WARNING: THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE HBO TELEVISION PROGRAM “GAME OF THRONES” AND THE GEORGE R.R. MARTIN NOVEL “A STORM OF SWORDS.”

the king in the north

This was the episode that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss set out to make when they took on the enormous task of bringing George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ novels to the small screen. The penultimate episode of Season 3 of Game of Thrones changes everything. If there was any doubt that this saga wasn’t meant to change the expectations of sagas, The Red Wedding puts them to rest.

The 9th episode of Season 3 was called ‘The Rains of Castamere.’ The official background: House Reyne were a minor noble family of the Westerlands sworn to House Lannister. The story goes, House Reyne openly defied a young Tywin Lannister as the new Lord of Casterly Rock. Partly to overcompensate for his father’s weakness and partly to show that House Lannister does not suffer slights in any way, the young Lord destroyed the Reynes of Castamere root and stem. It is one thing to kill a Lord that feels some comfort knowing his sons and grandsons will carry the name of his father and grandfather. It is something else to destroy the entire family. A singer wrote the ballad about the downfall of the ancient House and it became a warning to other Lannister bannermen and Lannister enemies. How does this relate to season 3, episode 9 of HBO’s “Game of Thrones?” Before Catelyn fully realizes something is wrong, the musicians begin to play the song- the same song that Bronn led the Lannister men in singing at the tavern in Kings Landing before the battle against Stannis Baratheon, and the same song performed by The National over the closing credits of the same episode. (Season 2 Episode 9 “Blackwater”)

I consider myself an expert in both the novels and the television show. I also consider this episode to be the best of the television series thus far. The Red Wedding scene, the final scene that shows the violent death of 2 main characters, was so horrifically directed and shot that the images will stay with me for a long time. Though I knew what was coming, I was shocked. It doesn’t happen identically to The Red Wedding in the ‘Catelyn’ chapter of the book, but considering how far the show has deviated from the source material, I don’t think we will see a scene so dead on the rest of the way. The shock of Talysa being stabbed in the belly after telling Robb she wanted to name the child she is carrying Eddard is so sudden and so brutal. The look on Robb’s face is that of a King and a man that doesn’t even realize what is happening. The way Catelyn grabs Walder Frey’s young wife in the midst of the slaughter is true with her character reacting quickly in dire situations (like when the catspaw came to murder a comatose Bran and found her there). The smirk on Roose Bolton’s face as his plan came to fruition was priceless. The sinister way Walder Frey says ‘The King in the North rises,’ as Robb struggles to his feet after his wife dies in his arms is as evil as anything on television. The lighting and tone and spacing of the wedding, the eerie sense of unease and the growing anxiety suck the viewer in.

Consider this, the last 2 of 3 episodes were relatively boring, all things considered. They were plot development without much payoff. But this episode changes that. Bran wargs into Hodor and then into Summer to save Jon Snow from Wildings. Jon Snow has a swordfight (a stiff swordfight but I give it a pass) and kills Orel, who wargs into an eagle and attacks Jon Snow. Jorah, Grey Worm and Daario Naharis take on like thirty slave soldiers and slice some Yunkish ass, thus winning Daenarys the city. Arya finally gets to her mother. Edmure gets laid. Things are looking up the entire episode and it is hard to believe that something will go so terribly wrong for a fan favorite such as Robb.

When Eddard dies on the steps of Baelors Sept, it is a statement that nobody is safe in this world. Ned is the main protagonist for season 1 and book 1. And he gets his head chopped off! Holy shit, right?!? But his son picks up his sword- not literally as Ice is still at Kings Landing- and marches south to get revenge. Thus far, the series is about Stark versus Lannister… A complicated war that involves three other Kings. After the Red Wedding, the series becomes a saga about a realm in complete turmoil and how the pieces fall apart and come together. In fact, it turns out that Stark vs. Lannister was just the tip of the iceberg and not the main conflict of the narrative.

Book Robb is not a Point of View character. No Kings are Point of View characters. And book Robb makes mistake after mistake in the throne room while winning victory after victory in the field. It is easier to see this horrible turn of events coming in the book… especially on a re-read. (Maybe that’s why I thought the non-book readers saw it coming?) But the internet is proving that they didn’t. This episode will go down in television history. Nobody will ever forget The Red Wedding.

It is fascinating that so many book readers were looking forward to this episode more than any other. They were excited for it. Not because they wanted to see Robb Stark die but because this turning point in the story is so major and so shocking and every person that reads it wants to see it translated to the screen.

Now A Song of Ice and Fire really picks up. It opens up and new, more interesting characters get an opportunity to shine. Now, the North is in chaos. Now, the Lannisters must deal with having won The War of The Five Kings. Now, Arya must figure out what to do with her life. Now, Sansa realizes she truly is on her own. Now, Bran’s journey seems very important. Now, we actually give a shit about what Jon Snow is doing North of the Wall. Now, Stannis Baratheon becomes a true contender for the Throne.

Truth be told, I am not sure if Game of Thrones can work without Robb and Catelyn. It seems all of the non-readers were behind Robb. It makes sense as he is Ned’s firstborn and the King in the North. But he broke his oath. And he made a lot of mistakes. And his mother made a lot of mistakes. And they were actually carving out a bigger Kingdom in the Riverlands in the name of vengeance when they should have been taking care of The North. And  now they’re dead. And nothing will be the same. As far as non-readers believe, there is nobody that can kill that asshole Joffrey and his bitch of a mother.

The bad guys seem to have won. But by now, viewers and readers need to know that there are no good guys and there are no bad guys. This works in literature but not so much on television. The Sopranos” had no “good guys” but they had interesting and complex characters that were in the series for the long haul. Game of Thrones” has interesting characters also… but too many and they all die. So Benioff and Weiss have the challenge of keeping viewers invested in this story.

So next week, when record viewers watch the season finale, Tyrion and Daenarys and Jon Snow and Arya and Sansa and Jaime will all have time to shine. Hopefully viewers will realize that those characters are the reason they’ve been watching the entire time and that, although they have been rooting for King Robb because he is Ned’s son, Robb Stark’s campaign was doomed from the start. You can’t beat Tywin Lannister. And if you try, you end up dead.

That’s what she said.

ImageIt was a valiant effort to keep The Office in production after Steve Carell left to become a movie star. It was a brave and bold decision. For Steve Carell, it was a career move but for NBC and Greg Daniels, it was a gamble. It was also painfully obvious from the first episode of season 8- the first season without the star- that it was not going to work. The Office’s days were numbered. 

The series had been my favorite comedy since its second season because the ensemble cast played so well off Steve Carell’s Michael Scott. Every recurring character was one-dimensional from the shallow and superficial Kelly Kapur to the fat and stupid Kevin Malone. They were lovable because they had nothing to do with the narrative. They were there to react to Steve Carell or for Steve Carell to play off of. Even Jim Halpert and Pam Beesely were flat. They were adorable and in love and the audience wanted to see them together but neither brought anything real to the table.

I’m being a bit too harsh. Jim and Dwight created memorable moments. Dwight and Andy did the same. But these instances were mere window-dressing for the house that was Michael Scott. In fact, without Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute isn’t all that relevant. The rivalry between Jim and Dwight has no luster. Andy’s constant need for attention and approval is forced. The moment that the ensemble took center stage, the magic and the depth of the series gave its two weeks notice and used up its remaining sick days. 

The show runners and writers- who were also part of the ensemble cast- took advantage of guest stars to fill the void left by Carell’s departure but when the smoke cleared and Andrew Bernard was seated behind the manager’s desk, it was all over. The one-dimensional, one-joke characters couldn’t carry the show or keep it going at the same level it had been. For that matter, even the last two seasons with Carell were bland and routine. So, while I do appreciate the attempt that was made, what had been an outstanding comedy series became lame and tarnished. What had once been witty and clever improvisation became bloated and hack comedy. What had once been an All-American cutesy romance became an unbelievably happy marriage. A show that had once made the best out of low-paying, monotonous white-collar work became a show that had no identity and no real connection to American life. 

All that said, the series has come to an end and I say with a straight face that I will truly miss characters that I feel I know as well as my co-workers. The Office will always be my favorite comedy. I will always leave the channel on when I come across syndication. I will always look at seasons 1 through 4 as some of the best television comedy I’ve ever seen. It isn’t the characters that I will miss. It isn’t the mockumentary style that I will miss (there are so many mockumentaries now that if I never see one again it will be too soon). It isn’t the laughs that I will miss because those have been few and far between for years. What I will miss is the office itself. 

The office was the heart of the series. The ambiance and the nuances that made the set a real place were uncanny. The phones ringing in the background, the hum of the air conditioning units, the clicking and clacking of the keyboards, the opening and closing of doors, the sudden silence when Michael Scott embarrassed himself or one of his subordinates, the awkward looks on the workers faces when something awkward happened.. these were the life of the series. This may all sound silly but it is true. They made the set a real office, a real place that captured the still, monotonous, prison-like atmosphere of a truly boring 9-5, Monday to Friday job. 

The viewer wasn’t watching a former A-list celebrity ham out pre-packaged jokes to a laugh track. He wasn’t watching schtick after schtick. He was watching people he knew but didn’t really know. He was watching his own fat, stupid co-worker. He was watching his own snobby, uptight co-worker. He was watching his own suck-up co-worker. And all of these people that the viewer watched he knew so very well, but in truth… only a little bit. 

Truthfully though, how well do we know the people we work with? We know a character that they play when they are in their professional surroundings, trying to scrape together a living wage. We know their work habits and how they deal with the prison that is the capitalist society.

People go to work everyday against their wishes. I’ve never met someone that works the job they work because they are passionate about it and because it brings them true happiness.  Every co-worker that I have ever had was my co-worker because they need a living wage to put a roof over their head and because they need to eat and it just so happens that both myself and my co-worker found employment that provided a wage just big enough to keep us coming back five days a week. We never really get ahead and we never really get to a point where we can stop coming to work. So while we are going to this place of employment every day and working with others in the same situation and never really wanting to be there, we develop our own characterizations of ourselves. We develop an identity that protects ourselves in this environment from the painful reality that we are, in fact, there against our will and for the sole reason of being able to afford to live. 

In the 00’s, what better snap-shot of life in post 9/11, post economic bomb is there? A major theme of The Office has been the appreciation of having a job that provided a living wage. We may hate our jobs and our jobs may turn us into a character that we don’t want to be and we may have an idiot boss that vexes us and whose job we know we could do better, but in the end, it is a job and we should be thankful that we have that. Because the alternative is too frightening to even consider. And remember, there is no escape. Retirement? Phyliss, Stanley and Creed won’t be retiring anytime soon.

Your job is a life-sentence. Some call it a career. But Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant called it comedy. They called it out. They put it right in your face and made you laugh at it. And, as with most everything else, Americans did it better. Greg Daniels was able to make viewers appreciate their boring job and look at it in a refreshing way. So your boss is an asshole? That’s awesome! Would you rather your boss be friendly and overwhelming? Your co-worker is a maniac and wants everyone else that you work with fired because they are inferior to him? F’n great! Would you rather a co-worker that just did his or her job? Would you rather work with people that you could tolerate? What would you have to complain about then? What would you have to talk about over a beer? What conversation would you be able to make with the pretty receptionist that you spend 40 hours a week with if you didn’t have co-workers that were so absolutely irritating and mind-bogging? You are lucky to have your job and you are lucky to work with people. This is your job. This is your life. Look around and make the most of it. Appreciate your job and appreciate the people that you work with because the alternative is no job… and learning that awful truth that you may not be good enough for the real desires you have. 

With that, The Office concludes it’s 9 year run. It faded out of relevance and out of touch with American life. But it left memories. It made a mark. It will go on forever because your job goes on forever. Your boss will always be an asshole, whether it is your current boss or his or her future replacement. Your co-worker will always be a tremendous part of your life try as you might to forget about him or her when you are not at work. The people that you work with are the people that you spend your life with.

What you do, no matter how hard you try to fight it, becomes who you are. You can cry about it but you still have to get up after the snooze on your alarm clock has run out of time.

The better option is to laugh about it.

The better option is to suck it up and learn to appreciate the people that you work with. 

And when faced with a professional dilemma and the creeper from H.R. isn’t much help, your best option is to Hug It Out, Bitch.  

The Television Event of The Year

 

To be honest, my expectations weren’t very high. The Walking Dead has been mundane all season. Game of Thrones is A Song of Ice and Fire for dummies. How could the season finale of one and the season premier of another be a five star night of television? I will explain, because it was a five star night of television. The Walking Dead was a slow burning build to a… not quite a climax but a resolution. Game of Thrones was a catch-up, how are you doing episode. 

Season 3’s are normally the high point of any television series. Season 3 is when programs hit their stride, their prime, they fire on all cylinders. For example- The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Office, Seinfeld, Scrubs, Breaking Bad, The Cosby Show… the list goes on and on. Of course, I don’t remember the third season of The Cosby Show but I’m sure it was great. 

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The first half of Season 3 of The Walking Dead was must-see, addictive, gripping story-telling. It was heart-wrenching and exciting. It was pulsating, non-stop action with twists and turns. The second half was a lot of build. It dragged, to be sure. Rick’s mental breakdown was overdue. Carl’s development to adulthood was interesting enough. Andrea’s ultimate demise was heart-wrenching… though I have never liked Andrea, it is very difficult to see anymore principle characters die off. Even Merle’s death was tough to swallow. But the main thrust this year was not the body count… though near half the main cast of the first season was killed off. No, the main conflict and the hook of season 3 was the duel of ideologies between Rick and The Governor. 

When Tyreese and his friends arrive at the prison, Carl does exactly what his father would have wanted him to- locking them up for their own safety, meanwhile securing the prison from them. Rick’s mental breakdown drives them from the prison to Woodbury and into The Governor’s open arms. Unlike the mental crisis that Rick is going through, The Governor has already accepted the world around him. He has already adapted to life in a zombie apocalypse and has learned to use the world to his advantage… and he will use Tyreese and his friends to his advantage (Hell, in a zombie apocalypse, who wouldn’t want Cutty in their corner?). 

While Rick and the group debate how to handle the threat of Woodbury, The Governor debates how to take over the prison. The Governor functions as an imperialistic and aggressive nation, using the guise of protection to invade, conquer and exploit. Rick can’t seem to come to grips in a world without Laurie and a world in which he is responsible for not just the group that is falling apart, but a new-born daughter… the future. 

The Governor, feeling the defiance of the prison as a threat to the power he has obtained, goes into panic mode, conscripting an army together to attack the prison. Rick is still trying to figure out the meaning of his lot. Afraid to confront Woodbury, he even considers delivering one of the group over to torture just to avoid the coming battle. 

When Woodbury attacks, the prison is ready. The civilian military aren’t killers and don’t attack the prison as killers but as frightened civilians forced into war. Meanwhile, Rick and the group are survivors and have been through this before. They’ve sacrificed for each other, they’ve trusted each other and they won’t give up what they have given up so much to have. The prison bands together to survive. Woodbury flees in failure, against The Governor’s wishes.

After the attack, Rick goes to Woodbury to finish it, only to discover along the way what The Governor has finally become. The Governor has realized that protecting these people is a waste of his time. He is the top of the food chain and the people hold him down. He has spent too much time and energy protecting them and providing some semblance of a normal life. So, he decides to kill them. Martinez watches at first in horror, but even he realizes that The Governor is relieving them of all the dead weight they have been carrying.

Rick comes to a conclusion at Woodbury. He finds its people unprotected, their protectors having gone out to murder and destroy instead of remaining to protect and thrive. He brings the people of Woodbury back to the prison.

Carl isn’t so happy about the decision. Maybe Carl is more The Governor than Rick at this point? Maybe The Governor, like Shane, has a better shot at surviving in this new world? Maybe Carl will cross paths with The Governor down the road?  

But Rick is now the Governor by default. Rick gets a shot at not just surviving but possibly thriving as not a group of survivors but a community in a new world. Maybe the prison will become greater than Woodbury? Maybe Herschel will finally grow the tomato plants he wanted to? 

Season 4 will show Rick as a political leader instead of a military one. Without a doubt, The Governor will return. He will seek to destroy whatever community Rick will build. He will be a force of evil, free from the burdens of being a political figure. I’m excited, to be sure. I like the direction that the program is going in. I was surprised that The Governor lived, but to be honest, he is probably the coolest television villain since Tom Zarek. 

The Walking Dead Season 3 Finale- Four Stars out of Five.. 

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We catch up with all the principle characters in Game of Thrones… except well… Arya, Theon, Jaime, Brienne, The Hound, Bran, Rickon and Hodor. Oh, and Hot Pie. But we do catch up with Robb, Catelyn, Jon Snow, Sansa, Cersei, Joffrey, Tyrion, Tywin, Samwell, Daenerys, Jorah, Bronn, Littlefinger, Stannis, Melisandre, Davos… oh and Barristan the Fucking Bold (so different from the book, but how cool was that?). And of course, Roz…. ugh.

This is the problem with Game of Thrones… and I didn’t realize it until now. There are too many characters. I got angry the first two seasons at the absence or the erasing of some characters. It is a lot easier to write about hundreds of character than it is to get television audiences to care about hundreds of characters. I finally truly understand the absence and the changing. 

As much as I want to see all of these characters from these books that I’ve read twice and listened to the audio CD of thrice, it is IMPOSSIBLE. The episodes have been stretched an extra five minutes each and at the end of the season, that will be an entire extra episode. It still isn’t enough time. Or at least, after the season premier, it doesn’t seem like it will be enough time. But, I am confident. 

First off, NICE SAVE BY GHOST!!!!! Kanteen was going nuts when he saw that!! But I really wanted to see the slaughter on The Fist of The First Men. I guess there is only so much money that HBO can give the producers. It would have been a scene on par with the Blackwater. Oh Well…

Robb has ended up at Harrenhal. He is angry at the slaughter by Gregor Clegane done there. He is also pretending to be angry at his mother in front of his bannermen. Roose Bolton and Rickard Karstark see through it. 

Jon Snow meets the King Beyond the Wall. Mance Rayder seems like an amiable fellow. He will fight The Others while Jeor Mormont lets Craster give his sons to them. Regardless, Jon Snow convinces Mance that he wants to be free. We also see a giant. Way cool. 

Sansa is hanging with Shae. I despise book Shae and truly despise television Shae. Littlefinger comes to talk to her about escaping from King’s Landing. Roz and Shae have a conversation that used time that could have been given to characters I care about. 

Daenarys reaches Astapor. She is interested in buying an army. The Unsullied are eunuchs that feel no pain, are loyal to the bone, and cost a ton of gold. Dany hates how they are brought up and trained. Jorah tells her that she needs an army. The Undying are still after her and send a creepy little girl assasin to get her stung by a manticore. Luckily, Barristan the Fucking Bold saves her and pledges her his sword… which he threw at Joffrey’s feet. So he pledges her his dagger. 

Tyrion is paranoid. Especially of his sister. Cersei is paranoid that Tyrion will tell Tywin something bad that she has done. They have a conversation of mutual contempt. When Tyrion goes to see Tywin, he learns that his father truly hates him. Tyrion wants Casterly Rock. Tywin says “Hellllll no. Never. You killed your mother and you are a drunk, womanizing little pervert.” Thanks Dad. As usual, great great acting by Peter Dinklage. 

Margery Tyrell visits some orphans that lost their fathers during the Battle on the Blackwater. She wants to win the people’s love and is well on her way to doing it. At dinner with Joffrey and Cersei and her gay brother, Joffrey seems more human than he has ever seemed. He is enamored and almost intimidated by Lady Margery. Cersei is threatened by the future Queen. It is early for A Feast For Crows but the battle lines are being drawn. 

So the story develops, pushes forward and we catch up with nearly everybody. But it is difficult to follow for the non-reader. It truly is. I know what is going on and I know what is being changed. But does Joe Schmo know? No, Joe Schmo does not know. Or maybe he does. But it is getting confusing. 

I’m sure that the following episodes will scale down the characters per episode. And if they can, A Storm of Swords has the greatest arcs of the series, and we will see some amazing television. But the showrunners are walking on rotten ice. 

A Game of Thrones Season 3 Premier- 3 Stars out of 5. 

Mad Men Musings

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Seriously, what am I watching? Yes, it is clever. Yes, sometimes it is interesting. Yes, I can say yes to quite a few questions about the qualities of Mad Men. I can go on and on…

Yes, Jon Hamm is good looking.

Yes, Christina Hendriks’ boobs should win an Emmy. 

Yes, Peter Campbell is a douchebag. 

Yes, Peggy Olson deserves a promotion and I feel bad for her and want her to succeed. 

Yes, Rachel Menkin is a bitch and she will never do any better than Don Draper. 

Yes, Don Draper’s mentality of ‘Always Move Forward’ is a great mentality to have and sort of makes him the equivalent of an everyman’s Ayn Rand… and yes, it was very clever to use ‘Atlas Shrugged’ in the episode entitled… oh who cares?

Seriously… who cares? I get it. Why am I watching this though? Don Draper is boring when he tries to balance his Manhattan persona with his Suburban Dad persona. Betty Draper is hot but she is the least attractive hot woman in the history of fiction. 

Peter Campbell is a douche. And every year ‘Mad Men’ should win an Emmy for best portrayal of a douchebag in television. But it should NOT win Best Dramatic Series. 

Mad Men touches on risque topics that would have been better fleshed out had the show been put in production by HBO. Matthew Weiner worked on ‘The Sopranos.’ He pitched ‘Mad Men’ to HBO and they passed. Having won Emmy after Emmy, I had to finally watch the show so I could see for myself what the hype is about and why HBO would pass on a show that is winning Emmy after Emmy. I have decided that HBO passed on ‘Mad Men’ for the same reason that I am going to pass on the remainder of season 3 and all succeeding seasons- it is ultimately boring because ultimately I don’t care about anything that is happening. 

Who cares if Peggy Olson decides to move to Manhattan?

Who cares if Betty’s father died?

Who cares if Don Draper isn’t really Don Draper?

I like watching these guys get drunk. I like watching Christina Hendriks boobs. I like watching Betty Draper seduce the little kid from down the block. But if you put all of these things together as a somewhat cohesive narrative, I am absolutely not interested. 

There is nothing that can happen on this show that will make me want to watch it. It is what you call a ‘slow burner.’ It moves really slow and ultimately goes nowhere. 

Yeah, that one guy is gay. So what? Oh gay people weren’t accepted in the 50’s? No kidding. Who cares though? Yeah, housewives lead boring lives. There are no more housewives because of that… and the ridiculous cost of living in the United States… but who cares?

Who cares? And there is five years worth of this? And another on the way? Where could this story have possibly gone that viewers keep coming back to watch more of it? Seriously. I want to know. 

I can understand a ‘Mad Men’ drinking game-

Every time somebody lights up a butt, take a shot.

Every time Don Draper cheats on his wife, take a shot.

Every time Pete Campbell does a douchebag move, take a shot. 

Every time Roger Sterling acts like he is in his twenties, take a shot.

Every time Peggy Olson grows a little bit, take a shot. 

Every time Betty Draper looks sad and confused, take a shot. 

Every time the gay dude struggles with his sexuality, take a shot. 

Every time a storyline is given to a character undeserving of a storyline just because there is forty something minutes to fill, take a shot. 

You’d be drunk by twenty minutes in and still, in all likelihood, not give a fuck about this show. But you would be impressed by how clever it is. 

Seriously, who cares?

 

Ghost Lori? Or Divine Zombie Presence??

The Walking Dead - Season 3 - Poster Art - Frank Ockenfels/AMC

I finally was able to watch the Season 3-B premiere of The Walking Dead. It can be summed up in two words: “cold shower.” That’s okay, though. I shelved the show 3 episodes into season 2 because it seemed stuck… though I admit, a big reason I shelved it was also my gf’s complete disinterest in the program… combine that with my hectic work schedule and non-existent down-time and it all equals out to Netflix binge down the road.

Well… I binged and crammed a rewatch of season 1, then a first viewing of season 2, then I figured out a way to watch season 3 (as it is not yet available on Netflix). Mayhaps this series works better as binge viewing. The commercial breaks and the week of waiting to see what happens makes me feel like I am watching Lost… and I despise Lost. For every really sick, 5 star episode of The Walking Dead, there are 2 somewhat lame, sluggish episodes. Don’t misunderstand me, the 5 star episodes make up ten-fold for the sluggers and I cannot wait to watch the remainder of this season. I am stating that this series works best without commercials, one after the other (unlike Lost, which is actually worse without commercials and back to back to back so on and so forth).

So, after the emotional high of watching over twenty episodes of Rick and Glen and Maggie and Daryl and Lori and all the rest, I was salivating to get to my DVR and see if Daryl and Merle survive, if the Governor gets his, if Andrea gets back with her friends, if Cutty from The Wire is able to convince the gang to let he and his friends stay in the safety of the prison, and if Michonne puts a few sentences together. The payoff wasn’t there. Sure, some cliffhangers were settled, but not really… and more knots were tied… and characters ended up in frustrating places that I don’t want to see them in.

Rick and Cutty (for those of you who have never watched The Wire, please stop reading and go and watch all five seasons before you look at yourself in the mirror again) didn’t form an alliance like I was hoping they would. Merle is still alive and will cause more trouble. The Governor is going to cause more trouble. Andrea… I don’t know exactly what she is looking for… maybe she doesn’t either. She is safe where she is, this much is true. She can’t exactly go running off to be with her friends but it is frustrating that she is sticking with Woodbury.

What was most frustrating in this premiere episode was Ghost Lori… who I didn’t even know was Lori until I saw the first few minutes of The Talking Dead and Chris Hardwick said it was Ghost Lori. (NOTE: I only watched the first five minutes that my DVR had recorded. SECOND NOTE: Chris Hardwick is a very inspirational person.) I felt that Rick had settled himself with Lori’s death on the Ghost Phone. I guess not… so now we have Ghost Lori. To be honest though, when I first saw the strange specter, half its face hidden in shadow, its hair all done up and wearing a beautiful white dress, I kinda was thinking of a divine presence. As much as I don’t want to see Rick lose his mind, it was intriguing to think of the possibilities of a god… for the zombies? For the survivors? For the new world that these characters have finally accepted completely? Whatever it is, sign me up.

What is the End Game for this program? Do they just press on year after year, killing off characters and bringing new ones aboard? Great shows last 5 good seasons or thereabouts. And even then, there is filler. Homeland may be the greatest television program ever… and I wish that this past season had been its last…. although I wish more that Shotime proves me wrong. The Wire was 5 seasons… perfect. Some say the 4th season was thumbs down as well as the 5th. I say those people are insane.

My point is that the narrative of a group of people surviving a zombie apocalypse is great, but there needs to be somewhere that they are all heading… an ultimate goal… a final confrontation… a mountain that these characters know that once they climb, they can let out a sigh of relief and simply live a somewhat normal life off screen. Where is this series headed? Obviously, The Governor and Woodbury will attack the Prison and there will be a battle and obviously, Rick will somehow survive. Carl will somehow survive. Glen… Idk about Glen… Daryl will obviously give in to his older woman fetish and get with Carol. Merle will get what’s coming to him. I applaud the regular deaths of characters and the feeling that nobody is safe that the show gives, but that can only go so far. What is the End Game?

I’ve read spoilers in the comic book series and I don’t really like the direction that goes in, but this is a television show and it can’t go on and on like a comic book, forever. This will get old and the show will lose viewers and at some point, it will be announced that this upcoming season of The Walking Dead will be the Final Season. What will happen then? What is the End Game?

Ghost Lori? Or Zombie Goddess? I think Zombie Goddess is cooler. And if She looks like Lori, that’s all good. But give me something more than these people running around in circles and trying to survive. Let me know there is an end in sight and it will raise the stakes and it will keep my DVR tuned into AMC every Sunday night. Sure! Let Rick be some kind of Messiah for this new world. Fine! Make Carl the Messiah. Whatever! Maybe there has to be some pilgrimage to some holy place and once the gang gets there, they will start a new world. I don’t know. I’m not writing the show. I’m just watching it. But I can only watch something for so long if there isn’t an end in sight.

The Beheadings of House Stark

Eddard

 

When I consider the patriarch of House Stark and his first-born son and his baseborn son, I think of the beheadings. Eddard Stark, the Lord of Winterfell and the Warden of the North is introduced to us through Bran’s point of view i A Game of Thrones. He is introduced to us delivering the King’s justice to a deserter from the Night’s Watch as Bran, his older brother Robb, and his bastard brother Jon Snow look on. Eddard’s lesson is simple enough: if you are to sentence a man to death, it is honorable that you hear his final words and you swing the sword.

While most all the major Houses of Westeros keep headsmen to deal out their justice, the Starks keep it real. They worship the old gods. They aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty. They are honorable… or at least Lord Eddard is honorable. It seems that the Starks haven’t always been the holier than thou, driven by honor, never lie, never cheat, never steal family that they are when the events o ASOIA pick up, but that is a topic for a different post. As far as Ned Stark and his family go, they will look a man in his eyes before they kill him, no matter what the crime.

Eddard beheads Gared for the crime of deserting the Night’s Watch. The man explains why he did it- he and his fellow Rangers were attacked by White Walkers beyond beyond The Wall. The White Walkers, The Others, are supposed to be scary bedtime stories told to the children of the realm or a curse used upon people that are really irritating or frustrating you. i.e. “The Others take my wife and her credit card!” Gared didn’t sign up for that. The Others slew his asshole commander, Ser Waymar Royce, and his good buddy. Ser Waymar Royce even rose from the dead as a wight to come at the poor bastard Gared. Gared was just running for his life and wound up in Stark territory. “That sucks,” Eddard says, “but I still have to take off your head for deserting the Night’s Watch.”

And take off Gared’s head he does. Jon Snow tells Bran to not look away because his father will know. It is a right of passage for the Stark boys to see their father deliver the King’s justice. It is reality and it is something that the boys very well may have to do as they become men and Lords in their own right. Bran may be young but noble children grow up fast, especially in the North and it is important to Eddard that his sons know what it is to pass sentence on a man’s life. It is implied that Robb and Jon Snow have seen a beheading before. For Bran, he sees it through a child’s eyes- the head falling to the ground, the blood spraying out onto the snow, the jackass Theon Greyjoy kicking the head as though he were Pele. Bran doesn’t yet quite understand how fragile life is and what was truly lost to Gared that day and what it took for his father to swing the great Valyrian sword, Ice.

It is a cruel twist of fate that brings Eddard Stark south to King’s Landing and an even crueler twist that brings him to The Great Sept of Baelor as a traitor to the Iron Throne. The story ends for Ned Stark how it began with him for the reader, except Ned is beheaded in front of the same people he came south to rule and protect. Crueler still is that Eddard is beheaded by Ice, his own Valyrian sword and the sword of House Stark for thousands of years.

We fast forward to A Storm of Swords and Robb Stark’s reign as the King in the North. The War of The Five Kings is in stride and a terrible crime has occured amid King Robb’s court. Lord Rickard Karstark, bannerman of Robb, Lord of Karhold, and going back far enough, a man that has the same Stark blood flowing in his veins, has brutally murdered two Lannister boys that were prisoners of Robb. Being a noble prisoner entitles a person to certain comforts and protection. A prisoner of noble birth is more of a bargaining chip than a criminal and Robb has the responsibility of protection of the prisoner. Not to mention, the Lannisters hold his sister Sansa as a prisoner and any act of cruelty committed against the boys can easily be reciprocated upon her.

The murder, though justified by Lord Rickard due to his sons death at the hands of the Lannisters, puts Robb in a very awkward position. The man that killed Lord Rickard’s sons had been released by Catelyn Stark, Robb’s mother and Eddard’s wife and the Lady of Winterfell. Rickard Karstark takes great offense to this and is absolutely teeming with anger at his King and his King’s mother. His desire for vengeance for his sons leads to this tragic event. But now, King Robb must make the choice between the honor of his rule and loyalty to his bannerman who had fought alongside him in many a battle. Robb Stark makes the right decision, the decision his father would have made- honor. To make amends for the dishonor that Rickard Karstark brought upon his rule, Robb passes the sentence of treason on Karstark. He must die. And Robb, being his father’s son, must swing the sword.

Robb asks Lord Karstark to say what last words he has and swings his sword. This beheading does not go as smoothly for Robb as the last Eddard did. The grey area is too prevalent and it is difficult for Robb to do what needs be done. But he does it, much like his father would have. Afterward, Robb has difficulty dealing with the emotional toll of beheading his bannerman. Ruling is not so easy for Robb as it was for his father.

We move forward again, to The Red Wedding. Robb’s rule and kingdom has come to an end. He won every battle that he fought but it was the politics and the game of thrones that did him in. The honor that Eddard taught him was no match for the snake-like ways of the southernors. Robb was betrayed by his own bannermen. But his downfall was well underway by the time he took Rickard Karstark’s head. Robb is killed in The Twins by Freys and Boltons. He is fettered with arrows and killed with a dagger by Roose Bolton, the Lord of the Dreadfort. Though not beheaded, upon Robb’s death, the Freys decapitate Robb and his direwolf, Greywind. They sow Greywind’s head onto Robb’s body as the ultimate show of disrespect for the honor of House Stark.

Moving forward still through the series to A Dance With Dragons, we come to Jon Snow on The Wall having been voted to be the 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Though bastard born (the reality of that a topic for another post), Jon Snow has climbed to a position of rule much like his father and his brother. The Night’s Watch is not a Great House but a ragtag group of criminals and outcasts that defend the realm from dangers beyond The Wall. As Lord Commander, Jon receives his first tests almost immediately after being voted into the office.

One of his first tests is Lord Janos Slynt, the fallen from grace former Lord Commander of the City Watch in Kings Landing. Slynt was an integral part in the betrayal and beheading of Eddard Stark. For that crime, and many others, Tyrion Lannister, having taken the office of Hand to the King for his father Lord Tywin Lannister, and succeeding Lord Eddard, has sent Slynt to The Wall. Slynt made his own bid for Lord Commander of the Watch but was beaten out by Jon Snow. This wounds his pride and does not sit well with him at all. He had already plotted to have Jon Snow killed for treason, and to respect him now as his commander is something that he cannot abide.

Jon Snow is well aware that Janos Slynt had much and more to do with his father’s beheading. He is also aware that Slynt will continue to plot his downfall. Jon Snow’s plan is to send Slynt to an abandoned fortress beside The Wall far away from Castle Black, where the main strength of The Watch call home. Mayhaps he already knows that Slynt will not comply with the command, but Jon Snow gives him the chance regardless. Which is more than Slynt gave Lord Eddard. As he foresaw, Janos Slynt refuses the order. He refuses the order and is subordinate in front of the whole of the Watch at Castle Black. Jon Snow is left with no choice but to execute Slynt for this. He has Slynt dragged out onto the main yard of the keep and as Slynt realizes that not one of his brothers will step in to save him, he recants his initial stance and says he will follow the order. Too late for Slynt. Jon Snow orders him to be hung until he dies. As his men make to tie Slynt up, Jon Snow has a change of heart. He remembers his father and the honor of being a Stark of Winterfell. No, he will not have Janos Slynt hung. He will execute Janos Slynt himself.

Slynt is lay down in front of Jon Snow and Jon Snow unsheathes Longclaw, his own Valyrian sword. He asks Slynt if he has any last words and beheads him in one even strike. The execution is so poetic and so exhilarating to both Jon Snow and the reader. The bastard son of Eddard Stark has become a ruler in his own right and has passed a sentence onto a man and did the deed himself. Eddard Stark would be smiling from his grave if he still had his head. Robb Stark would have been proud as well. There is justice for Eddard, finally. And it was justice passed in Eddard fashion. Even Stannis Baratheon has to respect what Lord Commander Snow has just done.

Eddard beheading the deserter seems textbook, it seems the norm. Robb beheading Lord Rickard Karstark was a complicated and ugly mess. Was it honor? It was, but honor doesn’t work in the south the same way it does in Winterfell. Honor can get a man killed… and it does. The honor that Robb thought so important was in fact a large part of his downfall and subsequent death. In that sense, the beheading of Karstark feels a bit forced on Robb’s end. He wanted to do the right thing. He wanted to be like his father so bad that perhaps he made the wrong decision for his kingdom, though it could be the right decision for his own honor.

It is Jon Snow that passes the test. His decision to execute Janos Slynt with his own sword is absolutely righteous and absolutely necessary. It is necessary for the honor of House Stark, for Jon Snow’s honor and for the honor of the office of Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. It is necessary because only Slynt’s death would stop him from sabotaging Jon Snow’s rule and the success of the Night’s Watch’s fight. There is no grey area in the beheading. There is right and there is wrong. There is just and there is unjust. There is no in-between area. So the sudden realization of what he must do is Jon Snow accepting his role, accepting his office and most importantly, grasping his manhood and accepting the responsibilities that come along with it. I just hope that Bran did not look away.

Jar Jar Abrams

JJA

My friends are all missing the point I am trying to make. My boycott of Star Wars is not because of the lame prequels, nor George Lucas’ retirement from film-making (or special effects montages, if you will), nor my dislike of Lost. Though each of those are reason enough to stop kicking the dead horse and the sum of them all is reason enough to toss my Greedo action figure, I say “Nay,” those are not the reason for my boycott of Star Wars.

If George Lucas went out to the deserts of New Mexico and took peyote and did some serious soul searching and came to the conclusion that he is, in fact, the bloated, pompous windbag that he comes across as to the public, and if he said to himself, “I think that it is time to give up the reins. I feel that my story could be told better by someone who is not as in love with myself as I am. I think I will go and study the sci-fi/fantasy/adventure films that have been made over the last five to ten years and find my successor. I will take this person under my wing and try to make him see what it is that I see and have been unable to express since the early 80’s,” and then he went and actually did that, and then, at Comic-Con or some other platform, he announced that he was passing the torch to J.J. Abrams and that he would be 100% hands-off, this would be joyous news. I mean that.

J.J. Abrams is a dude much like George Lucas. He is a dude that has a unique, epic vision. He is a dude that knows how to make magic on a screen, be it the small screen of television or the big screen. Let’s take a quick look at his work…
Lost J.J. Abrams’ baby. It looked great. It was a great idea. It had some great characters. But ultimately, it was dumb. He didn’t know what the end was when he started it and he was only concerned with getting the audience through the commercial break. I don’t care what anybody says, he was making that up as he went along. And I feel sorry for everyone that got hooked on Lost.
Cloverfield- This film had a lot of hype. It was unique. It was fun. It was real. It was amazingly epic for a film shot completely on a handheld camera. And he didn’t have to explain anything! The hook of Cloverfield was the roller coaster ride that the film took the audience on. Where did the monster come from? Who cares? Run!
Star Trek Not his property! A pre-existing property! A universe already built! Paramount let J.J. Abrams run wild with this universe and what he delivered was a Star Warsed Star Trek. It was awesome! Right?!? He didn’t have to explain anything! It was already explained by Gene Roddenberry and a ton of other people. He made it awesome and he made it work for a new audience and that’s great. He didn’t have to answer any questions or explain any of his ideas.

So J.J. Abrams taking an even grander mythology should be even more epic… and more exciting… especially considering that the dude loves Star WarsHe remembers what he loved about good Star Wars and what he was disappointed with in new Star Wars and I guarantee that he would deliver exactly what the tortured and humiliated but loyal fanbase of Star Wars wants to see.
He doesn’t have to explain the polar bear, the smoke monster, John Locke, or the island. He has a universe of interesting characters. He has a built-in mythology. He has the largest built-in fanbase. He has a blank canvas and an endless arsenal of paint… the greatest colors that can be had.

So why my boycott? The Star Wars saga died for me when Natalie Portman popped out twins while she was dying and said “Luke..ah…ah… Leia..ah..ah… there is good in him, Obi-Wan.”
The prequels sucked. They were bound to disappoint because nothing could live up to the expectations that they were given. There were a few very memorable moments, there was great action, Ewan McGregor was great, Natalie Portman is hot, Darth Maul was sick, the lightsaber fights were nuts, Yoda saved the day, and we saw Chewbacca. Whatever. I waited in line with other fans. I cheered. I applauded. I had fun. It ended. I put it to rest. I never thought there would be Episode VII. But take George Lucas out of the equation… ok, I’m listening.
Why my boycott? The new director? No. I explained J.J. Abrams already. He is really good at telling a story he doesn’t have to think about telling.
Why my boycott? There is nothing left to tell. The story is complete. As dumb as the second half, which was the first half, was, it is complete. The story is whole. But is it? Maybe there is more to the story? If you put a gun to my head and told me to continue the Star Wars Saga, I’d like to think that I could come up with a reason to continue telling the story. So, no that’s not it.
Why my boycott? Is it because the actors that played the characters from the Original Trilogy, which would be the same characters that The Unnecessary Trilogy must continue narrating, all look like they got run over by a truck? No. I would be ok with new actors taking over those roles. I can suspend my belief enough to accept that.

I am boycotting the upcoming NEW Star Wars films because they are Disney movies. The Walt Disney company is no longer a relevant story teller. They were once magical. They are now a monster. They buy properties to remain relevant. They buy Pixar. They buy Marvel. They have now bought Star Wars

Fuck Walt Disney. Fuck Mickey Mouse. Fuck them if they think they will get me to pay my money to watch a Disney version of what I loved as a kid. Star Wars: A New Hope was renegade film-making. No studio wanted to touch it. George Lucas almost killed himself to get that made. And his vision was equal to Walt Disney’s. Star Wars wasn’t just cool because of the mythology and Han Solo. It was cool because it was a young film-maker so hell-bent on getting his vision on film and into theaters that he did whatever was necessary. It was rock and roll. It was punk. It was “Fuck you Hollywood. I’m going to tell an awesome story with or without you.”
If George Lucas of 1976 could see what became of his idea, he would not have made Star Wars in the first place. He would have been Steven Spielberg’s lame friend that he took to parties. He would have said “I’ll change the future. I will never let Walt Fucking Disney buy my story. I’m not a sell-out!” 

J.J Abrams has nothing to do with my boycott. The story being completely complete has nothing to do with my boycott. The story taking a tremendous turn for the worse due to George Lucas thinking he could sell a video of himself taking a shit so long as it was called Star Wars isn’t the reason for my boycott. Seeing “Walt Disney Pictures Proudly Presents” with Tinkerbell and the Magic Kingdom before the opening scroll that says “Episode VII” is the reason for my boycott. And it should be the reason for your boycott. Don’t let Disney take over the world. Fight evil Hollywood. Fight the same old-same old. Fight for what you cared about as a kid so much that you waited in line for hours and hours to see a shitty version of it.

Yes, the prequels were shitty, but at least they were George Lucas’ shitty prequels. He earned the right to destroy his credibility as a film-maker. He earned the right to shit all over his greatness. Now he is just earning an easy buck. This isn’t cool. Even the talk of one-off Star Wars films… like one directed by Brad Bird about seven Jedi Knights based on The Seven Samurai, which sounds like it’d be really fucking cool, ISN’T COOL! WALT DISNEY ISN’T COOL!!!!!!!!!!!

That said… I am really looking forward to Star Trek Into Darkness.