked this.)
Next we encounter Summer, Bran’s wolf. Once everyone has left Winterfell, Catelyn and Robb (the eldest of the Stark children) are talking in Bran’s room and the remaining wolves–Grey Wind (Robb’s), Shaggydog (Rickon’s), and Summer–begin to howl. Catelyn screams for them to stop, which prompts Robb to look out the window and see that a tower (incidentally, Maester Luwin’s library, but this isn’t mentioned in episode nor is Tyrion’s borrowing of a number of rare books from the library; one assumes it’s a comparatively impressive library given that Tyrion has nearly unlimited resources to use to get his hands on books). Robb, now in charge of Winterfell, runs off to oversee the firefighting efforts, at which point an assassin enters Bran’s room. Fortunately for Bran and unfortunately for the assassin, Catelyn is there and tries to defend Bran. She manages to fight off the assassin for long enough for Summer to make it to the room and rip the assassin’s throat out. Having saved Bran, Summer jumps onto the bed and snuggles up next to Bran with the assassin’s throat bleeding out all over the place. Catelyn seems rather confused, not only because of the attack but also because of Summer’s defense of Bran, and she seems to catch on that there is some sort of connection between the children and the wolves.
Finally, we see Lady, Sansa’s wolf, being calmly and properly walked around the temporary town that has been constructed around the Inn at the Crossroads. Again, Sansa and Lady’s personality mirror each other and Lady demurely sits in the middle of the temporary town when Joffrey asks Sansa to accompany him on a walk in the woods where they–while rather tipsy (Joffrey already classy getting his ladies liquored up)–come upon Arya and a boy playing at swords (sticks, really) by the river. Being distracted by the arrival of Joffrey and Sansa, Arya is hit by the boy and Joffrey uses this as pretext to challenge the boy to a duel. Joffrey, of course, is armed with a real sword while the boy has a stick. Joffrey begins to beat up the boy and Arya jumps in to save him by wacking Joffrey on the back of the head with a stick; Joffrey turns his rage on Arya, but the boy is able to escape. With Joffrey now threatening Arya, Nymeria jumps in out of nowhere and bites Joffrey’s arm whereupon he looses his grip on his sword, Arya wiggles free and promptly throws the sword into the river, thoroughly humiliating Joffrey. It would seem that Nymeria isn’t interested in doing things that serve no real purpose–like packing gloves–but is ready and willing to listen when it is important, like not killing the prince. Meanwhile, Sansa throws a tantrum because she fears that Arya has ruined her engagement to Joffrey and hurt him and all that Sansa ever wanted was to be married to a prince.
Arya and Nymeria flee into the woods, knowing that they are in trouble. Realizing that the Lannisters will kill Nymeria for what she has done, Arya tries to drive Nymeria away by throwing rocks at her. Back at the Inn, Joffrey has tattled on Arya and made up a story–Arya and the boy ambushed him with cudgels in the woods, cruelly beat him up, and threw his sword into the river. Sansa is asked to back up the story, but she refuses to side with either Arya or Joffrey, claiming that she doesn’t remember anything. Robert mocks Joffrey for being beaten up and disarmed by a girl. Cersei demands that Nymeria be killed as compensation for Joffrey’s wounds, but, of course, Nymeria cannot be found; Lady, however, can. Ned is ordered to kill Lady as compensation and Sansa, throwing another tantrum, points out that it wasn’t Lady’s fault. All the same, Lannisters want blood and blood is what they get.
We’ll take this opportunity to point out that, so far on their visit to the North, the Lannisters have crippled one Stark kid, attacked another, had a direwolf killed, and Arya’s friend was run down and killed by Joffrey’s bodyguard, Sandor Clegane, commonly known as “The Hound.” The journey isn’t going especially well for the Starks.
Lord Snow–In this episode, Jon begins his training at The Wall and comes to realize what the Night’s Watch really is; Ned arrives in King’s Landing, secretly followed by Catelyn; Joffrey continues to reveal that he is a pyschopath and Cersei instructs him on how to be a psychopath but seem sane; Robert reminisces about when life was easier; and Daenerys finds out she is pregnant with Khal Drogo’s child.
From the first episode, we already know that The Wall and, hence, the Seven Kingdoms, faces an unexpected threat: the White Walkers who have been dormant for thousands of years. We hear this story from Old Nan, a servant who has become responsible for looking after Bran, who tells of a long night–a winter that lasted a generation and the world was completely dark for all those years–thousands of years ago when the White Walkers first appeared riding dead horses and assisted by the re-animated corpses of their dead enemies. (Despite their association with undeath, do not themselves appear to be undead but, rather, have necromantic powers of sort–which goes along with the general theme of the resurgence of magical and semi-magical creatures.) Even if the threat were expected, the Night’s Watch would remain completely inadequate to the task. For whatever reason–perhaps because of the stories told by Old Nan–Jon is under the impression that the Night’s Watch is a great brotherhood of valiant and honorable warriors. He is shocked to discover that they are thieves, “rapers” and other sorts of criminals, along with a couple unwanted noblemen–third and fourth sons, those who are otherwise unfit for civilized life in Westeros and certainly not qualified to inherit a title, or those who have disgraced themselves in one way or another. Unlike all of the other recruits, Jon has had the benefit of martial training and when their weapons training begins in earnest, he quickly defeats each and every opponent sent against him. Jon comes to a false conclusion: everyone around him is completely useless and he is somehow being punished–by his father, by his uncle, by everyone–by being sent to The Wall. (It isn’t easy being hipster Jon Snow.) Tyrion, however, being the curious sort has done his research on each of the new recruits and come to the reasonable conclusion that none of them have ever held a weapon before today and that they certainly didn’t have the luxury of being trained by a master-at-arms from a warrior family. Jon therefore seeks to redeem himself by training his fellow recruits, no doubt pointing to his future at the Night’s Watch in some command role, if not the position of Lord Commander (an issue that resurfaces in a later episode).
In addition to his intervention on behalf of the other recruits, Tyrion has a meeting with Maester Aemon (such a Targaryen name… Maesters have the duel function of being impartial stewards sent to advise noble families, manage their affairs, and, when time allows, carry on careers as scholars), Lord Commander Jeor Mormont (father of the disgraced Jorah, who is serving Daenerys) and Yoren, a “recruiter” for the Night’s Watch. Recognizing that The Wall is significantly understaffed and that something is going to happen sooner or later, Aemon and Mormont try to convince Tyrion that whatever that something is, is coming soon and they will need all the help they can get. Tyrion doubts anything more than wildlings will ever come–he doesn’t believe in the existence of magical creatures–but agrees to help them recruit by impressing Night’s Watch’s need on his sister, the Queen. Yoren and Tyrion agree to travel south as companions. Oh, and Tyrion finally gets to piss of the top of The Wall.
Meanwhile, Ned and his retinue arrive at King’s Landing where he is immediately summoned to a meeting of the Small Council, which is comprised of “Lord” Varys (the spy master; not actually holding the rank of lord, but is styled lord as an honorific), Lord Baelish (in charge of money–and former mayor of Baltimore), Grand Maester Pycelle (who, as Grand Maester, seems to have a pro forma appointment to the Small Council because he controls the network of ravens and stewards), Renly Baratheon (Robert’s younger brother and “Master of the Laws”), Stannis Baratheon (Robert’s older brother and “Master of Ships,” who is absent from the meeting), and Ser Barristan Selmy (Lord Commander of the King’s Guard).
On his way to the meeting, he must pass through throne room, where he encounters Jaime Lannister. We find out that Jaime killed the Mad King during Robert’s Rebellion, which Ned views as shameful given his oath to protect the king at all costs. Jaime points out that the Mad King deserved to die, especially for what he did to Ned’s brother and father–what he did, we aren’t told; all we know is that the Mad King died screaming “burn them all!” Ned does not consider this to be reasonable grounds to kill the king he is sworn to protect. Honour, it would seem, is important to Ned and honour, it would equally seem, is in limited supply in King’s Landing.
At the meeting of the Small Council, Ned is informed that Robert has ordered a tournament in his honour–“The Hand’s Tournament,” which Ned wants no part of–and that the Seven Kingdoms are significantly in debt to Tywin Lannister: the treasury is empty and only Lannister gold keeps it running. Lord Baelish is ordered to find the money to pay the winners of the tournament. We also learn at the meeting the Lord Baelish once fought a duel with Brandon Stark to win Catelyn Stark’s hand in marriage. Clearly, Lord Baelish lost the duel, but he implies that he is still in love with Catelyn.
This, of course, brings us to Catelyn who has finally arrived in King’s Landing on her mission to bring news to Ned that the Lannisters were behind the assassination attempt. She thought she had travelled in secret by taking boat, but she is surprised to be intercepted by two Golden Cloaks–members of the City Watch–who were sent to bring her to Lord Baelish and hide her in one of his brothels. It turns out that Lord Baelish is very well informed about what goes on in the city and the kingdom and, when we get to the brothel, that Varys is equally well informed. Ned is summoned to the brothel whereupon he promptly attempts to choke Lord Baelish to death for the offense of bringing Catelyn to such a place. Clearly, Ned has a visceral reaction to brothels implying that he would not himself be the client of one–which goes to the theory that Jon Snow is not a the product of Ned knocking up some whore. (This follows from the previous episode where Ned refused to tell Robert who the mother of Jon Snow was letting Robert have whatever theory he wanted–which goes to the theory that Jon’s parentage is something that would put his life in danger; e.g., if he were half-Targaryen.) In the brothel, Lord Baelish promises to help them uncover the murder plot. Significantly, Lord Baelish claims ownership of the dagger that was used to attack Bran, but he says that he lost it on a bet in a recent tournament when he betted against Tyrion that Jaime Lannister would defeat the Ser Loras (“The Knight of Flowers”)–this, of course, is rather suspicious: one is inclined to believe that Tyrion would never bet against his brother, but Ned and Catelyn wouldn’t know this… but Varys would. So, while the Lannisters are likely behind the murder plot, Lord Baelish–with the acquiescence of Varys–is purposefully pushing the Starks to that conclusion prematurely.
Meanwhile, across the sea, Daenerys is beginning to assert herself as Khaleesi first by forcing the khalasar to stop while she explores a forest and, then, over her brother, Viserys, when he attacks her in the forest. While the Dothraki want to kill Viserys, she nonetheless allows him live, but his horse is taken from him and he must walk like the slaves. This seems to win over the loyalty of many of the Dothraki who begin to accept her as Khaleesi despite being a foreigner.
Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things–In King’s Landing, Ned begins his investigation into the death of Jon Arryn. At The Wall, Jon extends his authority over the other recruits and works to protect a new, self-described craven, recruit named Samwell Tarly. Tyrion and Yoren begin their trek south to King’s Landing. At Winterfell, Bran begins to have strange dreams involving a three-eyed crow. And across the sea, Viserys has a hissy fit as it becomes increasingly apparent that Khal Drogo is not especially interested in invaded Westeros anytime in the near future.
Beginning with Jon Snow at The Wall. A new recruit named Samwell Tarly–a portly and cowardly fellow in the tradition of Neville Longbottom and Samwise Gamgee–arrives at The Wall. Despite being of noble birth–we’d previously heard about the Tarly’s when King Robert was bragging about his first kill to Sir Selmy which incidentally happened to be “a Tarly boy” who thought he could end the rebellion by killing Robert–Samwell is absolutely incompetent with weapons, fat, cowardly, and a self-confessed craven. He does, however, seem to be rather nice and excessively shy. Ser Alliser Thorne, the master-at-arms at Castle Black, has the other recruits attack Sam as part of his weapons training. They easily knock him over and Sam cowers. Ser Thorne insists the recruits beat him until he gets up onto his own feet. Jon intervenes to protect Sam. Ser Thorne then forces the other recruits to fight their way past Jon and then beat up Sam, which the other recruits don’t want to do knowing the Jon can easily defeat them–which he does. Ser Thorne stomps off in anger, especially at Jon who he has taken a particular disliking to. Sam thanks Jon and Jon points out that he will have to fight tomorrow.
While Jon has won influence over most of the recruits, there remains one, named Rast, who is especially cruel (he was sentenced to the Night’s Watch for being a “raper”) and who does not agree with Jon’s policy that no one will hurt Sam. In order to rectify the situation, Jon, Pyp, and Grenn attack Rast in the night, hold him down in his bed, and Ghost jumps on his chest, bearing fangs and growling menacingly. The next day, Sam is safe from attack, but Ser Thorne points out that you don’t want a man who can’t fight next to you on The Wall if it is attacked.
Meanwhile, Tyrion and Yoren have begun their journey south back to King’s Landing and stop by Winterfell to pass along Jon’s good wishes to Bran and to give the saddlemaster blueprints for a saddle that will allow Bran to ride despite being crippled. Because Robb believes that the Lannisters (as such) are behind the attempt on Bran’s life, even though it is clear to everyone else that Tyrion had no involvement in the attack, the Starks treat him rudely and Tyrion stays the night at a brothel in the village outside the castle. Taking advice from Theon Greyjoy, the ward of the Starks, Tyrion shacks up with Ros, the local prostitute. But, before doing so, Tyrion makes sure to mock the haughty Theon pointing out that he is a hostage because his family is most well-known for their failed rebellions–evidently the war that Ned joined Robert in fighting nine years ago.
Across the sea, Daenerys sends one of her servants–a former prostitute–to tend to Viserys in an attempt to make amends for forcing him to walk the rest of the way to Vaes Dothrak and to invite him to dinner. Viserys misinterprets the invitation as a command, storms into Daenerys’s tent and slaps her. Daenerys fights back for the first time ever and tells Viserys that he will not hit her ever again. Ser Jorah later tells Daenerys that Viserys would not make a good king and that no one in the Seven Kingdoms secretly want him back as their ruler. In fact, the common people don’t care one way or another who is king, so long as they are left alone.
And, at King’s Landing, Ned starts to investigate the death of Jon Arryn. With Lord Baelish’s assistance–or prodding–Ned finds out that Jon Arryn’s squire was recently knighted. In Westeros, while any knight can knight another person, knighthood is usually only granted after some sort of service or proof valour. A squire who has never seen battle would not be expected to be knighted, especially when there is no evidence of merit or, in Ser Hugh’s case, skill. Ned sends his captain of the guard, Jory, to summon Ser Hugh of the Vale. But, being an arrogant newly minted knight, Ser Hugh refuses the order. With the Ser Hugh lead drying up, Ned follows another lead to a blacksmith’s shop which Jon Arryn had visited a number of times, but never purchased anything. Ned discovers an apprentice there with an uncanny resemblance to Robert and deduces that Jon Arryn was searching for Robert’s bastards. Gendry, the apprentice blacksmith, is likely the oldest bastard.
The Tournament of the Hand finally begins. Sansa, being enamoured with tales of knights and bravery and valour, is very excited to attend to see the glamorous knights joust. The first joust is between Ser Hugh, who is wearing brand new and very expensive plate armour–the sort of armour an undistinguished squire could not afford on his own, and Ser Gregor Clegane, commonly referred to as “The Mountain Who Rides” on account of his great size. Ser Hugh is killed by The Mountain, who exploits an unprotected part of Ser Hugh’s neck, killing him with his lance. Sansa is completely shocked when she discovers that real knights are not the least bit like the knights of her favourite stories. During the joust, Lord Baelish tells Sansa the story of The Hound and The Mountain, the brothers Clegane. The Hound, who fightens Sansa, has a half-burnt off face. Lord Baelish tells her that when they were children, The Mountain found The Hound playing with one his toys without permission. He promptly grabbed The Hound, shoved his face into a fire, and held him down while it melted and burnt off.
Finally, Catelyn Stark stops at the Inn at the Crossroads–the same inn where Lady and the butcher’s son were killed by the Lannisters–only to be surprised when Tyrion and Yoren walk into the same inn. The Inn happens to be located in territory claimed by her family, the Riverlands, and she calls upon the men in the Inn to honour their oaths to her father, Lord Horster Tully, and assist her in arresting Tyrion. The episode ends with Tyrion surrounded by dozens of swords.
The Wolf and the Lion–Most of this episode takes place at King’s Landing, following Ned’s investigation in Jon Arryn’s death and the conclusion of the Hand’s Tournament, and in The Vale at Jon Arryn’s castle, The Eyrie, where we meet Catelyn’s “touched” sister and her ultra-creepy son, Robin Arryn, the heir apparent of The Vale.
In King’s Landing, we see the conclusion of The Hand’s Tournament in a joust between Ser Loras Tyrell, styled The Knight of the Flowers, who appears to be rather young and rather pretty–thus immediately winning Sansa’s affections, especially after he gives her a flower prior to the joust–and The Mountain Who Rides. (We also learn, when Lord Baelish mocks Renly, that Renly and Loras are lovers–later we see Ser Loras shaving off Renly’s body hair while discussing their own plot to claim the throne. It ends with some man-on-man sex.) Ser Loras is riding a notably smaller horse than The Mountain; a mare who is in heat. Ser Loras manages to win the joust through trickery when The Mountain’s horse is distracted by the mare in heat. Ser Loras easily knocks The Mountain off his horse and wins the joust. The Mountain, however, does not like being tricked–not that The Mountain plays fair himself, of course–and demands his sword from his squire. He promptly chops off the head of his horse and attacks the unarmed Ser Loras. The Hound jumps out of the gallery to either defend Ser Loras or use this as a pretext to kill his brother, The Mountain. After letting them fight for a while, King Robert demands they cease fighting and The Hound is nearly killed because he immediately stops fighting while The Mountain does not. In return for saving his life, Ser Loras declares The Hound to be the winner. Ser Loras says, “Thank you, Ser” to which The Hound says, “I am no Ser.” Needless to say, between the death of Ser Hugh, Ser Loras’s trickery, The Mountain killing his horse, and the fight between The Hound and The Mountain, Sansa is becoming more than a little disabused of her romantic conception of the knighthood.
At the Eyrie, the ancestral fortress of the Arryn’s located at the top of a mountain and said to be impenetrable, Catelyn discovers that her sister, Lysa, is as Tyrion puts it, “touched,” and that her nephew, Robin Arryn, were this the twenty-first century, would be riding the short bus given that he appears to be at least ten and still feeding from Lysa’s breast, which he does in open court to the horror of Catelyn, Ser Rodrick Cassell, Tyrion, and the mercenary Bronn, who has joined Catelyn’s party to keep Tyrion hostage. Catelyn accuses Tyrion of the attempted murder of Bran and Lysa has him imprisoned.
Back at King’s Landing, Ned’s investigation continues. First, Lord Varys says that Jon Arryn was killed with a rare poison called the Tears of Lys and suggests that Ser Hugh was the poisoner, which led to his knighthood, being able to afford such extravagant armour, and being killed by The Mountain.
Next we see Arya trying to catch feral cats on the instruction of her “dancing master” Syrio Forrel. Arya chases a cat into the dungeons below the castle and overhears a conversation between Lord Varys and Illyrio Mopatis concerning Daenerys’s pregnancy, how this affects their plans, and that the Lannisters and the Starks will soon be at war with one another thereby destabilizing the Seven Kingdoms. It would seem that Varys and Illyrio are scheming to have the Dothraki led by the surviving Targaryens invade the Seven Kingdoms and claim the throne. Arya reports what she overheard, but Ned doesn’t believe her and dismisses what she says. Her story is interrupted by the arrival of Yoren who tells Ned that Catelyn has arrested Tyrion.
With news out that Daenerys is pregnant, Robert convenes the Small Council and orders them to arrange the assassination of Daenerys and Viserys. Ned has no interest in participating in the murder of children, gets into an argument with Robert on the ethics of killing children (Robert seems to favour killing children, especially if they are Targaryens), and Ned resigns as Hand of the King.
Finally, Lord Baelish invites Ned to one of his brothels where Ned is introduced to a young prostitute who has another one of Robert’s bastards–a girl–whose physical characteristics (like Gendry’s) are very similar to Robert’s. Upon leaving the brothel, Jaime Lannister, no longer dressed in his King’s Guard armour but in Lannister colours, arrives with a company of men-at-arms. Jaime demands that Ned have Tyrion released; Ned declares that he instructed Catelyn to arrest Tyrion. Jaime, no longer wearing the colours of the King’s Guard and Ned no longer being the Hand of the King, has Ned’s guards killed. Jory tries to attack Jaime and is quickly killed with a dagger through the eye. Ned and Jaime fight, but the fight is interrupted when one of Jaime’s men stabs Ned in the back of the knee with a spear. Jaime, having his own rather perverse sense of honour, refuses to kill Ned and beats his man-at-arms.
Given the importance of Jon Snow and the fact that Gendry survives until at least the middle point of the third book thus indicating that bastards will be important to the future of Westeros in one way or another, I’m eager to read this new book, Bastards: Politics, Family, and Law in Early Modern France, by historian Matthew Gerber. Given that there are “real world” precedents for kings acknowledging bastards as rightful heirs (e.g., The Sun King) and given that A Song of Fire and Ice is loosely inspired by late medieval/early modern Europe, it stands to reason that once Gendry realizes that he isn’t just an apprentice blacksmith, but the oldest bastard son of King Robert and once Jon Snow realizes that he is either the bastard of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark or he is the legal son of Rhaegar and Lyanna (recall: not only were the Targaryens in-breeders, but they were also, from time to time, polygamists meaning that Lyanna and Rhaegar could have been legally wed), we’ll have a situation with two new potential claimants to the throne. Although Jon has the problem of being a sworn brother of the Night’s Watch.
Finally! Shane is dead and Rick killed him in a really shitty way–although it was also pretty awesome: “Look, Shane, I’m putting my gun down, let’s just walk away from this and put it behind us.” And ka-blam-o! He stabs Shane in the gut. Many, but not all, of my complaints about the series related to how boring the eighteen episode dick-measuring contest between Rick and Shane was and, related, how boring the goddamned farm was. With Shane dead–and a mass of “walkers” bumrushing the farmhouse–I really hope (1) we can pick up the pace and (2) do something interesting. And, by interesting I don’t mean more bullshit reactionary politics.
I haven’t read the comics on which the show is based (although I have the first “compendium” or whatever they call it), but I’m looking forward to the possibility of turning to more interesting topics: for instance, the nature of the outbreak of zombieism, the manner in which it is spread, and so on. The epidemiology of the apocalypse must be more interesting than determining that property rights do, in fact, continue to exist after civilization has collapsed.
I like the potential turn away from the “viral” that we get with most recent incarnations of the zombie or, at least, the device that the condition is spread through contact or fluid exchange. With Shane and the prisoner’s instant resurrection without an intervening bite or walker-inflicted wound (recall the security guards at the municipal yard a couple episodes ago and the campers from earlier in the season–not to mention Dr. Jenner’s complete despair about the condition), we are in an interesting position:
- the condition is already present in everyone–say a genetic mutation or something;
- the condition is environmental in nature–like the satellite returning from the sun spreading radiation in the original “Night of the Living Dead”; or,
- the condition is magical/supernatural–which would bring us back to the prophetic visions of the guy from the first season they left to die beside the road.
Either way, zombie-SARS is overdone (even if “Resident Evil” movies remain more or less watchable, especially if Michael Scofield will be in the next one) and the government-industrial coverup of the zombie-SARS is just plain boring. The American government can’t get healthcare to all of its citizens; how the hell is it coordinating the apocalyptic destruction of everyone? I call bullshit on that genre.
Returning to the show, we both enjoyed that the condition seems to be associated with some sort of collective or hive mind, which discounts the noise-attraction theory: the walkers mass attack because they can simultaneously see through all of their eyes at once–this also points to a rather high level of cognitive functioning. But it also leaves open the problem of residual memories from the first season, such as the guy’s wife who tried to open the door because her husband and child were in there.
Oh, and great news: that moral travesty, “Luck,” has been cancelled. HBO blames a bunch of dead horses. But let’s face it: people don’t want to watch something as archaic and cruel as horse racing. What’s next? A “high quality drama” on the refined cruelty that is ratting!? [I'm already creating this moral travesty. To be set near the docks of New York, but that might be too obvious: how about Toronto--or Halifax? At the center would be the pitmaster who habitually confuses his sleazy disposition with suave charm--played by Mark Sheppard, of course. The pit would be located behind a soda shop. Every borderline illegal activity needs a front. Of course, such soda shops were run by Italians. Given that Al Pacino seems to be down on his luck career-wise, I think this would be a good role for him. Obviously, there'd be rumours he's involved in white slavery. We'd need a rat catcher. What better than a liberated negro? Common has already done this on that AMC show, so he's out. HBO loves Omar, but I think he's still doing "Boardwalk Empire." The obvious choice would be Bubbles, but let me go out on a limb: Bodie. While working as a ratcatcher, all that Bodie wants to do is play piano in the grand concert hall. Obviously, because ratting is so shady, we'd need an ambitious prosecutor who is nonetheless implicated in "the sport." He'd need to be more or less wholesome, but capable of violence and treachery. Misha Collins is the obvious choice. And, of course, we'll need some female interest. Given that we've gone with Misha Collins as the prosecutor, why not go for Mischa Barton, who is tied between her upper class origins--and her first courter, Misha Collins--and the thrilling life of professional animal baiters; Mark Sheppard, obviously. Finally, we'd need some quirk: a local homeless man who somehow knows more than he should--stock advice, what ships will sink, and the outcomes of various baits. Jeremy London would be great for this and he needs something to get him past his recent legal troubles. There'd be rumours that he's an electric man from the distant future. Jeremy Sisto, who has just acquired another child and is suffering through one of the worst sitcoms in the history of television, needs something high quality. He'd be the SPCA inspector working the animal baiting/white slavery beat. A winner, obviously. How do I make this pitch to someone with money?]
Yet another excessively dull episode of “The Walking Dead”! What is surprising to me is that the ratings for the show have been consistently good. As far as I can tell, this has been a great idea, a great premise, that has been consistently squandered. Like, I can understand why the ratings for “The Killing” remained more or less consistent: it was so terrible that people wanted to see how this piece of shit was going to end. With “The Walking Dead,” you don’t need to stick with the show to see how it will end or where it is going; you just need to download some comic books.
The horrible thought, of course, is that people watch the show because (1) they think it is quality television and (2) they find the show somehow compelling. I guess I can see why the latter is held to be true: “Two and a Half Men” continues to have excellent ratings and the politics of the show are, to say the least, retrograde at best. Likewise, the politics of “The Walking Dead” are outright reactionary. Indeed, it would likely be a hilarious mash-up to take scenes from the show and add in text from Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind. Hell, skip Robin and go straight to the original sources. Personally, I recommend Ayn Rand, Carl Schmitt, and Joseph de Maistre! It is clearly the case that “The Walking Dead” makes “24” seem positively socialist!
So, what did we get this week? We have a boy who spends an entire scene torturing a zombie stuck in the mud by throwing rocks and sticks at it–not to mention the smell of the boy himself. When the zombie finally breaks free, the kid is too chicken-shit to kill the zombie, he looses his gun (that he stole from Daryl, which will no doubt lead to problems down the line), and runs away. Obviously, we’ll come back to the zombie later; like I said, this show is not well-written. Being too chicken-shit to kill something in the world of “The Walking Dead” always has consequences. We have sensitive Daryl–who suddenly has the single best part of the show: a denim vest/jacket with angel wings on the back–taking out his frustration on their prisoner by torturing him. Of course, we have wishy-washy discussions of torture; the sort of discussions that have been handled far better in basically every other show and which serve no purpose at all at this point in television history. We have the meddling old man trying to save civilization by talking, talking, talking and manipulating, manipulating, manipulating the others to convince them not to summarily execute the prisoner. And, of course, we have a number of discussions on the best way to execute the prisoner. Rick seems to prefer hanging–he even goes so far as to tie a noose. While doing so, Lori comes in to the barn talking about winter: “We need somewhere warm to sleep!” Rick suggests the barn they’re in. Yeah, great idea: when you get sick of T-Bone or just get bored, you can string him up without having to go outside! Meanwhile, Rick and Shane fight some more–mostly on the best way to kill the prisoner. Finally, just after Rick refuses to kill the prisoner even though the group has decided that he must die, we come back to that zombie. For reasons absolutely unknown, Dale–the talking meddler-manipulator–decides to go for walk in the dark all by himself. He finds a dead cow being munched upon by the very same zombie that Carl was too chicken-shit to kill. You see, if you don’t kill, then you will get killed; if dad isn’t brave enough to kill, then the son won’t be brave enough to kill. Obviously, just as Carl’s spinelessness leads to Dale’s death, Rick’s spinelessness will lead to someone’s death next week when the prisoner escapes. How about Carol? She’s had two lines in four episodes. How about T-Bone? He hasn’t spoken since the Jim Crow era!
What a turd of a show. Fortunately, “Game of Thrones” returns on April 1 and we’ll finally have premium cable television shows that don’t suck. Hilarious aside: “The Killing” is also scheduled to return that day. Clearly someone at AMC has a sense of humour. Otherwise, we watched “Generation Kill” for the third time in two weeks.
Another very light week of TV–most of what we watched, we didn’t actually watch (NCIS, Hart of Dixie, Ringer, Unforgettable). It was on, but no one paid attention. Blythe spent most of her time reading “Generation Kill” slash and I spent most of my time on the floor with Gordon, who has been excessively belligerent this week. When I wasn’t suffering his belligeration, I was playing “Muffin Knight.” I only need eight points to get up to 100% on all levels!
What this leaves is “Fringe” and “The Walking Dead.” With respect to the former, we found out that the observers are future-humans who have developed time-travelling technology and they are obsessed with origins. Apparently the important origin insofar as “Fringe” is concerned is not Walter or Peter, but Peter’s as of yet non-existent son, Henry, who will be born to Olivia. There seems to be an obvious problem with the story. The Observer–who wanted to witness Walternet’s invention of the cure for baby-Peter–accidentally reveals himself to Walternet who then misses the cure. Apparently The Observer is “allowed” to disrupt events by popping up, but he isn’t allowed to say, “Hey, asshat, you just cured the disease but were staring at me! Repeat the experiment, dumbfuck.” As a result, Walter must find the cure and cross-over to save Peter. This, it would seem, results in the universes falling apart and changes the sequence of time. Obviously, a problem. Now, this is where it gets plain stupid: The Observers had to make it such that Peter never existed in order to prevent the birth of Henry to Fauxlivia. Note: Peter, in the series, knocks-up Fauxlivia (i.e., the Olivia from his universe). But this pairing is impossible says The Observers: Peter is supposed to knock-up Olivia (i.e., the Olivia from the other side; that is, the Olivia on “our” side). Obviously, what this means is that regardless of how it came to be, it was absolutely necessary that Peter cross over at some point–and wouldn’t this cause the universes to fall apart bringing us, more or less, to precisely where we are now? I realize holding a convoluted story can be difficult, but this is just stupid.
On “The Walking Dead,” I was excited that it seemed that Rick had finally put Shane “in his place.” Rick asserted his authority and Shane, being a cowardly bully, backed down. I was okay with Shane attacking Rick because, obviously, Rick would win through that one trait he has that Shane doesn’t have: Rick is the good guy. And then Shane would realize that his mutiny had failed and would stop grumbling. But, NO!, this is not the case: preview for next week’s episode has Shane once again grumbling about Rick and planning to take him out. For those not counting, that’d be the plot of the previous eighteen episodes.
I’m feeling a bit better–somewhat better than last week. At least well enough to follow through on my duties of writing a Spoiler Alert Thursday post that not only will no one comment on, but that no one will read.
The number of shows that we actually like that are presently airing is incredibly low–fortunately, we suffer through a number of shows that we don’t actually like and spend most of our time saying, “Wow, this is bad! Which do you think is the worst: ‘Hart of Dixie,’ ‘Ringer,’ or ‘Unforgettable’?” Invariably, the answer is whichever one of the three we are presently watching. I’m pretty sure that I played Muffin Knight for most of “Unforgettable” last night. I believe that I paid attention to “Hart of Dixie” on Monday, but I have absolutely no recollection of the plot–and I’m pretty sure that I don’t care. “Ringer” was of the order of “Wow, could this get any stupider? How did anyone ever ‘green light’ this turd?” I hope before the end of the season someone wakes up and ‘red lights’ this turd. Best part: Andrew worrying that if his custody fight with his ex-wife went “before the jury” that “a new jury” wouldn’t see things the same way. Yeah, a jury in family court in New York State. Good research, assholes. Ever watched “Law & Order”?
In terms of shows we like, “Supernatural” was fairly good for the past two episodes. Especially two episodes ago when some sort of spell was making children’s worst fears manifest and then killing their abusive parents. The twist was that the spell was used to materialize Sam’s worst fear and then send that fear to kill him. Given that Sam is a main character and that this was neither a “mid-season finale” nor a genuine season finale, he obviously didn’t die. Sam’s worst fear? Clowns. More to the point, clowns that look like juggalos. We made that joke a few times during the episode and were delighted when Sam made the same joke at the end. And, with respect to shows we more or less like, say, “Fringe” and “The Secret Circle,” we continue to be disappointed. I guess I’m hoping that both are cancelled.
This brings us to “The Walking Dead.” Last week, Rene from “True Blood” got shot in the head by Rick–and so did Rene’s fat friend. We haven’t encountered any other survivor groups for some time. The “gang” in Atlanta turned out to be fundamentally good (the looked like an ethnic street gang, but they were really protecting old and sick people) and Herschel’s “family” encountered in the countryside turned out to be okay, despite the differences between Rick’s “people” and Herschel’s “family.” (By “okay” I don’t mean to say that I approve of them, but that Rick’s “people” accept them, more or less.) But, it turns out that the roving gang of bandits aren’t especially important, except insofar as they may have to integrate a new member of either the “family” or the “people.” You see, the real problem is that in the post-apocalyptic world, women are conniving bitches who can’t fight their own fights so they enlist chest-pumping manly-men to do it for them. Rick is a “real father” and Shane is a “real man” but, ultimately, to prove that Rick is a real father or that Shane is a real man comes down to the same thing: one will have to kill the other to secure access to the reproductive organs of the post-apocalyptic women.
To summarize “The Walking Dead” so far: no ties exist in the post-apocalypse except the claims of property, children “belong” to men, and threatening to seize control of a child who is, more likely than not, biologically your own–a potential crime–is worse than the actual crime of rape. Well done.
The ratio of absolute crap to what’s kinda interesting at io9 is terrible. I won’t bother getting into the odd scientistic fundamentalism for obvious reasons: no serious person should take it seriously. Basically, what io9 is good for is pictures of strange shit in space and episode recaps. Unfortunately, the episode recaps are becoming increasingly untrustworthy. The woman who does the recaps for “Supernatural” is, straight-up, an idiot and whoever it is that does them for “Fringe” is completely delusional. The best part of the most recent episode of “Fringe” was Olivia and Fauxlivia gawking at Peter? Come on. (a) Fauxlivia distinguishes herself from Olivia with a wig and an ape-walk (great acting! anyone remember the William Bell travesty of last year?) and (b) Olivia should consider wearing a wig and walking like an ape because all she has to fall back on is that she is fundamentally stupid. Fauxlivia is, of course, also fundamentally stupid, but you don’t see it right away because you’re like, “Who is that nasty ape-woman coming at me? This is going to be good. Oh, no, it wasn’t. She’s just a stupid wig-wearing ape-woman.” With Olivia it’s just, “Wow. She looks stupid. And she is.” Again, the best part of the episode was Walter, especially his interactions with Altrid. And, a close second, was Altrid and Astrid. Again, Dean was great in “Supernatural” this week. Sort of like that Modest Mouse song–“I’m trying to find a way to drink away the part of the day I can’t sleep away.” Also, easy chicks. Except, this time, easy chicks and booze backfires. It surprises me that easy chicks and booze hasn’t backfired on Dean before. Or, as Bobby put it, “How is it that half the time you clean up a mess, you end up dirty?”
Blythe absolutely insisted that I include the following scene from “Supernatural”:
“NCIS” was incredibly terrible. It began with Gibbs’ apparent death and the possibility of McGee leaving for a promotion in Japan. It ended with Gibbs being alive and McGee staying in his current position. Oh, and there was Franks, who is possibly the worst character in a show filled with the worst characters imaginable. And Fornell didn’t even get to speak! The fuck! But he did give a smile with the suggestion of some later Fornellication. “Hart of Dixie” amply lived up to the nickname I’ve given it: “Fart of Dixie.” What a turd! Unsurprisingly, “Ringer” and “Unforgettable” also shared the same ontological status as yesterday’s burrito. However, with “Unforgettable,” we’ve added in multiple layers of unbelievable. Questions: (1) who saw this pitch and said, “Yeah, pilot, please.” (2) Who saw the pilot and said, “Yeah, full season, please.” And, finally, (3) who are the 11.7 million Americans watching this show every week? Like, they can’t all be watching this show just to see how fucking incoherent it can get.
We haven’t watched “Spartacus: Vengeance” yet even though it is two episodes in. We find (1) replacing Andy Whitfield to be in rather bad taste and it’s not like there is anyone else alive who could be an equally convincing and awesome Spartacus and (2) Xena’s survival to be insane and only because her husband is the producer/creator.
Tidbit of the week: 225 million chickens died so Americans could consume their sauce covered wings while watching a bunch of commercials and Madonna.