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

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Washington, DC, United States
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, August 28, 2011

Game of Thrones: The Dragon(s) Reborn!

“Blood and Fire” 1.10

Wait, no, different ungodly long fantasy book series.

And if anyone tries to make Robert Jordan's desperately-in-need-of-an-editor-with-a-machete books into a TV show I will punch them in the face.  For reals.

Please be warned, this is not a coherent review at all.  Sorry.

Okay, I am in a really tricky situation.  I (finally) watched this episode on Monday.  I saved and saved it, knowing it is all we’ll have for a while.  But, because I was so busy savoring it I didn’t write any notes about the order and details of events as the show presents them.  So Thursday I went to the internets to watch the episode again, and write notes, but all of the places that I borrow videos from had nothing to give me.  (Bastards.)  Add to this some sort of huge disagreement my computer Mal (yes, named after the one and only Captain Malcolm Reynolds) is having with the wireless router in my apartment and you get my current conundrum: I know what happened in the episode and I have lots of opinions and impressions but I cannot remember enough to write a description along the lines of what I’ve done for the previous episodes.  I feel like such a failure.  I thought I would actually account for a whole season of a show, but alas, look like I have sabotaged myself, yet again.

So here’s what I’m going to do.  It’s what I do for everything else.  I’m going to talk about what I liked and what I didn’t, and I’ll give as much background information as I can/deem necessary to be clear, and I’m going to trust that you’ll have already seen this episode, or that you will watch it sometime in the future.  I might fail, but I like to announce my failure, not just slip away with a bit of dignity.  But I have to do something.

Kind of like Jon.  Okay, not at all like Jon, but good transition right?  Jon decided that he needed to join Robb, even though deserters from the Night’s Watch get beheaded, but Sam, Grenn and Pyp followed him and convinced him to return.  Lord Commander Mormont wasn’t too upset, mostly because he’s decided to assemble the men (Jon included) and go north of the Wall, to find out what’s the what with the zombies and the wildlings, as well as find Benjen Stark, dead or alive.  It might have seemed like such a cheep joke to have Sam fall of his horse while pursuing Jon, who turns back to make sure his friend isn’t injured, and as much as it was funny, it wasn’t just a throw away sight gag.  Jon needed to badly to see that honor isn’t always the most heroic looking thing, that sometimes what is right is awkward and uncoordinated.  Jon and Sam are continually struggling with the difference between expectation and reality.  Both believe the best of each other, therefore they in turn ask the other to set aside expectation (self-inflicted or otherwise) and see their own hearts clearly.  The fact that Sam does this in a (maybe unintentionally) humorous way is part of what makes him so vital, to Jon and to us.  Jon doesn’t want to betray his vow, but because he’s been taught that the world will always see him as an abomination, he can tell himself that desertion is in his nature.  He needs to see Sam literally fall to realize that he doesn’t have to, that he can live up to his vow.  And what a vow it is.  I know we’ve heard it before, but every time the vow of The Brothers of the Nights Watch fills my heart.  You could argue that the scene, the three friends gathering in an ever tightening circle around Jon and picking up the lines until they spoke in unison, was overdone, too overtly "dramatic" set in the darkness as it was.  Not to me.  To me, it was beautiful.  It was a roughly elegant example of why Game of Thrones (books and show) have captured me so fully: WORDS MATTER.  Those simple sentences (subject, verb, object) spoken from sincere hearts break through Jon's conflicted soul.   In case you’ve forgotten, the oath of the Night's Watch is as follows (from Wikipedia): 

Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come. 

This is a powerful oath; it is asking men (and in some cases just boys) to completely abnegate the self, to sacrifice their entirety to be the first and last defense against, essentially, evil.  It is the fundamental human mandate, to preserve against destruction, and when they agree to this they are agreeing to do so for an entire nation of people.  The enormity of their charge radiates out of these forthright declarations, elevating the men who speak them.  Gives me shivers.

The Night’s Watch aren’t the only ones on the move.  Tyrion will be taking a journey next season as well.  Tywin, rather put out that Robb has captured Jaime and that Joffery’s execution of Ned has eliminated any possibility of peace, decides to send Tyrion to King’s Landing to act as Hand of the King while he (Tywin) hunts down the Young Wolf.  There’s a catch; Tyrion is to leave Shae behind, but Tyrion decides to ignore/defy his pops, and Shae starts packing her bags.  Honestly, if Tyrion has any hope of getting that little sociopath he calls a nephew in line, Shae is a bit of an unnecessary distraction.  But, if Tywin hadn’t been such an ass-hat about telling Tyrion not to bring her, Tyrion might have left her behind.  Because Tyrion is so good he has a sense of loyalty to his family, he wants to help them, and he wants to use the gifts that he has to create peace in his homeland.  Left to think it through on his own, he very likely would have put aside his own desires in order to fully focus on the task at hand.  If only Tywin, having finally acknowledged that Tyrion is the smartest of his children and the best qualified to put a leash on Joffery and Cersei, could have restrained his own desire to knock his son down.  He doesn’t want Tyrion to mistake (grudging) semi-respect with esteem or, gods forbid, affection.  Not only is it just cruel parenting (seems to run in the Lannister family), it is terrible leadership.  (I almost wrote “human resource management” there, and then realized that I’m not talking about my job.)  If you need someone to do something for you, and do it well, you don’t point out to him/her your disdain.  You aren’t going to get what you want/need, and if you’re operating in the context of a civil war, the stakes might be just too high to justify indulging in petty jabs.  Anyone wondering if Tywin would have made a better king than Robert should have witnessed that little exchange with his second born son, which provided a very definitive NO.  

Luckily, Tywin’s sons are so much better than he is.  I have to give away a bias, because I’ve done a shit job of holding it in, and damn it, this is my blog, no one pays me for this, and I can say whatever I want.  I started reading these books upon the recommendation of my friend Brandon (he’s kind of my geek guru and he’s way smart and funny) and he gave me a piece of advice when I started: hold back from becoming attached to the characters, because war is a fickle bitch and you don’t know what is going to happen.  I NEEDED this advice, because as anyone whose read more than about two words of what I write knows, I think of characters as real people, they take on actuality and reality within in my mind, and I get super attached to them, and way too frakking judge-y judge-y about them.  (For example, please see my INTENSE HATERD of Catelyn.)  In order to help me, Brandon mentioned to me that Jaime had become one of his favorite characters by the end of Book 4.  I was shocked, how could that possibly be?  Incest guy who pushed darling Bran out a window?  But I trusted Brandon and tried my best (with varying results) to hold off from being me about the characters.  And I kept an eye on Jaime.  Damn it if Brandon wasn’t all too right, because by the end of Book 4 Jaime was as firmly fixed in my heart as Jon, Arya, and Tyrion.  What happens to Jaime (in the books) is utterly astounding, and I’ve tried to explain it to people (both obliquely as to not give too much away as well as by going into detail without concern for spoilers) but in a way I’m still processing it, and that should tell you how stunning Jaime as a character becomes: months and months later, I’m still trying to find the words.  (One of the things that keeps me coming back to literature is when I encounter something that knocks me back to the point where I cannot form an argument around it, that frustration and awe makes me happier than almost anything on this earth.)  Why am I telling you all this?  Because as much as I suck at hiding my biases, I’ve tried harder with Jaime than with other characters on the show, in order to not spit out everything that other people might not know yet and wouldn’t be at all prepared for.  This episode (yes, at some point I’m actually going to talk about the TV show) freed me up a bit, because they are preparing us!  Jaime and Catelyn’s conversation was brilliant.  Without any hesitation he told her that he pushed Bran out the window, with the intent to kill him, but he won’t tell her why, and you get to see that he wants to.  He wants to give her the answers she needs, he isn’t trying to torture this woman who is on the edge, who with very little provocation could be goaded into killing him.  And he can’t and that doesn’t sit well with him.  He isn’t nearly the fool or the monster that everyone assumes that he is: he can’t tell the mother of the rebel leader that the king is a pretender but he recognizes that he owes Catelyn, as a mother and grieving widow, some measure of peace.  And it’s so clear to us just how thin the persona he’s taken on has become.  When Catelyn approaches him he defaults into flirting with her, to insulting her by sexual advance so that she’ll consider him beneath concern, and when she hits him across the head with a rock the shell literally cracks, he can’t hold onto the defenses he’s used to manipulate people his whole life.  We’ve seen the hint in pervious episodes that there is more going on inside him than he lets on (his comment about Theon being like a shark on a mountaintop was a particularly telling moment) but facing all of Catelyn’s rage and sorrow, caught between a desire to be honest and his sense of duty that keeps him silent, was a revelation from which there is no turning back. 

Much like there is no turning back from declaring Robb the “King in the North.”  I’ll admit it, I choked up a bit. 

Funny enough, Dany didn’t choke when she walked into Drogo’s funeral pyre to retrieve her newborn dragons. Yes, live baby dragons were waiting in the eggs she was given as a wedding present.  (The blood spell killed Dany’s baby while in the womb and Drogo’s soul still parted from his body.  Dany smothered Drogo with a pillow.  Hence the funeral pyre.)  Am I the only one who isn’t entirely comfortable with Dany having dragons? And as much as Dany is the proper person to whom the dragons would come to, it just makes me a bit nervous, because she isn’t always so stable.  I have to give Dany a break, she is very young and her upbringing was, um, unconventional.  She isn’t a particularly good judge of character, evidenced by the witch who had no trouble whatsoever convincing Dany to exchange the life of her unborn child for the continued heartbeating of her husband.  People tried to warn her that she was making a mistake, and that bitch was super shady looking, but Dany convinced herself that a) she would be treated with a certain degree of respect due to her station and family, and b) that she had really thought through all the contingencies of what she was doing.  Leadership is as much strategy as it is veneration, and being given the later by some of her followers she neglected the former.  It’s rather difficult to empathize with her when bad things happen because she REFUSES to listen to anyone, to even for a second admit that she might not completely and totally know what she’s doing, but on the other hand it’s understandable why she would behave that way, since she’s never had anyone she could trust and rely on to guide her.

But as Sansa clearly demonstrates, it is possible to have the best guidance in the world and not realize it until it’s too late.  She should have pushed Joffery off that bridge.  Just shoved that little prick for pure revenge. 

We will have to wait awhile to see if she regrets not joining the ranks of kingslayers.  It interests me to watch a season finale for a show that has a certain future.  HBO picked up a second season of GoT before the 3 episode aired, and frankly after the pilot there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that this show would come to as abrupt and end as some of it’s characters.  Instead of either a cliff-hanger, some hugely surprising event that occupies the viewer’s mind creating a desperate need to see how the next season plays out (and maybe thereby stave of cancellation) or a resolution, where the various plots are wrapped up in a way that can both fulfill and thwart our expectations, what we got here was a combination of both: our character know where they have been and are prepared to set out for the next stage of their journey.

The TV Girl

Monday, August 22, 2011

Summer Suggestions: Misfits, Series 1& 2

Simon -Maybe we're supposed to be super heroes.
Nathan -In what kind of fucked up universe would that be allowed to happen?

We associate summer with freedom, and not just because of American Independence Day. As the weather gets warmer we show more skin, play hooky with less guilt, and can't help but think that a gin and tonic is the perfect ending to a day.  And so, similarly, is it with TV.  We pack away think-y dramas and sophisticated meta-comedies for fast dialogue, bright locations, and implausible but entertaining stories that leave us feeling like a day in the sun; satisfied and relaxed.  (The USA Network has managed to become quite successful catering to this seasonal need, and boy do I love them for that.)

In a way no one is freer than the delightful little juvenile offenders of Misfits.  In another way no one is less free than them.  But, either way you see it, I am immensely happily spending part of my summer with these crazy kids.

Nathan (Robert Sheehan), Simon (Iwan Rheon), Kelly (Lauren Socha), Alisha (Antonia Thomas) and Curtis (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) have been assigned community service at a local community center as punishment for various misdeeds against society.  On their first day they, and their probation officer, are struck by lightening in a freak storm, and they being to develop unnatural abilities.  Total insanity ensues.

Part of what makes Misfits special, why is stands apart from other teen dramas or super-hero fantasies, is that being endowed with super powers doesn't make them noble or generous.  Their newly bestowed gifts, amplifications of their traits and fears, cause nothing but havoc in their lives and damage to those around them: initially lacking the knowledge of how to control things leading to mortal mayhem, when they do figure out some control, they more easily do things they shouldn't be doing in the first place.  You know, like, stalking.  The easy route (for a show) is the traditional understanding that if one gets superpowers they'll immediately recognize the pull of universal machinations.  The difficult route (for a show) is the unconventional but more realistic concept that one would take the easy route, use their powers in a self-indulgent or trivial way, but to still make the viewer cheer for the characters.

Here is where I think I should throw in a bit of a warning.  Please don't watch this show if you are easily offended.  I mean it.  These 5 offenders are offensive: they are drugging, drinking, promiscuous, foul-mouthed and immensely disaffected.  (Not to trivialize recent and extremely unpleasant events, but I have no doubt that some commentators in Britain made comparisons between these fictional youths and the all too real rioters of the last weeks.)  Objectively, they're kind of shit people, and it is very easy for their antics to grate on moral sensibilities.  I just want you to know.

Despite what could be considered the off-putting qualities, Misfits succeeds in drawing in the audience, in bonding the viewer with people we'd maybe rather not know in real life. Some shows just work perfectly, and it's almost impossible to describe why.  There is a magical combination of character development, plotting, pace, humor, and plain out and out ridiculousness that works so perfectly, even when it shouldn't.  All of that principle actors give fully committed and natural performances.  In particular Robert Sheehan plays Nathan with a fearlessness that makes Nathan's audacious behavior equally palatable and painful.  Much like the other characters, the viewer knows everything Nathan is saying is completely ridiculous, but damn it, he just makes you want to listen to him.  (I promise, you will hide your head in your hands because you can't stop laughing but you're so uncomfortable.)  In pitch perfect contrast is Iwan Rheon, who plays Simon with an almost deranged constraint in a style that strongly reminds me of Michael C. Hall.  (Honestly, I wish he had played young Dexter in the flashback scenes on Dexter.)  While maintaining a very few overarching storylines, the series remains for the most part episodic, and is much stronger for the fact.  By introducing and resolving complications for our heroes within each episode, Misfits keeps the quick pace necessary to retain both viewer attention and the suspension of disbelief.  I'm all for the calculated unfolding of a grand plot (Firefly), but in this particular genera the slow-build is more susceptible  to leaving the viewer bogged down in disconnected threads and unmet expectation (Heroes).  Alternately, in taking the long-view regarding character progression, the surprising shifts in personality are organic and rewarding, especially in the case of Alisha.  She doesn't end at all where it seems like she will when she begins, but she earns who she becomes in a plausible (within the structure of the created universe) and endearing way.

For all the pro/con arguments to be made about it's favors and faults whether or not you want to watch this show is really a matter of taste.  If it's the kind of show that appeals to you then you'll really enjoy it, it's excellent.  If this isn't where your inclinations lie you probably won't be seduced by it's merits.  For my part, Misfits is crack, and I am it's itching, shaking, fiending bitch.

The TV Girl

(This show was a project with Emily the Roommate.  She had seen it all and thought I would like it.  I love having friends with good taste!  In case you don't have an Emily (or a KP, or a Jennie, or a Calah), the series has been added to Hulu over the last couple months, a new episode every Monday.  It should be close to being complete, but I don't know how long the episodes will stay up.  Get on this shit.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Love Letter to a Fictional Character: Rory Williams (Doctor Who)

Hey everyone!

It would make more sense to explain my week + absence from my blog if I were a more regular blogger (you know, not totally lazy like I am) but I actually have a good excuse this time.  I was on vacation, at home in Portland.  The cool weather, good food, nice people, familial bonding, and the heartwarming wedding of one of my brothers has made me slightly less of a cranky-pants than normal.  I'm sort of in a gushy mood, and thought I might channel that into, well, gushing.

Last night Emily the Roommate and I began our re-watch of Doctor Who S6 P1, in preparation for the second half of the season beginning next weekend.  Among everything, there were many cheers and exclamations of affection every time Rory Williams, aka Mr. Amy Pond, appeared on screen.  Emily and I share a great love for Rory, because he is WONDERFUL!

When we met Rory it looked like we were getting a rehash of Mickey: the hapless boyfriend whose abandoned for the dashing Doctor.  I was afraid we would again be put through the vaguely annoying misery of seeing a basically decent guy get his life torn up because he wasn't up to the task of matching the sparkly adventures of the last Time Lord.  I mean really, could the slightly bewildered small-town murse really be the proper partner for bold, brave, and bruised Amy?  Hell yes he could be!  Rory is not Mickey, any more than Amy is Rose.

When the strange man he met two years earlier during an (almost) world ending event pops out of a cake at his stag night and announces that his fiancee hasn't been kissing only him, Rory doesn't even get mad.  He blinks, sputters a bit, but he doesn't start freaking out about how a practical stranger has humiliated him in front of every dude he knows or that the woman he's going to marry might not be faithful.  He's puzzled, but he's willing to accept the Doctor's solution that Amy and Rory need a time/space-travel-y date to reconnect, so that she stops thinking she wants to "connect" with the Doctor.  Because essentially Rory is a level-headed person.  He stays calm, thinks the situation through, gets all the facts he can before making a judgment or taking an action.  Emily was remarking to me last night that it's in "The Impossible Astronaut" and "Day of the Moon" that we really get to see that Rory really is the one who keeps his wits about him, who retains his composure in dire circumstances. And we've been led to see this throughout S5 and 6.  In "Cold Blood" after Alaya (the hostage) is killed Rory insists that they return her body to her people, even knowing that doing so could put Amy's life in more jeopardy than it already is.  He is afraid to loose Amy, but he is rational enough to know that honesty is the only possible way to salvage the situation.  When Rory the Roman offers to guard the Pandorica in "The Big Bang" the Doctor tries to dissuade him, to impress upon him that he will be alone for thousands of years and probably loose his mind, but Rory the Roman is having none of it.  With a fortitude that can only result from a well-honed perception of the truth, Rory makes the simple choice that if Amy will be safer he will stay with her.  So when Amy is kidnapped in "Day of the Moon" we expect nothing less from Rory than his impassioned speech to the Doctor that Amy can always hear him and always knows that he will save her.  And damn it if we don't know it too!

Rory loves Amy unendingly.  I mean that.  He loves her without end.  Through death, being erased from time, being reborn as a plastic Centurion, being reborn again through Amy's memory, and ALL OF IT, Rory loves Amy.  Even though she kind of forgets about him sometimes, and flirts with the Doctor, and really has trouble expressing her emotions.  It doesn't make him some kind of saint or dopey optimist: Rory has moments of insecurity, needs affirmation from his wife, and he's always aware of the seriousness of engaging in the Doctor's shenanigans.  His steadfastness takes a toll on him, his mind continually weighed with the reality of sacrifice.  In "Day of the Moon" he tells the Doctor that he remembers the years he guarded the Pandorica, but not all the time.  He has earned his happiness and appreciates it all the more because of that fact.

In a way unlike any other companion Rory is the mirror of the Doctor.  Where the Doctor has this bountiful love for the human being, Rory has a specific love for one woman.  Where the Doctor rescues in the nick of time, Rory comforts and repairs in the aftermath.  Where the Doctor basks in the unspoken esteem of others (because after all he is rather clever), Rory doesn't expect others to notice what he does.  Where the Doctor drops in and out of time and space and lives, Rory is the anchor.  The two men reflect each other, presenting different refractions of similar traits.  But also, Rory shows how the qualities that others find so appealing and fascinating in the Doctor are possible for a regular person.  It in no way diminishes the special-ness of the Doctor to see how his characteristics manifest in a person, but rather Rory simultaneously connects the Doctor even more to humanity and serves as an example to strive for.

And Rory repeatedly watches Laurel and Hardy movies! How frakking precious is that?

Amy is the girl who waited, Rory is the man who endured.  And I love him.  Seriously, love him.

The TV Girl

Monday, August 1, 2011

Top 5: Couples I Just Don't Care About

Sorry folk, I have to be true to my nature.  A haters gotta hate.

There are TV couples that just bore the every living shite out of me.  I don't actively rail against them (most of the time), I just usually go get a snack when they appear.  In the worst cases a tiresome couple can lead me to go get a snack permanently.  

Buffy and Spike, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
This just never made one damn bit of sense to me.  Just didn't.  Riley was wrong for Buffy and Angel had a whole new life (and show, and love interest) in LA, so romantic options were limited for our dear slayer, but Spike!  I will never stop feeling like the writers/producers wanted to keep Spike (because he was a really good character) but they didn't quite know how so they decided to hook him up with Buffy.  On a show that was exceptional for organic character development this storyline seemed immensely forced and contrived, therefore (to me) deeply uninteresting.  There were genuinely compelling moments between Spike and Buffy, but those moments didn't add up to a couple you rooted either for or against.

Chuck and Sarah, Chuck
I admit, I kind of stopped watching Chuck because of Chuck and Sarah's relationship.  Mostly because the show became ABOUT their relationship, and I just couldn't care less.  Sarah is awful and Chuck could do so much better.  Sarah is really hot and quite adept at kick-and-kill, but she sleeps with any eligible male partner who crosses her path, and is continually lecturing others to behave in ways she refuses to do so herself.  Furthermore, because essentially Chuck asserts his concept of Sarah as her actual character, there is a deep disconnect for the viewer between what we see and what the male lead says, making it really hard to care.  By the end of S3 (where I left off watching) Chuck's expeditions into adulthood, his halting but ever hopeful steps towards self-respect, definition of purpose and acceptance of responsibility, became a reductive get-and-keep-the-girl image of maturity, a disappointing case of a show being less than the sum of it's parts by focusing far too heavily on the weakest elements.  (And then there's the whole, this-is-my-tax-dollars-at-work issue...)

Ted and the Mother, How I Met Your Mother
I don't know that I've ever cared too much who The Mother actually is, despite that being the title of the show.  I really like the failed relationships and lessons learned from those that have occupied Ted on his way to meeting his future wife, and I do want to know her name, but the real draw of the show for me is the friendship between the 5 principle characters.  I like the way Marshall, Lily, Barney, Robin and Ted both mock and support each other, how they entertain themselves with silly games, how they know when to correct and when to congratulate, when to apologize and when to ask for an apology.  It's wonderful to see friendships on TV that seem natural, sincere, and well-rounded.  And at some point, I'll find out who Ted marries, cool with me, but not at all keeping me up at night.

Kate and Neal, White Collar
Another case where the very existence of this couple predicates the premise of the show (Neal escapes from prison, and must be recaptured by the guy who put him there, FBI Special Agent Peter Burke, because Kate dumps him) but aside from acting as a springboard, Neal and Kate have little to no value.  The fact that Kate is an absence rather than a presence on the show doesn't help captivate the audience at all, but in the episode where we get to see Kate and Neal fall in love you seriously want to take a nap.  Add to this that Alexandra Daddario, the miscast woman who plays Kate, just cannot keep pace with Mathew Bomer quick, clever, but ultimately yearning Neal.  Sorry, she's just not a terribly good actress.  But she's very pretty.  And essentially, that's how you end up feeling about Neal and Kate: they are an aesthetically pleasing couple without much else to recommend them.  Luckily everything else on the show is fun and engaging, so it's easy to ignore the ho-hum relationship that started the whole thing.

Deb and Lundy, Dexter
The most interesting thing this couple did was get shot, him fatally.  Harsh? Yes. But true.  Damaged, stubborn, and relentlessly loving Deb is without a doubt the emotional core of Dexter (and Dexter).  A bit hard to take in S1, Deb grows into not a nagging-voice-of-reason to act as an easy foil to Dexter's detached and murderous nature, but rather an emotionally complex and thoughtfully principled companion to and reflection of her brother.  A great deal of this development happens within the context of her various romantic relationships, but it was hard to pay attention to all this during S2 because her love interest, FBI Special Agent Frank Lundy (I really like writing out whole title for these dudes) was unfortunately dull.  Lundy was a bit too smart by ordinary, too Everyman, not quite the Sherlock Holmes we need to be chasing Dex and to be inspiring such love and loyalty from Deb.  Safe, kind, and dedicated to his job, Lundy just didn't have that spark of personality against which Deb shines all the brighter.  He was her Riley (the good guy she needed to fill the time while she healed from heartbreak): necessary but expendable.

The TV Girl

Game of Thrones: Boom Goes the Dynamite

(1.09, "Baelor")

And now we return to "Jail Cell Chat" with Ned Stark and Varys, coming to you direct from the Red Keep in King's Landing.  This week's topic: peace, honor, and love; how do we prioritize?  Ok, ok, I'll stop being silly.  Varys does go to visit sadly (and wrongfully!) imprisoned Ned, to tell him that Sansa has plead for his life to be sparred, if he will confess his crimes, a suggestion Ned isn't too keen on.  Varys is nothing if not persistent.  He tells Ned that when he was still a real boy he was raised by a troupe of actors, and the ultimate lesson was that everyone has a part to play.  Ned's part is to serve the realm.  According to Varys, even though Robb is marching south with an army (news to Ned), Cersei is worried about Stannis, a merciless battle veteran, therefore Cersei would rather have a tame wolf than a dead one, so in exchange for his confession, Ned will be allowed to take the Black.  Ned isn't swayed; Stannis is Robert's true heir and Ned isn't in any mood to pretend otherwise.  See, Varys might have been raised an actor, but Ned was raised a soldier, and as such "learned how to die a long time ago."  Undaunted, Varys plays his ace; Ned may value his honor more than his own life, but what about Sansa's?  At The Twins, Theon is playing target practice with ravens, shooting down all communication trying to escape the Frey compound.  After reading Lord Frey's birthday wishes for his grandniece, Robb, Catelyn, Theon and the bannermen talk strategy.  The Northerners need to cross the Trident, The Twins is the only crossing, the Frey's have held The Twin for over six hundred years, so either Robb can waste his arms forcing Walder Frey to let him pass or someone can try to go talk to him.  Since she's known him from childhood, Catelyn offers to go play let's-make-a-deal with the Late Lord Frey.  Inside the dank and crowded hall of Lord Frey (on the other side of the Trident) Catelyn receives a frosty welcome from Lord Walder, who is reminded of the courtesies by his heir and then (one of his many) bastards.  Catelyn might have rather just skipped them; she couldn't quite contain her revulsion when Lord Walder slobbered all over her hand.  Having performed his socially prescribed assault, Lord Frey dismisses his frighteningly enormous brood.  Lord Frey expresses his exasperation to Catelyn that her father didn’t attend the last couple of weddings he had, and isn’t mollified by Catelyn’s insistence that her father has been ill.  Lord Frey resents what he perceives as years of the Tullys looking down on the Freys, dismissive of any esteem offered, because what he really needs is marriages to get his progeny out of his house.  Lord Frey points out to Catelyn that he while he made vows of alliegence to Lord Tully, he made similar vows to the King, so from one perspective Robb is nothing more than the leader of traitors.  But then Lord Walder undercuts any legitimate ideological debate he could be having by asking Catelyn why he should give a shit about any of it.  Up north at The Wall, the refuge of unwanted children (hint hint Lord Walder), Mormont asks Jon how long until his hand is healed because he’ll need both hands to wield the sword Mormont is giving him as thanks for saving his life from zombies.  Mormont is giving Jon his family’s sword, which his son had the good grace to leave behind when he ran for his life from Westeros, but he’s replaced the bear’s head on the pommel with a wolf’s head.  Ignoring Jon’s protests that he cannot take the sword, Mormont warns Jon that “it is a man’s sword, it will take a man to wield it” meaning men don’t have petty bitch-fights with their sworn-Brothers, a message Jon gets clearly, so he offers to apologize to Thorne.  The Lord Commander has save Jon the trouble of making peace, he’s sent Thorne to King’s Landing with the zombie hand, to make the situation real for lil’ King Joffery.  Sent to fetch the Lord Commander’s supper, Jon goes to the dinning hall, a journey punctuated by pats on the back and good-jobs from his Brothers, and concluding with his friends loudly chanting their desire to see the sword.  But because there is some horrible cosmic rule that Jon isn’t allowed to be remotely happy for more than 5 minutes, Jon notices that Sam looks troubled.  With absolutely no pressure at all Jon gets Sam to relate the contents of raven Sam read to Maester Aemon earlier: Robb has headed south with his bannermen.  Sober again, Jon’s loyalty to his brother comes to the forefront: “I should be with him.”  Catelyn returns to the Northerners camp, bringing news of her negotiations.  Lord Frey will let them cross the Twins, and will pledge his men to Robb’s cause.  In exchange Robb will take one of his son’s as a squire, Arya will marry one of his sons (or maybe grandsons) when they are both of age, and Robb will marry one of his daughters, when the fighting’s done.  Robb is apprehensive about the price to be paid for Lord Frey’s assistance, especially hearing that beauty doesn’t seem to be a family trait.  Resigned that if he wants the help he will end up with an ugly wife, Robb agrees, since after all, Ned taught him that you make the sacrifice asked of you in order to do what must be done.  And the Northerners cross the Trident, on their way to meet the Lannisters.  Internally contemplating if he should do the same, Jon is asked by Maester Aemon to help feed the ravens, in order to give Jon something to occupy him while Maester Aemon asks him some personal questions.  Jon has no response for the Maester’s question of why the men of the Night’s Watch take no wives and father no children, but it is simply so that they will not love, for “love is the death of duty.”  Maester Aemon tells Jon that each man will be tested in his life, asked to choose between they two demands upon his heart, and that Jon’s conflicted soul is not special.  Before Jon can get too far into his martyrdom, for he might be a bastard but it is his father in jail and his brother in peril, Maester Aemon relates his own family history: his nephew, grandnephew and great grand nephew all killed so that Robert might be king.  Dany isn’t the last dragon; her grandfather’s brother has been assigned to Castle Black, and remained there, despite the destruction of his house.  Refraining from giving Jon his opinion on what he should do, he simply tells Jon that he must make a choice and he must live with the consequences for the rest of his life.  Across the Narrow Sea, Khal Drogo is suffering the consequences of his wound, and in a state of delirium, falls from his horse.  Trying to ward of the death predictions of Angry-Blood-Rider, Dany commands that they make camp and the healing woman be brought to her.  At the Lannister camp it’s dinnertime.  Tyrion sits down to the information that the Northerners are only a day away and that he will be in the vanguard leading his tribesmen.  Tyrion argues that the wild men might not be the best choice to represent the army, as they are rather prone to infighting and mindless destruction, but Tywin replies that the behavior of soldiers is the responsibility of their commander.  Giving it another go, Tyrion asserts that his father can find a way to kill him that wouldn’t hurt the Lannister cause, bait to which Tywin will not rise.  So Tyrion rises, from the table, having lost his appetite.  In his tent he finds Bronn and a lovely young woman, a camp follower Bronn commandeered from a few tents down.  Tyrion makes the pretty woman, who gives the name Shae, an offer: to be his companion in exchange for protection and money.  Shae, apparently a smart one, agrees.  Enthusiastically.  After all, it could be Tyrion’s last night on earth.  It looks like it will be Drogo’s last night on earth.  When Jorah sees him he begs Dany to abandon her husband and ride with him towards the nearest city so they can grab a boat.  Dany assures Jorah that she won’t let Drogo die, and it’s irrelevant since she is carrying his heir.  Jorah corrects her cultural ignorance, informing her that Dothraki honor strength, and when Drogo dies there will be fighting, the winner will be Khal, and he will kill Dany’s baby.  Angry-Blood-Rider and the healing woman arrive, neither too happy about Drogo’s state.  Angry-Blood-Rider removes himself, with some helpful encouragement from Jorah, instead of killing Dany and the healing woman.  At Dany’s suggestion, Jorah leaves to put his armor on.  Dany commands the healing woman to save Drogo.  The healing woman offers Dany a spell, blood magic, but there will be a price for “only death pays for life.” Dany assumes it will be her life, but is relieved when the witch asks for Drogo’s horse.  The witch banishes everyone from the tent, slaughters the horse on top of Drogo, the blood of which splatters on Dany as well, and then tells Dany to leave, that no one may enter once she starts singing.  Outside, Angry-Blood-Rider pushes Dany to the ground and tries to get past Jorah to enter the tent.  Fully armed and a bit pissed, Jorah dispatches Angry-Blood-Rider without too much trouble.  Rushing to Dany’s side, he discovers that Dany has gone into labor, but none of the Dothraki women will help her.  Considering his only option the witch, whose been overheard to say she has helped deliver babies, Jorah gathers Dany into his arms and takes her into the tent.  (The tent when a witch is trying to prevent her almost dead husband from dying by using blood magic.)  In Tyrion’s tent, he and Shae are playing a game of fire-chicken, and he’s loosing.  Tyrion wants to play a game that he’s good at, so it’s Truth-or-Drink-with-Tyrion: he will make a statement about Bronn (and then Shae) and if it’s true, they must drink.  In round Bronn the details of his sordid life come to light: his mother, as well as his father, beat him; the first person he killed was a woman and he was less than 12; typical sellsword type stuff.  Shae insists that Tyrion is wrong that her father ran out on her family and that her mother was also a whore.  Turning the tables, Bronn announces that Tyrion used to be married, and Shae insists on the story.  At 16 Tyrion was riding with Jaime and they came upon a girl being chased by men intending to rape her.  Jaime pursued the men, Tyrion took the girl, Tysha, to an inn, fed her, and they ended up in bed together.  He fell in love with her, and the next day they married.  Two weeks later Tywin found out, had Jaime admit to Tyrion that Tysha was a whore and he’d arranged the whole scenario so that Tyrion would no longer be a virgin.  To punish Tyrion, Tywin gave Tysha to each of his guards and made Tyrion watch.  Shae is unmoved by Tyrion’s revelation, claiming he should have known she was a whore, as no woman whose almost been raped then willingly has sex a couple hours later, and Tyrion’s defense that he was young, stupid and in love sways her not at all, for in her opinion he is still young and stupid.  At dawn Bronn awakens Tryion with news that he’s missing the war: Robb’s army marched through the night and will be there within the hour.  Armed, Tyrion assembles his tribesmen, preparing them for battle by telling them that this will be the beginning of their dominion over the Vale.  His speech maybe makes them a bit too eager; in their haste the tribesmen flood over Tryion and one of them hits him in the face with a hammer, knocking him out cold.  Tyrion awakes to find the battle over, won by the Lannisters, but only against 2,000 of Robb’s 20,000 men, and Robb not among them.  Of on a hill Catelyn waits expectantly, finally letting out a sigh of relief when rider emerge from the woods, led by Robb.  The Northerners have been victorious, and captured Jaime Lannister.  Catelyn demands the return of her daughters, but Jaime isn’t obliging.  Theon strongly suggest they kill Jaime, but Robb sees more value in his life than his death.  Jaime offers Robb a chance to end the war: their single combat.  Robb isn’t fooled, and tells Jaime to his face that single combat between them would inevitably end in Jaime’s favor.  So, it’s to irons and a cell for “the pretty man.”  Watching his prisoner led away, Robb is overcome by the 2,000 men this victory cost him.  Undaunted, he reminds his men that their single victory has neither freed Ned, nor return Sansa and Arya, and certainly has not repelled those who’ve subjugated the North.  Unflinching, Robb reminds his men that “this war is far from over.”   Arya does not flinch when catching a pigeon on the streets of King’s Landing, but the baker she tries to bargain with isn’t interested in her prize.  Noticing all the people heading in the same direction, Arya asks a passing boy what’s going on.  He gleefully informs her that the Hand of the King is being taken to the Sept of Baelor.  Arya hurries to the square and climb the statue of Baelor the Blessed, just in time to see her father led out to the very crowded platform.  King, Queen, Council, Sansa, King’s Guard and all have gathered to hear Ned’s confession, but he only sees Arya, and as he passes Yoren in the crowd, whispers to him “Baelor,” all he can do to attempt to protect his younger daughter.  In front of the crowd, with a reassuring nod from Sansa, Ned “confesses” that though Robert was his friend, he attempted to kill Joffery and take the crown for himself.  He assents that Joffery is the rightful king and that he is sorry for his crime.  Pleased, Joffery tells the mob that while Cersei and Sansa have argued for Ned to be punished in exile on the Wall, that was their soft women-hearts talking, and that as long as he is king, treason shall be punished.  Joffery commands Ser Illyan to behead Lord Stark.  Just as she’s about to leap to her father’s defense, Yoren grabs Arya, yelling at her not to look.  Despite the pandemonium around him, the screams of Sansa, the avid protests of Cersei and Varys, the unsheathing of his own broadsword, the world goes quiet around Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell.  With a last look toward the statue of Baelor, a last fumbling hope that her absence there might mean that at least one of his daughters has been spared the sight of his death and be saved from further torment at the hands of the Lannisters, Ned puts down his head.  Ice falls, the crows fly. 

And I cried.

Like a baby.

Love versus duty.  This has been (one of) the central debate(s) our poor little characters have been having all along.  These forces have been pulling at each other, and in some cases weakening the fabric of society, since we entered Westeros, but upon this theme this episode was especially beautiful.  Each storyline explored a different aspect of this existential difficulty in such a way that the episode itself served to present a unified human person.  Taken individually the particular struggles of the individual players deepened our understanding of them and propelled along their plotlines, exactly what an episode of a show should do.  Taken collectively, we saw the full range of experience that every person has throughout his/her life.  For most of us, the choice between love and duty, between the people and passions that enrich our soul and the (often sacrificial) actions towards a good higher than ourselves, will seldom be a matter of broad societal import, of life and death.  Our lives, generally of less noticeable import, are made up of smaller quandaries, but we find in here a reflection of them all the same.  In those times that we are asked by a friend for an honest opinion, when we have to prioritize our time to fit in both work and play, when we must balance the needs of loved ones for time and attention with our desire for success in our purpose within the greater world, in the moments that we recognize that the price for what is right might be paid by one we care for, there will be occasions when we are overwhelmed by seeming isolation in our plight (like Jon), when we cannot let the world see how terribly we have failed (like Jaime), when we continually make the wrong choice (like Catelyn), when believe we understand the full impact of our choices (like Dany), when we do understand that no matter the outcome our struggle is ongoing (like Robb), when we comprehend just how circumscribed our own lives, and therefore our choices, are (like Tyrion), and when there is no choice that will bring about a good outcome (like Ned).  The course of our lives will be shaped by those choices, as the course of Westeros is shaped.

The TV Girl