Horror Book Review: Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin


First published in 1982, George R. R. Martin’s Fevre Dream is a novel that centers on two men.  Captain Abner Marsh may be considered physically unattractive and lacking in certain social graces but he’s also known as one of the best steamboat captains in pre-Civil War Mississippi.  Joshua York may be wealthy and charming (if a bit pale and fond of a strange-tasting red liquor) but he knows little about how to actually run a steamboat.  That said, as York explains it to Marsh, he wants to build the fastest and most luxurious steamboat ever made.  Marsh may initially be weary of the seemingly eccentric York but he needs the money.

When the steamboat (which is christened the Fevre Dream) is eventually constructed, it turns out to be everything that York said it would be.  Soon, Marsh is sailing the boat up and down the Mississippi River.  The command of the boat and its passengers is largely left in Marsh’s hands.  York requests is that he and his friends be left alone in their cabins.  York doesn’t particularly enjoy coming out during the day….

Could York be a vampire?  Of course, he is!  But he’s not the type of vampire that everyone’s read about.  Instead, York is a visionary vampire.  His dream is to set his people free from their compulsive blood-drinking.  However, there’s another vampire moving up and down the river.  His name is Damon Julian and he has plans of his own for the Fevre Dream….

A vampire novel by George R. R. Martin!?  Indeed, it is!  Of course, since this is a Martin book, the vampires of Fevre Dream aren’t like the traditional vampires that we all know and love.  These vampires are a totally different species of being and one of the key points of the book is that humans cannot be transformed into vampires.  Indeed, the vampires view human as being mere “cattle,” being bred for their hunger.  York’s concern is that, if the vampires continue to feed on humans, the humans will eventually rise up and destroy them.  Damon, of course, is far less concerned about that.  Just as how the white slave owners arrogantly assume that their slaves have no desire to free, Damon and his followers arrogantly assume that the humans will always stay in their place.  Damon even has a human servant, Billy Tipton, who has been fooled into thinking that he might someday become a vampire as long as he does everything that Damon orders him to do.

It’s an interesting novel, one that does a good job of incorporating it’s paranormal story into an authentic, historical background.  If you’re really into vampires and steamboats, there’s a lot of both to be found in this book.  Unfortunately, I get the feeling that the people reading for the vampires will probably get bored with all pages devoted to steamboats while steamboat enthusiasts might not care much for the vampires.  Myself, I’m a history nerd and a lover of all things vampiric so there’s no way I wouldn’t appreciate a novel about vampires in 19th century Mississippi.

It may not be for everyone but Fevre Dream is a well-written and compulsively readable historical vampire epic.

Trailer: Game of Thrones Season 8


Got 8 Night King

Well, we are now at the home stretch of what has been 9 or so years following the events of a little place called the Seven Kingdoms. It’s been a very long wait since the Season 7 ended in the summer of 2017.

When it was announced that there would be over a year of waiting before the final season of Game of Thrones would air, there was a lot of grumbling and bemoaning the fact that such a wait was just too long. Especially since the ending of Season 7 saw the final pieces on the chessboard finally begin to move towards a final showdown between all the different factions.

On one side we have the consummation of the Alliance of House Targaryen and House Stark. On another side we have Queen Cersei in King’s Landing still scheming to try and get the upper hand on all comers. Yet, all must contend with the threat that has just passed through a broken Wall and heading south as the Night King finally invades the Seven Kingdoms.

The series began in 2010 with the tag line, ‘Winter Is Coming,” and Season 7’s finale made a great show of it as winter has even come as far south as King’s Landing. It looks like Season 8 will show everyone that Winter has arrived and fans cannot wait to get on that ride come hell or high water.

Season 8 of Game of Thrones arrives worldwide on April 14, 2019.

Song of the Day: Light of the Seven (by Ramin Djawadi)


Queen Cersei

“Cersei of the House Lannister, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms….Long may she reign.” — Qyburn

To all of those who watch each new episode of Game of Thrones, last night’s episode was a classic in the making. It was the sort of episode that convinced millions 6 years ago to take a chance and watch an HBO series about a medieval fantasy series about royal politics, dragons, living dead, royal incest and lots and lots of sex and violence.

The series is based on the ongoing epic fantasy novel series by novelist George R.R. Martin. A series called A Song of Ice and Fire, tonight’s episode delivered on both the fire and ice. As we see the players on the Great Game cut down violently by the machinations of one Dowager Queen (and now Queen and first of her name), the fantasy realm of Westeros is now down to three Great Houses as the show finishes it’s sixth season with just two more to go.

One thing the series has always had to complement the outstanding performances of the ensemble cast, the epic work of directors in the singularly classic episodes 9’s (names such as Neil Marshall and Miguel Sapochnik come to mind) and the very good to great writing, it would be the series composer Ramin Djawadi and the work he has brought onto the show.

The show’s main theme is as recognizable nowadays as any John Williams, Howard Shore and James Horner piece. It’s a theme that’s become part of pop culture lexicon. There’s been other themes in the show that has been just as good. Yet, with the season finale of season 6 a new theme comes to the forefront that will be put on repeat as loyal viewers young and old watch and re-watch this season finale.

It’s a subtle theme of a single piano playing a solemn, melancholy lullaby. It’s soon to be joined by a single cello before another transition that adds the singular voice of a choirboy (the better to accentuate that this theme is one of the Seven Gods of Westeros). The song goes from that solemn lullaby and into a climactic dirge as the organ joins in to almost drown the piano and cello.

For those who saw that opening sequence of the season finale should appreciate just how well “Light of the Seven” made everything so much better once the dust settled and the world of Game of Thrones was changed forever once again.

Let’s Talk About Sharknado 3!


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(This review contains spoilers because it’s impossible for me to imagine that you somehow have not already seen Sharknado 3.)

Last night, I watched and live tweeted Sharknado 3 and I’m still recovering.  After the first hundred, I lost track of how many tweets I devoted to Sharknado 3.  Of course, I wasn’t alone in that.  Last night, it seemed like the entire nation was tweeting about Sharknado 3 and it was a wonderful thing.  At its best, twitter can be the great equalizer, giving everyone an equal voice and last night was one of those moments.

In fact, I was tempted to just devote this review to posting the best Sharknado 3 tweets from last night.  However, if I did that, 90% of those tweets would be from me.  Out of the millions of Sharknado 3 related tweets last night, mine were definitely the best.

Over the past three years, the premiere of the latest Sharknado film has almost become an unofficial national holiday, a summer version of the Super Bowl.  On twitter, Sharknado 3 was trending for days before the film even premiered.  And, once Sharknado 3 did start, it seemed as if everyone in the country was watching and taking bets on which celebrity guest star would be the next to die.  (I’m very proud to say that I correctly predicted the bloody and prolonged death of Frankie Muniz.) Even the majority of the commercials were specifically meant to tie in with the Sharknado franchise.

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Fans of the first Sharknado will be happy to know that Nova returns!

But what’s amazing and admirable is that, even though the franchise has now become an international phenomena, Sharknado 3 stayed true to its SyFy roots.  Ignore all the hype and you’ll see that Sharknado 3 tells  a story that will be familiar to anyone who has ever watched any SyFy original movie.  The world is threatened by a flamboyant threat, in this case a bunch of tornadoes that happens to be full of sharks.  Only one man (Ian Ziering as Finn) can save the world but first, he has to deal with skeptical military jackasses.  As always seems to happen in these films, he’s separated from his wife (Tara Reid playing the role of April and sporting a truly badass robotic hand).  Meanwhile, their teenage daughter (Ryan Newman as Claudia) has gone off on her own and finds herself right in the center of the disaster.  It’s a plot that has been used in thousands of SyFy and Asylum films but director Anthony C. Ferrante directs with a lot of energy and writer Thunder Levin provides so many clever one liners that it doesn’t matter if the storyline is familiar.  Ignore all the hype and you’ll discover that Sharknado 3 is still a wonderfully fun film that features everything that we love about SyFy movies.

Of course, one thing that distinguishes Sharknado 3 from other Asylum film is that it is full of celebrity cameos.  Usually, I am weary of excessive celebrity cameos because they’re distracting and the celebs often turn out to be terrible actors.  But the celebs in Sharknado 3 all do a wonderful job.  (Add to that, the majority of them get eaten, as well.)  Then again, the same could be said for the entire cast.  Regardless of what they’re asked to do or say, Ian Ziering and Tara Reid both full commit to their performances.  Casting director Gerald Webb is indeed one of the unsung heroes of the entire Sharknado phenomena.

The film opens with a shark attack on Washington D.C. and it’s during this time that we meet President Mark Cuban and Vice President Ann Coulter.  And, oh my God, how certain heads on twitter exploded when Ann Coulter showed up.  But you know what?  After seeing Sharknado 3, I would totally vote for a Cuban/Coulter ticket.  I don’t care what their platform is, they know how to fight sharks and they seemed far more believable than anyone who is currently running for President.  At first, I assumed that Mark Cuban was supposed to be playing himself and I thought that Sharknado 3 had somehow managed to predict the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.  However, I then checked with the imdb and I discovered that Cuban was playing President Marcus Robbins.

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The same people on twitter who were bitching about Ann Coulter weren’t much happier when Michele Bachman showed up, playing herself.  (For a few minutes, I was hoping that the movie would be full of cameos from former Presidential candidates.)  However, the political cameos in Sharknado 3 are bipartisan.  When the action moves down to Orlando, noted Democrat Jerry Springer shows up as a tourist and promptly gets eaten.  And then Carlos Danger himself, Anthony Weiner, shows up as a heroic NASA guy.  Eventually, for those of us who lean towards the libertarian side of the political spectrum, Penn Jilette and Teller eventually show up.  Personally, I suspect that Teller knew how to stop the sharks but, of course, he wasn’t going to say anything.

As for the cameos from various media personalities, Sharknado 3 never manages to top the moment from Sharknado 2 where Kelly Ripa stomped a shark with her high heels.  But no matter — it’s still fun to watch Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda get drunk while sharks fall around them.  And then Matt Lauer gets eaten by a shark so yay for that!

(Incidentally, whether intentional or not, the film was full of former contestants from The Celebrity Apprentice, with Ian, Penn, and Lou Ferrigno all showing up.  Personally, I would have enjoyed seeing Piers Morgan get eaten by a shark.)

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However, of all the celebrity cameos in Sharknado 3, nobody could top the Hoff.  When David Hasselhoff first showed up as Finn’s father, it felt like a funny but obvious joke.  Of course, Finn’s father would be David Hasselhoff.  But you know what?  Give credit where credit is due.  The Hoff actually gave a pretty good performance and, during the film’s interstellar climax, he managed to do a pretty good impersonation of George Clooney as he looked out into space and said, “It’s a beautiful view.”

And yes, Sharknado 3 does go into space.  How could it not?  The film may have started out as an homage to the classic weather disaster films but, by the end of the movie, it turned into a delirious combination of JawsGravity and Interstellar.  By the time Finn was exploring the stomach of a shark while it floated through the starry sky, Sharknado 3 had achieved a definite state of grace.

Incidentally, the film ended with a cliffhanger and we were asked to vote whether or not April would live.  At first, I voted to kill April because, quite frankly, I thought it would be fun to see a vengeance-obsessed Finn.  But then Tara Reid tweeted the following and made me feel totally guilty:

So, I’m changing my vote!  APRIL LIVES!

Of course, all this means that there will be Sharknado 4 and I can hardly wait!

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Game of Thrones Season 4 “Foreshadowing”


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April 6, 2014 is when we return to the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. We will see a continuation of the war and the storm of swords which troubles the lands. The Red Wedding will pose consequences for those who participated and across the Narrow Sea the Mother of Dragons begins her conquest and plans her inevitable return to reclaim the Iron Throne that is her birthright.

Here is a 14-minute sneak peek that foreshadows the events foretold for the upcoming season where Winter is still coming.

Song of the Day: The Rains of Castamere (by Ramin Djawadi & performed by The National)


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HBO’s fantasy drama series, Game of Thrones, has gained the reputation of having the penultimate episode of the season (episode 9) play out a shocking event or moment that non-reader fans were not expecting. For fans of the show who have read the books the surprise is not as shocking but still worth the wait to finally see on the screen. Season 3 of the show looks to have shocked both types of fans.

In honor of the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones third season I’ve chosen the song which will forever go down in pop-culture history as the song that ushered in the “Red Wedding” to the tv landscape. It’s finally turned the series from must-see TV into one of those rare few shows that’s become an event that everyone will speak of for days, weeks, months and even years to come.

The Rains of Castamere

And who are you, the proud lord said,
that I must bow so low?
Only a cat of a different coat,
that’s all the truth I know.
In a coat of gold or a coat of red,
a lion still has claws,
And mine are long and sharp, my lord,
as long and sharp as yours.

And so he spoke, and so he spoke,
that lord of Castamere,
But now the rains weep o’er his hall,
with no one there to hear.
Yes now the rains weep o’er his hall,
and not a soul to hear.

And so he spoke, and so he spoke,
that lord of Castamere,
But now the rains weep o’er his hall,
with no one there to hear.
Yes now the rains weep o’er his hall,
and not a soul to hear.

Trailer: Game of Thrones – Season 3 (2nd Trailer)


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It’s less than two weeks before we get to the premiere of HBO’s third season of Game of Thrones.

This latest trailer marketing the premium cable channel’s latest epic hit series brings everyone back who survived Season 2 and introduces a couple more people (Mance Rayder being one of them). We also get to see just how much the baby dragons of Daenerys Stormborn’s have gotten not to mention the army she has acquired since the end of Season 2 (I’m guessing these are the Unsullied).

This third season looks to lean heavily on the third novel in the series, A Storm of Swords, and for those who have read that massive tome will await this third season with both anticipation and trepidation. One thing the show has taught viewers has been to not get so fixated on characters. George R.R. Martin is more than willing to kill off beloved character and it looks like showrunners of the show have learned to do the same.

Game of Thrones Season 3 is set to premiere on March 31, 2013.

Review: Game of Thrones S2E10 “Valar Morghulis”


“We are the watchers on the Wall.” — Qhorin Halfhand

[spoilers within]

With last week’s explosive ninth episode, “Blackwater”, it was going to take much to make tonight’s season finale to really stand out. Just like the first season’s finale we get an episode that deals with the aftermath of the previous episode and also goes a long way into setting up events for the upcoming third season.

“Valar Morghulis” is the title of tonight’s episode and it’s spoken by Jaqen H’ghar to Arya as the two part ways. It’s a saying in Essos from ancient High Valyrian (a Roman Epire-like civilization which perished centuries before the series’ timeline) that translated means “All men must die”. Jaqen sees potential in Arya in becoming like him, a Faceless Man, assassins who follow the teaching of the so-called Many-Faced Gods. While Arya seems intrigued by the offer her need to re-connect with her family takes precedence over everything else. As the two part ways Jaqen imparts to Arya a coin that should she ever need passage to Braavos to start her journey into becoming a Faceless Man. In another instance that this series still has magic in it’s DNA we finally see why Jaqen is a Faceless Man as he walks away from Arya and her group wearing a new face.

Tonight’s episode lays the foundation that next season magic and sorcery may become more common place than the first two season of the series. We see Daenerys finally make her way into the House of the Undying to retrieve her dragonlings from the warlocks of Qarth. It’s a sequence that’s akin to spirit journey for the Targaryen Queen-to-be and Mother of Dragons as she walks the darkened halls and corridors of the House of Undying until an egress suddenly takes her North of the Wall to find a Dothraki tent where she discovers the two most precious things she has lost since coming to Essos. In what I could only see as a surprise that was kept by showrunners Benioff and Weiss from the press and bloggers (a feat nowadays) Daenerys sees her husband Khal Drogo and who could only be their son both alive and waiting for her.

Her reaction to this event was both poignant and tragic in that she finally has a chance to be with those she loves most but must give up the quest to retake Westeros with her dragons. Her decision to leave the tent and leave behind those she loves comes as her character finally realizing that sentimentality and the needs of her heart must take a back seat and wait. Daenerys comes out the other side a more confident ruler and one whose magic really is stronger than those warlocks who scheme to keep her and her dragons captive for themselves. It really sets up the Daenerys character on a much stronger footing for next season just like last season’s finale did. For all the moping around Daenerys did for most of season 2 the pay off in the end goes a long way into forgiving the show’s writers in their inability to write her character’s motivations consistently. Most likely the naive young girl being used by others for their own agendas and ends would be seen less and less next season while the Mother of Dragons reasserts her authority.

The same can’t be said for one of the five kings vying for control of Westeros. For those who have read the third novel the scenes with King Robb Stark were full of sentimentality but lacking in the cold-hearted logic that rulers must use in order to play the game of thrones successfully. Even his mother, Catelyn Stark, sees danger in Robb’s actions with the Volanti healer Talisa Maegyr. Catelyn knows well enough that Robb could destroy everything he has won and worked for since war begun because he has thought with his heart and not with his head. In what could almost be seen as more doom coming for the House of Stark, Robb cements his relationship with Talisa in secret even though we’ve come to learn through two season of this show that nothing ever remains secret for long.

Back in King’s Landing we see the balance of power shift once more as Tywin Lannister’s opportune arrival to take victory from the jaws of defeat at the end of last week’s episode sees him back as Hand of the King to Joffrey. Tyrion has lost all the advantages he had worked and gamed for all season as even Bronn has been removed as Commander of the Goldcloaks. We’ve not seen Tyrion laid so low as we have in this episode and the horrible scarring of his face looks to go deeper as he finally realizes that as much as he would enjoy running away with Shae and leave the politicla intrigues and backstabbing of the kingdom it’s something that he would miss terribly because it’s the one thing he’s best at. With Tywin now in charge of the kingdom and Petyr Baelish having earned himself the king’s good graces for manufacturing the alliance between the two most powerful houses in the kingdom with the Lannisters (Baratheon by name only) and the Tyrell’s of Highgarden. It’s going to be interesting to see how Tyrion readjusts to the new power dynamics in King’s Landing for season 3. If there’s one thing we’ve come to learn about Tyrion over two season’s worth of episodes it’s that he’s a survivor first and foremost.

Lastly, we come to Jon Snow and his dilemma North of the Wall. A captive of the wildlings and seen as someone very important for the still unseen Mance Rayder the so-called King-beyond-the-Wall, Jon must do the only logical thing (something Qhorin halfhand agrees as the only thing that could save Jon and maybe give him time to warn the Wall) and earn the trust of Ygritte, Rattleshirt and the rest of the wildlings even if it means killing one of his own to do so. In what would be one of several sweeping scenes that show the epic nature of this series lest we forget Ygritte shows Jon over the lip of a glacier the army of wildlings Mance Rayder has gathered.

Yet, it’s not that army that gives tonight’s episode that cliffhanger send-off that last season’s finale did with Daenerys coming out of the funeral pyre with her three dragonlings perched on her unharmed body. No, tonight’s episode gets a cliffhanger that is more ominous and reinforces the House Stark motto of “Winter Is Coming”. We see poor Samwell Tarly (having been abandoned by the two other Night’s Watch Brothers once they heard the three horn blasts in the distance) scared out of his wits as he realizes that the three horn blasts that hasn’t been heard for thousands of years could only mean one thing: the White Walkers are on the march towards the Wall. In a final acknowledgement that as realistically the show has tried to portray the series in terms of warfare and political intrigue there’s no getting away from the fact that magic is still alive in this world born out of George R.R. Martin’s fevered mind as a massive army of undead slouches south towards the Wall and the kingdoms beyond it.

This scene just ups the ante on what we could only imagine what would be season three of the show. Across the Narrow Sea we have Daenerys Stormborn gradually detaching sentimentality from how she operates and this could only mean more bad news for the warring kingdoms of Westeros. The power struggles against King Joffrey looks to be going the mad king’s way as Lannisters and Tyrells ally together to retake the rest of the rebelling kingdoms. Now we have two armies, one living and preparing to go south towards the Wall (most likely to get away from the gathering White Walker horde) and the other undead and also heading towards the only bastion (one that is ridiculously undermanned) protecting the southern kingdoms from a gathering darkness.

If there was a complaint about this season’s storytelling it was that so much of the novel this season was based on was condensed to make it fit in a ten-episode season. Despite lulls in character development with Jon Snow and Daenerys we get major pay-offs for these two with tonight’s season finale. It’s good news that showrunner Benioff and Weiss has decided to split book three, A Storm of Swords, into two with the first half comprising season three with the latter half set aside for season four. Even with missteps along the way tonight’s season finale goes a long way into proving that HBO’s Game of Thrones is currently the best genre show on tv and one of the best tv shows airing now.

Now we have ten months of waiting to see how Westeros and Essos will deal with the events that ended season two. One thing for sure is that we’ll see more people die before all questions get answered if ever.

Review: Game of Thrones S2E09 “Blackwater”


“And who are you, the proud lord said,
that I must bow so low?
Only a cat of a different coat,
that’s all the truth I know.
In a coat of gold or a coat of red,
a lion still has claws,
And mine are long and sharp, my lord,
as long and sharp as yours.
And so he spoke, and so he spoke,
that lord of Castamere,
But now the rains weep o’er his hall,
with no one there to hear.
Yes now the rains weep o’er his hall,
and not a soul to hear.” — The Rains of Castamere

If there’s been a complaint (actually more of a nitpick) from fans of the show in regards to Game of Thrones’ second season it would be that a majority of the episodes this season looked to be cutting corners in terms of budget. The show’s first season was already the most expensive  TV series ever and this season things just got more expensive. There was one thing that seemed to have forced the producers of the show into scaling things back for many of the episodes (this season was really about shooting many scenes indoors whether it was inside a castle or tent) and that one thing was tonight’s ninth and penultimate episode of season two: “Blackwater”.

Tonight’s episode is the culmination of everything which has come before it during this season. Sure, we had some machinations that involved Daenerys across the Narrow Sea at Qarth and Jon Snow north of the Wall. Outside of those two subplots which has yet to fully play out this season (most likely extending into season 3), every storyline this second season was about moving the necessary pieces and characters that would affect the outcome of the battle that was going to take place on Blackwater Bay outside King’s Landing. This was a battle that’s been eagerly anticipated by fans of the books. It’s a gamechanger in the novels and after tonight’s episode played out it looks like it also changes the ever shifting dynamics of the tv show.

First things first, all the money being saved by cutting back on outdoor filming during this season looked like it went all in with this episode. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss know that they had a great chance of alienating the fans of the books and, most likely, even those of just the show if the most pivotal storyline this season was to be turned into a battle told off-screen and after the fact. No, this battle had to be filmed and done so that it didn’t look cheap. Even writer George R.R. Martin who gave birth to this epic medieval fantasy saga came in to pen tonight’s teleplay in order. The show even decided to go with an outsider to direct tonight’s episode and did they ever hit it out of the park with their choice of veteran genre filmmaker Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, Descent, Doomsday, Centurion).

“Blackwater” did something this series has never done and that’s focus the entirety of it’s running time to telling the story of just the one location and tonight it was to be King’s Landing and Blackwater Bay. Every episode in this series has jumped from location to location that viewers have had to learn how to expertly track each storyline just to make sense of the show’s overall narrative. Yet, tonight Martin, the showrunners and, most likely, Marshall himself, knew that jumping the episode from location to location wouldn’t be the smartest of ideas. Tonight had to be about this battle and how it furthers the character growth of many characters in the show.

I was surprised at how well the episode depicted the Battle of Blackwater Bay. We can definitely see Martin’s hand in the writing of tonight’s episode as things gradually built-up from the very moment the intro sequence ended and we come to see the invasion fleet Stannis has brought to King’s Landing just moment’s away from seeing the walls of the city. Even this late in the stage of the siege preparations we get to see how terrified everyone seems to be about the coming siege and battle. Everyone seem to be dealing with the prospect of battle in their own unique way. Tyrion spends it with Shae in his quarters with the notion that this time with Shae might be the last he’ll ever have adding a sense of poignancy to their scene.

Tyrion’s partner-in-crime and lord of the Goldcloaks spends it with some of his men at one of the local taverns with many tankards of good brown ale and the warm companionship of the city’s many prostitutes. Bronn may be acting cavalier about the coming battle, but his behavior and those of his men in the tavern doesn’t seem farfetched as we’ve learned through first-hand accounts of soldiers on the eve of battle trying to make the most of what could be their final hours on Earth. Bronn’s behavior is a stark contrast to that of Sandor “The Hound” Clegane who shows up in the very tavern but not with thoughts of a final night’s of debauchery and merrymaking but instead spending time drinking brown ale in silence and a mood that’s telling in how The Hound sees the prospect of victory in the coming battle. Bronn may think the battle is hopeless but he knows well enough not to waste what time he has left brooding and acting like a Debbie-downer like the bigger Hound.

Even Cersei and Sansa get a chance to show how the battle brings out the best and worst in people. The former’s caustic tongue and even more bitter personality comes to the forefront as she drops any sense of pretense of being the courtly Queen’s Regent. She knows exactly that the battle will not be about glory and honor. The battle will be about bloodshed, destruction and, if the defenders lose, the raping and killing of all the women behind the wall’s of King’s Landing. Cersei is prepared to do what is necessary to keep herself, her children and the women from being raped and murdered, but in doing so loses what semblance of loyalty her handmaidens and courtly allies may have had for her. Sansa, on the other hand, still tries to put up a brave front. Maybe it’s a genuine reaction or one she knows she must put up if just to keep the ladies in the Red Keep where she and Cersei have stashed themselves from running in panic.

As a student of military tactics and history tonight’s episode wasn’t cringe-inducing once the battle itself began. Martin does a great job in condensing the tactics and maneuvers he had written in detail in the novel, but could be confusing to the uninitiated. The episode wasn’t too simplified to the point it hand-held the audience through every step and move both sides made. We knew that Tyrion had a surprise waiting for Stannis’ invasion fleet and that it involved the use of the alchemical concoction “wildfire” (the show’s version of that near-legendary weapon that the Eastern Roman Empire used to defend Constantinople for centuries called “Greek Fire”), but we still had no idea just how the surprise would turn out. Even when the single boat silently approached the vanguard fleet led by Ser Davos we still didn’t know how the wildfire would be used. To say that the surprise Tyrion had for the invasion fleet was jaw-dropping would be an understatement. It was a scene that brought to life how the historical battles like the Battle of Red Cliffs, Siege of Antwerp, the Gravelines, the Battle of the Downs, the Battle of Solebay and the Battle of La Hougue must’ve looked like.

Even the amphibious landing that Stannis’ infantry made to start the siege of King’s Landings’ walls was both accurate in how such a military maneuver was done, but also shot in a way by Neil Marshall to be exciting and chaotic. This battle was chaotic but not in the shaky-cam variety but in how battles was always about the killing and dying of men on the ground who were just feet from each other. It was a bloody execution of the episode’s order of battle that really earns this show that label of epic that fans like to throw at it. Again I must hand it to Martin as episode’s writer for making things accessible to those who have never read the book, but also keep enough of what made this battle exciting to those who have been fans of the novels.

All of this would still have come for naught if the person directing the episode dropped the ball, so to speak. “Blackwater” needed a director who could handle massive action scenes both from a bird’s eye view and from that of the grunt on the ground. Neil Marshall is a filmmaker who has always been great at maximizing the small budget he works with to create thrilling genre films. As the first outsider hired by the show’s producers Marshall was already behind the eightball in that he’s not knowledgeable of the what the show is about. Yet, one couldn’t tell with tonight’s episode. If HBO ever decided to continue this series for many more seasons I hope that they and Benioff and Weiss just hire Marshall to become the default director when it comes to episodes that require that epic hand at the till. Even with the quieter scenes with Cersei and her youngest Tommen as they sat on the Iron Throne waiting for the bad news that she truly thought would come was handled with a filmmaker’s deft touch that most tv directors are rarely able to pull off.

“Blackwater” may be the second to the last episode of this show’s second season, but just like the first season’s penultimate episode with the execution of Ned Stark, fans and audiences of the show have been treated to what could be accurately called the season’s climax. It’s not a bad way to end a season, but as we found out with last season the final episode will have it’s own surprises but also end the season with new avenues of storytelling that would make waiting for the start of season three to arrive be an exercise in agonized waiting. Season one’s second to the last episode might’ve been more traumatic but tonight’s “Blackwater” may have just been it’s best.

A job well done by Martin and Marshall.

Review: Game of Thrones S2E08 “The Prince of Winterfell”


“One game at a time my good friend.” — Tyrion Lannister

The second season of HBO’s Game of Thrones has been quite similar to the first season in that for every great episode we get one not so great, but still one that’s needed to help further the season’s narrative to it’s conclusion. This season it’s the effect that the War of the Five Kings has had one everyone from those vying for the Iron Throne to the lowly peasant who must endure the war that has engulfed Westeros. Even the lands of Essos across the Narrow Sea has felt the ripple effect of this war as we see Daenerys Targaryen struggle in her attempts to gain allies in a land content to see the kingdoms of Westeros fight each other into disunity.

Tonight’s eight episode of the season, “The Prince of Winterfell”, was not a great episode but it was crucial in further fleshing out some of the main characters who continues to have an effect on the war. The title itself as meaning one of the Stark sons, but in this episode this label could mean so many characters.

It could mean Theon Greyjoy who has made himself the new Lord of Winterfell as he and his score of Ironborn have forcibly taken the capital of the North a couple episodes back. We’ve seen him play the role of lord, or more like play-act the role, since taking Winterfell, but his decisions since then has made him even more petty than we’ve ever seen him through all of season 1. His behavior is a constant reminder that while he spent most of his life amongst the Starks — as part of his father’s punishment for rebelling against Robert Baratheon — he never picked up the concept of honor fom Ned Stark or through the actions of Ned’s boys. He’s like a spoiled young boy trying to please everyone and show them that he’s worthy of praise when what he’s done just makes him look more and more pathetic to those he’s trying to impress.

The scene between Theon and his sister Yara was quite illuminating in how the former went against his father’s orders and his people’s method of warfare because he envies the sort of respect and influence his sister has over the Ironborn men. Influence that goes against everything Theon thinks how a woman should be and that’s naked and subservient to him, or at least to men. Yara doesn’t resent her brother and actually cares for him in her own fashion. She even understands why he does what he does and how their shared experiences with their father, Balon Greyjoy, binds them closer than Theon would like to think.

Theon has been given chances and opportunities to think things more logically and with a keen mind, but he has squandered all these chances (one even coming from the sister he thinks doesn’t respect him) and just continues to dig the proverbial grave he might just find himself in. He may be the Lord and Prince of Winterfell now, but only he seems to believe that to be true.

On the other hand, we have Robb Stark down south, King of the North by his bannermen’s acclaim, but still just a Prince of Winterfell who would like nothing but to return to his birthplace and take up the duties now given onto him by the death of his father. He would rather return to guarding the North and supporting the Night’s Watch aat the Wall than continue to fight a war that he has lost much desire to fight. But he knows he must continue his campaign against King Joffrey and the Lannisters. Too much blood has been spilt by men under his banner and the honor and duty he learned from his father means he must set aside sentimental things (like running back North to retake Winterfell and free his younger brothers). The fact that he understands the damage Catelyn’s actions in regards to the Kingslayer and his orders to have her guarded like a prisoner means he has learned to set aside familial feelings for the greater good.

Robb Stark has learned much to be like his father and while much of it has been to his advantage in prosecuting the war and keeping his alliance of bannermen together he has also picked up his father’s flaw of allowing his heart to dictate an action that may just jeopardize everything he has gained since the war began. Even knowing that he’s arranged to marry one of the Frey daughters as price to move his army down south his feelings for Talisa (the camp chirurgeon and a lady of Volantis herself) finally overrides his reason and duty. For those who have read the book this scene was both touching and maddening. For those who have never read the book this scene will still be touching in that Robb followed his heart, but also maddening in that he puts in danger the alliances with the important House of Frey to satisfy his heart.

The rest of “The Prince of Winterfell” was more about moving the pieces on the board closer to that inevitable clash between the armies of Joffrey at King’s Landing and Stannis Baratheon with his fleet bearing down on the capital. All these build-up scenes added to subplots that has grown since the beginning of the season. If there was one sequence that seemed very out of place and felt like just spinning wheels in place it would be with Daenerys at Qarth as she once again agonizes about her kidnapped “babies” and how she must get them back. Now that she knows that the warocks of Qarth have the dragonlings sequestered in the Tower of the Undying one would think she would have tried to get them back, but instead we get more scenes of her and Jorah debating on the need to have the dragon’s back. While this part of the season doesn’t come close to being the “Sophia in the Barn” frustrating it’s getting close.

We now have two more episodes left in the season and it looks like the Battle of Blackwater Pass from the novels may just arrive with the next episode. Will Tyrion be able to beat back Stannis’ siege of King’s Landing? Will Theon survive the season as Lord of Winterfell? Will Robb’s actions with Talisa destroy everything he has built since the war began? There’s so much questions and with two episodes left it will be quite the juggling act for the show’s writers to answer them all without having them seemed rushed.