Independence Day: Resurgence Review

Independence Day: Resurgence Review

Independence Day: Resurgence Review

***Spoiler warning

Independence Day: Resurgence brings fun and sci-fi action, but lacks the heart and clever writing that makes Independence Day still a favorite film of mine.

Before jumping into what I disliked about the movie, I will start off positive with what I liked.

I enjoyed the return of Julius Levinson and seeing how his life has progressed in the last 20 years. It just makes so much sense he would write a book called How I Saved The World and that he’d go around marketing it to an elderly population. The seed is planted in his first scene for the emptiness and disappointment he feels for not having grandchildren and that storyline is played with well as he helps the kids he meets on the journey to David and they help him. It’s one of the only storylines in this movie that had real heart to it. Julius still delivers some of the best lines in the movie and his shtick still makes me laugh.

Dr. Okun and Dr. Isaacs also have heart with what is definitely the cutest and most believable romantic relationship in this movie.

Incorporating a third species that the aliens fear and that can be a crucial ally to the humans is a fascinating twist and a great addition to the story’s world-building (universe-building in this case). It makes a lot of sense as in the original movie President Whitmore saw what the aliens planned and what they’d done, exterminating life on each planet and consuming all resources before moving on. This indicated that there are many more species out there beyond just the humans and aliens. The introduction of this third species is one of the most interesting features of the movie and one that should’ve been explored with more depth. This is one reason why a third movie (if we actually get one) may actually be more interesting than this sequel.

The actions scenes are pretty solid, except for when the Queen alien chases the school bus (too absurd). The pilots getting lured into the alien ship, their bombs rendered useless and having to survive briefly in the aliens’ ecosystem within the ship was also neat to watch. Getting to see more of the actual aliens was also cool and a nice benefit of CGI and advancements in technology since 1996.

The concept of Independence Day: Resurgence was promising. Imagine a world that has been peaceful and unified since the alien attacks in 1996 and experienced incredible technological advancements thanks to recovered alien technology. See how the characters we came to love in the original film have been affected by the 1996 attacks and how they have developed since then. And now the aliens have returned for revenge.

Now for the criticism: Unfortunately the actual film doesn’t take advantage of the promising concept. All the interesting information about how this world has evolved from 1996 to 2016 was conveyed in far greater detail through digital marketing than the actual movie itself. Seriously, the marketing was better than the movie. Check out these clever videos and websites that actually flesh out the universe within the film.

The characters we came to love in the original film are largely misused and underdeveloped this time around or completely absent. I was disappointed but not too worried about Will Smith’s absence before seeing the movie. With his absence explained in the film’s marketing and so many characters from the original returning, I thought it would be fine. I was wrong.

President Whitmore was my favorite character from the original film. I loved his bold and courageous and inspiring attitude, made only better by his sharp mind and wit, topped off with endless compassion and being a husband and father before anything else. He wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty for the right reasons. I have so much respect for a man who rallied and inspired the world after catastrophic attacks that nearly destroyed humanity, a man who despite being a politician, went into the air as a pilot and did what he had to do help defeat the aliens.

In the sequel, this incredible character is mostly reduced to a raving old guy, the one that no one believes but who knows the truth. He knows what’s coming but no one believes him until it’s too late. He’s mostly limited to this role until he makes a decent speech that pales in comparison to his brilliant speech in the original film, and then he shaves and to save his daughter Patricia Whitmore and the planet, he makes a crucial sacrifice that barely anyone except his daughter seems to care about or acknowledge.

I was excited that Jasmine, one of the bravest and most compassionate characters from the original movie would also be back, but I couldn’t believe they killed her so soon. With a completely evil and destructive enemy like the aliens, it’s not like they needed to give her son Dylan Hiller more motive to fight back against them with everything he’s got. I suppose her death helped to create peace between Dylan and Jake Morrison as Jake tries to comfort Dylan in the aftermath of her death, but I really didn’t care about their feud and would definitely have preferred to see more of Jasmine instead. At least she and Whitmore die as heroes, even if their deaths go largely unacknowledged and their heroics unappreciated. Unacknowledged deaths seems to be the trend for most deaths in the movie, from President Lanford and her Cabinet (they didn’t take enough advantage of her character as the president and first female President of the United States), to the nameless pilots who infiltrate the alien ship and are trapped inside with Jake and Dylan and Charlie and Rain Lao, and Jiang Lao and others on the moon station. It also doesn’t help that most of the new characters are pretty one-dimensional, worst of all being the beyond irritating Floyd. Even the death of Will Smith’s character Stephen Hiller that happened in between movies receives the same treatment. The absence of his character definitely contributes to the lack of heart in this new film.

I love the original Independence Day because you got to really know and care about the characters before the sci-fi action commences, before destruction reigns. It’s about 45 minutes into the movie when the aliens unleash their primary weapons on major cities, 45 minutes spent on character development before action. And many of the film’s heroes are everyday people, people like David Levinson and Jasmine and Russell Case. Furthermore, the writing is really smart. Defeating the aliens through “giving them a cold” is brilliant. Also, part of what I love about that movie is it plays with the question “Seriously, what would you do if aliens came to Earth?” No one knows what to expect and it helps build terrific suspense. But in this movie everyone knows what the aliens are and generally know what to expect.

Independence Day: Resurgence is still a fun sci-fi movie, but unfortunately just falls short in so many ways, particularly compared to Independence Day.


Game of Thrones “The Winds of Winter” 6×10 Review

Game of Thrones “The Winds of Winter” 6×10 Review

Game of Thrones “The Winds of Winter” 6×10 Review

There is no way I can do the Game of Thrones season 6 finale “The Winds of Winter” justice in a single review. Far too many significant events brimming with emotional charge occurred. To spare you a thesis paper, I leave you with the following thoughts:

While much has changed in 6 seasons of Game of Thrones, “The Winds of Winter” demonstrates that at its essence the show hasn’t changed that much. The ending of season 6 has so many fascinating parallels to the ending of season 1. A ruthless Lannister with nothing to tether their sanity sits on the Iron Throne (Joffrey in season 1, Cersei in season 6). A Stark child is named King in the North (Robb Stark in season 1, Jon Snow in season 6). Jon’s still a Stark in my opinion for so many reasons, but more on that later. Furthermore, the season ends with an incredibly powerful and triumphant moment for Daenerys.

The players and their positions have changed dramatically over 6 seasons, but the game is still the same, and most of the players and families are still playing by the same rules, guided by the same values.

Cersei is far savvier than Joffrey when it comes to politics and understanding how people operate. Joffrey could never have pulled off the devastating yet brilliant plan Cersei executed in this episode, eliminating all her known enemies. While Joffrey did whatever his spoiled and psychopathic mind wanted, there were individuals like Tyrion and Tywin who could generally prevent him from going too far. No one, not even Jaime, can fulfill that role where Cersei is concerned. Game of Thrones brilliantly made us root for Cersei, one of the show’s most despicable characters, in the conflict against the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant. By the time we realized how wrong we were to ever support this woman regardless of her opponent, the Great Sept of Baelor and majority of characters we knew in King’s Landing were incinerated or stabbed to death (a specially reserved intimately violent and disturbing ending for Grand Maester Pycelle). It’s difficult to process that all these characters are gone, particularly Margaery who’s been a major player in the game of thrones since season 2, so cunning yet so compassionate. At least she realized what was happening and tried to escape. She and Loras might’ve even made it out alive if not for the High Sparrow’s hubris.

And Tommen, one of the most manipulated and conflicted yet innocent characters, has tragically committed suicide. Cersei has no one to blame but herself where the death of her last child is concerned.

Examining further parallels, Jon is far more similar to Robb than Cersei is to Joffrey. However, there is one facet of being King in the North that Robb failed at where Jon will succeed. Jon will keep the North unified by staying in the North. While Robb turned out to be a brilliant military strategist and constantly defeated the Lannister army on the battlefield, he lost control of the North. In the absence of many Northern lords, ladies and the bulk of their armies, the ironborn invaded and Ramsay Bolton began his reign of terror. Like Robb, Jon lives honorably and bravely, sometimes to the point of naiveté. But Jon has already succeeded in unifying the North in a way we haven’t since season 2. And with the White Walkers and Night King coming, Jon definitely won’t be marching any armies South. The King in the North will stay and defend the North.

Among the many satisfying events in this episode is confirmation of the R+L=J theory (thanks, Bran). While it’s rewarding to finally have the mystery of Jon’s parentage confirmed, it doesn’t really change anything about Jon’s character for me. His values and identity are still the same values instilled by his Stark upbringing and Stark family. From growing up at Winterfell, to his time at the Wall and beyond the Wall as a brother and later Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, to his resurrection and journey to retake Winterfell and the North with Sansa at his side, Jon is very much so a man of the North. His biological mother is still a Stark, and the man who raised him and arguably shaped Jon more than anyone is still Ned Stark himself. The truth about Jon’s parentage will definitely create conflict, and it’ll probably be Littlefinger who will sow said conflict.

It’s satisfying to know what Littlefinger’s ultimate motives are, even if they aren’t at all surprising. Sansa has matured and toughened herself to an incredible extent, asserting herself as a true player in the game of thrones. However, Littlefinger still unfortunately has a hold on her and will do his utmost to turn her against Jon. I understand that while Sansa is happy to see the Northern lords and ladies declare Jon King in the North, she is irritated about not getting the respect and recognition she deserves for the integral role she played in defeating Ramsay and his army, and taking back Winterfell and the North.  But with the main threat in the North now being the White Walkers and wights, Jon Snow is definitely the best person to be in charge. And with Jon being as honorable as he is, I am confident that he will trust, respect and listen to Sansa moving forward more than he ever has before.

Meanwhile, Jon’s Aunt Daenerys (isn’t that weird to think about?!) has come so far from the young woman who emerged unscathed with three baby dragons from Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre at the end of season 1. She’s learned what it takes and what it means to be both a conqueror and a ruler. She’s surrounded herself with the individuals and forces she needs to succeed. Even though we’ve been rooting for her since season 1 and she’s allied with characters we love like Tyrion and Varys and Missandei and now Olenna Tyrell, it’s still kind of terrifying to witness the depth of her armed forces when united. Now the burning question is whether she will be seen more as a savior or invader when she lands in Westeros.

Ultimately, this episode is largely about payoff for longtime Game of Thrones fans. Which of the following events and revelations did you find most satisfying and why? Be sure to comment your answer on this blog post or on social media.

  • Cersei blowing up the Great Sept of Baelor and all her known enemies
  • Qyburn’s little birds killing Grand Maester Pycelle
  • Cersei Lannister becoming Queen of Westeros
  • Winter has come.
  • The conversation between Jon and Sansa atop the ramparts of Winterfell
  • Davos facing Melisandre concerning the truth about Shireen
  • Littlefinger finally admitting his true motives to Sansa
  • Bran discovering Jon’s parentage through his visions
  • Jon Snow becoming King in the North (Lyanna Mormont is a boss)
  • Sam and Gilly reaching the Citadel
  • Olenna Tyrell putting the Sand Snakes in their place
  • Daenerys naming Tyrion her Hand
  • Arya assassinating Walder Frey (Red Wedding revenge!)
  • Daenerys and her vast array of forces setting sail for Westeros

Game of Thrones “The Winds of Winter” 6×10 Preview: Part 2

Game of Thrones “The Winds of Winter” 6×10 Preview: Part 2

Game of Thrones “The Winds of Winter” 6×10 Preview: PART 2

  1. Winterfell

The aftermath of the victory in “Battle of the Bastards” is far from simple. Davos looks to Jon for help in punishing and maybe even killing Melisandre now that he knows the truth of what happened to Shireen. Jon aims to not just love and protect Sansa, but to trust and respect her, treating her like an equal. And Littlefinger moves to reward himself for his part in “Battle of the Bastards.” And all of this will determine the future of the North and Westeros itself.

Jon will unfortunately be forced to choose between the woman who brought him back to life, and the man who’s been his most trusted advisor this season and who convinced Melisandre to try and bring Jon back to life. I see this situation ending one of three ways. The first is that Jon banishes Melisandre, deciding that he can’t allow her execution since she brought him back to life, but he also can’t allow her to remain at his side because of what she did to Shireen. It would be similar to Daenerys’s decision to banish Jorah Mormont twice. The second is that Jon, who didn’t really know Shireen, says to Davos that Davos is the one who must decide what to do with Melisandre, that if Davos wants her to die, as per Northern philosophy, “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.” So if Davos believes Melisandre should die, then Davos needs to be the one to execute Melisandre. The third scenario is that Jon says he doesn’t have the right to punish or execute the woman who brought him back to life and that it is only fair she remain by his side. He’ll want Davos to remain by his side as well, but Davos will refuse and abandon Jon and Winterfell. Melisandre’s true age may come back into play. With her life and position on the line, she will reveal her age to help herself, even if it’s just pity she seeks.

As for Littlefinger, he’s going to seek a handsome reward for bringing the Knights of the Vale to help defeat Ramsay’s army. Political influence over the North and romance with Sansa is what we’ll see him after in this episode. He spent season 5 trying to achieve this in the North, from allying with the Boltons via the Sansa-Ramsay marriage to convincing Cersei to name him Warden of the North and give him Winterfell if he defeated the victor of the battle between the Boltons and the army of Stannis Baratheon. Cersei said she’d have the king issue a royal decree. Littlefinger may have that royal decree and tell Jon and Sansa Winterfell is his; he has the larger army and can take it from them by force if he must. However, that’s far too straightforward for Littlefinger. What’s more likely is he’ll propose an official alliance between the Vale and the North once again led by House Stark. In time he will betray them to help himself, but for now it’ll just be creating an official alliance. Where Sansa is concerned, I believe he’ll make romantic advances but Sansa will shut him down, making it clear that’s not what she wants. Littlefinger will be disappointed but won’t force the relationship. Doing so would make him too much like Ramsay. Instead, Littlefinger will promise to be patient, promise he won’t force anything between him and Sansa, but he’ll always have feelings for her and whenever she’s ready, they can begin their relationship. I dearly hope he doesn’t try to arrange an alliance between the Vale and North via a marriage between him and Sansa. Ultimately, Littlefinger will take what he wants, but he plays the game of thrones arguably better than anyone. He’s been playing a long game from the beginning and isn’t going to start taking what he wants straightforward and by force now.

There’s a lot more for the North to decide than just an alliance with the Vale. Jon will do his utmost to ensure that he and Sansa are in a good place with their relationship in the ensuing political complexity. I expect the Northern Houses to once again recognize House Stark as the reigning House. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Houses push for Sansa to be the Wardeness of the North, for Jon to be the new King in the North, or perhaps even for both to happen. I loved the sassy expression Lyanna Mormont gave Ramsay Bolton in the last episode. I hope to see her playing a role in deciding the future of the North. Tormund and the remaining wildling should also have a say in that matter.

  1. Meereen

Daenerys finally has the ships and combined forces she needs to sail for Westeros. The seemingly endless quandary of Meereen and Slaver’s Bay is finally resolved, and she has fully asserted her identity as the Mother of Dragons. At last it is time for her to head to Westeros using the ships provided by Theon and Yara, and the fleet she and her forces took from the Masters. Three fully grown dragons, Grey Worm and the Unsullied, the Khalasar, Daario Naharis and the Second Sons, Theon and Yara and their fellow ironborn, Missandei, Tyrion Lannister, and Daenerys herself will all be headed to Westeros by the end of this episode.

  1. The Wall

Bran, Meera Reed and Benjen Stark really need to reach the Wall. The White Walkers and wights have managed to kill or force everyone to flee the lands beyond the Wall. Only Bran, Meera and Benjen remain (except perhaps for Craster’s wives, we don’t know for sure what happened to them after Jon and his faithful brothers of the Night’s Watch killed the mutineers at Craster’s Keep and burned it down).

In this episode I expect to see this newly formed trio reach Castle Black where Lord Commander Edd will fill them in on all that’s happened. They’ll enjoy some shelter and food and warmth before heading to Winterfell to reunite with Jon and Sansa. With Arya also planning to head to Winterfell, the ultimate Stark reunion may come to fruition in season 7. This includes not just Arya and Bran seeing the recently reunited Jon and Sansa for the first time in years, but their Uncle Benjen as well. Like Jon, Benjen can say “My watch is ended” honorably because he too died and through extraordinary circumstances came back to life.

Edd and the rest of the Night’s Watch will be in trouble as I expect the White Walkers and wights to begin breaching the Wall at the end of the episode. There’s nothing left to stand in the way of the White Walkers and wights beyond the Wall. The episode is called “The Winds of Winter” because the White Walkers and wights are bringing the winds of winter with them as they begin spilling into Westeros.

  1. Wild Card storylines

I doubt we’ll see Arya, Sam and Gilly, Jorah Mormont, Varys, Brienne and Podrick, or Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes in this episode. But I’d love to see Sam and Gilly since there’s been a severe lack of them this season and I want to know whether Sam is sticking with the maester plan or headed back North after what transpired at Horn Hill. If Varys is back in Westeros I suspect he’ll either go to King’s Landing to murder some significant characters or to Dorne to forge an alliance between Daenerys and Dorne. Even at 69 minutes I’m not sure the episode can squeeze in these other storylines, but we shall see in what is sure to be an iconic Game of Thrones episode!



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Game of Thrones “The Winds of Winter” 6×10 Preview: Part 1

Game of Thrones “The Winds of Winter” 6×10 Preview: Part 1

Game of Thrones “The Winds of Winter” 6×10 Preview

The season finale of a favorite TV show is always a bittersweet time. Season finales tend to be packed with awesomeness, often delivering many of the best moments in the show’s history. While the shocking twists and cliffhangers are delicious, you’re then left deprived of any new taste until the next season. Before diving into preview and predictions for the Game of Thrones season 6 finale, watch (or re-watch) the episode’s promo:

  1. The Twins

Many characters die in Game of Thrones when they’re feeling most victorious and confident. Walder Frey is currently feeling that way with Riverrun once again under Frey-Lannister control, the Blackfish dead and the Houses of the Riverlands once again forced to be subservient to House Frey. That means it’s time for Walder Frey to die. It’s only fitting one of the primary engineers of the Red Wedding dies at a celebratory event at the Twins. In the books it seems like the Brotherhood Without Banners are the ones planning to bring that to fruition. But it definitely doesn’t look that way in the show with the Brotherhood gearing up to head North and fight the White Walkers and wights, and with the show’s lack of Lady Stoneheart. So who is going to kill Walder Frey?

I believe Jaime Lannister will, with help from Bronn. Jaime will kill Walder Frey for Catelyn Stark. When Jaime met with Brienne in “No One” (6×08) he was impressed and genuinely surprised Brienne was able to finish fulfilling her oath to Catelyn. I like to think it made Jaime realize he hasn’t done enough to finish fulfilling his part of the oath to Catelyn. When talking with Edmure Tully, Jaime made it abundantly clear that despite everything he still has deep respect for Catelyn, for her strength and love for her children. While he can’t help with Sansa or Arya, he can get vengeance against Walder Frey for the Red Wedding and Catelyn’s death. He has no love for the Freys and even has cause to be angry with them as their plight with Riverrun played a role in yet again tearing him away from Cersei.

With Bronn’s help, Jaime will kill Walder Frey in a way that makes Black Walder Rivers look responsible. Jaime has ample cause to hate Black Walder Rivers as he’s the one who killed Catelyn, and he acted arrogantly when Jaime and the Lannister army arrived at Riverrun (Jaime smacked him in the face). Poison seems like the best way to make this happen.

  1. King’s Landing

The trial for Cersei Lannister and Loras Tyrell is finally here. The High Sparrow thinks he’s won. But he’s severely underestimated two women: Margaery Tyrell and Cersei Lannister. Margaery has fooled about everyone except her grandmother Olenna Tyrell into thinking she’s become a completely pious, atoning figure obedient to the Faith of the Seven. But Margaery assured her grandmother the situation was under control. I believe her. Margaery is the only character who’s been able to manipulate and even be remotely successful dealing with the High Sparrow. She’s still Queen of Westeros while the first two kings she married have been long dead and her currently husband is a pawn of the High Sparrow. I am confident she has a plan to save her brother and the future of House Tyrell. She’s already put herself in a prime position to make whatever her plan is a reality.

But will Cersei inadvertently destroy Margaery’s plan? Cersei will enter this trial relying on the mysterious rumor discussed between her and Qyburn in “No One” to save herself and defeat the High Sparrow and Faith Militant once and for all. As for what that rumor is, there are two theories I present, the first being an outlandish theory of mine and the second being a popular one discussed at length on the Internet. The first is that if you watch the season 6 trailer below this paragraph, there’s a frame at 1:18 so brief it doesn’t even last a whole second. But the frame looks like a group of children standing over someone and stabbing them. My theory is that Cersei had Qyburn investigate any dirt on the High Sparrow, particularly a rumor that the High Sparrow used to be or continues to be a pedophile. With this confirmed, Cersei is going to use Qyburn’s spies (the children who were Varys’s little birds in King’s Landing) to catch the High Sparrow off guard, perhaps even pretending to seduce him before killing him. With the High Sparrow gone, the Faith Militant and the Faith’s alliance with the Crown will crumble. Of course, the more likely scenario with these children has to do with the events depicted in the Epilogue of George R. R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons . . .

The other less creepy and more popular theory is that Cersei had Qyburn investigate rumors about the caches of wildfire beneath the city and she will use the deadly weapon to save herself and defeat her enemies. It’s argued that Bran’s visions of wildfire and the Mad King screaming “Burn them all!” in “Blood of My Blood” (6×06) was foreshadowing of this event. This theory is a lot more likely. The question is how exactly Cersei intends to use the wildfire.

Compared to previous seasons, things have remained pretty status quo in King’s Landing with the High Sparrow and Faith Militant firmly maintaining their control despite various efforts from members of the tenuous Lannister-Tyrell alliance. All I feel confident in saying is that the status quo will finally shatter. I expect multiple significant characters to die in King’s Landing as the city once again runs with blood.

More predictions to come in Part 2 of this preview . . .



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Game of Thrones “Battle of the Bastards” 6×09 Review: Part 2

Game of Thrones “Battle of the Bastards” 6×09 Review: Part 2

Like “Blackwater” and “Watchers on the Wall,” I expected the whole episode to stay grounded in and around Winterfell, providing the rare opportunity to focus solely on the characters in that location instead of jumping between an array of characters and locations. So I was surprised to see the episode partly in Meereen this week. This move ended up working well as we get the needed resolution (Daenerys finally using the three fully grown dragons and the entirety of her forces to defeat the Masters once and for all) and the next step in this storyline (Daenerys allying with Yara and Theon, gaining her first large group of Westerosi allies and getting the extra ships she needs to finally set sail for Westeros). While epic and crucial, both were fairly expected to happen. It was better to happen in an episode where those scenes didn’t need to be the huge punch. The huge punch was obviously provided by the battle for Winterfell between the forces led by Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton. What happened in Meereen was an epic addition to an already incredible episode.

In Meereen I was glad to see there wasn’t drawn-out tension between Daenerys and Tyrion as she grappled with whether or not she should forgive, punish, or reward him for how he fared representing her in her extensive absence. For a while now she’s known that one can never deal or reason with the Masters. In season 5 she executed the freedman (former slave) Mossador when he killed a captured Son of the Harpy who was supposed to stand trial. When talking about the Masters, Mossador said “All they understand is blood!” After the events in the fighting pit from “The Dance of Dragons” (5×09), Daenerys finally understood this, and in “Battle of the Bastards” applied Mossador’s philosophy against the Masters. Tyrion was left to deal with an impossible situation and it’s amazing he and Missandei and Grey Worm and Varys fared as well as they did. Daenerys wisely realizes that and thankfully keeps him as her trusted adviser. This is one way in which, despite the blatant foreshadowing, Daenerys is not like her father the Mad King (see “Blood of My Blood” 6×06 Review: Part 1 for more on the parallels between Daenerys and the Mad King).

As for the alliance forged between Daenerys and Yara (the flirtation between them was palpable) and Theon, the dialogue between the two parties and the pact itself speak volumes to how Game of Thrones has largely become a story of children trying to save the world from destroying itself and paying for the mistakes and or treachery inflicted by their parents. Ned Stark, Catelyn Stark (mistakes, not treachery for those two), Tywin Lannister, the Mad King, Balon Greyjoy, Roose Bolton (mistakes AND treachery for the four of them): Many of these characters were in this episode paying for their parents’ treachery or mistakes, and in all cases except Ramsay, were trying to save the world from destroying itself because of those actions.

Ultimately, this episode delivers on longtime promises. For fans of the books and the show, it’s beyond satisfying to see the Starks finally take back Winterfell and for Daenerys to assert her dominance as the Mother of Dragons. The North Remembers in an episode that is truly A Song of Ice and Fire.

Game of Thrones “Battle of the Bastards” 6×09 Review: Part 1

Game of Thrones “Battle of the Bastards” 6×09 Review: Part 1

Game of Thrones 6×09 “Battle of the Bastards” Review

After a few episodes that varied in intensity and tone, “Battle of the Bastards” went full-throttle. It was brilliant and thrilling, but also exhausting to watch. This episode, more than any other, really entrenched the audience into the chaotic and terrifying heart of battle. As fantastic as “Blackwater” (2×09) and “Watchers on the Wall” (4×09) were in terms of big battles, neither episode had that effect on the audience like “Battle of the Bastards” did.

The scenes leading up to the battle brimmed with rich moments, beginning with the first meeting between Jon and Ramsay where the two characters are fully juxtaposed and the hatefully emotional charge between Sansa and Ramsay is fiery as ever, followed soon after by the full-blown tension and harsh truths exploding between Jon and Sansa. The conversation between Davos and Tormund was also pure gold. Despite the tense history between the leaders they served, both characters find some unlikely common ground in their pragmatic humanity and faith in Jon Snow. The scene is fantastic in itself and is made even more so by Davos’s discovery (more on that in a future blog post previewing the season 6 finale).

Right before the actual battle began, Game of Thrones violated the rule of three. For those that may not know, the rule of three is simply that things that come in threes are more satisfying, effective or funny. Whether or not you’re aware of it, you rely on the rule of three when reading or watching stories. Because of this, I thought Rickon was in the clear after Ramsay’s third arrow missed him. While the despicable son of Roose Bolton intentionally missed hitting Rickon on the first two shots, I thought the third arrow would be Rickon’s demise. But when the third arrow landed in the ground, I thought Rickon was far enough away from Ramsay and close enough to Jon to survive. I should’ve known better. I should’ve remembered how Game of Thrones deconstructs so many storytelling principles we rely on, and no one is ever safe in this universe. Sansa said it best when she told Jon the night before the battle “No one can protect me. No one can protect anyone.”

That statement speaks to the nature of war itself and what the characters face in this episode. The audience is hurled headfirst alongside Jon and the others into battle strategy clashing with violent randomness, a suffocating conflict reigning in destruction to the point of hopelessness. This is evoked so strongly and for such an extended length of time that even though I and many others predicted Littlefinger would show up with the Knights of the Vale and help save the day, any hope of that happening seemed lost long before it even happened. Hear what David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have to say to hear more about the historical influences of how they created this battle:

Following the arrival of the Knights of the Vale and their critical intervention into the battle, we see the terrific shot of Jon and Tormund and Wun Wun racing up the hill to Winterfell after Ramsay. It’s one of my favorite shots in all Game of Thrones, these three individuals who despite how bloodied and battered they area and all they’ve lost are racing after Ramsay and won’t let him escape at any cost. Ramsay learned the hard way that siege tactics become a lot less successful against giants. It’s fitting that Ramsay’s final defeat and death take place inside the walls of Winterfell at the hands of the Starks.

The deaths of Rickon and Wun Wun are particularly devastating because of how they happened. The tragedy of Rickon’s death speaks for itself. It could’ve been even more tragic and meaningful if he’d received more character development and if back in season 1 if there had been personal scenes between him and Jon and Sansa. Thinking he’s finally safe again, now protected by his older brother and sister and to have that taken away from him and when he and Jon were mere feet from reaching other is absolutely gut-wrenching. Wun Wun certainly endeared himself to audiences this season over and over again. He helped save Davos and Edd and those still loyal to Jon at Castle Black, and was the first wildling outside Tormund to pledge their support to Jon in the battle against Ramsay and his forces. In this episode, he gave everything he had against the enemy forces to the point that he wrenched open and burst through the Winterfell gates even though he was covered in and still being pelted with arrows. It seemed like we were going to get one final moment between Jon and Wun Wun with the loyalty and admiration for each other fully expressed with that last look between them. Ramsay stole that moment from coming to complete fruition with another one of his damned arrows. In season 5, Wun Wun impressed when the White Walkers and wights attacked Hardhome. In season 6, Wun Wun became a fan favorite no one wanted to let go.

Tormund’s death seemed inevitable between the Bolton spearmen and the gritty showdown between him and Lord Umber. It’s fitting that Tormund is the one to kill Lord Umber since Umber’s whole motivation for allying with Ramsay was to have the numbers to destroy the wildlings. That asshole needed to die, the asshole who betrayed the Starks, killed Shaggydog and delivered Rickon and Osha to Ramsay for an alliance.

Capping it all off was Ramsay’s death which ended up being more perfect than I ever imagined. It is perfect that Ramsay’s death is elongated and torturous and ends in betrayal. It is perfect that Sansa is the one to carry out his death after how much she suffered at his hands, perfect that his loyal hounds who devoured Walda Bolton and his baby brother earlier this season are the same hounds to tear him apart. Between her conversation with Jon the night before the battle, how writing to Littlefinger helped win the battle when all seemed lost, and that final scene with Ramsay, Sansa has asserted herself more than ever as a player rather than pawn in the game of thrones.

More about this episode and the show as a whole in the Part 2 review . . .





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Game of Thrones “Blood of My Blood” 6×06 review: Part 2

Game of Thrones “Blood of My Blood” 6×06 review: Part 2

Game of Thrones “Blood of My Blood” 6×06 review: Part 2

Part 2 of this review will look at Arya’s storyline, the Sam and Gilly storyline, and a few predictions and general thoughts moving forward.

Arya took a major step forward by finally renouncing the Faceless Men. It’s thrilling but also terrifying that she’s not just going to make a run for it. I understand that she wants to stop running and feels like she needs to face her problems, and that she’ll spend the rest of her life looking over her shoulder for Jaqen H’ghar and the Waif if she doesn’t deal with them now. This is the Arya we came to know and love, the Arya with spunk and guts. I predict Arya kills the Waif with Needle in the dark, using her time as a blind girl to her advantage. She then takes the Waif’s face, goes to Jaqen wearing that face and saying Arya Stark is dead, and then Arya kills Jaqen. Because of how much she trained with the Waif, how well she knows her combat style as a blind opponent, I have complete confidence Arya can handle the Waif. What I don’t have complete confidence in is the taking of the Waif’s face (she never learned how to do that properly) and her odds against Jaqen. Her feelings with Jaqen are also a lot more complicated as he’s helped her before in the past while she’s only known cruelty from the Waif. However it goes, I’m confident Arya will not die. Maybe that’s foolish to say when it comes to Game of Thrones, but every death has always moved the story and character development forward. There are so many intriguing possibilities for Arya’s storyline. But if Arya dies at the hands of Jaqen or the Waif, it really doesn’t further character development or the plot forward. Jaqen and the Waif won’t develop in any way because of that and even if they did, they’re in Braavos disconnected from all other characters and locations we currently care about.

Some are questioning what the purpose was of this Faceless Men storyline if it ends with Arya renouncing their ways, regardless of what happens between her and the Waif and Jaqen now. I believe the purpose was for Arya to gain invaluable skills and understanding about herself that will be crucial going forward. Furthermore, her time with the Faceless Men has helped her understand how to confront rather than run from her problems, and above all that there’s far more to life than revenge. To have Arya killed and take those huge gains away from her, preventing her from being connected to major characters and events in Westeros again, would be criminal.

The last storyline of this episode to review is with Sam and Gilly. John Bradley as Sam and Hannah Murray as Gilly have such wonderful chemistry together. Every scene they’re in is a treat to watch. They share one of the few healthy relationships in Game of Thrones, a healthy and happy relationship. What transpires at Horn Hill was overall what most expected, but so masterfully executed, with some fantastic humor sprinkled in, that I didn’t mind. In a day and age where we’re taking enormous strides to break away from gender roles and the patriarchy, the conflict between Randyll Tarly and the rest of his family rings so true. Furthermore, I love how fearless Gilly is with Randyll Tarly because while he’s a terrible person, he’s nowhere near as terrible as Craster. I also love how she doesn’t get angry at Sam, but is instead angry that terrible people like Randyll Tarly can treat good people like Sam so cruelly and face no consequences for it.

As for Sam and Gilly’s future, I’m happy they and the baby (he’s so cute) are staying together but it’s unclear what will happen now. Will Sam still go to the Citadel to become a maester like in the books and as was planned in the show? Or will he return north so he and Gilly can stay together, and he’s bringing Heartsbane with him not only to defy his father, but to bring a Valyrian steel sword to help fight the White Walkers? We shall see. Hopefully we don’t have another 3 episode gap before we see Sam and Gilly next.

More predictions and a couple notes:

  • Theon and Yara return in next week’s episode. It looks like they’re in Volantis, supporting the idea they’re preempting Euron’s plan by going to Daenerys in Meereen. It’s not clear how many ships they took, but it’s nowhere near as many ships as Daenerys needs. Will Daenerys set sail with them, and if so, who will she decide to take with her on the limited number of ships? In this scenario I also foresee Tyrion and Varys telling Daenerys to be wary of Iron Islanders, particularly Theon who completely betrayed the Starks.
  • The episode promo also shows that Bronn is finally back! It looks like Jaime is enlisting him to help with the Riverrun situation. I suspect Jaime will have Bronn doing some behind the scenes work to help seize Riverrun while he’s busy talking with the Blackfish.
  • When will Dorne become relevant again? Since Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes took control by murdering Doran and Trystane (Oberyn must be rolling in his grave with how his lover and nieces killed Myrcella and then killed his brother and nephew), we’ve seen nothing of them. They were mentioned briefly by Jaime in King’s Landing, but that’s been it. When will their actions influence the world outside Dorne? Will the Dorne-Lannister war Ellaria craved for become a reality?
  • When will Melisandre’s true age become relevant again? It was a huge reveal at the end of episode 6×01, but hasn’t really played any role since. Her age speaks to wisdom and knowledge others do not have. When will the show tap into this fascinating potential?

Now onto “The Broken Man” episode 6×07!





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