GAME OF THRONES 7×05 – ‘Eastwatch’

“I’m here to talk to you about the Avenger initiative.”

Before you call me out on it, no that’s not a quote from ‘Eastwatch’, the sixth episode of Game of Thrones gleefully satisfying seventh season, but rather the post-credits scene of Marvel’s 2008 franchise kick-starter Iron Man, in which S.H.I.E.L.D boss Nick Fury approaches Tony Stark about becoming involved in a world-saving squad. After watching this latest episode of Thrones, you may appreciate the sentiment, as forces conspire to throw behind Jon Snow the badass equivalent of an Avengers team he’ll need to achieve near-impossible odds.

‘Eastwatch’ dials down after the air-punching climactic escapades of ‘The Spoils of War’, which will go down in Thrones history as one of the most fan-pleasing episodes of the entire series no doubt, given we first saw Daenerys Targaryen ride her dragon into army-burning battle for the first time, certainly against her ultimate Lannister enemy. Dave Hill’s script now asks us to consider the consequences, both literally and morally, with an episode very much continuing the pragmatic sense of reality which has carried through the surviving main characters as more of the deluded, pompous or just plain ignorant characters have died across the previous few seasons.

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GAME OF THRONES 7×04 – ‘The Spoils of War’

“No more clever plans.”

‘The Spoils of War’ is an apt title for the fourth episode of Game of Thrones‘ seventh season because its an hour (or just under at 47 minutes, the shortest episode of the season) all about battles. Battles on horseback between armies and savages and dragons, battles between the old ways and new, battles between young and old, and battles of the mind. Wars are not just the province of empires and vast legions but rather the ongoing struggle between the myriad, disparate elements that make up the world of Westeros and beyond.

What becomes clear in the most straightforward of ways by the end of ‘The Spoils of War’ is that the end game in Game of Thrones is going to come down, in no small part, to money. Gold becomes the investment hedge fund of George R.R. Martin’s feudal construct, a literal grounding of financial capital the all-powerful, monolithic Iron Bank will use to pick the side they believe has the best chance of winning. Last week it became clear that capitalism was going to play a major role in how the landscape of Westeros will look beyond the ultimate wars to come, and here that point is hammered home: if the numbers line up, the game will be won.

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GAME OF THRONES 7×03 – ‘The Queen’s Justice’

“She’s a monster. And she will be the end of you.”

A great many prophetic words cast their way through ‘The Queen’s Justice’, the third episode of Game of Thrones’ truncated Season 7, spoken both by seers, machiavelli’s and plain old noble lords and ladies coming to understand the swift revolution surging its way through Westeros as the ‘great war’ for the Seven Kingdoms truly begins. Olenna Tyrell’s final proclamation may turn out to be the most pointed, as on the face of it the Queen’s primary justice is no justice at all.

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What Does God Need With Star Trek: Discovery?

Or more aptly, perhaps the question should be reversed – what does Star Trek: Discovery need with God? The question has been raised by a recent article which reported how, on set for the brand new CBS All Access (or Netflix if you’re international) show reviving the 50 year franchise on the small screen, Jason Isaacs—playing Discovery’s Captain Lorca—was stopped mid-performance for improving a mention of ‘God’ in his dialogue. God, of course, does not exist in the Star Trek 23rd century.

Except for the fact, y’know, he (or she) kinda does.

Even if the story is tabloid fodder or turns out to be apocryphal, that one of the series writers Kirsten Beyer actually made the effort to correct Isaacs for saying the very natural human phrase “oh my God”, it raises an interesting question as Star Trek makes its long overdue return to television – what place does religion have on a TV series which on the face of it has always shied away from depicting a future where worship is prevalent, but in truth has long had a fascinating, complex relationship with religion and the future?

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Some Nerve: Social Media and Modern Cinematic Voyeurism

Social media has taken control of the world. Almost all of us have a smartphone and we’re wired into either Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc… or all of them. The open communication of the internet has made us desperate for ultimate, constant connectivity. It’s an idea that across this decade, as social media has fully taken hold over Western society, the movies have begun exploring.

Inevitably, and perhaps appropriately, cinema has largely taken social media to be a new and dangerous playground. Much as the technology is used by people of all ages (yes, even some of the elderly), apps, games and innovations remain primarily the province of the young and impressionable. Social media is attractive, not just for the fact you can build a virtual profile that presents a picture of who you would like the world to *believe* you are, but it provides a gateway to thrills and social taboos. Hence why adults are consistently reminded, and parents are scaremongered, into believing social media is a corrupting evil that will warp and destroy the minds of our children.

Filmmakers on the whole don’t quite see it that way. Many seem to consider social media to be one enormous, conceptual cautionary tale, sometimes fused a with futuristic morality play. An entire sub-genre now exists of pictures often starring, and certainly aimed at, the young, but to classify them specifically as horror films—as some have—does them a slight disservice. Those directors and writers who are interested in the pervasive effect social media has on our lives seem more keen to portray the internet, and all its myriad labryinthian contexts, as something that will only destroy us if we misuse it or refuse to pay it enough respect.

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GAME OF THRONES 7×02 – ‘Stormborn’

“You’re not a sheep. You’re a dragon.”

If you’ve been following the pre-release trailers of Game of Thrones from HBO, chances are you’ll already have pieced together much of ‘Stormborn’. Decoding the series has now become a regular task of detection for fans across the globe and it’s pretty clear that the first three episodes of Season 7’s seven constitute most of what we’ve seen in advance thus far. The very fact Game of Thrones is now in a position to construct multiple, packed trailers from less than half its season shows the depth and breadth of what lies in its arsenal.

‘Stormborn’ in many senses is an example of how Game of Thrones now exists firmly inside the final act of its storytelling. Devoted ‘watchers on the wall’ aka long-term fans and Westerosi obsessives are probably in a position to guess the majority of the narrative beats Bryan Cogman’s script delivers, not simply because of the aforementioned trailers but because the series is now immediately starting to pay off long-term foreshadowing and structural establishment. The fact it’s doing more in two episodes than it may well have done in previous seasons in five or six is a testament to how David Benioff & D.B. Weiss’ show is in the home stretch. There is no time to waste.

That does mean, to the initiated, there’s a level of predictability to ‘Stormborn’. It doesn’t detract from some solid and rewarding storytelling in the process but at the same time it lacks the element of shock and surprise. Pieces aren’t just moving on the chess board now, they’re literally kicking over the pieces and upending the construct, but they are chess pieces which logically make sense to be moving in the direction you may have already prefigured. A lot of ‘Stormborn’ consists of nodding along to characters decisions and choices, given a wonderful sweep of pragmatism has found its way into Westeros as intelligent, sensible rulers start making logical decisions.

There is one exception to that rule, however, and his name is Theon Greyjoy.

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GAME OF THRONES 7×01 – ‘Dragonstone’

“Leave one wolf alive and the sheep are never safe.”

Season 7 of Game of Thrones begins with a mission statement. This is the year where justice prevails, in one form or another. This is the year when chickens come home to roost and people in George R.R. Martin (and David Benioff & D. B. Weiss’) tapestry begin putting the past to rest. ‘Dragonstone’ is full of characters returning to places that have haunted them, tortured them and changed them, with every intention of, as Daenerys Targaryen promised in Season 5, breaking the wheel. Never is this clearer than Arya Stark’s opening gambit, a joyous bout of retribution so enjoyable because we know exactly what’s coming as the audience.

Arya’s story so far has been about memory, as so much of Game of Thrones at large is. Fleeing the horrors of a childhood ripped apart by the power games of an elite royalty answerable to no one, Arya had the opportunity to *become* no one. This she ultimately rejected after her training from the Faceless Men of Braavos, aware the Stark name meant more to her, as did the importance of delivering the justice her father, mother and brother were robbed (pun not intended) of. In killing Walder Frey, the man who organised the ‘Red Wedding’ which saw the slaughter of much of her family, and taking his face, Arya isn’t no one. She is now everyone.

Indeed, aside from the White Walkers we see her brother Bran Stark green seeing visions of as they make their way south with their giant wights (yes, that’s right, GIANT WIGHTS), Arya essentially declares herself as ‘Winter’ incarnate. We have known ‘winter is coming’ since the very beginning of Game of Thrones, the ominous meteorological pallor disguising a darker force, but Arya is just as much an oncoming storm; fearless, devoted to a cause so brazenly she’s happy to announce it to half a dozen Lannister guards over some wine and chicken, and to her mind with absolutely nothing to lose. She provides a neat metaphor for the changing weather about to rage across Westeros.

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