Making the world a better place, one show at a time.

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I guess you would like to know a little bit about the person making all these proclamations upon good taste and horrid characters. I'm Andrea and when I was 15 I fell in love. An hour after meeting "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" I was forever altered in the way only love can, and I never questioned for one minute afterwards that television offered me an amazing chance to experience lives and moments that I could never imagine. So now, when I'm not getting distracted by my real life, I write about TV. I also read, am finishing a Master's degree in English Literature, travel, am attempting to learn vegan cooking, am the 5th of 6 children, and drive my roommate nuts by constantly cleaning our already clean apartment. Now that we're old friends, time for you to take my opinions as the be all and end all.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Game of Thrones: Sex, Lies and Stabbing

(1.5 “The Wolf and the Lion”)

This episode had everything!

In King’s Landing the tournament continues.  Ned questions Ser Barristan as to how Ser Hugh afforded the nice armor that he died so quickly in, but the noble knight has no answers, only the gossip that Robert plans to joust.  Ned finds Robert in his tent, no having his armor put on by his squire Lancel Lannister, because, as Ned points out, Robert is too fat to fit into his armor.  (It’s hysterical.)  Ned convinces Robert that as king has no place competing in the tournament, which to Robert is simply another disagreeable aspect of being king.  The tournament is turning into quite the fiasco: Ser Loras Tyrell, the Knight of the Flowers, gives a rose to Sansa and a wink to Renly before riding his frisky mare to face off with the Mountain, whose own mount is so, um, distracted, he’s unseated.  The Mountain attacks Ser Loras with his sword, but his brother the Hound jumps in to save Loras’ life, becoming the winner of the tournament.  (What an honor.)  Surprise sword fights abound in Westros.  When the bag is removed from his head, Tyrion realizes that he, Catelyn and her band of merry men are not on the King’s Road.  Apparently it was her cunning plan to shout to everyone that she was taking Tyrion to Winterfell, so that they can make it to her true destination: the Eyrie, the home castle of her sister Lysa Arryn, the ruler in the Vale.  Tyrion warns Catelyn that her sister might not be in her right mind, but similarly to his protestations of his innocence, Catelyn isn’t listening.  A tribe of lawless hill men attack, and despite reservations, Catelyn cuts Tyrion’s hands free.  Longingly looking towards to the horses and his escape, Tyrion kills a man who’s about to kill Catelyn, bludgeoning him with a shield and saving her life (because he’s the best).  Bronn suggests his reward for his first kill should be a woman, but Catelyn’s the only option.  Back in Winterfell, where Catelyn belongs, Theon is practicing his archery while Bran learns his geography on Great-Houses-of-Westros history with Maester Luwin.  Bran’s heart isn’t in his studies, angered over the words of his mother’s house (Family, Duty, Honor), and insisting that his mother cannot be protecting the family if she is not with the family.   Because Bran is kicking his ass in their argument, Maester Luwin convinces Bran that he can be taught to use a bow from horseback.  That night with apparently the only whore in town Roz, Theon makes a case for the nobility of House Greyjoy (and our first penis shot of the series), but Roz counters that thought he calls himself a ward of Lord Stark Theon is still a hostage.  (They also talk about her tumble with Tyrion.  Apparently Tyrion’s very skilled.  All in all, the conversation is odd.)  Back down in King’s Landing Arya is chasing cats, and Varys is chasing down Ned, letting him know that Robert is doomed, the same poison used on Jon Arryn (The Tears of Lys) could be in Robert’s future and that Jon Arryn is dead because he started asking questions (after his 17 years of service as the Hand).  Chasing a cat into the dragon skull filled dungeon, Arya overhears Varys and “an unknown foreign dignitary” discussing that events are moving too quickly, and that even though he’s found the bastard, Ned must be delayed because Drogo will not move until his son is born.  On their way to a Small Council meeting, Littlefinger and Varys trade barbs about eunuchs, whoremongers and murders, and some threats about each telling a royal party about the other’s companions.  Renly interrupts their angry baiting with news that Robert is actually going to attend the council meeting.  After she finally convinces the Guards at the Red Keep that she is Ned’s daughter, Arya tells her father that she overheard men threatening to kill Ned because of the bastard and the savages.  Hesitant to believe her, Ned doesn’t have a chance to really discus the matter with Arya, because Yoren arrives to tell Ned that Catelyn has taken Tyrion hostage.  Catelyn and Tyrion have made it to the Vale and are being escorted to the “impregnable” Eyrie by some less than receptive knights.  Tyrion finds an ally in dirty jokes in Bronn.  The hits just keep coming for Ned down in King’s Landing, since on the heals of finding out about Catelyn, Robert summons him to Small Council, informing him that he orders Dany’s assassination.  Ned pleads that there is no need for such an action, but Robert blusters that fear and blood keep the realm together not honor.  Everyone else stands by Robert, because apparently Dany’s kid is bringing the apocalypse and her death will spare the lives of millions.  Ned refuses to have anything to do with something so cowardly and resigns his post.  Packing to leave, Ned gets a visit from Petyr, promising that if Ned gives him an hour he will provide him with information on Jon Arryn’s death.  Jon Arryn is way better off dead! No words can prepare one for a six-year-old breastfeeding, but honestly, Tyrion undersold it to Catelyn.  I can’t say this strongly enough: LYSA ARRYN IS A CRAZY BITCH!  She receives a disgusted Tyrion and a horrified Catelyn in the Eyrie’s throne room, with her son on her lap, I guess having lunch, accuses Tyrion of murdering Jon Arryn, and because little Robin wants to “see the little man fly” she throws him into a cell with only three walls (the forth is a thousand-foot cliff face).  Lysa isn’t the only one with ideas; we find out while he’s shaving Renly’s chest that Loras thinks Renly should be king.  According to Loras, even though Renly has never been in a battle and fourth in line of succession, he’s the most qualified man for the job, because the people love him.  Then Loras shows Renly how much he loves him.  In a less amiable domestic scene, Robert and Cersei have a nice long chat: Cersei thinks they can win a war because the Dothraki are undisciplined but Robert counters that if Dany should land in Westros the nobles could stay safe in their stone castles but the people would be enslave and the land decimated.  Eventually the realm would call for Viserys as the true king because an army only wins when united by one purpose under one strong leader the last of which for the men of Westros was the Mad King.  Cersei then asks what Lyanna was like, something she’s never done before, and Robert admits that he will never heal from loosing her, so even if he and Cersei were suited to each other, their marriage (which is what’s holding the realm together) never had a chance.  The mother of Robert’s youngest bastard, a very cute baby girl, wants nothing more than to make the king happy, but the best assurance that Ned can give her is that her child will be provided for.  Outside the brothel Ned and Jory are surrounded by Jaime (and Lannister men) demanding that Ned release Tyrion (because Ned tells him that Catelyn took Tyrion on his order).  Ned informs Jaime that his brother will die if he kills him, so Jaime settles for killing Jory and allowing one of his men to stab Ned in the leg with a giant steak.  Leaving Ned bleeding in the street, Jaime repeats that he wants his brother returned.

No joke, this episode had everything!

How is it that with a wife like his Jon Arryn didn’t pitch himself off the battlements?  I would devote myself to my work too if I were married to a freakishly delusional woman, no wonder he was (by all accounts) a wise and reliable King’s Hand for almost 2 decades.  For the love of the Seven, she is breastfeeding a schoolchild!  That has to be child abuse.  Now, I see the family resemblance of throwing out accusations of guilt at inappropriate times, but even Catelyn has the good sense not to parade her crazy for all and sundry.  I know that she’s a bit more concerned with wildly flinging allegations (without anything resembling evidence) of Tyrion’s responsibility for Jon Arryn’s death, but Lysa really should consider the long-term repercussions of her determination to cultivate her son’s Oedipal complex.  How exactly are any of his knights going to take Robin (little Lord Robert Arryn) seriously when he’s giving orders as an adult if he’s sitting on the same throne where they watched his mother insist on his nutrition impoverishment?  So. Frakking. Gross. 

Nothing Lysa said or did indicated that she is going to listen to Tyrion, to give a fair hearing to the crime (sorry, now crimes) he stands accused of.  Catelyn presumed upon her history with her sister, asserting (in her mind) that such a relationship would remain fixed independent of any personality alteration that takes place over time to either party.  She’s made the error that (unbeknownst to her) Bran accuses her of: if you are not with your family you cannot take measure of them, you cannot know what is best for them (and adding fuel to Lysa’s nutball fire wasn’t good for her) or what aid they can give to and/or receive from you.  Not that it does Bran much good to know he’s right.

Sansa Stark has the worst taste in men ever.  She’s been pining for Joffery, who may or may not be a teeny-tiny sociopath, and then she makes googley eyes at Loras Tyrell who is a damn schemer.  (Sorry, you don’t want to get beaten to a bloody pulp, don’t win a tournament with cheep tricks.)  During his whole conversation with Renly he speaks in the present tense as if Robert were already dead and the crown were up for grabs.  At least everyone else seems to have the decency to talk about Robert’s demise as if it is to be a likely conclusion based on the combination of his poor life choices and power hungry enemies, while Loras on the other hand has the bad taste to talk as if Robert’s death is so inevitable it is a present fact and instead of trying to prevent it his brother should be concerned with how to profit from it.  Renly doesn’t seem like a bad guy, just easily swayed, but as he should be able to see so clearly from Robert’s current problems, the character of the counselor will determine the course of the reign.  A man who asks you to behave as if your brother is already dead isn’t necessarily someone you want to listen to.

Renly would be better off actually talking to his brother, who can actually be a rational human being in private.  Pycelle made the argument that Dany has to die to save lives, but he didn’t explain it in nearly the way Robert did to Cersei.  Recognizing that it would be the lowly who would die and that with their support Viserys would win showed both a keen understanding for how public opinion is formed and influences events as well as a genuine concern of the well being of his kingdom.  If he had had that conversation with Ned, he might have made Ned understand the severity of the danger, but because his Small Council expects him to be a bombastic dolt, that is how he behaves with them.  Robert didn’t have to be a bad king, but he was allowed to be one.

Oh, and Theon, proclaiming your superiority to a woman you pay for sex is kind of absurd.  She’s right to mock you.

Yes Tyrion, that is a long fall.

Game of Thrones: I Have a Tender Spot in My Heart for Tyrion

(1.4, "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things")

Bran is walking around Winterfell, following a crow that turns out to have three eyes.  He’s having a dream, and he awakens to Theon summoning him on behalf of Robb to greet their visitors.  Tyrion has stopped in on his way south, but Robb is suspicious of his presence, a fact he does nothing to hide.  Tyrion has brought Bran a gift, he’s designed a saddle that if fitted to the right horse will allow Bran to ride, and be as tall as any man.  Tyrion chooses to spend the night in the town brothel instead of accepting Robb begrudgingly offered hospitality.  Theon sees Tyrion to the gate, letting it slip that Catelyn isn’t in Winterfell.  Tyrion goads Theon about his deference to the Starks despite the fact that he is a hostage because of his father’s rebellion against Robert.  At Castle Black there is a new arrival, Samwell Tarly, an overweight young man who falls at the first practice sword blow and is unwilling to get back up and continue training.  Jon stops Throne from continuing to beat him, for which Sam is thankful.  Sam admits to being a coward, an admission that doesn’t endear him to Pyp and Gren, but makes Jon thoughtful. Dany and the Dothraki arrive at the City of Horse Lords.  Viserys has finally found something he likes; the pleasure slave he bought for Dany, and we as viewers are subjected to a really uncomfortable conversation about the Targaryen family history.  Ick.  Things are only slightly less uncomfortable in King’s Landing, as Sansa admits to her septa her fear of having only daughters as well as her determination to remain angry with Ned for Lady’s death.  The Hand’s Tourney is causing drunk and disorderly conduct in the streets of the capital, but Ned insists that the money can be found for more security.  Ned talks with Pycelle about Jon Arryn's death, which Pycelle claims to believe was an unfortunate cruelty of nature, but admits to Ned that Jon Arryn asked him for a book detailing the noble families just before his death, which he happily lends to Ned.  Pycelle is less willing to concede to Ned’s suggestion that Jon Arryn was poisoned.   On his way to read his newly acquired book, Ned finds Arya balancing on one toe at the top of the stairs, her lesson for the day from Syrio.  Arya asks Ned what Bran will do now that he cannot be a knight as he wanted to be, and Ned makes it clear Bran has a happy future ahead of him, but when Arya asks if she can rule a holdfast he tells her that her sons will be the rulers, she reminds him that he’s talking about his other daughter and returns to her training. On duty atop the Wall, Sam is sent to join Jon as his watch partner, revealing his fear of heights and bad eyesight.  Jon asks Sam what he is doing at Castle Black, and Sam tells him that his father told him that he would take the Black or his murder would be made to look like an accident.  Appropriately aghast, Jon lets the rest of the training group know that they aren’t going to hurt Sam in the training yard anymore, but he has to use Ghost to help convince some of the others.  Thorne isn’t fooled for a second the next day that Jon isn’t responsible for the class’ unwillingness to bloody up Sam.  Intrigue abound down south, as Littlefinger guides Ned in a round of spot-the-spy (seems everyone is on someone’s payroll) and continues his helpfulness (you know, because he promised Cat) by pointing Ned towards Jon Arryn’s former squire and an armorer Jon Arryn visited several times.  Jory goes looking for the squire, whose a knight now, and has no interest in talking.  Ned visits the armorer, who’s talented but sullen apprentice Gendry (Joseph Dempsie) Jon Arryn was visiting.  Ned takes a good look at his dark hair and blue eyes and figures out that he’s Robert’s bastard son.  Viserys is back to his old self, furious that Dany invited him to dinner and made him a vest in the Dothraki fashion.  He attacks her, and looked like he was going to rape her, but for the first time, Dany fights back, smacking him in the face with a golden belt and informing him that if he ever lays a hand on her again she will have that hand cut off.  She’s a bit scary, but in a good way.  Far from the warm grass, Jon and Sam are scrubbing tables and doing what young men do when they have time on their hands, talking about girls.  Sam is suspicious when Jon admits to being a virgin as well, prompting Jon to tell him a kind of sad story.  Jon was unable/unwilling to bed the whore bought for him because as a bastard he couldn’t stand the idea of the possibility that he would get the whore pregnant and that another child would have a life like his.  Sam manages to cheer up his friend, but Throne comes in, basically for the sole purpose of telling Sam and Jon that they are not men, will die in the next winter, and if need be, will be eaten by their brothers in order to survive.  Now that is a man who should be in a position of power over others!  As much as it isn’t what she thought it would be Dany realizes that she needs to make her home with her husband and his people, because she and Jorah agree that Viserys will not be able to take them back to Westros, as he is no king and no dragon.  In King’s Landing, the Hand’s Tourney has begun, but Jon Arryn’s former squire is the first to fall, jousted to death by Gregor Clegane, Sandor’s older brother. Horrified by the blood, Sansa listens to Littlefinger tell her the story of the Mountain and the Hound: as children Gregor found Sandor playing with one of his toys and so he held his face in the fire while his face melted off.  Instead of watching the fun, Ned is working and receives a visit from Cersei.  She’s apparently in a fence-mending mood, admitting that her demand to have Ned kill Lady was an extreme reaction but reasonable because it was in defense of her child.  She asks Ned why he’s in King’s Landing, claiming that he cannot change Robert into a better king.  She scoffs at Ned’s reply that it is his duty to serve his king, reminding him that he was a younger son, not born to leadership.  At an inn headed home, Catelyn runs into Tyrion at an inn and decides to take the lead herself.   Calling on her father’s bannermen scattered throughout the room she takes Tyrion prisoner to answer for his “crimes.”

I'm going to try and write this review without it turning into a soppy love letter (a friend once told me that I'm a much better writer about things I hate and he was right, the jerk), though I make no promises that I can achieve this, as I was so enamored of this episode that I have already watched it twice (in lieu of watching some other show that I'm behind on, and there are many).  It was watching this episode (the first time) that prompted me to admit something to friends that made them shake their heads in pity: I realized that when GoT comes out on DVD I won't be able to wait the time it will take for it to go on sale and due to the combined facts that HBO shows are really frakking expensive and that I live on an extremely constricted budget, I should start a savings fund now for my future purchase. Yup, there was shame-to-know-me in their eyes.

What are you doing here?  That was the question of this episode, both asked from one character to another as well as what some characters should have been asking themselves.  This question was meant in both a completely literal as well as a rather existential way, illustrating that there is a connection between our suspicions of others and our understanding of ourselves.  What an action is is at least in part defined by why an action is taken. 

Tyrion designs a saddle for Bran because he knows the difficulties of being handicapped, in addition to the freedom that will be available to Bran if he can ride a horse, and he is upfront with Robb when asked for his motivation.   What he is doing and why he is doing it are perfectly transparent and harmonious, lending less credibility to the claim that he tried to have Bran killed.  In contrast, Sansa should have been questioning Petyr’s motivation for telling her the Cleganes’ dirty little secrets, but she has so little awareness of why she does what she does she doesn’t even think to question why someone else does something completely and utterly inappropriate and unnecessary.  And if he’s telling people things they don’t need to hear, and could even harm them, doesn’t that call into question what/why he’s telling others?

The same fundamental question provides an array of views about the concept of duty.  Cersei derides Ned’s motivation for staying on as Hand because she assumes that as the second son, born to follow not to lead, he is no more than a soldier following orders.  She exposes her own belief that duty isn’t a real human virtue; rather there are only those who command and those who obey.  Finding out that Sam would be murdered if he were not on the Wall, Jon recognizes it as his duty to protect him; he responds to the internal impulse to do what is right even when he know it will be difficult.  (Okay, despite my above stated goal, how can you not love Jon?) But things are not always so clear.  As a Knight of the Kingsgaurd, Jaime stands duty outside the door while Robert has a tea party with a variety of whores.  Obviously, this bothers him as an affront to his sister’s honor (um, hypocrisy much?) and as a waste of his skill with a sword, yet still he stands.  But he won’t pass along a letter from Ned to Robert, as he doesn’t serve Lord Stark.  What does he consider his allegiance to, his king or his vow to protect his king?  What does he consider his duty? Conversely, Catelyn decided that she must act in opposition to her word to her husband, and in order to do so called on the duty of others to help her.  She has attempted to exploit an attribute in others in an act that subverts that attribute in herself, and in such a scenario one must be completely assured of the truth.   Does she have any right to impose on the obligation of others when she shouldn’t be doing what she’s doing in the first place?

And in the end, can a hostage be anything but a hostage?  Based on the Lannister assessment of Theon, the prevailing answer is: no.

The TV Girl 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Vampire Diaries: I Should Be Ashamed That I Un-Ironically Enjoy This Show

(2.22 “As I Lay Dying”)

I wake up in the middle of the night with heart palpitations because I’m turning 28 in a few months and I have no idea what I’m doing with my life, have no illusions that I am a responsible person, and haven’t yet mastered the delicate balance of both paying bills and buying groceries in the same week.  Despite all that anxiety (and knowing how to fix it!), I can’t give up silly shows like The Vampire Diaries.  It’s just too gloriously fun.  I feel less bad about this because one of the patients where I work, who is almost twice as old as I am and whose life I very much envy, is also way into this show.  We talk about it whenever she comes in, so you could say that it’s part of my job to watch this show…

Or not.

 Never mind, just fun.

But, I’ll admit, not the shocking season finale I was expecting.  The previous episode was more of a high-stakes thrill ride, but that isn’t to say that “As I Lay Dying” wasn’t top-notch TVD.  (And yes, I was trying to see how many clichéd phrases I could get into that sentence, thanks for noticing.)

Damon is dying from his werewolf bite, trying to make amends and end it all without the debilitating hallucinations, but Stefan wants to save him, so he locks him the cellar, has Bonnie talk to the unhelpful but chatty dead witches, who let it slip that Klaus can save Damon, so Stefan’s off to Alaric’s apartment.  After his completely unexpected betrayal, Elijah has been keeping an eye on super-Klaus (um, you would think these people had never seen Underworld) and now that everyone is human looking again, bargains must be honored; it’s time for a first vampire family reunion.  Too bad for Elijah, Klaus means for that reunion to be in the pent-up realm of the rest of the siblings.  Everyone who isn’t drunk Alaric is watching Gone with the Wind in the town square, but keeps getting up during the movie (rude) to chase after a fevered Damon, because Caroline’s mom let him escape.  Gotta find him, because Stefan agrees that in exchange for Klaus’ blood, the cure Damon needs, he will become Klaus’ little pet.  But Klaus wants drinks-human-blood-and-murders-everyone-in-sight Stefan, so Stefan has quite a few blood bags to down before Klaus will hand over the cure.  Jeremy should have stayed out of the Damon hunt, since Sheriff Liz shoots him dead, despite her vampire daughter’s attempt to save him.  (But this is a season finale, so of course Jeremy is going to die and come back.)  Bonnie goes bugging the dead witches again, and after a tearful “but I love him!” they make Jeremy all alive again, but warn that there will be a price.  Stefan pays enough that Klaus gives Katherine the cure, and she actually delivers it to a brink-of-death-Damon, who has just had a really nice heart-to-heart and kind of icky kiss with a devoted but still-in-love-with-Stefan Elena.  Damon’s going to live, but Katherine lets them know that Stefan gave up Elena, and everything else, for the cure.  But is Stefan really that upset about it all?  He did look mighty evil/happy when Klaus made him chase and kill some random girl as a final test before they left town.  Oh, and Jeremy’s price for resurrection?  That would be: being stalked by dead vampire ex-girlfriends Vicky and Anna.

One episode people, this show moves quick.

Honestly, it was Damon and Elena’s conversation on his bed while he was sweating to death accompanied by heartfelt pop music that (again) made me realize that I just might be a bit too old for this show.  While watching I could just imagine that 10-15 years ago I would have just swooned at how romantic but doomed it all was, but today it’s more along the lines of “Damon you ass-hat, bitch is leading you on even when you’re dying and Elena if you want to hit that then just admit it and deal, stop being so damn wishy-washy!”  When Katherine, selfish schemer and unending turncoat, voices sentiments closest to my own opinions (“It’s okay to love them both, I did.”) it’s a bit of a reality-slap reminding me that I am not the target audience of this show.  Teenage girls are (pretty much) watching to see which brother Elena picks, I’m (pretty much) watching to see who dies next.

But one of the (many) advantages to not being a tween is that I have the wherewithal to welcome evil Stefan as the wonderful plot development that it is (you know, instead of bemoaning the fall of the golden boy).  It’s completely within Stefan’s character to this point to be willing to sacrifice himself for Damon, but the nobility of the act somewhat diminished with Stefan’s pained delight in each successive blood bag he devoured.  The more enjoyment he took, and don’t kid yourself that he didn’t enjoy killing that girl at the end, the more we got to question if Stefan was so eager to forfeit his abstinent life and his lady love because he really did miss being an evil killing creature of the night.  And really, while there is a balance than can be achieved, I will pick kill-y vampires over talk-y vampires. 

Of course I have to ask, now that Elena and Jeremy have no living relatives and no legal guardians, Rick is going to step in to fill the void (but let’s be honest, despite her very sad end, Jenna was a total deadbeat “parent” so he doesn’t have much to live up to), but how exactly are they going to explain this to any sort of child services agency?  At some point someone has to notice the state of affairs besides the Sheriff and the Mayor.  But now that the Sheriff and Caroline are sort of reconciled (meaning that she isn’t trying to shoot her daughter with wooden bullets) maybe she’ll help Elena and Jeremy continue their highly-unsupervised lifestyle. 

Not that Jeremy doesn’t have people watching over him!  Okay, being haunted by dead exes as the consequence of rising from the dead (in I presume a not-zombie-way), neat twist I didn’t see coming.  It worked perfectly though.  Jeremy got shot because he was unwilling to let Bonnie leave him behind when running out to do dangerous stuff and despite not protecting him, she gets to have him back.  Therefore it makes sense that he would have to live with the people he didn’t protect, that they would come back (in whatever way they have) too.

So, though not as action-packed a finale as I could have asked for, all in all it was a genuinely satisfying end to an exciting season and an intriguing set-up for the next.

The TV Girl

Friday, May 13, 2011

Game of Thrones: Well, The First Man I Killed Was...

(1.3 "Lord Snow")

I'm totally joking.  I don't remember anything about that guy.

The royal party has made it to King's Landing!  After a tense conversation with Jaime in front of the Iron Throne, about how Jaime (and 500 other people) stood silently when Aerys the Mad King murdered Ned's father and brother but that Jaime murdering Aerys wasn't justice, it's right to work for Ned, meeting with the small council: Robert's brother Renly (Gethin Anthony), Catelyn's childhood friend and master of coin Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen), and Varys the master of secrets, and Grand Maester Pyrcell.  On the top of the to-do list, a tournament in honor of Ned's appointment, and event Ned really doesn't want to have when he is informed that kingdom is millions in debt and Robert can't be bothered to do anything about it.  Not Ned's only problem though, as his daughter's are at each other's throats, Arya blaming Sansa for her friend's death, Sansa blaming Ned for not realizing that she has outgrown dolls.  Ned discovers Arya with Needle (she doesn't rat Jon out for giving it to her) and he explains to her that even though Sansa will have certain responsibilities as Joffery's wife the Starks must stay together not fight among themselves.  Ned doesn't know just how true his fears are, because he doesn't know that Cersei has made it clear to Joffery that the Starks are their enemies.  It would be nice to say Ned's other kids are doing better, but not so much.  Bran is awake, and asking for scary stories from Old Nan but getting some messed up life advice about freezing to death instead.  Robb comes to talk to him, to ask Bran what he remembers, believing their mother that Bran couldn't have fallen, but Bran doesn't remember anything.  Bran is more concerned with the fact that he will never walk again, wishing that he had died instead, a wish Robb fervently opposes.  Nearer to freezing to death would be Jon, training at Castle Black on the Wall, and making no friends, as he has the most experience and is acting like an ass about it.  (In his defense, he is a bit put out that he believes his father sent him off to die.)  Tyrion Lannister to the rescue!  Tyrion is taking the measure of the Night's Watch, discussing the state of things with Commander Mormont (and I recognize the actor but I can't think of who it is and I can't find his name and it's driving me nuts) and he is able to use his knowledge to keep Jon from getting his ass kicked by the other recruits.  Tyrion's help comes at a price, the price that Jon must acknowledge that he should help his soon to be brothers become better fighters.  Jon is distressed to find out that his uncle Ben is going on a mission north of the Wall, but things are stirring in the forest and wildling are fleeing south.  The Night's Watch is understaffed and in trouble, but Tyrion agrees to bring the matter to his sister's attention.  Too bad Cersei is a bit preoccupied with Bran being awake and all, but Jaime (whose had a rather morbid conversation with Robert and Selmy about the first man each killed) assures her they can out-fox a 10 year old, but that if the truth comes out he will fight it out with Robert (because that seems like a good plan).  They should be more concerned about Catelyn, whose made it to King's Landing and after being hidden away at a brothel by Petyr, she presents the dagger used attempting to kill Bran, a dagger Petyr lost to Tyrion wagering on Jaime in a joust.  Ned sends Catelyn home with both warnings to hold her temper and assurances that he will gather more evidence against the Lannisters and bring it to Robert's (who by his own admission is surrounded by Lannisters) attention.  Across the sea, Dany and Viserys have a little fight, him being less than appreciative of her new authority as the Khalessi, but she spares him.  She's in a giving mood, because she's pregnant.  She thinks it's a boy.  Her happy news prompts Ser Jorah to ride for Qohor.  Tyrion is also about to ride, south for King's Landing by way of Winterfell, just after he pisses off the edge of the world (the top of the Wall) and says goodbye to a humbler and more helpful Jon, who sends Tryion with a message for Bran (I miss you and would visit if I could).  Since Jon isn't there to teach Arya how to use her sword, Ned hires Syrio Forel, a Braavosi water dancer (sword fighter) to teach his eager, and quick-learner, daughter, though his pride in her aptitude is shadowed by memories of war.

You got all that?

Nope, me either.

I'm sure I missed something, I'm sure it was important.  I kept getting distracted by odd thoughts running through my head.

For instance, Catelyn, really?  She's worth dying over?  Was it her sense of humor that made Petyr think it was a good idea to fight Brandon Stark a duel for her hand?  Or maybe her quick wit?  Let me guess, it was that she was going to make a wonderful mother?  Sorry for your scar Petyr but the joke is on you, because you just can't see that you got the better end out of that deal.  Come on, someone she used to know as a child tells her what she wants to hear and that's all she needs to burst into court with accusations against a hugely powerful family? Not a bright bulb.  Not to mention that this is a woman who seems determined not to see that, except for Sansa, Ned's kids are all ridiculously awesome?  I mean seriously, something has gone right in life if your kids are kind and helpful (Robb), brave and imaginative (Bran), decisive and hard-working (Arya), and just plain adorable (Rickon).  She laments that she can't see her girls when she's leaving King's Landing, but she doesn't give Ned a message for them, doesn't have anything to say to them.  Robb is in her place, giving Bran the comfort that he needs, reminding him that he is loved and his life is important, regardless of if he can remember how he fell.  Not winning mother-of-the-year on that one.  Proud, foolish and imprudent (plus a bitch to Jon), I'm just not seeing Catelyn as the prize everyone treats her as.

But, as baffling as it seems to me, Ned loves her and lucky for their kids, he actually is a good parent and a good man.  As unappealing as the place might be, he sends Jon to a life where he has the opportunity to earn a place of honor, be respected by those around him, which (as much as his siblings love him) was not an option at Winterfell.  He does his best to make Sansa happy; despite having little understanding of what she thinks will make her happy.  He reprimands Arya when she needs it, listens to her concerns, and then provides her with the tools she needs to succeed in her chosen path.  Ned’s responsibility, honesty and generosity towards his children reflect the way he treats (almost) everyone, and he sees that honor reflected back in his children.  As with everything else, Robert should be taking notes!  Well, maybe at least Robert should be asking Jaime the right questions…

Because really, what Aerys said when Jaime killed him (Robert’s question) is kind of unbelievably less important than WHY Jaime killed him (Ned’s question).  You have this guy in front of you who extra special fancy swore to protect his king and then stabbed him in the back, and you’re not even going to demote him in the new regime, so wouldn’t you want to be absolutely with out a doubt sure that history wasn’t going to repeat itself?  I would. 

But that is of course the challenge inherent in Jaime’s continued existence.  It’s not as if Robert had a huge choice in the matter of whether to pardon Jaime, since it wouldn’t help him to piss off a really powerful man (Tywin Lannister) but making an example out of his son, but what do you do with a man whose word you know you cannot believe?  But a pardon is not forgiveness, but I would question if, even though his life was spared, whether Jaime was really pardoned.  The constant humiliation of naming a man after his greatest crime (“Kingslayer”) seems an unmercifully slow death to the soul.  But is that justice?  Should regicide be repaid with swift mercy or prolonged correction? 

Tyrion would know.  I wish I could ask him.

The TV Girl

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fringe: Cheating Time and Breaking Hearts

(3.22 "The Day We Died")

I'm going to say it, so if you haven't seen this episode, please stop reading.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Visitor from Barefoot and Pregnant? Welcome!

Okay, I'm being personal again.  Sorry.

A couple days ago my friend Calah gave me a shout-out on her fantastic blog Barefoot and Pregnant and my traffic report is telling me that her wonderful readers have been giving me a glance upon her recommendation.  Thank you Calah love.

Since mine is a really really different type of blog than Calah's I wanted to say hi, and maybe assure you guys that Calah isn't friends with some total nut case.  I'm not sure that reading our respective writing that you would think Calah and I are both practicing Catholics who struggle daily to answer God's call in and through our vocations.  Obviously mine isn't within the realm of marriage and motherhood, but rather single life.  The element of my vocation that I choose to share with the world, on this blog, is my feeling that I am called by God to investigate the created representations of the human soul.  Because I haven't been given the responsibility of forming particular souls, I have the luxury of indulging my endless curiosity, maybe to a degree that is unhealthy...

So it you've come here looking for the insight and honesty about marriage, motherhood and all that that entails, which you find from Calah, that's not so much my deal.  But if you want to know what TV show is worth whatever free time you might or might not have, I can totally help.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fringe: Salvation Will Always Cost

(3.21 "The Last Sam Weiss")

After an epic battle with Francie who wasn't really Francie, Sydney woke up in Hong Kong alone to find Vaughn married and no memory of the last three years.

Wait, I'm talking about the wrong show.

Peter is not waking up but it's possible no permanent damage was done.  Deciding that the machine is misbehaving because it thinks Peter is already inside (because Over-There's turned on first) Sam Weiss, the fifth of his name, takes Olivia on a treasure hunt for a key to a box that will contain a crowbar that will allow Peter to get into the machine and turn it off.  Massachusetts is being ravaged by dry lightening, and after a verbal ass-kicking from Astrid, Walter gets his kite out to take some measurements of the lightening so that they might be able to help.  Based on all the evidence, they realize that because the machines in the two universes are quantum entangled, a fault line is forming between their respective locations, so Walter convinces Broyles to move the machine to Liberty Island, to minimize the damage.  Sam and Olivia find the key, open the box, but the crowbar is a picture of Olivia, which they take back to Walter, who rolls it up and decides that Olivia will be able to telekinetically open up the machine.  She practices her skills on the shapeshifter typewriter, and despite a vote of confidence from Walter, she isn't able to make the keys move.  Peter wakes up, leaves the hospital, heads to New York and buys a coin, but he's confused, thinking that he is Over-There and asking to talk to his father Walternate.  Walter and Olivia sort him out, the typewriter turns on, having saved up all the sentences Olivia wrote with her mind.  After telling him she loves him, Olivia opens the machine for Peter, he gets in, and...

Agent Peter Bishop of Fringe Division awakens in New York City fifteen years in the future and wounded in the battle ensuing throughout the streets beneath (completed) Freedom Tower.

See how I got confused there?

Okay, despite the, um, similarities between Fringe and Alias, I have no argument for how this is going, because, well, damn if what we saw is Peter "saving" Over-Here, I would rather he didn't.  (Ooooo, this is like Dollhouse...)

Can I just take a moment to sing the praises of one Agent Astrid Farnsworth.  Astrid is amazingly patient and giving, spectacularly level-headed and hard-working, and so quietly loving to Walter, Peter, Olivia and Broyles without ever asking anything for herself.  It would be so easy to think of her as some throwaway doormat of a side character, but (similarly to Broyles) Astrid is a steady counterbalance of both compassion and practicality and a spine of steel.  She holds Walter's hand when necessary, and intervenes in his self-pity when necessary, an assistant with being subservient.  I hope real FBI agents are as awesome as her.

Astrid doesn't need any pep talks to do what she needs to do, but our poor Olivia does.  It wasn't until Walter and Olivia were talking, when he was explaining to her that in our weaknesses we will find our strengths, that I realized just how sad Olivia is.  It's not that I didn't get that she is very rarely happy, or that she has some deep seated emotional issues that prevent her from easily trusting others or smoothly interacting with the world, but her face was just so bleak when she couldn't make the typewriter work.  Ignored, used and assaulted by almost everyone she's ever encountered, Olivia isn't just walled in self-doubt, she is fortified in negation.  Despite the fact that she has overcome every shite situation thrown at her (she got herself back from an alternate reality for pete's sake!), the task-at-hand is simply insurmountable to her.  But somewhere inside she believes in Walter's vision of her: she trusts that he believes the way he sees her is in fact the truth of her character, and that she cannot make that truth her own is her real grief.  But because she is Olivia, when the world needs her, and with Peter by her side, her mind can actually bend the world around it.

Now again, that isn't necessarily in our best interests.

The TV Girl

(Not to be way too political, but there is something crazy that this episode aired on Friday and then on Sunday Pope John Paul II (who always encouraged us to rise about our doubt to be the men and women God made us to be) was beatified and Osama bin Laden (who help mastermind 9/11) was confirmed dead.  Wow.)

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Weekend Fling: Pretty Little Liars, Season 1

(I feel that I should preface what I'm about to say with: remember that I watched all 22 episodes of this show.)

I think my insomnia is starting to rot my brain, because Saturday night when I couldn't sleep I just kept watching episode after episode of Pretty Little Liars, and as the sun rose in the morning sky I realized that I didn't think the show had been utterly terrible.  How sad.

At a slumber party 15 year old Alison (Sasha Pieterse) goes missing, fracturing the bonds between longtime friends Spencer (Torian Bellisario), Hanna (Ashley Benson), Aria (Lucy Hale) and Emily (Shay Mitchell).  A year later, Alison's body is discovered, reuniting the girls, but the identity of her murderer is only one of the many secrets in Rosewood, PA. While Spencer tries to manage the expectations of her overly ambitious family, Aria tries to hid her sexual relationship with her English teacher from her parents that are splitting up because of her father's infidelity, Emily tries to come to terms with her sexual orientation, and Hanna tries to counterbalance her mother's indiscretions without sucuming to an eating disorder, all four girls are harassed by "A": a shadow deterimined to expose their flaws and wrongdoings at the same time as leading them to Alison's killer.

Honestly, for the most part PLL is over-the-top, verging on the completely ridiculous, but it's fairly enjoyable.  That is, if you can get over a few things.

First, there is the fact that, with notable exceptions, the vast majority of males in this fictional town are either dead-eyed sociopaths, dead-eyed sexual predators, or both.  (And the actors all seem to have trouble making facial expressions. It's very annoying for a while, then it just becomes funny.)  I'm not kidding, there is a serious problem with the men in this town understanding what is an acceptable age gap between partners, and since they are ALWAYS the older parties, that where I'm putting the emphasis: Ezra Fitz, a recent college graduate, pursues a relationship with Aria, his sixteen year old student; Spencer becomes the object of desire for her older sister Melissa's past/present/future boyfriends/fiancées; Alison was dating an older mystery guy; and Aria's father has had an affair with a woman at least 20 years his junior.  The actual teenage boys that are hanging around these girls aren't a great deal better: at worst leveraging either information for power (Noel) or useful skills for money (Caleb); at best greedily absorbing attention while repaying it with scorn (Sean).  There is the possibility that this show is a brilliant evisceration of female vulnerability, but...well maybe.  Probably not.

And the above is a huge part of the second serious detraction in PLL.  The giant gaping black hole of suck in this show is Aria and everything having to do with her: her icktastic boyfriend, her oblivious parents, her wardrobe.  Of the four girls, Aria is simply the least interesting.  Obviously intended to be the most "free-spirited" and "artistic" of the group, Aria doesn't seem to have any particular skills, talents, or activities.  It's offhandedly mentioned once that she reads books aside for the ones she's assigned and she's "really excited about fiction" but that's about it.  While Spencer, Hanna and Emily all participate in at least one sport or club activity (and are seen at some point or another doing homework), Aria pretty much goes to school for the sole purpose of flirting with her teacher, goes home to lecture her younger brother, and goes then goes to Ezra's apartment to cook.  From what what we see, she doesn't do, create, or think much of anything.  Her utter lack of personality, or basic connection to reality, is perfectly matched in her equally vacuous "boyfriend."  Mr. Fitz, who never seems to grade homework or need to make lesson plans despite being a first year teacher, is supposedly a talented writer but since we only hear snippets of what he's written we have to take that on the authority of Aria or her father (because they have such trustworthy judgement).  And that is the extent of his character: likes underage girls and writes.  I know I sound like I'm harping on the Aria/Ezra relationship, but it takes up a significant portion of every episode, so I am only bitching in proportion to how much they subjected me to it.  These two literally have the exact same conversation at least 22 times (once an episode) if not more. Here it is:

One: I hate that sneaking around is so difficult because you are the most amazing person I've ever met.
The Other: I agree.  But this is very difficult.
One: I don't want to give up on us.
The Other: Me either, but what about the necessity of having coffee in public with your significant other?
One: I don't need coffee in public, as long as I have dinner in secret with you.
The Other: You're the best.

If it weren't bad enough to watch two boring people, having to listen to them say the same thing over and over and over again is like Chinese water torture.  If you are going to assert the normalcy of a legally and ethically inappropriate relationship, it helps if the viewer  doesn't want to slip into a coma every time either character is on screen.  (PLL show runners, please see Chris and Angie from Skins UK Series 1 for a student/teacher relationship that was equally as inappropriate but was dramatically and emotionally engrossing TV.)

How lame Aria is stands out because the other girls are appealing and entertaining characters.

Star scholar and well-rounded college applicant Spencer is ambitious, competitive, suspicious, prickly, and combative.  But she is also funny, loyal, and she is the driving force behind trying to discover Alison's killer.  She's unofficially the leader, but she doesn't manipulate the other girls, as numerous flashbacks clearly demonstrate that Alison did when she was queen.  She doesn't want to live resentfully in the shadow of her older sister's achievements, and she does the best she can in the face of Melissa's staggering megalomania.  Spencer's eventual relationship with stoic neighbor, and initial suspect in Alison's murder, Toby has a faint similarity to the greatness that was Veronica Mars and Logan Echolls, at least in part because their first kiss is also in a motel parking lot.  (Although, in comparison, Toby's familial circumstances makes the Echolls family look well-adjusted and functional.)

Swimming phenomenon Emily struggles to be honest with herself and eventually everyone else about being gay without a great deal of angst or self-loathing.  She is fearful of the changes her honesty could mean for her life, but when the time comes to tell her father she does so in a brave and straightforward manner.  Emily is unfailingly forgiving, determined to give everyone a second chance.  Emily is shy, and therefore not often the instigator of events and sometimes needs a nudge to move out of her comfort zone, but she isn't a doormat either.  She stands up for herself and her opinions patiently and respectfully.  Emily is a great example of treat-people-how-you-want-to-be-treated.

Recently minted It-Girl Hanna is the opposite of your typical bitchy popular girl.  Hanna fluctuates between rebellious outburst, like high-end shoplifting, and having to provide stability and support to her mother, who makes really really poor life choices.  Hanna was previously the chubby girl of the group and often on the receiving end of Alison's venom, but instead of becoming the likeness of her antagonizer, Hanna is kind and generous to a fault: she befriends outcasts, attends abstinence-group meetings with her boyfriend to understand his viewpoint even though she wants to have sex, and lends a  couch to the teen homeless.  Granted, these things usually don't work out in her favor, but when Hanna finally looses her cool with people abusing her amity it is one of the best moments all season.

The real strength of this show is the pacing.  Much like The Vampire Diaries, they pack a lot into each hour of  PLL.  A doesn't really take a day off, relentlessly airing secrets, divulging tidbits of evidence and setting traps for the girls.  We move along for shocking-reveal to unforeseen-plot-development at a fairly brisk pace, thereby minimizing emoting time and avoiding beating every storyline (completely) to death.  The viewer is encouraged in watching the next episode, because we know that something will happen even if it won't necessarily be the answer to our questions.  Now, the season finale revealed Alison's murderer, but the case is far from closed, we still don't know who A is, and they have opened the door for the whole situation being much bigger than we thought, so you could say that we ended up with more questions than answers, but if next season continues in the same vein, we should know something more pretty quickly.

Wait, did I just admit that I intend to watch the next season?

Well, I do kind of want to know what Jenna, the blind girl with an ax to grind, is up to.

The TV Girl

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Game of Thrones: Isn't The Problem That Lady Wasn't There?

(1.2 "The Kingsroad")

It's been a month since Bran's "fall" and the time has come for everyone to leave Winterfell.  After smacking Joffery around for being a twat, Tyrion informs his siblings he's off to piss off the end of the world, aka, going to the Wall.  After the most painfully awkward goodbyes, and gifting a sword to Arya, Jon sets out for the Wall with his uncle and Tyrion.  Tyrion and Jon do some sharing and trust building over some wine, discussing why the former reads so much (books are a whetstone to the mind) and why the former is taking the Black (what options does a bastard have).  After a ineffectual guilt trip from the stricken Catelyn, Ned sets off with King and Co. for the capital with his daughters.  Along the way Ned and Robert discuss the realm's preparedness should Daenerys land on their shores with her new husband's army.  (The consensus is Westros wouldn't fair so well, but don't worry, horse lords won't cross the Narrow Sea.)  Dany's got more, um, immediate issues, as her marriage isn't going so well.  Her brother is still hanging around and her husband is less than respectful of her in their bed, so she enlists the help of one of her slaves to teach her about sex, and as soon as she establishes some eye contact, she and Drogo start getting along much better.  (Yay, I guess.)  Luckily Catelyn turns away from the fire that's been set as a diversion and locks eyes with the man whose getting ready to kill Bran, and much to the determent of her hands, wrestles the knife from him and while Summer (Bran's direwolf) rips out the would be assassin's throat.  She investigates the tower Bran fell from and decides that he must have been pushed, a theory she shares with Robb, Theon, Rodrik, and Luwin.  Catelyn decides to go south to share her suspicions with Ned, Rodrik insists on escorting her. Ned has enough problems already, since while camped Nymeria (Arya's direwolf) attacks Joffery after he attacks her and her friend practicing sword fighting, and when Sansa will not tell the truth to the King about the incident, Cersei insists that if Nymeria has run off Lady (Sansa's direwolf) will be executed for the unprovoked attack on the completely innocent Joffery.  Robert does nothing to curtail his queen's cruelty nor pays heed to his old friend's plea for mercy, so Ned dutifully kills his daughter's direwolf.  And Bran wakes up.

So we've had a nice introduction to the Starks, let's get to know the Baratheon/Lannister clan a little better.  

Tyrion can beat Joffery black and blue with all of my blessings.  Tyrion doesn't hit Joffery for the fun of it (though I have to think he kind of enjoyed it, who wouldn't), he is trying to teach Joff a very simple lesson: there are respects due to people who pledge you their fealty, and without that you cannot hope to PEACEFULLY keep the love of your subjects.  Of course, there is little hope that Joff listened to his uncle, but even if he had, Lady's execution proved the opposite point.  What hope is there for the future, or the present really, when the King literally can not be bothered to enforce the ruling on a matter that he has just given.  Robert does not answer Ned when he asks if it is the crown's will that Lady should die in the place of Nymeria, and in that act he effectively hands his power over to Cersei, and his son in turn learns that an effective lie told to the right person with the appropriate show will allow you to exert your will over others.  Tyrion uses a strike to teach Joffery about kingship, Cersei uses a hug to teach Joffery about tyranny.

But is Cersei a cold manipulative bitch out of necessity or out of vainglory?  Initially I was really disgusted by Cersei visiting Catelyn in Bran's sickroom and telling a story about her first son who died (I think) shortly after being born.  It seemed so vile that you would try and empathize with another mother grieving for her child when you are responsible for the condition of that child (and yes, I hold Cersei as responsible for Bran as Jaime).  Did loosing her son convince her of a malevolent universe that she must protect herself against without regard to ethics or repercussion?  There is no question that her regard for the distinction of her children need have no relation to the truth of their character or the justice of the situation.

In contrast, Catelyn's quest for rank and justice for her children leaves them more humiliated and vulnerable than before.  When Sansa goes walking with Joffery she leaves Lady behind in the camp, (mostly) unintentionally choosing her future husband's family over the one she is born into, and her fear that she will loose the chance to be queen, to be esteemed by all, is why she crumbles when asked for the truth about Joffery's injury.  Catelyn's abhorrence of Jon, because he is an assault to her honor, has trickled down to her daughter, teaching her that the social perception of a person is more important than their inner substance.  And poor Bran has woken up to find both his parents and most of his siblings are gone.  His mother, in the name of protecting him, exposes him to the (possibility) of the very real dangers inherent in fear and abandonment. 

And Ned sees clearly the danger to his children if they are divided against themselves.

The TV Girl

(I actually started this post a week ago when the episode aired, but well, then it just didn't get finished.)