Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Stormborn and The Queen's Justice: Game of Thrones 7.02, 7.03

Holy crap I got the flu really bad (pray to the Old Gods and the New that I survive! This could be as deadly as greyscale!!) Just kidding, I'm slowed down but I'll survive. So I'm going to wham out 7.02 and 7.03. STAT!!!

Then tomorrow I'll post 7.04.


We start off with Dany, things are stormy in Dragonstone as Dany confronts her advisors. She acknowledges that Varys has played many sides, served many kings. Given that Dany worries over a prophecy that warns that she'll be betrayed once for blood, once for money and once for love. Of course she's suspicious, and Varys was no ally to her when he was serving King Robert Baratheon ... Despite his shifting alliances, Varys delivers an incredible piece of dialog in which he points out that bad rulers don't deserve blind loyalty, in the end they reach a compromise.

If Varys betrays her, Drogon gets a crispy Varys for his dinner. But for now, she trusts Varys as a cautious advisor, Dany may need someone to question her motives and actions, lest she become like her Mad King Father!

We follow Varys striking scene with a rather underwhelming meeting with none other than Red Priestess, Melissandre. It comes as no surprise she wound up here but what was surprising was how disappointing the scene played out. The Azor Ahai prophecy suddenly gets a grammar check by none other than Missandei who points out that in High Valyrian, the prophecy isn't Prince who was promised, but a "gender neutral hero, a prince or princess" instead. This struck me as lazy/dumb writing. Melissandre has been into her Azor Ahai prophecy for possibly centuries, she's multi-lingual, FLUENT in the common tongue and High Valyrian ... but Missandei who has not once expressed any interest in the Lord of Light/Red God is the one to reveal this incredible revelation. If anything, Missandei seems to have closer ties to the House of Black and White and the Faceless God as she tells Dany the term "Valar Morgulis" when they first meet, which means "All men must die". This phrase is integral to the House of Black and White and the Faceless men, certainly not Azor Ahai or the Red God.

It was very poorly executed, but there you have it, Melissandre thinks Dany and Jon Snow are Azor Ahai, it took Missandei two seconds to figure it out and clunky dialog to convey this to the viewers even though we suspected Dany may be involved in the prophecy as far back as season 1 or 2 I guess (the clues were in place way back then).

Dany debates with her unruly council, all of whom have different ideas about how to take over Westeros ... Are we about to see another Sons of the Harpy-esque mess when she conquers Westeros? Dany can barely control her small council much less 7 Kingdoms ... Still, she requests Jon Snow bend the knee because he's surely the easier foe in Westeros right? Cersei is Dany's real rival.

As Dany and Olenna have a wee pow-wow in which Olenna tells the young queen to be a dragon, not a sheep ... Missandei and Greyworm share an intimate moment which probably means one or both of them are about to die in 2 or 3 eps because GoT HATES a happy love story!!! (R.I.P Ned & Cat, R.I.P Loras & Renly, R.I.P Robb & Talisa, R.I.P. Jon & Ygritte's romance) Something's going to give.

In Kings Landing we see Cersei rally the troops. Considering the odds were stacked against her quite literally the second she took the throne ... she seems to be doing quite well rallying the troops to hate Dany and NOT hate her (even though she blew up the Sept of Baelor killing literally thousands of innocent civillians and the popular Queen Margaery).
She's amassing troops to deal with Dany and Jon Snows armies, she has a fleet thanks to Euron, all she needs now a a solution to the dragon problem ... Which Qyburn has delivered in the form of a gigantic crossbow that Cersei uses to impale a dragon skull beneath the Red Keep. It seems Cersei doesn't intend to go down without a fight and Dany may have her work cut out for her.

In Winterfell Jon receives Dany's request to bend the knee, he insists he won't to his bannermen, but points out that they need her dragonglass so he's paying her a visit anyway, leaving Sansa in charge as Lady of Winterfell. Sansa seems both horrified and pleased with the promotion. She is clever enough and strong enough to lead, but ... the old Stark saying, the lone wolf dies, the pack survives. She doesn't want Jon to go after they have just reunited. Perhaps she'll take to the leadership role and not be so keen to give Jon the reins once he returns.

Jon leaves for Dragonstone, but not before threatening Littlefinger. Sansa's a pretty capable woman, plus she has Brienne for protection, but one can't fault Jon for being overly cautious, Littlefinger is a slippery one!

Speaking of the lone wolf, Arya is wandering the wilds toward Kingslanding to cross Cersei off her kill list when she stops in an inn to find none other than Hot Pie. She's really changed but Hot Pie is as loveable as ever, before they  part Hot Pie reveals that Sansa and Jon are back in Winterfell, the Boltons are gone. Arya has a change of heart and travels north to Winterfell instead of south to Kingslanding. On her travels she meets Nymeria travelling with a huge pack of wolves. In a bittersweet moment, Arya urges Nymeria to come with her to Winterfell, only to admit that Nymeria has her own life, she's not a follower she's a pack leader. She tells Nymeria, "Thats not you". I dunno about you, but I was tearful at their parting! But Arya won't be a lone wolf for much longer, she's on her way to join the Stark pack!

In Oldtown we see Jorah's greyscale has consumed his entire arm and spread to his chest and shoulder. Had he chopped off his hand, the greyscale wouldn't have been able to spread, now it is incurable and he has mere months before he'll be driven mad and sent to live out the rest of his days in Old Valyria. Sam however suspects their is a cure and in the dead of night he proceeds to conduct a secret risky operation to cure Jorah's greyscale.

Yara and Ellaria aboard their ship flirt before an uncomfortable looking Theon when suddenly they are attacked by none other than Euron ... In an unbelievably epic sequence, two Sandsnakes perish (Nymeria and Obara), Tyene and Ellaria are captured and Euron holds Yara at knifepoint (or axe-point as it were). Euron goads Theon to come and save Yara. Theon, already a broken man, collapses under this latest drama and throws himself overboard, leaving a distraught Yara at the mercy of her psychotic uncle.

The next episode, The Queen's Justice, left us wondering ... which Queen's justice? I suspected Cersei, Dany is still stuck on Dragonstone whereas Cersei is already moving pieces on the chessboard as it were. Euron returns to Cersei with his gift, Tyene and Ellaria.

Cersei takes tremendous pleasure in concocting an appropriate torture for the woman responsible for her daughter Myrcella's death. After taunting Ellaria about Oberyn's gruesome death, she recreates the scenario that brought about Myrcella's death, giving Tyene a poison kiss and leaving Ellaria and Tyene chained mere inches out of each others grasp to watch in horror as the poison takes effect.


Cersei's sadism seems to have surpassed Joffrey's.

After sleeping with an initially reluctant Jaime, she wakes the next morning to meet a rep from the Iron Bank, she promises to pay what is due, the old saying goes, "A Lannister always pays their debts". 

In Winterfell we get a surprise reunion, Bran and Sansa ... but wait a second ... Why haven't we seen the Wall crumble, now that Bran, marked by the Night King, has passed through ... Hmm, strange.
The sibling reunion is ... bizarre, with Bran, who has seen visions, commenting on how pretty Sansa was in her white wedding dress (mere moments before she was brutally raped by Ramsay Bolton).

Nice one Bran.

Small update on Jorah ... Sam's miracle cure worked and he's cured of greyscale. I know what you're thinking, where's Sam's medal and a parade through the streets!!! Nahh, instead he gets landed with punishment, but before you jump your gun and chastise the Maester for being harsh, the punishment is quite justifiable. As the Maester says, had the procedure gone awry, Sam risked infecting himself, killing himself and/or Jorah and possible infecting the entire Citadel. Greyscale is spread through contact, one slip and Sam could have easily contracted it. Regardless, Jorah's off scot free and cured of greyscale, his first stop with be wherever the heck Dany's holed up!

Speaking of which, we fly on over to Dragonstone where Jon and Davos have landed. Tyrion and Jon share a nice reunion after spending 6 seasons on opposite ends of the map. Varys and Melissandre are absent from presidings, Melissandre obviously avoiding Jon and Davos after their last meeting. Varys suggests Melissandre leaves Westeros for good, though she entertains the idea and mentions a trip to Volantis, she adds that she will return as she has seen her destiny, she will die in Westeros, as will Varys ... Ominous ...

Jon and Dany have a standoff which is ... bloody amusing tbh. Dany has this regal air to her, she has risen from nothing, risen from the ashes and she sees herself as Queen of Westeros and pretty much half of Essos as well, with a string of titles, Khaleesi, the Unburnt, Queen of Mereen, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, Mother of Dragons ... etc etc etc. Jon on the other hand is ... King Snow? King Jon? ... King in the North.
He returns her sharp points with blunt, but quite striking responses. It ends in a stalemate, Jon won't bend the knee, Dany won't cooperate.

Varys breaks the tension when he enters with bad tidings ... Word of Yara's fleet being decimated by Euron has reached Dragonstone. This is a serious setback and Dany is, as you'd expect, furious.
While Dany discusses this, Jon asks Tyrion what he can do. He doesn't belong so far south and cannot waste time playing politics when the Dead are coming. Tyrion later suggests Dany give him the dragonglass under Dragonstone as she has no use for it and Jon does. She concedes, if nothing, this will hopefully curry favour with the King in the North.

Later, Tyrion formulates a plan to storm Casterly Rock to weaken Cersei. Casterly Rock is impregnable through conventional means, but Tyrion designed the sewers and knows how to sneak the Unsullied in, and off they go ... Remember what I said about Greyworm being next on the chopping block because he and Missandei got all romantic? Hate to say I told you so but he's probably toast.

Finally in the Reach, the Lannister army devastate Olenna's forces. Jaime and Olenna have a standoff, well ... Olenna is her usual standoffish self, Jaime has become more and more merciful ever since his time with Brienne. Instead of a brutal death, he pours poison into Olenna's wine. Olenna downs the wine like the boss and tells Jaime that she killed Joffrey and that Jaime ought to tell Cersei.

Boy she's gonna be mad.

And with that ... Cersei got her justice, and so to did the Queen of Thorns, she got her last revenge on Cersei, or at least she will from beyond the grave once Jaime reports back to her!

The battle scenes in these episodes were pretty damn amazing I must say, though the writing in parts has gotten sloppy, this season of GoT is otherwise delivering pretty consistently. 

Monday, 7 August 2017

What do we say to the God of Death ...


So I came across this post about 23 GoT characters who are "sure to die" this season (S7) and ... well, I politely disagree with most suggestions, this seems like more of a wish-list than an actual prediction list, so I'm going to make some "Death Guesses" of my own. Lets take a lookie-loo!!!

I politely disagree with the authors choice to kill off Cersei ... I'd love to see her last to the bitter end because she's such a brilliant, conniving villain, she's the only real female villain we've seen since the start. Some might argue Melissandre was a villain (she did burn Shireen after all), but ... once we come to understand her more, we see her actions (although horribly misguided and unjustifiable) were for a greater purpose. Melissandre was a religious zealot listening to the Red God, hoping to save Westeros from the Long Winter. She also seems guilty, remorseful, she bears the burden of her guilt. Cersei on the other hand is serving her own purposes and appears to have no regard for other casualties if anything, she's grown more and more ruthless.
Could she die this season? Quite possibly, she has a gigantic target on her back, but she's Cersei FRICKIN Lannister. It won't be that easy to kill her.

This is a dumb suggestion imo. Yes, we could call him "Bran the Bland", he's dull as dishwater but he's also one of the most important characters in the whole war against the White Walkers plot.
Bran could not only be the key to stopping the war, but ... paradoxically, he could also be the "key" that started it to begin with, or at least had significant influence (e.g. this Bran Stark is somehow tied to all other historical Bran's, e.g. Bran the Builder who built the Wall 1000s of years ago). Bran has influenced the past and changed the future (Hold the Door = Hodor). With a whole other season left to wrap things up after s7, it wouldn't make sense to kill Bran now and disrupt the crazy dream-time-travel loop that's in progress. That said, his character is sooooooo flat, I don't think many people would miss him.

He's a slippery weasel ... We saw him in a confrontation with Jon Snow recently, mirroring the Ned Stark/Littlefinger choke-slam we saw in Season 1... We saw how that ended for Ned, even though the odds seem stacked against Littlefinger, I wouldn't be surprised if he managed to slip away. He's just that sneaky, however this season could be the season where he takes a gamble and loses. Littlefinger thrives in chaos and Westeros is pretty damn chaotic this season but ... will he be able to wiggle out of this one? Time will tell. Sansa doesn't trust him, doesn't like him, but we've seen the two of them together a lot this season without Sansa taking a stab at him.

Zombie Mountain ... If Cleganebowl happens this season, The Mountain has to fall. At this stage, he's already dead, reanimated at the hands of sicko Qyburn. He's been killed once, he can be put down again. The thing is ... will it happen this season? The Brotherhood without Banners have added Sandor "The Hound" Clegane to their ranks, but they haven't done anything really since S1 ... They had one job ... ONE JOB. Kill the Mountain and they've just wandered the wilds ever since, now that they're looking North at the war to come, the Mountain isn't exactly their big priority ....
Given the fact The Mountain "died" in his fight with Oberyn back in S5, the Brotherhood were not only looking in all the wrong places (The Mountain is in Kingslanding the Brotherhood are wandering everywhere else), but they're also hunting a dead man, at least they'll get what they're looking for when the reach the North and the Night King.
Does all this mean The Hound won't get to him? Nahhhh, Cleganebowl has been hyped since before the dawn of time, so who knows what will happen, The Hound could be back in Kingslanding this season if he put his mind to it though we've yet to find a reason for that, but if he goes there and if he meets the Mountain, they'll inevitably come to blows.

No. Don't kill him. He's hilarious and vile in equal measure. He's this seasons Viserys, Joffrey, and Ramsay rolled into one big ball of crazy. GOT has a habit of keeping villains alive when we don't want them to. Euron's horribleness will probably grant him some longevity, it worked for Littlefinger.
I don't see him lasting the distance in truth. He won't sit on the Iron Throne, the Greyjoy's have a history of being epic losers, while Euron isn't a Theon or a Balon, I doubt he has the chops to sit on the Iron Throne. Rest assured, he'll get his comeuppance, I'm not sure he'll bite the dust this seasons though, his villany is getting too much hype, then again, Ned's heroism didn't save him from the headmans blade back in S1!

Was he ever relevant? ... Oooooh ... burn.
No seriously, Dany left him at Essos, he doesn't have to die, he doesn't have to do anything, just leave him a distant memory.
As Dany's "lover", perhaps he'll be back, but I wouldn't hold my breath this season, there's a bunch of other things going on and Daario is a boring side note.

Well he's been laying pretty low this season, and he's Cersei's right hand man. I don't think he's dumb enough to piss off the Wildfire Queen herself and considering the fact he's kept such a low profile, I don't think he's falling into the high-risk category this season. That said, he is stuck in a precarious allegiance, Cersei isn't exactly popular. I do agree that Qyburn needs to go though, sooner the better!

She has been foreshadowing her imminent end lately and while I don't want to see Melissandre go (even though she killed one of my top-three characters, Renly Baratheon), I think this may in fact come to pass. She's lost a great deal of her faith, after losing Stannis, burning Shireen ... She's in a really bad place. When death comes knocking, I'm not so sure she'll fight, she's lived a long long life and is ready to shuffle off the mortal coil.

GoT showrunners don't like animating the big-bad-wolves. We saw Nymeria and her pack return to the wild rather than join Arya and go back to Winterfell, so the only wolf left for David and Dan to sideline for the rest of the season is Ghost. Does this mean he'll die? Yeah, I can totally see it happening. Jon is far away in Dragonstone while Ghost is in Winterfell (I presume), it doesn't bode well.

... Hmmm ... this may already have come to pass. We saw in Spoils of War, Jaime leapt out of the frying pan and into the ... dishwater? Anyway, contrary to popular belief
Jaime could be toast ... Got to say, that twist was bloody epic, I didn't think he'd get toasted, but a drowning death is a clever curveball. Bron, who jumped in to push Jaime out of Drogon's dracarys was only wearing light leathers, not like Jaime's weighty full suit and maille however, even if Bron can swim to the surface ... it's incredibly unlikely he can pull Jaime up with him. So Jaime could be dead, it is a very real possibility. The only way I can see him getting out of this one is if Bron swims down and pulls off the armour, but even then, Jaime can't breathe underwater, it could be too little too late even if he does surface next episode!
Must admit, I'm not ready to see the end of Jaime, he's an interesting character, plus, he was supposed to tell Cersei that Olenna killed Joffrey... Jaime is the only one privy to this and I really don't see the point in leaving that dangling in the air when its TOTALLY the sort of thing to drive Cersei completely round the bend (DON'T TEASE ME DAVID AND DAN!!!!)

HAHA. Yes. Need I say more. He, along with the Samwell Tarly pooh montage, ruined the first episode (it was otherwise good, but Ed needs to keep his grabby hands off of GoT). Someone put him on Arya's list and he's toast!

He's already a dead man walking. We recently discovered that Beric, and also Jon Snow, are basically wights, animated by Fire instead of Ice ... So it's only a matter of time before he becomes a shambling corpse like those wights beyond the Wall. How will his demise come to pass? Who knows, but it's surely coming. I could see Beric passing this season, though we haven't seen much of him on screen compared to other significant characters, he could probably do with another season to develop before he dies, but knowing GoT, there is going to be a whole 2 hour episode for the season finale, thats plenty of time to pull our heartstrings and THEN kill him when it will hurt the most.

House Tyrell is gone, so will the Tarly's rule the Reach? Certainly possible, but Dany's already blasted the supplies from Highgarden with Drogon's flames. If Tarly sticks with Cersei, Dany will toast him, if he switches sides and bends the knee to Dany ...

We haven't seen him at all this season, but his links to Littlefinger could be ... fatal.
Robin is a wee gobsh!te if you don't mind me saying, he's not exactly bright. It's only a matter of time before the Moon Door claims another Arryn!

Gone and Gone. Euron's brutal attack claimed two snakes (Obara and Nymeria) and Cersei's torture claimed Ellaria and Tyene. Although we don't see either Ellaria or Tyene die on screen, Tyene's death is almost certain after Cersei's poisonous kiss and Ellaria, according to actress Indira Varma, she does not appear onscreen again. Unless Dany liberates Cersei's prisoners in early S8, the only way we'll find Ellaria is ... in a skeletal form.

After saying "goodbye but not farewell" to Missandei, Greyworm sets off to Casterly Rock and falls into a deadly trap. Now the Unsullied are trapped while Cersei's forces lay seige to Casterly Rock in the East, their ships burned in the West. Dany can lift the seige of course, with Drogon's dracarys (that seems to be a good solution for all her troubles doesn't it) but as it stands, she isn't aware of the situation, or at least the peril Greyworm and Co are in. Starving to death on Casterly Rock isn't a particularly heroic way for warrior Greyworm to go ... and losing Greyworm could have devastating consequences for Dany's companion Missandei. This could truly test Missandei's loyalties.

I don't think we'll see this this season, or perhaps it will happen off screen, I already mentions the showrunners aren't fond of the CGI wolves. Nymeria is off roaming the wilds, she'll probably bites some Lannisters on the sly but ... I don't think we'll see her death on screen if at all. Losing all the Stark wolves is a huge deal, the wolves from their first appearance have been very symbolic with the Stark's, Nymeria, much like Arya, strays from the pack, Ned kills Sansa's Lady at Cersei's bidding, and Joffrey kills Ned (Father/Daughter and Mother/Son parallels there, its a bit of a stretch but stick with me!). Shaggy and Rickon, dead at the hands of Ramsay Bolton, Summer dies protecting Bran and, after yesterdays episode, Meera Reed claims that Bran "died" in the cave of the Three-Eyed Raven. Grey Wind and Robb both perish at the Red Wedding. The wolves, in some roundabout ways at times, reflect their masters, Jon Snow already died once, so Ghost is ... in peril to say the least, Arya left Winterfell, she was too wild to be tamed and similarly, Nymeria herself has now become too wild. Arya herself admits that it just isn't right to tear Nymeria off the path she's chosen. Arya and Nymeria being separated is not like Ghost and Jon, both wolf and girl have flourished and grown stronger on their separate paths, but Jon and Ghost have not been separated like this, nor does Jon seem to be doing so great on his adventures down in Dragonstone. He and Ghost belong together, Arya and Nymeria did not.
Anyway ... I don't think we'll see this on screen if at all. If she does appear (and dies) she'll go out defending Arya of course!!!

Without a doubt, Olenna's was one the only most dignified deaths in GoT (along with Maester Aemon who died peacefully in a tear-jerking scene at Castle Black!). The Queen of Thorn's succumbed to poisoning on her own terms, and she didn't go out without having the last word and birthing this epic Bad-Ass-Olenna meme.
None shall ever replace the TRUE Queen of Game of Thrones. R.I.P Lady Olenna S3-S7

She's a relatively low-risk character in the Game of Thrones. Softspoken, clever ... she won't throw herself in harms way, but ... she is close to Dany. While she doesn't serve a huge strategic purpose in Westeros as she did in Essos (being multi-lingual and well versed in the cultures and customs of Essos helped Dany, but she is in Westeros now and Varys and Tyrion are Westerosi experts), she is Dany's closest friend. Someone could kill her to piss off Dany, but other than that ... there's very little gain. It isn't unlike Cersei to torture someone like that, but ... she isn't aware of Missandei, she just wants to stop Dany, so a Missandei death would be unexpected and shocking!

One of Dany's dragons will die, Drogon is her favourite and the largest of her three dragons, he's also named after her deceased husband Khal Drogo. I know mothers aren't supposed to have favourites, but Drogon totally is her favourite which means he's first in line to get skewered by a giant crossbow (didn't happen in Spoils of War but theres still more episodes to come).

With the war against the Army of the Dead looming on the horizon, Wilding Leader Tormund is lying on the chopping block. Once the battles against the White Walkers begins he's directly in the line of fire. So far we've had a lot of action in Westeros and not much White Walker madness, so if D&D are saving it for S8, Tormund might last till then, but when the dead come knocking at Winterfell, Tormund's death is likely (here's hoping he and Brienne get a soppy sentimental moment first because he's just a giant teddy bear and obviously has the hots for the lovely Brienne!)

He's a really pathetic character ... This isn't a bad thing though, no, he's an interesting character who finds himself manipulated and intimidated at every turn. He's a broken man walking, but ... he's still walking. I think it may be a bit too late to really redeem him at this stage, he'll never become a real hero even though he insists he wants to go to Kingslanding and rescue Yara. This is probably where he'll die a "heroic" death, but a pathetic one at that. This season will probably be Theon's last, and maybe Yara as well!

I think it'll come down in the season finale. That would be an epic start, or an epic finish. Either way, I think D&D are saving it for one big explosive episode, and what better episode than the finale? The trial and subsequent explosion in the Sept of Baelor was the big boom of last season and ... it was one of the most striking scenes in terms of the sound and music, the pace, the composition of the shots ... It was unforgettable and the Wall will likely be a similar type of scene but not a scene they'll use lightly. The Battle of the Bastards and the Battle of the Blackwater were similarly huge events. It WILL happen and it WILL be big and it will likely be this season too!

Who do you want to die this season? Who don't you want to die? Are your favourite characters all already dead?

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Dragonstone: Game of Thrones 7.01

Anyone else get a sense of deja vu ... Walder Frey is hosting a family gathering, not entirely unlike the Red Wedding ... but wait a second- Didn't Arya kill him last season?
She sure did, but she's mastered the art of wearing faces thanks to her training under the Faceless Man (a.k.a Jaqen -cooltits- Hagar). After poisoning the entire party, save for a few waiting ladies, Arya pulls off Walders face to reveal her own and announces "The North Remembers, Winter Came for House Frey".

Oh boy, we're off to a great start.
Roll title credits!

After that CRACKING introduction we see that winter has indeed come as the White Walker army (now including no less than THREE giants in its massive ranks) marches on South.
Bran and Meera are at the Wall, but we haven't forgotten the Night Kings mark when he touched Bran, this could have some serious consequences. The Brothers let them in of course, but Bran's mark means that the Night King can now breach the Wall. Is it about to come crashing down or are they safe until Bran steps over to the other side? Bran is headed back South to find Jon, which means that whether he has to go South of the Wall or just reach Castle Black ... we know the Night King will soon march on the Wall and possibly (probably) bring the whole thing down. All that is if another theory doesn't come true first (some have speculated that the sea on either side of the Wall is freezing over, allowing the Army of the Dead to just walk around it ... it seems there's no stopping them unless Jon can rally an army, recruit some dragons and stock up on Wildfire and Dragonglass ... Fingers crossed I guess!)

Back in Winterfell, Jon prepares for war. Everyones favourite (since the first second she appeared on screen) Lyanna Mormont slays with every line, we expected no less to be honest. I think she could probably rouse the Northmen more than Jon given the chance, it's a good thing they're both on the same side. #QueenOfTheNorth anyone? (and I mean Lyanna not Sansa ... sorry folks!!! Lyanna Mormont could probably take on Cersei and win she's that much of a badass!)

Sansa holds her own as the Lady of Winterfell, although questioning her brother (the KING) when he issues orders wasn't a wise move, at least, not while the bannermen are watching. Both parties raise good points. Sansa is correct to suggest rewarding loyal families as opposed to the children of turncoats Umber and Karstark, but Jon isn't wrong either, as he asks the young Lord and Lady to swear fealty to him, rather than blaming two children for the actions of their fathers.

Perhaps they could have made a compromise. Wed the Umber and Karstark heirs to loyal bannermen, or make them a Ward with another family, that way they'd neither be cast out, nor rewarded for their fathers' actions. Either way, Jon keeps a strong front and insists on his decision, though Sansa warns that Jon's decisions may get him killed, like their father and brother before him. Jon knows how to lead the Brothers of the Nights Watch but politics in the Seven Kingdoms is a whole other ball game and Sansa has learned from Cersei, Margaery and dare I say Littlefinger and Ramsay too?

With the Night King in the North and Cersei in the South, Jon really ought to be careful ... Neglecting his Southern enemies could scupper his plans to battle the Wights.
Anyway, Kingslanding. Jaime is having second thoughts ... or is he? It's hard to tell if he is fully committed to sticking with Cersei after what she's done, yet, he's still here.
Cersei doesn't even appear to mourn the loss of poor Tommen, then again, grief is strange and Cersei seems to have transcended grief. Cersei has always been a frigid and cold character, but there's something particularly hollow about her this season. Jaime hasn't had the same relationship with his children, largely due to the fact that the little-Lannisters were the products of an illegitimate, incestuous coupling! Cersei has had her children from their entire lives, Jaime has been confined to being the uncle. Briefly, he had a moment with Myrcella before her untimely death and I think Jaime mourns Tommen particularly hard after his exchange with Myrcella.
Joffrey was already gone, Myrcella accepted him as a father for all of five minutes, and perhaps Jaime saw a chance to connect with Tommen, with the only child he had left, only for it to slip away just as he returned to Kingslanding. Cersei has no energy left in her "grief" reserves, but Jaime has only just begun.
War doesn't give them much time for grieving, Cersei implies she will marry Euron Greyjoy, King of the Iron Islands, because she needs allies and ships and the Frey's are gone, the Tyrell alliance is over, Dorne is still a sworn enemy and the North won't bend the knee. No mention of Littlefinger or Robin Arryn in the Vale, but it seems she's aware that the Vale isn't a viable option as of yet, it also isn't a problem either.

Cue Euron's sass.

Every season or couple of seasons has a big villain (well, aside from Cersei and Baelish who've been trouble from the start). Season 1 had Viserys, Season 2 and 3 was Joffrey, Ramsay Bolton/Snow infuriated us for Seasons 3-6, ... But this season Euron is going to be that villain. Viserys, Joffrey and Ramsay have brought their own hallmark cocktails of psychopathy and sadism, and even though we saw Euron last season, he really makes his debut in his exchange with Cersei.

He's all jokes and charms and even though you know he's utterly vile, you can't help but admit he's witty, charming even in a bizarre Joker-like fashion. He doesn't hesitate to deride himself and Jaime, right before Cersei. Viserys and Joffrey were childish, Ramsay was ruthless, Euron is without a doubt crazy, but damn if he doesn't look confident while he's utterly disturbing the viewers.

Then we faced that AWFUL Sam-in-the-Citadel montage.
Thank you Decider.com for making a gif of the montage we NEVER needed a gif of ... 
I'm sure it took hours to edit, but seriously ... never again. The less said the better.
Sam's cleaning chamber pots and dishes, not exactly the "quest for knowledge" he'd expected, but he's within arms-reach of an incredible wealth of knowledge, a Holy Grail ... he just has to earn his chain first before he can read the "special collections". The White Walkers are coming though, no one listens to Sam, and there really isn't time, how long does it take for a Maester to earn his chain anyway? Especially if they spend more time scrubbing than studying!

This mess was followed by Ed Sheeran ... The less said the better ... Again.
I found Sarah Larson PERFECTLY discusses how this celeb cameo really sucked the life out of the scene.
Arya horses up to Ed Sheeran, who is singing in the woods in the Riverlands with his soldier buddies. Ed Sheeran is wearing armor and a cape, but he’s still got the same old Ed Sheeran face and the same eerily combed orange hair, and he’s singing an Ed Sheeran song [...] What could be a scene that helps us empathize with Arya’s particular isolation and unusual adolescence is derailed by depressing celebrity-crush awkwardness—Ed Sheeran’s jarring presence is about as natural as Davy Jones on “The Brady Bunch,”- Sarah Larson, the New Yorker. 
Game of Thrones is usually quite immersive, at least I think it is, and I usually get sucked into the story and action. Ed Sheeran slapped me out of Westeros with a pasty pink hand the SECOND the camera panned over him. Compared to Coldplay and Snow Patrol in S3 ... Ed Sheeran was shockingly bad, the other two examples were blended seamlessly into the GoT tapestry whereas Ed, as Sarah says, was wildly out of place.
The scene with the Lannister soldiers had a huge message, the dark haired soldier discussed his pregnant lass back home, he hoped the baby was a girl because "little girls look after their Papa's, they don't go off to war", it really humanised the nameless, faceless, lifeless foot soldiers.
Most of the emotion was lost however as Ed Sheeran's cringey smile burned through the emotion-processing centre in my brain. I done some acting in a small student film project, I too grinned stupidly through serious scenes when I gave my dialog because I didn't know what to do with my face, it looked AWFUL (not my face -I hope...- but the acting) Fortunately for everyone involved, it was a camera exercise, so my -lack of- acting chops did not affect anyones grades, nor was the monstrous short published anywhere (thank God!).

Ed is no actor and I sincerely hope he calls it quits while he's ahead.

Wow ... I think I said too much. Anyway, moving on!
The Hound has some witty banter with Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr in typical Sandor style, before he does some fire-gazing and sees ... An army of the dead... Yikes.
I wonder if The Hound is more or less afraid of the flames now ... I mean, the flames didn't physically hurt him when he stared, and he saw something seriously horrifying within them. So is he more afraid of White Walkers now? Or is he even more afraid of fire because not only does it burn but it's also like a crazy apocalypse-broadcasting-flame-television ...
The Hound later buries the bodies of the inn-keeper and inn-keepers daughter, whom have died in a murder-suicide scenario brought on by desperate starvation ... He probably should have burned them ... but hey, there's still time to stop the Army of the Dead before they get that far and raise another two footsoldiers ... I hope.

Sam mans up and steals some books from the area of the library he isn't supposed to go to and lo and behold, he discovers the Dragonstone is built on ... you guessed it, a HUGE pile of Dragonglass. I wish I knew how to select the correct books and correct pages in said books when I do my own research ... but WHATEVER it's Westeros where Varys and Littlefinger can teleport between kingdoms and continents, maybe the Citadel has ctrl+f built into their tomes and he searched "dragonglass" as a keyword.

He writes to Jon immediately, recommending he go to Dragonstone and get a bunch of the stuff of course!!!

Speaking of Dragonstone ... Daenerys has arrived.
GoT delivers some bloody amazing dialog and monologues, but sometimes the scenes with NO words at all pack the biggest punch. Cersei blowing up the Sept of Baelor last season for example (spectacular even though my fave character Margaery perished!!) and Tommen's death (no tantrums or tears, just a long drop entirely unembellished), Cersei during her walk of shame, the attack on Hardhome (where no one says ANYTHING as they stare at the silent Army of the Dead) ...

Daenerys coming home to Dragonstone was perfect in it's wordless state. The way she touches the sand, the walls, the way she walks the halls, it all speaks volumes. This place is alien to her, she left as a baby, and yet she feels that it's home. That kind of emotion doesn't translate easily into words.

Dany wraps up with "Shall we begin?"... even though we've been waiting 6 seasons and 50-minutes for this moment ... better late than never I guess-
Roll credits ...Darn...

Guess we'll have to wait another episode ...

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Secret Empire, If you read it you're a Nazi

Wow ... this title is bigger click-bait than my April fools Black Widow movie post... Sorry to disappoint you with a post directly opposite to the title, but ... reading Secret Empire will not make you a Nazi and anyone who tells you that is wrong. Reading Mein Kampf will not make you a Nazi either even though it's written by the head honcho, Hitler himself! Lemme tell you why.

Ohhh boy ... here we go...
Since it's very inception (or rather since the infamous HYDRA-Cap panel hit the interwebs), the whole Secret Empire/Steve Rogers arc has come under fire as being a Nazi comic. I would like to stress that Secret Empire is not a Nazi story even if it is/was a story about a Nazi. I honestly can't believe I have to write this ... after reading all of the Secret Empire and Steve Rogers stuff so far, the "YOU'RE A NAZI" reaction is just so far fetched.

I found this list of books about the Third Reich and Hitler, they are stories about Nazism but they are not Nazi stories. To make this differentiation clearer, allow me to explain so I can show you just why Secret Empire is not a Nazi story and you are not a Nazi for reading it.

Mein Kampf is a Nazi story. It's Hitler's autobiography and political manifesto. It's a book of Nazi ideologies, penned by a Nazi for other Nazi's to read and assimilate with. That said, historians read Mein Kampf all the time and they don't become Nazis, this is because they read, they study, they debate but they don't assimilate. Let's take a look at what assimilate means shall we;

1.to take in and incorporate as one's own; absorb: He assimilated many new experiences on his European trip. 
2.to bring into conformity with the customs, attitudes, etc., of a group,nation, or the like; adapt or adjust: to assimilate the new immigrants. 
4.to cause to resemble (usually followed by to or with). 
5.to compare; liken (usually followed by to or with). 
verb (used without object), assimilated, assimilating.
7. to be or become absorbed. 
8.to conform or adjust to the customs, attitudes, etc., of a group,nation, or the like:The new arrivals assimilated easily and quickly. (SOURCE) 
If you don't assimilate, that is, adopt the policies, change yourself to suit the ideologies presented, you aren't becoming what the text is influencing you to be. So if you read Mein Kampf and assimilate with it and adopt the principles within the book, you become a Nazi, if you read it and disagree with it or learn from it without adopting its policies, you don't become a Nazi. It's just that simple.

Reading this will NOT make you a Nazi ... but it might make your stomach churn because WW2 was horrifying. 
Similarly, Secret Empire is not a Nazi story because, although Steve is successful in establishing a New World Order under HYDRA, this World Order is not accepted or approved by Steve's closest friends or his closest allies (Vision is "reprogrammed", Scarlet Witch possessed and the vast majority of Steve's old allies have turned their backs on him).
We aren't supposed to assimilate with Steve because he's wrong wrong wrong. You can like him, sure, but ... his actions and beliefs are condemned not celebrated. Secret Empire doesn't want you to become a Nazi, it wants you to see what would happen if Steve became a Nazi and we don't like what he's become. He isn't supposed to be admirable. 
Steve deceives all of his friends and allies, he works with the villains who are clearly still villains. Being successful isn't the same as being right and the only people to affirm Steve's actions are ... Zemo, Madame Hydra, Arnim Zola and other V-I-L-L-A-I-N-S. He isn't a hero, he isn't acting heroically, he has become a tyrannical leader which is clear from the start. We readers are not supposed to "like" what Steve has become, we are supposed to be uncomfortable that our hero has become his own worst enemy.

If Secret Empire was trying to promote Nazism, heroes wouldn't claim "This isn't Steve", "Steve's been changed", "He has to be stopped/killed" they'd cheer for their brilliant leader. What he's doing is wrong and no one is arguing otherwise.
Liking HYDRA-Steve isn't an inherently bad thing though. I'm first to admit I love good villains, sometimes more than the heroes, but liking villains doesn't make someone a Nazi (I already covered that in my discussion of assimilation). HYDRA-Steve is interesting, but we don't want to become like him even if we like watching what will unfold next. Liking a fictional Nazi villain won't make you a bad person, but appreciating the mass genocide that occurred in WW2 will.

If anything, Secret Empire is the comic we NEEDED to see because this is how crazy the discourse around Nazism has become.

If people believe reading a book about Nazis is all it takes to turn people into Nazis then we block our ears and don't engage our brains, we leave ourselves open to be manipulated by future Hitlers who feed us perfect messages that aren't true and aren't challenged or challenging. Remember, when Hitler first came to power his message wasn't "genocide" it was "jobs", he earned the peoples trust and admiration before he commit terrible crimes and many regular German people thought Hitler was the bees-knees although he went on to commit unforgivable crimes against humanity.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it may not actually be a duck and THAT is why we ask questions.
Look at the picture below.
This is a duck right?

"Quack ... or ... whatever"

No. It's a swan-goose. But it looks like a duck and probably sounds like one too (I mean I'm no bird expert, but to the untrained eye, this would fool me!).

Secret Empire doesn't come with the message "Steve's always right because he's Captain America", it challenges that very message because the heroes became complacent and followed Steve's orders without question even when they were questionable orders! They didn't question his actions or behaviour and suddenly, it was too late. He walked like Captain America, talked like Captain America but he wasn't Captain America. Now they can see Steve isn't who/what he seemed and they are trying to stop him.

How on Gods Earth does this seem good for Nazis? Everyone loved him before they knew he was HYDRA, now that he's revealed his allegiance to HYDRA, he's Billy-no-mates (except for a bunch of cheeky villains we're not supposed to like either).

HYDRA-Cap is doomed to fail, we can already see his New World Order unravelling, with Viper acting shady/treacherous, rebellions at every corner, Namor and T'Challa, while not openly rebelling against Cap, are firmly opposed to HYDRA's ideologies. This isn't the Happy Ending story Nazis want to see, and if they think this current arc is a good thing for a HYDRA-Steve, then they're even stupider than I expected (not that I give modern Nazis much credit in the IQ department to begin with).

Yes, a HYDRA did successfully take over the world, but unless Steve can stay in control (spoiler alert, he most certainly will not), it is no victory at all. Hitler dominated huge swathes of Europe but he lost it all by 1945 and commit suicide in a bunker and to this day, any rational person will agree that Hitler's ideologies and actions were deplorable and they will condemn him.

I can't see the logic to the arguments people present which state that "Secret Empire/Steve Rogers is promoting Nazism" because ... it isn't.
Lets leave aside the fact that Nick Spencer is arguing that HYDRA and Nazis aren't the same, because even if that were the case, it doesn't change the fact that HYDRA is the enemy and we aren't supposed to root for this fascist empire to succeed. If HYDRA took over and gave everyone ice cream and kittens then we need to stand up and say "wait a minute, HYDRA's supposed to be bad, why are you making them cuddly and delicious?". HYDRA, ruling the world under Cap, is presented as a terrifying, dictatorship, with Cap himself struggling to keep things in check despite his almost seamless takeover and none of his policies are appealing. He's a draconian dictator and he won't last long.

b-but it's not really Cap tho!!

Is the story completely free from problems? Hell no, but this is already a very long post so we'll pick up on that another time in greater depth!

Captain America was created by two Jewish men during WW2, his very purpose, since his inception, has been to fight against fascism and Nazism and HYDRA. Would his original creators disagree with this current story? We'll never know, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby are both dead, but Stan Lee, creator of Marvel, and a WW2 veteran called HYDRA-Cap;
“hell of a good idea [...] it's crazy, but it’s a good idea.” (Stan Lee, source).
If Stan Lee, a Jewish-American can call Secret Empire a good idea, perhaps we should try give it a go and engage our critical thinking instead of switching off and branding it Nazi trash. There's a message there, an important one about questioning those in power, although it is a difficult line to walk. If those we trust most suddenly turn into our biggest enemy, what do we do? How do we survive?

If Steve were to make Nazi's a good thing, if we were encouraged to accept HYDRA as a positive change, then this comic is a failure, but as it stands we are supposed to stand in solidarity with the rebels, those who refuse to say Hail HYDRA (and mean it). It is for that reason, the fact we're told to stand against our beloved hero because he now stands for Nazism (or HYDRA) and that is bad is encouraging us the reader to be MORE opposed to Nazism because we are told to say no even when Captain America tells us that HYDRA is good.

Anyway but this just about wraps up my post on Secret Empire this time, stay tuned for more. Black Widow in Secret Empire: Uprising is coming up, along with Secret Empire 1-5 and an investigation into Winter Soldier (KGB-Bucky) and HYDRA-Cap, I'll draw some comparisons and parallels and really pick apart the whole "history was rewritten" thing there because thats certainly one of the more prominent "problematic" issues of Secret Empire.

I'll be focusing on the drawbacks/pitfalls of Secret Empire as we continue talking about it in the future, but right now, give Secret Empire a read. You may like it, and that's okay, it might not be your cup of tea at all and that's okay too. Secret Empire is many things, but, it's not a Nazi manifesto, if anything, it highlights the dangers of fascism growing right beneath our noses.

Remember, ask questions, think critically and ... say no to HYDRA! 

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Fan Fact and Fan Fiction! The Science of Fandom

As part of my degree I had to do a wee bit of research... As a film major, there was no shortage of topics, naturally, I decided I wanted to study Captain America but at this point I already felt like I know the structure of Steve's Super-Soldier DNA because I already analyse the movies in such depth. A content or even semiotic analysis of the films would only yield so much new info and I wanted to challenge myself. So that left me wondering, what new things can I learn and examine here and I turned to fan fiction because it's an area of the Captain America fandom that is constantly new and evolving and an area that I really only know a couple of things about. New trends and memes spark interesting new fics and the sky really is the limit. 

So with a pen and notebook and not the foggiest idea where to start, I worked on a methodology, a research question and I set to work. That was over a month ago, and I recently got my grade back on my final 4000-ish word paper (honestly, it could have easily stretched to a 10,15 or even 20,000 word piece). I wanted to stave off sharing any of my findings on here until I got feedback from my professor about it. I knew I was really proud of what I achieved in my study, however I obviously had a huge personal bias after all my hard work. The feedback was absolutely fantastic (so I'm even more proud than I originally was!) and I thought I'd take that feedback, my own findings, and share a bit with the fan and academic communities alike. Now that I can confidently say that it was a good paper since it passed with flying colours I thought I'd talk about it publicly.

I will perhaps build on my findings and present more interesting stuff later if there was ever any interest, but for now I'd like to share what I learned so perhaps if you conduct your own study you will learn from my methodology and my mistakes!

First step is discovering your question and developing an argument of why your question is worth thinking about. I think this is more for the sake of readers than the researcher themselves because, I could research Cap stuff and not really care where it takes me or what new things I discover or why I examine a particular thing, but that makes for a poor, disorganised paper. So first step, like any research project is to define what you want to figure out and why its worth other people reading.
In my case, I wanted to examine fan behaviours but framing my question was difficult, I took to reading other academic works to find some existing study I could build upon. I came across Juli Parrish's work (all referenced papers are listed at the end of this post) and one particular quote stood out to me.
A reader or writer, even one who is already sold on the complexities and pleasures of fan fiction, is probably unlikely to be catholic in her reading material. Instead, she is more likely to focus on the fan writing of just a few shows, or even more specifically of just a few relationships. (Parrish, 2007, 40).
So my project focused on whether or not fanfic writers wrote multiple pairings and relationships or whether the tended to specialise.
My reason for selecting Captain America largely boiled down to its popularity (thousands of fanfics, several movies, comics, animated tv shows, games etc to draw from), and of course, the fact that #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend trended globally on social media back when Civil War came out! That aside, I'm a huge Cap fan, so when it came to studying fanfiction, Captain America was one of the texts I considered but similar questions can be posed for different fandoms.

To cut a long story short, I discovered that, from where I stood, from where my research began and where it was situated, my question simply didn't have a particularly conclusive answer. Some fan writers write lots of pairings some write only one or two, but separating "people who write many pairings" from "people who write few pairings" is toeing the line of the "how long is a piece of string?" question. What defines "few" and what defines "many"? Is 10 different pairings a lot, is 3 few? Does the quota that separates "many" or "few" change depending on fandom? Game of Thrones and the Marvel Universe have a plethora of characters but fan fiction based on rock bands with 3 to 5 members, obviously can't be directly compared, the pool of characters to draw from is significantly smaller.

On that point alone, I quickly discovered that my question itself was flawed. From there, my research turned into an examination of things I observed within the Captain America fandom itself, whether these findings are comparable with other fandoms has yet to be seen (but thats another study for another day).

Setting aside the "how many is "many" and how few is "few" issue, Captain America presented further problems. Relationships are weeeeirrrddd. Fanfics included a variety of pairings, from the staple pairing, Stucky or Steve/Bucky (which was overwhelmingly popular across most areas of my research, without a doubt, Stucky is a significant pairing worth studying) to fics featuring no romance at all or polyamorous relationships and love triangles. Trying to count these relationships proves to be a challenge in itself.
Take for example, one fanfic features Steve/Bucky, a second fic features Steve/Sam and Steve/Tony. These are three examples of monogamous relationships within two fics featuring the same character (Steve). Depending on how you choose to collate the data, these pairings could be categorised together or separately. Both are monogamous, both feature Steve, but there are three different combinations, what does this mean in your study? Does a fic with two or more relationships (even if those relationships are all monogamous) fit in with a fic which only features one monogamous relationship?

The problem only gets trickier when you have fics with lots of different monogamous and polyamorous couplings. Do you separate a 3-way love-triangle from a 3-person polyamorous relationship or do they belong in the same category because both involve 3 characters in one romantic situation?

Then there is that problem of fics which include characters but don't pair any of these characters romantically. Where do they belong? A fanfic without romance is still a fanfic, but it doesn't include the "shipping" element of romantic/sexual pairing fics.

Add to this already confusing mix the presence of crossovers, AU's, genderswaps (is Cap categorised the same way as femCap?), the fact that Captain America from the movies and Captain America from the comics could be considered different or the same depending on how you choose to frame your research... It gets very convoluted very quickly.

In the end, I concluded that

"[...] it can be seen that fan fiction writers can vary in the diversity of the texts they consult and the diversity of characters and relationships that exist within their works. It is at present too reductive an approach to attempt to categorise Captain America fanfic writers into either exclusive or diverse categories through analysing the number of or types of pairings they choose to explore." - (NotSpidergirl, 2017)
It's certainly something worth examining, but rather than developing a binary, a spectrum might better encompass the variety of writers and pairings and styles. Even then, stringent selection criteria would need to be developed to organise all of this data if organising it were even possible (is it possible to indiscriminately categories all this data is perhaps the first question that needs to be confronted when it comes to the world of fan fiction studies).

Jenkins writes;

“participation within fandom often extends beyond an interest in any single text to encompass many others within the same genre” (2013, 37).
Pair with this knowledge the fact that some fans write within several fandoms, combine multiple fandoms within one text, invent OC's, reinvent old characters, and you have a wealth of things to examine and learn and also a lot to try organise. Fans can fall into several fandoms, each with their own nuances and quirks, attempting to map how fans navigate a plethora of fandoms would be a particularly intriguing study.

At the end of the day, I think we can all conclude that fanfic writers are down-right fantastic and talented! Stay tuned for future posts where I dare to tackle issues such as morals/ethics in fan writing, how to give/take critique like a champ and so on!

Further Reading:

Cited in this blog post: 
  • (myself) NotSpidergirl (2017) Star Spangled Lovers: Patterns of Behaviour and Shipping in Captain America Fan Fiction, unpublished, Pp. 2-20. 
  • Parrish, Juli. (2007). Inventing A Universe: Reading And Writing Fan Fiction, University of Pittsburgh. Accessed Online At: http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/8963/1/Parrish2007.pdf Accessed Online On: 4/4/2017
  • Jenkins, Henry. (2013) Textual poachers: television fans & participatory culture, Updated 20th Anniversary ed., New York, New York Routledge. 

Other goodies!:
  • De Certeau, Michel. (1984) The practice of everyday life, Berkeley, University of California Press.
  • Greene, Shoshanna., Jenkins, Cynthia., and Jenkins, Henry. (1998). “Normal Female Interest in Men Bonking: Selections from the Terra Nostra Underground and Strange Bedfellows”. In: Jenkins, Henry, ed., Fans, Gamers, and Bloggers, 1st ed. New York, New York University Press, pp.61-88.
  • Jenkins, Henry. (1988) “Star Trek Rerun, Reread, Rewritten: Fan Writing as Textual Poaching”, CSMC: Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 5:2, pp.85-107. 
  • Thomas, Angela. (2006), “Fan fiction online: Engagement, critical response and affective play through writing”, Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 29:3, pp. 226–239.
  • Van Steenhuyse, Veerle. (2011), “The Writing and Reading of Fan Fiction and Transformation Theory”,  CLCWeb:Comparative Literature and Culture, 13:4, pp. 2-9.  

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Monthly Marvel Inspiration #6

Wow, so sorry last month was ... missing an MMI. To make up for it, I'll make a special Wonder Woman Special (not Marvel I know BUT the Wonder Woman movie is worth celebrating, so lets make the exception just this once ;) maybe DC Style will become a regular feature here!)

hey!!  Yeah you! check out my Polyvore for more!!!

WW isn't Marvel though, so, who is this months victim, villain ... MUSE. Well, it's one of my faves, Black Widow!!!
Why her? Well it was a toss up between Nat and Ms Marvel (she's a bit like the Marvel Equivalent of WW isn't she? I mean they have some similarities although they are both rather different), in the end, I'm a Nat-girl, so I had to pick my home girl, Black Widow. Unlike Wonder Woman who has always been a beacon of truth, honesty, justice and so on, Natasha has red in her ledger, a dark past, she's a double agent. She hides in the shadows and excels in espionage whereas Wonder Woman is about as discrete as an elephant on rollerskates, although she's far more elegant (like Captain America, he's VERY conspicuous. Both are decked out in flashy costumes, Nat is built to hide in plain sight, not entirely unlike my favourite Winter Soldier ...)

Also...  Well I'm channeling her style a lot lately. My graduation dress may or may not be HEAVILY inspired by Ms Romanov ...  I also can't stop reblogging Black Widow moodboards on tumblr. So, 6 MMI's in, it was FINALLY time for Natasha.

The LBD (little black dress) is a necessity. Different varieties of LBD's appear with the Widow. Unlike the Scarlet Witch, Wanda Maximoff, Widow wears lots of pencil cut/bodycon silhouettes. Although Wanda wears a similar black and red palette, she tends to wear skater dresses with something closer to an a-line or circle/half-circle skirt shape. 

See the difference? The skirt shape is the biggest difference here. This is one of a number of pencil-silhouette outfits Natasha wears on screen. 

I hope to do a post dedicated to analysing the costume designs, but for now, I'll keep it simple and post some pics and inspirations. But first, lets peruse a collection of Black Widow's beautiful pencil dresses. 
Black Widow Wears Red!!! A classic red pencil dress is a perfect piece for Natasha. 

Beautiful black pencil dress as she goes undercover under the name "Natalie Rushman". 

At Tony's party, Natasha totally switches up her palette and goes for a figure-hugging leopard print dress. 

Muted grey, beautiful asymmetric collar detail, yet again, the pencil figure prevails. 

This dress appears to have a bit of a stretch in the skirt, but again, a straight/pencil shape. Good thing it isn't made of a non-stretch material like satin, otherwise she wouldn't have been able to land those wicked kicks on her captors during her opening scene in Avengers Assemble.

Can you believe she was pregnant during this movie? This dress is slightly less fitted than the others, although it doesn't feature a large flare at the skirt, so again, the pencil silhouette pattern continues. Here she pairs her simple black dress with a beautiful bolero. 

We get it, she likes pencil dresses. So, I put together a poly of each of these looks, I also put together some ideas of how to dress down a pencil dress (because all of Natasha's looks are quite formal, not all of us get to party with Iron Man on weekends but would like to channel the look as well). 
Finally, I done my usual, an outfit inspired by her combat gear which opts for a black and blue combo rather than red, but I'll discuss my thoughts of that in another post about Black Widow costumes or general costume analysis pieces (a series I hope to start posting about soon!). 

So here's a compilation of these different and stylish pencil dresses. Sticking with the pencil theme, I'm going to look at Natasha's signature bodysuit palette and try create some casual pencil-silhouette looks that you can wear from formal to casual.
Here's what I came up with!

Black Widow

So, Left to Right.
The first look is an office/business sort of style. A neat, plain pencil skirt paired with a satin blouse and black bolero/cardigan if it gets a bit nippy. Simple black pumps finish the look.
The second look is quite casual, a baggy sweater paired with a simple stretch pencil skirt (so you can walk very comfortably). The cyan shoes and bag bring out that blue motif in the outfit and the sneakers make it pretty laid back.
The third look is definitely a club/party look. Leather-on-leather with a black leather crop top/bralet and leather pencil skirt. The bright blue heels and necklace add a touch of colour and detail.
The forth look is sort of in-between, you could dress it up or dress it down. The asymmetric skirt is very edgy, paired with the cold-shoulder top with black strap details. The black ankle boots could be swapped out for flats or sneakers, glammed up or toned down, I can see it working well as a transitional piece from work to a night out with friends. A jacket or cardigan and change of shoes gives this top and skirt combo a whole different feel.

And there you have it! Pencil skirts and dresses are SO fun. I have at least 4 pencil dresses in my wardrobe, and one thrifted pencil skirt. They're so fun to wear and you can easily dress them up or down. For a long time I felt as if my pencil dresses were just for special ocassions or clubbing but you can wear them out for a casual lunch easily with a pair of comfy shoes and a snuggle sweater or cute t-shirt.
Have I convinced you to go find a pencil skirt or dress yet?
I have?
Great! Go WORK IT!!!

Stay tuned guys, there's always more coming down the pipeline. I'll be taking notes and studying costume design theory and interviews with costumers as I delve into picking apart some of my favourite looks in comics and on-screen!!! We've all read the Loki costume analysis posts (haven't we? They're really good I will definitely include them as "required reading" for my Costume 101 posts in the future!), but there's always more to discuss.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Quiet Life - Album Review - Fish On Friday

So, after Godspeed, we were all left wondering "What will Fish on Friday do next?". I hate to say "this movie/album/comic/game had it all!!!" but Godspeed was the kind of album that just delivered and delivered pretty well. The thing about FoF is that they produce stuff that is deep, heartfelt and sometimes even chilling (here's looking at Just a Nightmare from Godspeed or even She Colours the Rainbow). Yet at the same time, these guys aren't stuck up their own arses (forgive my language). After a critic slated some of the lyrics as "cheesy", frontman Frank conjured up one of my all-time fave songs, My Dog ... an ode to his golden lab Blondie, in which he sings "She doesn't care about my cheesy lyrics". The song appears to be a bit of a piss-take, but when the simple, soft vocals are paired with the equally simple and soft piano/acoustic guitar, you get a song thats beautiful in its own right. So yeah, Godspeed was a pretty good album, it had chilling, thrilling and lightheartedness. You can tell these guys can make serious music without taking themselves too seriously, which is refreshing. There are more music-emotions than "angry growl song", "love ballads" and "emo tracks" and FoF explore a range of different musical emotions.

The downside about such a strong album is that ... you run the risk of disappointing with the next album. So I was cautious when it came to Quiet Life because FoF had such a unique style in Godspeed, that I feared Quiet Life would either completely derail or try to be Godspeed 2.0 but end up sounding too "samey". It's a tough line to walk

So ... How did it go I hear you cry? Well ... Pretty damn well actually and early reviews in Prog Magazine also agree that Quite Life is a solid album. So thats basically the short version. It's not a bad album, but read on for a track-by-track break down.

1. Unreal - A strong start. Then again, Godspeed was a power-ballad to open the previous album on, FoF know how to open an album. Unreal is a solid track, building up at a nice pace. It eased you in to another FoF experience as you'd expect, I don't know if I'm just picky, but it can be a little jarring for an album to start off from 0-100 right on the first track. Unreal had a good build up without starting on too sombre, too slow or too heavy a note. It certainly sounded very "Godspeed-y" but not necessarily in a clone-like fashion, sort of a familiar feeling that was new at the same time. It's hard to explain, I guess the best way I could describe it is like hugging an uncle you've never met in person for the first time, or an online friend you've known for a while that you finally get to meet at a concert. It had a freshness to it, but in a way that isn't unfamiliar. FoF are clearly building on the Godspeed sound as opposed to scrapping it and going for something else entirely, which isn't a bad thing because the sound from the previous album worked quite well.

2. Sweet Love - I'll give a disclaimer ... I love harmonics on acoustic guitar so the intro immediately appealed to me. (I know there should probably be some kind of "cap" on the amount of harmonics in a song but as far as I'm concerned you can't have too many. Worry not though, FoF don't go too overboard, not everyone is a harmonics junkie like me. It sounds seriously beautiful) The female vocals paired with Franks ever-soothing tones is an absolute treat. Sweet Love is the perfect name for this track because the two vocalists melted together like chocolate and who doesn't love chocolate? Honestly, stellar track.

3. Beautiful - Deeeeeeep baaaaaasss. Again, another nice slow build track. The minor notes introduce an air of melancholy and yet ... come the chorus, it's very uplifting, even though the lyrics reflect on the life of a kid being bullied at school for not being a jock, for liking Pink Floyd and books. Maybe it's because I was that dweeby kid in school who liked books, heavy metal and writing morbid poems, the song is relatable but overall hopeful. Rest assured, even if you are or were the kid that got picked on in school, it gets better, even the bad days suck a little less someday so you have to hang on till then because, hell YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL. There's something quite vulnerable and honest about this kind of song, lyrics aside, the instrumentals have a similar openness to it. Maybe it's cheesy but honestly, who cares, is a cheesy song really so bad when it strikes right where it counts.

4. Quite Life - Paul told me he thought that the female vocalist sounded like one of my favourite singers, Bic Runga (don't get me started on her she's absolutely fantastic, seriously, I'll be here all week). Bic Runga has a different sound, so I can't directly compare the two, but the vocals certainly have the kind of tone that Bic has which immediately filled me with nostalgia. I'm not sure if other people will feel that same nostalgia, Bic means something special to me that probably won't mean anything to someone else but the vocals are beautiful. Very beautiful. Perhaps it can stir feelings of nostalgia in other ways to other listeners. The instrumentals, much like Unreal, are uplifting and familiar yet fresh.

5. Snowed In - Beautiful bass lines are the undercurrent in this number, I love it when bands really cash in on the rich sounds the bass guitar has to offer. Often overlooked, songs lose a lot of heart if you pull out the bass this track really utilises a range of different tones and notes available on the bass and it pays off. The synth is most noticeable in this track, it sort of breezes through toward the end like a frosty wind. The harmonies are en-pointe as always, the finger plucking on the guitar almost echoes that tingling sound you get when you tap on glass or ... well, icicles. Very fitting for the soft dreamy winter theme of the song.

6. Get Up - The punchy piano/drums intro opens up to include bass and guitars in a pretty refreshing melody. The tempos a bit faster for this track, a welcome change of pace for what has thus far been a very chilled tempo across the first 5 tracks. That's not to say it's a chugging thrash track, it's not, but it certainly separates itself from the other tracks so far. It's the kind of ballad tune you get up and dance to whereas the other ones are the kind of pour your heart into singing instead. Definitely a foot-tapper. It had a punch to it. I don't think we can appreciate the grungy yet upbeat chug in the guitars in this song enough. This is one of the standout songs, definitely, along with Beautiful and Quiet Life.

7. Mh 17 - This track sort of builds and flutters down and then builds up again, not unlike other tracks or previous albums. It features a touch of effects on the voices which introduces an eerie sound but its REALLY subtle and not used to excess, more like a sprinkling of "vocal paprika" on top of a tasty audio dish.

8. You've Hurt Me - An oddly hopeful break up track ... It's strange to find the cheery notes paired with the lyrics "You've Hurt Me" but as the song unfolds it turns from a break-up song, to a ballad of inner strength. The song is less about hating on an ex and more about realising the inner strength you have for surviving the pain of a break up. An interesting new angle on a lyrical-theme that has been around since the dawn of time (even cavemen sang about their exes right?).

9. In The Key Of Silence - ABSOLUTELY STUNNING HARMONIES, beautiful piano, wonderfully composed. It combines the strengths of other tracks yet isn't "overcooked" it's balanced and rich.

10. Time Out- The final track ... flutters ... Perhaps I'm using that term because I spent all last night sitting on my porch filming moths flying around the porch light (moths are cool okay) but the 'time out, time out, time out' lines flutter beautifully down the scales. I adore the intro to this track as well, it almost has a ripple effect, if the ripples on a lake could have a musical quality, this would be kind of what it sounds like.

The verdict?
Same old Fish on Friday with some fresh new sounds. I like it when a band that has an aural signature doesn't abandoned it but rather, progresses. You can hear some progression in this album but it hasn't lost the signature FoF flavour. Lets face it, we've all bought an album by a band, excitedly hit play and then discovered its some dodgy new experiment that they'll try bury under 10 new albums with their old sound and pretend it never existed. Some experimental albums do work of course, but as far as huge experiments go, this isn't a particularly experimental album, its the usual comforts you encountered in Godspeed with a few nice new extras. Several solid tracks, beautifully composed and mixed. My only real complaint is that Frank hasn't dedicated a song to my cat yet, but hey, My Dog is forever a classic so there's really nothing to be disappointed by.

Fish on Friday continue to build on their strengths and deliver an album that can't be called anything other than beautiful, uplifting and nostalgic.