Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Great Harry Potter Rewatch: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter books and (yes, I'm a geek) I've probably read them hundreds of times. Having purchased the box set of films, I've decided to have a Harry Potter rewatch (until we get to the last two films, which will just be a watch as I've not seen them), to see if I can learn to love the films as much as the books (doubtful, but I'll try).

Up next is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I love this book, and so far this is my favourite film.

It's dramatic and funny in all the right places, there are some great characters and while a lot changes from the book, the film manages to work with the source material and create something good for the screen without losing the essence of the book.

Of the four books and films, this is the darkest, as it's the first time we see someone innocent killed in present time. In Goblet of Fire Harry returns to school to discover the Triwizard Tournament is being held, and somehow finds himself named as a competitor. Surviving two challenges he heads into the third, which he thinks he wins with Cedric Diggory. Turns out it's all an elaborate plan to bring Voldemort back. Cedric is killed, Voldemort returns to a human body, Harry faces off with him, and the world will never be the same again for the children of Hogwarts.
The final scenes, from Harry going into the maze in the final task, to the end of the film are brilliantly done. While not quite as they were in my imagination, I feel all the elements really come together. The maze is sufficiently creepy, and that moment where Cedric and Harry decide to lift the cup together for a Hogwarts' win are really moving.
And then to the graveyard and Voldemort - the finest scenes done in the Harry Potter films up until now. Ralph Fiennes is amazing as Voldemort, all harsh lines, snake voiced and just generally embodying the role of bad guy without for a moment slipping into farce. He's the perfect Voldemort.

Also perfect in Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody. He's just as I imagined him in the book - scarred and looking exactly like he's spent a lifetime battling dark foes. In the books there are few signs that Moody is actually Barty Crouch Jr, in fact, I think that twist crept up on me without me guessing until the final page or so before the reveal. In the film though, Gleeson plays Moody with a slight hint of sinister, giving enough of a wink to those who have read the book and know his real identity, and planting enough of a seed of doubt in the minds of those who haven't.
And of course, David Tennant is fabulous as Barty Crouch Jr, erasing all our memories of him as the kindly Doctor Who with his portrayal of the creepy, spoilt Barty.

The young actors in Harry Potter really grew in this film, and for the first time I felt like they were truly acting. Particular praise must go to Matthew Lewis, who just is Neville Longbottom; to James and Oliver Phelps as the Weasley twins, who bring a slice of comedy to the screen whenever they appear; and to Clemence Poesy, who made me like Fleur Delacour.

Among my favourite scenes was the Yule Ball, which brought in elements of a teen romance to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It was a good change of pace from the rest of the film - one of the lighter moments among the dark - and we got to see some fun Hermione/Ron interaction, setting the scene for future plot developments.

One moment that stays with me from this film is the sight of Cedric's dad Amos screaming over his body in slow-motion. It's a heartwrenching moment, and really powerful seen through Harry's shocked eyes.
Powerful moments make this film better than the three previous ones, because it's those moments which truly take us into the world of Harry Potter in the same way thousands of words in the books do. Many more dark and powerful moments are ahead, and if the remaining films are as good as this one, maybe my rewatch won't be as difficult as I first imagined it would be.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Game of Thrones: Blackwater recap/review

The Prince of Winterfell recap/review 

Well, after weeks of waiting Game of Thrones exploded with a bang (literally) as it turned into a fully fledged war film, leaving all trace of innocence and frivolous things behind. While this episode, Blackwater, did my least favourite film and television trick of having scenes in the dark, it really worked, right up until the final moment. 

The Lannisters 
Everything the Lannisters have been dreading (even if they didn't know it) came to fruition this week - the walls of King's Landing were breached, one of their most loyal soldiers turned his back on them, thousands of men were killed, and the best of the Lannisters was badly injured (okay, maybe it was just us dreading that last one, and not so much Cersei and Tywin). 

Game of Thrones is all about shades of grey, and no one is all good or all bad. That said, the Lannisters are arguably on the wrong side of this fight (as is Stannis) and Robb Stark is on the right side. It's a testament to how great a character Tyrion is that despite all the terrible behaviour exhibited by the Lannisters, we still root for them (him).

We saw all sides to Tyrion this week, starting with the scared and loving Tyrion who had to try and say goodbye to Shae. Piece by piece that Tyrion disappeared - literally, as he was covered by his armour. And although he showed a moment of weakness when he saw Sansa and Shae, putting on his armour was the start of truly battle worthy Tyrion.

He showed off his propensity for cutting Joffrey down to size when he scolded him on top of the battlements, and his disappointment later on when the Meanest Character on Television™ abandoned the battle to run to his mother (cementing our view of Joffrey as a complete coward).

But it was in battle that Tyrion truly showed why he's the best of the Lannisters, and why he takes after his father more than Cersei and Jaime, even though the family might not think they have much in common.

First, Tyrion showed he can hold his nerve, refusing to give in when others demanded he start the battle. He showed numerous times his preparedness for battle - he had not one plan (the wildfire) but two (the tunnels).

He showed his courage by stepping in to the role of leader when Joffrey abandoned the men, even though he has little battle experience. And he showed he understands the men on the ground, rousing the soldiers with a proper battle speech when they were ready to abandon ship (as it were).

Still, it wasn't enough to keep him from being hurt, and right now Tyrion is lying on the battlefield, bloody and bruised and on the verge of death. Will he survive? I hope so.

And what about Cersei? While her brother was out fighting to save King's Landing against a war she and her son started, Cersei was getting drunk and plotting to kill her own children.

You knew from the moment that she was given the vial of poison that she would be killing herself and/or her family should the worst come to pass. You knew it was worse than you thought when Cersei turned up wearing that ridiculous gold breast plate, and then proceeded to get drunk off her head, be mean to Sansa, berate her servants and just generally be a heinous cow instead of the comforting queen she should have been to her subjects.

Even though Cersei was hiding out with the womenfolk during the battle, she was at the centre of the pivotal final scenes. Her story about the young lion cub scared of the bears and wolves in the forest was a beautifully told allegory for the battle raging across the Seven Kingdoms. But although her story ends with the lion cub triumphant, it's clear Cersei isn't talking about triumph in battle, she's talking about triumph in death.

Her words were a beautiful soundtrack and contrast to the battle scenes raging outside, as a group of men on horseback ride to the rescue of the Lannisters at King's Landing. And those final moments, as Cersei lifts the bottle to Tommen's lips and the doors burst open to show Tywin proclaiming the battle is won while slow-mo scenes of Stannis realising he's lost play out are a brilliant climax to a fantastic episode. 

The Starks 
Sansa was representing for the Starks this week, and she did her family proud. From last season when she was one of Game of Thrones most annoying characters, she's turned into a strong woman.

While Cersei was busy drowning her sorrows in wine, it was Sansa who kept her cool, and comforted the women who could hear the battle going on around them.

And unlike Cersei, Sansa also showed she could listen, when she obeyed Sansa and ran away. She didn't get very far, and we got a brilliant scene with her and the Hound in her bedroom.

Having decided enough was enough, and haunted by visions of the fire which detroyed half his face, the Hound abandoned Joffrey in the best possible way (by telling him to f*** off).

The scene between Sansa and the Hound was, like the scene with Cersei telling the story of the lion cub, filled with wonderful contrasts. The Hound and Sansa are polar opposites - in looks, personality and life experience - but they seem to have a strange bond. It's strong enough that the Hound offers to rescue Sansa, and that Sansa can tell the Hound he won't hurt her, and he agrees.

All this was done while Sansa clutched at a doll from her childhood - the contrast between her youth and Sansa as she is now (having seen death and murder and betrayal) was brilliant.

The Baratheons
It seems like Stannis Baratheon has been two days away from King's Landing for about six episodes, so it was good to finally see him arrive to do battle.

It didn't start well, with much of his fleet being destroyed by the wildfire. But Stannis has revenge in mind, not just against the Lannisters - Stannis also has years of pent up tension and anger against his dead brother which he needs to release. And because of that, instead of dwelling on the destruction of his fleet Stannis forges ahead with a plan to get into King's Landing.

He succeeds, and it looks like it's going well for Stannis - until Tywin Lannister turns up to throw a spanner in the works and win the battle for the Lannisters.

The Targaryens
Nothing Qarth this week, however dark it would get for Danaerys would not be dark enough to match the Battle of Blackwater.

Jon Snow
Nothing from Jon, the snow's too bright for this episode.

The Greyjoys
They're grey, that's not nearly dark enough for this episode.

Violence and (gratuitous) nudity count
Game of Thrones was back to doing its season one favourite - playing important scenes out with a naked prostitute in the foreground for no good reason. This week it was a prostitute undressed by Bronn just before battle, as he and the Hound faced off. Still, it was the only real nudity this episode.

That's because this week more people were killed in Game of Thrones than have been killed in all the episodes from the first and second seasons up to now combined.

Notable kills, among the many, included all the men dying on the ships destroyed by wildfire; Bronn coming to the Hound's rescue by killing the soldier fighting him; and Tyrion's servant slashing a man down to the ground as he's about to kill Tyrion. 

And while Stannis lost the battle, he won the award for single best kill, as he lopped off the top of a guy's head, leaving blood to spew out.

When you play the Game of Thrones...

This was a brilliant episode, and beautifully played out. It was an episode that really worked on contrasts, the best of which was the wildfire blowing up Stannis's fleet of ships. From a distance the ships looked like they were home to a gorgeous firework display, up close they were the scene for hundreds of murders.

George R. R. Martin wrote this episode, and his eye for detail (shown in the books) was stamped all over the episode.

My only worry is that Blackwater is the penultimate episode, and it was so, so good. Can the season finale possibly be better? And if it is, just how good is it going to be?

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Reading challenge book nine: Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich

Book nine in my challenge to read one book (I haven't read before) a fortnight in 2012 is Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich.

If you've never read anything by Evanovich, what book phobic rock have you been hiding under? Okay, probably there's plenty of people out there who have never read anything by Evanovich, but you all should be.

Smokin' Seventeen is the (unsurprisingly) 17th book in the Stephanie Plum series. The first (One for the Money) was made into a film with Katherine Heigl as Stephanie, but I'm not sure it was a very good film.

Here's the down low on Stephanie - she lives in New Jersey. Her husband cheated on her with her worst enemy and she's now divorced, living in a flat with her hamster Rex. She works for her cousin Vinnie as a bounty hunter, tracking down people who haven't answered their bail. Her best friend is Lula, a former prostitute who brings a new meaning to plus size and enjoys squeezing her frame into tight lycra. She hates guns, her cars are always getting destroyed, her grandmother is crazy and her mum wants her to settle down and get a proper job.

Oh, and she can't decide who she wants to be with - hot cop Joe Morelli or the mysterious Ranger.

In Smokin' Seventeen someone is leaving dead bodies in the dirt where Stephanie's office used to be (it burned down). And after the first couple of bodies appear, it's clear they're not random, someone's leaving them for Stephanie.

The tension as the bodies keep appearing builds throughout the novel, although in true Evanovich style there's plenty of comedy throughout to keep you laughing, which is what I love about this author's books.

A mass murderer would be enough plot for one book to deal with, but Evanovich deftly weaves in a whole bunch of others - the usual Joe vs Ranger battle (I'm Team Joe), Joe's crazy grandmother (there's lots of crazy grandmothers in this Trenton, New Jersey) putting a curse on Stephanie, and Stephanie's mum trying to set her up with a nice guy to settle down with.

Despite having read 16 previous books featuring Stephanie, I still love Evanovich's novels and they still feel fresh. They break through genres, this isn't just chick lit, or comedy, or murder mystery, they're all three thrown together in a mixer - and what comes out is a pretty appealing smoothie.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Theatre review: What the Butler Saw starring Omid Djalili, Tim McInnerney and Samantha Bond

Omid Djalili and Tim McInnerny in What the Butler Saw. Picture: Simon Annand
Laugh-out-loud funny and completely outrageous, What The Butler Saw isn’t for sensitive souls or the easily offended.

The play, currently on a limited run at the Vaudeville Theatre, deals with gender politics, identity, sexuality, mental health and, as it features a star turn by Winston Churchill, politics.

What the Butler Saw was the final play written by Joe Orton, completed in July 1967. It's impossible for me to talk about Orton without mentioning how he died - he was bludgeoned to death by his lover, who then proceeded to kill himself.

Set in a single day and in one room, What the Butler Saw follows a series of characters whose actions impact on one another in ways they never considered when the day started.

The play opens with psychiatrist Dr Prentice (Tim McInnerney) interviewing a new secretary by asking her to take her clothes off - and What the Butler Saw only gets stranger from there, especially as some of the characters get drunker and drunker, or drugged and more drugged.

There’s the adulterous Mrs Prentice (Samantha Bond - how does she look so amazing?!), her lover and blackmailer Nicholas Beckett, the curious policeman Sergant Match,  and government inspector and psychiatrist Dr Rance (Omid Djalili).

Djalili is very good, but very much the Djalili you’re used to seeing on television. Moments of high drama are emphasised by shouting, something which becomes ever more present the more manic the action on stage gets. Luckily for the actor the character of Dr Rance is exactly that - shouty and manic, and Djalili really works in the role.

What the Butler Saw focuses on some issues too taboo for everyday conversation, but does so by coating them in a layer of clever jokes and staging.

It’s not an exaggeration to say some parts of the play are truly hysterical, and the talented cast keep your attention throughout.

Tim McInnerny as Dr Prentice and Samantha Bond as Mrs Prentice. Picture: Simon Annand
Bond is brilliant as Mrs Prentice, and McInnerney manages to draw our sympathies while also making us outraged at his behaviour.

As the play continues, the action on stage gets more and more hysterical. It's a physical comedy as well as a verbal one - the rushing around, the comic positioning of bodies, the constant flow of characters on and off stage, they all add to the enjoyment.

One of my favourite comic routines involved Dr Prentice hiding clothes belonging to the secretary in a tiny vase to prevent his wife who cheated on him from seeing them, and then having to pull them all out again later so his wife's lover could wear them and pretend to be his secretary.

And your reaction after that paragraph (stunned, confused, wanting to laugh) is just how you'll feel when you watch What the Butler Saw.
What the Butler Saw is at the Vaudeville Theatre until August 25. Click here for more information and tickets.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Glee: Goodbye recap/review

Nationals recap/review

I am so disappointed. I have stuck by Glee through the good times, the bad times and the very, very bad times (and there have been quite a few of the latter). I've looked at it kindly through rushed storylines, bad characterisations and dodgy songs. I've tried to see the positive when fandom has been focusing on the negative (and I've wanted to join it). But the time has come for me to say that I'm disappointed in Glee.

Goodbye was supposed to offer some form of closure for Gleeks everywhere. Yes, Glee is back for another season later this year, but it wouldn't be the same because all the characters would not be at McKinley.

Instead, closure wasn't offered. What we got instead was a shambles of a storyline where suddenly only the future of one person - Rachel Berry - mattered.

And we got an episode where the beating heart of Glee - Kurt Hummel - was ignored and left to languish in Lima, where we all know he shouldn't be. What kind of justice is it when the person who deserves it most, who has fought prejudice and who worked so hard for his dreams, gets overlooked?

Kurt was the best part of this episode. His internal monologue as he walked through the halls of McKinley showed just how much he'd grown, how grown-up he was, and the changes he had inspired in classmates.

We got treated to a brilliant Kurt and Burt scene, as Hummel the elder offered his son a graduation gift in the form of recreating Hummel the younger's version of Single Ladies. It was a reminder to us of the changing point between Kurt and Burt, and of the moment where Kurt finally settled into himself and stopped hiding.

We got a cute moment between Kurt and Blaine, as they sort-of discussed their future (and lots of cute looks between them, although no kiss).

And we got a brilliant musical number from Kurt, as he sang I'll Remember, complete with tears and poignant looks towards Blaine.

So tallying up what we got, why am I still so disappointed? Because what we saw was nothing Kurt didn't have already and hasn't been showing already this season - self-confidence, a wonderful father, a loving boyfriend, a gorgeous voice.

What I wanted to see was Kurt getting something he didn't already have, and really, truly deserved - acceptance into NYADA. Instead, he was turned away, despite his brilliant audition which clearly showed talent, perseverance and commitment to his craft (yes, I'd love to see Kurt go into fashion, but that's not on the table yet).

And worse than that, not only was Kurt rejected from NYADA, we also didn't see much reaction from him about it, unless you count the few seconds before Rachel opened her letter. We have no clue as to where Kurt's going, what he'll do, what his back up plan is, how he feels. There are cliffhangers, and then there are just large holes in plot where it's clear no one behind the scenes has thought about a character. (For the missing scene that should have been in Goodbye, see a talented fan's version here.)

By contrast, it seemed like Glee was determined to get Rachel to succeed, even though she messed up her original NYADA audition. She choked, and yes, she's talented but you don't get a second chance at things like that. Glee went from being an ensemble show with some leading characters to being all about Rachel (and Finn to an extent) in just a couple of scenes.

As soon as Rachel's NYADA acceptance was revealed, Glee seemed to forget all its other characters. We didn't get to say goodbye to them. Instead, we got to watch them say goodbye to Rachel like she was the only person we've cared about for three seasons. And we said hello to Rachel as she stepped into a new world. There was no closure.

Rachel will get a brand new start next season. Not only is she in a new city, at a new school, but she's also not with Finn anymore. I have no doubt he'll still be around next season, but the dynamic will be different.

This episode Finn really stepped up. As much as I hated the Rachel focus, if it had been balanced out with the other characters, I would have loved the scene between her and Finn. It would have been moving if I hadn't been seething over Kurt not getting into NYADA, but I did still manage to be impressed by Finn's stepping aside. I'm not sure how I feel about his decision to join the army, but I guess we'll see how that works out next season.

Ooh, actually, I do have a bit of a moan about Finn. What was up with the non-graduating glee clubbers deciding they needed to dedicate their song mostly to Finn. Artie said to him: "Even before glee club was kind of cool, you had our backs. You were on the football team, you were one of the most popular kids in school, you had a lot to lose. People forget the sacrifices you made. We wanted to thank you.

WHAT? From what I remember, Finn might not have thrown anyone in a dumpster, but he certainly stood by and watched it happen. He might have let Kurt take his jacket off, but he still gave the command for the rest of the team to go ahead and throw Kurt in. From what I remember, Finn was the one who had the biggest struggle choosing between glee club and the football team, and choosing to defend Kurt or just stand by and watch him suffer. So when exactly did Finn have the glee club's backs?

We got a little bit of closure with some of the other characters. Santana's storyline was well rounded out, mostly. As much as I find Brittana sweet, I do think Brittany has been holding Santana back. Yes, they love each other, but they're not equals in their relationship (for a great analysis of Brittana, see what Tumblr's Zavocado said here). So sad as it was that Brittany wasn't graduating, I'm looking forward to hopefully seeing Santana really make a go of it in New York. It was also lovely to see Santana's relationship with her mother (played by Gloria Estefan) and the acknowledgement of that scene months ago where Santana's grandmother rejected her for her sexuality and that hasn't been mentioned since.

Mercedes saw some success, and is heading to LA to be a backing singer. She deserves it, but her fate post-McKinley just seemed to be thrown in because the writers had to do something with her, not because they wanted to. Mike, going to dance school in Chicago, suffered similarly at the hands of Glee's writers.

Puck passed his geography exam with the help of his classmates, especially Quinn (who had a really sweet scene with Sue Sylvester). The two had a really strange scene where they kissed. Excuse me, isn't that Quinn cheating on Joe? I know they're seeing where things are going, but still, kissing your ex is a surefire way to throw a spanner in the works with a potential boyfriend. And also, isn't cheating what led to Quinn getting pregnant? And then to her getting Finn back, then losing Finn, then turning into a goth and getting all crazy about the baby she gave up for adoption? When has cheating ever resulted in anything good for Quinn?

So that's it, that's what's happening to Glee's graduating seniors, which really, really doesn't tell us much.

I'm just so disappointed that Glee didn't give me, us, the respect we deserve. We've stood behind Glee because it's a programme about so many different kinds of people, but in the end it didn't respect us because it made Goodbye all about one character. Anything that came earlier in the episode was negated by the big Rachel goodbye. Rachel got to move on while all the other characters we love stayed exactly where they were, and we stayed with them. 

The music
As I said earlier, Kurt's rendition of I'll Remember was beautiful, and really moving.

I enjoyed You Get What You Give and thought it worked well as a handover number from the graduating New Directions to the non-graduating ones. I particularly liked the set up, and the way it ended with those not graduating standing and facing their predecessors. 

In My Life was good, but may have been more appropriate for the graduating seniors to sing.

What I liked best about the group numbers was that they were group numbers, no one really took prominence, everyone worked together. 

Forever Young was typically Will Schuester - a bit bland - and Glory Days was typically Puck and Finn - rocky and fun. 

What Glee did well
Like last week, I need to calm down and rewatch this episode to find something truly amazing. Unlike Nationals, where I have to rewatch because I loved so much about it, this week I need to rewatch to find something outstanding because I'm still filled with disappointment at how Goodbye ended. 

Next week
Nothing, it's a wait until autumn now for the new season. 

Glee recap/review masterpost

Monday, 21 May 2012

Game of Thrones: The Prince of Winterfell recap/review

Betrayal ran through this week's episode, and two of the main parties finally got off their backsides and actually physically moved closer to battle, rather than just talking about it.

The Lannisters
Battle is getting ever closer to the Lannisters, and they're still stuck in a state of limbo as to what to do about it.

Is anyone else getting a bit bored of Cersei? She's still a great character but she seems to be stuck in a rut - focusing on how Tyrion married off her younger daughter. She's been going on about this for weeks now, too selfish to see that it's actually for Myrcella's good.

Cersei is also still defending Joffrey, despite admitting last week that he's the Meanest Character on Television™ (okay, she just admitted he's unlovable to anyone but his mother). This week she's saying he's not old enough to go into battle. When Tyrion counters by reminding her that Jaime was fighting wars at 17, Cersei pulls out her trump card in revenge.

She's found Tyrion's secret girlfriend, and is holding her captive and having her beaten. She knows love is Tyrion's weak spot, judging by his history of marrying a woman who it turned out was only paid to sleep with him. Luckily for Tyrion, the woman Cersei is holding is not Shae, it's some other poor prostitute, who plays the role of Tyrion's girlfriend, reminding him that he owes her.

For all the fighting talk, this episode features one of the most tender scenes we've seen in Game of Thrones, when Tyrion rushes back to Shae and tells her he loves her. It's the first of two romantic scenes this episode, and romance is something we don't get a lot of on the programme.

While worrying about Shae, Tyrion also has the bigger problem of Stannis Baratheon's fleet coming ever closer. He reads some books to try and get some battle tips, prompting a humourous scene involving Tyrion and Bronn. These two need to be in their own buddy film (if you don't know what that looks like, watch this fan-made trailer).

Still, the most important Tyrion scenes this episode involve Varys, who's back after a few weeks' absence. He provides a good sounding board for Tyrion, and also gives his own input on keeping Stannis out of the city. But his most important input is when he reveals his spies (they stretch far and wide) have found out Danaerys Targaryen is in Qarth, and that she has dragons. Tyrion dismisses it as rumour - he'll soon wish he hadn't.

Meanwhile, Jaime is on the loose with Brienne as a guard, heading back to King's Landing, and Tywin Lannister has finally left Harrenhal and is heading for Robb Stark.

The Starks
Ooh, so when we left Catelyn Stark last week it looked like she was about to slice Jaime Lannister's head off. But no, she did worse than that - she freed Jaime. While her son, the King in the North, was away. Without his permission. Betrayal.

It's the first time we've seen Catelyn do something that's purely in her interests, and not for the greater good. She freed Jaime because all bar one of her children is now being held captive, and she thought Jaime's release might cause the Lannisters to release Sansa and Arya, the latter of whom we know isn't at King's Landing, but Catelyn doesn't.

It's a sign of how desperate Catelyn is. Just a few episodes ago she would never have thought to go against her son, never have been naive enough to think her favour would be returned by the Lannisters. But since then Catelyn has learnt her two sons are being held captive (she thinks) at Winterfell, the body of her dead husband has been returned to her, and Littlefinger has whispered deceitful words into her ear.

All that has finally led Catelyn to break, and really, it's about time. I was beginning to think she was too stoic, but we've finally seen that she's just as emotional as the other characters.

Robb wasn't happy though, and he promptly put Catelyn under house (tent) arrest.

His woes are growing by the day. He's now lost his most previous pawn, and unbeknownst to him, Tywin Lannister is marching towards him. As if that wasn't enough, he's growing ever closer to Talisa, until finally the dam breaks and the two confess that neither of them want Robb to marry "the Frey girl".

The scene between Robb and Talisa is sweet and the second romantic scene of the episode, and it's also full of subtext. Their move round the tent is a dance of sorts, even though they're both as far from a ball as one can get. Robb's flirting is really cute, and he's fast catching up to Jon Snow as the loveliest male in Westeros for me. We find out a bit more about Talisa (privileged girl who learnt there's more to the world and wanted to do good), and Robb finds a real confidant. And it all ends in a passionate embrace on the floor of Robb's tent.

Meanwhile, Arya is panicking because Tywin Lannister has decided to march towards Robb's army in the dead of night. She runs to find Jaqen H'gar to give him Tywin's name as her third kill, but he's nowhere to be found. When she does track him down, it's too late and Jaqen can't promise her that Tywin will be killed as fast as Arya needs him to be.

Instead, Arya shows she now knows how to play the game, instead giving Jaqen his own name, and only taking it back when he promises to help her escape from Harrenhal. Always one for self-preservation, Jaqen agress, and slaughters a group of guards so Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie can walk straight out of Harrenhal without anyone noticing.

And Bran and Rickon, who were presented as dead, are actually alive and hiding in the vaults under Winterfell. And poor Bran has realised exactly the sacrifices being made to keep him alive.

The Baratheons
We're back with Stannis Baratheon briefly this week, as he and his fleet sail to King's Landing. There's no sign of Melisandre, but Davos Seaworth is on hand.

Nearly all the major characters on Games of Thrones have confidants who are below them in stature (Tyrion and Bronn, Robb and Talisa, Tywin and Arya), and Stannis has Davos. The latter is a self-made man of sorts, and I get the impression Stannis is deeply jealous of him. After all, Davos may have been punished for being a smuggler, but he's always done things on his own terms, been honourable and not given in to anyone else.

Unlike Stannis, who spent his years living in the shadow of Robert Baratheon, and doing exactly what he was told to do. Stannis may be the rightful heir of King's Landing - until Robert's true son returns - but I don't think Stannis is trying to win the throne because it's the right thing to do. He's doing it as a form of revenge for all those years he spent doing what other people told him to do, and to get back at Robert for betraying him and giving Renly what he believed belonged to him.

The Targaryens
Just a brief visit to Qarth this week, as Danaerys contemplates what to do now that most of the Thirteen have been slaughtered and her dragons are being held captive.

Jorah Marmont has found her a ship to get her away from Qarth, but Danaerys won't leave without her dragons, who she says are like children to her. Danaerys' outburst is followed by a tender moment with Jorah, but she's manipulating him to get what she wants.

Jon Snow
More wandering in the snow this week for Jon, only now he's the prisoner. Ygritte takes him back to her gang of wildlings, who almost kill him before Ygritte reveals he's the bastard son of Ned Stark, thereby saving his life. As she reminds him, the two are even now.

It turns out the wildlings have also captured Qhorin Halfhand, as he and his men set off to find Jon when he didn't return after he was meant to kill Ygritte. Halfhand comes up with a plan to get the wildlings to like Jon by pretending he thinks Jon is a traitor. The hope is Jon can infiltrate the wildlings and take them down from the outside.

Meanwhile, elsewhere beyond the Wall Sam and two of the other men from the Night's Watch are digging holes in the snow when they come across a stone chest bearing the markings of the First Men. Inside the chest is a Night's Watch cloak and knives made of obsidian. It's not clear what the significance of the discovery is, but by the look on Sam's face, it's clear it is significant.

The Greyjoys
Theon Greyjoy is still straddling the line between conqueror and selfish idiot. 

This week, his sister comes to visit, and while the two squabble as always, she does give him some wise words - he should leave Winterfell before he dies there. It's advice Theon would do well to heed, but his ego gets in the way.

Surprisingly, Theon then shows us his more tender side, respectively speaking. He wants money taken to the farm where he found Bran and Rickon, but is told that would be a bad idea. Money is no way to silence someone, his loyal servant tells him, implying that killing is.

The full significance (and inadequacy) of Theon's offer is revealed when Osha appears, beckoning Maester Luwin and revealing that she, Bran, Rickon and Hodor turned back and are now hiding in the vaults beneath Winterfell. And if Bran and Rickon aren't dead, that means the farmer's sons are, making Theon's offer of money seem really, really stupid.

Violence and (gratuitous) nudity count
Many dead bodies, mainly because Jaqen H'gar killed a bunch of soldiers to aid Arya's escape from Harrenhal.

There's a bloody nose (Halfhand), another sighting of "Bran" and "Rickon's" tarred bodies, a beaten prostitute, and the implication of lots of violence to come as Stannis moves closer to King's Landing.

Not much nudity this week - just Robb and Talisa during an unusually tender sex scene by Game of Thrones' standards.

When you play the Game of Thrones...
So who is the Prince of Winterfell the title of this episode talks about? Is it Theon, who now rules there? Obvious, but unlikely. I think it's more likely the title refers to Bran, who is learning tough lessons as every day goes by.

Robb tells Talisa this week that kings spend their lives being brought up as princes, but that he was only ever brought up to be lord of Winterfell. Bran, on the other hand, is now being brought up as a prince, thrust into circumstances beyond his control. Osha might think he's still a child, but Bran is becoming more princely, and in direct contrast to Joffrey, seems to realise just how much responsibility he has. After all, people have been executed for him.

It's a responsibility other characters like Theon and Robb perhaps cannot grasp as well, since they weren't brought up as aware of the consequences of war as Bran is and as they are now (although there were wars happening when they were children).

Pretty soon though, everyone will realise just how high the stakes are.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Reading challenge book eight: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Book eight in my challenge to read one book (I haven't read before) a fortnight in 2012 is Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, the third book in The Hunger Games trilogy.

Like the two before it - The Hunger Games and Catching Fire - Mockingjay is told from Katniss's point of view. Although the first person narrative still works, this time I felt like I really needed to hear from other characters to get a full understanding of what was happening.

This is mostly because for a large part of the book Katniss is in District 13, recovering from her ordeal during the last Hunger Games she took part in, or from other injuries sustained during forays into the districts currently rebelling against President Snow and Panem.

It's good to hear from Katniss, and since characters including Gale and Haymitch are with her, we get to see what's going on with them as well. However, since Peeta is stuck in the capital, we don't have a full understanding of what's happening with him, and what's happening with him is pretty bad.

Even when Peeta is rescued from the Capitol and brought to District 13, he's still only seen through the eyes of Katniss. And to Katniss he's now a threat, having been programmed by the Capitol to want to kill Katniss on sight. Katniss is, understandably, focused on the killing part, but in doing so misses the fact that mostly Peeta is still the sweet, strong Peeta we saw in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.

I definitely feel seeing things from Peeta's point of view would have been beneficial, particularly considering he spent the first half of the book in the Capitol, where the effects of much of the action in the districts is being most keenly felt.

There are other characters too, that I really wanted to get to know more, but couldn't because Katniss has limited interactions with them. Primarily, I wanted to spend more time with Finnick and Johanna. Although Katniss befriends them both, it's difficult to understand just how much pain they're in when it's only Katniss describing it, rather than us seeing it directly.

Mockingjay is not as action packed as the previous two books in The Hunger Games trilogy. For a start, because Katniss is in District 13 there is no direct hunt as there was in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire for a large chunk of the book. It's only when she goes to the Capitol with her band of followers (who sadly get killed off one by one), that we see Katniss back in an arena of sorts, and the action hots up.

Watching Katniss's group fight for her is inspiring, but also difficult, since most of them are doomed. Seeing some of my favourite characters perish was really tough, and I had to go back and read the scenes where they died over and over again to make sure they really had gone. And seeing how relationships broke down because of everything that happened was also pretty hard.

Still, tough as that was, it was much tougher to read the last few chapters of the book. Although the rebels triumph over President Snow and the Capitol, the book hardly has a happy ending. Scene after scene brings more heartache, and even though Katniss and Peeta both survive and grow to love one another, there's a bittersweet taste to everything.

I can't say I was surprised at the lack of a completely happy ending though. After all, The Hunger Games trilogy is based around the story of children being forced to kill each other, and how can a story like that have a happy ending without completely ignoring everything that came before. Collins does well to make sure that right up until the last page we're still aware of the horrific circumstances Katniss and Peeta, and numerous others, found themselves in.

While Mockingjay may initially seem like a weaker book than The Hunger Games and Catching Fire because of its slow burn and lack of action throughout, it's actually the one that's stayed with me the most. Having reread the ending a few times, while there is hope it's still pretty bleak, and even just thinking about the end brings back that twisty knot in my stomach from when I first read the last few chapters. That's a sign of a good book.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Glee: Nationals recap/review

Props recap/review

Okay, I'll admit it, I may be crying a little bit. This episode was really emotional, and it's not even the end. Who knows what a mess I'll be after the season finale.

Still, head up and on I go. Nationals saw New Directions go to Chicago for Nationals - the last time all the original members of the glee club can win the competition.

With their numbers actually decided on in advance, there needed to be some other drama, which came in the form of Mercedes getting ill and the glee clubbers getting into a massive argument when the stress of rehearsals all got a bit too much.

Still, we saw just how the New Directions have matured when they resolved their differences without anyone storming off or crying (although it was close for a moment). Last season would have seen some punches thrown - Santana and Lima Heights, anyone? - but this season the club managed to pull themselves together, focus on the competition and get their heads down to rehearsing.

It's a mark of how far the group have come, and carries on from last week's episode, in which we saw how our characters had grown individually. This week, we saw how they've grown as a group.

That growth was shown as well in Rachel and Finn's conversations with Jesse St James, who was looking a bit eighties in his jacket and with his slicked back hair. Although he was still as cocky as always, Jesse too has matured, and is able to speak to both Rachel and Finn, especially Finn, without resulting to throwing eggs (Rachel) or physical violence (Finn).

So to New Directions performance, which I just thought was brilliant. I've always loved the Troubletones, and the extended Troubletones with Tina and Quinn, were great.

Annoying as Rachel can be, she was superb during It's All Coming Back to Me Now. I couldn't take my eyes off the screen, Lea Michele has such stage presence and amazing vocals. And Jesse St James's face during the song was heartwrenching, he knows just how amazing this girl is, and thankfully he told Carmen Tibideaux that.

And Paradise by the Dashboard Lights is one of my favourite songs, and I thought the arrangement was great.

Following New Directions were Vocal Adrenaline, fronted by Unique. Wade had a wobbly moment before going on stage, but Kurt and Mercedes came to the rescue and reminded him that Unique is amazing, and that he/she needed confidence to believe Vocal Adrenaline could succeed. As Kurt and Mercedes left Wade to get ready, he muttered that he might consider transferring schools next term. Could Wade/Unique be heading to McKinley for season four of Glee?

Vocal Adrenaline's performance was amazing as always. The group is flawless - their vocals were great, and their dance moves were phenomenal. 

For a moment I wondered how Glee would swing it that New Directions won over Vocal Adrenaline. Then I stopped worrying. The reason New Directions won is because they work as a team, because yes, they may have lead singers, but without the rest of the group it just wouldn't work. Vocal Adrenaline, fabulous as they were, relied on Wade/Unique, and so while it was right Wade/Unique won MVP, it was also right Vocal Adrenaline didn't win Nationals.

Since we're talking about winning, let's mention the judges, specifically Lindsay Lohan. Eh. I didn't think she was that great, or that funny. Perez Hilton was alright, and the politician was sweet. Overall, not one of the best judging panels Glee has decided on. Still, props to them for voting on New Directions to win.

After three seasons of waiting, it was heartwarming to see New Directions triumphant. And to see them treated as winners when they returned to school. All the slow-mo scenes at the end were really sweet.

Although, and any Glee fan will bring this up, there was something missing. We got Finchel kissing, we got Tike kissing, we got Brittana kissing, we even got Will and Emma kissing (and more). And yet, somehow, Klaine still managed to stand about 10 feet apart. What is going on? Did the quota for gay couples who can act like they're in a relationship get reached for this episode? It's a ridiculous situation, since Klaine is the most stable couple on the show, yet we've only seen them show physical affection towards each other a couple of times.

Most of the focus this season has been on the glee clubbers, and anytime Will has been on screen has generally been boring or cheesy. But this episode I loved his involvement when it came to New Directions (I wasn't too invested in him and Emma finally sleeping together, sweet as it was with Emma leaving him a pamphlet). After all, he's the reason the glee kids are where they are - doing something they love and being great at it.

There were lots of Will moments this episode but the one that stood out for me was right before he went into the rehearsal room just before the kids went on stage. Those silent seconds showed a teacher who loves his students, and wants them to do well. With all the non-teachering Will does, it's easy to forget he really does care. He might not be able to speak Spanish well, he may miss completely when his students are in trouble, but he does care, and that's one of the most important things a teacher can do.

And caring was why Will won teacher of the year. In a touching moment the kids of New Directions all hugged Will one by one, thanking him for caring. It was a really emotional moment, not least because for me it wasn't just acting - it was also the cast getting emotional about having to say goodbye to something that's been their lives for the last few years.

Oh goodness, someone hand me a tissue. 

The music
I loved the music this episode, as I said above. And if all the great songs during Nationals weren't enough, then adding in We Are The Champions was the cherry on the cake.

What a song, and really, was there any song with a chorus more fitting for New Directions? 

What Glee did well
Since we're so close to the end, I'm happy to not criticise and say I liked it all. I'll rewatch at some point with a more neutral eye and less tears and find something the episode did really well, and something it did less well.

Next week
The end. *sobs*

Glee recap/review masterpost

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Glee: Props recap/review

Prom-asaurus recap/review

Glee has spent a lot of this season letting real life bleed into fiction, whether it's mixing in hints of what its real life actors are doing in real life (Chris Colfer writes a screenplay=Burt suggests Kurt write a screenplay) or bringing an actor's real life skills into the show (Chord Overstreet is famous for impressions=Sam doing a lot of impressions since he returned to Glee).

This week Glee let real life bleed into the show when it referenced one of the major talking points of Glee fans - the lack of storyline/solos/anything for Tina this season. And rather than beat about the bush, Glee decided it would just have Tina say what everyone has been thinking all season.

Since she said it so well, I'm going to use her words to outline her storyline:
"I have sat, for three years, in the back of the choir room, holding Mike's hand, or crying, or smiling and swaying while everyone else was up there singing solos.

"Maybe I say something, most of the time I don't. Team player all the way.

"I am tired of being silent. I am one of the original glee club members and I was singing Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat when Finn and Puck were still throwing slushies at us.

"So when is it my turn?"
This week, Tina, it's your turn this week. After storming out of glee club rehearsal and shouting at Rachel, Tina does what Tina does best - she sucks it up and gets on with it, although she's still angry.

At the mall getting fabric for the glee club's costumes for nationals, Tina trips and falls into a water fountain and bangs her head, starting one of the funniest sequences Glee has ever done.

Having bumped her head, Tina has a strange episode where all the glee club members morph into each other. Puck and Finn swap with Blaine and Kurt, Santana and Artie become each other, Quinn becomes Sugar and vice versa, and so on.

And most importantly of all, Tina and Rachel swap bodies, with Tina finally getting to find out what it's like to be Rachel. Yes, she's adored and gets all the solos, and Tina enjoys the standing ovation she gets as Rachel. But it also makes Tina realise Rachel puts a lot of pressure on herself.

The sequence is hilarious, right up there with Glee's spoof Christmas special in the Christmas episode. All the actors brilliantly portray their alternative characters - Matt Morrison has Sue's walk down pat, Dianna Agron shakes her head just the way Sugar does, Chris Colfer has Finn's mannerisms down. You have to give props to these guys for really knowing the characters they're portraying, even though they've spent the last however many months or years being other characters.

When Tina comes back from her "dream" (she didn't fall asleep so dream isn't entirely accurate), she seems to have let go of her previous anger at Rachel, which I don't completely agree with.

Even Rachel pointed out that Tina had a point with everything she said, but Tina seems happy to step aside for Rachel, and is content to wait for her turn. I still think Tina's point should have been acknowledged as correct by more people, but mostly I hope having done this episode Glee's writers take Tina's speech on board and treat her better next season.

Also standing up for herself this episode was Coach Bieste, who we thought had ended her relationship with Cooter after he hit her. When this storyline first came up a few episodes ago, I thought it was too easily resolved with Coach Bieste summoning the strength to leave her abusive husband after just a couple of pep talks.

It turns out Glee was playing a long game, and Coach Bieste was still with Cooter this episode, although from flashbacks he's not been treating her well and she's now so scared she's considering using a knife in self-defence.

Her storyline ran on a parallel with Puck's this episode, who was also being beaten, by his peers rather than his loved ones. Down but not out, Puck pulled a knife on Rick 'The Stick', but was caught by Coach Bieste just in time.

Although Puck and Coach Bieste found themselves in very different situations, they both felt like they were in the same place emotionally - broken, beaten, unsure of where the future was going to take them, and not certain of their own worth.

Seeing her feelings reflected in Puck - and seeing him pull a knife - gave Coach Bieste the strength to leave Cooter, for real this time. And in one of the best moments this series, when Cooter asked Coach Bieste who would love her if she left him, Coach Bieste shouted back: "Me." Glee is about loving yourself for who you are, and Coach Bieste discovered that in this episode.

Puck too, discovered that he's not worthless when Coach Bieste stood up for him, and arranged for him to take his geography test again. She and his geography teacher were impressed when he put on a dress for glee, showing his commitment to his teammates. All it took was for someone to show Puck he does matter.

Alongside the more serious storylines were some lighter moments, although these still hinted at some deeper plots. There was Sue trying to get Kurt to wear a dress so New Directions could compete with Unique and Vocal Adrenaline. It started with an amusing scene with Kurt saying he never wore dresses - cut to Kurt dressed as Snooki for Halloween with Blaine as The Situation.

Still, Kurt had a good point - just because he's gay doesn't mean he has to wear a dress. It was something he constantly pointed out to Sue as she tried to get him to wear a dress throughout the episode. And although Sue seemed like she was being insensitive on the one hand, on the other hand every time she referred to Wade and Unique she did use both pronouns, showing respect.

Rachel showed she was still determined to get into NYADA, and in true Rachel style was calling and leaving message after message for Carmen Tibideaux (Whoopi Goldberg). But in the end Rachel showed why her being annoying is a small price to pay - she has a true passion for performing, and in a moving speech to Carmen she showed that. Now it's a case of waiting for Carmen to turn up to Nationals.

Speaking of which, although the next episode focuses on Nationals, this week's episode showed the glee club had already chosen their numbers for the competition. This is surprisingly early - usually New Directions waits until the last minute. 

The music
A quiet episode musically, but that's because New Directions are going to come out all guns blazing at Nationals in the next episode.

I thought Rachel singing Jason Mraz's I Won't Give Up was an odd choice as a song for herself, since it's a love song. Still, Rachel's ego is that big that if anyone's going to sing a love song to themselves, it's going to be Rachel.

Jenna Ushkowitz showed why Tina should get more screen time when she sang Because You Loved Me. She was singing as though she was Rachel, but the vocals were all Ushkowitz, and fabulous they were too.

Coach Bieste and Puck singing Mean was moving, and Rachel and Tina doing Flashdance...What A Feeling was a fun bonding number. 

Next week
Technically, next week is this week, since we got a double bill of Nationals focused episodes.

Glee recap/review masterpost

Monday, 14 May 2012

Game of Thrones: A Man Without Honour recap/review

The Old Gods and the New recap/review

A lot of truths were (finally) admitted this episode, a lot of confessions made. Some deeds were done that cannot be undone, and some left more than a bitter taste in the mouth.

The Lannisters
It was a quiet week for Tyrion and Cersei, the Lannisters we see the most of, but in the short scenes in which we saw them a lot was revealed.

First, Cersei had a heart to heart with Sansa. Although Sansa is a prisoner in King's Landing, Cersei has always treated her half as a piece of mud on the bottom of her boot, and half as a daughter.

To Cersei, Sansa is everything she was as a young girl - unsure, trapped, naive. So Cersei is determined to bestow upon Sansa the wisdom she has learnt over the years, offering to Sansa some small comfort, although her warnings are all to do with dire things. Cersei warns Sansa that her husband is not the person she will love - that honour will go to her children, no matter how horrible they are.

It's a moving scene from Cersei, as she acknowledges in a roundabout way that Joffrey is not fit to be loved, but that she loves him because she has no choice as his mother. Sansa, however, does have a choice and she can try and love Joffrey if she wants, Cersei says, implying that she won't be able to.

She's more direct in the second scene we see her in, as she talks with Tyrion. It's the first time Cersei says out loud that she and Jaime have a relationship beyond that of brother and sister - at least to someone who hasn't then been killed.

It's also the first time we see Tyrion and Cersei truly connect as siblings, up until now they've always antagonised each other, and pretty much every discussion has ended in a fight or a threat. This week, the pair came to some sort of understanding, with Tyrion trying to help Cersei come to terms with her actions (having realised she knows she is largely responsible for the war about to arrive at their doorstep), and Cersei showing true emotion in front of her brother, as she cried.

While we didn't see much of Cersei and Tyrion, we did see a lot of more of Jaime than we have done in previous weeks (seeing as we haven't seen him at all in previous weeks).

Time hasn't been good to him, he's looking dirty and tired but he's still far from defeated. Jaime is our central man of no honour - he'll do anything to save himself. Unlike Cersei, who does have a conscience even if it is buried, Jaime has no qualms about his actions and no hesitation in betraying family.

He brutally kills his cousin, a cousin who looks up to him, so he can escape (after also killing Lord Karstark's son). Unfortunately for Jaime, he doesn't get very far, and when he is caught again is only saved by Catelyn's intervention.

As a man with no honour though, Jaime isn't one to be thankful, and taunts Catelyn with the thing he knows will hurt her the most - the fact that Ned slept with another woman. He precedes this with the confession that he and Cersei slept together.

The incestuous relationship between Cersei and Jaime has gone from being the worst kept secret in Game of Thrones to something now openly confessed to by both parties, although their confessions are polar opposite - Cersei is ashamed and remorseful, Jaime boastful and proud.

While his children and grandchildren are wreaking havoc, Tywin Lannister is still at Harrenhal, bonding with Arya of all people. An attempt has been made to kill him, and Tywin has ordered that everything be done to find the culprit. Once he's issued his directive he goes back to being kind of Arya - the past few weeks have been full of Tywin disagreeing with one of his men and then turning to Arya for conversation.

Tywin seems to be using Arya as some sort of confidant. However, even though he spends more time than I can believe speaking to a "servant" girl, he's perfectly aware Arya is not who she says she is, picking up that she is higher born than she acts by just a few words in her speech. 

The Starks
Bran and Rickon are on the run with Osha and Hodor. The two children are unable to trust anyone, as doing so will either lead to their capture or to their subjects being killed or tortured.

With Theon Greyjoy close behind them, Bran and Rickon don't manage to run for long. This week's episode dramatically finishes with Theon raising two charred bodies in front of the people of Winterfell. But with the bodies so badly burnt, how do we know they're who Theon implies they are?

Sansa has a bad week, getting her first period - signifying that she can now bear Joffrey children. She attempts to hide it, with the help of Tyrion's girlfriend Shae but the Hound, who previously rescued her, this time fails to help and tells Cersei.

Still concentrating on survival Sansa maintains to Cersei that she loves Joffrey, but she is slowly beginning to realise that Cersei has some valuable lessons to teach about love and adulthood.

Robb is still flirting with Talisa, even though he's engaged to someone else. Their flirting is hilarious, as it seems to mostly take place during discussions about amputation, or during amputations themselves. It seems to turn Robb on in some way, so it'll be interesting to see where this goes!

Catelyn has a tough week, as she first comes to Jaime's rescue, and then looks like she's about to kill him when we last see her. She is a woman with honour, the complete opposite of Jaime. Or is she? Jaime rightly points that she never loved Jon Snow, even though he was just a baby when he came to Winterfell. And when Jaime pushes her, and pushes her, Catelyn's anger builds, until she asks Brienne to hand her sword over. Will Jaime still be alive the next time we see him?

While we're with Brienne, she gets one of the most interesting lines this week: "Who wants to die defending a Lannister?" Who, indeed? 

The Baratheons
No sight of Stannis this week, but his ships are moving ever closer to King's Landing, and they're now just five days away. 

The Targaryens
Danaerys' dragons are still missing, but Jorah Marmont has come running back from finding her a ship to be by her side. He is small comfort, as Dany is becoming more and more unsure about who is on her side, but she still sends him to find out what has happened to the dragons.

Jorah visits the woman who wears a mask over her face, and has a strange exchange with her, where he promises that he will not betray Dany again. Did I miss something? Did he betray Dany? Have we seen the betrayal? In which case I completely missed it. Or is the masked woman talking about something we haven't seen, and somehow Jorah was involved in the case of the missing dragons?

Luckily, by the end of the episode, Dany knows where her dragons are. Unluckily, they're been taken by Xaro Xhoan Daxos and the creepy looking member of the Thirteen who can be in multiple places at once. The two have hatched a plan to take over Qarth, and we see the remaining members of the Thirteen killed before Dany's eyes.

Dany, looking more like a scared little girl than a queen, is challenged by the creepy guy to get her dragons back by entering the House of the Undying.

Jon Snow
An exciting week for Jon Snow this week (let's face it, it's been pretty boring up to now), as he spent more time wandering around the snow covered lands beyond the wall with Ygritte, who I adore. She's hilarious and a great counterpoint to his grumpy young man.

Ygritte spends most of the episode teasing Jon about him being a virgin, using some quite crude descriptions at times. She succeeds in making Jon more and more uncomfortable - both because it's not the kind of thing he's used to speaking about and because he clearly wants Ygritte.

Still, he doesn't do anything when given the chance, as he's a man with honour. Also, he doesn't get the chance as Ygritte escapes, and he is then caught by a group of others who have come to her rescue.

I'm intrigued as to how Jon will respond to Mance Ryder's men. Ygritte has challenged his perceptions of them, telling him they are more free than the people on the other side of the wall, that they live their own lives and question the rules imposed on Jon by his people. She also makes him think when she questions why he is fighting them, when he himself has said he is descended from the same people as them. He's beginning to question everything he thinks he knows. 

The Greyjoys
Theon is busy still being the worst lord Winterfell has known, chasing after two young boys with a pack of hounds and a gang of men.

He's determined to catch them and punish them for embarrassing him, and when he finally catches a hint they might be around, he gets this absolutely crazed look in his eyes (props to Alfie Allen on his acting here).

The murderous look doesn't last long, as once Theon wheels out the bodies of Bran and Rickon (or are they Bran and Rickon?) he looks faintly sick, and clearly guilty over what he has done. 

Violence and (gratuitous) nudity count
Plenty of blood and gore this week.

Eleven of the Thirteen have their throats slit while sitting at a council meeting.

Jaime Lannister shows us why he has the reputation of being a killer when he beats to death his cousin and then strangles another man. There's also plenty of bloodlust as the men in Robb's army are all hankering to kill Jaime.

We see one dead guard in Winterfell (killed by Osha) and the charred bodies of two young children.

There's plenty of blood all over Talisa, implying Robb's men have seen battle, and we see some blood in Sansa's nightmare as she imagines being caught and killed, and then see some blood on her bed from her blossoming into womanhood.

Not much nudity this week, there's just one guy we see having a full body tattoo done. There is plenty of talk about sex, as Ygritte teases Jon to the point of exasperation with her crude words and actions. 

When you play the Game of Thrones...
There are heroes and villains in most programmes, books, films and other mediums, but Game of Thrones has always been more about shades of grey.

This week's episode title, A Man Without Honour, refers clearly to Jaime Lannister - a man who is without remorse, without compassion, without humanity.

At first glance it can also apply to Theon, after all, what man with honour would kill a child? And Theon killed two. But the look on Theon's face at the end, as he sees the horrors of what he has done, shows guilt and terror over what he has done.

A man without honour is cold and without emotion, and that's definitely not Theon. In fact, most of his actions up to now have been due to his being too emotional. Theon is a man without sense, he's cruel, he's despicable, but until he loses his sense of humanity, is he a man without honour? His honour, small as it is and even though only he can see it, comes from the fact that he still feels something when he sees those bodies.

It may seem odd to be speaking in favour of Theon, and I'm definitely not excusing his actions one iota, but I think what Game of Thrones does so well is give even the most horrid of characters some redeeming features (apart from Jaime and Joffrey - like father, like son), or arms them with emotions that mean they can't be totally evil or totally good. Theon may currently be as close to black as grey can get, but it's still a shade of grey.

Game of Thrones recap/review masterlist


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