Alright then. Let it be fear.
Directed by: Miguel Sapochnik
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Emilia Clarke was not kidding when she told us that our TVs were going to explode during Game of Thrones' eighth and final season. If the intensity of "The Long Night" did not leave you enough mental fatigue, then the penultimate episode, "The Bells", might as well put you in intense psychotherapy. At this point, I am probably the only person left on planet Earth that thinks season eight has not at all been a disappointment, which is why I try (and have completely failed) to tune myself out from the harsh, unforgiving communities of Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc. who I think are largely susceptible to being prisoners of the moment, and thus, if an episode is not absolute perfection upon the first viewing, they will all roll up into this unbridled rage and unleash their corrosive words on said episode, as well as on anyone and everyone who doesn't share the same viewpoints as them.
Again, I want to try and not sound like an extreme Game of Thrones apologist who thinks D&D have been perfect writers, and that critics and audiences of the world are wrong for hating season eight. I've seen plenty of analytical, very well thought-out articles (like this one from Forbes' Dani Di Placido) where the writer criticizes something that has happened during season eight, but at the same time, I've seen plenty of thoughtless, anger-induced rants that don't really contribute much of anything to the conversation (my personal favorites include this inexcusably shallow criticism of "The Bells" by USA Today's Kelly Lawler that relies entirely on nitpicking, and this incredibly laughable BGR article that dives way way way too deep into something from "The Last of the Starks" that no decent person would give two shits about). There have been plenty of bumps in the road with the direction, writing, action, etc. ever since season one, and season eight has been no exception to this. Seeing the kind of immense controversy that "The Bells" has generated in the short time span since its initial airing is enough to reinforce my own feelings towards this episode: an extremely powerful Game of Thrones episode that does exactly what it was set out to do: divide us and mess up all our emotions, for better or worse.
I will not try to cut off this review early, because there is a lot that needs discussed, and I'm not going to shirk on anything. "The Bells" features a plethora of character moments, many of which turn out to be the final moments for several of the series' long-running main characters. That being said, the vast majority of this review is going to be dedicated to discussing these character moments, although I'll be sure to say a few extra words for the fiery action that goes down, because HOLY CRAP: this is some of the most gorgeous-looking action that Game of Thrones has ever given us. The question for right now is which character's end do I want to talk about first? I suppose it makes the most sense to talk about the demise of Varys, simply because his death comes first and well before the action goes down at King's Landing.
The episode opens with Varys writing a note, and while we can't quite make out everything that's been written, we only need to see two words to get the point: true heir. Varys has continuously stated throughout the series that his true loyalties lie with the Realm; he serves the Realm and will do anything and everything to ensure its well-being. I think it is completely in line with Varys' character that, upon learning Jon's true heritage, he essentially gives up on supporting Daenerys' claim to the Throne. Varys fully trusts that Jon would be able to keep peace in the Realm and in all of Westeros period, despite the fact that Jon explicitly tells him that he not only doesn't want the Throne, he has pledged his loyalty to Daenerys. Unfortunately for Varys, he gets ratted out by Tyrion, and Daenerys has him executed by dragon fire. This is perhaps the best time for me to mention that nearly every main character death that occurs in "The Bells" has been criticized as rushed and/or completely illogical. It is a bit tough to accept that Varys, a character that has been around since season one, is killed in an episode that thinks his death is the least of its concerns. It reminds me a little of Renly Baratheon's poorly executed death back in "The Ghost of Harrenhal" in season two. At the same time though, I feel that Varys' death makes sense, thematic-wise, with his character: the spider who had a seemingly endless web of knowledge and whose true loyalties were never a given. Varys' death mirrors that of Petyr Baelish's in some ways: someone caught them in the act and executed them for it. I do really like one of Varys' final line: "I hope I deserve this." Varys has accepted his death. Now he is left to wonder if all his scheming and spying was worth it in the end. Did his efforts help the right person end up on the Iron Throne at the end of the day? Was it all for naught? Was he a good man that was willing to make evil choices for the sake of the Realm, or was he just another Petyr Baelish who wasn't as evil just because he didn't want to sit on the Iron Throne? There's certainly a lot of ways to interpret it, but that's what leaves at least a little satisfaction with the way Varys goes out.
At this point, it is a foregone conclusion that Daenerys and her forces are going to attack King's Landing. Tyrion, however, believes he can still stop her from taking thousands of innocent lives. In what is a very heartwarming scene, Tyrion frees Jaime from imprisonment, believing that Jaime can sneak into King's Landing and convince Cersei to surrender. You just know that this is a final goodbye for the two Lannister siblings, especially when Tyrion thanks Jaime for being basically the only one to show him any semblance of kindness and respect, when it seemed like everyone else in the world was out to get him. Even though Tywin's death permanently divided the Lannister family, Tyrion and Jaime have always shared a friendly relationship: one that has been about as trustworthy of a relationship as was the relationship between Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon. The two were able to rekindle their relationship during their time in Winterfell earlier in the season, and despite everything that they've been through over the course of the show's eight seasons, they end their relationship the same way it began: one based on love and respect.
So then, we now jump into the true heart of this episode, and that means we are jumping right into where "The Bells" went completely off the rails for many people. Daenerys and Drogon begin to lay waste to Cersei's army: burning the Iron Fleet, destroying all the scorpion weapons, and blasting a giant hole through the front gates so that Jon and everyone standing out front can charge in. Turns out the Golden Company proved to be of no help at all during this season: Grey Worm easily takes out Harry Strickland, and you're left to wonder why they even bothered to show up in the first place. I mean, Cersei figured she had to fight with more than just her own bannermen and Euron Greyjoy's fleet, but considering how easily Drogon takes everybody out, it does suggest that literally nothing would have changed had the Golden Compay never made an appearance. Not that it really matters. I don't think there was a feasible way for season eight to make The Golden Company play a significant role, even if the season was given a full ten episodes. So anyway, if the action of "The Long Night" was too murky and incomprehensible for you, Miguel Sapochnik is deserving of your forgiveness, because the cinematography and shot selection for scenes of Drogon breathing fire and Daenerys' army raiding King's Landing are some of the most striking visuals that Game of Thrones has ever given us. Every shot looks scrubbed and completely comprehensible, so I don't wanna hear one damn, "it's too dark" complaint.
I should mention that Jaime, Arya, and The Hound are all able to sneak into King's Landing before the siege begins, and we'll get to discussion of all three in good time. Just about everything in the episode appears to be going well up through when the Lannister soldiers throw down their swords, and the city bells begin to ring: signaling the surrender. If the episode ended right then and there, it would have been incredibly anticlimactic: Daenerys takes the city in the blink of an eye, and while no one would get too upset about the episode's chain of events, everyone would watch the end credits thinking, "That's it?" That's when we get the plot twist, and not just any plot twist: but the plot twist: the one that will forever be remembered by many fans and critics as the twist that marked the death of the series as we know it and the twist that, also for many, marked the annihilation of so many years of character development and motivations. Daenerys does not accept the surrender. She takes back to the skies with Drogon and begins to burn the entire city to the ground, taking many innocent lives in the process. This entices her army to continue their assault on the Lannister soliders, despite the fact that they have already surrendered. Daenerys' army even begins to take part in the butchering of the innocent King's Landing civilians.
For many fans and critics, this twist to turn Daenerys into a Mad Queen was the greatest crime of all. It's not the concept itself of Daenerys going mad that people seem of have a problem with. Heck, I think many people are fully on board with the concept. The issue for many people is that Game of Thrones did not take the time to show Daenerys' descent into madness, or at least do enough to imply that she was going mad. Thus, her decision to scorch King's Landing and kill innocent civilians is seen as incredibly abrupt and completely out of character. To a certain extent, I myself agree that Game of Thrones' accelerated pacing over the past two seasons has hindered the ability to effectively suggest that Daenerys was growing mentally unstable. I think everyone would have loved if there were a couple episodes that had scenes of Daenerys sitting by a fire side, talking about how everything has seemingly fallen apart for her, and how this was not what she envisioned when she first came to Westeros. Here was a thought that came to me recently: one thing I think that would have really boosted season seven is if Daenerys sent people out through Westeros to represent her, to have them speak to the common people and try to convince them to pledge themselves to Daenerys. Some of the common people would respond by rejecting such an offer, stating how they fear Targaryens and don't want to relive the nightmare that was The Mad King. While this wouldn't make or break Daenerys going mad, I think it would have contributed significantly to the cause.
I would argue though, that Daenerys's actions in "The Bells" are not as abrupt as a lot of people are making them out to be, again, going back to that whole "prisoner of the moment" reaction thing I mentioned earlier. There's no doubt that Game of Thrones has done plenty of foreshadowing for Daenerys' assault on King's Landing: her vision of a destroyed Throne Room in the House of the Undying in season two, Maggie the Frog telling a young Cersei that someone younger and more beautiful would cast her down, and Bran having a brief vision of a dragon flying over King's Landing. All of that foreshadowing comes to fruition in this episode.
But Alan! Foreshadowing is not character development! And you're right, it's not. But in my mind, Daenerys' descent into madness began the moment she set foot in Westeros, although there were definitely strong signs during season five, such as publicly executing one of Meereen's slaves and feeding one of the Meereen family leaders to her dragons. Daenerys spent all her time in Essos learning what it took to be a worthy Queen. She promised to end slavery (i.e be the breaker of chains), to eliminate those who hurt and abuse others (burn and crucify slave masters, for example), and how to be receptive to the concerns of those she was serving (all the requests she took from the citizens of Meereen in seasons four and five). For Daenerys, she modeled herself on being kind, merciful, and someone who was capable of performing great works and miracles. Granted, she also showed that she could be ruthless at times, but that's to be expected when she is also the Mother of Dragons. Believing that she was destined to take the Iron Throne, Daenerys sailed to Westeros, convinced that the ideals and strategies she used in Essos would work the same way in Westeros and help propel her to the Throne she so strongly felt she was destined to take.
They didn't work. Daenerys has never had any idea of the kind of cruel and unforgiving country that Westeros is, and so, she was unprepared to deal with what unfolded over the course of season seven and the early parts of season eight. She avoided launching a direct assault on King's Landing, because she figured she could win the Throne without having to resort to, shall we say, unethical means of war, aka, eradicating her enemies and pushing the Westeros civilians back into a life of fear. Her merciful war tactics were rewarded with death and tragic loss: losing the Greyjoy fleet, her allies from Dorne, the support of House Tyrell, and the trust of some of her closest advisors. At the same time, Jon Snow comes along and basically tells her that her quest for the Throne is a waste of time, because an Army of the Dead, something else she has never known about, is coming to kill everyone. After her merciful (not exactly merciful, but you know what I mean) plans to take the Iron Throne failed, she then strikes her enemies with the kind of fear she was always hesitant to give them: the fear of her dragons burning everything to the ground. She annihilates much of the Lannister and Tully army, and executes Randyll and Dickon Tarly when they refuse her last offer for mercy. Tyrion and Varys see it right away: this is not like the Queen they came to love and serve in Essos.
Shortly afterwards, Daenerys sees the Army of the Dead with her own eyes, but she loses one of her dragons in the process: the ultimate shot to the heart for the Mother of Dragons. The war against the Army of the Dead is a war Daenerys never thought she would have to fight, nor is it a war she wants to fight. But she has to, because her possible future as Queen depends on her defeating this ancient enemy. Even with Jon Snow's loyalty on her side, the Northern lords borderline reject Daenerys. An Army of the Dead being on their doorstep doesn't change the fact that, to all of them, Targaryens are untrustworthy. Something I alluded to in my review of "Winterfell" was that Daenerys started to be painted as a villain, and seeing what unfolded in "The Bells", I don't think that was a coincidence. Daenerys gets hit with loss after loss after loss after landing in Westeros. All that build-up, all those promises, all the hope and support she had while travelling and ruling in Essos, it's all ripped apart through endless attrition. Westeros did not embrace Daenerys Targaryen: Westeros hurt her, rejected her, and basically told her that she was never meant to claim the Throne and rule the way she did overseas. Westeros told Daenerys that her life purpose was, and always has been, a lie. After Rhaegal and Missandei are killed, Daenerys can't take it anymore: everything about her Westeros campaign has failed. All she has left is fear. She unleashes that fear, and when she does, Westeros begs for mercy. But it's too late for Westeros now. She tried offering mercy, and Westeros rejected it. To Daenerys, the innocent civilians are no different than Cersei or Euron. They all represent Westeros. How does Daenerys know the commoners are just like those she interacted with so much in Essos? She is done offering second, third, fourth chances. Westeros didn't accept Daenerys for the person she wanted to be, and it broke her. Permanently.
I'll wrap up my thoughts on Daenerys' turn at the very end, cause I still need to get to everything with Jaime, Cersei, Arya, and the Clegane brothers, and this is turning into my longest review ever. So Cleganebowl finally happened: perhaps the only fan "theory" that ended up coming true. It's a gritty and highly satisfying fight sequence. The Hound takes multiple shots at The Mountain, but The Mountain is like a Terminator: can take multiple hits but will still come after you. It's inaccurate to say that D&D have butchered every character arc still going on, because this was exactly the way they needed to bring closure for the Clegane brothers. The Hound knocks his brother and himself through a wall, and the two tumble down to their deaths into a gigantic sea of fire. If you ask me, I thought The Hound won the Cleganebowl and got the perfect revenge on his brother. If it was fire that separated the Clegane brothers and made them hate each other, then it should be fire that ends them both. So what if The Hound took himself out in the process? He had basically nothing else to live for anyway. This was the moment he waited his entire life for, and it ended just the way he wanted: his brother dead. Nothing else matters.
Arya had accompanied the Hound in hopes that she could kill Cersei and finally cross her name off her list, but The Hound easily convinces her that she shouldn't follow a path of revenge like him. Arya then spends the rest of the episode running and avoiding getting killed by dragon fire and falling debris. While it made sense for Arya to go down to King's Landing and try to kill Cersei, the unfortunate thing is that she kind of gets stuck in the crossfires, and ends up serving little to no purpose to the episode other than to run around and avoid getting killed by dragon fire and falling debris. Then again, how could Arya have prepared for Daenerys burning all of King's Landing? Criticisms of plot armor are unsuitable here: at the very least, Arya's presence gives us a horrifying perspective of all the King's Landing citizens, running and hiding while Drogon burns everything to the ground. The alternative choice, Arya getting killed by dragon fire or falling debris, would feel like a total throwaway death and be even worse than having plot armor, mainly because it would be a completely nonsensical way to have her journey come to an end.
Which leads me to the last major event of the episode: another that angered people about as much, if not more, than Daenerys' villain turn. Jaime, after fending off Euron Greyjoy in a fight that many deemed "pointless", finds a distraught Cersei, and the two make their way down to below the Red Keep, where all their escape passages are blocked. The two hold each other in a final embrace, and the Keep collapses on top of them. I can't remember if I stated this in one of my previous reviews, but there was no villain character I hated more in Game of Thrones than Cersei Lannister: the way she was almost always able to get away with scheming, plotting, and betraying others. I should've been irate that she didn't die in some fiery, bloody fashion. The first time I watched through Game of Thrones, her eventual death was one thing I was most wanting to see, but after re-watching the first seven seasons, leading up to season eight's premiere, I wasn't able to watch her with the same bitter hatred as I did the first time around, mostly because I felt I got a better understanding of her motivations, and also because I could now appreciate just how terrific of a job that Lena Headey had done of playing Cersei over the years. The "death by bricks" phrase that people on the Internet have taken up is an incredibly silly and immature way of viewing how Cersei dies, though it has inspired plenty of hilarious memes. When I watched "The Bells" for the first time, I was, admittedly, a bit stumped trying to understand why this was the final moment for Jaime and Cersei Lannister: the two wrapped in a tight embrace, as the world collapses around them. I wholeheartedly agree that D&D could have done a better job of executing the end of Jaime Lannister's story. It's very confusing to think about why Jaime went through such an uplifting redemption arc over several seasons, only to have it end by having him abandon Brienne and go back to die with Cersei, despite the fact that he abandoned Cersei at the end of season seven. But after thinking it over some more, it started to make more sense, though I would agree that season eight being a full ten episodes would have benefited the end of several character arcs even more.
It's incorrect to say that Jaime Lannister's story has been a "bad guy gone good" redemption story, though a lot of it certainly fits into that description. Ever since season one, Jaime has always been a morally complicated character: smug and a bit condescending, but also a man who wouldn't commit any heinous crime without feeling he had a good, legitimate reason for doing so. When that smugness eventually went too far and cost Jaime his sword hand, it forced him to reevaluate everything about himself, and it led to him growing more sympathetic in how he treated his friends and family, and more honorable in how he treated his enemies. Through it all though, there was one constant: his incestuous love for his sister. Even with his newfound honor and sympathy, Jaime stuck with Cersei and never let himself fall out of love with her, because he felt that the two were meant to spend their lives together: they entered the world together, and they should leave the world together. It wasn't until the end of season seven when he finally came to fully see his sister for the hateful, backstabbing woman that she is, and he wasn't going to let even her stop him from fulfilling the promise he made to fight for the living.
After The Night King and the Army of the Dead are defeated and having his promise fulfilled, it seemed as if Jaime would go on to live happily ever after, but anyone with half a brain watching Game of Thrones knows that happily ever after is not allowed. Jaime is all smiles during "The Last of the Starks", and upon hearing that Brienne is a virgin, he decides to sleep with her, figuring that the two have grown close enough over the years that he is the one who can give her that happy moment. But then Jaime hears the news about Cersei killing Rhaegal, and that the remaining forces from the North are marching down to King's Landing. Jaime feels he has to leave and return to Cersei. Not because he suddenly hates Brienne or because he wants to help Cersei prevail. Jaime knows that Cersei and her army won't survive. He returns to her because he knows he is permanently tied to Cersei. His whole life has been about being with her and stopping anyone who prevents them from being together. Jaime did say during season five that he wanted to die in the arms of the woman he loved.
Many people were convinced though, heading into season eight, that Jaime would end up being the one to kill Cersei, most likely by choking her to death and fulfilling the Valonqar Prophecy (something the show has never alluded to, by the way). To believe that Jaime's character arc could only be fulfilled by having him kill Cersei is overlooking one simple thing: his motivation. What would have suddenly convinced Jaime that he should kill his sister, the woman he's loved his entire life and the woman he's done so much for over his lifetime? Would he kill her just because she stabbed Jon and Daenerys, her sworn enemies, in the back? Last I checked, Jaime was fighting alongside Cersei for just about all of season seven. Jaime has seen that his sister is cruel and has committed unforgivable acts like blowing up the Sept of Baelor, but Jaime knows that he too has committed unforgivable acts, even if those acts were a long time ago and well before he started to redeem himself. To say that Jaime essentially gave up and decided that he could not be a better man I think is not diving deep enough into it: Jaime knows he is a better man. He acknowledged how much he has changed to Bran during "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms". No matter how much Jaime has changed and no matter how much he has redeemed himself, he can't break free of the one thing that has been part of him since the day he was born: his love for Cersei. Even if Jaime had decided to stay in the North and live a new life, there would be this empty hole in his heart that could never be filled. Is that the bittersweet ending we want for Jaime? Was his story always about him finding a way to finally break free of his sister? Was his lifelong love for Cersei just a disease that he needed to cure? I think George R.R. Martin had always envisioned that Jaime Lannister's story would end with Cersei Lannister's story. The way that Jaime and Cersei's story comes to an end is what we could call a bittersweet tragedy: Jaime ends his story the way it began, with the woman he loves, but he doesn't die thinking he lived a life of lies and hatred. He dies knowing that he transcended the smugness, the lies, and the hatred, even if it meant that the journey would lead him back to where it all started: with the hateful woman he's loved his entire life.
One episode of Game of Thrones remains, and "The Bells" leaves us with a flurry of questions, the biggest of all being how will this story come to an end? What was all this fighting for in the end? How will the characters that are still alive have their stories come to an end? The actions of Daenerys sparked so much outrage and prompted further questions about what Game of Thrones has been trying to tell us all along. Is Game of Thrones going to be remembered as a series of almost nothing but empty nihilism? Have David Benioff & D.B. Weiss truly strayed away from George R.R. Martin's original vision, or have they been delivering us a heartfelt message all along, and we simply are not looking hard enough at what this series has been all about? Is Game of Thrones a cynical outlook on the human soul, about how darkness and hatred has consumed humanity and defined so much of its history? Or is it an analysis of how humanity always finds a way to emerge from that darkness, because there always will be a better tomorrow?
Daenerys Targaryen's burning of King's Landing in "The Bells" was met with harsh criticism, as angry fans and critics remarked that the decision to kill thousands of innocent people went completely against her character and was completely unearned. Part of Daenerys' character was how she sympathized with the innocent and went out of her way to show them mercy and kindness. How does Daenerys know though, that the innocent people of Westeros are like the innocent people of Essos? How does she know the people of Westeros are innocent at all? Now, would season eight have benefited from more episodes and thus, more time to show Daenerys becoming like her father, the Mad King? Absolutely. Are these harsh criticisms of her villainous turn warranted? Of course they are. My goal here in this review though, is to not simply side along with all the criticism and come here and dismiss this episode as a total disaster, because I hope to offer a viewpoint that perhaps others may not have considered, as I think multiples viewpoints, not just hateful ones, can enhance our overall appreciation of watching Game of Thrones. Of course, my own opinion is no better or worse that someone else's, and if you've already dismissed this review as total nonsense, well, thanks for reading. Many criticisms of season eight are perfectly valid and very well-constructed, while others have been extremely petty and embarrassingly shallow (looking at you, USA Today's Kelly Lawler and BGR's Chris Smith).
I praise "The Bells" not solely because of its technical prowess nor its risky plot twist with a character that has been so beloved since the very beginning of the series. I hold "The Bells" in high regard for what it triggered, even if a lot of what it has triggered has been negative and hateful. The controversy surrounding this episode has stirred up so much commotion and conversation about where this final season is heading and what it means for Game of Thrones overall. Many considered "The Bells" to be a terrible episode that made many wrong decisions. Others praised it for making those same decisions. Either way, it's a type of power that Game of Thrones proved that it's capable of unleashing, something that so few other television shows of late have been able to do. All the pressure now is on the series finale to bring closure to this series and give us one final say on what we've been watching this whole time. If you're optimistic about the finale, super. If you're already convinced the finale will be a disappointment, well, I can't stop you. No matter how Game of Thrones' final episode will be remembered, we should never forget how much we loved the journey we went on along the way. No amount of dragon fire should ever, EVER change that.
I wanna be the very best, like no video game adaptation ever was
Pokemon Detective Pikachu is directed by Rob Letterman and is based on the Pokemon franchise and the 2016 video game Detective Pikachu. The movie stars Ryan Reynolds as the voice and facial motion capture of the titular Pikachu, with Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Suki Waterhouse, Ken Watanabe, and Bill Nighy in live-action roles.
The Pokemon franchise was an integral part of my childhood: hours upon hours of playing all the different Pokemon video games, collecting as many Pokemon trading cards as possible, and talking with other close friends who shared the same love and excitement for Pokemon as I did. Yes, indeed: Pokemon was, and still is to this day to some extent, one of the greatest joys my young life has had, so how in the world could I not be excited to see the first real, live-action take on the franchise that has been so world-renowned for almost 25 years? Well, to tell you the truth: I wasn't sure how to feel at first when I saw that Warner Bros. and The Pokemon Company were going to give us our first live-action Pokemon film in 2019. On one hand, I was thrilled that the Pokemon franchise would not settle for the incredibly insular approach that hampered basically all their anime Pokemon films. Y'know, the ones that are like, "Oh? You're not a fan of the show? Well too bad, 'cause we're not gonna take the time to explain what a Pokemon is or who any of these people are!" On the other hand, I was a tad worried because, for many years, I never thought that Pokemon was something that could be pulled off in live-action. Of course, since anything that was ever a popular thing must get a live-action movie nowadays (this November's Sonic the Hedgehog looking to be another momentous low in the history of cinema, and the history of humanity in general), it should have started creeping more into my mind that a live-action Pokemon film was inevitable.
After seeing the film, my exact feelings are...I still don't know. The film did not blow me away and strike my childhood nostalgia in a way that made me want to find an old GameBoy console and start playing Pokemon Red and Blue versions again. At the same time, I thought the film was a reasonable first step in what is likely to be a series of live-action Pokemon films (a sequel to Detective Pikachu is already in the works). One thing I think we can all be happy with though is that Pokemon Detective Pikachu has risen up as the Lord and Savior of the video game movie genre: maligned for years as a toxic, cinematic wasteland and home to some of the worst films to ever grace the silver screen. Finally, the curse has been broken: we have ourselves a good video game movie, and all it took apparently was strong box office results and a decent critical score on Rotten Tomatoes. And while Detective Pikachu can't just wave a magic wand and eliminate any future video game movie flops, it does the heart some good to finally see something succeed after watching it fall flat on its face time and time again.
So then, since Detective Pikachu is not at all like those narrow-minded anime Pokemon films, that must mean that the movie is going to take time to give you an elaborate explanation of what a Pokemon is and how they interact with people, right? Well, unfortunately, no, but you really don't need to have much knowledge of Pokemon to understand the basic plot: in the world of Pokemon, depressed 21-year old Tim Goodman (Smith) receives word that his father, Harry. has died in a car accident. Goodman travels to Ryme City, a bustling metropolis where people and Pokemon live in harmony, to learn the details of Harry's death and to collect the remaining valuables from Harry's Ryme City apartment. In the apartment, Goodman comes across a Pikachu (Reynolds) that is capable of speaking to humans. Actually, that's not quite true: Goodman is the only one who can understand the Pikachu, and thus, the two quickly develop a bond. The Pikachu reveals himself to be a detective who worked alongside Harry, and that the two were working on a case together, when Harry disappeared. Pikachu is also suffering from amnesia, but he is convinced that Harry is still alive, and that a secret plot is in the works: a plot that could threaten people and Pokemon alike. Tim and Pikachu later team up with Ryme City columnist intern Lucy Stevens (Newton) and her trusty Pokemon, Psyduck, as they begin to uncover more clues about where Harry could be and what this secret Ryme City plot is all about.
Pokemon Detective Pikachu largely ignores the Pokemon franchise's two most famous assets: catching Pokemon and using them to fight in battle. While many fans are reasonably upset that the movie is largely devoid of the two things that made people fall in love with Pokemon in the first place, I think the movie still works perfectly fine without either. For one, it saves screenwriters Dani Hernandez, Benji Samit, Letterman, and Derek Connolly a lot of time when it comes to explaining what Pokemon are and why all this catching and battling matters. By adjusting the plot in a way that more-so resembles a mystery in the style of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, audiences everywhere can accept Pokemon as cute, cuddly creatures that exist in the same world as humans, but also understand that they're there because they matter to the plot and its overarching message. The more I think about, the more I feel like Detective Pikachu mirrors a lot of Who Framed Roger Rabbit: something I'm not sure I should find completely charming or somewhat disappointing.
- We all knew Ryan Reynolds voicing Pikachu was going to be the best part of the movie well before its release, and that's exactly what turns out to be true. Reynolds only has to try a little in order to be charming and funny, but here, it is clear that he is all in with the role, seeking out every opportunity imaginable to turn Pikachu into a witty, hard-to-take-seriously Pokemon that never flirts with being annoying. It is completely fair to think of Reynolds' performance as, "He's Deadpool, except without any of the swearing", and what I've always loved about Reynolds' style of humor is not only his impeccable timing, but also that he gets when the joke has reached its maximum potential and doesn't need to go on any longer. Every joke and one-liner from Pikachu feels fresh, and is delivered with such enthusiastic aplomb from Reynolds that it prevents anything else in the movie from putting you in a bad mood.
- It was a struggle for me years ago to think about what Pokemon would look like in live-action, but what I can say now is that the CGI artists and whoever else was involved in the design of Pikachu absolutely nailed it. It is impossible to resist how adorable Pikachu looks: big, doe eyes that look like they could melt any ice-cold heart. Fluffy yellow fur that is smooth and fluid. The design goes so well with Reynolds' voice that the movie is almost worth seeing purely to watch Ryan Reynolds' voice coming out of the mouth of such an expertly crafted Pokemon design, and you sit there in amazement knowing how much it works.
- I wish I could say equally as nice of things to say about all the other Pokemon designs, but, alas, I cannot. While none of the other Pokemon are (thankfully) not scary-looking enough to be nightmare fuel, many are disappointing in that they look rather sloppily put together. Ludicolo, the duck-like Pokemon serving drinks in the bar that Tim and Pikachu go to, looks like an art student's haphazard attempt at creating a sculpture of Cousin It. Charizard, the fire-breathing Pokemon that Pikachu gets into a battle with, looks more like someone in a dirty rubber suit than a menacing lizard creature that can breathe fire. Some of the other Pokemon look perfectly fine, but it's disappointing to see some very recognizable Pokemon not get the same love of craft as Pikachu does. Then again, Pikachu has been the most famous Pokemon ever since the video game series and the TV anime began, so why should anyone be surprised?
- The plot is definitely something that is a bit tough to get your head around. Did I say that Detective Pikachu largely resembles Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Well, for the most part it does, but the plot also combines ingredients from Who Framed Roger Rabbit with ingredients from Zootopia, specifically in how Detective Pikachu borrows the "predatory nature of animals" bit that fueled so much of Zootopia's plot. That being said, the low point is that Detective Pikachu's plot feels largely unoriginal and without a whole lot of creativity, and that's a bummer because I think there is a lot of potential for creativity and thought-provoking story beats in a live-action world of people and Pokemon. How could there not be when there's over 800 (and counting) different kinds of Pokemon? Maybe the sequel(s) will find a way to tap into this creativity. If they can get the right group of CGI artists together, maybe they get the right group of screenwriters together.
I felt obligated to go and see Detective Pikachu right away, even though it is a children's film first and foremost. I've been playing Pokemon and following the franchise for so long that my childhood nostalgia would not let me have it any other way, and I'm glad I was able to leave the theater not at all feeling like I had been offended or betrayed. If Detective Pikachu was going to be yet another clunker in the hapless realm that is the video game movie genre, well, I'm not sure how I would have felt. Detective Pikachu is not a hapless film; it is the first video game movie ever to inspire, dare we say it, hope, for a genre that has never seen anything resembling hope. With Ryan Reynolds' terrific voice work and an equally terrific CGI design for its titular Pokemon, Detective Pikachu sparkles bright. The sparkles are not as bright, however, in some of the other Pokemon designs and in the plot, the latter of which doesn't fully tap into the creative potential to be had in a world of people and Pokemon. The world of Pokemon is so vast that it's next to near impossible to see it all in one movie. Future live-action Pokemon films are sure to follow though, so I'm sure there will be more to see whenever those films come out. For right now though, Pokemon superfans and the video game movie genre should be happy. For Pokemon superfans, Warner Bros. and The Pokemon Company found a way to successfully bring Pokemon to the world of live-action. For the video game genre, Detective Pikachu could mean that better days are ahead.
Recommend? Yes. I'd say this movie is a must-see of you love and adore Pokemon.
We may have defeated them, but we still have us to contend with.
Directed by: David Nutter
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
It has been a sort of eye-opening kind of week for me, in between episodes three and four of Game of Thrones' eighth and final season. Unfortunately, it was not the kind of eye-opening experience I was hoping to have, nor was it one I thought I would end up feeling the urge to bring up in one of these episode reviews of mine. I touched upon it lightly in my review of "The Long Night" and in some other, past reviews, but now, it's just gotten out of control.
Four episodes into season eight, and the overly demanding and quick-to-complain people of Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Youtube, etc. have already declared season eight a colossal disappointment and an utter catastrophe in terms of plot and writing. It's a fact of human nature that you cannot satisfy everyone, and D&D went into the production of season eight knowing full well that however they decided to end the show, there would be angry, unhappy people that would completely disagree with the way the series would come to an end. I can already picture it: after the final episode airs on May 19th, thousands upon thousands of angry people and critics will flock to social media and berate D&D for completely ruining Game of Thrones and giving the show such an unsatisfying, disappointing finale. I suppose it's too much to ask to simply enjoy the show for what it is now, no matter how much it's changed since the early days when Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon were talking about The Hand of the King. I suppose now we're automatically supposed to assume that all the character motivations are backwards, all the twists and turns are nonsensical, and everything that happens plot-wise is rushed and without one single good thing to be had.
It is a lazy form of criticism to nitpick everything at the cost of analyzing the big picture of what a movie or an episode of television is trying to say, and while I've done my fair share of nitpicking in several of my own movie reviews and reviews of earlier Game of Thrones' episodes, I try not to do so without weighing the nitpicks against whatever strengths that said movie or television episode may have. Where I'm going with this is that to dismiss "The Last of the Starks" as a bad episode purely based on the following details is, well, not seeing the big picture:
- Jon not petting Ghost and saying goodbye before leaving Winterfell.
- Bronn sneaking into Winterfell to confront Jaime and Tyrion.
- Euron Greyjoy and the Iron Fleet launching a successful surprise attack on Daenerys and her fleet.
- The secret of Jon's heritage spreading like wildfire after Jon tells it to Sansa and Arya.
- A Starbucks coffee cup being spotted on a table during the great feast in Winterfell.
The wild reactions I've seen from people regarding the coffee cup goof really amazes me. IT'S A FREAKING COFFEE CUP THAT HAS ABSOLUTELY NO BEARINGS ON THE PLOT! I'm fully on board with all the memes that the cup has inspired, but let's not act like Game of Thrones is the only television series to ever have goofs.
At this point, I have said basically nothing about the episode itself, so I should probably jump into the actual review part of the review: "The Last of the Starks" will most likely go on to be the worst episode of season eight, but that's not to say that the episode doesn't have several redeeming qualities, no matter how much it may seem like set-up for the grand finale. David Nutter and company do a fabulous job of ramping up the tension for the final two episodes, while at the same time, recapturing a lot of what made people fall in love with Game of Thrones in the first place: surprise character deaths and intriguing political discussions, to be specific. The plot armor critique ought to be dead and buried at this point, so let's not try to bring it up again. Where "The Last of the Starks" does fall a bit short though is in the department of pacing, particularly in how it takes a little while for the episode to really rev into motion.
Following a mournful funeral scene, Winterfell holds a fun-filled feast to celebrate the defeat of the Army of the Dead, with lots of cheering, laughing, and drinking. The happiness of this scene goes on a little longer than necessary: a lot of this feast is comprised of casual conversations that, for the most part, don't really seem to be moving the plot along in the right direction. The best conversation comes between The Hound and Sansa, with Sansa remarking how all the pain and suffering she endured over the years changed her from the "little bird" she once was. It's cool that The Hound is the one who gets to hear this: The Hound has always been a tough-as-nails character who has lasted this long partially because he's good at fighting and understands that Westeros is a dog eat dog world. While Sansa has not become a fierce fighter like Arya has, she has come to understand the way Westeros works, just like The Hound does, and that she is now capable of finding ways to deal with the remaining monsters of Westeros.
This conversation has sparked a ton of controversy, primarily because the dialogue has been perceived as D&D being sexist and using rape as a tool for female empowerment. It's true that Game of Thrones has struggled at times to treat women in a positive light, but to immediately brush off this scene as outrageous sexism is- here I go again- missing the big picture. To start with, who in their right mind honestly believes that D&D sat down to write the scripts, thinking to themselves, "We hate women and we're going to show everyone how so in episode four." Also, why is this controversy purely revolved around Sansa's rape at the hands of Ramsay Bolton, when earlier, she experienced plenty of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of Joffrey? There is not one word in the dialogue from Sansa that implies she was ever happy to go through those experiences. More so, Sansa is implying that being with Littlefinger, Ramsay, and Joffrey simply changed her, in that she learned the hard way how things work in Westeros, and later learned how she could live with such monsters and find ways to fight back against them. Now that's she back home safe in Winterfell, Sansa wants to protect her family and those closest to her because she doesn't want them to ever go through the same kind of experiences she did. Of course being abused by Joffrey and Ramsay are scars of Sansa's that will never heal, and not anything that she should feel proud of. What D&D are really trying to get at is that the "little bird" Sansa from seasons past had no idea of the kinds of horrors that ruled over the Seven Kingdoms, but now seven/eight seasons later, she is fully aware of what terrors lurk outside of her home, and she has changed enough to know how to never let such terrors harm her again. It's really one single line of a three minute conversation that's getting blown out of proportion here (and honestly, it's getting blown up as a radical left-wing argument). Sansa is giving us a summarized viewpoint of her entire Game of Thrones' journey, and it's silly to think that she was never allowed to reflect on her traumatic experiences and think what she could do to get out of such a cycle of chaos.
So, moving on then: it certainly doesn't seem like there could be any tension or drama made out of this happy moment for so many characters, but David Nutter expertly finds ways to wring out several drops of uneasiness, most notably in the way Daenerys watches Jon get all the love from the wildlings and others. Daenerys is shot as if she is like someone lost in the background, with the likes of Jon, Tormund, and others at the forefront of the frame. It's an effective camera trick to reinforce the idea that Daenerys is not welcome in the North, and no matter how much she contributed to winning the Great War, she is still viewed as a dangerous outsider. Daenerys loses her grip on so much by the end of the episode, that all signs are pointing towards her going on a fiery rampage that would likely transform her into The Mad Queen. I am all for Game of Thrones going for this angle the rest of the way, because I think that would bring about a lot of rich (and, sadly, controversial) story telling. For the time being, Daenerys and her party agree that avoiding bloodshed is the right maneuver, and this leads us to another heavily scrutinized scene, one that has had entire articles dedicated to criticizing the scene as completely nonsensical. While riding with her dragons on the way to King's Landing, Euron Greyjoy's fleet launches a surprise attack. They kill Rhaegal (oh no!) and make swiss cheese out of Daenerys' fleet.
I have seen almost universally negative reception for this scene, with the majority of criticism revolving around Daenerys not spotting Euron's fleet right away and not ever trying to attack the fleet from behind. I love how this criticism largely ignores what we saw minutes earlier: Daenerys and her entourage agreeing that a direct attack on King's Landing is not the right move. It would have been a worse writing decision had Daenerys and everyone just said, "Screw it. Let's just go attack Cersei and her army without any sort of plan." Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister, Sansa Stark, and others have always tried to embody strong morals and a sense of honor. What sense would it make for all of them to suddenly go against their noble ideals and not at least try to pressure Cersei into surrendering, even if it meant Cersei would give them an emphatic no? Ever since season one, characters in Game of Thrones have suffered terrible consequences for making the wrong choice. Ned Stark tried to avoid bloodshed when he went to have Joffrey and Cersei arrested, and we all know how that turned out. The plan for Daenerys and her army trying to pressure Cersei into surrendering is their last hope in regards to resolving their matters with Cersei without resorting to widespread death and destruction. The consequences for making this decision is the death of Rhaegal and the capture and death of Missandei, and seeing the anger swell up in Daenerys' face by the end of the episode is enough to tell us that peaceful negotiations are over.
I try to be as much of a Game of Thrones' optimist as can be, but I clearly feel like I'm in the minority when I try to come out and make a case for there being some semblance of logic behind the Euron attack scene. One scene I will not try to make a similar case for is the bittersweet Jon and Ghost goodbye. Ghost must have been a fan favorite character all along, if Jon not petting him goodbye was enough to spark dozens of memes, articles, and videos about how outraged people were. I've always felt like Jon and Ghost have had an on and off relationship, so the farewell between the two really just seems like a footnote when it comes to everything that season eight entails. I do wish though that Jon would have at least verbally said goodbye to Ghost or even go up to pet him, because who doesn't love a happy moment between a boy and his dog/direwolf?
We should be wrapping things up by now, so the last thing I will get into is how the news of Jon's real heritage spreads like wildfire. Sansa doesn't even try to keep it a secret after Jon and Bran tell her and Arya who Jon really is. Sansa (offscreen) tells Tyrion, and Tyrion (offscreen) tells Varys. I do really like the conversations between Tyrion and Varys in this episode: they start to question their own loyalty to Daenerys and have intriguing back and forth talk about the possibility that Jon would be the better ruler. It's tough to see Tyrion struggle to find some reasoning for why he wants to stay by Daenerys' side; he knows that what Varys tells him is true, and that Daenerys' potentially unstable state of mind could mean the lives of so many innocent people. It's as if Tyrion is trying to save the sinking ship that is Daenerys' claim to the Iron Throne, but no matter what he says, Tyrion knows deep down that what Varys is telling him is right, and that he maybe should entertain the possibility of Jon being the one who should sit on the Throne. As for Sansa not keeping Jon's heritage a secret, I don't think we can blame her too much for not being able to keep it a secret. Westeros has been fighting non-stop for years: Sansa is desperate for peace and harmony. She wants to go to bed each night knowing that she doesn't need to worry about who is sitting on the throne down in King's Landing. At long last, there is someone who not only has a legitimate claim to the Iron Throne, they are someone who is very fit to rule, no matter how much they don't want to rule. For Sansa, getting Jon to sit on the Iron Throne is finally the way to a peaceful and honorable Westeros, even if it means breaking a promise she made to him.
I feel bad cutting off this review now, because there is definitely a lot more that I could get into, like Arya turning down Gendry's proposal (very much in character for Arya, I think), and Jaime and Brienne having sex with each other (another scene I give praise to). Intimate moments certainly play a big part in "The Last of the Starks", but they all add up to assure us that nearly all these surviving characters are going down a path full of sadness, anger, and regret. Plus, after everything that Cersei does to Daenerys by the end of the episode's 78 minutes, we can be sure that these final two episodes will be filled to the brim with fire, blood, and death.
It does sadden me a bit inside to all the angry, hateful responses that many people have for season eight. No one is wrong in saying they hate this season, nor is anyone wrong for having criticisms for things such as D&D's writing. My issue is in how so much hate has seemingly drowned out any and all compliments and praise that people like myself may have about season eight. I have highly enjoyed the way this season is turning out, and I for one am very excited to see what will transpire in these final two episodes. For this Game of Thrones fan here writing this review, it's about trying to see the possible good in all the choices that the show-runners make, no matter how much others perceive those choices as stupid or lazy. Screenwriting is hard. Writing, in general, is hard. David Benioff & D.B. Weiss fully understand that they cannot satisfy everyone, and that they will be criticized, no matter how they would have written this final season. I'm sure George R.R. Martin has not gone without receiving any criticism himself for the way he wrote his A Song if Ice and Fire novels. "The Last of the Starks" is not a perfect episode by any stretch of the imagination: the pacing is a bit problematic, and many of the scenes are susceptible to heated criticism. Despite this, the episode still features plenty of interesting political debate and heart-wrenching character moments, and what it does best of all is crank up the tension for what will happen next episode, which Emilia Clarke has teased as something you should see on the biggest TV you can find. I am fully confident that episode five will be can't-miss TV, and no amount of negative reviews or Starbucks coffee cup memes will convince me otherwise.
Did you do it? Yes. What did it cost? Everything.
Avengers: Endgame is directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo and is the 22nd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It features an ensemble cast, many of which are returning to reprise their long-running roles in the MCU: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper, and Josh Brolin.
The months of overwhelming hype and the early (and also overwhelming) box office results of Avengers: Endgame has shaped up this 22nd installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be a historic landmark in cinematic history. In the days of Christopher Reeves' Superman and Tim Burton's Batman, I don't think anyone could have imagined that superheroes would one day become box office titans with worldwide popularity and the capability of drawing the kind of crowds that no film honored with the most prestigious of Academy Awards could ever dream of. As of the date of this review, Avengers: Endgame has already crossed the billion dollar mark at the box office, and is looking like it has a real good chance at dethroning James Cameron's Avatar for highest grossing film of all time. This has been a moment that Marvel has spent more than ten years building up to, and while 2018's Infinity War delivered the excitement of finally seeing all of our beloved Marvel superheroes coming together to fight a common enemy, Endgame, by its very title, promises that this is something of a final chapter in the MCU's original run. No, it's not the end of the MCU, period. Why in the hell would Disney and Marvel shut down what has been one of the most profitable media franchises in history? What I'm saying is that Endgame marks the final time that we will get to see the Marvel superhero team we've been so familiar with: the Avengers team that a lot of younger fans have grown up with over the past ten, eleven years.
Giving away spoilers for Endgame is like breaking one of the Ten Commandments: thou shall not spoil Endgame or else thou will suffer the wrath of the Superhero God. Typically, demanding people to not give away spoilers is a dead giveaway that someone of significance is going to die, and/or that the movie has some wild plot twists. I myself will respect the wishes of Marvel and those closest to the movie to not give away crucial spoilers, but I've always made it something of an unofficial rule on this blog of mine to never ever give away major spoilers, because wouldn't that defeat much of the purpose of watching a good film in the first place? I suppose I find myself in the minority in saying that I was not blown away by Endgame, not because I found the movie to be bad: this movie is very very far from being bad. The main reason I was not blown away by Endgame was because, at the end of the day, it felt like another fully functional Marvel movie: one with plenty of colorful action, humor, and entertainment value. That formula has been working wonderfully for the MCU for more than a decade now, but for this movie, it needed to be something more than that. There needed to be that special perk, that special, stand-out quality that would make Endgame transcend into something more than just a superhero movie that happens to be three hours long. Yes, there is a lot more emotional weight than many of the MCU's previous installments. The problem is that extra emotional weight was to be expected, so you go through the whole movie worrying in the back of your mind who is going to make it out okay.
Only half of the universe made it out okay following the end of Infinity War: Thanos succeeded in acquiring all six Infinity Stones and used them to snap his fingers and wipe out half of all living creatures. The remaining Avengers- Tony Stark, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Rocket, and Nebula- are in shambles: all their friends and family are gone and they have no idea where Thanos is. Three weeks following Thanos' snap, Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel finds Tony Stark and Nebula drifting through space, taking their ship back to Earth where Stark reunites with the other Avengers and Danvers formally introduces herself. Danvers helps the Avengers locate Thanos, but they discover that the Infinity Stones have been destroyed, and thus, there is no way to reverse the damage done.
Five years go by, but the Avengers are still struggling with their grief. However, hope arrives in the form of Scott Lang: Lang escapes from the quantum realm (see the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp) and goes to the Avengers' headquarters to discuss how they might be able to use the quantum realm to travel through time. With the help of Tony Stark's super-sized intelligence, the Avengers are able to formulate a plan to undo Thanos' actions: travel back in time and collect the Infinity Stones, then bring them to the present where they can be used to bring everyone back.
The post-credits scene of Infinity War teased the arrival of Captain Marvel, and, after all the hateful trolls of social media and the Internet declared that Captain Marvel would be a flop (it wasn't), the same hateful trolls went on to declare that Endgame would also be a disappointment (it wasn't) because of Captain Marvel's presence. For all those people worrying that Endgame would come down to a fight between Thanos and Captain Marvel, they will be genuinely surprised to find out that Captain Marvel is hardly in the movie at all. I think the Russo brothers have always intended Endgame to be the ultimate love letter to the MCU fanbase, and that's why the vast majority of the movie is dedicated to seeing all the original Avengers in action together: a swan song before this team-up of superheroes, that has been entertaining us for years, permanently separates. Captain Marvel is still very raw to the MCU, and the Russo's understand that it wouldn't feel right to have her be the ultimate savior against the enemy that brought all the MCU's other superheroes together.
- Endgame truly soars during its quieter, dialogue-driven scenes where the surviving Avengers contemplate what their lives are like now and how different things would be if all their friends and family were still around. The end of Infinity War put the Avengers at their lowest: a moment of crushing defeat that shook them to their core and seemingly deprived them of a life purpose. It's not too often that a Marvel movie dedicates this much time towards exploring the vulnerable, human side of at least one of its superheroes, and the great thing to see here is the similarities of what each Avenger has been fighting for: the safety and well-being of a family and/or loved one. Watching the Avengers go through their emotional crisis is a long, drawn-out process that makes the end of Infinity War feel all the more effective, and not like a temporary setback that can be resolved in a matter of minutes. Of course the action picks up considerably in the second half of the movie, but the Russos take their time in getting to the action, and every minute spent beforehand is well worth it.
- Time travel is one of the most fragile premises for a movie: one or two wrong decisions, and the entire movie stops making sense. Luckily, Endgame's story remains relatively stable throughout, despite all the time hopping that the characters do throughout the film. The movie is careful to not play the, "make bad decisions in the past that will have dire consequences in the present" angle too much, although a few plot holes of this nature do still exist by the end of the movie. Regardless, the movie is very self-aware of how the time travelling part of the story is very similar to that of Back to the Future II, so it's not all "serious business" even when the time travel and the action start to heat up. Considering how many characters and periods of time are involved, Endgame impressively handles everything.
- For a Marvel movie that is a farewell tribute to the original Avengers and a changing of the guard for the MCU as a whole, it is frustrating that Endgame is content with doing more of the same as many other MCU films, mostly when it comes to its action and humor. Again, my biggest frustration with many of Marvel's early MCU films was the style of humor they employed: the characters would pause the movie altogether so that they could tell jokes and other one-liners. Endgame has that same brand of humor, although not to as bad of an extent as say Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War. As for the action, well, the Russos throw everything they can at the screen when it comes time for the final showdown, but there just isn't the same level of emotional weight as there was in the early parts of the film. In other words, the Avengers lack the same type of vulnerability they showed before, and because of this, the battle feels relatively one-sided, without any moments that, even for all of a few seconds, make you think that Thanos will succeed again. The action is well-choreographed and perfectly coherent. The issue is that it all feels a tad hollow.
Putting it all together, Avengers: Endgame is at its best during its first part, when the survivors are an emotional wreck and spend time contemplating what sort of direction their lives have now. The second part though, sees the movie morph back into a more typical, formulaic MCU film that only feels different from other MCU films because of the way it ends. I am positive that Endgame is a dream come true for the most die-hard Marvel fans: an epic spectacle of entertainment and emotion that serves as a bittersweet goodbye to Marvel's run with the original Avengers. I do not consider myself a die-hard Marvel fan though, and I am sure it's incredibly unpopular for me to say that I like Infinity War more. Infinity War got so much mileage out of the sense of hopelessness that it instilled into its action and its overall story, that it really felt like something we had never seen before in the MCU. Endgame does a fabulous job of following up on the way Infinity War ends, but at the end of the day, Endgame is another MCU film that spends a lot of time in familiar territory, and thus, does not have the widespread grandeur to completely justify its three hour run time and the emotional weight of its ending.
There are now all sorts of questions of where the MCU goes from here, and honestly, I wonder if the MCU will ever be able to reach the level of success they are having with Endgame ever again. Will the Marvel superheroes continue to dominate the box office with each and every new release? Will the MCU ever again reach the kind of stakes that Infinity War and Endgame have? Should Disney and Marvel ever start to worry about superhero fatigue? I don't think 2019 will give us answers to any of these questions, but, long-term, I am curious to see what the state of the MCU will be. For now though, Marvel should be proud of what they've created with the MCU, and how their superheroes, who were at one point in time a borderline laughingstock, have now become a cultural phenomenon. The 21st century Superhero Renaissance truly took off with the release of the first Iron Man back in 2008, and now with Endgame in 2019, nothing will ever feel the same ever again for Marvel and the world of superheroes. All good things must come to an end, and while the MCU as a whole isn't ending anytime soon, there's no denying how tough it is to say farewell to the group of superheroes that many Marvel fans have spent a good portion of their lives growing up with.
Recommend? Yes. Be sure to have watched Infinity War first.
What do we say to the God of death? Not today.
Directed by: Miguel Sapochnik
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
It's the moment that Game of Thrones has been leading up to since day one: the great battle between the Living and the Dead. After seven full seasons of warnings that winter is coming and watching many of the living fight among each other, with no clue of the threat that intends to kill them all, everything comes together in Winterfell for this ultimate showdown. Although the series finale has always been the most anticipated episode of season eight, "The Long Night" -as we now know episode three to be called- had the anticipation of being considerably the longest action sequence ever put to film or television, spread out almost entirely over the course of 82 minutes. In the year and a half long break between seasons seven and eight, D&D and whoever else is in charge of keeping Game of Thrones' biggest story points a secret, took every measure imaginable to ensure that absolutely nothing about season eight would leak out. Something that did come out though were details of a grueling 55-night shooting schedule, with several of the actors remarking what an absolute hell it was: filming the battle in freezing temperatures, dealing with rain, snow, mud, sheep turds, you name it. D&D and everyone involved in season eight's production wanted to be sure that this battle would be something truly special, potentially something that could go down as a historic moment in television history, and they were willing to go whatever extra miles they needed to in order to accomplish that goal.
Before I dive in to all my own thoughts, let me first say that I have seen and read about all the criticisms that "The Long Night" has received: "It was too dark!" "There weren't enough main character deaths!" "The ending was so anticlimactic!" "D&D are horrible writers!" People are entitled to their own opinions and are allowed to believe whatever they want, so it does me no good whatsoever to try and spend this review posing counter-arguments to these complaints. When you've attracted the kind of popularity that Game of Thrones has received over the years, you're going to eventually draw massive crowds of people who prefer to spend their time complaining and whining that they don't get the results they want. But enough about complaints and whining: the mental fatigue that I was feeling over the course of the next 12-18 hours after watching "The Long Night" was enough proof for me to feel fully confident in saying that this episode was exactly everything I had hoped it to be: action that masterfully blended the genres of horror, fantasy, and suspense thriller, multiple character deaths, and a shock ending that is right up there with "Baelor", "The Rains of Castamere", and "The Door" in terms of how unexpected it is. I don't care how many plot armor accusations I read about; the way that "The Long Night" ended left me fully satisfied that Game of Thrones still continues to find new ways to defy expectations. Now with just three episodes remaining, it's a perfect time to remind yourself that no one is safe.
The action doesn't actually begin until around the 15-20 minute point of the episode. Miguel Sapochnik starts the episode with various tracking shots showing us how the Army of the Living is set up: like we're seeing the pieces of one side of the chess board before they all start to get knocked over. What I love here is how we get a more organized picture of who is all fighting in this battle, while further driving home the point of how all these different cultures of people, from all different parts of the world, have come together to fight on the same side. It has felt hopeless in all the previous encounters with the White Walkers, but for the first time, well, ever, the Living have a plan of attack against the Dead, and just for a little bit, Miguel Sapochnik gives us a shrivel of hope that the Living will make it out okay. This hope is slightly intensified when we get the episode's first surprise: the return of Melisandre. Unfortunately, Game of Thrones did not learn its lesson from "Blackwater", in which a spoiler is given by the opening credits. Carice van Houten's name shows up clear as day in the credits, which assures us Melisandre is coming back. Not that it matters too much: Melisandre shows up almost right away, and she sends the Dothraki into battle with swords and sickles ablaze.
At this point, things are feeling a tad more hopeful, because the Dothraki are easily the best fighters among the Living, and now with Melisandre's magic, they might be able to get an early advantage on the Dead and prevent them from advancing on Winterfell. They don't: the Dothraki are swallowed up, and all their flaming swords go out in almost an instant, as if the Living's tiny light of hope is put out. From here, the battle turns into a spectacle of chaotic horror: a stampede of wights overwhelms the Unsullied and others on the front line, and my gosh that first shot of when the wights reach everyone is a thing of horrific beauty: coming at the camera like a devastating tidal wave. This is the only time in the episode though where I would somewhat agree with all those "too dark" complaints, but I say just somewhat agree because those few moments where it's very hard to tell what's going on lasts all but a few seconds. Sapochnik frequently alternates between frantic close-up fighting and wider shots of the wights charging at everyone standing outside the gates, enough that it expertly maintains the pandemonium of the wight army coming at us full force, while maintaining a sense of space and geography for where everyone currently is.
The battle literally lights up moments later when Jon and Daenerys take their dragons and start breathing fire down on all the charging wights, along with Melisandre using her magic to light the trenches and create a ring of fire around Winterfell. Here's where the Night King finally makes an appearance, and yes, I absolutely love what Sapochnik and cinematographer Fabian Wagner do here too: taking us up through the night sky until we reach The Night King on the back of Viserion. The Night King raises his hand as if he's commanding his army down below of what to do, and everything except the Night King's raised hand is put out of focus. Why do I love this shot so much? Because it maintains the dark aura that has been surrounding the Night King ever since the season began: he is the one character we're scared to see, and Sapochnik doesn't want to take away that dark aura just yet.
The wights then start to breach the Winterfell walls, and unfortunately, it's impossible to resist comparisons to World War Z while watching the wights all pile up on each other. The carnage continues into Winterfell, but what's fascinating this time is that now the fighting, with the bright glow of fire in the background, looks like it's something straight out of hell. The characters are in the middle of the fight of their lives, and now they have to fight literally in the one place that's been the safest of havens since the end of season six. Fire, blood, and (literally) death: how can this not be something that spawned from hell? There's just so much to take in and so many emotions flying around, it's pretty overwhelming: The Hound cowering in fear from all the fire and fighting, Arya escaping into the castle where she has to sneak past another group of wights, Theon and company desperately trying to keep Bran safe from wights in the Godswood, and oh yeah, Jon and Daenerys engaging the Night King in a dragon dogfight.
No way in hell was everyone going to make it out of this battle alive. Our final body count includes Eddison Tollett, Beric Dondarrion, Lyanna Mormont, Jorah Mormont, and Theon Greyjoy. It's a disservice to these characters to dismiss their deaths like they mean nothing, especially when the likes of Jorah and Theon have been around since the very first episode. Eddison, Beric, and Lyanna all die noble deaths, but watching Jorah and Theon die is as disheartening as it is enlightening: their stories come to an end the way each hoped their stories would end: Jorah dying while protecting Daenerys from those who want her dead, and Theon getting to hear from Bran that he is a good man and will not have to die feeling he's lived a life of shame and regret. Game of Thrones' most heartbreaking deaths have never been for the pure sake of shock value; they've always served some sort of narrative purpose that becomes perfectly clear either right away or at some point later on. No matter how far the show has progressed past the books, D&D have never lost sight of what many of the characters have set out to do and how their individual stories should come to an end. No, it's not a complete surprise to see Jorah and Theon die the way they do, but there's no denying the payoff of witnessing these characters' journeys finally culminate in what they've been about this whole time. Not every death in Game of Thrones has to be Ned Stark's execution or The Red Wedding. Watching the progression of long-running arcs for characters like Jorah Mormont and Theon Greyjoy's is one of the many places where Game of Thrones finds its magic.
With so many death scenes to be had in "The Long Night", it makes all the sense in the world for D&D to just go for it: find a way to completely defy all audience expectations and leave everyone speechless by the battle's end. This is also a time where D&D are victims of their own success: Game of Thrones being so popular and generating so many theories, that at least one or two people would be able to guess correctly what will ultimately happen. What does end up happening is a move I think very few people saw coming: Arya ends up being the one who kills the Night King. Not Jon. Not Daenerys. Not even Tyrion. Arya Stark vanquishes the Army of the Dead and wins the Great War for the Living. Was I flabbergasted by this decision? Yes. Was I happy that D&D decided to take such a risk? Also yes.
It seemed for so long that Game of Thrones would end with the series fulfilling the Azor Ahai Prophecy: the promised one vanquishing the Darkness once and for all. It made all the sense in the world to think that Jon and Daenerys would unite and bring down the Night King, with presumably either Jon or Daenerys dying to ensure that the other would live and be able to save Westeros from the Long Night. The series finale would involve Jon or Daenerys slaying The Night King and fulfilling the union of ice and fire. Melisandre brought Jon Snow back from the dead in season six, and she spoke of The Prince Who Was Promised early in season seven. It all seemed to be leading to a showdown between Jon and The Night King with Daenerys likely being close by.
In one swift maneuver, D&D threw almost all that prophesying I just did out the window. There will be no Jon Snow and Daenerys uniting to kill the Night King. The closest Jon ever gets to the Night King in this episode is when Rhaegal and Viserion are ripping and clawing at each other in the air, and then again later when Jon starts running towards the Night King while he starts reviving the dead. Daenerys tries to burn The Night King with Drogon's fire, but little good does that end up doing her. When all seems hopeless and like The Night King is about to kill Bran and emerge victorious, Arya Stark emerges like the trained assassin she is and delivers the fatal blow.
It's understandable to feel as if D&D have completely betrayed Jon and Daenerys' coming together and have gone completely against what their respective story lines have been building up to. For Jon specifically, it's like a showdown with the Night King was the moment he had been building up to since the first time we ever saw him. At the same time, Jon killing the Night King would be Game of Thrones building towards what would be the cliched fantasy ending: the "chosen one" fighting and defeating the supernatural villain to save the world and fulfill his destiny. Seeing the angry reactions of critics and other people online, it's as if they all wanted to see the cliched fantasy ending, believing that season eight is not allowed to defy our expectations in any way we hadn't thought up before.
I spent large chunks of many of my own reviews building up the White Walkers as if the show would culminate in the way that almost everyone was expecting. I talked endlessly about how the White Walkers were the real threat and that all the political squabbling going on among the Living was little more than petty nonsense. All that talking I did seemed to have amounted to nothing. I should be frustrated out of my mind that the White Walker story line has come to a shocking end and now the rest of season eight will turn into a battle against Cersei for the Iron Throne. I should be pissed off, but the truth is that I'm not. In fact, I'm very happy. I'm happy to know that Game of Thrones will not end the same cliched way that many other fantasy movies and TV series usually end. I'm happy that Game of Thrones has now created all sorts of new suspense for what will happen over the course of its final three episodes. I'm happy that Game of Thrones' finale will not be a black and white confrontation between good and evil; it will be a showdown between characters of multiple shades of grey (put away that fifty shades joke you were thinking of just now). Game of Thrones will end with the the kind of spirit that George R.R. Martin' A Song of Ice and Fire novels have possessed since he first started writing them back in the early to mid 1990's. If D&D had known for at least a few years that Arya would be the one to ultimately kill The Night King, then I have no doubt they've known for a long time how they've wanted this great series to end, which is why I give them my full trust that they will deliver.
I just don't have it in my heart to downgrade "The Long Night" for anything. Miguel Sapochnik, the actors, and everyone else involved in the production worked so hard to make this epic battle happen, and it saddens me that people choose to completely ignore all that work and proceed to call the episode a disappointment because it was too dark in some places and because not enough characters died. Last I checked, there are still three more episodes, and we still need some characters around to continue telling a compelling story. The intense mental exhaustion I was feeling over the next day, day and a half after first watching "The Long Night" - yes, I watched it again the next night, because I loved it that much- was plenty for me to feel that this episode lived up to all the hype and was one of the most thrilling battle sequences I've ever seen in a film or television series. Action, horror, suspense, dragons, undead dragons, blood, death, and a completely unexpected twist: they were all here. It was the complete package for a Game of Thrones episode, and I was mesmerized by every second of it. I'm worn out now, but I'll be ready to go and be super glued to my TV when we find out what happens next. The Army of the Dead is gone, but it doesn't matter: no one is safe, because the great game is still on.
The Rich and the Rest of Us
Robin Hood is directed by Otto Bathurst and stars Taron Egerton, Jaime Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn, Eve Hewson, Tim Minchin, and Jaime Dornan.
It is completely normal nowadays to watch a trailer for an upcoming film and expect the absolute worst. From cringe-worthy dialogue, to unimpressive visual effects, and all the way to a bland explanation of a premise that doesn't sound the least bit interesting, creating convincing and compelling movie trailers has become something of a dying art. I can't say exactly when Hollywood and other filmmakers started losing their touch with getting people excited to go see their films, but it seems like nowadays more than ever, movie trailers are more like an annoyance that you pray gets done with as soon as possible, as opposed to an exciting warm-up before the main feature. That's not to say that bad movie trailers always equate to bad films. Plenty of good films, heck, even some great ones, gave out bad first impressions with mediocre trailers. On the flip side, there have been plenty of promising looking trailers, only for the movie to fall flat on its face.
You're probably wondering why in the world am I talking about good versus bad movie trailers in a review for 2018's Robin Hood. The reason I start with this discussion is because not only is it the only way that I feel comfortable opening up this review; it's because 2018's Robin Hood serves as a prime example of when a movie trailer looks bad (and I mean really bad), and the resulting film is....well, really bad. Is it too arrogant of me to say that I knew this film was going to be a flop from the moment I saw the trailer in theaters some months back? Right from the get go, this looked like another foolish attempt at starting another action-driven medieval film franchise in the same vein as 2017's wretched King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and, wouldn't y'know, Robin Hood tanked at the box office, thus, saving us the displeasure from ever having to sit through multiple of these films. I can at least sort of get what Warner Bros. was going for with King Arthur: the 2004 King Arthur film was not a raging success by any means, and there was plenty of historical King Arthur lore to dig into and make movies out of, so we can say there was at least potential. Robin Hood, on the other hand, got his modern-day film upgrade not even ten years ago with Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott, so that automatically left the 2018 edition with basically nothing new to offer.
The story is about as basic as you can get with the Robin Hood legend: Lord Robin of Loxley (Egerton) is drafted by the greedy, no good Sheriff of Nottingham (Mendelsohn) to fight in the Third Crusades, thus, separating him from the love of his life, Marian (Hewson). Four years later, Robin has grown dissatisfied with the war, and he gets himself sent back to England by trying to prevent the execution of prisoners. After returning to Nottingham, Robin finds out that the Sheriff had declared him dead, and that Marian is now in love with another: the leader of the common people, Will Tillman (Dornan). Before he can show himself to Marian, Robin is greeted by John (Foxx): one of the war prisoners who had stowed away on the ship back to England. John proposes that he and Robin fight together to end the war. How exactly? You guessed it: by stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.
I am no expert whatsoever with all the details surrounding the Robin Hood legend, and even if your own knowledge of this subject matter doesn't transcend past, "Guy who shoots arrows and steals money from rich people", you will quickly realize just what a brainless and ill-fated film we are dealing with here. This is not a Robin Hood character of great moral complexity nor a Robin Hood character who embodies any thought-provoking ideals from the Crusades period; this is a Robin Hood that talks and acts like a 21st century brat who is trying to audition to become Marvel's next big superhero. I think that's one of the best ways to describe what this version of Robin Hood is like: extremely imitative of MCU films, except under the impression that action and one-liners are enough to sell. The most egregious part of this Robin Hood character though is how the movie consistently refers to him as, "The Hood" or just, "Hood", which sounds more like terrible 21st century slang as opposed to an inspirational nickname. I'm probably going to be saying 21st century at least a few more times later on, because, oh man, have we only begun to scratch the surface of all the bone-headed decisions this movie makes...
- Robin Hood fails in many, many, many film-making departments, but luckily, the film avoids ever being straight-up boring: a luxury that King Arthur: Legend of the Sword absolutely did not have. In a movie like this one that's desperate to get to the action as fast as possible, I'm a bit surprised that none of the arrow-firing by Robin or any fighting between the common people and the Sheriff's army ever grew tiresome. A part of it is a morbid fascination in seeing in what ways the action will fail, such as an embarrassing green screen or atrocious-looking CGI. There's quite a bit of both, and there's also a lot of Zack Snyder speed up and slow down bits that made me want to cry and never watch an action film ever again. The truly fascinating thing though is that Otto Bathurst and his crew sometimes come very close to generating a few compelling seconds of action, and those few glimmers of hope are what keep you engaged and optimistic that something good will turn up sooner or later. There's a scene where Robin, John, and Marian are fleeing on horseback from the Sheriff's men, and I will admit that there were a few seconds where I could feel just a little bit of excitement stirring up inside me: the music by composer Joseph Trapanese speeding up the tempo, which coupled extremely well with the sound of running horse hooves. That was it, though: just a few precious seconds of potential. It was sad that the action never upgraded into the category of decent, but at least Robin Hood was flirting with it for a few stretches.
- While I'm still sort of on the subject of the film's action, it is mind-boggling how the action can be so bloodless, like they're so scared to show even just a drop of blood when someone gets hurt or killed. I know it's a PG-13 film and they can't be too graphic with the action, but everything about the action is so sanitized that Robin Hood could warrant just a PG rating. There's nothing else in the movie that would keep an eleven or twelve year old up late at night. How different could this movie be from a PG rated film that contains action of some kind?
- The lack of blood is more of a nitpick and pales in comparison to the other places where Robin Hood really drops the ball, such as the acting. It is kind of amazing that a cast with this many talented people can completely fail to show an ounce of charm or decent acting chops. Taron Egerton and Jaime Foxx aren't necessarily bad: they seem like they're trying, when in reality, they're only doing enough to ensure they can walk away feeling as if they didn't lose one bit of their acting dignity. Ben Mendelsohn is a comedy: a cartoon-y bad guy that shouts a lot and at times sounds like he's cursing under his breath, like Harry from Home Alone. There's nothing intimidating or frightening about him. He's just a big ol' meanie who is incredibly silly and a complete waste of Mendelsohn's talents. Meanwhile, Eve Hewson is impressive with how much she is so not trying: speaking her lines and looking at Taron Egerton with all the enthusiasm of a moldy potato. I'm also impressed by how, for playing a character who's supposed to be basically stricken with poverty, Hewson wears make-up and costumes that make her look like a contest on Miss America. It's an incredibly thankless role for Hewson anyway: Marian is never given the chance to be something more than Robin's love interest, so it's not like Hewson ever had the chance to do anything significant.
- Oh, the costumes. This brings me to the other thing about Robin Hood that drove me up a wall: the glaring and seemingly intentional anachronisms. How in the world can this decision be justified? What sort of artistic or entertainment value is there to be had in having your movie take place during the Crusades era, and yet, people are inexplicably wearing suit jackets, beanie hats, and other outfits that look like they were brought from the clearance section at the thrift store? Is this supposed to be some clever way to complement the 21st century-style action? The anachronisms only serve to distract from everything else that's going on, and it's not like there's any unintentional laughs to be had. This is not the fun kind of absurdity where you gladly accept it and roll with it. This is the kind of absurdity that feels completely out of place and makes no sense whatsoever, thereby never lending itself to anything resembling humor. The very least that Robin Hood could do to address its anachronism issue is to be a bit more self-aware about how ridiculous it is, but no, the film can't even do that much.
I'm thankful that Robin Hood was not ever straight-up boring, because no one wants to waste two full hours on a movie that does a better job of putting you to sleep as opposed to entertaining you. It may come close at times to being a little exciting, but Robin Hood is ultimately an aimless misfire that wastes its decent cast, while being further weighed down by its inexplicable anachronisms and its bloodless action that taps into almost every annoying 21st century action movie technique that refuses to die (screw you, Zack Snyder). I don't care how arrogant this may sound: I knew this movie was going to be bad the first time I saw a trailer for it, and damn it, was I right. Robin Hood was 2018's greatest example of a movie that looked very bad and ended up being very bad. Hopefully now, after the failures of King Arthur and Robin Hood, people will stop with this, "taking fictional medieval legends and turning them into multi-film franchises" BS.
The things we do for love.
Directed by: David Nutter
Written by: Bryan Cogman
It is understandable to be a bit frustrated that, after two episodes of this six episode final season, Game of Thrones has yet to give us any of the bloodshed that was originally promised to us. "Winterfell" was full of heartwarming reunions and several other emotionally investing scenes, with the idea that it would be the last time we would ever get to see our characters be happy and act like they were at least somewhat enjoying each other's company (most of the characters anyway). Of these final six episodes, it's safe to say that episode two was easily the least anticipated, not because no one cared to know what would happen, but because it made the most sense to predict that the episode would be something of a transition period from cheerful, "I'm so happy to see you again" moments to demoralizing, "The dead are here. We're all gonna die." Going from happy reunions in one episode to the most intense battle ever fought in Westeros in the next would evoke all the breakneck pacing complaints that hampered season seven, so it's a good thing that Game of Thrones give us a little more calm before the storm, because nothing will ever be the same the rest of the way once the battle between the Living and the Dead finally gets underway this weekend.
Until then, Game of Thrones delivers another round of engaging conversations and character analysis. A lot of our beloved characters will soon meet their end, so why would Game of Thrones have it any other way? This series has prided itself since day one on making us fall in love with certain characters, only to crush our spirits by having those characters get suddenly and brutally killed. While there is a slightly nagging feeling that "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" is more of the same from last week, David Nutter's direction and Bryan Cogman's writing both hit the nail on the head: showing us what exactly these characters are fighting for, and what most of them will end up losing before the sun comes up the next day. On top of a whole spectrum of emotions, "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" delivers some more genuine surprises and comes to an end with an ominous shot of the White Walkers looking over Winterfell, promising us that there will be no more set-ups that will keep pushing off the inevitable action.
We are strictly in Winterfell for this episode, so we'll most likely catch up with Cersei and all her "friends" in King's Landing in episode four. For now, all eyes are on Jaime and the cold reception he gets upon arriving in Winterfell. Trust remains a very fragile thing among Daenerys and all the Northern lords, and it takes some serious vouching from Brienne to get everyone to agree to let Jaime fight beside them. Almost everything that has defined Jaime's life is brought forth in his conversations with the Northern lords and later with Bran: his decision to slay King Aerys aka Daenerys' father, his decision to push Bran out the window, the decisions he made to protect his House during the War of the Five Kings, him losing his right hand and regaining his sense of honor. I think this episode does almost the same job that re-watching seasons one through seven would do: put into better perspective who Jaime Lannister is as a character and how he is the most developed character whose last name isn't Stark. Has Jaime ever really been a man with evil intentions? Even some of his most heinous acts have not been without understandable motives. Jaime pushed Bran out the window so to keep his incestuous relationship with Cersei a secret and protect his House's honor. Jaime confronted Ned Stark because he cared about his younger brother. Jaime slayed his own King to protect the lives of thousands of innocent people. Early on, he was a bit on the fence about how to have the ends justify the means, but after losing his right/sword hand, he finally started to sort out his moral complexities and properly express his values and beliefs.
Watching Jaime willingly travel to Winterfell to fight alongside those that have been opposed to him since the very start of the show is a testament to how much he has changed and how his transformation has become one of the most uplifting parts of Game of Thrones. He has absolutely no intentions of stabbing someone in the back for the sake of having House Lannister prevail over all. He made a promise to fight for the living, and he will uphold that promise with no tricks and no conditions. The scenes with Jaime are when "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" are at its happiest, particularly for the scene when Jaime knights Brienne: a reward for all her hard work since season two. Brienne has been a workhorse ever since she came to be one of the series' main characters, and because she succeeded in upholding her promise to keep Sansa and Arya safe, it feels right that she earns such a prestigious prize. It also feels right that Jaime was the character to give her such an award. The one person Brienne has grown closest to during the series has been Jaime, despite the two being apart for long stretches of time. Brienne was there for Jaime when he was it his lowest, and she was the first one to realize the true nature of his decision to kill the Mad King. Brienne has been the only character to come to see Jaime the way we as an audience see him now, and for that, it makes sense that the two get to share such a proud moment, hours before the fight of their lives. It's as if the two secretly promised one another that they would find a way to uphold their respective honor and one day come to fight on the same side. Today, the day of the White Walkers' ultimate invasion, is that day, and while the knighthood is Brienne's reward, Jaime's reward is being able to give the knighthood to her.
Watching Brienne receive knighthood also seems to be a clear indicator that her and/or Jaime will die in the upcoming battle. Arya seems to think she will die in the upcoming battle, so just in case it's her last night as part of the living, she decides to get busy in bed with Gendry, and wow was this a surprise: The main reason this sex scene startled people is because we literally watched Arya grow up since she was a little girl way back in season one, and not ever did we give any thought to Arya ever engaging in a scene like this. News flash: she's no little girl any more, and hey, a big girl is gonna do big girl things. I actually think this sex scene fits very well into Arya's character arc and her personality overall, having always been the one Stark sibling who derived pleasure from things that the other Stark siblings did/do not enjoy. Whereas Sansa and Bran have not ever taken delight in swinging swords and killing others, Arya has found tremendous joy in committing such, 'whatcha ma call them, sinful acts. Arya's running under the assumption that she won't make it out of the White Walker battle alive, so because she has started to make a living out of getting her hands dirty, she figures she might as well get her hands dirty the one other way she has not done so yet. It's tough to say if Arya suddenly fell in love with Gendry or anything like that, but the important thing is that she does not completely force herself on to him, because she knows her and Gendry's relationship has been strong enough that he could not be completely opposed to her. She simply wants to have the experience, but just to be safe, she questions Gendry of his sexual history and makes sure that there is at least some consent between the two. It helps establish that Arya is not some hungry animal gone wild, and that, even for young people, there is a way to have sexual encounters that are not any form of assault. I don't believe it's my place to go into a deep analysis of how Arya's sex scene coincides with the #MeToo movement, so check out what other people have to say if you're curious about other interpretations of this scene.
It's pretty astonishing how unimportant that Jon and Daenerys appear to be in this episode, even when Jon reveals to Daenerys his real name and the fact that he has a stronger claim to the Iron Throne than her. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing: Game of Thrones doesn't want to completely sideline its other, non-Targaryen characters, even when we can count the number of remaining episodes on one hand. I think it was intentional by Bryan Cogman to have Jon and Daenerys slid into the background for this episode, because so many other characters' arcs are (presumably) coming to an end next time out, and the heartbreak wouldn't be there if these first two episodes were nothing but the Jon and Daenerys love show. For the sake of the plot, it wouldn't make sense for both Jon and Daenerys to die during the battle, although there are logical arguments to be made for one of them dying. For what Game of Thrones has been building up to since that first scene of the three men of the Night's Watch encountering the White Walker, the end game will no doubt heavily revolve around the prophecy that Jon and/or Daenerys must fulfill, so in order to achieve a more balanced character structure, the likes of Tyrion, Brienne, and Tormund get more screen time.
Jon is largely invisible this episode, but Daenerys certainly does enough to make her presence felt, most notably in a friendly-turned-tense conversation with Sansa about what will happen in the North if the White Walkers and Cersei are all defeated. Sansa is proving herself to be a borderline genius at this point, voicing legitimate concerns that, unfortunately, don't get proper answers only because someone feels the need to interrupt the conversation. My favorite part of this scene is the way Daenerys rips her hand away from Sansa, signifying that she's given up trying to be friends and get on good terms. These little things add to the drama of when everyone has to fight alongside each other. Can Daenerys and the Northern lords really put all their differences aside, even when they're up against an enemy that treats them all the same?
Bran gives us some valuable insight of the enemy, particularly why the Night King is after him: the Night King seeks to have an endless night, to erase Westeros and all its memories. Bran is something of Westeros' memory bank, holding all records of its past, its present, and its future. The strategy to treat Bran as bait certainly generates a lot of interest for what the Night King will decide to do. There has yet to be one second of screen time for the Night King in season eight, so right now, he's something of the hidden monster in the dark that everyone is waiting to see come out. So not only do we learn more about what the Night King and the White Walkers want, it adds an extra layer of terror to them altogether and how they are such a horrifying representation of death. The White Walkers do not feel. With death, there is nothing to feel, because there is nothing at all. Back in early season six after being brought back to life, Jon said that, while he was dead, there was just nothing. This complete state of nothingness that Jon described is what the Night King wants for all of Westeros: the endless night with no memories and no sense of living.
Podrick sings a song simply called, "Jenny's Song", which plays over very quiet shots of everyone getting ready for battle and contemplating what is about to happen. This scene eerily reminded me of the "Nearer My God To Thee" scene from Titanic: the juxtaposition of something peaceful and soothing like music alongside scenes of imminent disaster. It's such a powerful and emotional way to conclude our final, peaceful moments: this does feel like the end. No, it's not the end of the series, but it's still the end in several ways: it's the end of watching our characters grow and bond together as living, breathing humans. It's the end of feeling safe and like our characters are out of harm's way. It is like watching the water rushing into the Titanic: so many good-natured, honorable people are about to die, at the hands of something that doesn't feel and doesn't know how to feel. So many characters have had something to live for, and their struggles to live have all brought them here, to confront an enemy that intends to strip them of their ability to live.
By the time "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" comes to an end, you're too emotional and terrified to let the episode's flaws weigh you down. With so much fire, blood, and death to come in next week's epic clash between the living and the dead, "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" pauses season eight's overarching story telling to firmly remind us of what it means to live and how all these characters in Winterfell have always had something to live for. Even if it's a bit repetitive from "Winterfell", there are too many emotions floating around that it's incredibly hard not to feel moved by hearing all these different characters' stories like Tormund's experience with giant's milk and to see proud moments like Brienne being knighted and Arya losing her virginity. The realization that everything is coming to an end in Game of Thrones hits hardest during Podrick's song, despite the fact that we've still got four more episodes to go. The time for talk is over. No more delays. Next week, the battle that Game of Thrones has advertised since "Winter is Coming" finally goes down. I hope you'll be ready, because I know I won't be.
Me, You, Us
Us is written and directed by Jordan Peele and stars Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss, and Tim Heidecker.
Jordan Peele's directorial debut, 2017's Get Out, was my favorite film to have been released during that year. I was head over heels about Get Out's incredible blend of comedy and horror, its entertainment value, and its thematic depth about slavery and the ill-advised superiority that certain white people feel they have over black people. So naturally, I was super excited to hear that Jordan Peele was coming back with another original horror film that, while not necessarily about racism and a battle between black people and white people, it was going to offer a similar sort of thematic depth and entertainment value, thus establishing Peele as one of the most gifted and inventive horror directors of the 21st century.
It turns out Us is not nearly as good as Get Out, but nevertheless, I won't hesitate to say that Us will be one of the best horror films of 2019, because, even if the thought-provoking content isn't as strong as it was in Get Out, it still is thought-provoking content, and that's something that's pretty tough to come by in mainstream horror films nowadays. Jordan Peele has also shown to have the talent for giving his films an entertainment value that can satisfy the most undemanding viewers: those who don't really care to talk about racism or slavery and are just there to have a good time. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that Us is like a good, but not great version of Get Out, in which there is thought-provoking content and entertaining scenes, except that neither are on par with what Jordan Peele delivered to us the first time around.
The plot of Us follows the Wilson family, who are out on vacation at a family beach house in Santa Cruz. The family consists of wife Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o), husband Gabe (Winston Duke), daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), and son Jason (Evan Alex). Adelaide is anxious about the trip, because Santa Cruz is the same place where she had a traumatic childhood experience: One night in 1986, the young Adelaide (Madison Curry), wanders off from her family carnival trip and stumbles upon a funhouse, where she enters a hall of mirrors and finds another little girl that looks exactly like her. In the present, Adelaide's worst fears are realized when a family of four breaks into the beach house and attacks the Wilsons. The family of four turn out to be doppelgangers of the Wilsons, led by Adelaide's double named Red. Red is the only doppelganger that speaks, sounding like a mortally wounded animal that's on its last few breaths.
I'll stop the plot summary right there. The only other thing I'll mention is that there's far more to Us' plot than being just a home invasion story in which the intruders have some special characteristic so that the home invasion scenario will stand out from other, generic home invasion scenarios. Us eventually transcends into a story that has suggested interpretations like the struggle of classism and how Us is meant to be a play on "U.S." aka United States. There's a line where Red says, "we're Americans", and that's evidence to suggest that Peele is taking a stab at how messed up a lot of American society is. I'm all for these various takes on what the film is about at its deepest, darkest level. I just wish that the execution was better, so that I could feel more enlightened about what ideas and themes were running through my head as I sat down to process this movie in the few days after I saw it in theaters.
- Easily the best part of Us is a slam-dunk performance by Lupita Nyong'o, whom you might best remember from her supporting role in 2018's Black Panther. There's typically a lot of demand for an actress if she's the main character of a horror film, and Us is no exception, as Nyong'o has to play, "terrified mother trying to protect her family" and "traumatized person struggling with the event that caused said trauma", all on top of a lot of fighting and struggling she does with the doppelgangers. Nyong'o thrives in every role her character has to play, bringing a kind of raw, honest energy that hadn't been tested at all in films like Black Panther or Queen of Katwe. The kind of work required of Nyong'o here involves a lot more sweaty, hard-nosed labor, and largely without the benefits of CGI or other wacky digital effects. She proves more than capable of what is required of her, and the result is a true break-out performance that could see Nyongo's career expand even more in the coming years. Unfortunately, the Academy seems hell-bent on ignoring any and all performances in horror-movies, so it's highly unlikely we'll see Nyong'o get any sort of nomination in 2020. What a shame.
- I give Jordan Peele all the credit in the world for the new batch of ideas he brings to his sophomore feature, which is why it's unfortunate how the screenplay is pretty shaky in other areas. The set-ups and foreshadowing of future events are not at all subtle, and that's a disappointment because Get Out proved Peele knows how to be extremely clever with foreshadowing. For example, we watch Jason accidentally lock himself in a closet at the beach house, and everyone and his brother should be thinking, "Hmm, I wonder if that locked closet will come into play later on." Instead of a bunch of satisfying, "Hey! I remember that from early in the film!" moments, Us contains far too many, "Yep. I saw that coming" moments. The only true surprise of the film comes at the very end, which is quite refreshing considering how you can see the several other revelations coming from ten miles away.
It would have taken Jordan Peele the effort of a lifetime for him to top Get Out, so I guess that's to say it was to be expected for Peele's second horror film, Us, to be on a somewhat inferior level. Nonetheless, Us shows more bright flashes of Jordan Peele's undeniable film-making talent, as well as more excitement for what he can bring for the future of the genre. The thought-provoking story and the remarkable lead performance from Lupita Nyong'o make this for one of the more stand-out horror films in recent memory, alongside the likes of Get Out, Hereditary, and A Quiet Place. Unfortunately, Peele's script is not as sharp as before, evident in predictable set-ups that end up leaving us with few to no real surprises. Overall, a perfectly satisfying horror film, but one that missed its chance to be something great.
Recommend? Yes, I'd recommend seeing it.
Respect is how the young keep us at a distance, so we don't remind them of an unpleasant truth.
Directed by: David Nutter
Written by: Dave Hill
Here we are, folks! It's not a fantasy anymore! Game of Thrones' eighth and final season is finally upon us, and man, are we all super excited and super sad to see what transpires over the course of these last six episodes. There have been teases of multiple main character deaths, as well as hype of what will be the longest battle sequence ever put to film or television, so if you take those two things into account, as well as the fact that the filming schedule for this season lasted from October 2017 all the way to July 2018, then we may be in for something far bloodier than all the previous seven seasons combined, and something that could go down as a historic moment in television history. Of course, this all can't happen in one episode, and D&D and several of the actors promised that season eight would not fall short of having intimate or emotional scenes, because, as groundbreaking as the action is surely to be later on, there is still plenty of conflict and discussion to be had among several of the characters, and thus, it wouldn't be right for Game of Thrones to completely lose its human core. Humanity and emotional resonance are what's at the heart of "Winterfell", the first episode of season eight: one that delivers plenty of long overdue reunions, some brand new character get-togethers, and even some unexpected twists.
Anyone who goes into this episode expecting non-stop death and destruction is fooling themselves. A major component of why Game of Thrones' action has always been so enthralling is because the show always goes out of its way to build up one of the most critical parts of the action: the characters involved. Now before, building up the action meant that an episode or two had to be, shall we say, sacrificed, for the sake of bigger and better payoffs later on. Earlier, battle-preceding episodes like "The Prince of Winterfell" or The Bear and the Maiden Fair" are considerably some of Game of Thrones' weakest episodes, not because they're poorly executed, but because they play out in a way that says, "we're mostly gearing up for that big battle that's right around the corner", and this is a bit problematic because those episodes have a difficult time standing out on their own. I want to argue though, that "Winterfell" is not like these previous "battle-hype" episodes, because it's the culmination of all our beloved characters coming together, and how, after being separate across the world for so many years, they finally return home, to the one place where it all started.
"Winterfell" makes several callbacks to "Winter is Coming", the first of which happens right during the opening few seconds, when a boy walks through a crowd and climbs to higher ground to see who's heading to Winterfell. In what is easily the most prominent callback to the first episode, everyone stops to watch as Jon, Daenerys, and Daenerys' army march up to Winterfell, mirroring the way that Robert Baratheon and the Lannisters previously marched into Winterfell. What's intriguing is how this procession has quite the opposite reception from before: whereas Ned was honored to bring King Robert into his home, Sansa doesn't even try to hide her disdain for Daenerys, a disdain that many of the other Northern lords echo when they question Jon about his decision to relinquish his title of King in the North. Establishing Daenerys as "the bad guy" is something that "Winterfell" does quite a lot of, as just about everyone who meets with her and talks with her for the first time finds a way to get on bad terms with her. This is none more true than with Sam, who learns that Daenerys executed both his father and her brother, something that sends him away almost breaking down in tears. If we were to give an acting award for "Winterfell", it would easily go to John Bradley. Bradley has always been great as Sam, but he takes it to a whole new level here: the way he tries to fight back tears is as natural-looking as I've ever seen someone on the brink of crying in a TV series.
It doesn't stop there with Sam. In what I thought was a surprising twist, Sam ends up being the one that tells Jon who his real parents are and that he is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. The season seven finale (and even the start of this episode) led us to believe that Bran would be the one to tell Jon. Having Sam be the one, though, I think is a very smart writing decision, mostly because Jon has spent a far greater deal of time with Sam than he has with Bran. Jon doesn't know how different Bran is now, so to have Bran be the one to tell him about his true lineage would not have had the same emotional payoff. Jon has complete trust in Sam, which is why it's all the more crushing for Jon to hear such life-changing news from who has been considerably his closest friend.
As expected, Jon isn't exactly thrilled to hear that he is a Targaryen and the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. I suppose I could start referring to him as Aegon now, as that is his actual name, but he's been Jon Snow for so long that I don't think I'm going to break that habit now with only so many episodes left. Although "Winterfell" contains a lot of set-up for what's soon to come, something that people may not realize right away is the dangerous spot the events of this episode put Daenerys in. After all is said and done in the episode's 54 minutes, Daenerys is surrounded by opposition on all sides, and it's a massive role reversal from where she's been for the majority of the series. The Night King and the Army of the Dead are coming, Sansa and the other Lords of Winterfell do not approve of her, and now her own lover is aware that he has a stronger claim to the Iron Throne than she does. How Daenerys will react to learning Jon's true heritage and how she will respond to all this opposition is yet to be seen, but I have a strong feeling that it will lead to somewhere that will be catastrophic.
I think I should stop now making this episode sound like all doom and gloom, because "Winterfell" has some exceptionally heartwarming scenes, as well as some hilarious one-liners. No scene is more heartwarming than the reunion everyone has wanted more than any other: Jon and Arya. These two have been true to themselves through thick and thin, and that one scene between them back in "The Kingsroad" was enough to convince us that these two have always had a special friendship. While Arya doesn't share with Jon all the details about what she's been through, I think Jon would feel proud if and when he learns who Arya is now, because he's always taken a liking to her tomboy personality and her fondness for swords and killing. Arya is actually quite the reunion queen, reuniting with both the Hound and Gendry, on top of hugging it out with Jon at the heart tree. While Jon and Arya's reunion easily takes the title for most heartwarming, the one reunion to close out the episode is the most exciting one: Jaime Lannister arriving in Winterfell and getting spooked by Bran, who had told us earlier he was waiting for, "an old friend". You could argue that Jaime was the one who kicked off the series' chain of events by pushing Bran out the window, so it's fitting that things would come full circle by having these two see each other again in Winterfell, except now, both are vastly different characters.
There's so much going on in Winterfell that I haven't even written a word yet about what happens in King's Landing. Cersei greets Harry Strickland (Marc Rissmann), the leader of the Golden Company, who disappoints her by telling her they were unable to bring elephants with them on their sea voyage. Oh boy, were the Twitter jokes and complaints overflowing with this little tidbit, especially when Cersei grumbles later about wanting to get elephants. I'm not going to waste time on this. No, there will not be any elephants. Go see Dumbo if you're so upset. Anyway, it's a tough life right now for Cersei, especially when she has go so far as to have sex with Euron Greyjoy to ensure he stays loyal to her. Cersei's few allies are very unstable, and with no enemies to confront at the moment, she is, in a bizarre way, powerless. She's Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, but the title is so empty of meaning right now that there's no more satisfaction to be had. The only way Cersei will be able to feel complete is if she can destroy all her remaining enemies, but they're all so far away right now that she's basically stuck on an island with no way to get off. I am quite sure that the action will make its way to King's Landing sooner or later. What none of us know right now is who is bringing that action.
For now, all the action is in the North. The giant meeting with Jon, Daenerys, Sansa, and all the Northern lords turns out to be a lot shorter than I was hoping, and this was the main thing that had me wishing the episode was just a tad bit longer. This was the time for all the characters to talk about the impending threat of the White Walkers, and how, despite all their disagreements, they don't have time to bicker amongst each other and take sides. They're all on the same side now, and time is running out for them to get ready. Maybe we'll have another one of these giant meetings in the next episode, and if that's the case, then forget everything I was just griping about.
Two more things I want to get to wrap up, and in hopes of preventing this review from going on too much longer, I'll try to give the short version of it: Theon rescues Yara and leaves her to go and take back the Iron Islands, wanting to help fight in The Great War. While I feel this rescue mission was a bit too easy, I also think it would have been a little too predictable had it been "Theon vs. Euron" for Yara's life. If Euron is to die later this season, I still think it makes the most sense for it to be at the hands of Theon, and now without the "rescuing Yara" detail to worry about, such a final showdown between Theon and his uncle would be a lot more suspenseful.
Second thing: I am so happy that Game of Thrones finally gives some quality screen time to Rhaegal, who takes Jon for a ride alongside Daenerys and Drogon. Don't get me wrong: Drogon has been awesome, but I've always felt like Rhaegal and Viserion have never gotten the attention they deserve. I get it: CGI is expensive, and D&D couldn't just flaunt the dragons around like dancers at a strip club, but when you're one of only three dragons left in the world, you don't want people to completely forget about you. Knowing what's at stake now though, I am confident all three dragons are going to be getting major screen time the rest of the way, especially when one of them is currently undead.
Season eight has promised us truck loads of action, a gigantic number of deaths, and a finale that made the actors weep and contemplate life for hours on end when they first read it. "Winterfell" has next to no blood, nor any significant deaths, although it does give us a lot of happy moments to cry about. To say this episode was a disappointment because it didn't give us any action or death is missing the point: this is most likely the final time we will get to watch all these characters bonding and enjoying what could be the last few peaceful days of their lives. Everyone in Winterfell knows what's coming. They'll be as ready as they can be once The Night King and his Army reach Winterfell. For one last time though, Game of Thrones dedicates an episode to diving deep into the interpersonal relationship between its characters, exploring what has driven them since day one and how much all of them have changed. After seven seasons of being apart, the characters that have been with us the longest have come to meet at the place where everything began. "Winterfell" expresses where we are now by mirroring what much of what happened when Game Thrones first began. Not everything is perfect, but for what will certainly be the calmest episode of season eight, it's amazing how much happens in one place, and realizing just how far we've come.
There is only one war that matters: The Great War...and it is here.
Directed by: Jeremy Podeswa
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
It is quite fascinating that D&D followed up one of Game of Thrones' most problematic episodes with one of its most important episodes. Normally, it's a low-stakes episode that follows up a masterful episode, but as we're finally at the point where all of our main characters must come together to fight a common enemy, all bets are off. Season seven had already done enough to excite us with long-running characters meeting up, but "The Dragon and the Wolf" triples that excitement, giving us a meeting of main characters in King's Landing that resembles a coming-together of superstars like in the Super Smash Bros. video games. On top of the giant meeting in King's Landing, "The Dragon and the Wolf" closes out several other character arcs, while making it very clear that season eight will be unlike anything we've seen before.
Let's jump right into the events in King's Landing, because, oh boy, is there a lot to take away: The first thing that D&D do is give us all some hype for the proposed Cleganebowl: The Hound walks up to his zombified brother and tells him he's always known who's coming for him. I can't say that it's a given The Hound and The Mountain will have a fight to the death in season eight, but I think this little bit of dialogue is all the proof you need that Cleganebowl is something D&D have at least thought about. So after the brief stare down between the Clegane brothers, Jon and his entourage show their captured wight to Cersei, and well, let's just say that everyone whose never seen a wight before is a little bit startled. There are two reactions I especially love: that of Jaime and that of Qyburn. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has always been terrific with his facial expressions, and I love the genuinely dispirited look on his face when Daenerys tells him there are at least 100,000 soldiers in the Army of the Dead. Qyburn, meanwhile, picks up the severed arm of the wight and observes it like he just fell in love.
The reactions of everyone in Cersei's party should be enough to tell us that the journey beyond the Wall to capture a wight wasn't a complete failure. Jaime, Cersei, and even Euron Greyjoy fully believe the White Walkers' existence, but, as usual with Cersei, there's a catch. She agrees to send her armies North on the condition that Jon remains neutral between her and Daenerys. When Jon admits he has already sworn himself to Daenerys, well, that's the end of the meeting. If you think about it, this moment has some ties back to what went down between Ned Stark and the Lannisters back in season one. Ned had remained truthful, up until he falsely confessed to treason, which still resulted in him being executed. Jon has always done what he could to uphold Ned's legacy, ensuring that there would always be a sense of honor and truthfulness in a world filled with lies and betrayal. How this ties back into what Ned did in season one is that Jon doesn't want to take the kind of risk that Ned did. Even though he knew Cersei would retract her support, Jon will not let others die because of lies and the failure to uphold certain promises. Despite disagreement from the likes of Daenerys and Tyrion, Jon has remained firm on his stance that, if and when he's going to die, it's not going to be because he disgraced Ned's legacy or because he betrayed himself in any way.
We then get what is easily the most critical scene of the season for Tyrion, as he willingly goes to meet with his sister: the one person who wants him dead more than anyone. Oh, how I missed Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage exchanging dialogue with one another. I think the main reason these two have always been so wonderful with their conversations is because Headey and Dinklage have such a deep knowledge and understanding of their respective characters that they both know the exact way to speak their dialogue to one another. When it comes to things like tone of voice and dialogue speed, Headey and Dinklage are perfectly in tune with how to speak to one another. This is an especially memorable conversation, as the two discuss how they both want to preserve their family's legacy, and how different things would have been had Tyrion never killed Tywin. No characters in Game of Thrones have talked about preserving their House more than the Lannisters, and even in these dark times with The Great War looming, the Lannister children will do anything and everything to keep their great House alive. I think this conversation creates a lot of suspense for what the Lannisters, specifically Tyrion, will try to do in season eight. What will be more important to them: the survival of their own House, or risking everything to help everyone survive?
In the end, Tyrion seems to convince Cersei to change her mind and send her armies North, but we know it's not ever that simple with her. Cersei once again shows us that nothing matters to her other than her family's well-being and her own desire for power. Instead of heading North to assist in The Great War, Cersei is going to hang back in King's Landing and await the winner of the great battle, which she plans to confront with the help of The Golden Company. This is the last straw for Jaime. Finally seeing his sister for what a power-hungry, selfish Queen she has become, Jaime abandons her and heads North. Season seven has always teased this separation between Jaime and Cersei, but honestly, I think this separation is rooted way back in season four. Cersei has been driven mad by the loss of her father and her children, while Jaime has become more honorable and sympathetic to those around him. Although the two seemed to have rekindled their relationship from time to time, the two were never going to be fully in sync ever again, and when Cersei chooses herself over helping to fight the greatest threat in all of Westeros, Jaime chooses to follow what has developed him so much as a character over the years.
What a monumental episode for the Lannister siblings. There's still lots of other non-Lannister matters to discuss, one of which is the conclusion to the clash between Petyr Baelish and the Stark siblings. Sansa talks with Littlefinger about Arya and her worries that Arya might try to murder her. When Arya is later summoned to be questioned, Sansa gives us a hefty plot twist: instead of accusing Arya of murder and treason, she accuses Baelish. Panic quickly sets in for Baelish when he realizes he has no allies in the crowd, nor any means of worming his way to freedom. Sansa ignores Baelish's pleas for mercy, thanking him for his lessons before Arya walks up and slits his throat. You gotta love it: Sansa turns the tables on Baelish and has him killed in a way that Baelish would try to have others killed. Getting cornered somewhere I think was the only way that Baelish could go out. Since day one, Baelish has tried to maneuver the game pieces in a way that would work to his advantage. Whatever lies he had to tell or whomever he had to betray, Baelish would do anything and everything to watch the world burn and get every bit closer to one day sitting on The Iron Throne, or whatever would be left of it. The only person he would never dare to have killed was Sansa, although he seemed to have no issues with her getting hurt or abused. Never suspecting that Sansa could plot against him ended up being Baelish's crucial mistake. He figured if he could help and protect Sansa just enough so that he gained her trust, he could plot and scheme to his heart's desire. In the end, the one person Baelish loved and tried to keep by his side at all times, was the one who would catch him in the act and finally take him down.
The one objection I have seen to Baelish's death is how it corresponds with the feuding between Sansa and Arya during the last few episodes. I think Sansa would never even dare think about murdering one of her own family, no matter how much they weirded her out. I think Sansa, having grown smarter and smarter over the years about how the game works, has been secretly planning for a long time on how to take down Baelish. She couldn't trap him in some kind of intervention or trial or what not. She had to catch him when he was expecting the least, and that would be if she did something like bring her own sister in for questioning among all the other Northern lords. I don't think there was any kind of act behind Sansa and Arya's feuding. I think Sansa, deep down, was thinking she could use her feuding with Arya to her advantage, and that's exactly what she does. Baelish, perhaps the most dangerous man in Westeros aside from Tywin Lannister, learned the hard way that you can't keep scheming and plotting without having it come back to bite you in the ass one day.
All is well again in Winterfell, at least until Jon returns with Daenerys and her army. "The Dragon and the Wolf", signifying the union between House Stark and House Targaryen, also signifies the complete coming together of Jon and Daenerys, or ice and fire, if you will. The two finally give in to their feelings for one another and have sex, although Tyrion is standing outside in the hallway and easily deduces what's going on in Daenerys' bedroom. So while we'll have that little bit of drama to worry about next season, Bran explains to Samwell about Jon's true identity, aka: the most important kept secret in all of Westeros. The R+L=J theory is confirmed. Jon Snow's parents are Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. The name spoken by Lyanna Stark that was muted at the end of season six is revealed. Jon Snow is not Jon Snow. He was never a bastard. His real name is Aegon Targaryen, and he is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.
......and Ned Stark knew it this entire time.
It was theorized to death that Daenerys was not the last Targaryen, and this episode confirms any and all of those theories to be true. Certainly Jon and Daenerys will learn this information early in season eight, and when they do, how will they react? Will Jon still commit his loyalty to Daenerys, or will Daenerys step aside and accept the fact that Jon has a better claim to the Throne than she does? Time will tell. All we do know is that once this secret gets out to everyone else currently in Winterfell, well...it won't be pretty.
To summarize, a lot of emotions going around as everyone not named Cersei Lannister or anyone who has the last name of Greyjoy is heading North to prepare for the battle to end all against The White Walkers. Speaking of White Walkers, where have they been at this whole episode? Oh yeah, that's right: they close out season seven by injecting us with another heavy dose of pure terror. The White Walkers finally arrive at the Wall, which the Night King blasts to smithereens with the help of the now undead Viserion (*insert Donald Trump Wall joke here*). No more, "winter is coming", or "The Long Night is coming". The Long Night is here. The Night King is here. The White Walkers are here. The Army of the Dead is here. The dead have finally invaded the Seven Kingdoms, and the fear that George R.R. Martin and D&D created back in the series' opening scene in "Winter is Coming" is finally realized. The ultimate battle for survival is about to begin. Buckle up, folks. Season eight is finally here.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: