Tag Archives: HBO

Game of Thrones Power Rankings, Season 7, Episode 5

Only two episodes to go!  In most seasons, the penultimate episode has been a barnburner, so I’m pretty pumped for next week.  Although I have fantasy football drafts scheduled for an hour before the next two episodes. I’m probably going to autodraft if they take more than an hour.  But I digress.  You aren’t here to listen to my fantasy football related dilemma, you’re here for power rankings:

1. House Targaryen (Last Week, #1)

No question about it – Daenerys has won the war against Cersei before it even started.  I don’t fault her for executing the Tarleys either, since she gave Randyll a clear choice and then Dickon practically volunteered to be executed.  Randyll betrayed his prior liege-lord based on little more than xenophobia after all, and Daenerys still gave him a chance to live.  It seems he forgot that he served Daenerys’ father during Robert’s Rebellion.

2. House Stark (Last Week, #3)

While the episode focused in on Jon leading a ragtag group worthy of an old western or Kurosawa movie, we also learned that he is the true king of Westeros, his father having married his mother and all.  I’m a little concerned about Littlefinger’s treachery, but the show can only delay the Stark women for so long on a subplot with such an obvious solution.  Heads, spikes, walls.

3. The White Walkers (Last Week, #4)

Ice zombies?  These silly northmen.  They’re just like some dead idiot that only we know or care about here in our ivory tower.

4. The Night’s Watch (Last Week, #6)

I would get out of there too Sam.  I’m not thrilled with Sam’s whining, especially when his life-partner is revealing very important information to him, but it kind of fits his character.

5. House Baratheon (Last Week, NR)

Yay! Gendry’s back!  Yes I know that’s Stannis’ sigil but I’m not making another one.  After all, Gendry could become a wight next week.

6. House Lannister (Last Week, #8)

A little realpolitik goes a long way this week for House Lannister.  Outgunned and outmanned, and maybe having a future after all, Cersei is starting to think of a better strategy than going right into the dragon’s mouth.

7. House Greyjoy (Last Week, #5)

The utility of the crazy pirate storyline is fast coming to an end.  Next time we see Euron he might be getting his head chopped off.

8. The Brotherhood without Banners (Last Week, NR)

Out of Jon’s team of merry men, Thoros and Beric seem to be the obvious candidates for casualties.  Beric is dead already and Thoros really doesn’t add all that much to the story.  If the Hound bites it we’re denied Clegane-bowl, but I wouldn’t put that past the show’s writers either.

Also receiving votes: House Arryn, the Dothraki, the Wildlings, Ser Pounce, dragon-love, lion-love, fermented crab-love, and warhammers.

(c) 2017 D.G. McCabe

 

 

 

 

Game of Thrones Power Rankings, Season 7, Episode 4

In an effort to avoid spoilers in the first paragraph, I’d just like to point out that due to alliances and defeats, we’re really down to only down to about 11 or 12 rankable groups at the moment.  Here’s a new rule: if one of the subgroups (groups allied with someone else) does something important, they can make the rankings.  This opens up a return to the rankings for the Dothraki, Wildlings, and a few other random ones.  That will make things more interesting than ranking groups that haven’t done anything in a couple of weeks, every week. Anyway that’s enough preamble – power rankings time!

1. House Targaryen (Last Week, #7)

The destruction!  The carnage! Fire and Blood indeed!  I want to point out too, that the Targaryen plan no longer relies on naval superiority.  This kind of diminishes the threat posed by Euron Greyjoy’s fleet.2. The Dothraki (Last Week, NR)

Sure they are squarely in Daenerys’ camp, since they believe she’s a goddess and all.  But to leave them off the rankings this week would be a disservice to the effectiveness of their rampage.

3. House Stark (Last Week, #2)

In any other week, the Starks would be #1.  They didn’t burn any armies to the ground this week, but they’re in a great position.  Their leadership now consists of a king, a political savant, an assassin, and a wizard.  And Jon is getting close to getting the Mother of Dragons to understand that the real threat isn’t Cersei…

4. The White Walkers (Last Week, #3)

…it’s these guys.

5. House Greyjoy (Last Week, #4)

Euron could still  cause problems along the edges.  However, since Daenerys no longer needs naval superiority for her invasion, there’s only so much he can do against her.

6. The Night’s Watch (Last Week, #5)

Sam stays on the countdown, if only because he didn’t have to get pushed around by Slughorn, I mean the Archmaester, this week.

7.  House Arryn (Last Week, #6)

Littlefinger’s days look numbered.  His sole purpose right now appears to be keeping the Vale in the fold, but how much sway does he really have over Robin Arryn while he’s in Winterfell?

8. House Lannister (Last Week, #1)

Did anyone really think a big crossbow was going to take down a huge dragon?  The Lannisters have no army and control of one city, which is now under siege with no food.  Does the Iron Bank rescue them, or cut their losses now that they’ve gotten their gold?  If I were them, I’d choose the latter.

Also Receiving Votes: The Wildlings, The Brotherhood without Banners, Ser Pounce, House Reed (so long Meera!), cave paintings, the many lives of Theon Greyjoy (who should be dead about 5 times by now), and crossbows (which can only do so much).

(c) 2017 D.G. McCabe

 

 

Game of Thrones Power Rankings, Season 7, Episode 3

For better or worse, much of the plot of the first three episodes could have lasted seven. That's what happens when you have a show with such rich source material. For television purposes, however, things need to be moved forward, and rich backstory sometimes needs to be replaced with moving the plot along faster.  Anyway, here are this week's Power Rankings:

1. House Lannister (Last Week #3)

It's surprising that the queen racking up early victories is Cersei and not Daenerys. Raiding the Tyrell treasury may have been her most important victory, since it gets the Iron Bank off of her back. Going forward, it may not be so easy. Ambitious Tyrell bannermen won't like the Tarleys being put in charge, and Dorne still wants revenge. Their army is spread thin too, between years of war and no reliable allies in the Riverlands.

2. House Stark (Last Week, #1)

Jon is lucky that Davos is a great hype-man. He's not doing a bad job right now, but he really needs to stop being so modest. This woman was impressed by Daario after all, not the meek Ser Jorah. Meanwhile, at Winterfell, it was great to see a reunion, but Bran's been out in the woods too long. How about picking something a bit more mundane to demonstrate your power rather than the worst day of your sister's life?

3. The White Walkers (Last Week, #2)

Yep, keep demanding fealty, Daenerys. Never mind the hideous monsters lurking offstage, let's keep on keeping on about that Iron Throne quest.

4. House Greyjoy/Crow's Eye (Last Week, #4)

Naval superiority is important. Tyrion thought he had it, but so much for that. As for Euron himself, I'm actually enjoying his over the top mustache-twirling villain schtick. Euron is a monster in the books, but, like a bunch of other Ironborn characters, he's introduced too late to have much of an emotional impact.  The show is making him a just fun bad guy rather than getting too deep into his character, which is working pretty well so far.

5. The Knight's Watch (Last Week, #7)

Well, Sam, you could have killed us all, but we're super impressed with your doctoring skills. Here is a "punishment," where you have read and copy dozens of old scrolls. As if that's not one of your favorite activities.

6. House Arryn (Last Week, #8)

Everyone seems to be ignoring the only house with a huge army untouched by battle. Plus, Sansa hasn't had Littlefinger impaled yet.

7. House Targaryen (Last Week, #5)

Holy crap. In Tyrion's defense, his initial plan was sound because he thought he had naval superiority. It's the British model of conquest, after all. Base your operation out of a secure island and with a powerful navy you can strike where you want, when you want. If they went after a land foothold first they could have gotten boxed in really fast. Now they're boxed in anyway.

8. House Tyrell/House Martell (Last Week, Not Ranked)

The Tyrells and Dornish had run their course and neither was that strong of a ally for Daenerys when you come right down to it.

Leave it to Olenna to twist the knife on her way out.  Still, Westeros being Westeros it was always going to be hard for the Queen of Thorns to maintain control with dozens of ambitious lords like Randyll Tarley waiting in the wings.

As for the Dornish, the characters were introduced far too late in the series and far too clumsily for them to have the same impact they had in the books (which, by the way, was also harmed by their late introduction). The show cut the best Martell character completely, and severely watered down the second best one.  I'd be surprised if we hear from them again on the show.

Also receiving votes: The Brotherhood without Banners, Ser Pounce, epic voiceovers, gazing longingly across the hills of budget Ireland (filmed in Spain), and putting some aloe on it.

(c) 2017 D.G. McCabe

Game of Thrones Power Rankings, Season 7, Episode 2

The fast paced action that was promised has begun! Euron the crazy pirate appears to be a worthy adversary for the time being. Now, Power Rankings:


1. House Stark (Last Week, #3)

Who makes it to Winterfell first, Arya or Bran? Meanwhile, Sansa gets what she wants, and Jon pays a visit to his Aunt. Throw in a couple of impromptu reunions, and it was a strong week for the North.


2. The White Walkers (Last Week, #2)

The Night King hasn't made his move yet, so I can't move him up. He still has dead giants, so I can't move him down either.


3. House Lannister (Last Week, #4)

It didn't take long, and Cersei has righted the ship. Euron is a powerful ally, Tarley is at least thinking about Jaime's offer, and they have a rudimentary air defense. A few valuable hostages helps too.


4. House Greyjoy (Last Week, #6)

It's good to be the king, even if you're the king of bird poop covered rocks. Props to finally getting rid of some of the show's poorer adaptations too.


5. House Targaryen (Last Week, #1)

Daenerys has lost the element of surprise, a good number of ships, and possibly Dorne. Plus I'm convinced she won't believe Jon when he tells her about the Night King. This invasion will be harder than she thinks.


6. The Brotherhood (Last Week, #5)

In the Game of Thrones Power Rankings, you appear in the episode or you drop.


7. The Night's Watch (Last Week, #8)

I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the wall. I am the scalpel that cuts the gross infection off your body.


8. House Arryn (Last Week, #7)

This was a bad week for the assorted allies. Not awful for the Vale though, since Sansa appears to be more popular with them than Jon. They stay on the rankings for now.

Also receiving votes: House Martell, House Tyrell, Hot Pie, Nymeria, Ser Pounce, icky scene transitions, and the unintentional humor of Theon peacing out.

(c) 2017 D.G. McCabe

Game of Thrones Power Rankings, Season 7, Episode 1

And we’re back!  After over a year we finally have some new Game of Thrones to discuss. Let’s jump right into the power rankings:


1. House Targaryen

The Mother of Dragons has made it all the way to Dragonstone. For now she has a massive coalition ready to burn cities to the ground. This would be great if only there weren’t a zombie horde waiting to pounce up north.


2. The White Walkers

They’re still coming. With zombie giants. At least Jon has the North convinced that they’re real. 


3. House Stark

I think Sansa underestimated the effectiveness of good cop/bad cop. Does she really think those kids will cross Jon when his sister/cousin has made it clear she’d rather sell of their homes and exile/hang them?  It’s clear people get second chances with Jon. No one gets a third with Sansa around. Meanwhile, Bran and Arya are still out there. Arya has a mission and skills granted, but she’s heading in the wrong direction.


4. House Lannister

Jaime is right, they don’t look like the winning side. Where does he go when his sister ultimately fails?


5. Brotherhood Without Banners

How long has the Hound had the ability to see into the flames? He’s been scared of fire all his life so we may never know.


6. House Greyjoy

You may have as many ships as Daenerys, Crow’s Eye, but she has three dragons and last I checked your ships are made of wood.


7. Houses Arryn, Tyrell, & Martell

Hitching your wagon to a bigger horse is a good strategy, but for these houses it’s an imperfect solution. What happens when Littlefinger turns on Jon or the Sand flakes turn on Tyrion?  House Tyrell is a better bet to stay in its coalition, but they’re vulnerable to Crow’s Eye hitting them from the west.


8. The Night’s Watch

Bowls for poop, bowls for soup, either way we don’t have time for Sam’s training montage and neither does he. The faster he gets out of the Citadel the better.

Also receiving votes: Essos, Ser Jorah, Ser Pounce, big maps on floors and tables, snappier banter, poisoned wine, the obsidian throne, and maybe our last “table setting” episode.

(C) 2017 D.G. McCabe 

Big Little Lies (Review)

With certain exceptions involving dragons and killer robots, HBO has had a lot better luck with miniseries lately that full drama series.  Big Little Lies demonstrates why.  Sure, the limited run allows busy, A-List Hollywood talent to fit it into their schedules, but more importantly, it allows for story that tells what it needs to tell, no more, no less.

I have to admit, around the third episode I was almost ready to give up on Big Little Lies.  The first couple of episodes moved at a glacial pace.  For a show that promised murder and mayhem, the travails of the rich and richer were getting on my nerves.

Fortunately, the series rewarded patience.  Understanding the details of the relationship dynamics between the central characters was crucial to enjoying the last three, phenomenal episodes.  The series had already laid its groundwork in building up its characters in the first half, so it could focus on the plot/endgame during the second.

I, for one, am hoping that HBO does more series like this.  Not everything needs to be a multi-season epic like The Sopranos after all.

(c) 2017 D.G. McCabe

2016 Year in Review

“When she [Philosophy] saw that the Muses of poetry were present by my couch giving words to my lamenting, she was stirred a while; her eyes flashed fiercely, and said she, “Who has suffered these seducing mummers to approach this sick man? Never do they support those in sorrow by any healing remedies, but rather do ever foster the sorrow by poisonous sweets. These are they who stifle the fruit-bearing harvest of reason with the barren briars of the passions: they free not the minds of men from disease, but accustom them thereto.””

– Boethius

What of 2016?  As the Roman philosopher Boethius wrote of his consolation by Lady Philosophy, we have a choice.  We can indulge in our lamentations, or we can, through our reason, find a way forward.  Perhaps we can let Lady Philosophy take it from here to guide us in this way.

I thought of many muses to guide me through this past year, when a woman came to me in classical robes.  She was at once as tall as a giant, yet comforting and approachable.  Then she began to speak.

“I see you, reading the various years in review of 2016 to draw inspiration for this annual post,” she began, “I see nothing but hot takes and articles dripping with lament or sarcasm.   Let me assure you, this 2016 had its positive aspects.”

2016 Was a Good Year to Be…

1) Animators

Lady Philosophy continued, “Behold my friend, for the medium of animation, that artform long taken for granted, had a very strong 2016.  Six of the twenty top grossing movies of the year were animated.  With each passing decade, animation continues to bring inspiration and joy without the limitations of live action film. 2016 was in many ways a landmark year in this regard.”

2) HBO

“I should also point out to you that a great year need not mean a consistently great one wire to wire.  If something is felled low by the failure of an ill-conceived vanity project about classic rock in the spring, it can rise again through the premiere for two excellent shows in the fall.  Westworld has broken HBO’s losing streak when it comes to new dramas, and Insecure has continued its success in popular comedies”

3) Broadway

“If it is further inspiration you seek, behold the resurgence of the Great White Way as a force in American popular culture.  Hamilton was the most popular musical in decades, and live broadcasts of musicals on network television are exceptionally popular.  Indeed, one of this year’s top Oscar contenders, “La-La Land,” is a Hollywood musical of the old style.”

2016 Was a Bad Year to Be

1) A Franchise from the 1980’s or 1990’s

Lady Philosophy continued.  “While there were failures in 2016, I would counsel to learn from them rather than merely list them in a vain and sarcastic manner.  Box Office disappointments from the Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, Independence Day, and Zoolander sequels should not be seen as affecting those fine memories of past success, but rather stand as stark reminders that not everything deserves a reboot or a sequel.”

2) “A List” Hollywood Marriages

“I also prescribe an end to your consideration of the troubled Depp/Heard and Pitt/Jolie marriages.  As troubling as the allegations associated with these divorces are, it is important to remember that you don’t know these people.  You will never meet them.  Their relationships have no impact on your life whatsoever.”

3) Internet and Social Media

“At last, I see that you are troubled by what you read on the internet and on social media platforms.  It might feel as though you cannot escape the constant stream of opinion and information.  You might feel that this has damaged your interactions with your fellows beyond repair, or trapped you in a vicious cycle of anger and mistrust.  Let me assure you that the old ways are still alive.  You can read a book and discuss it with a friend.  You can watch a movie with your significant other and discuss it over snacks afterwards.  You might feel the need to broadcast your feelings to the masses, but I would counsel you to remember that your friends and family are much more receptive to your ideas than the faceless void of the internet will ever be.”

Best Movies

Lady Philosophy cautioned me against creating a list of best movies this year.  She said to me, “Indeed you have not seen enough movies to truly make an honest “best of” list.  But keep in mind that such lists are flawed.  They lack the distance truly needed to examine and appreciate film as an artform.  As much as you enjoyed “Captain America: Civil War,” can you say it is the best blockbuster of the year when you haven’t seen the new Star Wars movie yet?  As for artistic films, look at past years.  Does anyone really believe, with the proper distance, that “Crash,” “The English Patient,” or “The Greatest Show on Earth”  were worthy of Best Picture Oscars?  I would advise against indulging in such listicles.”

Dispatches from the Great Ale House in the Sky

This year, Lady Philosophy especially wanted to talk about the Great Ale House in the Sky.  She said, “I will prescribe the strongest medicine of all to help you acknowledge the many fine artists that left you this past year.  It is medicine that you, yourself, have often shared.

“Remember, it is the story that matters, not how long it lasts or how it ends.  Artists and inventors have the greatest stories of all, for their influence stays with us the longest and carries us all forward.  If it is useful for you to imagine these great artists together, I will partially indulge in this fantasy, but I will do so in a way that will help you, rather than a way that extends your sorrow.

“Perhaps this Ale House is in the form of a great music festival, where Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, George Michael and others come together.  You could find great joy in that fantasy.  But you need not – for the music is still there.

“Or maybe, you imagine that Carrie Fisher, Alan Rickman, Florence Henderson, Abe Vigoda, Gene Wilder, Kenny Baker and others are still in talks for various roles.  These people may have never met in life, but it is fun to think about them doing so in your Great Ale House in the Sky.  I would advise an alternative – put on their films and television shows.  You can even do so with the fights of Muhammad Ali – which are readily available on the internet.”

And with that, Lady Philosophy left me in a better place.  The place that honors rather than mourns.  The place that learns from the mistakes of others.  The place that sees and emphasizes the positive.  There is great strength and great joy here.

(c) 2016 D.G. McCabe