Review: Game of Thrones S2E02 “The Night Lands”


“You shouldn’t insult people bigger than you.” — Gendry

Tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones saw some major power plays from old stalwarts fans have grown to love since season 1 and from newly introduced character from this season’s premiere episode. The show has continued to go on its own pace with some episode bereft of action and heavy on character interactions and exposition. Tonight’s episode was one of them.

“The Night Lands” was tonight’s episode and it comes from the Dothraki term for death. It’s interesting to note that the title itself didn’t lead to much death with tonight’s episode. What it did was set-up plans that would lead to the death of hundreds, if not thousands, and also reveal that all the power plays all the self-proclaimed kings and queens south of the wall will be for naught if the true danger posed by the gathering wildlings north of the Wall doesn’t get it’s due focus. Then there’s the problem of a long winter arriving and with it the prospect of the Others (renamed White Walkers for the show) posing the greatest danger to everyone on Westeros, if not, the world itself.

Tonight’s episode gave quality time, some of it brief, to several characters. We got to see the continuing hardship being felt by Daenerys and her khalasar as they travel the Red Waste. Their very privations would get compounded by the dangers posed by rival khals led by the very commanders who once called Daenerys’ husband, Khal Drogo, their liege. She had the briefest time during tonight’s episode but we got to see some growth to her becoming a true leader as she refuses to run from the very people hunting her for just being a leader in a land where men have always held power.

We also get an exercise in personal power from Littlefinger who was rudely disabused by Queen Regent Cersei that for all his talk about knowledge being the source of power in the end he held no more than what’s allowed him by those who are of higher station and of noble birth. Littlefinger gets back a semblance of his personal power by telling quite a horrific tale to his favorite whore in Ros. One who has earned his disfavor by not doing well what he has trained and paid her to do. The quiet way Littlefinger tells the story of another whore of his in the past who failed to do her job and thus forced him to have her used and abused was chilling and definitely gave Ros the hint that she better shape up or the same would befall her.

A power play of another sort involved the plans and machinations of Ser Davos Seaworth has he successfully gets the pirate captain Salladhor Saan to commit his fleet of 30 ships to fight for Stannis Baratheon when they make for King’s Landing. While his loyalty towards Stannis is borne out of gratitude and one well-earned his son looks to be more loyal towards the new religion sweeping Dragonstone and Stannis followers. Even Stannis has begun to tire of Melisandre’s talk of faith in the Lord of Light to grant him the victory he so wants, but knows he cannot achieve unless he pries the 100,000 or so men who have pledge loyalty to Renly into his own army. Melisandre’s own move to cementing her influence and power over the elder brother plays upon Stannis’ longing to have a son his sickly wife hasn’t been able to give him. For all his talk of black-and-white when it comes to the realities of the world Stannis is still more than willing to deal with cutthroats and pirates. He’s even willing to forgo his marriage vow if it means Melisandre will give him the son he wants.

But tonight’s episode was about two men whose attempts to tip the balance of power in the kingdom and in the war was met with success for one and abject humiliation and defeat for another.

We finally get to see the Iron Islands from whence Theon Greyjoy’s family holds power and where he is returning home to offer King Robb Stark’s terms for an alliance against the Lannisters. Theon (played by Alfie Allen) has always come off as the wanna-be hanger on who thinks the leftover crumbs left by the Stark boys meant he has power and influence. He’s disabused of this notion when he gets a less than ostentatious welcome when he arrives on his land of birth. His penchant for bragging about his self-importance has made him into a lecherous joke when his initial encounter with his younger sister Yara (who he doesn’t recognize as such and thus his lame attempt at seduction makes for a very funny and uncomfortable scene) shows him to be soft, no iron in his make-up and a fool as well. His father, Balon Greyjoy, further insults his western ways and attire and parades Yara as his new heir and one worthy to lead the Greyjoy fleets. A fleet Theon had hoped would fight with Robb against the Lannister, but instead strike at a much more inviting and less defended target (not said but implied that Winterfell will soon get a visit from the men of the Iron Isles).

Farther south, we see Tyrion further cementing his power in the role his father has appointed him. While Tyrion has always seemed the one person in the whole series who sees the joke kings, queens and lords have made of themselves and the kingdom, he seem to be perfect in the role of the new Hand of the King. As he proclaims to Varys during their brief weighing of each other at his room in the castle, Tyrion is not Ned Stark. He knows how to play the game of thrones and he’s not honorable to fall for whatever plans Varys and others may have for and against him. He even exercises his new found power by banishing the Lord Commander of the City Watch (the Goldcloaks) Janos Slynt for his role in the massacre of King Robert’s bastard sons. Tyrion may be an imp who no one takes seriously and, who himself, doesn’t take his role as seriously as he thinks he should, but he draws the line when it comes to the slaughter of innocent babes and children. The fact that he has correctly guessed the pulse of the people has made him Cersei’s biggest ally in the Royal Court in reining in the power-mad King Joffrey, but familial resentment between sister and younger brother means Tyrion will forever by trying to clean up after his family and it’s a job that he knows he cannot hope to win.

Tonight’s episode was once again helmed by Alan Taylor who also directed the season premiere. Like that episode, tonight had the show moving from different points on the map. We go from North of the Wall to King’s Landing then to the Iron Isles, the Red Waste and Dragonstone. Taylor seems able to juggle these different threads that could easily have made tonight’s episode hard to follow. It’s a testament to Benioff and Weiss as writers to have been able to cram all these scenes together and make them easy to follow.

Next week’s episode sees a new director at the help and a new writer. It’d be interesting to see if the show can continue such a high level of execution without Taylor, Weiss and Benioff manning the till.

Notes

  • Tonight’s opening title sequence gets a new location added to it’s clockwork mechanism with the inclusion of Pyke on the Iron Isles.
  • It was great to see Arya getting some screen time as she deals with hiding as a boy with the rest of the caravan being led by Yoren to the Wall.
  • We get our first introduction to someone who will have a major impact in Arya’s future with the mysterious prisoner Jaqen H’ghar play by Tom Wlaschiha.
  • The elder brother-little sister dynamic growing between Arya and Gendry was also good to see especially with Arya’s whole world being turned upside down and her not knowing if her own brothers still live.
  • Bronn appear briefly to take over as the new Lord Commander of the City Watch and his brief dialogue between himself and Tyrion was a welcome sight. If they ever made a spin-off series about the adventures of Tyrion and Bronn it would be well-watched.
  • North of the Wall, Jon’s direwolf Ghost makes an appearance that looks better executed than the CGI used to enlarge Robb’s Greywind.
  • The introduction of one of Caster’s young daughter-wives (a piece of detail that’s sure to make many viewers disturbed for even knowing) and Sam as her potential savior is another brick laid down for the show’s future.
  • Interesting to note that Salladhor Saan is played by a black man instead of the fair-skinned man of Lys as originally described by Martin in the novels. I’m all for the change, but I’m sure the less-educated fans of the books would find the change none to their liking. I call it the “Hunger Games Rant”.
  • Great turn by Gemma Whelan as Yara Greyjoy (Asha Greyjoy in the books). Her manipulation of Theon was pitch-perfect especially during their disturbingly inappropriate horse ride to Castle Pyke.

Film Review: Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (dir. by John Carl Buechler)


Hi, did everyone out there have a good Easter?  I did!  My entire family got together up at my Uncle’s place.  There was a big Easter egg hunt and me and Erin smuggled in extra Easter eggs which we then “helped” our niece and nephew discover.  Usually, going to my Uncle’s place means a day spent laying out near the pool in a bikini and trying to work on my tan.  (Though, to be honest, I’m a redhead so I don’t so much tan as I just burn.)  However, this Easter, it rained so most of the day was spent inside and watching figure skating with my sisters and cousins.  I hope everyone else had a good Easter as well and I hope you’ll forgive me for being a little late with my latest review in my series looking at the Friday the 13th franchise.  In this post, I review 1988’s Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood.

(Minor Spoilers Follow)

As I mentioned in my review of Jason Lives, The New Blood was the first of what I like to call Friday the 13th’s gimmick films.  In these films, Paramount Pictures (and later New Line Cinema) attempted to revive the franchise’s declining profits by adding a gimmick.  No longer would it be enough for Jason to simply show up and stalk unfortunate campers.  Previous installments had their gimmicks (such as Part 3 being filmed in 3D) but they all stuck with the same basic story and structure.  However, from now on, Jason would no longer just be a silent antagonist in a communal cinematic nightmare.  From now on, he would fight psychics and Freddy Krueger and go to both outer space and New York City.  (And don’t even get me started on the film where he was revealed to actually be some sort of weird space slug.  Not yet, anyway…) 

The problem with the gimmick films is that, along with dealing with the gimmick, they still had to deal with the business of killing summer counselors and other random campers.  Whereas previous film made at least a little effort to provide the viewers with interesting and/or attractive characters, the gimmick films are distinguished by a real laziness when it comes to characterization.  Ironically enough, surrounding the gimmick with such weak material only served to remind the viewer just how gimmicky the gimmick ultimately was.  That is why the gimmick films are my least favorite of the franchise.

That said, The New Blood is probably the best of the gimmick films.  Anyone who doesn’t think that being called the best of the worst is much of a compliment has obviously never been in a community theater production of Little Shop of Horrors

The New Blood of the title is a girl named Tina Shepherd.  When we first meet Tina, she’s ten years old and living in a house that sits on the shores of Crystal Lake.  (Apparently, the residents of Forrest Green decided to change the name of the town back to Crystal Lake sometime after Jason Lives.  If nothing else, these two films convinced me of the importance of zip codes.)  One night, as Tina listens to her father and her mother fight, she runs out to a nearby dock, gets in a canoe, and starts to float away.  Her father runs out onto the dock and shouts at her to return.  Tina yells back and suddenly, the entire dock collapses and her father drowns.  As all of this is going on, we discover that Jason just happens to be in the lake, chained to a rock below the dock.  (You have to wonder what having a zombie serial killer chained up a yard away from your house does to property values.  Nothing good, I imagine but then again, what do I know about real estate?)

Anyway, jump forward ten years.  Tina (now played by Lar Park Lincoln) has just been released from a mental asylum and returns to Crystal Lake with her psychiatrist Dr. “Bad News” Crews (played by a wonderfully evil Terry Kiser).  Dr. Crews claims to be helping her deal with her feelings of guilt but actually, he’s seeking to exploit the fact that Tina has latent psychic abilities.  What all can Tina do?  Well, that’s a good question because the film itself seems to be unsure of just what exactly Tina is capable of.  As a result, Tina often seems to have whatever psychic abilities are most convenient for whatever’s happening on-screen at the moment.  While most of the time Tina seems to be telekinetic, there are other times when she can see the future, set fires, and even raise the dead.

It’s this last power that gets everyone in trouble when, one night after getting annoyed with Dr. Crews, Tina runs out to the lake and attempts to bring her father back to life.  While she fails to bring back her dad, she does manage to free Jason (played here, for the first time, by Kane Hodder) from his chains.  By this action, Tina joins the long line of horror film heroines who are ultimately responsible for every death that occurs over the course of the movie.

That’s pretty bad news for the vapid collection of potential victims who are trying to throw a surprise birthday party in the house next door.  Among those potential victims: nice guy Nick (Kevin Butler) who falls in love with Tina, evil Melissa (Susan Jennifer Sullivan) who wants Nick, Eddie (Jeff Bennett) who spends his time talking about a sci-character called “Space Mummy,” and about a half-dozen other people whose names I didn’t manage to catch.  Seriously, this is the most empty-headed and shallow collection of dumbfug toadsuckers ever!  As opposed to previous installments (in which the actors at least had enough chemistry that you believed that they just might actually spend a weekend at the lake together), the victims in New Blood feel as if they were just randomly dropped in the house just so that Jason could kill them.  They’re such a vacous, spiteful collection of people that, for the first time in the series, you truly find yourself rooting for Jason. 

Anyway, the birthday boy never shows up for his party but that doesn’t really worry anyone at the house.  As one of them puts it. “You know Michael.  Guy probably got arrested for drunk driving and spent the night in jail.”  (Sounds like a great guy, no?)  No, Michael’s not in jail.  Michael’s dead because Tina brought Jason back to life and soon, so is just about everyone else.  It all leads to a final apocalyptic battle between Jason and Tina that manages to be both silly and exciting at the same time.  It also goes a long way towards making up for what we’ve had to sit through in order to reach it.

One of my favorite chapters of Peter M. Bracke’s excellent oral history of the franchise, Crystal Lake Memories, deals with the making of The New Blood.  Say whatever else you will about this film’s cast, they’re some of the most outspoken in the history in the history of the franchise.  Reading their memories about making this film, three things quickly become clear:

1) Everyone was scared of Kane Hodder.

2) Lar Park Lincoln didn’t like the majority of the cast.

3) The majority of the cast didn’t like Lar Park Lincoln.

In fact, quite a few really nasty things are said about Lar Park Lincoln but you know what?  Outside of Kane Hodder and Terry Kiser, Lar Park Lincoln probably comes the closest to giving an actual performance than anyone else in the cast and I think it can be argued that she makes Tina into one of the few truly strong female characters ever to be found in a Friday the 13th film.  Take it from a former community theatre ingenue: it takes as much talent to make a slasher film “final girl” credible as it does to play Margaret Thatcher.  As for the rest of the cast of disposable victims, they’re some of the most forgettable of the series.  In the role of Nick, Kevin Blair (who reportedly did not get along with Lincoln and who has absolutely no chemistry with her on-screen) is stiff but handsome and Susan Jennifer Sullivan has a lot of style as the bitchy Melissa.  Otherwise, they’re a pretty bland group and director Buechler doesn’t seem to have much use for them other than to make sure that they’re in the right position to be killed by Kane Hodder.

The New Blood is best remembered for introducing Kane Hodder in the role of Jason Voorhees.  Though I personally believe that The Final Chapter’s Ted White was the best Jason (he was certainly the most ruthless), it can’t be denied that Kane Hodder was the perfect embodiment of the version of Jason that came to dominate the last few films in the original series.  Whereas Ted White’s Jason was a calculating killer, Hodder’s Jason is a machine that happens to be designed for killing and little else.  He kills not so much out of anger or pain as much as he kills, like any good zombie, just because that’s the only thing he knows how to do.  One reason why this film’s final battle is actually exciting to watch is because it’s set up as a confrontation between the literally cerebral Lar Park Lincoln and the overwhelmingly physical Kane Hodder.  Hodder, famously, is the only actor have played Jason in multiple films and he earned that right with his performance here.

And make no mistake about it: Hodder gives a performance in this film and, as a result, The New Blood is a lot more watchable than it has any right to be.

(I would also suggest that if you do watch this movie on DVD, be sure to listen to Hodder and Buechler’s commentary track.  Both of them seem to be having so much fun watching the film that it actually makes the film more enjoyable.)

While The New Blood did, ultimately, make more money than the previous Jason Lives, it still failed the match the box office success of the first few films in the series.  Though Lar Park Lincoln apparently wrote a script for a sequel that would have featured Tina and Jason once again going to war (interestingly enough, it’s rumored that Lincoln’s script opened with Kevin Blair getting killed off), Paramount decided to try out another gimmick and abandoned the new blood for Manhattan.  The end result was one of the worst films in the series but we’ll deal with that in my next post.

Funimation to license The Future Diary (Mirai Nikki) for US release


For anime fans there’s some very good news coming out of Anime Boston this weekend. Funimation has secured the home video rights for the anime series The Future Diary (Mirai Nikki). The series will get a US release through Funimation in addition to the further simulcast airings of any new episode of the 26-episode series which began airing this past October 2011.

The series has been a hit since it’s airing in Japan and it’s plot summary gives enough tantalizing details why such a series would appeal to anime fans…

“Yukiteru Amano (Yuki) is a loner who never really interact with people and prefers writing a diary on his cell phone with his only companion being an imaginary friend named Deus Ex Machina, the God of Time and Space. However, Yuki soon learns that Deus is not a figment of his imagination but real when Deus makes him a participant in a battle royale with eleven others. Within this “Diary Game”, the contestants are given special diaries that can predict the future with each diary having unique features that gives them both advantages and disadvantages.”

It’s not your typical magical girl or mecha series. It’s not slice-of-life drama or comedy. It’s not even of the fan-service variety. It’s a series that’s more rooted in some of the more mature and darker-themed anime that goes heavy on the psychological and the thriller aspect of the story. It is also a series with one of it’s main characters playing the role of yandere (def. a Japanese term for a person who is initially very loving and gentle to someone before their devotion becomes destructive in nature, often through violence.) almost to a perfect pitch.

So far, there’s no set release date for the home video (DVD/Blu-Ray) release of The Future Diary from Funimation.

Source: Anime News Network