Tuesday’s Reviews – ‘The Red Woman’ :Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 1

Tuesday’s Reviews – ‘The Red Woman’ :Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 1

It’s been just under a year since we were left with the image of the men of the Night’s Watch stabbing their Lord Commander for his decisions regarding the Wildlings. Fans of the show have finally been getting on board with the theories book fans have been bandying around since they first read A Dance with Dragons. Let’s be honest, one of the most exciting parts of the experience of A Song of Ice and Fire is guessing what’s going to come next and Jon Snow’s untimely death has given plenty of opportunities to predict the future. Considering neither the book nor the TV show have explicitly solved the “mystery” of his true parents it seems ridiculous that he can actually be dead. George RR Martin likes killing off his most popular characters but it would make no sense considering the amount of emphasis he’s put onto Jon’s character. Add to this, the constant rumours about Kit Harrington appearing in costume in the places filming takes pace and you have the world’s least shocking non-death. Still, season 6 had a lot of questions to answer and threads to pick up.

Threads that are picked up pretty much immediately where they were dropped. The episode opens with the lifeless Jon Snow lying in the cold with the howls of his Direwolf, Ghost, heard in the background. Ser Davo Seaworth is the first to discover the deceased Lord Commander and, after a few of the remaining loyal Night’s Watch return, helps carry the body into his room. They must keep themselves safe from the potential violence of Alliser Thorne and his followers. They are preparing to fight whilst Edd goes off to gather Wildlings willing to fight. Enter the Red Woman who realises her predictions for Jon are in jeopardy and appears to have a crisis of faith.

Unsuprisingly, considering the title, the Wall is the main storyline of the episode but there is plenty of action elsewhere. Arya is figuring out life as a blind girl in Braavos and is faced with a future of having to fend off the Waif every day. Over in Dorne, there is a shocking death or two and a political uprising. Cersei and Jaime must start to deal with their grief over Myrcella’s murder whilst Margaery is still adjusting to life in captivity. Tyrion and Varys have a stroll through Meereen whilst Ser Jorah and Daario continue their search for their missing Queen. Who is, incidentally, in the midst of a horny Dothraki hoard and questioning how she’ll get back to the city she fled. Finally, we see the results of Theon and Sansa’s leap from the walls of Winterfell as they continue their escape from Ramsay. Thankfully, when all looks lost our favourite she-knight turns up to save the day.

There is an awful lot going on in episode 1 and the action moves around at quite a pace. The episode flies by and I couldn’t help but wish we had a bit more time to give to certain moments. The reveal of Myrcella’s death and Cersei’s reaction was over too quickly considering how fucking good Lena Headey was in that scene. Cersei’s realisation that her daughter, the only pure thing she was able to create, has been taken from was heart wrenching but glossed over to get back to another part of the realm. Similarly, the part of the episode that gave me the most feels, was also given short shrift. Brienne’s rescue of Sansa and Theon was clearly the most exciting and emotional part of the episode but we are quickly set off in another direction at exactly the point where Gwendoline Christie is doing sterling work.

The problem with this episode is that there are too many storylines to keep going and we still haven’t seen them all yet. God knows what will happen when Bran comes back and with the other missing characters still potentially returning it’s getting quite crowded. This amount of plate spinning is fine in the books but the television show is looking like a balloon ready to pop at any second. I understand the opener has to reintroduce the audience to a lot of ideas so I hope it’s a one-off and not an indication of things to come. I’d like there to be a bit of substance to each story rather than just shoehorning in as much as possible. I mean we could definitely have done without the brief Meereen segment, despite how much I love a good Varys/Tyrion session, and there was no need to include any reference to Daario and Jorah, despite how much I love a look at Iain Glenn’s face.

Still, what we did see was as good as the show has always been. It’s still really well made and the acting is top notch. It’s also nice, as a book reader, to see where the show is going now it’s not as restrained by the book narratives. I think it could be a really exciting time to get rid of a lot of the fat that clogs up Martin’s books and create a few different scenarios to play with. Don’t get me wrong, there a lot of things they’ve missed out that I’m upset about but I’m not so narrow-minded that I can’t appreciate where they’re going. I mean, if they’d followed the book completely Iain Glen wouldn’t have been cast and there would be no place in my heart for Ser Jorah Mormont.

‘The Red Woman’ is a solid opener and a lot more exciting than Season 5 Episode 1. It shows promise for the future but also raises a red flag in terms of scope. With such a short season, Game of Thrones has always have to pack themselves tightly to get through everything. I hope, now they’re getting so far ahead, that they consider slowing the pace just a little and allowing each storyline to develop itself properly. Or at the very least, give us more Brienne please.

THAT’S WHAT SHE READ – SUNDAY RUNDOWN

THAT’S WHAT SHE READ – SUNDAY RUNDOWN

This week I’ve been on holiday from work. It was my intention to relax before the Christmas rush really starts and buy any remaining presents I needed. The reading side of my plans hasn’t gone awfully well but I’ve done almost nailed the present side of things. I have to admit that I’ve probably bought more for myself than other people. You’ll get a small glimpse into this further down the page. I’m so fucking selfish that as soon as I spend time looking for other people I find at least three things I “really need”. I’ve also bought about 5 different Christmas party dresses (four of which went back) and a shitload of make-up that will eventually go to waste. Considering Christmas is one of my favourite times of year it doesn’t half show me how terrible I am at life.

Currently Reading
  • Hotels of North America by Rick Moody

Another book I read about online and couldn’t wait to order. It’s a book that sounds fucking weird but is so engrossing that I’m sure I’ll recommend it to everyone. Hotels of North America is the story of hotel reviewer Reginald E Morse as told by his postings to RateYourLodgings.com. When Reginald goes missing it is his reviews that give a real insight into the man and why he suddenly vanished. Moody’s novel is almost impossible to put down and expertly blurs the lines between reality and fiction. Read it now. I urge you.

  • Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

See last week.


Recently Purchased

  • Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

This is one of the books from this year that I really wanted to read. It’s one of those books that you can’t get away from online and my interest was immediately piqued. This debut from American poet Essbaum has pretty much received unanimous praise. Following the story of a young American housewife who turns to adultery to escape the boredom of her suburban life in Zurich. The novel has the potential to really get under the character’s skin and sounds fucking amazing. Can’t wait to start it.

  • A Bad Character by Deepti Kapoor

I have no idea where I first discovered this gem but as soon as I read the synopsis I knew I had to read it. When a young woman escapes her arranged marriage and runs away with her boyfriend, we are introduced to an intense and new version of the city of Dehli. As someone who has accidentally found herself stuck in a mostly white male dominated reading list, A Bad Character is the book I’ve been searching for. I can’t fucking wait. 

  • Young God by Katherine Faw Morris

Another book I’ve had on my Wishlist for fucking ages but never got around to buying until now. It’s a short but seemingly incredibly powerful tale. It sounds fucking perfect to me. Nikki is our teenage protagonist who must go down increasingly dark and dangerous paths to reconnect with her father. This probably isn’t for the faint-hearted but I’ve never been accused of that.

  • The Zone of Inerest by Martin Amis 

I’ve wanted to read this long before it came out this Summer. Martin Amis has written a novel to ask important questions about mankind and how we deal with out true selves. It’s going to be dark, clever and witty. It’s a fucking shame it got overlooked for the Man Booker… probably. I’ll tell you for sure when I’ve finished it.

  • The Verdict by Nick Stone (Kindle Edition)

Another purchase I only made because it was cheap. Although I may have read about it somewhere. It’s a run-of-the-mill legal thriller. I can’t imagine it’ll wow me but it’ll certainly keep me busy on the cold Winter nights. 

  • Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

I must admit that I didn’t mean to buy this. I was at a Christmas market the other day after a few too many steins. In a drunken haze I got a bit too far into the festive spirit and bought a copy. I love Terry Pratchett and am slowly rebuying the books I loved when I was younger. Maybe not all the things you buy when you’re pissed are a bad thing?

  • The Official A Game of Thrones Colouring Book
I don’t think it’s ever been a good idea to leave me alone in a bookshop. I can’t stop myself buying something. As we’re beginning to see, it’s a even worse idea to leave me drunk in charge of a iPhone. Having Amazon just a tipsy click away is only a bad thing. This book is beautiful but, as I’ve already established, I’m probably not going to colour it in. 

Recently Watched

So I love all Lego videogames regardless but the newest trailer for this has just made my heart fucking sing. Unlike Lego Marvel Superheroes, these games closely follow the film releases. It looks fucking awesome. Add to that the open world side of things and this could possibly be my favourite Lego game ever. Even beating the original Lego Star Wars… the one that started my love affair with the whole series. 

Breaker of Chains: When you watch the Game of Thrones you cheer or you rant

Breaker of Chains: When you watch the Game of Thrones you cheer or you rant

So Season 4 of Game of Thrones is in full swing once again and so far it’s been pretty standard. As someone who has already made her way through George RR Martin’s original works, I’ve always through that the show stayed as faithful to the book as it possibly could (considering the author’s potential lack of focus) and, at times, improved upon the original. I have enjoyed the book but I certainly think Martin has a tendency to overcomplicate things. The show has done a great job of fitting the huge books into seasons of 10 episodes and has created some memorable original scenes. The ones that instantly leap to mind are the moments at Harrenhal between Tywin and Arya. Of course, there is every chance that my appreciation of these scenes may have something to do with my utter adoration of Maisie Williams and the fact that I think Charles Dance is a fucking legend. However, I suspect it has more to do with the fact that the original scenario where she works for Amory Loch followed by Roose Bolton just wasn’t as attention grabbing.

It was always going to be a difficult task to whittle down the information offered in the books into such short seasons whilst keeping the drama moving. There are plenty of down moments in the novels where nothing much happens (I’m talking the majority of Book 4 and the latter part of Dany’s story) so I guess it would be easy to cut large chunks. However, I am a literary fangirl at heart and am always slightly concerned at major changes to works I have a special place for in my heart. It’s the very reason I refuse to admit that there was ever a Picture of Dorian Gray film. There have been a few niggles here and there throughout the first three seasons (I mean how the hell are they going to play the Siege of Meereen whilst Dany knows exactly who Sir Barristan is?) but it hasn’t been up until season 4 that I really became annoyed about the show messing around with the source.
Firstly, the timeline has been fucked up so much now that certain things just don’t make sense. Mainly Brienne being in King’s Landing before Joffrey dies. She was there for days at least and Sansa was within her grasp. If she really wanted to keep her oath to Catelyn then why didn’t she approach Sansa and get her the fuck away from the Lannister’s? It doesn’t fit with Brienne’s character in the slightest. The only positives that I have seen from her presence have been her encounters with Margaery and the Queen of Thorns. However, I love every second that Diana Rigg is on screen and am eternally saddened that she won’t most probably won’t be on screen for much longer. She fucking nailed that character from the moment she opened her mouth. Despite this brief encounter, Brienne’s presence in King’s Landing before Sansa’s escape just doesn’t make as much sense.
Secondly, and more importantly for me, is the treatment of Jaime. I, like virtually every other reader, came to love Jaime after his experiences with Brienne. He changed which meant when he got back to King’s Landing he found himself disgusted with the people he was reunited with: mainly with Cersei. In the book Jaime returns just after his son has been killed and finds his sister as an emotional wreck by his corpse. Naturally, their increased emotional state and eventual reunion leads to the pair having sex beside their dead firstborn (I mean we’ve all been there, right?). However, in the season 4 episode 3, the writers handled this moment in a significantly different way and I, along with a large proportion of the internet, just aren’t happy about it.
Jaime made his return at the end of season 3 and has had a certain amount of time to see just what kind of person Cersei has become. We already see that he is moving away from his vicious sister and doesn’t exactly approve of who she has become in his absence. By the time Joffrey dies it is justifiable that Jaime no longer loves his sister with the intensity that he used to. However, not wanting to miss the chance to show a bit of sex on screen, the makers still include their encounter in the Sept of Baelor. However, it makes for even more uncomfortable viewing than it did in the novel. Basically, Jaime takes his sister’s moment of absolute grief to rape her which is something that is not only horrible on its own but doesn’t comply with his new character. The man who prevented Locke’s gang from raping Brienne (at that point a near stranger and an enemy) is now happy to force himself on his mournful sister. It doesn’t make any fucking sense.
Of course, following the backlash, episode director Alex Graves was quick to justify his scene by releasing the following statement: “Well, it becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle.” Hmmm…. what? It becomes consensual “by the end”. So that’s a handy note to any potential rapists out there. If you just keep trying hard enough your victim may eventually get into it. It’s a ridiculous and appalling thing to say in defence of a scene that clearly depicts rape. Cersei is seen continually shouting the word “no” and is not heard changing her mind before the scene cuts away. If that doesn’t sound like rape then what the fuck does? This so called “power struggle” actually amasses to Jaime using his superior strength to push his sister to the floor, rip her skirts and force himself on her. The struggle is entirely one sided as it is quite clear Jaime is the one with the power here.
Graves offers further “solid” proof that the audience misinterpreted the scene.
The consensual part of it was that she wraps her legs around him, and she’s holding onto the table, clearly not to escape but to get some grounding in what’s going on. And also, the other thing that I think is clear before they hit the ground is she starts to make out with him. The big things to us that were so important, and that hopefully were not missed, is that before he rips her undergarment, she’s way into kissing him back. She’s kissing him aplenty.
This may have been the intention overall but there can be no avoiding the inescapable fact that Cersei continues to cry “no” and “don’t” throughout the scene. Her movement to grab hold of the cloth could be read in a way that suggests rape just as easily, if not more so, than Graves’ explanation. The scene cuts after Cersei cries “don’t” and Jaime definitively states “I don’t care”. Whether Cersei participated in a bit of making out or not, this all seems very rapey to me.
Now this particular rant isn’t about rape being used as entertainment: though I would always query the decision to show a sexual assault being carried out on screen. This is simply about character and needless change. It doesn’t make sense for Jaime’s character in this context to carry out such an attack. He has undoubtedly changed emotionally. Graves states than in that moments Jaime wanted to get his relationship with Cersei back to how it was: “That’s part of what’s behind him, that lie he’s telling himself, that seasons two and three didn’t happen. So it’s a last act of stupid clinging to what’s been home for him, because it will never be the same.” Not only have we already seen how unlikely it was for their relationship to return to normal but the idea that Jaime, in a desperate attempt to recapture his loving relationship, would rape the woman he loves is insane. It is because the act is so against the character’s recent development that fans have reacted so badly to the news. Jaime was becoming, not a wholly good character, but at least a better man than the majority of his family. In one single moment the show’s writers and directors have obliterated the development they spent two seasons working towards.
Which would be less of an issue itself if this was taken from the original text and leading to a specific point. The major fact is, George RR Martin never intended the scene to be a rape (or at least with much less room for interpretation than the TV show left it.)
“Hurry,” she was whispering now, “quickly, quickly, now, do it now, do me now. Jaime Jaime Jaime.” Her hands helped guide him. “Yes,” Cersei said as he thrust, “my brother, sweet brother, yes, like that, yes, I have you, you’re home now, you’re home now, you’re home.”
Yes the chapter is written from Jaime’s POV which will always mean he come on top (bad choice of words given the circumstances I guess) but there can be little doubt that Cersei is as into it as her brother. Yes there is a little moment when Cersei, uncomfortable with the setting, says no but the reader is never left with any doubt that she wants Jaime as much as he wants her. I’m not trying to say it’s the healthiest sexual encounter possible (and that’s before you even get to the incest part of it) but at least it’s a consensual one.
One of the major arguments that I have seen in favour (as it were) of the scene is that Martin’s books are full of mentions of rape and sexual assault. Now I won’t be fully defending George RR Martin’s treatment of women in the books any time soon but, I type tentatively, a lot of it is fairly in keeping with the historical setting it is depicting. Again, I’m not an advocate of using rape for entertainment purposes but there can be no denying it is a historically accurate concern. Studying literature means I’ve had to read an awful lot of sexist and offensive works that have made my blood boil in certain ways. I had an entire semester studying novels of sensibility where a woman’s only defence against her rapist was to faint. However, I also easily identify with New Historicists and am intensely aware of contextualising literature. A Song of Ice and Fire deals with a time in which women were often treated sexual and reproductive commodities. It’s hardly a positive point in the history of humanity but there’s nothing we can do about that.

HBO, on the other hand, chose to change the original text and create a scene of sexual assault for, as far as I can tell so far, no reason. Unless they are planning to address this in the future and further fuck up the timeline of the proceeding novels, then this was nothing but an uncomfortable and uncharacteristic display from someone who was fast becoming a 3-dimensional character. It shows a lack of awareness in regards to both characters and audience. I hope HBO find a way to continue Jaime’s path towards the lighter side.
(For those interested the interview I gained Alex Graves’ quotations from can be found here.)
Top 5 Female Role Models in A Song of Ice and Fire

Top 5 Female Role Models in A Song of Ice and Fire

(Beware of any possible book related spoilers guys.)

My life if pretty full of the people of Westeros right now. I’ve just rewatched season 2 of the hit HBO show, I’m once again making my way through George RR Martin’s Feast of Crowsand, as we should all be aware, the new series of Game of Thrones starts in a matter of days. As usual in these situations I have become so deeply immersed in this fake word that it’s the only thing on my mind and I felt I had to address it here. One of the things I enjoy most about Martin’s series is the great selection of strong female characters. Yes, Martin may not be the writer that Tolkien was but he’s much more aware of the general awesomeness of women. The women in LOTRare generally pretty overlooked. I mean there’s Galadriel the powerful elf but she has that whole temptation thing to contend with. Then we have Eowyn, who is an undeniable badass warrior but, I for one, can’t forget the flirting with another woman’s man situation. Yes Arwen had a bigger part in the film but in the books her main task it to sit in the corner looking pretty and elfy. It’s all a big yawn in terms of ‘girl power’. This is where Martin takes a step ahead of the granddaddy of fantasy.

The series is littered with women who don’t allow themselves to get swept along in a male dominated world. They throw themselves into the heart of the action and fight for what they want. Gone are the helpless maidens in pretty dresses who swoon at the sight of men in armour. (Although with a cast of such ridiculously attractive men there is still a fair amount of swooning but, as I’m guilty of that myself, I can forgive them.) So I felt it was time to get my thoughts in order and present the best examples in the order in which they sit within my heart.

Number 1: Brienne of Tarth
This was the easiest of all. Brienne quickly became one of my all time favourite characters in the books and, thanks to a wonderful portrayal by Gwendoline Christie, the TV show has only increased my girl crush on the great warrior. Brienne of Tarth is a fucking legend. Undeniably strong, powerful and determined, she can stand up for herself in a fight and easily vanquishes the foes that set out to harm her. She follows her instincts and works hard to become the person she wants to be. Continually mocked throughout her life, Brienne doesn’t give up hope and never succumbs to the scorn of others. There is nobody more honest, upfront and loyal. Whilst she initially finds it hard to trust people, once she has been shown courtesy or friendship it is impossible to lose her support. Brienne is one of the few figures within Westeros who still strives to live up to the true guidelines for a knight and is one of the only characters within the series that it would be possible to trust implicitly. On top of that, her relationship with Jamie Lannister has totally changed my opinion on the guy… as well as leading to one of my all time favourite moments in the series. I’m of course talking of the magical moment when he exacts revenge on Ser Ronnington for speaking ill of his friend by whacking him with his gold hand. One must cheer.
Number 2: Arya Stark
Arya is one of those characters who you are immediately drawn to. She doesn’t just sit down and accept her lot in life. She hates the idea of the future that has been mapped out before her and actively seeks to change it. Arya was blessed with a great deal of her father’s spirit and isn’t afraid to throw herself in at the deep end. She shows great cunning, resourcefulness and courage. Never one to ignore the harsh realities of life, our young Stark faces difficulties head on. Finding herself alone in King’s Landing, she acts better than most could hope to. She doesn’t give up after her father’s death but continues to fight for survival. In order to help those around her, she uses an incredible amount of cunning to force Jaqen H’ghar to facilitate the escape of the Northmen held at Harrenhal. She later helps her friends escape and leads them safely through the lands of Westeros. Arya is often hot-headed and quick to act but she has great spirit and courage. She is brave and, despite her lack of years and world experience, is able to get through many dangers and difficult situations. She has one of the most exciting stories in the books and I’m looking forward to seeing her become an even stronger young woman.
Number 3: Daenerys Targaryen
Some may be shocked to see that the Mother of Dragons isn’t higher on the list but I can’t help it. Dany is great but I’ve never felt the love with her too much (plus her storyline isn’t keeping me as gripped as it was in the first book). Although there is no denying that Daenerys goes on one of the greatest journeys within the series; she begins as a timid, shy young girl who has known nothing but exile and fear before she grows into a much feared Khaleesi. Through her strong and loving marriage to Khal Drogo (after it’s questionable and rapey beginning) she flourishes into something great. She became a strong, independent, confident woman and a real leader of her husband’s people. Always remaining compassionate and kind, Dany is determined to help those who cannot help themselves. She ruthlessly deals with her enemies and gives freedom to those locked in slavery. However, we cannot forget that the Mother of Dragons is still young and naïve. There is something childish about her attitude towards the Iron Throne and the idea that she deserves to rule despite having not set foot on Westeros in her entire life feels ridiculous. She was clearly warped by her brother Viserys’ obsession with the Crown and it causes her to make some strange choices and have quite a few hissy fits. There are still some negative Targaryen qualities within Dany and her love of dragons is proving to be dangerous for the innocent people she comes across. A strong woman, yes, but her conflicting desires make it hard to want to follow her. Plus I found it difficult to accept her treatment of dear old Jorah.
Number 4: Sansa Stark
It’s very easy to criticise Sansa Stark as she is a horrible child for nearly all of the first book and she seemingly does very little after. However, Sansa is still a Stark child and has inherited much of her father’s determination and strength. From the second book onwards we really start to see the Starkian qualities within Sansa and she handles her situation amazingly well. We must not forget that the girl is still very young and has little real knowledge of the world. She left Winterfell for the first time to live with her father in King’s Landing and had no experience of city life. Quickly finding herself alone would have broken a weaker girl but Sansa steps up. She stands up for her father and begs for his life to be spared. It’s something not all young girls would have been brave enough to do. Sansa is pretty amazing. Unlike Arya she has no real physical presence but she is shrewd. She knows how to play the game; she says the right thing, does the right things and acts like the good lady everyone expects her to. She constantly uses her intelligence and cunning to get Joffrey to do things without him realising she’s in control. Sansa does the impossible task of surviving in a world full of dangerous people, liars and cheats. Something her own father couldn’t manage. To quote my good friend Tyrion Lannister,“Lady Stark, you may yet outlive us all.”
Number 5: The Sand Snakes and Arianne Martell
Perhaps it is a bit of a cheat to lump these in together but they’re all pretty similar and have the same motives. The sand snakes are the bastard daughters of Prince Oberyn Martell and Princess Arianne is their cousin, daughter of Prince Doran of Dorne. These women are legendary and have great combined skills and knowledge. The fact that it is necessary to lock the four eldest Snakes away after the death of their father tells you enough about them. They have skills in martial arts, knowledge of poison and must be locked away to prevent them causing chaos. Their father dies and their first instinct is to beg the Prince to act in response. They are powerful, strong and are unquestioning in their desire for justice. I’m looking forward to finding out more about them.
Arianne is much the same but also much cooler. She is next in line to the throne and is shown to be well suited to lead. She is clever, calculating and fierce-tempered. Definitely someone you wouldn’t want to cross. She is also well aware of how to use the gifts she was given and succeeds in making a Knight of the Kingsguard forget his vows and do her bidding. With the added awareness of when to hide these gifts and present a more professional front. Who doesn’t want to be a bit more like Princess Arianne?
Honourable mention: Osha
Not for the book so much but for the TV show. The writers, along with Natalia Tena, have done a brilliant job of creating this character and Osha has become an important player in the series. So much so that Martin himself is ready to write more about the character in his future books. Osha is a savage wildling but takes to her captive life at Winterfell without much trouble. She knows what she needs to do to survive. It is thanks to Osha that Bran learns more about the mystical forces that are overlooked by many. She is knowledgeable about the old gods, the north and those that inhabit it. Without Osha Bran and Rickon would not have survived Theon’s attempt to take Winterfell and it is thanks to her cunning that they escape towards the Wall. Also, her scene with a dying Maester Luwin is one of her finest moments. I’m glad Osha was such an important part of the Winterfell plot and I hope the inclusion of the Reed siblings in the next series doesn’t push her into the background.