Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ben & Jordan Watch Game of Thrones: The Night Lands

The bonds of brotherhood between Ben Morse and Jordan Geary were forged during their time as students at Connecticut College, where they spent four years losing at intramural sports (except softball in 2004!), forming their own fraternity because the school wouldn’t let them, making student films one professor called “unfortunate” and regularly beating their friend Dan Hartnett in Goldeneye.

Today, they live 20 minutes apart in New Jersey with their respective lovely wives, sharing passions for miniature golf, diner cuisine and the music of Motley Crue. They also both watch HBO’s Game of Thrones and have decided to write a column about it. While Jordan ran out and read all the books on which the show is based after season one, Ben prefers books with pictures and floppy covers.

Bear witness to their wit, wisdom and frequent allusions to Melrose Place as they try to do the tradition of Sean T. Collins and Megan Morse proud!

Ben: So I know it's only two episodes in so far, but what do you think of the season? I feel like it's been a little slow, but I gotta take into account they ended last season on a series of big action, escalating excitement moments, as most TV shows (and really any form of fiction) do. It's been a lot of getting to know new characters so far, but that's been cool, because I think I've dug more or less all the new additions (if there's somebody I've hated, I'm sure I'll recall it as I write this). Still, I feel like I've spent a lot of the last two weeks waiting for something to happen, I'm just not sure what. I know I need to be more patient, because obviously the bigger the build, the bigger the war. I can't help but wonder if they sit around the writers room thinking "There's going to be a lot of talking these first few, make sure we kill at least a baby an episode." I'm sure nobody actually says that. I could probably get sued for implying it. JORDAN, HELP ME OUT HERE. Are you at a different place since you've read the books and know what's ahead?

Jordan: I honestly can't tell if I am clouded by my love of the 2nd and 3rd Game Of Thrones books...two of the best books I have ever read...but I LOVE the 2nd season so far and have been downright giddy watching parts of it. While I concede that the TONS of new characters and storylines introduced are obviously causing the writers to do some heavy lifting (Robb Stark and Jaimie Lannister, two very central characters, couldn't even find screen time to appear in the 2nd episode), the groundwork for the rest of the season is being laid up front and is being done well. There is a LOT to come. The only thing I am confused about is the inclusion of a "new" scene or two that wasn't in the book. The books are insanely dense and it's enough of a challenge getting 1/4th of what's in them on the show. We don't need some scene with Littlefinger threatening a whore just so some writer can use "I'm not just a transcriber of Martin's books...I come up with stuff too!" as a pickup line at a bar.

Ben: I was pretty stoked for the Tyrion/Varys face-off. I'm glad we only got a little here and hope there's more to come. I enjoy Peter Dinklage verbally owning every other person on the show as much as the next guy (his bit with Slynt was instant Emmy clip), but it was neat to see a guy who is perhaps just as devious as him in Varys stand his ground. They're both cunning in different ways, as Tyrion makes folks underestimate him and Varys cozies up to them. I also just enjoy watching people who hate each other be dicks to one another but with a forced air of dignity because they're rich; that was 98% of what I liked about Downton Abbey.

Jordan: The Tyrion-Varys relationship is one of the major things I was looking forward to in this season, and so far it has been a home run. Dinklage has entered this season with a ridiculous confidence in his ability to step into Tyrion's skin after his Emmy win, and has resulted in television gold as Tyrion is supposed to return to King's Landing with a ridiculous confidence in his abilities. It's a marriage of actor and character personalities that is all too perfect and will surely score him another Emmy. Similarly, the actor who plays Varys deftly embodies the character who readers all perked up when seeing his name on the page. Descriptions alluded to in the book like "soft spoken", "having a tittering, knowing laugh", and "embodying a powdered, ghostly creepiness" all could not be portrayed more perfectly. In case it wasn't obvious, this was one of the aforementioned scenes that made me giddy!

Ben: Bronn is my man. It bums me out that he'd kill a baby for the right amount of scrilla (that's cash money), but hey, it was a different time.

Jordan: Rather than a display of it being "a different time," Bronn's "I'll do anything for a price" sellsword nature was the purpose of that line, something the HBO writers have crammed down the audience's throats about that character from the get-go. The Tyrion-Bronn friendship is a cute, yet intrinsically sad relationship: The only friends Tyrion, the unloved imp that entered the world with angry eyes on him by killing his mother with his very birth, could ever have must be literally bought by him.

Tyrion's girlfriend Shae was way prettier last season. How is this possible? Hair style? Wardrobe?

Ben: Cersei had a good episode. Her speech to Tyrion about he killed their mom by being born was brutal. I wonder how much of that was her just twisting the knife because she knows it hurts him and how much was genuine sadness? I can never tell with her. What I can tell is that Lena Headey raises her right eyebrow like nobody since The Rock. I think it may be stuck there.

Jordan: Cersei is as calculating as anyone in the kingdom, and the purpose of her conversation in that scene was to cruelly show to Tyrion that his japes are not the only ones capable of hurt. She should have been more evil and "vindictive with a smile" in that scene, instead of seeming genuinely hurt. This brings me to a giant issue I have: Lena Headley is a horrible casting choice as Cersei in every sense of the word. Yeah, I said it! ANYONE who has read the books knows what I'm saying. Cersei is supposed to be a vampy, hot, BOMBSHELL, who every single guy in the kingdom wants to sleep with (her sexuality being one of her best weapons). They must have cast the "I'm going to make an ugly scowl in every scene" sea hag Headley while George R.R. Martin (who was responsible for much of the casting) was out to lunch. The directors are now forced to put Barbara Walters blur filters on their cameras when she is onscreen to actively tone up her beauty, and Headley adds a thoughtfulness and self-awareness to the character that was all but absent in the books. Sharon Stone, if she were younger, would have been Cersei personified. Think that's a crazy statement? THAT'S how off on casting the character they were!

Ben: I was wondering how long it would take one of the poor actresses on this show to fall victim to your harsh intolerance for any perceived imperfection of physical beauty. After four paragraphs, I have my answer.

Megan thinks the desert where Daenerys is hanging out is in Nevada. That's all I got there. I want her to have more to do. It's going to be crazy when her story and the rest of the show actually collide, but I want it to take awhile, so she needs more stuff going on over in the American Southwest. I'd like to meet the other khals soon.

Jordan: Two thoughts on the Daenerys stuff as a whole in the show: The actress is starting to get annoying when she acts angry and that terrifies me as her character has to do a LOT more yelling and "hear me roar" stuff in the future. I'm raising the warning flag now, so that hopefully this can somehow be avoided. Wait...who am I kidding? No one cares what I think. This show has like a bajillion dollar budget, and I'm just some guy writing on a blog. I'm not erasing what I wrote though so I can say "I told you so" to my dog while I watch on the couch with him in the future.

Ben: Even though Emilia Clarke has been pretty subdued this season thus far, she was pretty badass last year, buddy, lest ye forget. But then again, you have more Twitter followers than I do and also I have no dog to brag to, so what do I know.

Jordan: Oh, the other thought? Joras Mormont's actor needs to be hairier. While the beard is a nice touch, George R.R. Martin can't go one sentence without punching the reader in the face with something like "Mormont touched his horse with his hairy, hairy knuckles, the horse flinching to get the hell away from his hairy ass and hairy back and hairy eyeballs". I'm paraphrasing, but you get the picture.

Ben: How can I not with poetry like that?

The dude who plays Gendry, Joe Dempsie, was one of my favorites from the first two seasons of Skins, so I'm not only happy he's on the show, but even more psyched his character seems to be pretty important as King Robert's sole surviving bastard. Him and Arya are money.

Jordan: The Arya journey is a reader fave, and the show is doing an amazing job with it. When I first saw Gendry I noted that I had pictured him being a little younger and better looking, but Dempsie's acting in this episode immediately showed me why they cast him. Brilliant work. The only thing that is taking me a bit of getting used to is how quickly they are cutting to the chase in a lot of these scenes. I mean, there is a lot of Arya and Gendry getting to know each other before Gendry finds out Arya is a girl, so to cram it into their first scene together was a difficult task. No idea how the hell they pulled it off, but the "Yo wassup, I'm Gendry. You ain't got a penis. Let's be friends", condensed about 300 pages into one awkward scene...yet it worked! I'm flabbergasted!

Also, the show did a great job of making Arya look like a boy.

Ben: Their entire exchange had me rolling with how natural and funny it was, but they had nice heartfelt moments too. If this were a normal show, I'd assume she'd develop a crush and he'd eventually brush her off gently because she's like 9, but since this is an HBO series packed to the brim with incest and baby killing, I'm intrigued to see what happens.

Speaking of which, how was there no nudity or sexual content warnings before this week's show? There was the blanket "Adult Content" one, but you've got those specific ones, use 'em!

Jordan: DAMN there was a lot of sex in this episode. I had to fight from cheering loudly during the scene where Stannis buggered Melisandre on the battlefield map. That was awesome.

Ben: Yoren was a bad ass. I will never aim for a dude's neck when attempting to cut him to death again. This show is both entertaining and educational.

Jordan: I LOVED the scene where Yoren put his blade to the crotch of the King's soldier as it showed how much he cares about protecting the kids. This was added for the show and was a great addition.

Let me take this time to make a casting review for readers of the books: Jacquen is cast perfectly, Rorge is cast well except this guy has a nose (the character in the book is nose-less), and Biter is way less scary than he was in the heads of anyone reading about him. Overall, the three prisoners are more or less cast well.

Ben: I love the heck out of Theon Greyjoy. He's a favorite of yours too, isn't he? Don't you have the t-shirt of his squid symbol? Anyhow, I dig his over-inflated self-worth and how everybody kicks him but he keeps on trucking. And if ever an actor had the perfect face to play a particular character, it's this guy. Had I read the books, I imagine I'd picture him looking exactly like this.

Jordan: Theon Greyjoy is tied to me like a weight. He is my favorite character and I empathize with him, yet am the only person on God's green earth that read the books and likes him. This is not an overestimation on my part. I've talked to tons and tons of readers, and I say this again for emphasis: NO ONE WHO HAS EVER READ THE BOOKS LIKED THEON EXCEPT FOR ME! This has been really annoying and confusing for me as when I ask for a reason why, each and every person uses the dreaded blanket "he's just unlikeable" way of describing Theon. Meanwhile, I read his smarmy dialogue, hilariously womanizing ways, see how he is repeatedly crapped on by everyone around him, and am enthralled. Watching his scene on the Iron Islands, right from the moment that he strode up to the old guy on the docks and proudly declared he was the heir to the kingdom to an apathetic stare, gave me chills. I LOVE THEON GREYJOY! Ben, the fact you like Theon makes you more of a brother than you could understand. Ask my wife Chloe, who has been there, rolling her eyes, while I interrogated people over and over about their Theon hate.

Ben: I bet there are more out there just like us, buddy, and hopefully we’ll hear from them. This blog has a cultured audience.

The other Greyjoys were pretty fantastic as well. I thought the dad was Bill Nighy for a sec, but I think a lot of British guys are Bill Nighy. Even though I like the Starks, his whole rap won me over within minutes and made me wanna call his son a whore too. Poor guy presumably just wanted to be rich and powerful and rape and pillage like everybody else on this show, I feel bad that all his sons died and there now seems to be no laundry or showers on his island. I also have a weird admiration for Yara that she was fine with letting her unknowing brother grope and fondle her because it would be that much more of a "Gotcha!" when he realized who she was. That's committing to a bit.

Jordan: The Greyjoys fascinate me...yet liking them is yet another thing I am completely alone on. Balon Greyjoy is a perfectly fierce product of the harsh life on the Iron Islands. Yara (known as Asha in the books) is an ambitious, sexy, hand-axe throwing badass. Oh, and I should mention...THEY ARE ALL F'IN PIRATES! How in the world can they NOT be interesting to everyone?! Ugh, so annoying. Whatever. I will wear my Greyjoy squid t-shirt to the gym and ignore the confused looks of anyone who did or did not read the books.

On a side note: There is a lot of hilarious sexual banter between Theon and his sister on their ride to the castle that had to get cut for time. This scene is worth reading the books alone. Double meanings of seafaring lingo and sexual organs have never been more perfect.

Ben: I'm glad the Greyjoys seemingly won't be operating as their own army and helping out somebody else instead. We've got enough rival armies already, but having a wild card as far as the seas go is a solid addition.

Jordan: The Greyjoys are a DEFINITE wildcard. I cannot think of a better word for them. I think you will be quite entertained with what develops.

Ben: Speaking of which, pirates are awesome. I support the addition of pirates to this show.

Jordan: Ben, where have you been all of my Game Of Thrones-reading life?

Ben: Like 15 minutes away, dude. I see you virtually every weekend.

Jordan: I know you are sarcastic, but after this entry don't play the "Oh I just watched this one scene and hate Theon and the Greyjoys now" trick on me. My heart won't be able to take it. I'm already on enough of an island over here. An IRON island!...That joke did not win anyone to my side.

Ben: It won me even further over to your side, bro.

I feel like I should care more about the Stannis/Melisandre stuff more than I do. I assume I will at some point. I think he's pretty fascinating but she kinda bores me. I almost feel like her introduction was too big in a way and it made me push back against what a big deal it seems like she is supposed to be. That said, I like that Stannis was playing medieval battleship and was hoping he would yell "I sank my battleship" when they went at it on the table. ENTENDRE!

Jordan: Stannis and Theon were the two characters that I was DYING to see in their storylines this season. Coincidentally, they are the two characters readers seem to completely hate as people, instead flocking to the boring superhero Jon Snow.

Ben: Jon Snow is not at all beloved in the Morse household. Ask Megan about him next time you see her.

Jordan: Pirates and witchcraft, CMON PEOPLE! I do agree with you that Stannis is being overshadowed by Melisandre so far this season and even though that makes sense because she needs to flex her powers, I'm hoping that changes. Stannis is a teeth-grinding, puritanical, by-the-book, self-hating force and deserves his due. That said, I am NOT saddened by the large amount of screen time for his loyal consigliere Davos Seaworth. Superb acting by pro Liam Cunningham.

Ben: Side note: We need to get our friend Taylor to name his first born Liam, boy or girl.

Jordan: One thing that was very important in this episode to anyone that read the books: WHOA! MELISANDRE PROMISED STANNIS A SON EARLY ON AND THAT'S WHY HE WAS HAVING SEX WITH HER?!?!?!?!?!? That was a change from the books, a major one. He is under her spell, to be sure, but the books make her promises of future power the cause of Stannis' interest, not a son. Future events will help explain why they graphically showed them doing the hippity dippity, but I don't think they needed to throw that whole son thing in there. Doubt that added wrinkle will make much sense or come back later at all.

Ben: Speaking of the first two seasons of Skins, Hannah Murray, another favorite from there, is playing Gilly, so that show is essentially a farm league for Game of Thrones and I'm all for it. Since she's beyond The Wall and Gendry is heading to The Wall, I hope against hope they will have a scene together and blow my mind. Don't shatter my dream, buddy.

Jordan: Won't say anything about Gendry/Gilly, but my first thought when looking at the actress who played Gilly was "yeah, the book said Gilly was plain-loking...but this person looks like a weird, large-toothed rabbit-person."

Ben: She is totally made up to look dirty and whatnot. She’s a cutie on Skins. I dare you to watch that show and not fall in love with Cassie. Actually, I just dare you to watch that show because it’s awesome and I want to blog about that too.

Jordan: Eh, I'm splitting hairs. I maintain the casting has been perfect on this show except for Cersei, Sandor "The Dog" Clegane (supposed to be playing him as a terrifying monster, not a eyelash-batting weepy guy), and Yara (Asha) who should have shorter hair, be hotter and look like Milla Jovovich (multiple people have agreed with me on this oddly perfect casting choice).

Samwell is perfectly cast. Enthusiastic and loveably out of place.

Ben: I love this unnamed Greek chorus you have alternately disagreeing with and praising you. We need a name for them.

When Craster was bringing that baby into the woods at the end, I was like "Two baby-killing cliffhangers on consecutive episodes? Really? Bold." but they went another way. Curious to see where that goes and curious to see this final king they're going on about up north. Wouldn't it be crazy if he was Canadian? Like, everything north of The Wall is the primitive version of Canada and we just don't know it? And he's super polite? Call me, George R.R. Martin.

Jordan: That baby thing was a weak cliffhanger for an otherwise fantastic episode. Craster doesn't interest me at all, and the fact he's an jerk to babies is only important to a certain end in the books. I'm guessing the writers said, "So the episode totally ends with Stannis plowin' Melisandre on a giant game of Risk!" and it got vetoed by someone who loves filming babies in the snow.

Ben: Final thoughts?

Jordan: Despite the added prostitute scene adding nothing to the story, Littlefinger still makes the show for me.

Ben: See you next week!

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