Saturday, April 28, 2012

Game of Thrones: "Garden of Bones" Redux

And now, as promised, the Christopher edition!

Hello everyone, and my apologies for the lateness of this post … as Nikki said, I was in Arizona for ten days, which if you’ve never been, I highly recommend as a destination.

But I’m back, and my absence at least let Nik and I mix things up a bit. I’ve read her post and all the comments so far, so hopefully this will spur discussion further. So without further ado …

At this point I’m wondering when we’re going to see a tepid episode … they keep ratcheting everything up, it becomes hard to imagine how the next episode will top whatever we’ve just seen—and I say that knowing more or less what comes next—but each episode so far has improved on what preceded it. This one was no exception.

I quite liked the opening—the Lannister rank and file jawing around the fire, telling jokes, and, most importantly, engaging in the time-honored tradition of “who would win a fight with …?” It was a rare glimpse of the common soldier, and the conversation very deliberately echoed something falling between celebrity gossip and sports bar argument, with a bit of geeky hypotheticals thrown in. It made the class divisions palpable in a cleverly contemporary way—knights and lords and ladies are the elite athletes and the celebrities of this world. Had the conversation not been so rudely interrupted by a direwolf and an army, we might have expected to hear competing sexual fantasies about Cersei.

A scene from Rome (hey, Chris brought it up! I'm
just taking advantage of the opportunity
to put a pic of Atia here)
One thing worth pointing out is the handiness of British accents in delineating class: you saw this in Rome as well, with patricians like Caesar and Atia speaking in clipped, precise, educated aristocratic accents, while Titus Pullo came across as essentially a genial soccer hooligan. And in neither case does it tend to be jarring, as it would be if American accents were employed. Lower class accents in that case would be invariably regional, which isn’t to say that British accents aren’t … but thanks to popular film, we’re accustomed to a generic yob accent that falls somewhere between Cockney, Yorkshire, and Liverpool.

But that’s neither here nor there. The scene that followed gives us a glimpse of a fellow we’re going to see more of, though probably not in this season—Roose Bolton is the man urging Robb to torture his prisoners, though I cannot recall if he was named. The commanders walking the battlefield was a powerful sequence, and true to GRRM’s general tendency to not glorify combat. He makes it exciting, at times triumphant, but he never glosses its butcher’s bill. We were spared a more graphic depiction of battlefield surgery, but I suspect I wasn’t alone in cringing as we saw the “nurse” sawing away at the leg. Sometimes leaving things off camera is more effective.

This is why you WAIT for the ketchup to come out of the bottle,
and don't keep whacking the bottom of it
The nurse—whose name, I believe, is Talisa—is not a figure in the novels. As has been observed in the comments, it looks as though she’s going to be conflated with a character who appears later in the novels … and that’s all I’m going to say about that, as I’ve seen what happens to people who offer spoilers.

Speaking of brutal torture and death … ye gods. Nikki had it right when she said Jee … SUS. Much of what we see of Joffrey is in the book, at least in terms of his humiliation of Sansa, his threat of execution, and his by-proxy beating of her (as is Tyrion’s rescue—admirably word-for-word, and yet again Dinklage does a masterful job of bringing GRRM’s dialogue to life. Beautiful.) But the scene with the whores? It was mentioned in the comments that Tyrion had considered sending women to Joffrey in the hopes that a sexual release might temper his behaviour, but he never actually does it. Which according to the series was eminently wise, as yet again the show makes explicit what the books imply. Reading the novels, you know that any time someone gives Joffrey complete control over someone’s fate, he’s going to enact some imaginative cruelty. I couldn’t help thinking as I watched the scene (between slitted eyes) that if ever you wanted more proof that Joffrey isn’t Robert’s son, here it is. Robert Baratheon was a brute, a buffoon, and a fool, but he was never unnecessarily cruel.

Nikki said in her post that “this is an episode about torture,” and I emphatically agree … but it also raises the question of what lies behind the impulse to torture. Robb Stark refuses to even countenance the idea, and that’s one of the ways we know he’s a good guy, and indeed is his father’s son. But it’s the arrival of Tywin Lannister at Harrenhal that drives the point home. His men are reavers—in the novel, they’re the beasts that, Tywin curtly lectures Tyrion at one point, are necessary for the spread of terror. We get much more familiar with the individual Lannister pet monsters in the books, from Polliver (the one with Arya’s sword), the Tickler (the torturer), and the Mountain himself, but these brief sequences admirably communicate everything we need to know about them. For Joffrey, torture is sadistic pleasure; for these men, it is a means of terrorizing people and (very occasionally) gleaning information. Which is not to say they don’t seem to get pleasure from inflicting pain, but with the arrival of their liege lord, the fun comes to an end.

The scene with Tywin does a lovely job of showing us, in a few economical moments, what makes Tywin such a formidable foe. He is not unnecessarily cruel or sadistic, makes good use of his available resources, and sees very clearly what others are blind to. He’s an interesting figure in the novels for these very reasons, presented as stern and unforgiving, utterly ruthless when necessary, but not actually evil like his grandson. He does not however shrink from employing evil men to do his dirty work.

I had forgotten about Yoren’s story in the previous episode, which wasn’t in the books. I’m dense at times, and I never connected it with Arya’s revenge list until I heard her whispering the names. In the novels, she does it of her own accord, but it’s a nice little moment for Yoren—whose awesomeness on the show greater than in the novels—just before he goes to a pretty gallant death. And as predicted in the comments … yes, that list does get pretty damn long.

"I hear you and your husband have separate tents."
"I hear they call you Littlefinger."
I don’t really have much to say about the Renly/Catelyn/Littlefinger and Daenerys scenes that Nikki hasn’t already covered, other than to say Margaery Tyrell is proving to be a much more interesting character on the show than in the books (which is good, because it would have been a waste of Natalie Dormer’s talents otherwise). I’ll also just tip a wink and a nudge to the others who have read the novels—because this means that future Margaery will have even more opportunities to be awesome as the story continues.

Some questions from Nikki’s post:

“The Brotherhood”—we hear the Tickler questioning people about this mysterious group. I do not believe we’ve heard of them so far in the series, so I’ll say nothing about them now aside from this: there was a very brief scene in the first season, when Robert was out hunting Boar and Ned was sitting on the Iron Throne in his stead. On hearing that Lannister soldiers led by The Mountain were pillaging and killing, Ned charged a knight named Beric Dondarrion with bringing the King’s Justice to the marauders. Remember that name.

What are Robb’s plans?—that scene, and the questions posed to him by Talisa, were lovely, because it gets right to the heart of the motivation and justification for war, and the desire for power. Robb Stark does not want to sit on the Iron Throne, but cannot suffer his father’s murderer to do so. So what is he fighting for? If he follows his father’s will, he’ll put Stannis on the throne; if he’s pragmatic, he’ll join forces with Renly, but both have made clear they’ll not allow a divided Westeros. And yet the loyalty animating his men is for the “King in the North,” so bending the knee to whomever succeeds Joffrey is not an option. A bit of a sticky wicket for the poor boy (and yes, I know I didn’t answer your question there, heh).

“Will Catelyn ever see her girls again?”—no comment.

“Could Daenerys be the one who will take out the Lannisters?”—again, not saying anything. But it’s as good a spot as any to make a few observations about Harrenhal, which is presented as essentially a bunch of ruins. Harrenhal in the novels is the biggest castle in Westeros, built by Harren the Black and assaulted the same year it was finished by the Targaryen invasion. It’s not as much of a ruin in the novels—it’s still a viable castle and fortress—but it does show the scars of the Targaryens’ dragons. In the series, they make the destruction much worse.

I’ll end by just mentioning the closing scene of Melisandre’s monstrous birth. And quoting Nikki again. Jee … SUS. That was one of those moments that could have been done so badly, but they really pulled it off. And one of the benefits of this belated post is that now I only have twenty-four hours to wait for the next episode. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fringe: "Worlds Apart"

It was great having you on board, Seth, but now
it's time for ME to go back to being the
only hot guy on this show.

Look at me, I'm back and blogging on Fringe and it's the same night of the episode! (Yes, I cleaned out my garage and found my TARDIS! Whew...)

Over the past few days I've been madly catching up on all the Fringe that I'd fallen behind on, after the Great PVR Shutdown of 2012. Peter realized that the Olivia who was in love with him was, in fact, his Olivia (in a WONDERFUL episode with another tour de force performance from Anna Torv, where she realizes loving Peter hurt so much she begged for Walter to take the pain away); Alt-Nina has been put in prison; we saw a rehash of the porcupine-man on a plane from season 1; Alt-Broyles has been put in prison... and then there was last week's episode, where I rejoiced to discover that Desmond will still be alive and well and he'll just be called Simon in 2036 (and he'll look strangely the same, just with more facial hair), that William Bell will somehow return before 2015, and that Peter, Walter, Astrid, and Bell will be encased in amber. And... Olivia will probably be dead, due to Bell. The Observers will take over the world and not act like Observers anymore (they're supposed to see across time but these Observers didn't even know what was happening three minutes from now), Olivia and Peter will have a daughter named Henrietta who will grow up to be a resistance agent. And did I mention Olivia won't be encased in the amber like the rest of them? That realization just made my heart sink into a very painful place. And makes me wonder where they're going to go for the next several episodes.

But here we are in the third last episode of the season.

Glyph code: ALIVE

We open with Walternate... no, wait, psych! It's Walter wearing a tie!! He makes a presentation to Walternate, Olivia, Alt-Olivia, Peter, Lincoln, and Broyles, explaining that he thinks he's finally on to David Robert Jones: he's trying to collapse the two universes to create another Big Bang, causing mutual destruction. He, of course, will find a way to remain safe throughout the process, creating a Noah's Ark of him and his weird creatures (which we saw in the porcupine episode), and they will be the first beings of the new universe, in which David Robert Jones will essentially be God. (I found it interesting, by the way, that the scientists all used biblical references to describe the brave new world DRJ would create.)

But while they're chatting, four people are converging on various parts of the earth, creating earthquakes. They must find out who these people are and why/how they're creating earthquakes, and Olivia's the one who eventually discovers these are Cortexiphan kids; her cohorts in the Cortexiphan experiments that Bell and Walter had done on them when they were children to heighten their consciousness and give them senses that people shouldn't normally have. She figures this out when Nick Lane steps forward in the Alt-universe.

Dude, I'm just doing tree pose!! Sheesh, can't
a guy do yoga in a public park and not get
rushed by a bunch of guys with guns?!
Now, you may recall Nick from season 1: he's the Cortexiphan kid who had developed a psychic link with Olivia, and he could make her see what he was thinking and doing when he was creating criminal acts. He had found a way to channel his urges at the end of season 2, and he was one of the ones that, with Olivia, went over to the other side. The last time we saw him, he was with his girlfriend, Sally Clark (who is the one on the video Olivia is watching in this episode) who was the pyrokinetic. They were trying to escape together, and the alt-fringe team was trying to stop them. Sally turned and threw the fireball that engulfed Lincoln, and caused him to have to lie in that burn chamber for so long afterwards.

So that's Nick and Sally, and why when Olivia heard the one name, she immediately figured out who the other one was. (Small nitpick: when we see the subjects getting into position as their little watches are counting down, why did they all get in position at the last possible second? Wouldn't you have shown up, oh, I don't know, half an hour in advance just to be on the safe side? I mean, you just don't want traffic getting in the way of trying to collapse universes!) Walter realizes that DRJ is using Cortexiphan subjects because they have a psychic link to their alt-universe counterparts, and where a couple of episodes he realizes we vibrate at different frequencies (in our universe we vibrate at the key of C; in the alt they're in the key of G), he's discovering that DRJ is attempting to make them vibrate in the key of E. That makes sense; C is the tonic of the C chord, and G is the fifth. E is the third (I guess if DRJ were even creepier, he'd have them vibrate in the key of E♭ to create a minor-key collapse. That just seems more appropriate to me...).

Just as we saw Nick psychically linked to Olivia back in S2, here as she's tapped into alt-Nick's alternate brain and watching our universe's Nick, at the last second he suddenly turns his eyes and seems to be looking straight at her, as if he knows she's watching him and is watching her too, a very eerie moment that even makes Olivia gasp and open her eyes.

And now, as they realize these earthquakes will continue no matter what they do (they catch Nick, but it doesn't stop the quake), the only thing they can do is remove the bridge to the universes. Just a couple of episodes ago we discovered that the bridge was beginning to heal the alt-universe, and many previously ambered sites were being de-ambered, but they must sacrifice their healing process to save themselves as a whole.

We lived without the alt-universe characters for a long time, and then when we met them, we didn't like them. We much preferred our characters to any others. Now, as they said they were going to close the bridge, I imagined what it must feel like for the characters to know they'll never see these people again. And then it hit me: I will never see these people again. It's unlikely they'll continue to follow them, and now we'll just see our universe. (I'm hoping I'm wrong on this one!) It absolutely felt like a long goodbye, and maybe that was just for the sake of the characters and not us. But I felt like we were saying goodbye to Seth Gabel as Lincoln (waaaaaaaaaaahh!!) and Alt-Livia and Walternate.

Regardless of whether or not we were, the characters certainly were. Our Lincoln decided to stay on the other side, and it's a bit of a dubious decision: he is in love with our Olivia, who was taken by Peter, so he's going to take a shot at Alt-Livia, who has not shown any romantic inclination towards him. Here's hoping she does, for the poor guy's sake. Olivia sees another possibility of who she could have been in Alt-Livia, and while she always seems so uncomfortable around her, you can tell she's sad to see her go. "Keep looking up, after it rains. Keep looking up," she tells her.

I, for one, will probably miss Altstrid most of all.

Lincoln and Olivia, cross your hands. Astrid and
Walternate... um... just stand there. 
But the best part of this was that extraordinary scene between Walter and Walternate: what a wonderful moment. These two men, fraught with tension and high emotions, because one man took the other man's son and made him a hard, cold, person, sit together on the floor of a corridor, and Walternate finally makes his peace. He has had the chance to see Peter and how he's turned out, but this is also because this isn't the Walternate we first saw; this is the one who did not spend the last several years hating Walter because Walter had his son -- remember, in this universe, up til recently Walter did not have a son, so Walternate didn't harbour quite the same anger. Yes, Walter still took Peter, but Peter "died" at the lake. I loved seeing them together, with Walternate looking very together and stern in his suit and whiter hair; Walter looking awkward in a tie with his darker hair, fretting like he usually does. Walter is afraid that once the machine is deactivated he'll lose Peter; after all, if Peter disappeared when it was switched on, it stands to reason it could happen again once they play with the machine's controls. But rather than letting him drown in his own fear, Walternate instead comforts him, and helps put him at ease so he can do what needs to be done. Walternate knows that Walter is simply doing what needs to be done to save Walternate's world.

And then the machine deactivates, and the alt-world is gone. Walter looks around slowly, fearful of what might be missing, but Peter is standing right there.

"I think that I shall miss them, more than I imagined," Walter says. Which is almost word for word what I had just written in my own notes.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fringe Gets Season 5!

The cast of Fringe do their celebratory
slow walk of awesomeness
If you're on Twitter or Facebook or on the internet at all right now, you've probably already heard the news that Fringe has gotten a fifth and final season, a pickup of 13 episodes that will bring it to an even 100. i09 has quoted Kevin Reilly, president of Fox, as saying the 100 episodes will allow Fringe to come to the glorious conclusion the fans have deserved (he neglects to mention that 100 episodes means they can now also sell syndication rights, something that might actually make this show profitable at some point for them).

Here's what I love about this news:
1) Fringe has been renewed for another season!!!!
2) By saying it's the final season, we no longer have to worry if threads will be hanging or our show will be cancelled or we should be spending our free time on #SaveFringe campaigns. Now we know the writers know there's nothing more after episode 100, and they will write a satisfying (we hope) conclusion. (And that was not an opening for you Lost finale haters to make a comment... now now...)

I have been privy to a few spoilers, which may or may not happen:

  • Nina will become a bazillionaire when she bottles that divine red hair colour and sells it (I said to my husband the other night, I know it's meant to be garish, but I LOVE her hair)
  • Lincoln will stop mooning over Olivia, and moon over me (seriously, Lincoln, you... me... it would be magic. Just forget that I mentioned a husband in that previous point...)
  • Walter will lose all of his money when he invents a potato chip that tastes like a morgue
  • Peter and Olivia will have a child that will grow up to be... the Observer? 
  • Astrid will continue to be the coolest chick on the planet
And yes, I know I've failed to blog on Fringe for weeks, for much the same reasons as I'd been missing out on Once Upon a Time, but I'm STILL three episodes behind (how am I the only person who hasn't seen the episode with my boyfriend, Henry Ian Cusick, in it???) However, I took tomorrow off as a holiday, so here's hoping I can finally catch up in time for tomorrow night's ep.

If it's any consolation, I spoke at a conference last weekend and may have convinced some people to check out Fringe. Does that earn me any forgiveness? ;) 

Guy Auditions for every Sci-Fi Movie Ever Made...

This is amazing. Thanks to Marebabe for sending it to me!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Game of Thrones S2: "Garden of Bones"

Hello and welcome to week 4 of our S2 coverage of Game of Thrones! Now, we have a bit of a glitch this week: Our beloved Christopher “The Southwest is Bright and Not Full of Terrors” Lockett has gone to Arizona on vacation, and hasn’t actually seen the episode. And… I feel lost. And alone. But, I shall soldier on. So to shake things up a wee bit this week, we’re going to post a She Said, He Said duo of posts, where I will first review the episode in this post, and he will counter with his review later in the week after he’s gotten home, applied cream to the sunburns (no? That’s just what I have to do?) watched the episode, formed some thoughts, and written them down.

And so… you’re stuck with just me for the first part.

First, allow me to quote… myself. From the end of last week’s post: “I can promise you, if you thought you hated Joffrey before, that was nothing compared to what you’ll think of him now.” And wasn’t he everything that’s good and sweet and kind in King’s Landing?

What a vile, little, effing, scum-soaked toad. Our first sight of him is the guy standing before his throne, aiming a crossbow at… Sansa? Yes, Sansa. She sits on the ground before him, groveling and crying and begging him not to pull the trigger, before he decides he won’t be that cruel. No, he’ll just ask one of the King’s Guard to beat the living crap out of her. But… leave the face. He likes to look at her face.

But what is that? Ah yes, Tyrion arrives on the scene just in time to stop what is happening, question what kind of knight beats on a defenseless girl, and to call Joffrey a halfwit. (Hooray!!) When the stupid knight steps forward and suggests he’s threatening Joffrey, Tyrion turns on him. “I’m not threatening the king, sir, I’m educating my nephew. Bronn, the next time he speaks, kill him. THAT was a threat. See the difference??”

Tyrion has had enough of his repugnant nephew, and asks Sansa sincerely if she wants out of the marriage. He’s the Hand of the King, and Joffrey isn’t the uncontested king. This could actually be her way out. But she doesn’t even miss a beat when she responds, “I am loyal to King Joffrey, my one true love.” He stops in his tracks, watching with surprise and awe as she continues to march forward, head aloft and pride intact. “Lady Stark, you may survive us yet.” 

But is that the end of Joffrey for this episode? Oh no. God no. No, next up Tyrion decides to send him a couple of prostitutes, thinking that maybe if his awful relation gets his rocks off, he’ll be able to take it down a notch or two. But Joffrey’s a sociopath. Not only does he refuse to let the whores touch him, but he asks one to beat the other quite harshly with his belt. And when that doesn’t do it for him, he holds the same crossbow to the girl’s head and tells her to penetrate the other girl with a giant scepter. (If there’s any mercy in this scene, there’s a tiny one that she turns the thing around and aims the pointed end at the other girl rather than penetrating her with the horned, spiked end. Jee…SUS.) Baelish is NOT gonna be happy when his girls return to the brothel. And my immediate reaction was, “Oh my god, what’s Tyrion going to say when he finds THIS out?” My husband, on the other hand, thinks that Tyrion knew what Joffrey was going to do all along. I don’t think so… I don’t think he would have put those women in that position if he knew Joffrey would do that. But next week’s episode will tell. (Just a side note: I met graphic novelist Craig Thompson over the weekend, and we got talking about Mad Men and Game of Thrones, which he said were his two favourite shows. He hadn’t seen last week’s MM yet, and I told him it was a Pete Campbell episode. “Well, I’ll only like it if bad things happen to him,” he laughed. “And then, I hope they REALLY happen to that boy king on Game of Thrones.” Haha!) Of course, it’s regarding Joffrey that we get THE best line of the whole night, and despite my abhorrence of the particular word, I laughed out loud when Bronn said about him, “There’s no cure for being a c**t.”

This is an episode about torture. What kind of person can torture another one, why they would do such a thing, and whether it works. Joffrey tortures for sport. Tywin’s men torture under the guise of getting information (about something called the Brotherhood that I'm hoping we're not supposed to know about yet... Chris?), but they seem to take pleasure in watching men scream as well. Tyrion, when his cousin Lancel shows up demanding that he release Pycelle under the orders of Cersei, threatens Lancel with torture, and it’s enough to get the lad to pee his armour and agree to become his spy in Cersei’s bedchamber. Torture is one way to get what you want, but as Tyrion finds out as usual, his words are more powerful than rats in a bucket, and he gets what he wants, whereas Tywin’s men don’t. Robb Stark, on the other hand, vehemently refuses to torture.

Let’s go back to that magnificent opening scene (where, I must admit, I was half expecting two peasants to be packing mud and saying things like, "Look, strange women lying on their backs in ponds handing out swords... that's no basis for a system of government! Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony." Thank you, Monty Python). It opens quietly with some soldiers on watch being spooked by noises, which at first seem to be false alarms and then turn out to be Robb Stark’s formidable army. By daybreak, Stark has massacred the other side, and he’s now on the battlefield seeing what’s left (notice how his more pragmatic men are removing the boots from the feet of the dead). As he sees a nurse wrestling with a wounded soldier, he offers to help, holding the guy down as she amputates his foot by sawing it off (blargh). Robb has become a true warrior in battle, and yet he looks upon this nurse with awe. She, like many of Martin’s female characters, is as feisty as she is talented, and tells Robb angrily that that boy was the son of a fisherman who lost his foot on Robb’s orders, that he probably had never held a gun until the week before, when he had to take up arms against the northern army. Robb tells her bluntly, “I have no hatred for the lad.” “That should help his foot grow back,” she spits back. She asks him what he’ll do when he gets to King’s Landing, and he practically shrugs and says he never wants to sit on the Iron Throne. So… let me get this straight, she says back. You are fighting to overthrow a king but you have NO IDEA what you’re going to do when you get there or what’s going to happen after you win? Robb stands there as if to say, “Well, when you put it THAT way…” What ARE his plans? Would he hand over the throne to one of the Baratheons?

Over in that world, Renly speaks of his disgust for Baelish, who shows up at the camp and begins to chide Margaery about her tent, which is separate from her husband’s. She’ll have none of it, and while we typically see Baelish being the one who’s cool as a cucumber, she never flinches the entire time he’s with her. “My husband is my king and my king is my husband,” she tells him, and that ends THAT discussion.

But Baelish has more important business. If he seemed a little disarmed with Margaery, he’s downright unhinged with Catelyn. I don’t think we’ve ever seen him be anything other than calm and collected, but he throws himself at Catelyn and tells her, “I’ve loved you since I was a boy, it seems fate has given us this chance to…” but of course, she doesn’t let him finish THAT sentence. This man, who plans out everything in advance, seems to be missing part of his brain when he’s in her presence; did he really think that she would just leap into his arms after he helped orchestrate her husband’s murder? When he realizes he’s not getting anywhere with her, he gives her part of what they’d demanded: the body of Ned Stark, so she can bury it. The look on Catelyn’s face as she opens the box and stares at the dead, decapitated corpse (thankfully the camera doesn’t show us what she sees) is devastating. It’s a beautifully acted scene, one that brings home to Catelyn that she’s demanded the return of Ned, Sansa, and Arya. They’ve only returned one of them, and he’s dead and in two pieces. Will she ever see her girls again?

One of those girls has been captured and is now being taken to Harrenhal (incidentally, the place Tyrion promised to Baelish in the previous episode when he "entrusted" to him the lie about marrying off Myrcella), the stronghold of Tywin, Tyrion’s father. Arya and Gendry watch other people being tortured, one we only hear who is clearly on a rack (and even just hearing it is brutal) and another with rats, a bucket, and a torch. (My husband, the second time we were watching it, said, “Could we just skip through that torture scene? I can’t watch that again.”) In the previous episode, Yoren told Arya how he would repeat the name of the man he wanted to kill every night before he slept, just to ingrain it in his psyche that he had to get rid of him. And similarly, we now see Arya creating a list of people, as she recites, “Joffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne [Ned’s executioner], The Hound…” By the end of the episode, she’s added Pulliver (the guy who took her sword, Needle), and The Mountain to it. One can only imagine how long that list will be by the time she gets back to King’s Landing. Tywin shows up and immediately figures out that she’s a girl, and demands that everyone be put to work and to stop this torture nonsense at once! He’s frightening and a brute (remember that scene last season of him talking to Tyrion), but in this moment, he’s her salvation. He demands she be brought to him as his new cut-bearer. When she and Gendry first arrive at Harrenhal, one of the prisoners asks, “What kind of fire melts stone?” “Dragon fire,” responds Arya. Will that be a prescient statement? Could Daenerys be the one who will take out the Lannisters?

And that brings us to our golden-haired mother of dragons, who has come to the walls of the city of Qarth (I’m assuming that’s how it’s spelled, since she mistakenly called it Quarth at one point), the greatest city that ever was or will be. She’s met by a lispy merchant who won’t give his name, and he is one of “The Thirteen,” a council of men who refuse her entrance unless she can show her dragons first. But Daenerys isn’t stupid: She knows if she shows him the dragons, he’ll take them from her and she’ll be killed. She holds her ground, tells them off (threatening to burn their beautiful city to the ground when her dragons are fully grown), and eventually gets the ear of one of them, the bizarrely named Zaro Zaro Darksos (I’m only writing that phonetically). He disagrees with the Thirteen and allows her to enter the city, so she and her men won’t add to their “garden of bones.” (Can I just add here that I HATE seeing someone cut his or her hand with a knife while the hand is closed over the blade. It’s like the worst paper cut in the world.) The giant doors open, and we see what really does appear to be a glorious city, one that looks quite Roman, but with Greek elements in the background. I look forward to seeing parts of the city up close (although that might be the only landscape shot we get, considering the costs).

This was a great episode, and despite the ooginess of most of it, probably my favourite of the season. But no amount of hand cutting or bucket rats or raping with wood could prepare us for what happens at the end, which could only be described as batshit crazy. Stannis has been given an ultimatum by his brother, Renly (who has a great line when he’s told Stannis was born amidst salt and smoke, and he counters, “Is he a ham?”), who says he has until dawn to put down his weapons and declare Renly the true king, or they’ll take him on, and Stannis’ feeble army couldn’t stand a chance. Renly is truly well spoken, especially next to his brother, who, despite having the fantastic line where he corrected someone who said “less fingers” by telling him the proper grammar was “fewer fingers” (my editor heart leapt with joy), typically has Melisandre do the talking for him.

At the end of the episode, he asks the ever-loyal Davos to take Melisandre to the shore and situate her close to Renly’s army. She’s as creepy as she always is on the boat ride over, and when they get to the island, she tells him he will see her body. But what's under those robes is not what we expect… for, after doing the nasty just a couple of days earlier with Stannis, she already appears to be fully pregnant, and gives birth to some cross between a slimy black thing and the smoke monster from Lost. What the holy hell was that thing?! What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards… er… King’s Landing, to be born?

It’s a truly WTF??!! scene, but one that, again, emphasizes what the opening scene did: that just as that battlefield nurse could one-up Robb with every statement, here’s a woman who silences Davos, seems utterly in control, and is masterfully manipulating the situation. The night really is dark and full of terrors, and after that moment, I wouldn’t be surprised if Davos became 100% celibate.

Stay tuned for Chris’s response! 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Once Upon a Time: "The Return"

And… just when you thought I was going to let another week go by without talking about Once Upon a Time, here I am!! Of course, it’s a day late, but…

So, this week’s episode suggested we would finally discover the identity of August Booth, the writer who showed up in Storybrooke and helped keep Henry reading that book by lovingly saving every page of it after it had been rain-soaked. He has stumped everyone in town (since the last person who showed up out of town was Emma, and since she arrived everything has changed).

The FTW (fairytale world) flashback was for Rumpelstiltskin. And, for the record, I shall continue to spell it that way on the blog even though it’s spelled Rumplestiltskin on the blade of the knife — in a couple of the books it’s spelled “le,” including in the Penguin edition of Selected Tales that I have, but the Grimms spelled it Rumpelstilzchen in the original German, so so I shall use “el” too.

The episode, written by Jane Espenson, opens with August having what appears to be some sort of seizure and falling out of the bed. He makes a phone call and tells someone they need to speed things up because he doesn’t have much time. He approaches Henry (the seizures appear to have passed at this point) and convinces him to go to Gold’s store and distract Gold while he goes in the back. Gold, of course, is all-seeing, and he senses that August is in the store and confronts him. August bumbles his way back out. He’s looking for maps, but we don’t know what kind.

Meanwhile, Regina is FURIOUS that Gold didn’t do as he was told and actually kill Kathryn. Instead he just kept her in a basement and then let her go. Gold is playing both sides at this point — he wants to see Regina get hers, but he’s not about to let anyone else off the hook, either. Emma pieces this together, and outright asks him what his game-plan is. “Are you suggesting I’m working for or against Regina?” he asks her, amused. “I don’t know, maybe… diagonally.” This very Espensonesque line is more accurate than Emma realizes.

Over in love land, Mary Margaret is officially off the hook for killing Kathryn (since, you know, Kathryn is ALIVE and all) but David’s not invited to the party. When she needed him the most, he had a kernel of doubt in his head. Later, in a scene that’s filled with caring and pain, he tells her that Regina was really good at what she did, and he was only human. Poor Mary stands there listening to him, and a part of her wants to go with him. But she also realizes that the equally human Emma never once doubted her. If Emma kept the faith, why couldn’t David have done that? How do you go back to someone who thought that about you? Will David ever be able to get past that moment of doubt? Is there still a Prince Charming in there somewhere?

Over in the FTW, we get the continued devolution of Rumpelstiltskin. He still has his son, Baelfire (we know from future scenes, when he’s all sing-songy and hopping about that his son is nowhere to be seen, so even from the outset we know Bae won’t be around long), who is increasingly concerned about the dark path his father is heading down at this point. He sees how the townsfolk are terrified of his father, and how they treat Bae with kid gloves because of their fear of Rumpel. The other kids want very little to do with him for the same reason. But mostly, Bae just wants his beloved father back. We’ve zipped ahead of “Desperate Souls,” where Rumpel was trying to flee the Ogre Wars with his son, and now time has passed and we discover Rumpel has put an end to the Ogre Wars. But while the land is seemingly at peace, Baelfire’s world is not. He blames magic for turning his father into this beast, and begs his father to stop. His father says he needs to remain powerful to protect Bae. Bae counters that he wouldn’t need to be protected if his father didn’t have the power. And then… they make a deal. If Bae can find a place where they can go with no magic, where power doesn’t matter, then Rumpel will come with him.

Unfortunately, at the beginning of the episode, when Regina confronted Gold about breaking their deal, he says, “I broke one deal in my life, dear, and sadly it wasn’t this one.” We know instantly at the dinner table that this must be the deal he’s going to break.

Back in Storybrooke, Regina does what she does best and takes advantage of someone (shock!) Soon after Emma realizes that Sidney is clearly in love with Regina, hence his constant sticking up for her, Regina marches him into the police station and he confesses everything, standing stiffly with his eyes darting nervously to Regina, clearly delivering a script that had been written by her. Emma isn’t stupid, and sees right through the ruse. By the end of the episode, Emma sticks her nose right in Regina’s face and hisses, “All I care about is what happens to my kid, and you are going to leave him alone. You tried to take away someone I love. And now, I’m going to take away someone YOU love. I’m taking back my son.” Gah!!

But! Back to the main plot. Now that August has invaded his shop, Gold is suspicious of the man in Storybrooke. Before now he was just a curiosity; now he’s invaded Gold’s personal space. He begins asking questions, and, just like the original fairytale where the queen had to figure out Rumpelstiltskin’s name to save her firstborn child, now he has to figure out who August Wayne Booth REALLY is… and he soon believes it’s his firstborn child.

In the FTW, we see little Bae speak to the Blue Fairy to get a magic bean, and he uses that to open a portal to a world without magic (presumably our world). Holding onto his father’s hand, he tells him they need to complete the deal, and must jump through the portal to the other world together. “What kind of world is a world without magic?” Rumpel asks him, horrified. To which Bae replies, “A better one.” Rumpelstiltskin looks truly terrified, digging his dagger into the ground and holding onto it, as if the very power that dagger personifies is also his sense of security. And, turns out… it is. For, in a moment that he will regret forever, he holds fast to the dagger, and lets go of his son’s hand. His son flies through the portal, and he never sees him again. We can presume that it was after this moment Rumpel began to go mad, hence the high-pitched talking and weird gesturing that we’ve often see go hand in hand with the little man.

In Storybrooke, Gold thinks he might have the chance to be reunited. What follows is a trip to the psychiatrist’s office (yay, Archie’s back! Even if the scene didn’t feel very sincere; knowing how secretive Gold is, why would he go and tell a therapist everything when he already knows the answer he’s looking for?) with one of my favourite back and forth moments of the show:

Gold: “I think he might still be very angry.”
Archie: “Anger between a parent and a child is the most natural thing in the world.”
Gold: “I think he might be here to kill me.”
Archie: “Ah. That’s not.”

And finally, Gold goes out into the woods and finds August, who turns to him with a sneer and calls him “Papa.” We see Gold vulnerable for the very first time, falling apart and holding onto his child like he never wants to let go, looking at him from afar and up close, but even as this was happening I kept thinking, “We’re only partway through the episode. And it just seems too easy.” And guess what? It was too easy. For after Gold finds someone he can trust for the first time in 30 years, and digs up the knife (for THAT is what Gold was burying in the woods, and not the jewelry box with the heart in it) and hands it over, the man holds the knife out to Gold and begins chanting a curse to get rid of Rumpel; a curse that would normally put the power onto the man holding the dagger. Gold sees through him immediately and turns the tables, and the man admits he’s dying and needs to finish this.

Gold’s not one to let an opportunity slide, Bae or no Bae. August tells him that what he needs to do is convince the “savior” to believe in the book, and if that happens they can all return to their world. Gold thinks for a nanosecond and realizes that if he CAN go back to the other world, he’ll be powerful again. So he tells August he’ll let him live, and he needs to convince Emma to believe in Henry.

This episode finally gave us the motivation for why Rumpelstiltskin would help the Evil Queen take everyone to Storybrooke: He created the curse that would take them to a place with no magic, hoping to find his son. It also promised us we’d find out who the son was, and then that didn’t happen. Which means (happily) that we get to continue to speculate!

He’s a Grimm
One of the earliest and strongest theories is that he’s one of the Brothers Grimm. That’s still a remote possibility, if one believes that the Grimms were different (see Grimm, the OTHER FTW TV show on right now). Perhaps he could time travel or he doesn’t age and he’s followed the creatures here. Or, he lived in their world and zipped through with them. Another possibility in this vein is that he’s an assistant or someone who worked with the Grimms.

He’s Henry
This possibility was raised recently (we Losties love thinking that time travel possible ALL THE TIME). He’s grown up and time traveled back to this moment to try to tell everyone how important it is to listen to his younger self and believe him, before it’s too late. He knows all the stories from the book inside and out because Henry always did know them, and was good at picking who was who. And, when Gold says to him, “You’re from our world, aren’t you?” he replies, “If you’re asking me that, then you already know the answer.” Notice he doesn’t say yes or no. AND, you can’t forget, he wasn’t in Storybrooke and he’s come in via bike. If he was in the fairytale world, how was he able to enter Storybrooke from outside it? (And, the reason I didn’t think it was Bae is because he’s grown up, but Hansel and Gretel are still children so why would Bae have grown up in this world?) But if it’s Henry, why is he sick? And why would he pick up the dagger and speak magic, knowing that there’s no magic in this world?

He’s Pinocchio
When the Blue Fairy popped up in this episode, and at the very end Rumpel swung his dagger at her, the look on her face suggested she wasn’t going to let that transgression grow. August has clearly said he won’t lie, and while they didn’t cast an actor with a particularly big nose, I think this might be a big possibility. He needs magic because Pinocchio was once a wooden puppet who was turned into a real boy. The fairytale suggests that he became a real boy because Geppetto wanted a real boy so badly, so it happened out of love. But it also happened because the Blue Fairy let it happen with her magic. Now he’s in this world. Perhaps he’s grown up unlike Hansel and Gretel because he wasn’t a real boy to begin with. Or perhaps when he helped fashion the tree that he and Geppetto made that acted as a vessel for Emma, he climbed into it too. That would explain why Geppetto is alone in Storybrooke, and it would also offer an explanation for how a child from the FTW (like Emma) could come to our world and actually get older. AND it would explain why he’s sick: he needs the magic or he’s going to turn to wood. The seizures could actually be his bones and muscles turning back into wood, and he needs help desperately. We’ve yet to see Pinocchio in this world, and with the Blue Fairy, the fact he could come and go from Storybrooke, the fact that he had access to the special tree, and his knowledge of the FTW (and his morally upright centre, given his upbringing with his conscience, Jiminy Cricket), AND the fact that Archie was brought into this episode of all episodes, I’m thinking that’s where it’s going.

Things I Noticed: 
  • In the opening sequence, you usually see a fairytale creature, either dwarfs or Red Riding Hood, but in this one you saw August on his motorbike, as if that’s how he also appeared in that world, which was strange.
  • Oh, Granny. Your B&B seriously has rotary phones??? You really haven’t updated that d├ęcor since you first arrived, have you?
  • And as I say that, I’m thinking I’ve never seen the Storybrooke characters using a cellphone. Even Regina always relies on phones in her office or at home.
  • Couldn’t they have worked the Mad Hatter into even ONE scene? ;)
  • When August wakes up with the seizure, the first thing he does is look down at his foot. And yes, I thought of John Locke.
  • When Henry is talking to Gold at his pawn shop, Gold is holding the very football that Bae had kicked under the donkey.
  • David kisses Kathryn on the forehead; in the FTW, you have to kiss your true love on the lips to wake her up. It was just a subtle reminder that she’s not his true love.
  • My favourite line in the episode was Emma describing August as “a typewriter wrapped in an enigma wrapped in stubble.” Under Jane Espenson’s deft writing, Emma is a FAR more interesting character. But… would she have really said that? (Don’t care; that line was brilliant.)
  • Loved the line about writers and pseudonyms. Again, I don’t know why.
  • August had a donkey paperweight. Is that a Shrekian reference to the Ogre Wars? (hehe….)
  • Whenever Rumpelstiltskin called his son “Bae,” it sounded like a Newfoundlander saying, “b’y”
  • After Rumpel kills the housekeeper and Bae points out she’s a mute, Rumpel says, “Even mutes can draw a picture,” but he does it in that other, higher, Rumpelstiltskin voice
  • Again we’re reminded of who’s who when Gold, for no real reason, goes to see the Mother Superior, just to remind us she’s also the Blue Fairy
  • When Bae comes in to tell Rumpel he’s found a way, Rumpel is spinning thread.
  • Archie: “Mr Gold, are you here for the rent?” “Why does everyone ask that??” Haha!
  • “Ever since you crossed the barriers of time and space, in every waking moment, I’ve been looking for you.” First, does this sound like a Lost line or what? Secondly, it’s not true. Has Gold ever appeared to be looking for his son, either in the FTW or here? He’s always off doing other things, but never seemed to be doing that.
A great episode. Any other theories on who August might be?