Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Of "space Gandalfs" and sassy redheads

To celebrate Matt Smith's tenure as the Doctor, which will be coming to an end after this year's Christmas special, here's a pretty great deleted scene from the fifth season's "Flesh and Stone" where Eleven describes himself in Tolkien-esque terms. (It's also a great pick-me-up if you're still sad about Game of Thrones.)



This deleted scene is fun and entertaining, despite the fact that it reminds me of that awful time when Amy was trying to hook up with the Doctor. However, it also reminds me of the reason I so loved the second-greatest sassy redhead to ever grace the TARDIS: she is constantly calling the Doctor on his shit. (As did the greatest sassy redhead to travel with Space Gandalf, Donna Noble. I miss you every day, Donna.) After all, someone occasionally needs to point out the Doctor's propensity for traveling with young, hot girls and only young, hot girls.

I'm not too sad about Smith's departure yet; we still have two episodes to go before we have to bid farewell to Eleven. But I know that when the time comes I'll miss his antic energy, his awkward attempts to mimic human behavior, and the sadness and rage and fear that are just barely balanced by love and optimism. Even so, I'll be excited to see what the future brings; after all, I thought no one could ever match David Tennant, and Smith's fantastic performance proved me wrong time and time again. In the meantime, we have "The Name of the Doctor" and the reappearance of Ten and Rose Tyler (at least) to look forward to. Personally, I'm hoping for a Donna Noble cameo.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Game of Thrones recap: it's tough to be a Stark

A shocking, brutal, brilliant episode makes sure everyone knows just how far Westeros' noblest family has fallen.


Robb (Richard Madden), Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) and Talisa (Oona Chaplin) prepare for a wedding.

You're almost there, and you're afraid you won't make it. The closer you get, the worse the fear gets.
-Sandor Clegane

"The Rains of Castamere" was an episode full of near misses and narrow escapes. Bran wargs into Summer's mind at the last possible moment and beats back the Wildlings. Jon reveals himself as a member of the Night's Watch and barely escapes from the people he just betrayed. Jorah, Grey Worm and Daario Naharis end one scene facing seemingly impossible odds in Yunkai, and begin the next telling Daenerys that they successfully sacked the city. Jon and Bran pass within yards of each other but never make contact. And Arya comes painfully, achingly close to being reunited with her mother and brother, only to have any hope of happiness torn from her grasp.

I had suspected for quite a while that things were going to end badly for Robb. So much of season 3 (and a lot of season 2, really) has been about pushing the King in the North into a corner. His doom was basically sealed once he married Talisa and his mother set Jaime free, and the events of this season have done nothing but back up that hunch, from the loss of the Karstarks to his final, desperate plan to take Casterley Rock from the Lannisters. Robb was hemmed in on all sides, losing supporters because of his marriage to Talisa and the execution of Lord Karstark. On top of that, he was actually happy in his marriage and expecting a child, which is never a good sign in Westeros.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Game of Thrones recap: the only thing that matters is the climb

An intense, revealing scene (and a viscerally horrifying visual) cuts to the heart of Game of Thrones' central power conflicts.


Aiden Gillen as Petyr Baelish and Conleth Hill as Lord Varys.
Honestly, I had a really hard time picking a scene to analyze this week. There were a lot of great moments in "The Climb": Lady Oleanna faced off with Tywin Lannister, Cersei and Tyrion actually showed one another some affection, and Jon and Ygritte engaged in some pulse-pounding mountaineering. In the end, though, I had to go with my gut and choose Littlefinger's tense, complex scene with Varys, purely because it contained the single image that stayed with me long after the closing credits had faded out: Ros's arrow-ridden corpse, tied to Joffrey's bed after Baelish decided that she was nothing more than a bad investment.

In Vulture's recap of "The Climb," Nina Shen Rastogi expresses her disgust with the tossed-off nature of Ros's death. Her reaction is something I completely understand: the fact that Littlefinger, who I'm beginning to suspect is as heartless as Joffrey (if not quite as twisted) ends Ros's life without so much as a second thought is bad enough. That he hands her over to Joffrey for what he knows will be the worst possible death is horrifying. And that he drops the fact casually into conversation, as an attempt to throw Varys off his game, is absolutely sickening.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Why Happy Endings should have let Penny marry Pete

By returning to the status quo, the show once again reduced Penny's identity to that of a single girl, making a fool of herself for men.


Casey Wilson as Penny and Nick Zano as Pete.
I always assumed that Penny and Pete weren't actually going to end up married. Happy Endings is a show where character evolution happens extremely slowly, if it happens at all; Penny wasn't going to change overnight from an insecure single girl to a happily married woman in a stable relationship. And since Penny and Pete's breakup was inevitable, I'm glad it happened in the relatively low-key setting of "She Got Game Night," as opposed to the traditional disastrous wedding episode, which would have just rehashed the events of the show's pilot.

Still, though, I really wish Penny and Pete had actually gotten married. Partially this is because I enjoyed Nick Zano's presence, which offered a laid-back counterpoint to the general insanity of the Happy Endings gang. Mostly, though, I like that Penny and Pete's relationship allowed Penny to break out of the desperate-single-girl role that has defined her character throughout the show's three seasons.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Game of Thrones recap: it's hard to be the Kingslayer

Characters (literally and figuratively) expose their secrets in the low-key, but still plenty compelling, "Kissed By Fire."


Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister (don't call him Kingslayer).
For a show so heavy on battles, beheadings and dragon fire, Game of Thrones has always featured a substantial amount of talking. There's a lot of backstory to be gotten to on this show, to the point where there have been entire episodes - most notably the first season installment "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things" - that are almost entirely composed of people giving speeches. It's something, then, to say that Jaime's speech to Brienne in "Kissed By Fire" is one of the finest, most compelling, most revealing and most emotional speeches anyone on the show has ever given.

Jaime has spent the season becoming a more sympathetic character, to the point where it's (almost) possible to forget about that time he pushed Bran out the window because the boy saw him having incestuous sex with Cersei. One of the reasons Jaime is now so much more identifiable is that he personifies the difficulties of staying the honorable course, or even figuring out just what the honorable course is. After all, the man was despised by Westeros' resident honorable man, Ned Stark, for killing the man who executed Ned's father and brothers, because Jaime was, at the time, a sworn member of Aerys Targaryen's King's Guard.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Game of Thrones recap: how do you say "badass" in Valyrian?

Daenerys Targaryen upends the balance of power in one of the most thrilling scenes the show has ever done.


Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen.
Daenerys Targaryen was one of the most compelling characters in Game of Thrones first season. She started out as a frightened girl, sold in marriage by her odious brother in exchange for an army, and ended the season as a Khaleesi (of a very small, somewhat ragged group, but still a Khaleesi) and a Mother of Dragons. Her journey was compelling, her story had tons of potential, and Emilia Clarke gave one of the best performances on a series full of them.

Then season two happened. Dany spent ten episodes in Qarth, in a holding pattern where she tried to find the money to invade Westeros and yelled about her dragons. The surreal finale sequence in the House of the Undying helped bring some actions back to her story, but it was clear that, when it came to Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the show was spinning its wheels.

But no more! The final scene of this week's episode, "And Now His Watch Has Ended," was a masterfully constructed thrill, and Dany finally took her place as the badass powerhouse we all knew she could be. The sack of Astapor solidified the Khaleesi's place as an unquestioned ruler - I don't think Ser Jorah or Barristan Selmy had a single line of dialogue this week - and upended the balance of power in Westeros. If I were a Lannister, a Stark, a Baratheon or a Tyrell, and I heard that the last Targaryen was marching at the head of an 8000-strong army, not to mention in possession of three dragons, I would be very, very afraid.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Game of Thrones recap: the trials of Sansa Stark

Sansa opens up to Margaery and Lady Oleanna about the true nature of Joffrey Baratheon in a funny, tense and heartbreaking scene.


Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark.
Honestly, I'm tired of the Game of Thrones photo recaps. They were fun for a while, but eventually just turned into me making lists of things I liked about each episode, and that's fairly boring for everyone involved. So, starting today with "Dark Wings, Dark Words," I'm going to try a different approach: each week, I'll choose a scene that was particularly interesting, illuminating or memorable, and break it down for you all, both on its own and as it ties into the episode as a whole.

The stand-out scene from last night's episode featured both the whip-smart Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) and the introduction of the amazing Lady Oleanna (played by the equally wonderful Diana Rigg), yet the moment was really about poor, trapped, terrified Sansa Stark. From the moment Lady Oleanna asks Sansa to tell her the truth about Joffrey, it's clear from the girl's stuttering, timid response that she is about to crumble. The mere fact of Oleanna and Margaery's kindness makes Sansa drop her guard completely, pouring out her heart to these two women and telling them that Joffrey is "a monster."