Game of Thrones: Breaker of Chains

GAME OF THRONES: 4.4 “Breaker of Chains” 

So yes, the elephant in the room is Jaime’s rape (because that was what it was) of Cersei, an action that didn’t exactly happen in the books, and seriously complicates the redemption story that the show was developing so well. Aside from saying that I’m disappointed in this development, I won’t delve too much into this controversy because plenty of other folks have done it this week, but as despicable as Jaime’s actions were, I can’t help but wonder why people were expecting much better from this show. Many people in the series (and books) do horrible, monstrous things to each other, and just because we sometimes learn about extenuating circumstances that make them look like better people, and just because it looks like they’re acting slightly more ethically for a short period of time, doesn’t mean that they’re suddenly redeemed and noble people and that they won’t commit horrible actions again. People can be complicated; they can do repugnant things and honorable things at the same time, so I’m not entirely sure why this action seems so shocking, especially considering his gender, social status, and upbringing. He’s the first born son of the most powerful family in a feudal patriarchy who is used to getting (or taking) what he wants no matter the moral/societal prohibitions.

And I said I wasn’t going to talk about it too much.

Anyway, the rest of the episode was good, but not quite the barn burner of last week. We got a nice survey of everything happening around Westeros and Essos. Arya learns another harsh lesson as the Hound takes advantage of a farmer’s hospitality and robs him blind; Sam, afraid his “brother” rangers will take advantage of Gilly, sends her south to be a maid for prostitutes, just as Ygritte and her group of wildings begin to carve a cannibalistic path of destruction north into the Night’s Watch rear; Tyrion sends away his “loyal” squire, in a scene that nearly had me in tears; and Dany bombards the walls of the newest slave city with the broken chains of the slaves that she’s liberated. I’m not sure why Stannis and Davos haven’t acted on the very urgent letter they received from the Night’s Watch at the end of last season, but I expect we’ll see something on that front soon. Lots of ground was covered, and there was plenty of set-up, but I liked it.

Game of Thrones: Two Swords and Lion and the Rose

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GAME OF THRONES: 4.1 “Two Swords”
GAME OF THRONES: 4.2 “The Lion and the Rose”

Game of Thrones came back with a bang, didn’t it? Personal life has forced me to consider both of the first two episodes back to back, and they were mighty entertaining. Between the two, we’ve caught up with pretty much everyone, and there were plenty of great scenes, but I keep thinking about the Arya/Hound scene that closed out the first episode. It’s always fun when the show decides to linger a bit longer on one particular event, and Arya and the Hound arriving at the inn begins as buddy comedy, moves into an exquisitely tense standoff, and ends in an abrupt spasm of violence. As satisfying as it was to see her reclaim her sword, and by extension her connection with her lost family, I felt a little sad that it was only earned back through the loss of her innocence as she killed Polliver in cold blood. And from the look of contentment on her face as she rode away from the inn with the Hound, it’s easy to surmise that she enjoyed the experience. Arya’s road ahead will be dark, I suspect, and likely littered with more of her “victims;” I can’t help but wonder how long it will be before she takes out someone who doesn’t deserve it.

And speaking of extended scenes, the wedding we’ve all been waiting for wrapped up episode two. It was a great example of slowly building tension. Joffrey was at his most petulant, evil, cruel, hurtful worst, so it was perhaps a bit of a relief to see him finally taken down by an anonymous poisoner in such a painful fashion. But like Arya, I wonder if we as an audience shouldn’t celebrate his demise with such gusto. Yes, Joffrey was a monstrously cruel sociopath who was a horrible ruler and only would have become worse as he grew in age and power, but if there’s one thing that Game of Thrones has taught us, it’s that violence begets revenge and greater violence in an ever widening, destructive cyclone that eventually spins out of control. Jaime’s simple yet careless act of pushing Bran out the window of a tower spawned a brutally destructive civil war, leading to countless deaths and, on a more personal level for the Kingslayer, the loss of his son and his sword arm. As we can tell from Cersei’s look at the end of the episode, Joffrey’s demise is likely to cause a great deal of trouble for Tyrion, whether he was involved in it or not. And what greater chaos will erupt now that another king is dead? How will the ripples that spread out from Arya’s quest for revenge affect the world? Will she leave behind a traumatized child who turns into a killer, or something worse?

A Bittersweet End to ‘Being Human’

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This has been a rough week for me. Last Monday, HIMYM ended (and not particularly in the way I would have hoped). Friday, a recent favorite of mine, Raising Hope, signed off as well. And last night we said good-bye to Being Human.

I have to give some mad props to the series. The cast and crew knew for a year that the show was going to end, even though we fans just found out a couple months ago. In fact, based on this interview with Sam Witwer (Aidan), the team behind Being Human actually requested the season four end date, knowing that the show would face some obstacles that could reduce the quality of the series. This all means they’ve been panning this ending for a while. Maybe not for nine years, but for a while.

And while I do have a few issues with how the series ended, overall, I’m pleased with what I saw. It’s funny to think that a series that killed off two of its main characters in the final episode was actually more satisfying — and happier — than a series that killed off only one minor character a week ago, but it’s true. In a way, even though two characters went into the ether, never to be heard from again (except, perhaps, in dreams), it was a happy ending. Norah and Josh got to live out their lives with a family. Sally finally found peace. And Aidan made up for his sins and got his own afterlife. And hey, he even got to be human.

And isn’t that what this whole series was about? It was called Being Human, after all. It was always about a two monsters — Aidan and Josh — trying to fake their way through “life.” I have to add quotation marks, of course, since you could argue that what they were living through wasn’t really a life at all. But in the end, they really became human. Aidan, quite literally, by getting a heartbeat back and a human death. Josh, in getting a wife and a family. (And wasn’t it cute to see little Sally and Aidan running around at the end?)

Of course, there were weaknesses. The “evil of the house” felt a little rushed, and I think there may be some holes — or at least some lack of understanding — where Ramona’s concerned (So wait — why did they sacrifice her? Did the cult get taken over by the evil of the house? Was she an evil figment all along?). Fixing the issue seemed a little too easy (they got out of the house at the start of the episode rather easily, and of course burning the house down would take her down). And Sally’s spell seemed a little convenient (How long did she have that in her back pocket? And how did it work? And did she get her door after that?). But in the end, it all seemed fitting, that we were saying good-bye to the house as we were the rest of the cast, as it could arguably be considered part of the cast itself (and in a more literal sense, became one, because of Ramona).

Plus, we got some light moments. Seeing Aidan eat that cheeseburger was certainly a highlight. Seeing Josh react to Norah’s pregnancy — and finally be happy — was another. And, of course, you can’t deny finally seeing Sally again with Aidan. It might have been over-the-top cheesy, but it still had me crying like a little baby.

So it had all the makings of a great series finale. And I’m certainly going to miss it. This was a great group of people (which you can see on Twitter, by the way. Looking at some of the fun behind-the-scenes pics provided by Kristen Hager last night was wonderful), and they had some great personalities in the series. I’ve grown attached to Norah and Aidan. Sally’s bright smile certainly made me smile back into my TV screen, even if her self-centered actions made me wince from time to time. But most of all, I’m going to miss Josh, a unique, relatable character that lightened a pretty dark series every week.

So long, Being Human. I hope you found your door.

Game of Thrones Returns Tonight

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Season 4 of Game of Thrones begins tonight, and I’m so glad it’s back for a few reasons. I think it’s one of the most entertaining shows on television, but beyond that, I’ve been an avid reader of the books for years and I’ve always found it very interesting to see how the writers of the TV show have adapted the source material of the books. Most of the time, I think they do a great job inventing new non-book scenes that really capture the essential nature of the characters. They’ve even changed the motivations of some characters in better ways; in the books, Shae was simply a gold-digging prostitute, a very flat character, while in the show, she’s a bit more complicated, and truly seems to be in love with Tyrion.

Season 3 of the TV show ended about 2/3s of the way through book 3, so season 4 is going to finish up book 3, but it will also almost certainly parts of book 4 as well. However, book 4 is an aberration in the series because, timeline wise, it happens at the same time as book 5 and covers almost none of the major characters that the TV show has kept its focus on for three seasons. I can’t help but think that the TV show might draw in some pieces of book 5 into this season.

Even if this season of the show doesn’t integrate any book 5 material, this is the point in the books where plotlines begin to meander, and I suspect that the show writers will have to do a lot more stitching and combining of stories (and writing more original stuff) in order to keep the show entertaining and keep certain main characters at the forefront. Next season will be especially interesting, because I really don’t think there’s enough going on in book 5 to fill a whole season, and I highly doubt that book 6 will be out on the market within a year. So anyway, as I said, I suspect this may be the beginning of of a time where the writers have to be a bit more creative and inventive, and as a book reader, I find that really exciting.

My Thoughts on the ‘How I Met Your Mother’ Finale

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HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER: 9.23-9.24 “Last Forever”

In my mind, the way HIMYM would have ended would have felt like the picture above. A big group hug. After all, saying good-bye to these characters that we’ve watched grow for nine years should feel as sentimental as it was saying good-bye to Ted when he was supposedly moving to Chicago.

But last night’s finale was not my sentimental good-bye. And while I’d like to spend my time here screaming and ranting about why I wanted something better, I’m going to try to make this as coherent as possible as to why this finale just didn’t work. There are enough people out there telling us how pissed they are. I don’t need to add to it.

I’ll certainly say I’m not pleased with the ending of this series. Sure, it annoyed me that all those theories ended up true (with the exception of my own). That Robin ended up with Ted in the end. But here’s why.

First, the episode just wasn’t funny. And, in fact, it was depressing. Somehow, I didn’t get excited throughout the day, anticipating seeing all my favorite characters’ lives fall apart. I didn’t want to see a marriage — one that began with beautiful wedding where a couple moved past their cold feet to marry the ones they truly love (three deep breaths, right?) — that I’d spent all season waiting for fall apart within three years. Or in the case of this episode, within twenty minutes. I didn’t like seeing that the gang fell apart, even if it was foreshadowed earlier in the season. I didn’t like seeing Lily pregnant and alone in the old apartment. I didn’t like seeing Barney become such a despicable person. There’s a line from The Wedding Singer that I always remember about the Fonz from Happy Days: “No one wanted to see a fifty-year-old guy picking up chicks.” True then. True now. It just got ugly.

I wanted humor. I didn’t get any relief. After the team said good-bye outside the wedding reception, it’s almost like they said good-bye to who they were in the series. Where were the jokes? Marshall slipped into the background, only being useful to point out “big moments.” Lily was sad and lamenting. No one interacted with each other to crack a joke, and it just made the entire thing depressing to watch.

Honestly, at one point, I thought that this was all a trick. That Ted would suddenly reveal that had he walked across that platform to introduce himself in that moment, all of those moments in the future would come to pass. But instead, he waited five more minutes, and suddenly, here’s the happy ending. But as we all know, that didn’t happen. We just kept with the darkest timeline.

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My Top 5 ‘How I Met Your Mother’ Episodes Ever

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It’s been years in the making. Tonight, we finally see how Ted met the mother on How I Met Your Mother. I have my own theories on how this happened, and I guess we’ll find out if I’m right, wrong, or just way off. But the heck with what’s going to happen tonight. Let’s take a moment to look back on some of my favorite episode of a show that, while it’s had some rocky times, has had some of the freshest moments in sitcom history in recent years.

I’ve decided to share my top five episodes from HIMYM. I’m not saying these are the best there ever were. I’m sure I’m missing some very iconic moments (like a certain musical number) and very special episodes (like “Bad News”), but these are the five episodes that, when I see them on TV, I will stop what I’m doing and watch — no matter what. Even in the saddest of moments (like the third option below), these episodes make me happy. So here goes.

My top five HIMYM episodes (in no particular order) are…

Slap Bet. You may argue that two beavers are better than one. You may be sitting around building sandcastles in the sand. But this first episode featuring a super special pop icon is the one that I can never forget. Someone give me some Robin Sparkles. To me, this was one of those episodes that really showed what the series was capable of. It gave us a slap bet that carried through the rest of the series, all up until the moment Barney was standing at the alter. But most of all, it gave us this song and music video, which still makes me laugh to this day.

PS – I love you, Robin.

Subway Wars. I’m not what it is about this episode, but for some reason, I find it hilarious. Robin is trying to prove herself as a “real New Yorker.” What ensues is a crazy race, where all five claim they know the fastest way across town: bus, subway, taxi, on foot, or…well…Barney’s solution. Somehow, the combination of an interactive map, music, and comical situations come together for a fantastic episode.

Symphony of Illumination. It is at this moment that I’m realizing that many of my favorite episodes are Robin-centric. That’s not on purpose (and I’d argue that “Subway Wars” focuses on all five characters). Nonetheless, I have to give a major shoutout (MAJOR SHOUTOUT) to “Symphony of Illumination.” While this episode got a lot of mixed reactions, it turned the series on its head by giving us one episode narrated by someone else: Robin. As Robin and Barney work through a pregnancy scare, Robin discovers that she actually can never have children. Keeping it to herself, the episode culminates in a beautiful — and legendary — light show, set up by Ted.

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Three Days of Snow. An epic snowstorm. Three distinct stories. All fantastic. But, of course, what gets me the most in the ending. While I love Barney and Ted going all Cocktail, seeing Marshall show up, listing what he ate for lunch, to prove his love to Lily with a full marching band at the airport is just beautiful. I love it.

Something Borrowed. This episode is officially my favorite episode of the series, so, despite my not being able to find a suitable video, I had to share it. It’s the day of Lily and Marshall’s wedding, and everything is going wrong — not that it was the wedding they planned anyway. But amidst all the chaos is Lily’s ex-boyfriend, a shirtless groomsman, a harp player in labor, and, oh, Marshall’s shaved head. A short walk and a hat later, Lily and Marshall are exchanging vows in a small, intimate ceremony in the park with an acoustic guitar. The wedding they always wanted.

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Of course, there are so many other episodes and scenes I wish I could mention. Let me know what your favorites have been in the comments. But these are the five episodes I can’t miss whenever I see them, so they top my list.

And tonight? Who knows. Maybe one of these episode will get knocked off for our finale. Either way, I’m going to be sad to say good-bye to this series.

Drop Dead Diva: Truth & Consequences, Soulmates?

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DROP DEAD DIVA: 6.01 “Truth & Consequences”
DROP DEAD DIVA: 6.02 “Soulmates?”

Drop Dead Diva is back for its final season, and it only seems fitting that I attempt to return to regular reviews for it. I’ve followed this show since its beginning. It’s always been a cute, fun show that I’ve enjoyed. The characters I’ve loved to love (or in some cases, loved to hate), and as I see some of the cast members move on to bigger and better things — Josh Stamberg in Parenthood or, more notably, Ben Feldman in Mad Men — I still miss seeing their faces grace the screen alongside our ever-positive Deb/Jane.

This episode was like any other episode of Drop Dead Diva, with quirky yet compelling cases and character development. The biggest development in this particular two-hour episode block (that I’ll spend my time in this review focusing on) was that of Jane and Grayson. At the end of last season, it looked like these two crazy kids finally got together, only to be torn apart by a grieving Britney, aka REAL Jane. Jane’s secret was almost out; Grayson found out that Jane wasn’t who she thought she was.

But that’s all we saw. And we discovered in this episode that eight hours later, not much had changed. Grayson dashed after Britney to find out what she meant, and Jane’s secret wasn’t really spilled. But by the end of Sunday night, Jane had confessed everything, leaving Grayson hurt, confused, and angry.

I have to say, I felt bad for Grayson, particularly as he stood in front of Jane/Deb in the final scene. He looked so broken. Clearly, this revelation has changed everything for him. He buried Deb. And he stopped loving Jane. And now, here’s this woman that’s both, and he just doesn’t know what to do. And he’s been betrayed. Why didn’t Jane tell him instead of Stacy?

To us, it makes perfect sense. Deb didn’t love herself when she first looked like Jane, so why would Grayson? It almost makes you wonder if Deb has really confessed this to herself, because she didn’t confess this to Grayson. It’s almost as though it never occurred to her.

And really, as much as Jane tells Grayson that she is Deb, that’s partially not true. It’s been a long time since Deb died. And Jane has done a lot of things since. Deb has grown inside of her. She’s not the same flighty girl that she was before, only focused on clothes and manicures and makeup. She cares about others and cares about fighting for others. She’s not Deb anymore, and she’s certainly not Jane. She’s basically new Jane, which is who Grayson wants to meet. Not someone pretending to be Jane, but someone who is a mix between Deb and Jane — the real person standing in front of him.

I’m worried most about Grayson, though. The man standing in front of her was broken. He took a big blow in this. I fully expect (since the series is ending) that they’ll get a happy ending, but I just hope there’s not too much pain beforehand.

A few other things about this season opener:

  • I’m not sure how I feel about Virginia Williams’ new role in the series. Does this mean that we won’t get to see Kate Levering return to the show? That Kim Kaswell will forever be on maternity leave? I miss her.
  • The writers of the show have certainly been watching the headlines on the show’s hiatus. Between the “cruise from hell” and the school lunch stories, I feel like we’ve got a new show advertising cases that are “ripped from the headlines.”
  • Loved loved LOVED Owen and Jane in the fire case. We seem to forget sometimes that Owen was a judge, and I love seeing him stand on his convictions. You could see why he was a judge in the first place. It’s too bad he had to impeach his own ruling…
  • I feel like Stacy’s pregnancy should have a little more prominence. I know she’s not showing yet, but this is a pretty big development. When are we going to see some sort of reaction beyond quick references to kugels and prenatal classes?

Until next week…

*image courtesy of Lifetime