The Road to the Iron Throne: Introduction

Saying I love Game of Thrones is an understatement. After hearing rumblings of it during its second season on HBO, I eventually found myself not only binging my way through the show but even reading through all of the books. There was a point in my life when I actually took it to heart to memorize any and all information about the world created by George RR Martin.

Like most things that exist in our current pop culture zeitgeist there has become a shorthand for what the show is about to casual onlookers and surface-deep watchers. “It’s the show where everybody dies by violent circumstances, there are dragons, a lot of female nudity, and of course a wide array of attractive characters.” Oh wait did I mention the female nudity?

There isn’t anything wrong with this understanding, all of those things are accurate, but boiling down the show to its simplest components is a fundamental misunderstanding of what makes this show so interesting and a standout in fantasy specifically and tv more generally.

Looking at the source material ( which would be a different series onto itself) there are many things that make the Game of Thrones series unique. First off, for a fantasy setting it is subversive of typical tropes found in the genre. Protagonists (at least early on in the show) that are for justice and all that is “good” meet unexpectedly swift deaths to their shock and the viewers. This is groundbreaking in some ways but it paralleled with many of the other shows that started during this time period like The Walking Dead where it feels like no one is safe. This actually gives a sense of suspense or dread when anticipating the next death.  

But on a much deeper, and more important level, Martin is able to flip the common archetypes in fiction and change the formula. When was the last time in any form of media that the outcast of society was ever deemed the protagonist or at the very least a part of the “good” team? Aside from Toph Beifong from Avatar: The Last Airbender not many come to mind.

Typically, throughout fiction those who are differently-abled are meant to represent the evil side or a strange force of nature. One does not have to look too far in the past to see examples of this. Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game and its Netflix movie adaptation is an extremely recent example.

Yet here we have a show with multiple characters facing traumas either by birth or circumstance and there is not only a feeling of support for them but they are some of the fan favorites of the series. The series is able to do this in a way where the character’s disability is not their key attribute, but just a part of their complex character.

Characters! Characters matter in this world, especially in relation to other characters. Relationships are old and at times complicated between different characters or groups of characters. This makes for some of the most memorable moments in the books and the show itself. And these characters live in a complex world where each action has ripples throughout the rest of it. The world feels like it is genuinely lived in and fleshed out.

Part of this feeling is due to GoT being a great piece of historical fiction. Martin is not unfamiliar with the turbulent times of the Middle Ages and early Modern Period. Not only does Martin create events and allegories for actual historical events, but he takes it a step further by thinking a few steps ahead in this crazy world. For example, what are the political impacts of having three flying, fire-breathing war machines at your disposal. Or what about an unconquerable magical enemy that is approaching a kingdom splintered by civil wars and disagreements.

Game of Thrones takes us there and it does it in an entertaining way.

That’s why I am writing this, before the final season of the show bombards our brains and preoccupies our time I want to start from the very beginning of the show and work my way up to the finale of season 7 and into the final season itself.

 

With that being said here are a few caveats/ things I will be adhering to:

 

  • Spoilers of course!: I am not here to slowly unravel the story for those who are unfamiliar with it. This is more of an exercise in re-living something that I already like and talking about it more deeply. That means anything from any GoT series is up for grabs.

 

If you don’t know what the phrase “R+L=J” is turn back now…or don’t, it’s the internet I can’t control what you do. But here is the fine print saying that anything and everything is up for grabs.

 

  • Yes the books and the show are different: I have read all the books, which is not necessary to enjoy the show. But, if I find it necessary or interesting I will reference the books during a review or season recap.
  • Structure: So since I have seen every episode/ season of the show I figured the best course of action is to do as follows. Create my impressions from what I remember about that season from my memory, then do an episode by episode summary/review/ thoughts then finally an end of season thoughts on the season as a whole.
  • Time: If I was a student still or actually did not work a billion hours I could probably get this monster of a thing done within a month or two, alas I have a full time job so it probably will be relegated to weekends or late nights.
  • What about the books: Since Winds of Winter seems nowhere close to being done (George Martin is a busy guy these days) I do not really want to go through the full swath of text without an end in sight. A few dozen hours of television is one thing but five books numbering in a few hundred pages at least per book is daunting. If you are interested in a chapter by chapter summary of the books check out GOTacademy on YouTube.

 

 

So I hope you will embark with me on The Road to the Iron Throne.

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Narcos: Who’s Afraid of Escobar?

Pablo Escobar is easily the most infamous character of the final decades of the 20th century. His lavish gangster lifestyle coupled with his elusiveness allowed him to become an international vocal point for the international war on drugs and the mythos surrounding it. Many shows that follow similar paths such as Breaking Bad try to draw parallels with Escobar, but nobody in western media has attempted to actually tell the story in a dramatic way, until Narcos.

I had the benefit of watching Narcos two seasons uninterrupted which wraps the story of Escobar in a nice bow.

I think the show altogether is great, if you are looking for a series to binge watch it is one of Netflix’s best, but there are some problems with it.

The biggest one is a disjointed narrative that exists within the story. The show is trying to do two things at once which leads to this disjointed narrative that is being told. We are initially introduced to Agent Murphy, the DEA agent sent to Colombia to assist in finding Escobar and his story through it all. Murphy voices over a lot of the show to explain plot without ruining the drama of the story, but the story is never solely about Murphy. In fact, Murphy is not really the main character. The show gets into longer and longer sessions of events from Escobar’s point of view.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it creates two shows within one. You’re never sure what the show is trying to say. Should we kind of feel sorry for Escobar since he himself is human and we have humanizing moments even when he is committing heinous acts? Should we look down on agent Murphy as we see him go to a dark place as he tries and hunt down Escobar?

The show never seems to get a clear answer, in the end the final episode of season two felt like a lost cause. All this work for the past couple hours seemed to fizzle away as the payoff didn’t really seem to, you know, payoff.

Maybe I’m just over analyzing, anyways I give Narcos a 7/10

Tarantino Continues his Wild West Rampage

If someone had asked me years ago if I wanted a modern Agatha Christie mystery set as a Western I don’t know how I would’ve responded. But after watching Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight I can safely say that I would want even more movies like this.

Tarantino is one of the most interesting and talented directors and writers of our time. His films are always so over the top and have such memorable characters along with his distinct directing style. They call back to so much film history and you can tell there is an overwhelming passion in the director about what he is putting onto the screen.

The movies been out for a while now so the rundown for those of you who haven’t seen it is pretty simple. A bounty hunter, known as the Hangman, is taking his current bounty to the town of Red Rock, Wyoming in the middle of a blizzard. Through unlikely circumstance he ends up having to hold out in a lodge with questionable characters who the Hangman feels might be there to aid in the escape of his current captured bounty.

But what this movie does so brilliantly is not give a clear perspective of who is someone you can support until the end of the movie, which even then considering the “good” guys final act is questionable. There is no one main character and the characters all bring something questionable to the table to make you think they might have something to do with it.

As with all Tarantino movies, the blood flows like water down a waterfall but unlike other works of his, the gore and deaths are a payoff and not really the main attraction here. Despite the nearly three-hour time span of this movie I still had a great time.

I’m gonna give the Hateful Eight a 8.0~8.5/10.

Ali Wong’s Baby Cobra Review

As Comedy Central has moved away from the typical stand up specials it had in the 2000s, Netflix has begun to take up the vacuum. It is difficult to find a stand-up comedian that hasn’t done a stand-up special with the streaming service. But instead of one of the many comedians I love, I decided to watch someone new, Ali Wong.

Prior to this special I had no idea who Ali Wong was. I was only vaguely familiar with the show Fresh Off the Boat, which she is one of the writers for, and besides that had never heard of her. But this special got me interested in her comedy and I look forward to more performances by her in the future.

Since comedy is highly subjective, my take on Baby Cobra might be very different than others. Frankly, the special was an hour of almost constant laughs and good jokes. It is clear that Wong has a persona on the stage that she sometimes goes out of in between jokes that is noticeable.

The show also seems to follow a basic storyline of how she “trapped” her Harvard husband into marriage in order for her to quit her day job in order to become a housewife. Most of the laughs come out of this basic premise.

In a world where Amy Schumer, someone who in my opinion is not that funny, I am glad that there are other female comedians getting some spotlight that are hilarious.

I am going to give Baby Cobra the rating of a hilarious time.

Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood: Something Great to Binge Watch

Full Metal Alchemist was one of the animes and manga that I followed when I first became interested in the genre. While like most other animes and manga, it fell out of interest to me when I caught up on the manga and anime and was encountered with filler or at least what felt like filler. But I decided to give Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood a try on Netflix to see what the difference was with the original series. (I should also note here that the American Netflix is missing like the last season of the show, leading to having to find it elsewhere.)

The show is about a world in which alchemy is a legitimate form of science with some humans able to actually change the material and composition of matter. One of the fundamental laws of alchemy, equivalent exchange, essentially says that for every transformation there must be an equal cost paid. Alphonse and Edward Elric pay the ultimate price in the idea of equivalent exchange when they try to bring their dead mother back to life, causing Edward to lose his right arm and left leg and Al losing his entire body and having his soul entwined into a suit of armor. Now they are on a journey to look for the legendary Philosopher’s Stone as a possibility of getting their bodies back.

The world that FMA takes place in continues to be flushed out as the show progresses and with it the characters as well. The characters might be the largest strength of the show with both the heroes and villains being complicated and having goals that just aren’t about being the way they are just for the sake of it. There are surprisingly human moments in a fictional world where a talking suit of armor is the norm especially tense issues like genocide and war.

My largest complaint (not even that large really) is the trope in anime where characters facial expressions alter out of the normal art style to a more cartoonish one when something offensive or funny is said. For FMA, this can happen in serious moments when a character could possibly die and it takes the tension out of it.

Regardless, if you are looking for a good time on Netflix and are looking for a show to marathon through, give FMA a chance.

I’m going to give FMA: Brotherhood a 7.5~8.0/10.

Look Who’s Back: The Satire We Need Right Now

It is not uncommon in the modern era for politicians to be compared to Adolf Hitler. In fact, the election cycle in the United States this year has seen this comparison extend out even more. But what if the infamous leader himself was thrown into modern day Berlin with no recollection of how he got there? What would be his reaction to the modern time and more importantly what would people think of him? That is the premise of the wonderfully dark satire of Look Who’s Back or Er ist wieder da.

The film follows the story of the time travelled Adolf Hitler through mostly scripted events as he rises to fame on a television network, that looks eerily similar to the YouTube logo, because people think that he is a comedian imitating him. People also happen to agree with a lot of the things that he is saying in terms of modern day politics.

The scripted scenes make up most of the movie and have some of the best parts as far as the movie goes. There is a reenactment of the infamous Downfall scene that is just great for those who are fans of the movie or the meme. This part of the film also shines because it does not go for the lowest hanging fruit of Hitler jokes that could have been so easily grabbed. In fact, most of the Holocaust jokes that are introduced are not until Hitler is put on a television show with a comedian that does black face of President Obama when the writers of the show begin to create these kinds of jokes (social commentary!).

The movie also has portions that are in the Borat-style of actual people encountering this fake Hitler without knowing (for the most part) they are part of a film. This leads to moments such as a member of the right-wing party saying that he would follow Hitler again when asked by fake Hitler if he would take orders from him. This side of the film shows that as much as Germany is welcoming and attempting to progress from its past, there are clearly those who do not mind being associated with it at all.

If you are at all interested in the current state of German politics or are looking for some good satire, Oliver Masucci’s performance along with a decent script will take you there.

I’m going to give Look Who’s Back an 8.0~8.5/10.

Ajin: Netflix’s Anime Offers Promise

Netflix’s push to make its own content has now bled over into the world of anime and one of these is AJIN: Demi-human. The basic premise of the show is that there are is a discovery of a group of people know as AJINS, beings that are not able to die, or better yet to stay dead. Whenever a said Ajin dies it regenerates its body to the state it was previous to death. If an arm gets cut off and an Ajin dies missing a limb, they will come back with said limb. This creates interesting action scenes that are the highlights of the show.

The large combat scenes are too few and far in between but when they are present it is fresh and dynamic. The only issue is the fight between the “black ghosts” the projections that some Ajins can create to fight for them. The very first combat scene with these is difficult to keep up with due to the fact that they were dark figures in a dark room. I don’t know where they can go with these fight scenes next season, but to me it was pretty lackluster.

The characters are also not much to write home about. Mr. Sato is by far the best character in the entire show and his true intentions don’t really even make any sense. The main character we are supposed to care about takes a break for the second half of the season and you are basically spent marveling over Mr. Sato’s plot to “save” Ajins from their government imprisonment.

Anime is a genre that I have a mixed relationship about but this is definitely a show that is easy to pick up and does not have some of the tropes that I find annoying within the genre. If you’re interested in the idea of the show I recommend you check it out.

I’m going to give the show a 6.8~7.3/10.