Game of Thrones – Season 2 – Review

The beginning of season two takes a few minutes for you to settle in. We are expected to just understand who the new faces in Westeros are. The displaced Robert Baratheon sees his true heir Stannis bang heads with brother Renly. It takes a while to accept Stannis as a main player due to the absence of screen time in season one but he meddles enough to grab your attention.

He’s aligned with the Red Lady aka Melisandre. The actress that plays her Carice van Houten replaces Denise van Outen as my favourite sexy woman with a Dutch sounding name. It’s amazing what dropping an H and spicing up a first name can do. In the show, what she can do is also magical but it’s dark. The sort that gay brother Renly falls foul of.

With Stannis on the march, he is a clear threat to the Lannisters’ hold on the throne. They are too busy playing games with themselves at King’s Landing. Cersei is trying her best to ignore Joffrey’s cruelty and control the Imp, Tyrion. His Achilles Heel is former prostitute Shae. He’s given some rest bite when Cersei targets the wrong hooker but the tension on this subject threatens to be there for some time.

As added protection, Tyrion as the King’s Hand promotes Bronn (lesser known member of Robson and Jerome) to commander of the watch, or in plain English: nails bodyguard that kills for cash. He’s a likable figure in a city of misfits. IE, The Hound prevents Sansa from getting raped and killed but comes across as a guy you wouldn’t wanna share a meal with.

The Lannisters’ main threat comes in the form of Robb Stark – King of the North. He is winning battles and moving toward King’s Landing, looking to avenge the death of his father. On the way, he breaks the promise to marry a daughter of Walder when his head is turned by Talisa Maegyr, the Florence Nightingale of Westeros.

His problems mount when Catelyn Stark releases The King Slayer Jaime Lannister (with Brienne The Warrior Woman as an escort) in exchange for her daughters. They are in a bad way. Sansa prays Joffery’s eye will turn elsewhere (it kinda does but she’s still a toy) and Arya is now independent and surviving on her wits alone. Her son, Bran, is doing the same.

Starks with power but divided in more ways than one.

Jon Snow, the bastard Stark, finds himself on a covert Night’s Watch mission. It goes wrong (had to, didn’t it) and he ends up siding (for real or not?) with the Wildlings. There, his former red-headed female prisoner happily informs him he knows nothing. And so begins a love affair, of sorts.

While Robb is advancing well on the Lannisters, he should have kept one eye on home. Exiled Theon Greyjoy returns to capture Winterfell. He was only trying to impress his biological father, whom was none too impressed.

Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen continues her journey with growing dragons and actual numbers on the ground. She spends the season in Qarth. I won’t ruin surprises but needless to say, not everyone has the best of intentions for the Mother of Dragons. Hers is one of the most engaging plots and we begin to see her ruthless side and her true power.

The season highlight is episode nine’s Blackwater (10/10). It contains the battle of the same name. The finale Valar Morghulis (9/10) sees Arya make an ally that could prove beneficial and she can thank for her freedom, and a final shot that makes you want more.

The addiction has taken hold…

8/10

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Game of Thrones – Season 1 – Review

If you’ve never heard of HBO’s Game of Thrones, welcome back from the coma you’ve been in – the world’s missed you. Before the next season hits our screens in June 2017, Simms View will recap each chapter so far. First up we have the world setting, Sean Bean led, first season. In hindsight, is it worthy of its critical acclaim?

“Don’t believe the hype,” a great song, and a great way to approach fan-favourite telly. Game of Thrones is at a great disadvantage here. It’s been hyped to the heavens (and its seven Gods, the old and the new) and attempts to make an expansive fantasy series manageable for the small screen.

It begins with the world of Westeros in disarray. The King’s Hand –  kinda like his advisor and Executive Officer –  has been killed.

This happens to be Ned Stark’s (played by Sean Bean) so as head of the Stark family, he goes to investigate. Once there, King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) makes him the replacement Hand of the King. These old pals are unable to see out a peaceful collaboration because Robert’s wife is a Lannister and they have their own ideas for domination. These don’t include the most powerful family from the North – The Starks – being anywhere near the throne

Ned’s younger son sees how Robert’s kids are made when he catches Cersei Lannister being rodgered by her brother Jaime. He pushes the boy from his high viewpoint, leaving him out of action. Jaime is already seen as a villainous character, his moniker is: “King Slayer”, because he stabbed the last man on the throne in the back, paving the way for a change in family at the helm.

More acts of betrayal follow as the Lannisters don’t want Baratheon to realise his kids are really his brother in law’s children, made with his own wife.

The focus of the main throne in Westeros is only one claim. Further afield in Esso, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), daughter of the murdered true king, is being used as a possession by her abusive brother to unite with the Dothraki tribe.

She’s from line of people that used dragons but they’re extinct . . . except for three eggs she receives as a wedding gift. Imagine if she had the ability to give them life…

The most popular character has to be Peter Dinklage’s Imp, or to use his proper name: Tyrion Lannister. A “half-man” that is a blight on the Lannister family name. Better known for whoring and drinking, two acts he does very well. But his lack of height and apparent carefree personality act as good cover for his higher intelligence.

Speaking of shamed family members, we have Jon Snow, bastard of Ned Stark. Having been raised by the Starks he joins the Night’s Watch. They are impartial protectors at the Northern Wall. What they’re protecting the lands from isn’t instantly clear in season one.

Neither are a lot of other key aspects. And some characters that you will loath here (Sansa Stark) develop in later years. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s hard to see how season one got such a free pass. To delve any deeper would give away too many reveals, so a pause for now.

If you find it slow going, stick with it. Things get much better in season two and are far less predictable.

6/10

 

The Leftovers – Season 2 – Episode 10

So an extended episode attempts to wrap up what has been an enthralling season. Even with the extra minutes, nobody expects all the answers. But things look bleak for Jarden as a whole and in particular Kevin Garvey, whose handprint on the girls’ car has now been identified. Oh yeah, and he’s been a little bit dead for an episode.

In a move that is either deus ex machina or a necessary plot device (I’ll let you decide), Kevin suddenly remembers the missing girls faked their disappearance. How that sits with you could change the perception of an entire season.

Knowing this doesn’t stop John Murphy shooting him and leaving Kev for dead . . . again.

So we head back to that strange hotel (afterlife or not?) where he once again finds a way to escape back to reality.

Once back on familiar ground the Guilty Remnants have enacted their plan. The illusion of a Miracle Town has given way to all-out anarchy. Peace has been destroyed and this time the cult has a strong foothold over a town.

Kevin and John makes friends, as you do after a friendly shooting, and pull together.

The ending is emotional and it’s easy to feel that Kevin has been on a journey. It all just feels a little contrived.

7/10

The Leftovers – Season 2 – Episode 9

After taking a leap of faith and entering an unknown realm, episode 9 brings the viewer crashing back to reality. In doing so the real antagonists of the show resume their reign of terror. It means the full return of the Guilty Remnants.

We get a final bit of backstory about how Liv Tyler’s character, Meg, became disillusioned and then self-radicalised. This goes in unison with catching up with Tom Garvey. From the backstory we learn Meg has already been to Jarden with her husband, and with a desperate Tom in tow, she intends to return.

Finally, we get to see the plot the cult have been working to all along. They have become much harsher under Meg’s rule. At one point she orders a public stoning. The parallels to terrorism are deliberate and used to great effect.

After all the fantastical elements of Kevin’s journey, this is the harsh reality that awaits the characters.

The Guilty Remnants arrive in Jarden to end any sense of Eden and inflict their idea of hell. With it they bring answers about the missing girls.

8/10

The Leftovers – Season 2 – Episode 8

So Kevin took the magic potion and fell down the rabbit hole. Watching Michael Murphy drag him away at the end of episode 7 looked like the ultimate betrayal. Virgil had then taken the “easy way out” and blew his own head off.

But wait…maybe he did it to ensure he was there on the other side to assist Kevin. We find him in a purgatory of sorts. Fans of Lost cringe. I never had a problem with that particular show and understood what happened on the island (many still don’t). Despite what naysayers spout, Lost was pretty simple and clearly laid out by the end.

The same can’t be said by this turn of events in The Leftovers. The eagle-eyed viewer will have been picking up on clues. Like the guy reported in Australia that can’t be killed. Where’s Kevin’s dad again? Oh, and he pops up in this episode through some mystic TV channelling.

Kevin dons a hitman outfit and plays this persona to assassinate a version of Patti that is the leader of a large political Guilty Remnants movement. To do so will free him. Her bodyguard is the spiritual leader Wayne, from season one.

He’s told to avoid drinking the water in the purgatory hotel they occupy. This leads to questions of metaphor. Will he pass over forever with his acceptance of thirst? Is this a flash dream before death really occurs?

The answers are being drip-fed as the questions stack up.

The end of this episode is shocking and further demonstrates Justin Theroux’s acting ability.

Some may not like this turn used by the writers, I have zero complaints. It has made a great season become a classic.

9/10