A Game of Thrones Re-watch Marathon, Part 2 (2nd Half of Season 1)

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This post is Part 2 of 6.  For Part 3 click here.

For Part 2, we have a guest blogger

All hail His Grace, Garrison of House [Stark], First of His Name, King of the Bloggers and the First Men, Lord of Bibliophilopolis, and Protector of the Realm:

Well, maybe Jay is the true Lord of Bibliophilopolis. And maybe our familial relationship is better than that of some in Westeros, but he would still be wise to heed to advice of Queen Cersei in A Game of Thrones, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die,” before he so readily invites others to sit on the Iron Throne of Bibliophilopolis… In all seriousness though, as a long time reader of Bibliophilopolis (and a longer time nephew of the author), I was thrilled to be asked to help recap HBO’s Game of Thrones in advance of the fourth season, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to be the first guest poster in the history of this blog; I hope I do the author and its readers justice.

In my recap posts, I will try to do a few categories that will cover some noteworthy moments that will remind people of the general awesomeness of the episodes. If you seek a slightly more detailed blow by blow, that will follow. Before I begin, I’d like to direct you to a great website that I often use to refresh myself of what has happened in Westeros: Tower of the Hand. This website allows the reader to set the scope of what they have read or seen in the series. Say you have only read the first two books when you look up an article on Tyrion Lannister and set your scope to Clash of Kings. The article will only show you information up to the point which you have read. This will prevent being accidentally spoiled if you are trying to avoid that! It works the same way for seasons of the television series.

Without further ado…

Best Scenes

1. Ned gets the “King’s Justice.” This was when I got truly hooked on the show. The whole season was awesome. But when Ned lost his head… good, honorable, played-by-a-famous-actor, clearly-the-hero-of-our-story Ned, that’s when I knew that no one was safe and that this show would stay compelling throughout. Right until the end I expected Eddard Stark to escape somehow. Even after “Ser Ilyn, bring me his head!” I remained convinced that *something* would happen for Ned to avoid that fate… right up until the end.

(below: Joffrey changes his mind, much to the chagrin of Cersei and Sansa)

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2. Ned/Cersei. Great scene between two great actors. The scene that prompts Varys telling Stark later “your mercy killed the king.” Also includes a line to appear later…

3. Ned/Cersei II. I was profoundly sad during the throne room showdown scene on my re-watch. It was all going so well… until it wasn’t.

3. Viserys gets crowned. We were all waiting for this moment. You can admit it, it’s okay.

4. Aemon and Jon. There is more to this maester than meets the eye. Maybe not a hugely important scene (or maybe it was), but I’m a sucker for back story and this delivers.

Best Lines

Lysa Aryn: “You don’t fight with honor!”
Bronn: “No…but he did.”
After Bronn dispatches the “honorable” knight in Tyrion’s trial by combat.

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Joffrey: I’ll tell you what. I’m going to give you a present. After I raise my armies, and kill your traitor brother, I’ll give you his head as well.
Sansa: Or maybe he’ll give me yours.
One of the rare moments where Sansa isn’t being totally insufferable! Bravo, Sansa!

Cersei: When you play the game of thrones you win or you die. There is no middle ground.

Robb Stark: Tell Lord Tywin, winter is coming for him. Twenty thousand northerners marching south to find out if he really does sh*t gold.
To a captured Lannister scout.

Syrio Forel: There is only one god and his name is Death, and there is only one thing we say to Death: “Not today”.
Early frontrunner for the best line in the series.

Tyrion confesses his crimes (a mildly NSFW monologue laden with innuendo)

Tyrion: Though I would treasure your friendship, I’m mainly interested in your facility with murder. And if the day ever comes when you’re tempted to sell me out, remember this: whatever their price, I’ll beat it. I like living.
To Bronn the sellsword after the escape from The Eyrie. The way Peter Dinklage delivers “I like living” is tremendous.

Discussing their first kills…
King Robert: Your outlaw, any last words?
Jaime: I cut his head off, so, no…

Eddard Stark: What you suggest is treason.
Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish: Only if we lose.

Tywin Lanniser: A lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinion of a sheep.

Robb Stark: If we do it your way, Kingslayer, you’d win. We’re not doing it your way.
Responding to Jaime’s offer to end the war by each championing their cause in single combat.

Mirri Maz Duur: You will not hear me screaming.
Daenerys Targaryen: I will. But it is not your screams I want. Only your life.
Before Daenerys puts the healer on the funeral pyre.

Robb Stark: I’ll kill them all.
Catelyn Stark: My boy… they have your sisters. We have to get the girls back… And *then* we will kill them all.
After Robb and Catelyn find out Ned has been killed.

Best foreshadowing you absolutely didn’t notice the first time
In the scene where we meet Tywin Lannister and he has the discussion with Jaime about the honor of their house and how they have the opportunity to become a dynasty in Westeros, what is he doing? He is skinning and gutting a stag. The stag is the sigil of House Baratheon. Terrific.

(below: anyone up for a fresh venison dinner at the Lannisters?)

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Assorted Musings
– The Targaryens have the best claim to the throne. Their family was in power for hundreds of years before Robert and Ned led the rebellion that overthrew them.
– I can’t shake the similarities between Samwell and Samwise from Lord of the Rings.
– During the aforementioned ‘stag skinning’ scene, Tywin delivers a monologue about how their legacy is really the only thing they will leave behind. This is his main motivation. Cersei’s motivation is her love for her children as well as dealing with being in a loveless marriage that was forced upon her. Jaime has his own backstory which will be discussed in season two. The only unredeemingly evil character is Joffrey. Everyone else has reasons (maybe not excuses) why they are they way that they are. Joffrey is just evil for the sake of being evil.
– By the end of the season both Mormonts put their faith in someone untested. Jeor Mormont, the lord commander of the Night’s Watch, makes Jon his steward and begins grooming him for a leadership position. Jorah Mormont, Jeor’s son who is with Daenerys, has a change of heart and saves Dany from assassination. He becomes convinced that she has the best claim to the throne and would do anything for her. It is interesting that these two characters are connected in this way… even more so when you consider the name of the Series is a “A Song of Ice (Jon: at the Wall, where it is almost perpetually winter) and Fire (Daenerys: the Mother of Dragons).”
– I found/find it really peculiar that Ned would actually father a bastard. Ned is the most honorable character in this entire show, to a fault. He diligently served his king, even though it was not something he wanted to do; he was a good father (notably to Theon and Jon Snow who were not his sons with Catelyn); he was a benevolent, just ruler of the North according to everyone that talks about him; he had the chance to seize the Iron Throne for himself during Robert’s rebellion and didn’t; he is devoted to his wife. It just seemed out of character for him to forsake his marriage. That being said, it is in perfect character for him that he would take the child as his own if that were to happen and raise him in his house.

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A full recap follows after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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I Can’t Believe I Read the Whole Thing

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Yesterday, I finally finished “A Clash of Kings,” the second book in the George R.R. Martin series, A Song of Fire and Ice. I liked it well enough, but I can’t see myself reading any more of these. The multiple-point of view writing (and I don’t mean jumping around between two or three characters, but many, MANY more) and the cast of thousands to keep track of is just too much heavy lifting for this (perhaps lazy) reader. Particularly annoying to me was Martin’s continually throwing in so much detail that in my mind doesn’t advance the story. I imagine that it’s because he has this whole imaginary world he’s created, compete with its history, and he wants to “get it in there” so his time in creating it hasn’t been wasted. This reached a peak for me in the “climactic” battle for King’s Landing, which includes a considerable naval engagement. Early in the chapter he names a few of the ships, and I’m thinking, “please, PLEASE don’t tell me he’s going to tell me the name every ship of the hundreds in this battle!” He tries to, but probably “only” calls a few dozen by name. Enough! He also goes overboard, to my taste at least, in describing what the different characters are wearing. Well into the second book, I’m more interested in what they are doing.

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If there is one character whose story I’d really like to know the rest of, however, it would be the young Arya Stark (pictured above as played by actress Maisie Williams). She kicks butt. In fact if the story were more about her (and maybe the direwolves!) I think I would be eager to read the rest.

Also, when I was about half way through reading this book, I did buy the first season of HBO’s adaptation of the series. I enjoyed it in spite of the gratuitously high levels of gore and sex, and I look forward to watching the second season when it becomes available on DVD or iTunes. I thought the performances of Peter Dinklage (pictured below as Tyrion Lannister) and Lena Headey (as the deliciously evil Cersei Lannister) very well done. You may also remember Headey from the short-lived tv series, “The Sarah Connor Chronicles.”

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So ends my sojourn in the land of Westeros (I think). If I am to learn the rest of the story, it will likely be through the subsequent seasons of the HBO series. What about you? Have you read these books? I know they have a passionate following. Can you convince me to read on? I’m willing to listen…

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Just Finished: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

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“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” Cersei Lannister

Okay, I finally made it through this thick slice of “epic” fantasy. I have to admit that I was a little bit predisposed to NOT like this book. I am distrustful of fiction where a whole, vast world has been created as a stage and the reader is counted upon to learn it and all its inhabitants. I am distrustful of a book that opens with a map of “the world” where I, a reasonably competent student of geography – or so I’d like to think, recognize nothing and am starting from scratch. I am distrustful of a book that requires a large appendix with names and relations of characters, historical lists of the rulers of various kingdoms. (does the reader really gain any insight by a list of seventeen kings of the Targaryen Succession – all of which predate the action in this novel – other than the author has let his imagination run away with him?)

There have been comparisons of the series to Tolkein which I feel are unwarranted and pretentious – though I’ve heard Martin doesn’t make them himself. And – I wonder – are the “R.R.” initials his real name, or part of a pen name? If a pen name, then I am tempted to label him Tolkein wannabe. If not, then what an incredible coincidence: J.R.R. Tolkein, George R.R. Martin, hmmm… I’m also amused by books like this and what parts of real history they decide to keep. It seems like knights, jousting, swordplay, and the concept of royalty and lines of succession always make the cut. (and yes, this is a book where the main characters frequently have names for their swords – I guess I’m distrustful of that too…)

But enough of what “bothered” me about this book. There are many things that I liked as well. At its heart, it’s full of political scheming and intrigue, lusty and graphic battle scenes, characters good and evil – sometimes loathsomely evil – many of whom are adolescents and just learning their way and the ways of this young, still magical world. In fact, come to think of it, all the best characters (for my money) with the exception of the dwarf, Tyrion Lannister, are basically youngsters.

And let’s not forget the “direwolves” (like regular wolves only bigger and, well, “direr”…). Early in the novel, the children of Eddard Stark, ruler of Winterfell, come upon a dying female direwolf, still nursing a litter of pups. The pups are all adopted by the children and figure prominently throughout the book. They become fiercely loyal to their “masters” and are not infrequently called upon to save the day. “Normal” wolves are present in Martin’s imagined world as well. Early on, upon hearing a wolf howl in the distance we get, “Something about the howling of a wolf took a man right out of his here and now and left him in a dark forest of the mind, running naked before the pack.” I liked that.

There are also the “Dothraki,” a warlike tribe, the leader of whom has the good fortune to wed Daenerys, the beautiful – and quite young – heiress to one of “the Seven Kingdoms”. It seems clear to me (a big “fan” of Genghis Khan) that these people are a transparent rip-off of the Mongolian hordes of the late Middle Ages, an irresistible mounted force spreading death and terror wherever they ride. They are fond of drinking fermented mare’s milk, and skilled bowmen in the saddle – both direct similarities with the armies Genghis Khan and his successors commanded.

I suppose I’ve written enough at this point. I guess the real question is will I continue on and read the subsequent books in the series. I am undecided at this point. I’m troubled a bit by the fact that there are several yet to be published (I think eight(?) in all are intended). Martin is going to have to pick up the pace too as he’s not exactly churning them out, either. I admit that I was also motivated by the fact that there’s an HBO series of A Game of Thrones now too – which I haven’t seen, but would like to.

What about you? Have you read this novel or series? What is your take on them, and the genre? Do you think I should “press on?” Let me know.

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June reading – what’s “on tap” for me this month

Seems like my month is kind of already mapped out for me, reading-wise. Let’s start with the “required reading”…

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The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

This is my personal book club’s selection for June. I actually read about the first 2/3rds of it yesterday. This means it has about 1/3 to go to redeem itself from its current “disappointing” status. I mean, all I keep thinking thus far in this book is, “My God, don’t these people have jobs?!” 🙂 it seems the narrator, Jake, spent about two and a half hours working at his typewriter in one chapter, but that’s it so far. If this book is indeed supposed to capture the “Lost Generation” of post-WW1, I can see why it’s called that. It seems the characters spend most of their time sitting in cafes, restaurants and nightclubs either hurting each others’ feelings or telling each other to go to Hell, or advising each other not to “be a fool” and getting “tight” (drunk).

Wampeters, Foma and Grandfalloons by Kurt Vonnegut

This is the June selection for the KVMLBC. It’s a collection of essays by Vonnegut (with the exception of one short work of fiction). I read the first six or seven of them on Saturday. Many are very good, but a couple didn’t capture my interest at all. It’s still Vonnegut, though, and his unique wit is always present. Thumbs up so far on this one.

The Warden by Anthony Trollope

This is the first book of The Barsetshire series by this prolific author of the 19th century. I read The Small House at Allington earlier this year and also the author’s autobiography. Both kindled an interest in me to read more by Trollope. I also have book two of the Barchester series, Barchester Towers, waiting in the wings as The Warden is a mere 284 pages.maybe I’ll get to both of them(?)

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

I was reading about this in the NY Times book section yesterday. Many may know that this series of books is being adapted by HBO and is soon to be aired. This first book is quite lengthy (about 800 pages in my ebook version), but sounded good so I downloaded and explored the first couple chapters last night. I think it will go fast, and my recent reading of the first two books of Peter Brett’s “Demon Cycle” has whetted my appetite a bit for works of this genre.

Hmm… what else is there? Well, there’ll be a few short stories of course, and I have a few unfinished books from prior months that I still need to knock out. It’s “summer” here though, and I tend to read less “when it’s nice outside” so it may be a challenge to get my standard dose of four or five books in this month. We’ll see..

What are YOU reading in June?

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