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.


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 resumé? 

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! 


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.


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." 


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