Friday, August 28, 2015

Best First Songs Ever








Grantland music critic Steven Hyden recently wrote an interesting piece about how discussing the greatest Side 1, Track 1's ever is much less interesting than discussing the greatest Side 1, Track 1, Album 1's ever. It compounds the interesting question of how an artist chooses to open their work to how an artist chooses to open their career. 

I like it. Let's dig in to this. 

Hyden lists four requirements to an excellent album opener: 

1. A dramatic entrance
2. A palatable sense of rising action
3. Simple yet direct lyrics that act as a mission statement
4. A climax powerful enough to compel the listener to play the rest of the album

I'll personally quibble with the importance of #4, and even #3 under certain circumstances, but still, we'll start here. Now I'll add a #5: Acts as a sonic mission statement for the artist's persona and aesthetic. 

Okay, first we'll tackle Hyden's list. He gives 20 honorable mentions:

Boston, “More Than a Feeling”
The Clash, “Janie Jones”
Counting Crows, “Round Here”
Daft Punk, “Daftendirekt”
Devo, “Uncontrollable Urge”
The Doors, “Break on Through (to the Other Side)”
Jimi Hendrix, “Purple Haze”
Whitney Houston, “You Give Good Love”
LCD Soundsystem, “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House”
Curtis Mayfield, “(Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go”
Nine Inch Nails, “Head Like a Hole”
Pearl Jam, “Once”
Britney Spears, “…Baby One More Time”
Bruce Springsteen, “Blinded by the Light”
Television, “See No Evil”
U2, “I Will Follow”
Van Halen, “Runnin’ With the Devil”
Violent Femmes, “Blister in the Sun”
Weezer, “My Name Is Jonas”
Young Jeezy, “Thug Motivation 101”

I like most of those picks enough to at least not argue with them being honorable mentions, though I think some of them should be much higher. (We'll get to that.) 

A few of those songs he lists I just don't find good enough to be on a top 30 list--those by Counting Crows, Curtis Mayfield, Devo, Weezer, Daft Punk, Whitney, and Young Jeezy. (Note: It's not that I dislike any of these songs, just that I don't think they're Top 30 worthy.) I don't think "...Baby One More Time" is good enough either, but concede its necessary inclusion as an honorable mention. And while I love the listed songs by Springsteen and The Doors, I think they fail rule #5. "Break on Through" actually sounds very little like the rest of The Doors' discography in that it's short, accessible, and more obviously rock 'n roll than poetry set to music. Meanwhile, the "Blinded by the Light" version of Springsteen is way too preoccupied with its Dylan and Van Morrison influences, and doesn't really highlight his eventual sonic persona. 

So now we have 9 free spots for our perfect Top 30. 

Hayden's Top ten is the following (alphabetically): 

BeyoncĂ©, “Crazy in Love”
Black Sabbath, “Black Sabbath”
Guns N’ Roses, “Welcome to the Jungle”
Jay Z, “Can’t Knock the Hustle”
Madonna, “Lucky Star”
New York Dolls, “Personality Crisis”
Oasis, “Rock ’N’ Roll Star”
The Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop”
The Stone Roses, “I Wanna Be Adored”
Wu-Tang Clan, “Bring da Ruckus”


There's a lot to love there, and the only track I can totally argue as belonging outside of the Top 30 is "Bring Da Ruckus," mostly because eI don't think it has a hook as good as most of the other songs on Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), and if you're not in the conversation for best song on the album, you can't be in this conversation either. 

So 10 slots to make up for. 

First, I'll add these 6 tracks to the honorable mentions list:

Motley Crue, "Live Wire" --Before any scandals, overdoses, playmates, or vehicular homicides, Motley Crue actually started as a really good band that blended punk playing with the metal and leather aesthetic of Judas Priest. "Live Wire" captures that perfectly, and it really only misses out on the top ten because of everything we know about Motley Crue since then, which sadly can't be extricated from thinking about them. 

Massive Attack, "Safe From Harm" --Probably their second most gorgeous song after the luscious "Teardrop," and a great kickoff to an innovative new sound. 

The Band, "Tears of Rage" --In the rock landscape of 1968, which was all guitar solos and psychedelic blues, The Band announced themselves with a slow organ and pleading vocals. It misses the top ten because it's definitely not the best song on the album, but has to be here because of the stark contrast with which it announced itself. 

New Order, "Dreams Never End" --Not the best example of a band's sonic ethos, and probably closer to Joy division (especially in the vocals) than prime New Order, but the speed and quality with which these guys regrouped after the death of Ian Curtis remains incredible. 

Steely Dan, "Do It Again" --Still might be their best song, and has the advantage of having come out before anyone could hate their studio pretentiousness. 

Phil Collins, "In the Air Tonight" --It loses major points because it's by Phil Collins, but still, how can it not be included? The term "slow burn" was invented because people were struggling with how to describe this sonic masterpiece. 


Final note before the top ten: Boston's "More Than a Feeling" was the last song that missed the top ten, just because it doesn't have an awesome intro. Cuts had to be made. 


And now for The Perfect Top Ten!


10. AC/DC, "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock "N" Roll)" 




The only reason this one is so low is because it's technically cheating. It wasn't the first song on their first album, just the first song on their first album released outside of Australia. But I refuse to let Australian record releases block The Perfect Top Ten from being actually perfect.


9. Crosby, Stills, & Nash, "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes"




The promise of this band was their beautiful harmonies, and the best example of that is still the first song on their first album. Sometimes you never top your first try. 


8. The Ramones, "Blitzkrieg Bop" 



It misses being higher only because it's so ubiquitous to the point that you start liking the Ramones songs more simply out of spite. But that's not a good enough reason to miss the top ten entirely. 


7. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, "Breakdown"



For a band who consistently wrote some of the best rock and roll choruses for almost twenty years (Free Fallin', Refugee, Mary Jane's Last Dance, The Waiting, etc.), this is still the most exhilarating one to sing along to. 


6. The Stone Roses, "I Wanna Be Adored" 



The pleading necessity of this song still gets to me. It sort of rewrites and definitely trumps Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me," but The Stone Roses were audacious enough to open their career with it. 


5. Oasis, "Rock 'N' Roll Star" 



Hyden made this point perfectly, so I won't bother. Rock's greatest self-fulfilling prophecy. 


4. U2, "I Will Follow"



U2 has spent 35 years getting to this height of rock transcendence quite regularly, and certainly more often than most people give them credit for. They definitely got more interesting as they reached their prime, but they never topped this opening track for the way they attempted to turn rock choruses into quasi-religious experiences. Whether they succeeded is a decision for the individual, but this remains their best stab at it. 


3. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Purple Haze"



Hyden knocked this track down to honorable mention status because he said he never wanted to hear it again. I do not have that problem. 


2. Guns N' Roses, "Welcome to the Jungle"



As perfect a musical thesis statement as has ever been delivered. And just like your high school English teacher (erroneously) taught you, they led with it. 


1. The Beatles, "I Saw Her Standing There" 



It's virtually unforgivable that this missed Hyden's list. It begins with the perfect "1-2-3-4" shout, kicks into a great beat/riff/lyric, has a blast of a singalong chorus, and launched the greatest career in the history of pop music. 



Sunday, June 14, 2015

Game of Thrones Power Rankings (S5, E9)




Season 5, Episode 9: "The Dance of Dragons"

Last Week's Rankings: "Hardhome"

In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. In that spirit, here’s your weekly look at who’s winning and who’s (slowly, painfully) dying.





Winning!

1. Drogon

Anytime a video gets made with LeBron's face superimposed over yours, flying in to the rescue and literally torching your adversaries, you probably won the week. 





2. Ser Jorah Mormont

Redemption stories are few and far between in Game of Thrones, which is why it was so gratifying to see Khaleesi take the outstretched hand of our favorite Friend Zone champion. And even better for Jorah: Khaleesi's forgiveness arrived just moments after she found herself husbandless! Does anyone know if there's a Dothraki word for "Rebound?" 


3. Doran Martell, Prince of Dorne

Is it too late to add Prince Doran into the Iron Throne sweepstakes? Let's recap the list of character traits he displayed last week: wisdom, patience, forgiveness, strength, sternness, mercy, positive parentage, teaching, restraint, humor, familial loyalty, and not too much familial loyalty. Other than working legs, what's this guy missing on his kingly resumĂ©? 

Oh right, it's because Dorne is a paradise and no one in their right mind would leave there for the awfulness that is King's Landing. Now I remember. 


4. Arya's Death List

Everyone's been waiting for years for the chance to see Arya actually cross a name off her death list by her own causation. And now it might actually happen. And to align the Karma Gods even more perfectly, Ser Meryn Trant really went out of his way last week to show how wretched he is. The words "too old" have never sounded more disgusting. Especially when repeated several times. Arya, stick him with the pointy end. (Or give him poisoned oysters. That's cool too.)

Of course, because this is Game of Thrones, and Arya killing Ser Meryn seems like a sure thing for next episode, it probably won't happen. 


5. Scene Placement

After ending Episode 6 with Sansa's wedding night rape three weeks ago, leaving the worst possible taste in viewers' mouths, It seems showrunners Benioff & Weiss have already learned their lesson. Sure, this episode may have had someone burning his own daughter at the stake, but that was wisely shuffled into the middle, and then, dragon! Yeah, we're suckers with shit memories. 


Honorable Mention: Mace Tyrell & Ser Bronn of the Blackwater

Hey, it's two characters I was worried were goners, alive and well! And Mace was singing while Bronn was offered pie soup! 





Losing/Dying

1. Princess Shireen of the House Baratheon

As we saw earlier this season when Ser Barristan told Daenerys the happy story about her brother's singing, characters reciting happy stories has a tendency to be the last thing they do. 

But even still, and despite all the not-at-all subtle hints of what was to come, expecting Game of Thrones to actually go through with it and have Stannis burn his daughter at the stake was something very few people had the necessary amount of pessimism to predict. 

I don't even know what else to say here. We listened to a young girl screaming for her father while she was being burned to death, by her father, for what amounts to supernatural good luck. And we watched this in the name of entertainment. And then we promptly got over this a few minutes later, because we got to watch a dragon set people on fire. We. Are. The. Worst. 


2. Hizdahr zo Loraq

First, he received the pointy end of Tyrion's legendary verbal barbs--"My father would have liked you"--and then he received the pointy end of actual blades. Do we know if he and Daenerys ever even consummated their marriage? This guy's married life was approximately 4% better than Joffrey's. 


3. Me

Two weeks ago, I joked about Shireen being one of that week's losers because of Melisandre's interest in her King's blood, and then last week I joked about how excited I was to see Ramsay attempt to go up against Stannis with "twenty good men." 

So of course Ramsay's raid is so successful that it plunges Stannis into dire straits and he needs to actually access Shireen's King's blood. This is all my fault. 


4. Stannis & Selyse Baratheon, Parents of the Year

Let's be serious, Game of Thrones has shown us some truly horrendous parenting over the years. From Cersei's molding of Joffrey, to Cat Stark's ruinous decision making, to Lysa's slightly overzealous breast-feeding, to Tywin's real talks with Tyrion, to Daenerys imprisoning her dragons, to Craster sacrificing his bastards to the White Walkers, to Balon Greyjoy convincing Theon to sac Winterfell, to at least a dozen other examples I'm forgetting, we probably thought we'd seen every possible example of the way a parent can ruin their child's life. 

But we were wrong! We hadn't seen anyone burn their own child at the stake yet! So, ummm, I guess problem solved? 


5. The Brothels of Braavos

Braavos has the worst brothel ever! Seriously, not only do they employ underage staff and hand them over to psychopaths, but this was the first brothel scene in the history of the show without any nudity! If any episode called for soothing-via-gratuitous-nudity, it was this one. Fail. 


Honorable Mention: Ramsay Bolton

Okay, here's a semi-longshot prediction: Stannis is going to kill the shit out of Ramsay next week. See, this is what Game of Thrones does--it makes us want something intensely, and then it gives us that thing in a way that we regret wanting it in the first place. So we all want Ramsay dead, right? Yes, yes we do. So Thrones is going to give that to us. Stannis is going to tear through Winterfell and brutally execute Ramsay. But we'll always know that the cost of getting that was the good-luck-via-king's-blood that necessitated the death of Shireen. 

So when you're happily cheering Ramsay's death in a few hours, first, remember that I predicted it, and second, remember that the cost was a young girl's cries of "Father, please!" while she was being burned to death. 


Confirmed Kills: 8 + Dozens of Horses, Hundreds of Meereen Citizens and Sons of the Harpy, and the Soul of King Stannis Baratheon

Princess Shireen: burned to death, Hizdahr: stabbed to death, the quick one: decapitated, the five fighting pit competitors that weren't Jorah: impaled. And then lots and lots of horses and fighting pit crowd members, which cannot possibly be counted. 


Season Death Tally: 65 + Thousands of Unnamed Wildlings, Dozens of Horses, and Hundreds of Citizens of Meereen and Sons of the Harpy





Sunday, June 7, 2015

Game of Thrones Power Rankings (S5, E8)




Season 5, Episode 8: "Hardhome"

Last Week's Rankings: "The Gift"

In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. In that spirit, here’s your weekly look at who’s winning and who’s (slowly, painfully) dying.


Winning!

1. Show Viewers

Just two weeks after Sansa's rape scene doubled as the annual "Why do I subject myself to this show?" debate amongst viewers, we suddenly got an episode that shattered the all-time Giving the People What They Want score. Three and a half aspects of this episode had me (and pretty much all Throne-Watchers) absolutely giddy: the amazing Tyrion/Daenerys meet & greet, seeing Cersei suffer while getting slapped in the face with a spoon and slurping water up off the floor, the truly epic battle/slaughter of Hardhome, and the tantalizing possibility of Ramsay actually trying to attack Stannis' army with 20 men and promptly getting his ass handed to him. 

In all four of these cases, we were not only given something we've been waiting years for, but had it delivered to us in the most resplendent presentation imaginable. We're all winners here. 


2. The Night's King

But now for real talk--the real winner of "Hardhome" was obviously this badass: 





He's effectively saying to Jon Snow some combination of, "Go tell everyone in the Seven Kingdoms how fucked they are," "No seriously, you really know nothing, Jon Snow," and "Come at me, bitch." 

As Grantland's Andy Greenwald quipped, seeing the White Walker army in action makes the Iron Throne look like a "particularly heavy deck chair on the Titanic."


3. Tryion's Rhetoric (Yet Again)

I ready a funny piece that listed Tyrion's "Seven Steps for a Successful Job Interview" as 1) Don't provide references, 2) Brag about your criminal record, 3) Bad-mouth former bosses, 4) Undercut other applicants, 5) Insult your interviewer's family, 6) Turn the tables, and 7) Drink heavily. 

Yes, Tyrion did all of these things while convincing the Mother of Dragons to employ his council, and it was amazing to behold. It's times like this, when it's clear Tyrion is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers, that you realize he and Tywin had more in common than either of them cared to admit.


4. Jon Snow

Ignore, for a moment, the way the battle of Hardhome ended, and our favorite bastard really fulfilled his potential with this episode. He united at least several of the Wildling factions to his cause, he charged into battle while everyone around him was frozen with fear, and he discovered Valyrian Steel can kill White Walkers.

And then there was the way Tormund described him: "He's prettier than my daughters, but he can fight, and he can lead." Words we can all aspire to!


5. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

They endured a lot of criticism a few weeks ago with the way Sansa's wedding night played out, and now they've delivered what might be the best episode of the series. ("Hardhome" has a 9.9 IMDb rating, which is the highest of the series. The Red Wedding episode comes in second at 9.7.) And this wasn't a case where the episode was just great because it had a major death (it didn't), or that it had an awesome battle (though it did)--it also had some of the best dialogue we've ever seen in the show. Do yourself a favor and watch that Tyrion & Khaleesi scene again. The way it's written is just masterful. 


Honorable Mention: Water, which seems to be an oddly effective way of holding back an unstoppable army of the dead. I've been saying this for at least two years, but clearly it's time for everyone to ditch Westeros and go across the Narrow Sea! With the Walls of Qarth, the Titan of Braavos, the brothels of Volantis, and the Fighting Pits of Meereen, it's way more fun in Essos. 

Since Westeros is clearly meant to symbolize England and Essos is the rest of Europe, I'll quote my dad--a frenchman--when I once asked him what's so bad about England: "Bad food, bad weather, and the fucking English." 
#FleeToEssos


Losing/Dying

1. Westeros

Just to reiterate, in case it hasn't been made clear yet: Things do not look good for the Seven Kingdoms. 


2. Jon Snow

Yes, yes, lot's of things went right for the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch this week, but the episode still ended with him looking like this: 





3. Cersei

I suppose we have to take a moment's break from reveling in her imprisonment to acknowledge that she's highly displeased with her  situation. 

Okay, good form. Now carry on with cheering for her misery! (And don't forget, the season finale is titled "Mother's Mercy!")


4. Jorah Mormont

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Jorah couldn't even get a word in to Khaleesi, then Tyrion outed him as being in love with her and recommended she banish him again (which she did), and, oh yeah, he still has a highly contagious and accelerating disease which is likely to either kill him or turn him into a Stone Man. But hey, at least he has those fighting pits! If he never shouts the words "Are you not entertained?", I will be highly disappointed. 


5. The Walking Dead

Look, Game of Thrones has been a better show than The Walking Dead since Day 1. But it was great this week to see Walking Dead really beaten at it's own game. While Dead has "walkers," Thrones has now given us sprinters. Dead had The Governor, but Thrones just revealed The Night's King (who, allegedly, was the 13th Lord Commander of The Night's Watch). 

If you really want to see a terrifying army of the dead, Game of Thrones is the place. 


Honorable Mention: Wun Wun, the giant who's apparently doggie paddling all the way back to Castle Black. 


Confirmed Kills: 3 + Thousands of Unnamed Wildlings (I mean, what am I supposed to do with that Battle of Hardhome? It was a massacre beyond the capacity of any tallying. So instead we'll just honor the three people who died after having dialogue in the episode: The Lord of Bones, beaten to death with his own bones; Karsi--the attractive Wildling--who made the fatal mistake of telling her children she'll be right behind them; and Loboda, the Thenn who quickly found out that non-Valyrian steel is a bad strategy against a White Walker.)

Season Death Tally: 57 + Thousands of Unnamed Wildlings







Sunday, May 31, 2015

Game of Thrones Power Rankings (S5, E7)




Season 5, Episode 7: "The Gift"

Last Week's Rankings: "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"

In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. In that spirit, here’s your weekly look at who’s winning and who’s (slowly, painfully) dying.


Winning!


1. The 99% of Westeros

With Mace Tyrell banished away on business in Braavos, Kevan Lannister abandoning the Small Council to go back to Casterly Rock, Jaime off on his Dornish holiday with Bronn, and Lady Olenna maintaining Highgarden as her home base, King's Landing is currently the home of, I believe, four characters that are members of the Royal Family. Three of them--Loras, Margaery, and Cersei--are now imprisoned. And then there's King Tommen, eternally shackled by his own uselessness. 

As the High Sparrow says to Lady Olenna, "You are the few. We are the many. And when the many stop fearing the few…" And that was when he effectively dropped the mic and walked away. 
#OccupyKingsLanding


2. Tyrion Lannister, "The Gift"

This is how people should always introduce themselves. "I'm the gift." 

But really, the gift is to viewers, who finally get to see two of their favorite characters meet and interact. It only took us 47 episodes to get here!


3. The Unrequited Love of Ser Jorah Mormont

I mean, did you see the way he just tore through the rest of those gladiators? Dude was on a mission! The only thing that scene was missing was for him to scream at Khaleesi, "Are you not entertained?!?" when she refused to give him the time of day. 


4. Sam Tarly's Sex Life

Sure, on the one hand, he broke his sacred vow when he got laid. But we should recall the wisdom of Maester Aemon last season, during Jon Snow's trial for shagging Ygritte: "If we took the heads of everyone who broke their vows, we'd be guarding the wall with headless men." So instead of focusing on the negatives (just scroll down a bit for that!), let's celebrate Sam for officially graduating from the Friend Zone. And now his Watch frustration is ended. 


5. The Memory of King Joffrey Baratheon, First of His Name

15 episodes since his death, there isn't a single person who watches the show that wouldn't instantly take him back in exchange for getting rid of Ramsay. I mean, in retrospect, Joffrey wasn't really that bad, right?? Sure, he might have tormented Sansa, but at least he didn't rape her on her wedding night. Yeah, he might have killed Ros with his crossbow, but at least he didn't flay her alive and then display her in the town square. And yes, he executed Ned Stark, but that's much better than just cutting off his dick and then keeping him around as a sadistic trophy, right? 

The thing with Joffrey's evilness was, it was an evil that made a degree of sense. We could understand where it came from, given Cersei's epic mothering liberties. It was a nurtured evil. But Ramsay is the worst kind of evil: it's just who he is. And he enjoys it. 

Admit it, you miss this adorable face, don't you?







Losing/Dying

1. The Wine Makers of Westeros

Good God, what will these people do? You're just sitting there, so damn pleased with yourself about Cersei's imprisonment, and you're not even thinking about all of the people that will lose their jobs with no one left to drink their wine! For God's sake, they have kids to feed!

But real talk now, let's chat Cersei. Holy Christ, was that gratifying! The problem with Joffrey's death was we didn't see him suffer, or beg, or have the realization that it was happening. He didn't even know who got the best of him. As far as the deaths of evil tyrants go, it was mildly unsatisfying. But watching Cersei helplessly flail--with both arms and tongue--while getting thrown in jail? Or hearing Margaery shout at her, "Get out you hateful bitch!"? Delectable. 

We should recall what Littlefinger said to her just last episode: "One's choice of companion is a curious thing." Curious and dangerous. 

Side note: When Cersei asked the High Sparrow what will happen to Margaery and Loras if they confess, he says they'll be shown "Mother's Mercy." Now guess what the final episode of this season is called? Yup, "Mother's Mercy." Shit's about to go down. 




2. Shouting "I am the Queen!"

This is the second straight episode we've heard someone shout that as they've been taken away in chains. It has not been an effective counter-argument. 


3. Anyone Trying to Help Sansa Stark

I spent a solid ten minutes looking through IMDb cast lists and reading through episode plot synopses to find the name of the poor woman Ramsay flayed for trying to help Sansa, only to realize she was never even given one. Her official credit is "Old Woman." 

But one of her only lines of dialogue in the show still lingers: "The North Remembers." 


4. Everything About Sam Tarly Except His Sex Life

Here's a quick recap of what happened to Sam last week--his best friend left to go on a possibly suicidal mission, his mentor died of old age, two of his Night's Watch brothers beat the shit out of him, and the acting commander effectively told him that anyone that might have protected him is now gone. And he lost his virginity, which was cool. But everything else? Not such good tidings. 


5. The Princess Shireen, Daughter of King Stannis Baratheon


Suddenly Melisandre is openly pining for her blood, and that portents bad things for her. Hopefully Stannis is more attached to having an actual child than conceiving another smoke one. 


Honorable Mention: Maester Aemon

He died of natural causes at the age of 102, and for this show, that's just not tragic enough to make the top five. 


Confirmed Kills: 3 (1 flayed old woman, 2 gladiators that died in the fighting pits--one via throat-spilling, and one via head-bashing. Maester Aemon doesn't count, as he died of natural causes, and that's just not the kind of thing we celebrate here.)

Season Death Tally: 54






Sunday, May 24, 2015

Game of Thrones Power Rankings (S5, E6)




Season 5, Episode 6: "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"


Last Week's Rankings: "Kill the Boy"


In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. In that spirit, here’s your weekly look at who’s winning and who’s (slowly, painfully) dying.


Winning!

(Disclaimer: This was a pretty depressing episode where basically everyone lost, so I had to get a bit creative to find five "winners")

1. Living

Well, let's start with the good news: for the first time in memory, no one died this episode!

And that concludes our good news for the week. Thank you, and please drive safely. 


2. The Return of Lady Olenna

She's just enough of an ancillary character that you don't really notice the long stretches of episodes she disappears for, but the second she starts launching verbal barbs at Cersei ("Put the pen down, dear. We both know you're not writing anything."), she reclaims her status as possibly the show's best supporting character. And the look she fires at Cersei following the inquest into Loras Tyrell's sexual proclivities portends a great many things to come. Don't forget, she already killed Joffrey, and without the level of ego that necessitated taking credit for it. She's a very dangerous woman. 


3. Tyrion's Rhetoric

Once again, Tyrion's quick wit saved him. But "Guess again" cock-size jokes aside, Tyrion's quick verbal reflexes and persuasive abilities also saved Jorah, redirecting their captors from Volantis (where they would've been totally screwed) to Meereen, where Jorah is likely to be noticed by the Powers That Be. It's those little victories that keep Tyrion alive and relevant, and they help illuminate why he might eventually be of huge value to Daenerys' campaign to take back the Iron Throne. 


4. Tyrion's Cock

It has magic powers! (Allegedly.) And it's not dwarf-sized! (Also allegedly.) And it's worth a fortune at the cock merchant's! (That one, apparently, amazingly, is factual.)


5. Arya Stark

I mean, that's a pretty cool basement she gets to hang out in, right? And lot's of faces to try on, amiright? And maybe soon she'll learn how to slay people more effectively? (I'm grasping here.)

Okay, enough of that. Let's get to the many, many, many (many!) losers this week… 







Losing/Dying

1. Show Viewers

Look, Game of Thrones has never made it easy for us. The first episode alone saw Daenerys traded into glorified sex slavery by her own brother, and a young boy thrown out a window by a guy fucking his sister. Four and a half years later, we really should be used to this by now. And yet, Sansa's wedding night somehow seemed to tread new ground of Good God, why are they doing this to us?? territory. 

As I'm sure everyone knows by now, that did not happen in the books (nor did Sansa's entire engagement to Ramsay), which means it was proactively decided on by the showrunners. Smart, creative people sat around a room and debated whether or not to include this as a plot point in the show, and they ultimately decided yes. They wanted us to see that. Or, at least they wanted us to see Theon seeing it. After four and a half seasons of truly excellent television, to say the showrunners get the benefit of the doubt is a massive understatement. But this is also the first moment where it makes you wonder if veering off course from the books is a wise idea, and that, just maybe, the people who chose to give us that scene might be going a bit too far with the nihilistic elements of George R. R. Martin's story. 


2. Sansa's Virtue

This is totally my fault. Just last week, in these very rankings, I joked that Sansa's virginity was becoming the biggest prize in Westeros. That joke is no longer funny, and it never will be again. I'm the worst. 


3. Loras Tyrell, Queen Margaery, Tyrion Lannister, Jorah Mormont, Jaime Lannister, and Bronn (just Bronn)

Hey, look, it's six characters who ended last week as captives! Loras & Margaery are now imprisoned in King's Landing, Tyrion & Jorah are being held by a band of pirates and praying they reach Meereen before finding a good cock merchant, and Bronn & Jaime's bromantic holiday in Dorne seems to have reached the end of it's cheeriness. It's easy to be optimistic for Tyrion and Jorah, because they're at least headed in the direction of help. The other four… not so much. 


4. King Tommen and Theon Greyjoy Reek

And here are two characters who emphatically proved last week that they have no balls. (Well, Theon literally doesn't have balls. Or does he? Is it just the main member that got lopped off, or the whole set? Can we get an official ruling on this?) Both characters had a perfect moment last week to step up and prove their worth to the show, and instead they both sat and watched their world spin out of control, without a fucking peep. 

With Tommen, I'm not totally surprised. But I have to admit, I'm starting to wonder why Theon is actually still in the show at all. Two seasons of torture felt like it only could have been there because there was a real payoff looming at a key moment, but that moment should have been while he was watching Sansa get raped on her wedding night. That was his moment to step up and redeem himself by killing Ramsay and saving Sansa, earning back every awful second we spent with him in Seasons 3 and 4. But he just stood there and watched. Like his sister last year, I'm becoming convinced Theon's beyond saving at this point. 


5. Cersei Playing the Short Game

Cersei's the best. There's just absolutely no long-term thought put into anything she does. Kate Moss once famously said, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." But Cersei operates on the exact opposite side of that logic spectrum. While Moss can prevent herself from eating to maintain the longterm goal, Cersei just ravenously gobbles up every bite of revenge she can get her hands on, no matter how bloated with enemies she becomes. Actions have consequences. 


Confirmed Kills: Zero! (Unless you count Sansa's virginity)

Season Death Tally: Still 51