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Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken – Game of Thrones Review

This weeks episode was a real nail-biter and really sets us up for the last section of this season. 

In Braavos Arya is slowly Learning the ways of the Faceless men. She is beaten then guided by the ever mysterious ‘Jaqen’ and begins to fabricate lies convincingly as demonstrated when she convinced a young sickly girl to drink the “healing” water of the well to end her suffering. This moment is watched by ‘Jaqen’ who is seemingly pleased with Arya’s actions so much so that he reaveals what lays behind the door she so desperately wants to explore. In perhaps the most interesting part of Arya’s story this episode she is lead down to a strange eeiry gargantuan mausoleum of faces where ‘Jaqen’ announces that she is ‘not ready to become no one but she is ready to become someone else’ this scene coupled with the fantasticaly creepy score sets up great suspense for the audience as we are left without any more exposition this episode thus we have to wait to see just how Arya will become someone else.

In Kings Landing the Tyrell’s aren’t having much luck of late especially with the Cersei backed rise of The Sparrows as Loras is put to trial for his homosexuality. In the process Queen Margery is also imprisoned after Loras’ squire turned brothel manager provides a damning testimony. What was great about this scene was how powerless the young King Tommen appeared when he looked on at the events transpiring like an innocent lamb and was unable to help his wife. This proved very easily that Tommen is not King material and that his mother is the real ruler of the seven kingdoms. 

Jamie and Bronn’s gallivanting ‘sensitive diplomatic mission’ failed miserably as they and the sand snakes converged upon Myrcella the prized Lannister girl at the exact same time. A small but nevertheless poetic battle ensued with Oberyn’s daughters mimicking the late Red Vipers ornate fighting style and Jamie and Bronn swiping at the girls with their efficient but far less pretty swordplay. Unsurprisingly Prince Doran’s guards soon seize both parties in the water gardens and Ellaria who hides in the shadows, ultimately their fate is left in limbo. This scene was perhaps a little disappointing but is perhaps serving a larger purpose for later in the season.

Across sea Tyrion and Jorah continue their cross country journey to the Mother of Dragons this time they encounter a band of Slavers. The leader plans to send Jorah to the salt mines and to sell Tyrions manhood to an amusingly titled ‘Cock merchant’ for it is believed that Dwarf cocks hold magical powers. With the announcement of sudden death Tyrion scrambles and uses his superior mind to assure his safety for a little longer and manages to persuade the slavers to consider taking Mormont to the newly reopened fighting pits thus perhaps fast tracking their arrival to Meereen, and Daenery’s. Interestingly one thing that’s been on my mind the last couple of weeks is the whereabouts of Varys, is he perhaps already in Meereen? Or is he still on the road looking for Tyrion? Hopefully these questions will be answered next week. 

In perhaps the most horrific scene in recent Game of Thrones history Sansa is subjected to Wedding night tradition of consummating her marriage to the recently legitimised Ramsay Bolton. But in true Ramsay style a seemingly nice moment is twisted and turned into a dreadful ordeal. He orders the broken Theon to watch her ‘become a woman’ and thus he tears her dress violently after becoming impatient with her slow disrobing and rapes the poor Stark girl. The close up on Theon’s distraught face was a really great moment as to me it perhaps hinted at the possibility of him regaining some of his identity back or actually attacking Ramsay who is slowly pushing him to the edge.

This episode in true Game of Thrones style served to demonstrate how savage and cruel the world of Westeros and Essos truly can be. And to prove yet again that nothing is certain and that the fate of any character truly is in flux

Daredevil – Season One Review

Like many I binge watched the 13 episodes of Daredevil pretty much as soon as they were uploaded on Netflix and it was so worth it. Unlike other Marvel fare Daredevil was deliciously dark and gritty which reminded me of Nolan’s Batman trilogy in the best way possible and thus has erased the stigma of the 2003 film away from one of Marvel’s coolest characters.

Two men, both alike in ambition, In not so fair Hell’s kitchen where we lay our scene (Okay enough with the Shakespeare). This dirty dark and corrupt corner of New York is still crippled by the devastation of the New York Alien invasion of 2012’s Avengers and is home to both hero and villain alike. We arrive on the scene shortly after Matt Murdock has begun his night-time pursuits of vigilante justice ergo we don’t have that iconic red costume just yet (well not until the season finale that is) but a makeshift blindfold and t-shirt and trousers combo all in black, this allows the audience to follow Murdock on his evolution to becoming the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. Meanwhile in the criminal underworld whispers of an influential man who is not to be named (how very Voldemort) circle and pique our hero’s interest and set events in motion. The nameless man is soon revealed as Wilson Fisk aka The Kingpin, and what is so fascinating about these two characters is that they both believe that they are just trying to make their city a better place. Fisk like Murdock also evolves as the season goes on, as at the beginning he was a mewling childlike figure lashing out in rage fuelled tantrums and hiding in the shadows to becoming a ruthless villain with a commanding physical presence by the end.

Murdock’s past is dotted throughout the episodes feeding us information about the accident that blinded him and gave him his heightened senses, his training with the mysterious Stick and his relationship with his father a boxer and mob fixer. These events are so integral to the development of Matt becoming Daredevil it was important that they were presented well, and that they were. Matt’s father a boxer known as Battling Jack Murdock was often unsuccessful and beaten up in consecutive matches, but due to his spirit and desire to make his son proud he would always fight on, this was something that was continually detailed from father to son and more than likely influenced the hero’s resilience that is demonstrated time and time again through the series.

The realism of Daredevil broke the boundaries of Marvel’s usual campy Television formula (think Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D and Agent Carter) thanks to its higher rating thus we were given a little more blood and guts that could not be shown on broadcast television. A great moment that stressed the focus on realism was perhaps the best fight scene in recent television history at the end of episode two ‘Cut Man’. The long single shot that sweeps through brilliantly choreographed action also demonstrates that the hero is not immune to fatigue and injury as he is constantly beaten down by his opponents (like father like son) and with the shot focusing on just the hallway what occurs off screen is just as powerful via great sound editing thus it demonstrates the prowess of the title character. Moments like that coupled with aspects of the crime genre ground the show and add to the storyline to make a compelling narrative full of twists and complications for the hero.

Another great plotline was the Painting that Fisk purchases from his soon to be lover’s art gallery in ‘Rabbit in A Snowstorm’. He’s announcement that he likes it because ‘It makes me feel alone’ is hauntingly eerie especially coming from such a menacing man. A little way down the lie we go back into Fisk’s past that is filled with abuse from his politically ambitious father and we see him staring at a wall very much like the painting, it is then enforced that this image is soothing to him in a weird twisted way especially considering how he was forced as a young boy to mediate upon the wall while his father beat on his mother. Interestingly he also finds an incarnation of this image in his prison cell in the season finale perhaps to again help alleviate his pain of being separated from Vanessa, the woman he has grown to love and adore over the course of the season. Allowing the viewers to see this aspect of Fisk humanises him slightly and thus blurs the constantly confusing line between good and bad, a line that Murdock himself constantly crosses as he becomes more and more embroiled in his mission to bring Fisk down.

Other aspects of the show I thought was great were the relationship between Murdock, Foggy and Karen (but specifically the two ‘Avocados at law’), the small blink and you’ll miss it hint at Elektra in a flashback of the two aspiring lawyers at university (nice one marvel) and how their relationship is realistically tested when Murdock’s alter ego is revealed, the badassery of madam Gao, the practically perfect performances of Charlie Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio as Matt Murdock/Daredevil and Wilson Fisk respectively, Karen Page’s shedding of the damsel in distress stereotype and that marvellous title sequence that sets the tone of the show brilliantly. I could go on but all I can say now is bring on season 2.

The Weight of This Combination – Orphan Black Review

————————————–Contains Spoilers————————————–

Each season the world of Orphan Black expands tenfold but Season 3 looks to be the biggest yet with the introduction of the Castor Clones, Delphine’s rise to the top of the DYAD Institute and the decoding of Ethan Duncan’s notes in The Island of Dr Moreau.

The season 3 Premiere started with a cool surrealist dream from Helena of her baby shower and featured a plethora of food (no surprise there), her three happy healthy and free clone sisters and Felix on BBQ duty. This fantasy is all too soon teared down by the (sort of surrealistic) reality that faces Helena, A small cramped wooden box shared with a menacing scorpion. This scene in my opinion worked so well because Helena’s very kitsch escapism is so on point with her characters warped childlike persona due to her reclusive upbringing in a convent and it’s a departure from the usual structure of the show thus exaggerating the fact that Orphan Black is evolving and becoming much more than just a genre piece.

We were also treated to some awesome clone imitation scene’s in this episode with Sarah becoming Rachel and Allison bringing her theatre experience in to play Sarah again all to trick the mysterious and creepy cleaner Ferdinand (played by James Frain, who always seems to make the best villains) into think DYAD is running smoothly. These scenes again demonstrate how talented an actress Maslany truly is as she manages to convincingly portray different characters masquerading as each other without them becoming carbon copies of one another. That and the fact that Sarah is a well versed con-woman who possesses a natural ability to go with the flow of a situation makes for compelling and nail biting tension filled storytelling.

Everybody’s favourite geek scientist Cosima seems to be on the mend physically this episode although not so much emotionally. Delphine and Cosima’s relationship came to an end in a poignant hallway confrontation and Scott decided that perhaps working on the super-secret stuff isn’t really working for him anymore. However it’s possible that Cosima can entice him back in after revealing Ethan Duncan’s possible key to the all-important genetic code. Moreover, Cosima is also having a rough time adjusting after her dance with death last season, and being quite a hippy dippy character one can expect Cosima to be interested in exploring the spiritual side of her near death experience, which should be quite an interesting concept as to see how science and spirituality will intermingle this season.

Another really great moment in the premiere was Delphine’s exploration of her malicious side with that cringe worthy power play eye crushing she subjected the bed ridden Rachel to. What made this moment so good to see is that Rachel is finally getting her just desserts after her manipulation and puppeteering of Sarah and Kira last season. Also due to the Sarah’s interaction with Ferdinand it was revealed that Rachel was planning something much more diabolical, she and her twisted sex partner had conspired together to kill all the Leda clones but herself, in something apparently similar to a situation that had previously occurred in Helsinki. This whole Helsinki thing hints at the fact that Leda and Castor may not be the only clone projects in the orphan Black universe (interesting).

Project Castor was unleashed on us quite substantially in this episode which I have mixed feelings about currently but I am sure all will be revealed throughout the season to explain their sudden presence and what exactly that will mean for the Leda Clones. Overall I was thoroughly entertained and glad to see Orphan Black back but perhaps slightly apprehensive about the male clones and the possibility of things getting a little too crowded, however it is plausible that the Castor boys are probably just here to demonstrate the vastness of the cloning experiment and to add another strand to the wider conspiracy than to take the spotlight off of the sisters.

The Wars to Come – Game of Thrones Review

Everybody’s favourite bloody sexy fantasy medieval show Game of Thrones returned to our screens earlier this week (hallelujah) and although the episode was slightly slower than some it feels like ‘The Wars to Come’ (says it all in the title really) is the calm before the storm that will surely tear up Westeros and Essos this season.

To set the season off we got a flashback from Cersei and the twisted prophecy she was warned of as a young girl. It added a nice little ambiguity to her character and possibly gives the schemer a small slice of redemption pie as can she be fully blamed for her actions as she is perhaps just a victim of fate (that and bad parenting)? Hmm interesting but I think we’ll have to wait and see where HBO goes with this.

We also said goodbye to two characters this episode. Firstly the diabolical Tywin Lannister (complete with those groovy Painted pebble eyes) laying in the sept, this signifies that practically no time has passed since Tyrion killed him last season which is great as we can then see the unfolding consequences of the most powerful man in Westeros’ death and what that means for the future of the seven Kingdoms. The second farewell takes us up to the wall with Crows, Wildlings and Stannis’ men mingling together. After refusing to kneel to Stannis the stubborn King beyond the wall Mance Rayder played brilliantly by Ciaran Hinds meets a fiery end (although not completely as the merciful Jon Snow ended his suffering with an arrow) this leaves the North in a sort of Limbo, Will the wildlings march south with Stannis for coin and a promise of citizenship or will they continue on their own under the patronage of Rayder’s logical successor Tormund Giantsbane?

In the capitol at Tywin’s wake we are also re-introduced to Lancel Lannister who seemingly disappeared for a long while (3 seasons was it?) and thus has returned a very changed man and part of the Sparrows, A highly religious collective. A shaven head and ragged robbed Lancel asks Cersei for a pardon in his in incestuous behaviour and for the part he played in the late King Robert Baratheon’s death. Having Lancel back adds a little tension to the plot (as if we need more!) as he clearly has some volatile information against Cersei that he could quite easily use against her. But again we’ll just have to wait and see quite how the Sparrows will factor in this season.

Across the narrow sea Daenerys who seemed from quite early on in the show to be the most likely to finally prevail in the claiming of the iron throne appears to be having a series of setbacks. Her hold over Meereen looks to be slipping with the rise of the Sons of the Harpy a resistance to the new Targaryen rule which begs the question is she ready to rule across the sea anytime soon? Also we saw The Mother of Dragon’s actually flee from her imprisoned dragons in utter fear despite the fact that we know she can’t be harmed by fire. I loved this scene as it shows just how precarious Daenerys situation is because if she can’t use her best weapon (fire and destruction, anyone remember what Harrenhal looked like?) does she really have a chance of conquering the seven kingdoms?

Tyrion is finally across the sea with Varys and I am really quite excited to see what this season will bring for these two as I have loved they’re verbal sparring since Season 1. Also I loved the shot through the little hole of Tyrion’s cargo box as it was a clever use of cinematography to put us in his shoes for a brief moment. And I must say the exchange about finding the right ruler for the seven kingdoms was great with Tyrion’s dismissive “Good luck finding him” Varys responded brilliantly with “Who said anything about him?” which led to a nice plot exposition. Now cast your mind back to season one where Arya is chasing Cats among the dragon skulls and we see Varys and Illyrio Mopatis skulking around in the shadows that moment coupled with Vary’s explanation to Tyrion about his part in their grand plan to restore the Targaryen’s to the throne shows just how much Vary’s has invested in the future of Westeros. Moreover the fact that Tyrion and Daenerys will appear together in the coming weeks is really exciting as these two are my favourite characters in the series plus if they unite they could possibly be unstoppable and Tyrion’s intelligence could be The Mother of Dragons only other plausible way into The Seven kingdoms if she can’t tame her dragons.

Anyone notice a recurring theme? Questions lots of questions, and that’s exactly why this episode worked so well, nothing is set in stone. Which is something that has been proven true time and time again throughout the past four season’s especially for those like me who have not read the books just yet (it’s on my to do list); which is part of the appeal of the show, as no one is truly exempt from dying at any given point. I remember sitting open mouthed last season with the fight between the Mountain and the Viper. Oberyn’s death was truly a shock (silly me) as I thought the Dornish Prince who was fast becoming a favourite character of mine would perhaps get a shot at revenge, just perhaps. But then he was killed, just like so many before him. So what can we learn from this? Someone unexpected will most definitely die this season. Place your bets.