Game Of Thrones (HBO): Brienne, Ramsay, + "George Lucas Disease" #GoT
I am not going to recap #GoT because there are GREAT people over at the Ringer who do a MUCH better job of it than I ever could. Plus, I am saving myself for Season 2 of Mr. Robot (which I suspect will take all of my energies).
I will, however, have some comments on every episode because I love Game Of Thrones and have read all the books (and I mean all of the books, yes Dunk and Egg and the Coffee Table Extravaganza too) and seen every episode of the series).
Well, season 6 of Game of Thrones is finally here and it is probably a testament to show-runners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss confidence that it was a relatively quiet opening salvo of an episode. Sometimes, confidence becomes hubris, and I am starting to worry that these guys are starting to get "George Lucas disease" (so great that they don't need to listen to well-meaning advisors willing to give contrarian advice).
If you have not yet watched Episode One of Season 6, slow your roll....You are on....
1. Brienne Of Tarth Alert
This is a good news/bad news proposition.
The Good News:
Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) saved Sansa (Sophie Turner) and her new buddy Theon Grayjoy (Alfie Allen) from being returned to Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) the most despicable character I can remember ever being portrayed on television.
Ramsay is so unsympathetic and awful that (because apparently, the writers were worried that we may have forgotten his multiple rapes and tortures) prior to Brienne's intervention we see Ramsay order his Maester to feed the remains of his dead mistress, who may be the only person in the history of the show that he actually cared for, to his dogs so as not to waste meat.
One of my small criticisms of the show is that they continually think we need to be reminded of how awful Ramsay is (we don't and trust me nobody who is a fan of the show forgets how awful he is, especially after last season). I don't appreciate writing that condescends to the viewer. Yes, it is a big show with lots of characters and plot lines, buy you really don't have to have Ramsay compete in Olympic level psychosis just to remind us he is really awful whenever you bring him back.
Another quick criticism, there is NO WAY In The Flayed Man's Hell that Ramsay would have sent lackeys after anyone as important as Sansa, zero chance, this is very poor writing IMHO. Ramsay spent years hunting people who were not important at all to him just for the sport. Catching Sansa, as his Father informs him, is REALLY important to his future in the North. This is one of those instances where the writers could not write themselves out of a corner and took a stupid shortcut (in the books they escape with the Bard version of Mance Rayder and as of now we have no idea what happens to them).
Ramsay is cruel, not stupid, and only a moron would leave his lackeys to hunt Sansa (especially since Ramsay's core Game of Thrones superpower is hunting).
Anyway, just as Ramsay's forces and his dogs were about to catch Sansa and Theon, Brienne intervenes and (mostly) takes care of business with the help of Podrick and eventually Theon (why does Sansa still insist on cowering after 100 lessons in the need for at least strategic self-defense?). Of course, this is all still pretty bizarre since in the books Stannis is still alive (we think) and has Theon's sister with him as a prisoner. I am trying to keep the books and show in my head as parallel universes that will take different paths but end up in the same place by the end.
Anyway, Brienne found Sansa and pledges herself to her service. Which leads us to....
The Bad News:
Brienne has found Sansa and pledged herself to her service.
Brienne has a spectacular record of failure when it comes to serving as someone's protector. She was pledged to protect Renly (who was killed by a "baby" ghoul birthed by Melissandre (Carice van Houten). She was pledged to protect Catelyn Stark (who is presumed dead and may or may not now be a stone-faced ghoul). She was supposed to save Sansa from Ramsay (I guess she kind of has finally done that?).
Brienne is a very strong fighter (in the books, one of the strongest at swordplay in all of Westeros, for instance, she fights Jamie Lannister to a standstill when he was still in possession of two hands and she won the first tournament ever depicted in the books). In the show, they sometimes show her as very competent (she killed The Hound, for instance) and sometimes as merely adequate (she should have laid quick waste to the idiots she faced last night). Again, I feel this is usually because of poor situational writing more than an overall strategy for Brienne. They needed Ramsay to strike the last blow and wanted Podrick to be involved, so they make Brienne look like she is struggling to take on a few minions of the Boltons.
So, anyway, Brienne has "saved" Sansa (Woo Hoo!).
2. Tyrion and Varys Are Apparently Stupid Now
Two of the most brilliant characters in Game of Thrones Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill) feel comfortable enough to roam the streets of Meereen with no guards. Meereen, where legendary knights were literally assassinated in the streets (recently). Meereen, where their Queen was almost killed at a public event in broad daylight. You know, Meereen, a place that is so complex and insane that even George R.R. Martin had a term for his characters being stuck there (the Meereenese Knot).
I get it, you need some "exposition time" and these are the guys to give it to you. I get that you want to build a feeling of "danger" around them. But, why in the world would either of them ever be this stupid? When have either Tyrion or Varys ever been that dumb without cause (Tyrion has taken some big risks, but always for a reason)? Are there an excess of little people Tyrion could be confused for in Meereen? How many court Eunuchs are there in Mereen? Again, sloppy writing IMHO. You had 10 months to put this one together, come on guys.
3. "Sand Snake" Mania
The entire handling of Dorne on the show has been pretty absurd. In the books, Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig) is a machiavellian genius who overcomes his physical limitations by employing cunning and strategy in every situation. He is always a step ahead of his rivals, despite appearing infirm or even weak. On the show, he comes across as only a laughable and weak buffoon.
Anyway, the mama and snakes manage to assassinate Doran Martell right in front of his guards and then murder his son on his boat. I guess this was all supposed to be very Godfather and I was supposed to be impressed by their cunning. To me, it just seemed sloppy and way too easy.
4. John Snow
Sorry, not buying it, notice they went out of their way to not have John Snow (Kit Harrington) buried during the entire episode. Melissandre (Carice van Houten) is still there and may be having an identity crisis, but this isn't over. I love how they are engaging in a disinformation campaign (putting out articles today from Kit Harrington about how life is "after dying" on the show). Horseshit.
I just do not believe that George RR Martin would spend that much time on a character's arc to have him die to zero effect. Not the way he writes, not the way it works. Trust me, he is not "dead dead." Not sure which version of Miracle Max will save him, but dude will be having fun storming castles again soon.
5. Queen of Dragons?
Not really sure why we have Daenerys back with a Dothraki horde. But whatever, it does mean we get a buddy pairing between "Ser Friend Zone" Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen, nickname straight ripped off from Grantland and The Ringer, but so apt) and Daario (the second Daario Treme keyboard player, Michiel Huisman). By the way, that "Ser Friend-Zone" nickname is so great that the writers had the two characters joking about it on the show this week, that is when you know your writing had an impact, yes, I am talking about you, Mallory Rubin.
Go and save your Queen you two confounded buddies and frustrated Daenerys paramours (although I suspect she will save herself and maybe gain a Dothraki Horde to boot).
No Jar Jar Binks!
There were good moments too, it is really good to see Davos (Liam Cunningham) getting more screen time and I always appreciate the work of the great Jonathan Pryce (Brazil) as "The High Sparrow."
I guess that is all I have, sorry to sound so critical. I think David Benioff and D. B. Weiss get a great deal of the big stuff right, but they are nowhere near as careful and meticulous as George is with these characters and it often shows. I find myself wishing often that they would be more careful. I am starting to be slightly worried about GOT Hubris turning into "George Lucas Disease."
God forbid Game of Thrones starts looking like the Star Wars "Prequels."
What did you think of Season 6 Episode 1 of Game of Thrones? Would love to hear your thoughts, leave a comment!