Fantasy

GoT: The Iron Throne (Spoilers)

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Okay. So. I was holding off on this to let it sink in but then the maw of the internet opened and spewed forth in anger and I just kind of decided I didn’t want to. Then I forgot about it.

So I just want to say that, in the end, I was more upset by the response to the finale than the actual finale itself.

Was it perfect? It wasn’t.

Could it have been worse? Abso-fucking-lutely.

This was never going to be perfect. There was a lot missing. But in the end, it is what it is. A show. And I’ve seen a lot of great shows end worse.

One of the things that struck me the most was when Drogon melted the Throne. I feel like it was clearly him destroying the source of all his loss. His mother. His sibling. All that death for a chair. Did he want to kill John? Probably. But he’s the Targaryen so he won’t. Drogon solved the larger problem and did the thing no human would and removed the object at the center of all of it.

I feel like that was the strongest moment for me and I don’t think a lot of folks understood the meaning behind it.

As for where everyone ended up. For the most part, it all makes sense to me but I think we needed more time with the story for the logic to be built up. But that’s been an issue with all of season eight. The run time was just too short. Who’s fault that is, I honestly don’t care at this point. It went out on its own terms.

Hopefully, in hindsight, this will serve as a lesson for the shows that come next.

I’m personally stoked as fuck for the Witcher.

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GoT: The Bells (Spoilers)

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Really quickly...

I’ve ended up rewatching this episode a few times since last Sunday night and I have decided, like I suspected last week, that I really like what they’re doing here. What’s happening isn’t bad at all, I just wish there was more time to spend on getting there. 

I have no complaints anymore and am fully on board for the last episode. It’ll be bonkers, I’m sure. The comparisons to Dexter’s final season are not justified.

What an insane fucking ride.

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GoT: The Last of the Starks (Spoilers)

This one will be quick. I'm going to talk about my issues with the episode first and end in an attempt at defending it because conflicted is my middle name.

As much as I love this show, I’m still frustrated by this episode as a whole. I tend to have a great, really high end and fully upgraded, suspension of disbelief machine. I know this is not the first time for a lot of fans but it is for me. I can normally let logic issues go, and ignore my brain-questions when needed, because I’d rather just enjoy something than pick it apart.

But...

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There were just too many of those questions back to back. I spent so much time unable to turn my brain off that by the time everything went down with Rhaegal and Missandei, I had been taken so far out of the show that I couldn’t feel either moment on the deep level that I know I would have otherwise.

That’s the thing that frustrates me the most. The character inconsistencies and leaps of logic were so numerous it ruined what should have been two great and deeply emotional moments. 

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I made a whole list of issues but everyone else on the internet did as well and they’re mostly the same so I digress and move on. 

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I’m trying to keep in mind that the show is on a time crunch. It’s a short season, with a lot to get through, but I feel like this episode was designed to move the show forward in such a way that it squished about three episodes worth of narratives into one. They skipped the setups, skipped the logic building, cut corners, and forced characters to mold around a narrative in uncharacteristic ways instead of the characters naturally moving within the narrative.

It felt really rushed and I’m hoping that this was done for the sake of having more time with what comes next as we head into the ending and not a sign of what comes next for the ending.

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I love this show and I want it to get the ending it deserves. I hope this mess of an episode boils down to necessity instead of it being a case of everyone just being ready to move on.

 

GoT: The Long Night (Spoilers)

Holy. Shit.

Okay. At first, I was like, “What the fuck? We barely lost any of them!” Then I was like, “Damn. The few that we did lose were freaking rough.” And then I was like, “Wait… we lost almost all the blood riders and unsullied!!!!!”

So despite not loosing too many main characters, we lost a lot.

I tried to figure out which of the deaths hit me the hardest but I don’t feel as though I can. I probably cried hardest at Theon, Jorah, and Lyanna but the whole episode had me twisted into a giant ball of emotional compromise so take that as you will. They were all really well earned both character and story-wise and it would feel like a disservice to any of them if I chose one over the others. However, I would like to say, fuck Melisandre. Not that she didn’t serve her purpose but, I’m good with that. In Shireen Baratheon’s name, we pray.

I also want to point out the excellent way in which this episode conveyed a lot without much dialogue. There was a great deal of subtly in this episode. The look on Jorah’s face when he rode back to the front lines early on hit me hard.

The whole battle preparation in the early part of the episode felt very anti-Helms Deep. There’s no positive speeches or hopeful glares of bravery. Every single person on screen is rightfully and woefully terrified.

The battle itself gave us some great freaking moments and I’m really stoked for next week although I fear that what I’m assuming is the real battle may yet claim a great many of our favorite characters' lives.

I think the highlight for me was one of the more subtle things that were done in this episode and it’s more character related. We’ve been with these characters for a decade now. In The Long Night, we saw them in absolute terror and desperation. This wasn’t them at their fighting best. It was them at their most desperate and terrifyingly under-equipped. There was screaming and spitting and crying. All I could think was how glad I am that it was that way. I wouldn’t have totally cared or noticed if they all had on their brave faces and were sword dancing upon the corpses of their enemies or what have you, but I’m fully aware of the honesty in the way they were all portrayed. One of the biggest part of that for me was seeing how terrified Grey Worm was. My man was broken.

Also, Arya because of reasons.

I know there’s a lot of jokes about Bran this episode but I fully expect that where he went will be fully explained. I’m stoked about that.

That’s all the GoT geeking out I have for this week. I’ve done too much damage to my heart last week between watching The Long Night on Sunday and then watching Endgame on Monday night.

Still working through that rollercoaster of a write-up. I’m stoked for next week.

GoT: Winterfell & A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (Spoilers)

I’m going to put this out here as a short combo post that kinda talks about the first two episodes together. I wanted to get it out sooner but to no avail. My later posts will come after each episode as they’ll be much more insane and a bit longer as well.

Part of the reason for this is because these two episodes felt like they were about 40% catch up for those that were pulled in by the hype and just started watching, 10% reminder for the rest of us, and another 48% was calm before the storm. That last 2% I’m reserving for the nightmare pin-wheel Fire-child because holy shit that was just insane.

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These episodes were basically saying, “Look at all these people you’ve been following for so long! Don’t you love them? Aren’t you invested in them? Here’s all the reasons you love them and/or are invested in them so we can destroy you emotionally later.”

Part of me kinda wants another one so we can spend a little more time with them before it all goes down but I know I’m not going to get that. These episodes were about transitions. For the characters, for the kingdoms, and for Westeros itself.

Winter is here and it’s time to enter the fray.

The highlight for me in Winterfel was definitely John Bradley’s acting during his scene with Daenerys and Jorah. It was incredibly moving and convincing. No dialogue needed.

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In A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms   I have to turn to the room from which the episode gets its name. That whole set of scenes with the group around the fire was incredible as well as slightly foreboding. Breinne’s knighting was fantastic. I’m glad she got it but terrified of what it’ll mean.

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And I can’t help but think that had Tyrion not overfilled Pod’s cup, we’d never had that fantastic song.

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The entire episode was full of too much good. So much bad shit is going to happen.

Ill be back next week to geek out about whatever emotional wreckage follows.  Hopefully everyone gets to SAFETY IN THE CRYPTS, WHERE ALL THE DEAD STARKS ARE, BEFORE BEING ATTACKED BY AN ARMY OF RISEN DEAD!

What the shit? 

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DA KERNG IN DA NURTH!

Also, can somebody just stay with Bran? Like assign a dude to wheel him around? Quit leaving him in places.

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Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

As I can honestly say this has been one of the greatest, most enjoyable reading experiences of my life, I’ve had a really hard time figuring out where to start.

I’ve had this book in just about every want-to-read list imaginable for years. It’s been in the back of my mind for so long that every now and then something would make it come forward and I’d think upon how I have yet to read it and then put it back where it came from.

At some point after we moved back south, I saw that Netflix had a series adapted from it. At that moment I became resolute in my need to read it. And then, away it went again. I have no idea why. After all these years of trying to avoid any kind of information and spoilers about this book that everyone and everything said I would absolutely adore, I kept on putting it off.

A while back we took the kids on our bi-weekly trip to the library, I was walking through the upstairs, and right there amongst hundreds of other books was its large black spine looking at me. Once again I was determined to get it read. It is pretty massive. But I decided I have a bunch of other books lined up that I plan on reading and maybe I’ll come back to it afterward. But the white calligraphy stood out from the black and beckoned me to stop procrastinating. So I picked it up, opened it and flipped through a few pages. At which point it made it known to me thatVolume I of this book I’d waited so long to read, was ahead. The notice was accompanied by an illustration of a squat and dour little man with his face in a book and a little note about what I could only assume, was one of the titular gentlemen.

I turned the page and read the first paragraph still standing next to the vacancy on the shelf where it had been sitting, presumably, waiting for me to arrive.

Some years ago there was in the city of York a society of magicians. They met upon the third Wednesday of every month and read each other long, dull papers upon the history of English magic.

The giggles that arose from those two sentences enchanted me and sealed it. That was it. This whole time all I had to do was open the damn thing. So I closed it, wrapped my tiny unmanly hands around it, and carried it with me until everyone was done and we left. I started reading it that night.

Footnote One: While I’m obviously a huge sci-fi fantasy nerd, I’m also an actual student of literature. The study of literature in college is probably one of the biggest influences on the way I approach my writing. I am by extension a literary nerd as well.

Clarkes way of writing was so comfortingly and fascinatingly entertaining that I was completely on board from the jump. The details and they way the prose in which she presents them is one hundred percent of the charm of this book. It’s silly and dark and so deep into the story that it’s telling and I was absolutely enchanted by it. It’s sprawling and wandering in the best ways possible. The footnotes are a particular favorite of mine. Hence the inside joke above.

About a quarter of the way through, I called my mom to tell her about it. She said she’d just finished it and loved it. I took my copy back to the library for someone else to stumble upon and put it on my Kindle, Audible, and ordered a nice first edition from Abebooks and continued on.

There was a large part of me that just enjoyed reading something new that felt like it was old. We’ve grown so accustomed to the straightforwardness of not only our books themselves but of the way in which their told. I’m not saying there’s a problem with it, I’m just saying that this book was the most refreshing thing I’ve read in a very, very long time. We’re rushing all the time. We consume media designed to fill the spaces between the changes of direction in our rushing and during the lulls where we aren’t. There was a time, long ago, when the only escape any one had were books. There were no shows, or movies, or phones, or tablets to pull our attentions away. All people had were books. A great deal of time was spent, reading and engaging and oogling over them. Not just the stories they told but the language by which they were told.

It’s the combination of characters, story, magic, and language all together in a single package that I fell in love with. Everything I love about three or four great books, I found in this one.

I’m not sure how much good I’m doing by not really talking about the two gentlemen themselves but I just want to say that this is not just a story about magic and magicians or how much they deserve each other and the power they have is. Though I guess that’s up the reader in the end anyway. Strange and Norrell are less main characters as much as tentpoles for the rest of the characters. They are the cause for all of the lives of these people to come together. We see more things, understand more things, and feel more things through everyone around them than we do either of them. They are there to do magic, and that magic effects the people around them in ways they can’t, don’t or won’t see.

I will say it’s long, my love of the prose kept me engaged but I can see how it would put some folks off. I would say to them, and to you to please, please stay with it. There are a lot of great characters here, who’s lives are swirling around these two gentlemen like so many ravens caught in a storm. When they all come together, and find what each of them needs, it is a grand spectacle of magic and brilliance.

One of the things I like the most about this, as reader of fantasy, is that the magic is not ours to understand. It is for the magicians. They do magic. They do it a lot. Though the magic is spectacular, it’s written in a way that doesn’t require a huge investment from us as the reader. That is a very nice change of pace. Of greater importance here is the history of the magic, where it disappeared to, why it disappeared, and what will it take to bring it back.

There’s good people in bad places finally finding their places. There’s bad folks getting their comeuppance. There are also two magicians, existing somewhere between those two poles, that spend so much time neglecting the world around them for their magical pursuits, only to find that the magic was a part of that very world. There’s humor and wit. As the book progresses and things move along a great deal of unnerving darkness that really got under my skin.

This was absolutely one of the greatest reading experience of my life. And I just thought I’d geek out about it for a while. Now I’m off to watch the series.

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Just a note for reference: All images, except for the thumb nail, are screenshots from the Kindle version of the book on my device. It’s cover image is take from the BBC series. The thumbnail image is from the BBC series that is on Netflix. It’s the only image I could find that was of the propertionate size for the top fo the site. I would have prefered more images of the actual book. I’m only putting this here in case I’m violationg some kind of… uh… thing.