Tuesday, May 29, 2012

And so the blackwater is under the bridge

Oh my. Last night, after three days working to turn our garden from wilderness to something resembling a place where you can hang out without fear of being ripped to shreds by thorns and / or wild murder wasps coming in great assault swarms from hidden boles, I sunk down into the couch with episode nine of, you guessed it, Game of Thrones Season Two. Now, we've had some absolutely incredible summer days here in the north, leading to sunburns and a cooked brain, but I was ready to see if winter was coming anyway. I've complained here and there about the second season being, well, not as good as the first one for various reasons (the main reason - deviating too much from the books), but this episode kicked my ass with its hard focus on King's Landing, some great dialogue retained from the books, a few "new" scenes that actually felt like they added to the story instead of distracting from it (The Hound / Bronn), and some of the best acting in the season so far (Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage). The last scenes felt a bit rushed and I can understand people getting all confused over what just happened (Lady Slynt had no idea what was going on and wasn't really able to connect Loras to the proceedings, but this will be remedied once we have a physical set with subtitles for the ... less Englishly-inclined), but there was so much goodness in this episode. Especially considering this is a TV production. Yes, they would need a Hollywood budget to truly do the Blackwater battle justice, but I think they got a lot out of it with the budget they had. The explosion was vivid and very much like I envisioned it, and how it has been envisioned by various artists over the years. It was an exciting episode, the buildup of tension was pitch perfect, and most of the changes from the book in this episode were at least understandable. I loved how we finally got The Hound. Up until this episode, he has been underused to put it mildly, but here he could finally shine.
It was an episode that left me thinking instead of being able to sleep, which the previous eight have not been able to do.
Seems George R.R. Martin's screenplay did wonders (but then, he got the choiciest bit from the novel to adapt); the direction was great, the interplay between quiet scenes and action scenes was spot on, and I felt there was way more dialogue from the novel in this episode than in the others (could just be me though). As I said to the lady as the episode ended, I wish they could make twenty episodes a season instead so we didn't have to lose so much. I miss the Sansa/Dontos subplot, for example.
But you know what I didn't miss? I didn't miss any of the other characters of the show, because King's Landing was intense. Jon Snow, Arya Stark, Daenerys Targaren, Theon Greyjoy, Catelyn Stark - they were all put on the backburner and I didn't even realize this until halfway through the episode. Could be because all my favorite characters were in this one (Tyrion, Bronn, the Hound, Cersei, even a quick cameo by Tywin) - and the episode didn't suffer for it at all. I guess next week we'll catch up on those - there's a House of the Undying to visit, after all. It better be creepy as hell to come after the Blackwater (I wonder whether it should have been the other way around - finish the season with Cersei on the Iron Throne being rescued in the nick of time by her lord father). I guess we'll also see Jon Snow hacking the fuck out of Qhorin and become a Wildling as a cliffhanger, and I guess they'll make some sort of cliffhanger out of the other characters' stories too. And maybe we'll meet Ramsay Snow.

In other news, some fans of the medieval strategy game Crusader Kings II have launched a modificiation to the game entitled Game of Thrones. If you own the original game, you simply download the mod files into the game's mod folder, fire up the game and click "Game of Thrones" in the menu. I did so last night just to have a first look, played a couple of years as Lord Roose Bolton. The replaced map was absolutely gorgeous, I noticed a few places where Europe showed up instead of Westeros (on certain pop-up windows) but other than that it felt like I was playing a Westeros game. My character even had the option to "legimitize Ramsay", so the people who put long hours into this sure know their setting. Find out more here. Download the mod and read what it can and can't do right here.

In other other news, I've once again fallen into the trap of reading too many books at once. I started with Peter Brett's The Painted Man but it doesn't hold my attention long enough so I began to switch, checking out this rather recent novel named The Mongoliad and so far it's absolutely superior and perhaps - and I haven't read much yet, mind you - a contender for the top ten list. Not just these two, I'm also reading a page or two of several other books inbetween, including a collection of Conan stories, Cthulhu short stories, Gardens of the Moon, A Dance with Dragons, Life in a Medieval City, and more. No wonder my head is spinning. Yeah, so The Mongoliad is really promising but I'm intent on finishing The Painted Man as well - some great ideas in there, after all. The whole demons-in-the-night thingy would be cool in a roleplaying game, kind of. Slynt out. So many papers to correct. Dizzy again.

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