Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Game of Thrones Quick Episode Discussion/Review - Season 5, Episode 7, "The Gift"

No big lead-in this time, you guys have been waiting long enough. Here we go, five thoughts on this week's Game of Thrones.

I mean, we knew Sansa wasn't going to get out of trouble that easily.

They did a pretty good job of building up the anxiety when Reek was trotting around Winterfell, teasing us that he might be heroic, but we saw this movie before. Remember, when his sister came to rescue him, and he proved himself to be utterly brainwashed? Yeah, obviously that wasn't going to change after giving Ramsay more time to refine his control over Theon. So he ratted on Sansa, and Ramsay flayed the old lady. Sansa also learned that Reek isn't an ally here, which is important.

And Ramsay's still such a shit; we learned that too.

The death that happened...

Maester Aemon was a great character, and the actor did a phenomenal job as well. Just wonderful, one of the bright spots this season as his role at Castle became more important. I don't know exactly how Maester Aemon would have been "protecting" Sam Tarly from the beating he was going to get from his brothers, but I guess it's not outrageous to think that Aemon had earned enough respect over the years to be able to exert some level of influence simply by associating with Tarly.

Also Sam got laid, in Castle Black. So that was interesting.

...and the death that surprisingly didn't happen.

I was certain that Bronn was done for. They took the time to remind us of the cut he took in the battle in the "Previously on Game of Thrones" snippets, and I've thought he's been dead to rights all season. And then they confirmed he'd been poisoned, and then, inexplicably, that girl gave him the antidote. I say "that girl" because the show has still done a terrible job of trying to identify and differentiate the Sand Snakes.

Although...she looked pretty hot when she was trying to juice up Bronn. I might spend some time looking up her name over the next few days. You know, for research.

It was interesting to see how the "lower" fighting pits were so clearly below the level of a queen.

They were downright...pitiful.


I have to say though, adding Tyrion and Jorah to Daenerys' storyline has me fully interested in it again.

I don't know what I'm rooting for in King's Landing.

I mean, Cersei's obviously hateful and selfish and arrogant, but I still give her a lot of leeway for protecting her child. I mean, she's already lost one child, in her arms. The audience wants her to act rationally, and when she doesn't, she gets her comeuppance, but remember that this is basically like handing over the FBI, the Supreme Court, and the National Guard to the Klan. You may hate Cersei and everything she does, but encouraging fanaticism isn't going to solve your problems.

I'm afraid I have to say, unequivocally, that I'm rooting for the Lannisters versus the Sparrows.

And on that, I'm going to go throw up.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Is it really a "delay" if you do it every week?

So this weekend I was all flummoxed or something, and I managed to totally forget that today was Sunday and thus Game of Thrones day. I've spent the whole day watching Acquisitions Incorporated videos and planning for D&D tomorrow. Whoops. I'll watch the episode now, and post tomorrow after I've had a chance to digest.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Favorite Past Features

I've spent some time of late looking at a variety of my previous posts. I do a lot of self-critiquing and re-reading; I find myself constantly changing old posts that nobody will probably ever read again, but they've got an apostrophe in the wrong spot, or poor word usage in another spot, and I can't let that just hang there.

I also re-read for content, and I've found a few spots that I really enjoyed re-reading, and I enjoyed writing in the first place. As I'm trying to find more topics to write about, and formats within which to write, these old posts are a good first stop. Here are a couple I really enjoyed from the past, and maybe I'll resurrect them in some form.

Is He A Keeper?

Back in the early days of the fantasy baseball keeper league, we had a lot of questions about which players were legitimate keepers, which guys were borderline, and which guys were too unreliable, too unproven, or just too unexceptional. It was a fun little mental experiment for myself to judge a player's potential upside, downside, and general value in relation to other players. It was also a way that I sort of gave my (often unsolicited) advice to my fellow owners about their players, and hashed out some of my own players as well.

The odds of this one coming back are pretty slim, as I think most of my league has caught up to (or surpassed) me as far as baseball knowledge. As a result, I'd be out of order trying to declare what other teams should do. It was a fun exercise, though, and it's a good reminder that little discussion points were a good way to churn out several medium-sized posts.

Twi-Night Doubleheader

For most of one season, I did a little weekly recap on the fantasy comings and goings of the week. Best player of the week, biggest disappointment, etc. I was so tuned in to fantasy baseball at the time, and I had a ton of downtime sitting at a computer at my job, so it was natural for me to kill time by writing about what I was paying attention to.

The Game of Thrones posts I've been doing this season are a reasonable comparison to Twi-Night Doubleheader (though much less readable for cousin Michael), in that they're weekly recaps with quick-hitter topics. I don't foresee getting back into the weekly fantasy baseball recap post game, unless it were with a partner to bounce things off of, work together, and generate fast content. If anybody's got an itch, drop me a message and we'll see what might work.

Magic Decks for Review

It's hard to say this was really a feature on the blog, since I only really got one post up for it. But the idea was that I have all these decks I've thrown together over the years that could use some tightening, some review, and some revision. And, like most intellectual exercises, crowd-sourcing can create inputs from a lot of different angles, which is important considering the sheer volume of Magic cards that exist.

That single post and its follow-up (both regarding my Landfall deck) were actually pretty useful as far as trying to put together possible ideas for how to refine the deck. So in looking back, that's something I could definitely see myself getting back to posting. I still have the decks, and I think I put most or all of them on TappedOut, so they should still be visible to make comments and offer advice. Definitely something I could see revisiting.

Mega Man Magic Set

The Mega Man Magic Set wasn't exactly a "feature," as it had a specific endpoint. Once the set was fully released, that was that, the series was concluded. That said, it generated dozens of posts, numerous comments, and a good deal of discussion, not to mention the enjoyment I had in creating the cards and writing the posts. Overall, I would rate it as one of my most successful blogging adventures.

Additionally, while I can't generate many(/any?) more posts using that particular content, there are plenty of similar types of posts I can make. Most of them will be pretty hard geeky, but that's how it goes sometimes. I like sports and I like games, and sometimes the games take the lead. Lord knows I don't feel like talking about football anytime soon.

So here are some similar ideas that I've come up with, and I'm thinking I'll try my hand at in the near future:
  • Create a D&D monster from other material
  • Create a Magic card from other material
  • Create another Magic set, this time using a different gaming "world"
  • Create, create, create...
In thinking about these ideas, I think that the most fun exercises for me are when I'm trying to be creative using other people's bases. Kind of like a fan-fiction writer, except somehow even nerdier.

Anyways, that's it for this post. Just wanted to reminisce a little about some of our brighter moments, and give you guys a little insight into what goes into developing a post or feature. Until next time!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Game of Thrones Quick Episode Discussion/Review - Season 5, Episode 6, "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"

So on HBO GO, the highlight image was of one of the Sand Snakes, and the title is Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken. So without question, the episode was going to highlight a lot of Dorne. I was unsure if that was a good thing...

...and, I'm still not sure.

The confrontation between the Sand Snakes and Jamie was predicable, and surprisingly bloodless, but not terrible.

I've read a lot of commentary that decries how terrible their engagement was, and the people who say this aren't completely wrong. The buildup was laughable; watching Ellaria Sand "deploy" the girls was pretty absurd, and Bronn and Jamie remain insane for thinking their plan had any chance of working. And in actuality, the idea that five people could engage in heated combat without other people showing up, probably guards, probably people who are going to react with violence or at least the threat of violence.

The actual fight was okay, though, and while I think the editing was a little haphazard to create more of a sense of speed, the movements were fluid enough to generate drama. I can only assume, since the only injury happened to Bronn, and he was cut by the end of a Dornish spear, that we probably haven't seen the last effect of this battle just yet. Poison and such.

Arya's storyline is getting more interesting.

I think I blew through some of the Arya chapters because, like the Bran chapters, they're really about individual adventures across the countryside. I'm more of a "big picture" kind of guy. I enjoy political intrigue and large-scale activity.

That said, my speedy reading may have opened the door for the television version of Game of Thrones to provide some new entertainment. I don't remember anything about a Mines of Moria-style face room underneath the House of Black and White. And, it feels like we're getting close to where she might leave the temple and start interacting with regular people, which has the potential to be much more interesting.

Littlefinger remains full of quips.

When he zazzed Lancel about providing fantasies, I thought he was going to get popped. And when he gave Cersei a quick reminder that everyone knows about her and Jamie doing the dirty, again, I thought he was getting himself into trouble. But people seem to not want to pummel Baelish for some reason. I don't know if that's just TV, or if there's a bigger picture reason for it. Maybe people really don't want to cross The Vale? Tough to say. Regardless, the lines are good.

Jorah and Tyrion have an interesting ride ahead of them.

We're rounding out into the story as it happens in the books, but taking a different road. Regardless, we've brought in a couple new characters (including Mr. Eko from Lost), and a story arc that offers some excitement. I always enjoy seeing main characters get into battles, even though you often lose those characters because of those battles.

Also, even before Jorah and Tyrion were captured, it should be noted that their interactions were enjoyable. That's what happens when you have two good actors with good lines simply interacting as their characters would. There have been a lot of these small segments throughout the show that have worked simply because they seemed genuine: Sansa and The Hound, Joffrey and Margaery, Jon and Alliser, even Ros and Theon was pretty good. The one redeeming quality of Jamie's trip to Dorne is that we get some good old-fashioned Jamie and Bronn chatter. The characters make the show.

Ramsay Bolton is who we thought he was.

I'll admit, I wasn't sure what direction Ramsay was set to take this season. He's been put into a position of power, and he's got far more eyes on him than usual, so I didn't know if his behavior would change, out of responsibility or simply out of exposure. But of course, he's not a multi-layered character, not really. He's the physical essence of depravity, and that's really all he is. It would have been interesting if he were playing a long game, with some grand intentions, but it seems like he's really just interested in satisfying his urges.

One redeeming factor here is that Sansa will now have a specific reason to unleash the North. Whether it happens or not, or happens as I would hope it would happen (heads on spikes), who knows. But at least it's lingering out there.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Game of Thrones Delay...Again

There will be another delay on posting my Game of Thrones recap.

A man needs his sleep.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Game of Thrones Quick Episode Discussion/Review - Season 5, Episode 5, "Kill the Boy"

Sunday night, I watched one of the most soul-shattering, gut-wrenching, utterly brutal television programs I've ever seen. Then after the Washington Capitals game was over, I took in this week's episode of Game of Thrones, which was also entertaining. I think this might have been my favorite episode of this season so far, though probably not for the kind of reasons any of you would feel. However, you might have recognized them in the show when you saw them as my kinds of moments.

Let's get into it.

I literally (figuratively) threw up in my mouth when Grey Worm pitched romance at Missandei.

I don't know why they insist on continuing this line. Someone must have been a huge Short Circuit fan and they said, "Let's match up a robot with an odd foreigner, it'll be delightful." Grey Worm is perfectly useful as an emotionless killing machine, and a battlefield commander. We don't need an awkward romantic angle shoehorned into that storyline.

Tormund is wildly entertaining.

Get it? Wildly? I kill me.

But seriously, Tormund is a strong character, as memorable and powerful as Mance Rayder was. He strikes you as a good person, but you can't help but feeling like when Jon Snow was trying to convince him to help him with the wildlings, it was a bit like trying to negotiate with a bear. But the whole scene was solid, and they actually did a good job of not having Jon trip over his lines so much. The multiple references to the chains were a bit much, and they telegraphed Jon releasing Tormund, but other than that, the scene was pretty judiciously spoken. A lot of this season has felt like people were narrating rather than acting naturally and letting the audience put the pieces together. But it's definitely better when you've got more "show" than "tell."

Stannis correcting grammar at Castle Black was maybe my favorite thing ever.

Seriously, god, it was amazing. I enjoyed it the first time when it was him and Davos, but this time was like fan-service, it was so good.

Roose Bolton is becoming as entertaining a "supervillain" as Tywin Lannister was.

The way he deals with Ramsay is a lot like how Tywin dealt with Jamie and Cersei; he acknowledges their roles in his plans, but he belittles and manipulates them as he likes, often with funny quips. He's become one of my favorite "characters to hate," so much so that I have to keep reminding myself that I hate him.

Along the same vein...

Is it possible that Roose Bolton legitimately believes that he's a more suitable Warden of the North than the Starks had been? And maybe more troubling, might that actually be a legitimate belief, at least in the current political climate?

Let's look at it from a broad view. As we saw in the first season, Ned Stark was incapable of working around his honor, even when he could see that the kingdom was in grave danger. Littlefinger tells him, "I did warn you not to trust me." It's like he's saying, "Jesus Ned, I told you I was going to betray you and you still didn't see it coming." Ned Stark just couldn't fathom that deception and politicking could triumph over justice and strength in combat. So clearly, he was ill-suited for the dealings of Westeros in its current state.

Now, on to Robb Stark. The Boltons followed Robb at the beginning, which made sense. Robb was hugely popular, and as they mentioned, he was winning every battle. Unfortunately, Robb inherited his father's tunnel vision; also unfortunately, he did not inherit the entirety of his father's virtue. Had Robb not reneged on his deal with Walder Frey regarding a marriage, the whole Red Wedding fiasco might not have been in the making.

And it might have been in the making anyways; either way, Robb was completely unprepared for his eventual assassination, while a bit of reconnaissance might have gotten him the information to know what was brewing.

Roose Bolton now controls the North. He's got a solid peace with the Lannisters (/"Baratheons") who hold the crown, as well as a firm alliance with Walder Frey. He correctly acknowledges that Stannis Baratheon is the greatest threat to peace in the North (or rather, Stannis' army being in the North and the Boltons being in Winterfell). While he's obviously committed some pretty horrible treason, encourages torture, and abides some pretty reprehensible behavior by his bastard son, Roose Bolton is, if nothing else, a true Lord. And he entertains the shit out of me.

See you next week...unless the Caps lose game 7 against the Rangers on Wednesday. If that happens, I'll probably be at the bottom of a bottle for a couple of months.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Game of Thrones Quick Episode Discussion/Review - Season 5, Episode 4, "Sons of the Harpy"

Apologies again for the delay, I'm still trying to catch up on sleep/rest/sobriety. Let's leap right into the discussion points; they're going to be a bit more extensive this week.

Watching Tommen try to be king is almost as uncomfortable as it must be for Tommen to actually be king.

Say what you will about Robert Baratheon. He was a lecher, a drunk, and an overall brutal individual, but he would've never tolerated this Sparrow bullshit on his watch. His guards even seemed to know that a show of strength was necessary, but Tommen the Soft (as I've decided to call him) just slunk away. Tywin was a horrible person, but he did manage to keep the city in line. Tommen couldn't control his bladder. And that guy gets to bang Margaery on the regular? A classic story of being born into privilege, I guess.

The exchange between Jamie and Bronn was almost as boring as the exchange between Jorah and Tyrion.

Jamie and Bronn at least had some entertaining lines. But in both circumstances, we were supposed to believe that Bronn/Tyrion is clever for deducing a particular aspect of their traveling companion's story. I didn't find either one surprising or interesting or clever. It was a lazy way of having the one guy "learn" information about the other without the information needing to be specifically shared by someone who wouldn't want to share it.

Also, the conversation between Tyrion and Jorah was utterly unnecessary for the rest of this episode. It should've been jammed in with other, more relevant content. This plays into my fifth discussion point, so stay tuned.

I don't care about the "Sand Snakes."

I know they're supposed to be alluring or badass or both, but they just struck me as petulant children, which I guess they kind of are. They're upset that their father is dead; that I can empathize with. And they live in a world where death happens all the time, so vengeance isn't completely outrageous. Valar morghulis, after all. But for children of a prince, they seem to have no sense of the political ramifications of their planned actions. Furthermore, Ellaria Sand knew exactly what Oberyn was doing when he chose to volunteer to fight for Tyrion. She knew Oberyn was fighting a titan in the Mountain, and that his death was possible. Now she's all whiny about him dying? Skank.

Bitches need to listen to Prince Doran. The man's a Starfleet doctor for crying out loud.

While he was (and still is) vital to the books' progression, Barristan Selmy was completely expendable in the show, and I didn't feel particularly affected by his death (?).

I'm assuming he is in fact dead; he appears as such at the end of the episode, and the reactions around the Internet seem to confirm that. In the book, he fills the role of adviser after Jorah's departure, while Daario fills other..."roles." But in the show, he just seems much older, not as far as age, but in that he's always telling stories about how it used to be. And while they kept telling us how great a fighter he was, we saw him in all of one battle. And he died in it.

All of this leads into my final point...

This show should have 20-episode seasons.

Seasons 1 through 3 were conducted with the elegance of a painter. Season 4 was still good. Season 5 seems to be delivered with a hammer. And not a good hammer like, "Beric Dondarrion died but is alive again!" But like, "Here's information. Here's more information. This character likes this character but doesn't like this character. Facts facts joke facts."

Also, I mean, can we appreciate that it took them about four seasons to get through three and a half books, and now suddenly it looks like we're pushing the rest of book four and all of book five into season five of the show? This can't be by choice; certain stories go together, and there are certain logical ending points for each story within each season. So sometimes, you would need to rush to get to the end of a particular storyline "in time" in a ten episode season.

But beyond that, we're dealing with a lot of new characters, and a lot of old characters in new situations. A bit more exposition to really give us a three-dimensional impression of each character's current status would be wildly helpful; we cared about the Red Wedding because we'd had so much time with Robb and Catelyn. When Barristan Selmy died, it didn't feel like we were losing an important character; it felt like we were losing a guard, because that's all we've really seen of him. But if we had, say, 18 episodes this season, we could've spent more time watching a slow decay of order in the city of Meereen, and more time learning about Barristan, his motivations, what he cares about, and what kind of guy he is. As it is, we got an alley fight.

I feel like Robb Stark when he's talking to Edmure. "Now I have a mill."

Anyways, there are still a lot of interesting questions that give me and my fellow book readers stuff to discuss. We've got some endgames that we still don't know, like Tyrion, Stannis, etc., so the show still has a lot of ways it can re-invigorate me. But there's a lot that's getting swept away, and I'm not liking it.

Monday, May 4, 2015

GoT Delay

I got annihilated watching the Floyd Mayweather fight on Saturday night, and paid the iron price all day Sunday, so I'll be a little late in getting my episode discussion post up. Look for it Tuesday morning.

2023 In Review - Movies

Along with TV shows, this year was a pretty good year for me with movies. I have a lifetime of all-time classics that I've never seen, a...