The Watch: The Season So Far

In the wake of The Massacre of Hardhome, my dear friend and frequent Nick Cage Review correspondent Brendan O’Connell exchanged a few emails about White Walkers, Sand Snakes, dear King Tommen. Warning: SPOILERS. Warning: OPINIONS.

Ryan: This has been the weirdest four week span in the show’s history (episodes 5-8). Two of the series worst, bookended by two of its best. Now, you’ve been burning through these to catch up. Has that blurred the distinction between the past few episodes?

Brendan: I think it has. I haven’t seen any of the episodes as stronger or weaker then the others, with the exception of last night’s episode. That one, in my opinion, is the strongest episode of the series since “The Rains of Castamere.” I thought each episode had its own merits, with moments that shined through in each. For instance, I thought Cersei being arrested last week was a great moment for the series, and especially for that episode. Also, I feel as though Sansa and Arya have been shining through this season, and as they have been my favorite characters since Day 1, I have appreciated that.

However, that is definitely due to the nature of binge watching. Episode 6 was so incredibly depressing, and ended in such a terrible way. But I felt like it was a strong episode, due to the fact that I started watching the next episode 30 seconds after I watched my favorite character brutalized. I think if I had to watch episode 7 a week later, I would have had very different feelings on those two episodes.

I think that’s the nature of a Game of Thrones season. There are so many parts that certain episodes definitely have amazing moments that redeem the series, whereas others are needed to just move the plot along to get to those great moments we all talk about.

Ryan: I take your point that the show is basically, a bunch of people talking around tables. And that the nature of the beast is that sometimes it’s a slow burn.

But I think at least for me, there was a lot of frustration with the way six and seven ended. This isn’t just with how the episodes ended or the motif the show is trying to build–narrative anarchy.

The Sansa stuff didn’t work, because it didn’t fit because it painted Littlefinger as either a dunce or someone who doesn’t care about Sansa. But the show has proved that both those things aren’t true. Littlefinger has continually been pulling the strings of the political plot–killing off Jon Arryn, Ned Stark, Joffrey. And since Catelyn’s death, Sansa is the only living, breathing character he cares about.

And Dorne? Dorne!? They ruined the only good part of Feast for Crows.

Brendan: I always forget to look at Sansa as part of a greater scheme on Littlefinger’s part, and more as the best character of the show.  But I agree with your anger over Dorne. One, that fight between the Sand Snakes and Jaime and Bronn was, to say the least, not well done.  Two, the Sand Snakes should be the best characters on the show. In the book they were basically three to eight Red Vipers, which would have been the greatest thing that ever happened to our television screens.  Instead, they’re the worst thing you can be on Game Of Thrones; boring.

At least with the Sansa stuff, there is something going on. You see Sansa’s survival mode kick in, and as the episodes are proving, its just making her this weird Littlefinger-Catelyn hybrid that is probably going to get revenge on Ramsay in a big way. But I just don’t see where the show is going with Dorne. They’ve gotten rid of half the Martell’s, who make up 3/4 of Feast for Crows, and then left us with some half baked characters who are looking for “revenge”, but are seemingly just going to sit in jail and show their boobs. It’s a weird choice.

I’m wondering what your thoughts are on the Kings Landing bits, especially now that three of the four major characters still there (I’m not counting Tommen) are imprisoned by the High Sparrow. Do you like where the show is taking this storyline?  And are you intrigued by it, considering for about three seasons Kings Landing has been the most interesting portion of the series.

Ryan: For most of the series, Kings Landing was the center of the show. It wasn’t necessarily where all the action took place (Danery’s had her fair share before settling in Meren). But King’s Landing was where all the important decisions were made.

Here are three hot King’s Landing takes.

1. Dean-Charles Chapman (Tommen) is as good at playing an ineffectual king as Jack Gleason (Joffrey) was as at playing a young Jack the Ripperr.. I hate kittens but I appreciate how far Chapman’s bought in.

2. I root for Cersei. I know she’s an incestual witch and oblivious to her own ineptitude. Lena Headey is just too good for her own good.

3. I think Kings Landing has been a huge win for The Seven. It’s always, oddly, been the most underused religion in the story. The Lord of Light and the Ol’ Tree Gods have always been really important to the story, but the Seven has always just been there. I’m all for narrative religious equality. The Seven is striking back!

I know I’ve generally avoided your question. You see, I just don’t care about Kings Landing anymore, especially after episode 8. After seeing Tyrion and Dany test barbed wits and The Dead King-Jon Snow Showdown, Kings Landing doesn’t matter. The Dead are coming. Dragons are coming. And I know that ultimate meeting is probably three years away, so I think the challenge for the showrunners is (as always) balance. And it’s harder now because the payoff is so much closer than it used to be. They have to keep bringing us closer to the payoff without losing that hard-boiled political element that I know you so love. Have you missed that this season?

Brendan: That’s basically what I was thinking. Kings Landing was by far my favorite during the Joffrey years, but after his death, plus Tyrion, Littlefinger and Sansa’s departures to other areas of the world (even though Littlefinger is technically back), I haven’t really been as interested in Kings Landing.

Other then that, I’ve been missing some of the interactions between characters. I miss the Arya-Hound banter; I miss the Sansa-Joffrey terror (as opposed to sociopath Ramsay, who seems just way worse); I miss the Cersei-Tyrion rivalry, and the Tyrion-Tywin hatred; I miss the Jon-Ygritte romance. Those interactions, for me, were the best parts of the show, and to bring it back, helped me get through those slow building episodes.

This season, more so then any other one, seems as though everyone is isolated. Even the characters that are together are isolated. Sansa and Arya are more alone then they ever have been. Cersei and Jaime are in jail, alone. Everyone is just so alone, and this makes those slower episodes harder. The only characters who are together, really, are Daenarys and Tyrion, and that was completely overshadowed by the epicness of Jon Snow and the white walkers. Those are the moments I miss.

I do hope they bring some of those back.

Ryan: Yeah, what the show has always done really well is pairs–Arya and the Hound being the paragon of pairs. And this year we had some promising pairs. Jamie and Bronn would have been great if Dorne would have been the wild Mediterranean/Basque dream land of dear Prince Oberyn. Maybe Bronn and the slutty sandsnake could be a good pair.

I think for a moment, Grey Worm and Sir Barristan were a great pair dueling in the alleys. You can’t say Sam and Gilly weren’t an explosive (GET IT?) pair.

I think pairs are so important to the show, as or more important than ice zombies and dragons, because the show is as much about anticipation, the big tease, than anything. And that goes right along with the books. I was always pissed when Martin would skip over battles–like the Robb’s victory at Whispering Wood. He never showed the battles. It was always about the planning and fallout. It’s a show about people talking–kind of like another great show–Entourage.

Brendan: Well I never saw Entourage, so I can’t agree or disagree with that comparison. But I agree that the actual events are less important then the fallout, and sometimes the planning.I agree some of those pairs have been okay, but they’ve been so one off that I can’t get invested. It’s weird.

Going back to the planning, I’m trying to think of how all of these events are going to play out. This is a weird moment as a book reader, as so many story lines are diverging. We are far beyond where Daenarys was in the books, Jeyne Poole is nonexistent, and Lady Stoneheart is sadly not a character. So it’s interesting to actually try to guess where all this planning and pre-main event is leading. How are these story lines going to be resolved? It’s a very exciting yet weird time to be a fan of A Song of Fire and Ice watching Game of Thrones.

Ryan: I think that’s as good a place as any to yield, before we breach 1,600 words. Now our watch has ended!

“Love Is Dead” –University of Michigan

Greatest HIMYM Moment

By Ryan Dowd

So, stick with me as I bury the lede here. I’m inclined to click on any article/list that includes any of the following: romantic comedies, cliches, beliefs, ect. Because I’ve seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall(500) Days of Summer, and Wedding Crashers about 30 times combined.

So a couple weeks ago I came across this little gem. In a nut shell, “University of Michigan researchers found that participants who claimed to be big fans of rom-coms and marriage-based reality shows also agree with sentiments about love at first sight and finding “The One.” So if you religiously watch the bachelor or cry during Pretty Woman, then you’re someone who looks on doe-eyed at a black red and white, cupid ruled world.

And…”On the opposite end of the spectrum, those who regularly watch sitcoms such as How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory shared those shows’ slightly more cynical view of love as a troublesome subplot, to be greeted by the canned, mocking laughter of God’s studio audience.” True love is a farce. Disney is evil. We’ll all die alone. You can throw fans of (500) Days of Summer in there as well, and I guess consequently fans of indie music videos with these grizzled, gray eyed wanderers.

Much like The New York Times‘s yearly insistence that “college students/generation Y have a whole lot of casual sex and we should probably talk about this” and studies from NYU like this one, I take this apparent revelation from the University of Michigan with a pot of salt. I’m intrigued to learn that years spent watching How I Met Your Mother and listening to The Temper Trap has led me down a path of bleak romantic dissonance, but I think that at the sharp age of 20 there’s still some magic out there for me, and if I’ve indeed become this disillusioned romantic nihilist as the study suggests, than real world experience has led me down that path, not Ted Mosby.

I think the lede, now that I’ve found it, is that maybe we take romantic comedies a bit too seriously. Maybe romantic comedies haven’t really taught us anything, excpet that some of us really like watching attractive people fall in and out of love. Those who write about pop culture, and I’m guilty of this in my marginal, artificially constructed corner, make a bigger deal out of some art than it deserves. There’s a notion that art tells all, and sometimes that’s just not the case. Sometimes Zoey Deschanel’s eyes are just really, really blue. And the Mathew McConaughey’s abs are just abs.

Love is a fantasy (sob)
Love is a fantasy (sob)

Another aspect that our friends over there in Ann Arbor may have overlooked is the slow, somehow quiet recession of the romantic comedy. Sure we have romances, tear jerking affairs like The Fault in Our Stars. And we have comedies, like Neighbors and 22 Jumpstreet. The only straight romantic comedy coming out this summer will be Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight (with Emma Stone by the way), and Woody Allen will be making romantic comedies til the perv finally drops dead so I don’t think it really counts. We’ve reached the end of the “friends with benefits” rom-com run. The Apatow machine has moved away as well.  Then there’s They Came Together, the cheeky parody starring Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd.

Comical parodies are often indicators that a genre is reaching its twilight, not that you won’t see some form of romantic comedies in theaters in 2020, but they’ll be different, just like When Harry Met Sally… is different from old screwball comedies and Forgetting Sarah Marshall is different from Harry Met Sally. The form changes, sure, but our desire for these stories never really changes, because well, desire never changes.

The reason for this aparent lack of feature romantic comedies is probably the emergence of the television rom com–shows like How I Met Your MotherNew GirlThe Mindy Project have taken over that particular corner of the market. And they’ve done it better than enjoyable yet bland films like Friends With Benefits and Crazy, Stupid, Love. People ascribe to Jess and Nick, Ted and bimbos, Mindy and whoever (I don’t actually watch this show). Maybe their rocky, episodic stories feel more real to us. Maybe it’s the form, watching at home, that gives us the feels. Maybe a new study from our pals up in Michigan might give us the answer.

My half-baked analysis of industry movements aside (which you should take with a grain of salt), I don’t really care what the general population gets from romantic comedies. It’s more complicated than optimistic v. pessimistic, naive v. cynical. Romantic comedies are just sort of there to help us figure it out. Romantic comedies aren’t equations that lead to neat, clean answers. There are too many variables. Because what you get from romantic comedies is derived from your real life experience, which is obviously different for each individual. I know that Forgetting Sarah Marshall and (500) Days of Summer means different things to me than they do to you given when, where, and how I experienced them. I’m sure you have your own go to rom-coms, and if you don’t you probably don’t have a soul. But don’t let some grad level researcher (or me) tell you that. You go ahead and do that for yourself.



Misinterpreting Lyrics: Perth


by Bon Iver

Interpreted by Ryan Dowd

(Bon moans far away)

But I hear him…

(Bon moans farther away)

Oh here he comes!

I’m tearing up

Across your face

Moved doors to the light

To find you late

I’m fairly confident I got half of this right. I’m fairly confident I got half of this wrong. I totally buy that Bon Iver can tear up across someone else’s face. He’s one of the world’s most powerful wizards.

It’s something faint

This is not a place

Not yet awake

I raised the lake

So, if we assume I’m right here, then Bon Iver either constructs a double negative with “This is not a place / Not yet awake” which I personally can fathom, given his wizardry. So therefore, Bon Iver seemingly raised a lake in his sleep. That’s how powerful he is.

Still a live fool

Still a live fool

Still a live fool

Is he a fool because he’s a wizard? Or is he a wizard because he’s a fool? Can we all become wizards then? And, yes we’re all obviously glad he’s alive.

And I’m all around a moth

From Forest to the Soft

Got an open little loft

Is the moth his wizard pet? This loft sounds lovely, though moths really freak me out if I’m being honest but if my options were 1) Enter the loft or 2) Not enter the loft, I’d have to go with the first moth or no moth.

So I’m reading all your stories

Well I know what it is

It’s pouring up, wiring

You’re breaking your ground

MY STORIES? I can’t wait to share stories with Bon up in his forest loft, maybe we’ll share a pot of hot chocolate if it’s cold, or if it’s warm some lemonade. Maybe Bon and I (or Justin if we’re on that level) sit down, and Bon/Justin tells me what to do with my life and how to love moths and maybe even other people, as we pour and wire our emotions across levels only Bon Iver can achieve. 

**Actual lyrics courtesy of

**Video with lyrics