Dragonstone – A Review/Commentary [Spoilers]

First of all, this post will contain unrestrained SPOILER for Game of Thrones, certainly the first episode of Season 7, but also for other seasons, and the books.

This is going to be a blend of commentary and review, going over my reactions, both positive and negative to Dragonstone, the first episode of Game of Thrones Season 7.

So, without further ado…

I had actually forgotten that they do this cold-opening teaser thing before the opening titles of the first episode of a season, recreating the Prologues that each of the books has.  It’s a nice touch.

I’ll admit, I was fooled at the beginning. Sure, I remember that Walder Frey was dead, but my first thought was that this was some kind of flashback. My warning alarms went off when he signaled the wine to go around, everything about the whole situation just screamed: “I’m getting rid of my underlings.”

And that’s the thing: Walder would certainly be capable of killing off his men like that if he felt it benefitted him.  It wasn’t until the line “Slaughtered your guests after inviting them into your home,” that I gasped and realized it was Arya.

Her lines and the whole scene after removing Walder’s face was just perfect.  Such a great opening scene for a season.

The opening titles are beautiful, as always.  It brought joy to my Northerner’s heart to see the Stark Direwolf back in its proper place in Winterfell, and the addition of Oldtown was very cool.

Okay, yes, a vision of the coming undead army, very creepy, moving on.

Bran comes to Castle Black.  A neat scene, but I have issues with the general direction they’ve taken Bran’s storyline in, and how it deviates from the books, so it’s hard to be excited about this.

Nice to see Jon fitting into his role as King in the North. One of the things I’ve always liked about Jon, particularly in the books, is his keen and straightforward strategic and logistical mind. He understands what needs to be done, and he presents it straightforwardly.

Once again Lyanna Mormont stands up and kicks way more ass than her tiny frame has any business kicking.  What an awesome character. What an awesome character.

If Jon is going to have Sansa up there in the front with him, and with leave to speak in council, the two of them really need to hash out policy ahead of time. It does no good for one’s vassals to see their King and his sister arguing over how to reward loyalty and punish treachery. Yesh, guys.

The mood in that room could have turned ugly, and was going that direction until Jon called up the Umber and Karstark heirs and has them renew their Oaths.  It was a relief to see the obvious approval in the Lords who had been grumbling just a moment ago.

Nice scene of two people who’ve been through their own Hells comparing notes on how to proceed from here.

Nice commentary about Cersei’s ruthlessness.

Speak of the Devil…

Cersei seems not quite a crazy in the show as she became in the books. She just seems… naive maybe, rather than the full-on delusional that I’m used to thinking of her as.

One of the things that had previously occurred to me is that while they may have “won” the War of the Five Kings, the Lannisters actually aren’t in that great a position. Their army was getting soundly beaten by Robb Stark, and they haven’t really had much success in other theaters of war.  They’ve been whittled down, bit by bit, until now- as Jaime points out, they are surrounded on all sides by their enemies.

So, the Greyjoys. Um, no? Honestly, this development doesn’t make much sense to me.  First of all, with a fleet that large off the coast of King’s Landing, why didn’t they just sack the place? I think they vastly outnumber the local crown/Lannister forces, and then they could use the tactics that they’re good at against the coming Targaryen forces, rather than forming a traditional alliance.

And why isn’t this Euron blind in one eye? The Crow’s Eye is a fun character, I love hating him, but we get this wanker instead? He just feels a bit flat to me, in spite of all his attempts at character.

It’s interesting to redirect Euron’s desires to marry Daenerys from the books to Cersei in the show.

So, what about this gift? Tyrion? Makes sense, but how does Euron get to Tyrion? That blasted horn from the books that supposedly let you control dragons? Maybe.

The Citadel.  This is a cool sequence, I love the lighting gadgets, with the mirrors and lenses, very cool.

Okay, yes, it sucks to be an initiate at the Citadel.

I’ll admit to being more than a little disappointed at their choice not to adopt the masks of the Archmaesters, or the specific character of Archmaester Marwyn- though since I googled him to check the spelling of his name, I find that the Archmaester that Sam talks with IS supposed to be Marwyn.  But… but… the glass candle… the occult specialty… the taking sam seriously from the get-go… the realizing that earth-shattering things are afoot… no? We don’t really get any of that, huh? Darn.

I dunno… the book stealing feel a bit cliched to me.

The practice yard, the gathering place of awesome supporting characters.

And Sansa just shuts Littlefinger down.  I approve!

Okay, I had seen people on the internet bitching about the Ed Sheeran cameo, but I am so out of touch with modern music that if I hadn’t seen screen caps accompanying said bitching, I wouldn’t have had any idea who he was.  So I take the scene for what it is

So I take the scene for what it is, and what I think it is is a beautiful scene where Arya learns that not all Lannister soldiers are bloodthirsty monsters.  It’s an important thing for her to learn, and I’m interested to see what impact it has on her development.

The Hound does such a good job that the Brotherhood comes off as his entourage more than anything else.

Still, it’s interesting to see that hanging out with two Stark girls has been to enhance the development of the Hound’s conscience.

Though I will say that the Hound fire-gazing is a bit of a weird development.

I can’t be the only one who’s noticed that the knife that Sam sees an illustration of in this book is the knife that was used to try to kill Bran.

Okay, “mountain” of obsidian under Dragonstone.  That’s neat and makes some sense.

Oh, hi Jorah.  Comfy?

Okay, so Daeny leading this fleet of ships looks badass.  No doubts there.

But here’s my question: why is Dragonstone abandoned?

In the books, Stannis left behind a garrison force, and the Lannisters have been trying to siege it without much success (and in fact, Sir Loras Tyrell is severely wounded in the attempt).

If Stannis left it completely abandoned as we’ve been told earlier in this episode, why didn’t the Lannisters just send a detachment to hold it? Or they Greyjoys when they were there? Jaime tells Cersei that Daenerys will most likely land there, and it seems like they’ve had plenty of time to gets some men there to make that inconvenient.

Nope, apparently, she just gets to walk in and take over. Because manning an incredibly defensible fortress with, from what we can see, one narrow causeway for an access point- instead of just letting invaders take it over- is outside the grasp of both Cersei and Jaime’s strategic minds.

I’m calling foul on just how easy that was.

All in all, I think this season, even more than the last one, shows signs that they’re not longer adapting Martin’s material, and making it up as they go along.  As twisted and indirect as Martin’s plot threads may be, they always feel to flow naturally to me. This, on the other hand, sometimes feels forced and awkward.

That said, though, it was still a very enjoyable show, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.

CJPSR

The Muppets – A First Glance Review

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Monday saw the broadcast of the first episode of the Muppet’s new program, titled simply “the muppets.”  Several of my friends have taken to Facebook with their reactions to the program, but I thought that perhaps taking more time to express myself was worthwhile.  Also, I’m trying to keep an eye open for more material to post here, and this seemed as good a topic as any, considering the Kermit figure that sits on the wall behind the main floor counter:

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Alright, shameless product placement aside…

I think it’s worth saying that I tend to avoid spoiler.  I generally like to know as little as possible about a show going into it, other then the basic story concept so I have some notion if I’ll like it at all.  As such, I feel I should warn readers that I am not holding back with this view.  There will be spoilers (if there is such a thing for the Muppets).  You have been warned.

As I had not been following the development of the show at all, I didn’t really know what to expect.  But I wasn’t expecting a mockumentary of the production of a late night talk show, one SO in the vein of “The Office” that the title card itself references it (see above).

My initial reaction to this was a bit of knee-jerk “Ew, THIS is not what The Muppets is meant to be!”  But then later I started thinking- WHAT are the Muppets meant to be, and why?

Well, for those of us with the blessing of age enough to remember the original Muppet Show (and the many more who have seen it in some home media format) we know that said program took the form of a variety show with added backstage elements, and was to some extent a satire of such things.

It was 1976, and such things were common on prime-time television.  Laugh-In, The Carol Burnett Show, Saturday Night Live, these are just three examples of some of the more popular variety shows on TV during that era, but there are more.  Many more.  The comedy variety show was a major part of the culture of the mid-to-late 70s, and this became a natural format for a show of goofball humour and occasional commentary/satire.

Would that hold today?  How many comedy variety show are there out there these days?  SNL is the only one I can think of that’s still going, or still lives in the cultural mind.  What is much more popular?  Reality shows (or shows mocking them) that feature dramatic situations and one-on-one interview cutaways.  I think, then, that taking this format is ENTIRELY within the spirit of the Muppets, and in a way is getting back to their roots, the original intention with which they were created.

Jim Henson’s creations got their first large-scale exposure with Sesame Street in 1969, but it’s not what Ji really wanted to do.  Sure, he thought educated kids was important, but he was concerned about being pigeonholed into children’s media when he felt that puppetry had the potential to be a medium for more mature entertainment as well.

This is why the more adult tone that the humour took in the show was refreshing to me.  Yes, we’re all familiar with the image of the Muppets as innocently goofy, child-friendly entertainment, but go back and look at the first season of the Muppet show.  Violence and innuendo abound, as do references to politics and news that would likely have gone over kids heads.

Sadly, I think Jim’s fears came true, and the show was forced to take a more child-friendly tone as it became more popular because, in North American society at least, we relegate puppets and animation to the realm of children’s entertainment.

This show displays an effort to break away from that with a return to innuendo in conversations regarding Kermit and his new girlfriend, and I say good on ’em.

The celebrity guest star trend returns with a hilarious (and self-depricating) visit from Tom Bergeron, and appearances from Elizabeth Banks and Imagine Dragons, who all blended into the environment of Muppets casually and smoothly.

The show was filled with the kind of wit that I love and expect from the Muppets, with Janice and Sam the Eagle both eliciting a laugh-out-loud reaction from me with particularly memorable lines.

While I’m not sold as of yet on how specifically the show seems to reference “The Office” specifically (I often feel that the parody and satire of today focuses too much on specific references, and not enough on tropes and conventions of genre), all-in-all I came away form the show with a lighter heart and a desire to see more.