As with episode’s one’s review there is no promise of keeping free of spoilers. In fact there is nothing to spoil. Last week’s episode was gritty in a political thriller sort of way as the divided North became the main focus. Episode 2 takes place in the limbo period between the preparation episode and the battle itself. It served as a second preparation episode that was unnecessary filler between two important events. In practice, I like to keep these reviews free of shiny objects and focus on the more analytical aspects of the show, but those were few and far between.
Verdict: Episode 2 was a hollow turd.
Ser Jaime Lannister is the MVP of this episode, having the only interesting opportunities continuing throughout the script, but still failed to depict, accurately, Jaime’s character once more. Jaime opens up on “trial” before his former enemies. In truth, Jaime, blurring the lines between sarcastic and serious, regards slaying Mad King Areys II as his “finest deed.” He regrets little, but that which he regrets are the deeds of concealing his (past) love for Cersei, like throwing a child out of a tower, and [spoiler alert] lying to Tyrion about his first wife Tysha being a whore. The latter is an increasingly frustrating deviation that not only undermines Jaime’s character development but has paved the way for HBO to emasculate Tyrion Lannister, metaphorically speaking as opposed to the literal emasculating of Theon Greyjoy. In confronting Daenerys, Jaime was not as defiant enough to make an interesting confrontation better. Instead this was undermined by the power struggle between Daenerys and Sansa, denying a far richer scene where Jaime declares that he saved half a million people. During the drinking scene that resembled previous buildups before battles, Jaime’s character could have amended the Tysha deviation. This hope was unrealized; however, the episode’s best scene was the knighting of Brienne of Tarth, a misfit too ugly to be a lady but unable to be a knight. “Any knight can make a knight” is a well-known Westerosi saying.
Lack of Military Realism
The show goes out of its way to paint incompetent characters like Sansa and Daenerys as quality leaders. Last week, was the first time characters acknowledged how selfish Daenerys is. Sansa is the last person on the show you want as a “wartime president.” Very few remaining characters in Game of Thrones can play the game and command an army. Jon Snow is one. Tyrion is a second, but the show has made him irredeemably stupid. Jaime refused the game but technically has a winning record as a commanding officer. Bronze Yohn Royce was technically featured in the episode and can do both. Daenerys is probably better at military command than playing politics, but when you have dragons, it takes far less skill, Aegon the Conquerer proved as much. Last weeks episode delved into the logistics of war. That was virtually undone in this episode.
For instance Brienne of Tarth is given command of the left flank. Looking closely at the war maps, the left flank featured the knights of the Vale. Instead of having Lord Yohn Royce, a season military commander who fought in Robert’s Rebellion, the Greyjoy Rebellion, led the winning cavalry charge in the Battle of the Bastards, has the loyalty of his men as the most powerful lord in the Vale, the show has Brienne of Tarth command the Vale’s force. Brienne of Tarth has fought one battle, at most! She has never led an army and has no ties to the Vale. The only thing dumber than giving her command of the Vale would be giving her command of the Dothraki, who I believe are on the right flank, the place of honor in ancient Greek culture (perhaps relevant). It’s not that Brienne of Tarth is unworthy of any command, they simply chose the second least believable place for her to lead.
Prepubescent Sex Scene
This is not the poorest written sex scene in Game of Thrones, that still belongs to Sansa being married off to Ramsay Bolton, one of the worst plot deviations from the books. Arya having sex with Gendry was up there though. Arya is eleven when the show starts. A year has passed, no doubt, maybe two, but not anything beyond three which would barely put her at fourteen, at most. It’s not the combo, it’s the age. Arya is a child, not a sensual woman. The show has unrealistically aged these characters. Heck, why didn’t they recast Gilly’s [Mance’s] son? They’ve had over three Mountains, two Dario Naharises (both poorly casted), two Myrscella Baratheons, and I’m sure there are others.
The only meaning in the episode that was of any worth was Bran revealing the motive of the White Walkers to erase the memory of mankind. There was no buildup and little foreshadow towards this reveal. Game of Thrones is all about placing mysteries on the backburner (who really killed Jon Arryn) but this was a little rushed.
This episode was less worthwhile than watching the first three episodes of Star Wars. You could have missed episode 2 and have gone straight to episode 3 and you would have missed nothing that wasn’t known already. I’m not saying this was the worst Game of Thrones episode ever but its down there.
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Binge-worthy show: I recommend Killing Eve to everyone even though I hated it
I wish I could say my entertainment tastes were simply too refined for most, but that wouldn’t be the truth. I like great television shows like Bosch yet I am not too proud to stop laughing at Family Guy. But somewhere in the middle is the artsy, modern, beautiful, and unpredictable world of great television shows that work today even if they wouldn’t have worked just a couple of years ago. One such show is Killing Eve.
When I first started watching it by accident with my mother-in-law (circumstances not important) I instantly fell in love with it. Literally 10 minutes in I realized this was the show I’d been wanting to see since all of the other great ones I’ve been watching were complete. I’m a 2-3-shows-at-a-time king of guy, so binging is the only way I can normally keep up. But lately, there’s been a lull. With Killing Eve, the lull was officially over.
Then the last two episodes went a little too weird for me. I should have seen it coming throughout, but I suspended my own logical disbelief and continued forward. I don’t regret it, and even though the show lost me to the point I won’t be watching season 2 or any future season, I still highly recommend it.
Have you ever read a review of a show or movie in which the reviewer hated it but still recommended it? Now you have.
Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, the titular good guy and her prey/predator, are both award-worthy in their performances. The writing is sharp. The direction is spot-on. No complaints about any of the technical components of the show.
Where it lost me is the direction they chose to take their relationship. In retrospect, the writing was on the wall from the first episode on, but I refused to see it. I wanted a traditional cat and mouse, cops and murders show and Killing Eve is not that. Still, it was fun while I thought it would be that and when it took a turn I didn’t like, I was okay with it. Like I said, I recommend the show even though I didn’t like it.
Will it make one of my binge-worthy lists? Probably not. I reserve those lists for shows I loved. I didn’t love Killing Eve, but I know most probably will which is why I have no problem recommending it.
Fighting the allure of celebrity idolatry
One does not have to be an obsessed fan with pictures of a celebrity on their bedroom walls to be practicing a form of idolatry. Even casual fans, a group that encompasses the majority of western society, are falling into the trap of idolizing celebrities.
Let’s spell it all out in one paragraph before diving deeper into the subject. Most forms of spectator entertainment (watching movies, going to sporting events, reading news about celebrities, etc) are distractions at the least and can be extremely harmful for us spiritually when taken to extremes. Unfortunately, “extremes” in this case are probably not what most would consider to be extreme because fanaticism is so rampant that it has been accepted as part of our society.
Let’s dive into the topic, but first, a confession…
Fighting my own challenges
Throughout my life, I’ve allowed myself to fall victim to this on countless occasions. It may seem hypocritical to write about it since I’m fighting my own demons, but there’s a justification. Anyone who talks about fighting sins is technically a hypocrite because we’re all sinners, but that doesn’t make the message any less valid.
I grew up watching television. Lots of television. By the time I was an adult, I was an avid sports fan who followed many teams religiously. I started writing a screenplay with the dream of making it in Hollywood. I watched tons of movies. I studied many of them, reading the scripts and breaking down performances in a way that took it beyond being a hobby.
It’s a struggle to avoid clicking on links about this celebrity event or that actor’s latest follies, but I’m doing everything I can through discipline and prayer to pull away from these distracting aspects of the world.
Now, let’s discuss why it’s important.
Different scales of idolatry
… or do we?
Just because we aren’t in the desert melting down our gold earrings to be formed into the image of a calf for worship doesn’t mean that we’re not participating in idolatry.
Let’s look at it in the Bible, Exodus 20:4-6 (KJV):
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
We can assume that we’re not practicing Biblical idolatry as it pertained to the Jews of the Torah, but that’s not the only place that speaks of idolatry. While we see the second commandment as a binding statement to guide our lives, we must also look to Paul in his letter to the Colossians to gain a better understanding of how idolatry can affect us in modern times.
Colossians 3:2-7 (KJV):
4 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
If there’s one delusion that has overcome nearly all in western society, it’s the delusion that shrouds covetousness. Very few people would admit to it because they’re probably not even aware of it, but the primary reason that we follow our “idols” of movies, television, music, and sports is that we covet what they have. It’s not just the fame and fortune. It’s the skills, talents, attention, lifestyles, and access to things that we do not have in our own lives.
Let’s reiterate Paul’s words: “Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.”
Do we spend more of our time watching movies, television, listening to music, or watching sporting events than doing things that honor our Lord? Are our affections focused on things above or things on the earth? Finally, is there a scale when it comes to idolatry? Is wearing our favorite football player’s jersey less idolatrous than praying to a graven image?
The last questions are tougher and definitely up for debate, so let’s look at it from a practical perspective.
Time well spent
We can assume that in a world that has its attentions focused on the secular that few will be convinced of the concept that watching movies is a sin. Pointing fingers and declaring something is unholy simply isn’t practical.
I know this because I struggle with it all the time.
The thing that helps to keep me focused is the preciousness of time. I have a family. I run a company. I drink lots of espresso to try to keep up with both. Without distractions of entertainment, I have to make a conscious effort to set aside time for my Lord.
Part of this can be accomplished by inserting a Biblical mindset into everything I do. It’s hard sometimes because there are always things to do that don’t have an easy path for inserting that Biblical mindset, but nobody said this was going to be easy.
What’s the point of all this? Knowing that I want to please my Lord with everything I do acts as a reminder to avoid the distractions of this world. A popular question that many ask (at least they used to ask it) is “What would Jesus do?”
I prefer to look at it by asking the question, “Would Jesus like what I’m doing right now?”
In 1987, I watched every single Mets game. All of them. I used to spend Saturdays and Sundays watching football for at least 4 hours each day. Add in Monday Night Football and there’s another three. Until a decade ago, I would watch 2-4 hours of television per day. Until about five years ago, I would watch a minimum of two movies per week. Looking back, I know that every minute of time spent entertaining myself in this manner did nothing to honor my Lord nor expand my spiritual understanding. I had set my affections on things of the earth.
This isn’t meant to condemn any of us for what we’ve done or what we’re doing now. It’s simply meant to make us think about what we’re going to do going forward. Time is precious, so I try to spend mine wisely.
Game of Thrones The Last War Review and Analysis
Spoilers ahead, as always. Game of Thrones went into this week under a microscope of well deserved scrutiny for screwing up what had the potential to be the best show in television history. However tonight was not last week, the week before that, the week before that, or the week before that. Instead, while flawed The Last War was the best written episode since season four, which unfortunately doesn’t mean much. This episode was great because it was the climax of the series George RR Martin wrote and featured little of D&D’s bumbling to get there. Note: the show runners oversold the Night King. Little is known about the King of the Others in the books. But lets dive in to the critiques.
Verdict: Despite the unrealistic nature of the collateral damage within the Game of Thrones universe, the emergence of the Mad Queen made this perhaps the best episode since season 4.
There are a lot of dumb people who watch Game of Thrones. They are the same fans who continued watching Arrow was good after season 2. Or they have been watching for two years, never read the books and think they know how a Game of Thrones story is supposed to work. The main dumbass critique is the show throwing away ten years of character development. Now there is an argument to make that the show made Daenerys overly perfect when the books portray her as whimsically incompetent, as every decision she makes under pressure is a bad one. But to deny the existence of the Mad Queen foreshadow is ridiculous. It was there the entire time, her nature and the family words of Fire and Blood. The show has been building it up for seasons, thinking back to when Randyl Tartly was roasted alive.
The people who wanted Daenerys to be the hero fundamentally fail to understand how Game of Thrones works. She was just another version of Cersei the entire time. She resembles Caligula far more than Julius Caesar (Jon Snow). These people want a hero’s journey story arc, but that’s not how Game of Thrones work. The Dornish plot in the books, which blows what the show did with Dorne out of the water gardens, systematically destroys this notion a a hero setting out on an important quest and overcoming obstacles to accomplish it. Brienne of Tarth’s journey, in the books starts off on what the reader knows to be an impossible quest. Every character in Game of Thrones is gray. And to people who are disappointed Daenerys turned into a villain, I respectfully say piss off.
The Last War featured a Man of Steel level of collateral damage. While I am not making friends with this article, let me just say that was the best Superman movie ever made. Back to the collateral damage with the abundance of crumbling buildings under dragon fire. That is not how dragon fire in Game of Thrones works. Harrenhal, the largest castle, was attacked via dragon fire. Everything that could burn was burned, but the stone was melted. The towers still stand to this day and the tallest on is called the Kingspyre. Dragon fire does not demolish stone. When Theon put Winterfell to torch, much of Winterfell was still in tact because the castle is made out of granite. Now perhaps the show runners took it for granted when the Night King’s dragon, which was not an ice dragon, it just breathed blue fire, somehow didn’t burn Winterfell down, when Daenerys made destroying stone castle look like knocking down children’s blocks. Literally children’s foam blocks when Sandor pushed Gregor through the stone. Therefore these special effects were unrealistic in The Last War.
I thought the Sandor versus Gregor showdown was fan service. However, I can be satisfied with a draw as the city was falling apart. But, being realistic, Gregor is no longer human, which was made readily obvious, so Sandor winning would have sucked.
Jaime is another area of worthy criticism in The Last War. The show disserviced his character by having him abandon Cersei but still return to her. This character development critique was merited, especially as in the books, Jaime tosses Cersei’s letter for help into the fire and is slowly thinking less of his whorish sister due to the exchange he had with Tyrion that left both characters equally scarred. However that scene between Tyrion and Jaime in the episode was solid, best Tyrion scene in four seasons, easily.
King’s Landing wisely didn’t yield to a besieging army. The rules of warfare are that the city gets sacked for not yielding so that the next city yields. The city yielded, but the sacking that followed made Tywin Lannister look like Ned Stark. Daenerys snaps and the next villain in the situation was Grey Worm who tears down the thin veil of civility unleashing human nature. Jon Snow was too weak to stop it until the end when he was finally able to order a retreat, to Winterfell if he knows what’s best for him.
For three seasons, the characters, Tyrion and Daenerys specifically have believed that human nature is basically good and that they could build a better world. Varys wanted a better world but knew human nature was evil. But Tyrion and Daenerys believed they could build a better world and only made it worse. Meanwhile they thought little of Tywin Lannister (my man) who didn’t believe in the goodness of human nature and operated accordingly. The Last War was, probably inadvertently, similar to the buildup of World War 1. World War 1 was referred to as “the war to end all wars.” Except neither the Great War or the Destruction of King’s Landing went as flowery as planned, for mankind cannot escape its nature. This seems in the spirit of the source material which Game of Thrones is derived and the historical reference fits in perfectly with the naiveté of Daenerys and Tyrion. The Last War episode was a reminder that human nature is basically evil, an ode to the realism of Game of Thrones.
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