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Black Crow

Heresy 220 and the nature of magic

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Black Crow said:

The original synopsis of course had Dany the Dragonlord using her Dothraki to conquer Westeros and then having to unite all the factions against the horror from the north. Bit cheesy of course, and then of course there were those perilous journeys into the Heart of Ice and the Heart of Fire...

I'm fine with cheese, cheese comes with the territory; these are fantasy novels from the author of the Tuf Voyaging series, with dragons, ice fairies, and characters named Darkstar delivering dialogue like "I am of the night" and "I was weaned on venom." 

So, I don't hold cheese factor against the show (or the books), and I also try to keep a sense of perspective about the bizarre circumstances under which they are adapting.

Ostensibly, this is to be the adaptation of a seven book series that would ideally come together as a cohesive narrative; in practice, two of those books don't exist, and another two are essentially an unfilmable anthology of B-plots that have no unifying theme or narrative. 

With that in mind, I grade the show on a curve, and the two standards I consider most paramount are:
- How is the cinematography--does it succeed within its medium?
- How well does it follow through on its own ideas and premises?

By both standards, the climax was executed poorly--even if the plotting and dialogue had been as bad as usual, I would have forgiven those failings so long as the show had succeeded in other areas. 

Instead, the cinematography and editing were a disappointing mess, and the show would have actually been better served to do a more predictable and fan-servicey style of battle, where more of the characters get a moment to shine, and more of the foundation of prior seasons paid off. It's not just that the show failed to pay off book arcs, it didn't even payoff its own arcs.

Edited by Matthew.

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5 hours ago, Matthew. said:

IMO, it really worked against both the episode and the season to go down this weird road

Well, we both saw it coming (and many others did too, I'm sure).

This structure is basically Tolkienian.  You have the Dark Lord, you have his eventual death, and then you have a lengthy anticlimax and political mop-up. 

But Benioff and Weiss are not Tolkien.  And this stuff is not likely to serve even as well as the Scouring of the Shire to close out the story and round out the characterization.

Beyond Dany's death, I now see Gendry sitting on the Iron Throne.  I see Jon remaining King in an independent North. 

And I see myself rolling my eyes and thinking Sweet Christ, we need a new book.

9 hours ago, Feather Crystal said:

Apparently all you have to do is kill the head honcho and they all go down like dominoes. 

And their method of achieving that was so... oh, I can't even bother.

2 hours ago, Matthew. said:

- How is the cinematography--does it succeed within its medium?

I agree the look of it was a mess.  Seems they took the infamous Sopranos series finale cut-to-black and expanded it by... a whole episode.

2 hours ago, Matthew. said:

How well does it follow through on its own ideas and premises?

Could have been worse, I suppose.  No Klingons, no dinosaurs, no cowboys.  

But I hope GRRM's characters have at least a rudimentary idea what to do against a huge mass of wights and a few Popsicles.   We humble Heretics have, in discussing this stuff in days of yore, come up with far superior plans than the one I saw last night.

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Posted (edited)

The show fans loved the episode. It’s only the book lovers that pick at the details. As for me, I actually liked Arya’s appearing out of nowhere and dropping the dagger from her left hand to her right in order to kill the Nights King. It was preferable to what I was expecting, which was a Jon Snow stand-in for the Last Hero (or Waymar redux) defeating the Nights King with Longclaw. I also thought they did a good job pacing a battle that stretched the entire hour and a half episode. The bit with Arya in the library was good, as were her fighting scenes with the poleax. Three scenes really grated at me: 1) Melisandre’s hesitation and slow waltz up to light the fire pit. 2) Sandor’s refusal to fight - again. And 3) the Nights King being impervious to dragon fire.

Edited by Feather Crystal

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I have reached a point where I have no interest in the show at all.  So I don't feel like I'm missing anything.  Yes, people are loving the show.  I haven't loved it for several seasons.   The Rant and Raves threads are hilarious though.  That's about all I need to know.

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Posted (edited)

I have to say, as someone who has stoped watching the show, I really enjoy the rant threads about the show. The best part are all those complaints about Jon not being AA and Arya killing the NK, when being AA was never about killing the Night('s) King. It has always been about waking dragon(s) out of stone and about clasping Lightbringer.

I guess the show has chased it's own tail all the time. 

Edited by SirArthur

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14 hours ago, Matthew. said:

I'm fine with cheese, cheese comes with the territory; these are fantasy novels from the author of the Tuf Voyaging series, with dragons, ice fairies, and characters named Darkstar delivering dialogue like "I am of the night" and "I was weaned on venom." 

Huh, I just finished Tuf Voiyaging, and I didn’t find the stories terribly cheesy.  Perhaps Martin got a bit heavy handed with his commentary on religion.  Now I suppose you could argue that cloning T Rex’s and some of his other sci fi elements were a bit “cheesy”, but I saw them more as a means to an end, Martin using pulp tropes to tell stories commenting on various societal/government/religious issues.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Frey family reunion said:

Huh, I just finished Tuf Voiyaging, and I didn’t find the stories terribly cheesy.  Perhaps Martin got a bit heavy handed with his commentary on religion.  Now I suppose you could argue that cloning T Rex’s and some of his other sci fi elements were a bit “cheesy”, but I saw them more as a means to an end, Martin using pulp tropes to tell stories commenting on various societal/government/religious issues.

I didn't mean to imply that it was uniquely cheesy, just cheesy in the way that almost all sci-fi and fantasy is cheesy, especially if people start analyzing them through the "hate watcher" (hate reader?) lens, which creates an inherently cynical relationship in which any plot or worldbuilding idea can be made to sound bad or silly. 

I don't intend that as a criticism, but rather as an observation that I don't consider pulp and cheese to be dirty words--on the contrary, I'm defending the idea that the quality of the final arc isn't contingent upon whether or not the broad plot ideas are cheesy, but whether or not the strength of his prose and characterization is still there. 
 

13 hours ago, Feather Crystal said:

As for me, I actually liked Arya’s appearing out of nowhere and dropping the dagger from her left hand to her right in order to kill the Nights King. It was preferable to what I was expecting, which was a Jon Snow stand-in for the Last Hero (or Waymar redux) defeating the Nights King with Longclaw

The issue for me isn't who does the deed, I find it to be more a problem of the visual choreography of the scene, and the overall structure that lead to those circumstances in the first place.

I'm reminded of Peter Jackson's bad habit of filling the LotR movies with scenes where an orc is looming over one of our heroes with their weapon raised, only to be knocked aside at the last second, something that happens frequently, and is almost always devoid of the tension it is meant to evoke; this episode took that idea of trying to manufacture tension, and cranked it up to 11.

In essence, for those final scenes of the episode where they want it to seem like total defeat is looming, I couldn't dismiss a particular awareness: "I know this isn't how it all ends." That broader awareness that I was watching episode 3 of a 6 episode season, and that every single sympathetic character was gathered in this one location, meant that some variety of victory was assured from the outset--which isn't necessarily a bad thing, so long as the storytelling is crafted to match that awareness.

Everything about the build-up of the prior two episodes, and the broader structure of the final season, is epic fantasy, but the episode itself was crafted more like a horror movie, and it doesn't come together tonally. Instead, the horror tone - the degree to which the ice army was utterly overwhelming, and the individual character contributions mostly irrelevant - feels discordant with the prior two episodes of character-driven build up.

IMO, they needed to pick a lane. Either do a big epic fantasy battle that's at least fun in a fan-service kind of way, or go back to the drawing board and craft a 10 episode season which has the Others as a creeping, implacable horror, gaining a progressive foothold in Westeros, with a series of battles and losses that individually have a sense of stakes. 

Edited by Matthew.

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14 hours ago, Feather Crystal said:

The show fans loved the episode. It’s only the book lovers that pick at the details.

Broadly speaking, that's probably true.  But the Internet is also full of people who rolled their eyes at the endless bullshit.

Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post, who has been comically wrong about other topics such as Jon's parentage, said it was:

Quote

an episode of “Game of Thrones” where the show seemed both to lose its way artistically and to abandon the moral and narrative nerve

Well, she's not wrong about that.

Wired published a whole piece on the ludicrously bad battle tactics.  Pull quote:

Quote

Confront your enemy head on—usually in some nicely arrayed lines—and hack at them until no one’s left alive or someone has won. It’s a tried-and-true method, with little in the way of actual operational depth. And as Sunday night’s Battle of Winterfell showed, it's particularly ineffective against an endless army of the undead.

Hand-to-hand is the most dangerous, stupid way you can possibly fight Popsicles and wights.

The whole episode suffered from that logical failure -- even the dragons were forced into hand-to-hand combat, despite not having any hands. 

It apparently never once occurred to either Dany or Jon to blast Viserion with dragonfire.

It did occur to Dany to blast the Night King, but he was immune to dragonfire.  Why?  No reason.  He just was.  It was important to Benioff and Weiss to use that visual cliche at least once, of the "destroyed" bad guy who emerges unharmed and smirking (see also: Ronin the Accuser).

Then there were the wights.  I'm sure we all remember the skeleton wights from season four, right?  Who had no brains and still were deadly? 

But in this episode, all of a sudden, the wights morphed into Walking Dead zombies who could be taken out with a kill shot to the head.  I saw Arya do that numerous times.

Then there were the Popsicles.  I'm sure we all remember Sam killing one with a dragonglass blade, right?  But somehow, the good guys never tried to attack the Popsicles with obsidian-tipped arrows launched en masse.  One good hidden Ironborn archer, with one well-aimed obsidian arrow, could have taken out the Dark Lord... and that would have been dramatically more plausible than Teleporting Arya.  But that never occurred to anybody either.

Why did all these grotesque blunders happen?  Because...

Quote

BENIOFF: What do we say to the God of Quality?

WEISS: Not today!

 

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15 hours ago, JNR said:

We humble Heretics have, in discussing this stuff in days of yore, come up with far superior plans than the one I saw last night.

Which, to be fair, was not difficult.

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The Night's King, and indeed the Others, are less interesting villains than Cersei and Euron, who themselves are less interesting than a war between Jon and Dany or similar characters.   I am glad he's gone,  although I do hope he has some relevance to the final three episodes.   I believe that is the case, as Miguel Sapochnik said episodes 3, 4 and 5 formed a cohesive story together. 

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If you've read the rant and rave thread it will make you very cynical. It points out all the problems that you cannot help but agree with, but I think D & D gleaned most of their details from the various fan theories on this forum, so it's even funnier to read people's criticism when it's basically plot lines from their own shit.

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3 minutes ago, Feather Crystal said:

 but I think D & D gleaned most of their details from the various fan theories on this forum

I always thought they take it right from the meme posters on reddit. A lot of fan service for the memers. 

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56 minutes ago, Feather Crystal said:

If you've read the rant and rave thread it will make you very cynical. It points out all the problems that you cannot help but agree with, but I think D & D gleaned most of their details from the various fan theories on this forum, so it's even funnier to read people's criticism when it's basically plot lines from their own shit.

It's a low bar for Martin to jump over.  Hopefully, he can get over the performance obstacles he frets about now.  At this point, what happens on the show doesn't bother me and people can enjoy it for what it is.  The Rant threads are full of argumentum ad absurdum which I quite enjoy.  Most readers are just laughing about it now.   Expectations have certainly been flattened.  I'll be happy with whatever George comes up with now.

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37 minutes ago, Feather Crystal said:

If you've read the rant and rave thread it will make you very cynical. It points out all the problems that you cannot help but agree with, but I think D & D gleaned most of their details from the various fan theories on this forum, so it's even funnier to read people's criticism when it's basically plot lines from their own shit.

The show, like pretty much anything else on the Internet that is the target of nerd fandom (and nerd hate), has been subject to what I think of as the CinemaSins, death-by-a-thousand-cuts style of nitpick criticism, where a bunch of people share sneers with one another over irrelevant nonsense like whether or not it "makes sense" to stab a wight giant in the eye with dragonglass.

Nonetheless, while I agree with the broader point you're making, I do think this particular episode fell short, and I say that as someone that I don't believe has been particularly unfair to the show. There's still plenty of individual things within the episode that I could point to as liking in a vacuum, it's just that there were too many stretches where the cinematography was poor--poorly lit, poorly edited, poorly framed, too blurry, too fast, too close, too hectic. A scene here and there that taps into that tone is fine, but it was used to excess. 

More broadly, unless they go in a surprising direction with these last three episodes (not impossible), I believe this season will stand as a thematic failure--not a failure of the book's themes, but a failure of the show's own themes, a betrayal of the entire idea that Season 7 attempted to convey.
 

1 hour ago, Brad Stark said:

The Night's King, and indeed the Others, are less interesting villains than Cersei and Euron, who themselves are less interesting than a war between Jon and Dany or similar characters.   I am glad he's gone,  although I do hope he has some relevance to the final three episodes.   I believe that is the case, as Miguel Sapochnik said episodes 3, 4 and 5 formed a cohesive story together. 

I agree, and I've found this to be a real problem with the books as well. IMO, ever since Tywin's death, the overarching narrative has been worse for the wear, and I just don't believe that there's anything that's going to turn the Others into more engaging antagonists than Tywin, the Freys, or Littlefinger.

I apologize for being repetitive, but this seems to be a general issue with puzzle-box narratives, where some late-stage reveal is supposed to retroactively fix all sorts of narrative deficiencies that have persisted along the way--eg, the Others operating like a typical high fantasy evil army.

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The Others being servants of the Starks and marching South under Benjen's command to save Westeros from Dany and her dragons makes them more than a typical high fantasy evil army. 

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5 hours ago, Matthew. said:

irrelevant nonsense like whether or not it "makes sense" to stab a wight giant in the eye with dragonglass

The problem isn't wight death.  The problem is continuity.

All rules, facts, logic, etc., are simply thrown out the window on the show, willy-nilly, to solve whatever immediate problems the failed writing has yielded in that moment... always in the confident expectation that the show fans have mass amnesia, and will forgive it anything

You just can't tell a successful adult story of any sort that way.  (Though apparently you can become president in the US.)

6 hours ago, Matthew. said:

I believe this season will stand as a thematic failure--not a failure of the book's themes, but a failure of the show's own themes, a betrayal of the entire idea that Season 7 attempted to convey.

I honestly have no idea what that season was attempting to convey, because it struck me as a kooky disaster, like almost all the post-canonical content.

It's perfectly clear to me, though -- and has been since at least season four -- that the show, at Heart, went for a Hidden-Prince-and-Dark-Lord-driven, eighties-style fantasy of the kind GRRM wrote ASOIAF as a disgusted reaction to. 

Of course the Show Popsicles have an evil leader wearing a spiky ice-crown whose death will instantly end the second Long Night. 

And of course Jon is Aegon Targaryen, brother of Aegon Targaryen, rightful heir to the throne of all Westeros and trueborn son of Rhaegar, who after having two children with his wife Elia,magically annulled that marriage.  

And of course they're now doing a Tolkien knockoff anticlimax, complete with political mop-up that seems irrelevant.  What else?

I mean, really, all this is just what I would expect from Hollywood.  And giving Gendry the Iron Throne is not going to help; that is no innovation, but merely a multiplication of the problem because they will have made Gendry a Hidden Prince too.

IMO at least, the books really are fundamentally different, and better, on all these counts.  But we'll have to wait for at least one more to see whether that prediction proves true... and I am less confident about the publication of that future book than I am about its contents.

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24 minutes ago, JNR said:

IMO at least, the books really are fundamentally different, and better, on all these counts.  But we'll have to wait for at least one more to see whether that prediction proves true... and I am less confident about the publication of that future book than I am about its contents.

....and hence the conundrum.

Door #1: ignore the show and wait patiently for the books.

Door #2: purchase night goggles so you can watch the poor cinematography and ignore the broken store arcs as well as the ability for the show actors/actresses to teleport across Planetos without any regard for distance and time.

As for me.....George has left me no alternative.  I'm lapping up every episode, have purchased said goggles and chosen to ignore the story gaps.  After all, I've always been a 'glass is half full kind of guy'.  I'm committed to getting some form of an ending....regardless of it being wrong and certainly different from the books will end.  If George is able to miraculously complete the story before I die, I will gladly purchase books and read them with a new sense of purpose.

By the way, a very delayed and renewed hello to all Heretics....new and OLD.

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Posted (edited)

How many episodes are left? 

not enough for show-bran to become an antagonists...

What's left to accomplish??? stop Cersie?

BORING...

 

--

Thank God that in the real world we have real leaders like Trump...

Edited by Mullocose
grammar

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6 hours ago, Matthew. said:

More broadly, unless they go in a surprising direction with these last three episodes (not impossible), I believe this season will stand as a thematic failure--not a failure of the book's themes, but a failure of the show's own themes, a betrayal of the entire idea that Season 7 attempted to convey.

Wait- Season 7 attempted to convey an idea? :huh:

6 hours ago, Matthew. said:

I apologize for being repetitive, but this seems to be a general issue with puzzle-box narratives, where some late-stage reveal is supposed to retroactively fix all sorts of narrative deficiencies that have persisted along the way--eg, the Others operating like a typical high fantasy evil army.

Well to be fair, we haven't really seen them operate in the books much at all. And when we did see them, their actions were really more ambiguous than evil, if we consider the situation from their side with the NW being their enemy and the wildlings being on their side of the Wall. Ser Waymar drew his sword first, challenging Other #1 to a duel - which was then fought one on one, despite the other Others being available to help. We see no such sense of "fairness" from the show white walkers. 

Next, they sent the dead rangers to kill the LC and the First Ranger - that speaks to some degree of planning and intelligence. This lured the NW into the Great Ranging, where they were then decimated on the Fist of the First Men. Seems like a smart strategic move by Team Others. After that, they herded the wildlings to the Wall, only killing stragglers here and there to keep them moving along. We have no idea why they did this, but if they had wanted to simply kill all the wildlings, they certainly could have - and they did not. 

What I'm trying to say is that, at this point in the books, there are still many plausible ways in which the Others could turn out not to be a typical evil fantasy army. They may not be evil at all - just an opposing force that our protagonists don't understand. Or maybe not even an opposing force- maybe the question of "what are they waiting for" is answered by "a Stark to lead them". 

I also wonder about Mel's quote "without light, there can be no shadows". And I wonder if the Long Night was not perhaps a defensive reaction against the aggression of Team R'hllor. But I digress.... 

In summary, I'm willing to give the books the benefit of the doubt for the time being, and assume the Others will be a worthy threat that is dealt with in a creative and meaningful way. I have read many of GRRM's other works and he writes great, complex antagonists (half the time you don't even know which side are the "good guys"), and even better endings. I certainly feel disappointed by the show's approach to this story, but I am also confident that this latest episode didn't spoil any actual events coming in the books. And for that I am grateful. :)

 

7 hours ago, Brad Stark said:

The Others being servants of the Starks and marching South under Benjen's command to save Westeros from Dany and her dragons makes them more than a typical high fantasy evil army. 

YES! This is what I was hoping for in the show - that either Bran or Jon would somehow wrest control of the wights away from the Night King, and then march them south (just to kill Cersei, in the show, but it would have been nice and dark for Jon to be the one to bury Westeros under ice and snow in order to get his revenge). 

In the books this is still very possible, and one of my very favorite scenarios. You're right that it would probably be Dany that he fights - unless of course we interpret Aeron's vision as Euron and Cersei (not Dany), in which case it's not that different from what we're about to get on the show except without the Others involved (minor detail...). Oh and without King's Landing having dragons, which it will certainly have in the books, based again on Aeron's vision of Euron + fire lady and dragons overhead. 

Ha - imagine the battle we just saw, except it's in the south and we are all rooting for Team Others! How differently we would view them if someone we like was leading them... even if he is undead and his motives are a bit questionable. :devil:

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