Posts Tagged ‘Game of Thrones’

“Game of Thrones” thoughts, Season Six, Episode One: “The Red Woman”

Monday, April 25th, 2016

If Game of Thrones were a Netflix show, there isn’t a man or woman in all Seven Kingdoms who wouldn’t have plowed right into episode two after watching tonight’s Season Six premiere. So many of the big storytelling beats went unresolved that the inability to binge-watch the next hour (or more) is an almost Ramsay Bolton–level torment.

We don’t get to witness the final showdown between Ser Davos and Ser Alliser. We don’t see the triumphant return of Dolorous Edd leading an army of wildlings (with or without a giant or two in tow) to his black brothers’ rescue. Neither of Cersei Lannister’s most loyal nights, her incestuous brotherJaime and her Frankensteinian bodyguard Ser Robert Strong (aka an undead Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane), face off against the fanatical forces of the High Sparrow. Tyrion Lannister and his buddy-comedy advisor Varys don’t free the dragons chained up in the basement of their Meereenese palace. Daenerys Targaryen’s dragon, the black beast called Drogon, doesn’t swoop in to save her from the clutches of Khal Moro and his Dothraki horde. Bran Stark, his wizardly mentor the Three-Eyed Raven, his M.I.A. kid brother Rickon, schemer par excellence Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish and the ne’er-do-well rulers of the Iron Islands from House Greyjoy don’t show up at all. Most importantly, to paraphrase Chevy Chase, Jon Snow is still dead—if his psychic baby bro, his telepathically connected direwolf Ghost or the apparently ancient sorceress Melisandre are going to bring him back from beyond, we’ll have to tune in next week, same Stark time, same Stark channel.

Shit, we might not even get to find out then.

So how come “The Red Woman,” tonight’s long-anticipated comeback ep, felt so satisfying regardless?

I reviewed the Season 6 premiere of Game of Thrones for Rolling Stone, where I’ll be covering the show weekly once again. Yay!

The Essential Guide to ‘Game of Thrones’ Character Betrayals, Alliances, Schemes, and More

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Huge thanks to editor Neil Janowitz for tapping me to help put together this massive Game of Thrones character relationship guide for Vulture, written by Jennifer Vineyard and assembled by their crack interactive team. You’ve really gotta see this thing to believe it. Enjoy!

‘Game of Thrones’: 11 Questions We Still Have

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

5. What’s going to happen in King’s Landing?

Seriously, is there any place here that isn’t a ticking time bomb going into Season Six?! Like Jon and Dany, Cersei Lannister started last season in charge and ended up in deep shit. After empowering the extremist religious leader known as the High Sparrow — in the hope that he’d take down her rivals — she wound up in the crosshairs as well. Now she’s endured a horrifying walk of shame but will still have to stand trial … and we’ve all seen how trials in King’s Landing go. Her brother Jaime’s back in town, bearing the bad news of their daughter Myrcella’s murder, and her undead bodyguard Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane is running around too. There could well be a three-way bloodbath in the streets between Lannister, Tyrell, and Faith Militant forces before it’s all said and done — four-way, since Dorne’s Prince Trystane is a newcomer to the city this season. It’s a recipe for disaster potent enough to make Meereen look like Des Moines.

I wrote about 11 of the biggest unanswered questions facing us in Game of Thrones Season 6 for Rolling Stone.

The Boiled Leather Audio Hour is now on Patreon, and our PayPal donation button is open too

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

Hi all! Before we upload this week’s episode, which we think you’ll like, an announcement: We have set up a Patreon page for the podcast, to help raise funds for new equipment and make it easier for the two of us (Sean especially) to commit to recording more episodes without it coming at a cost to our financial health. Please pledge any amount you want–every bit helps!

Also, on a more urgent note, Sean is in dire need of laptop repair after a mishap with his kids’ toys broke his screen. This is very expensive, especially on a full-time freelancer’s salary. So if you like, you can donate to the BLAH paypal page to help raise funds to replace the laptop and make recording (and working!) possible. Thanks again!

The 25 Most Anticipated TV Shows of 2016

Monday, February 8th, 2016

Game of Thrones (HBO, April 24)

The cable network’s dark-fantasy juggernaut has left a long trail of dead characters and shocked audiences in its wake, though readers of George R.R. Martin’s books always knew when to duck. All that changes when the show returns for its sixth season this year — because The Winds of Winter appears to have hit the proverbial Wall, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss have been free to plan their own red weddings this season. While the show will continue to be based at least in part on future plans revealed to creators by Martin, it had already begun deviating from the source with increasing regularity and boldness. (Is Jon Snow alive or dead? Who the hell knows?) Look for an even stormier winter than usual.

I joined forces with ace writers David Fear and Rob Sheffield to run down the year’s most anticipated TV shows for Rolling Stone.

The Boiled Leather Audio Hour Episode 43!

Monday, December 21st, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, or Episode Seven Kingdoms

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Sean and Stefan discuss the new Star Wars movie! Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens Jedi mind tricked us into dedicating this episode of our A Song of Ice and Fire podcast to an entirely different fantasy franchise. How did the film fit in with larger saga? How did J.J. Abrams’s direction differ from George Lucas’s? Is Rey a Mary Sue, and if so, how does that impact the film? What the hell was up with Starkiller Base? We answer all these questions and more, including a discussion of the film’s cinematography, the performances of its actors, the pros and cons of the characters, and even a few connections to the world of Westeros. I’ve got a good feeling about this…

Download Episode 43

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Game of Unknowns Glossary: Every Major Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones Fan Theory

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

Like the Spanish Inquisition before him, George R.R. Martin’s chief weapon is surprise. The author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series has packed his epic-fantasy novels with unpredictable plot twists — and for every shocking revelation, there’s an equally tantalizing secret that stays hidden, riddle that remains unsolved, or prophecy that has yet to be properly decoded. Game of Thrones, the show based on the books, has largely stayed away from Martin’s mix of hints, clues, visions, and red herrings, which is probably wise; no one wants a repeat of Lost, where fans went so berserk trying to figure out what was going to happen in advance that the show itself became an afterthought.

But readers have had almost two decades to pore over and ponder every line in Martin’s novels, beginning with the first volume, 1996’s A Game of Thrones. From Tumblr to Reddit to major ASOIAF fansites likewesteros.organd Tower of the Hand — as well as my and my co-author’s own sites All Leather Must Be Boiled and the Nerdstream Era, and our podcast, “The Boiled Leather Audio Hour” — self-taught experts and avid fans have advanced literally hundreds of theories about the past and future of the story, from slam-dunk analysis that’s been all but accepted as fact to tinfoil-hat crackpottery that makes the Kennedy assassination look as clear-cut as an episode of Murder, She Wrote. The sensation of stumbling across this incredibly vast trove of deep-cut knowledge for the first time is a memory many readers share: “Holy shit — Ned Stark isn’t Jon Snow’s dad?”

Below, you’ll find 50 of the most popular, compelling, convincing, and/or crazy theories out there. Consider it early prep for Game of Thrones’ sixth season, out in April. Dig in, but be warned: The Song will not remain the same.

With an editorial assist by our own Stefan Sasse, I wrote 10,000 words on 50 ASoIaF/GoT theories. This is the least sane thing I’ve ever been paid to do.

The Great Boiled Leather Audio Hour/A Podcast of Ice and Fire Crossover 2015!

Monday, October 26th, 2015

Exciting news from the world of ASoIaF podcasts: Stefan and I are the special guests on this week’s edition of A Podcast of Ice and Fire. Join us and host Amin Javadi as we celebrate the 100th installment of Stefan & Amin’s Supreme Court of Westeros Q&A feature (which I all too infrequently remember to post here at by tackling a host of reader-generated questions about the series’ biggest mysteries, theories, and themes. Consider it the Boiled Leather Audio Hour Episode 42.5!

The Boiled Leather Audio Hour Episode 41!

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

The Walking Dead in Westeros

We’re comparing two of the biggest shows on television in this episode of the Boiled Leather Audio Hour. One of them is an adaptation of a popular staple of nerd culture—a genre work that had only appeared in print before—which has translated its bleak themes, wide scope, and controversial use of violence into a modern-day ratings blockbuster. The other is Game of Thrones.

That’s right—the BLAH Boys are taking on The Walking Dead, and its current spinoff Fear the Walking Dead, by contrasting the shows and their source material to Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire. How does their treatment of violence in an unforgiving world of real and supernatural menace differ? What do the relationships between the original works by George R.R. Martin, Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard and their adaptations by David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, and AMC’s land of a thousand showrunners reveal about their respective ideas, ideals, aesthetics, and ethics? Which shows really deserve our moral outrage, and why? We’ll be examining all these questions and more. And one of us, at least, will be getting really freaking worked up. Enjoy!

Download Episode 41


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Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

photo by Alex Pines

I interviewed George R.R. Martin

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

The number one question people ask me about the series is whether I think everyone will lose—whether it will end in some horrible apocalypse. I know you can’t speak to that specifically, but as a revisionist of epic fantasy—

I haven’t written the ending yet, so I don’t know, but no. That’s certainly not my intent. I’ve said before that the tone of the ending that I’m going for is bittersweet. I mean, it’s no secret that Tolkien has been a huge influence on me, and I love the way he ended Lord of the Rings. It ends with victory, but it’s a bittersweet victory. Frodo is never whole again, and he goes away to the Undying Lands, and the other people live their lives. And the scouring of the Shire—brilliant piece of work, which I didn’t understand when I was 13 years old: “Why is this here? The story’s over?” But every time I read it I understand the brilliance of that segment more and more. All I can say is that’s the kind of tone I will be aiming for. Whether I achieve it or not, that will be up to people like you and my readers to judge.

I interviewed George R.R. Martin, and you can read what he said in the New York Observer.

George R.R. Martin Goes Out to the Ballgame

Monday, August 10th, 2015

The score was 10-1 in favor of the Staten Island Direwolves by the time he grabbed the mic and took the field, but George R.R. Martin was there to warn the boys of summer that winter could still be coming. “If they can only hold on for another couple innings,” the man behind the Game of Thronesphenomenon said, “I won’t have to kill another Stark.” The crowd roared. And when the live arctic wolf accompanying him took a dump near the third base line a few seconds later, they roared again.

From top to bottom, Saturday’s “Meet George R.R. Martin Night” at the Staten Island Yankees’ scenic Richmond County Bank Ballpark was a weird, wild event. With the Lower Manhattan skyline shining in the distance, a record crowd of 7,529 turned out to watch the minor league team, renamed the Direwolves for one night only, take on the Hudson Valley Renegades while wearing custom House Stark and House Lannister uniforms. Direwolf swag and autographs from the A Song of Ice and Fire author himself were available on a first-come, first-served basis. It was a star turn for the author, who’s been catapulted to celebrity status by the success of the HBO series based on his novels.

But for Martin himself, it was a time for wolves. His appearance was a fundraiser for New Mexico’s Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, a non-profit rescue facility for the animals at the heart of his epic-fantasy saga – hence the beast who befouled the infield. The team cut the charity a surprise $10,000 check and launched a benefit auction of the custom jerseys. In the process, they enabled fever-dream sentences like “George R.R. Martin attends a Yankees farm team’s Game of Thrones-themed ballgame on Staten Island to raise money for wolves” to actually make sense…more or less.

Strange shit, but Martin’s seen stranger. “It’s pretty weird,” he told Rolling Stone, “but it’s only like a seven on the weirdness scale. That company that came out with leggings with my face on them? That’s up to a ten.”

I went to a minor-league baseball game with George R.R. Martin and wrote about it for Rolling Stone.

The Characters of Game of Thrones’ Saddest Season, Ranked by Happiness

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

5. Sansa Stark

Sansa’s got the potential to be happy. First of all, she’s matured a lot. She actually liked Joffrey at the beginning! And given how terrible it’s been for her, she’s not doing too bad. I think that for her, it’s possible to recover from trauma. They show her to be that type. I mean, she’s pretty tough. She never got to the point where she just gives up. She thought everybody in her family was dead, but when it looked like Theon would light that candle and she would be saved, she really thought she was going to be okay. It didn’t go well, but even now she’s got hope again, now that she’s found out her little brothers weren’t killed. And also, she chewed Theon out, but then when she found out her brothers weren’t killed, she backed off. She’s not so angry and vindictive that it’s destructive. She’s appropriately so.

4. Samwell Tarly

This guy has peace. With his background of being bullied, he’s unusual because he doesn’t seem overly insecure. He’s not trying to prove to people, “I’m not really such a wimp!” He does stuff when he has to, not just to prove things. It’s not the usual outcome of his whole set of features for him to be comfortable with himself, but he is. He loves his girlfriend, he loves the baby she named after him, he has purpose, and he’s very comfortable with that. It’s not the overly driven ones who are happy, it’s the ones who find peace within. It sounds so trite, but it’s true.

I talked to my therapist about Game of Thrones – I mean, I always do, but this was for Vulture – to help rank the characters of GoT’s saddest season by happiness.

Does No Good Deed Go Unpunished on “Game of Thrones”?

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Certainly, roads to Hell paved with good intentions are as easy to find inGame of Thrones as reanimated corpses at Hardhome. Tyrion Lannister did his best to mitigate the cruelty of his psychopathic nephew King Joffrey and wound up framed and sentenced to death for his murder. Daenerys Targaryen put aside her quest for the Iron Throne to emancipate the people of Slaver’s Bay and ignited an insurgency that forced her to flee on the back of a dragon. Brienne of Tarth swore to serve relatively decent sorts, like Renly Baratheon and Catelyn Stark, but couldn’t stop their murders, and she vowed to protect Cat’s daughters Arya and Sansa, only to be rejected by both. Their brother Robb broke a pledge to his weasel-y ally Walder Frey in order to marry his true love, Talisa, resulting in the Red Wedding slaughter of himself, his mom, his pregnant wife, and his entire army. Sunday night, his half-brother Jon Snow saw his humanitarian campaign to save the hated Wildlings from the far greater threat of the White Walkers lead to his own assassination. The Ur-example of all this, of course, is Ned Stark: He risked his own life to warn Cersei that he’d uncovered her crimes so that she and her kids could escape before her wrathful husband Robert killed them, but it’s Ned’s own head that wound up rolling. Time and time again, the better angels of characters’ natures are precisely what caused them to give up the ghost. As Ser Jorah Mormont — who, by the way, contracted a fatal disease when he risked his life to save Tyrion’s — put it when discussing the defeat of Dany’s apparently benevolent big brother: “Rhaegar fought valiantly. Rhaegar fought nobly. And Rhaegar died.”

Does this make Game of Thrones a fundamentally nihilist series — a work where, when it comes to the evil that men do, resistance is futile? Seven hells, no.

For starters, that would only make sense if the Game players who cheated consistently came out on top, and that’s hardly been the case. Stannis Baratheon’s decision to burn his daughter to death led directly to the collapse of his army. Joffrey Baratheon’s career as the Mad King 2.0 came to an early end when he was poisoned to death at his own wedding by the family of the bride. Theon Greyjoy betrayed the Starks and conquered Winterfell, but wound up forsaken by both his biological and adoptive families and tortured into madness by the Bastard of Bolton. The Warlocks of Qarth and Good Masters of Astapor tried to fuel their dirty deeds with Dany’s dragons and got roasted for it. Nearly every name on Arya Stark’s hit list of murdering shitbags — from child-molesting Meryn Trant to Gregor “the Mountain” Clegane, arguably the biggest sociopath in the series (literally and metaphorically) and now a mindless zombie — has been crossed off, whether or not by her hand. Cersei Lannister brutalized and betrayed her way to the top of the Seven Kingdoms’ power structure, yet it was her own scheming that led to her downfall when she was arrested, imprisoned, and ritualistically humiliated by the very fanatics she’d empowered in the finale’s most excruciating scene. And what of Lord Eddard’s rival patriarch, Tywin Lannister? The archetypal avatar of ruthless realpolitik who orchestrated the Red Wedding and sentenced his own son to death wound up dead on the shitter, with his pants around his ankles and an arrow in his gut.

While it may look like any choice leads to a slit throat or squashed skull, this is in no way an argument that morality doesn’t matter. The constant cruelty of Game of Thrones’ world only increases the importance of doing good deeds while you still occupy it: If all men must die, as the saying goes, this makes the decision to do the right thing anyway all the more valuable. Jon Snow’s murder does not take away the lives he saved by rescuing as many Free Folk as he could from the army of the dead. Ned may have been foolish to trust Cersei to flee rather than fight, but if he’d guaranteed their deaths by narc’ing to Robert right away, he’d have been little better than she was. Tyrion’s brief reformist reign over King’s Landing likely saved hundreds of lives from the madness of King Joffrey before it ended, and now he has the chance to repeat the feat in Meereen. Dany’s drive to free the slaves of that city and its neighbors is perhaps the most complex political question the series poses — its white-savior overtones and occupier/liberator dynamic are uncomfortable to contemplate, and deliberately so — yet it’s hard to imagine that the world would be better off had she marched straight for Westeros on an ocean of fire and blood instead of literally ending the slave trade in one of its most entrenched enclaves.

Does No Good Deed Go Unpunished on GOT? I examined the show’s epic-fantasy ethics for Vulture.

“Game of Thrones” Season Five: What Did We Learn

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Take a look at the political game that gives the show its title. Things may be bad now, but the season began with the possibility of setting up something better, as a quartet of newly minted leaders took charge and tried to shape the system to suit their vision. The Night’s Watch elected good-hearted Jon Snow as their 998th Lord Commander. Daenerys Targaryen settled in as the monarch of Meereen, attempting to rule through diplomacy rather than dragons. Stannis Baratheon became the new King in the North, following up his daring rescue of the Wall from a wildling invasion with a plan to defeat the even more dangerous forces of House Bolton. And after a lifetime of playing second fiddle to the men in her life — her husband, her father, her son Joffrey, and her brothers Jaime and Tyrion — Cersei Lannister found herself in almost complete control of King’s Landing, ready to rule more or less openly on her own.

But as Lady Sarah of House Palin once put it, “How’s that hopey-changey thing workin’ out for ya?” Jon governed nobly, Cersei ruthlessly; Stannis and Dany somewhere in between. Yet all four fledgling regimes ended in roughly the same place — with their leaders dead, deposed, defeated, or stuck between a Dothraki and a hard place. In fact, each was undone by events they themselves had set in motion. Jon fell to the men who’d elected him after ignoring their concerns about the Free Folk in their midst. (Et tu, Olly?) Dany’s attempts to moderate and mollify her divided city by reopening its fighting pits led to a massacre that required a last-minute dragon-assisted exit. Stannis executed his own daughter to preserve his messianic image; he then lost his dignity, his army, his wife, his war, and quite likely his life in return. And Cersei empowered religious fundamentalists to eliminate her rivals, only to become their biggest victim.

I took a big-picture, big-theme look at ‘Game of Thrones’ Season Five for Rolling Stone.

“Game of Thrones” thoughts, Season Five, Episode Ten: “Mother’s Mercy”

Monday, June 15th, 2015

…Each death was written and shot to feel unique, and uniquely awful.

Cersei Lannister’s walk of shame, however, felt even worse.

The Lannister lioness was shaven and shorn (much like another literary lion of note, Aslan from C.S. Lewis’ fantasy-classic Chronicles of Narnia), then forced to march naked through the streets of King’s Landing for a full five minutes of agonizing screen time. For critics of the series who believe that its repeated depiction of misogynistic sexual violence is, if not endorsement, then at least exploitation, Game of Thrones will have done itself no favors by preserving this punishment, drawn straight from Martin’s books. (Certainly, its track record with regards to female nudity is decidedly mixed.)

But too much art that purports to address uncomfortable topics does so by making them comfortable to encounter, leaving audiences feeling good about their own moral choices without ever asking them to confront anything deeper. This is not that kind of art. Terrible though her crimes might be, Cersei deserved this no more than Theon Greyjoy, murderer and traitor though he is, deserved to be tortured and mutilated. But as a male victim of sexualized violence, “Reek” is an exception; females, from the little girls purchased and abused by the late, unlamented Meryn Trant to the Queen Mother herself, are the rule. The gendered epithets hurled at her along rotten vegetables and buckets of shit demonstrate that as a woman, her fate was guaranteed to be worse than if she were a man. You certainly didn’t see her cousin Lancel, with whom she committed the crime, subjected to the same fate. Game showed us the screeching, leering face of patriarchy in all its ugliness and wouldn’t let us look away.

In doing so, it took one of its most unsympathetic characters and, in the space of five minutes, made her a person most of us would have bodily thrown ourselves in front of to protect. By the time the Queen started crying for her loss of basic human dignity, it’s likely viewers were crying too. Great art will do that to you. Maybe it must do that to you.

I reviewed the Game of Thrones season finale for Rolling Stone.

‘Game of Thrones’: Why Knowing Nothing (About the Show) Is Great for Book-Readers

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

Now I get to feel all the nervous anticipation, stomach-churning dread, and jaw-on-the-floor shock everyone else does each Sunday at nine—or that I did, for that matter, every time I sat down to watch new episodes of Breaking Bad or Mad Men or The Sopranos or any other seminal New Golden Age drama you’d care to name. Much has been made of the excesses of spoiler culture, and complaints about the constant demand that not so much as a peep about the plot be uttered in advance of a viewer’s initial encounter with it are thick on the critical ground. But deciding what to reveal and when to reveal it is a core component of narrative fiction, every bit as deliberate and valid an aesthetic choice as the casting or cinematography or score — doubly so for a show that derives as much of its artistic heat from spectacle and shock as Game of Thrones does. Only now that the TV version has jettisoned its rocket-booster books and truly taken off, in other words, are book readers like myself genuinely seeing the show the way it was meant to be seen.

In practical terms, this is nerve-wracking as all hell. I greeted the ominous avalanche that signaled the arrival of the army of the dead with the same what-fresh-hell-is-this bewilderment as Lord Snow. I watched the White Wedding of Sansa and Ramsay with a mounting mix of queasy repulsion and vain hope that the coming catastrophe could be avoided. And by the time poor Princess Shireen took her long walk to a tall stake in the snow after an episode full of foreshadowing and fakeouts, I felt like I was being marched to the flames along with her. On the flipside, I got to witness the big When-Dany-Met-Tyrion moment with its full holy-shit power preserved. This is a show that’s all bass and treble — as Cersei put it, “you win or you die; there is no middle ground” — and I feel like I’m hearing it for the first time.

You know nothing, book readers: I wrote about Game of Thrones going gloriously off-book this season for the New York Observer.

Art, empathy, and Hal’s Emerald Attack Team

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

mramgine asks: Are you familiar with the controversy surrounding what happened with Green Lantern back in the 90s, where Hal Jordan was turned into a supervillain and fans got so pissed that some sent death threats to DC? Why do you think certain creative decisions in media cause such reactions? Are some of these people mentally disturbed or is there some other reason for such behavior?

I have a grand unifying theory here that I’m keeping my powder dry on unless and until I have the time and inclination and monetary offer to flesh it out, but briefly: For a lot of people, experiencing art is less about seeking empathy with others than seeking reinforcement and comfort for oneself. That sounds harshly pejorative, and I suppose it is pejorative, but it’s certainly understandable given the nightmare hellscape we all live in that people look to fiction for amelioration. As such characters are less important in and of themselves – as potential vectors for information and transformation forged in the space between the artist, the artist’s ideas, the communication of those ideas in the art, the art’s reception by the audience, and the audience’s ideas in turn – and more important as reflections of audience desire. Toys, to be blunt. People don’t like when other people break their toys. Factor in geek culture’s chip-on-its-shoulder sense of entitlement and it’s a recipe for trouble.