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Season 5 Early Impressions

Last month, we posted our impressions from the world premiere, with a follow-up video regarding a particular aspect of that episode. Since then, we’ve received screeners of the first four episodes of the season, and as with previous seasons, we thought we’d offer early impressions based on those first four episodes. Regarding our remarks on the first episode, they remain largely unchanged: it’s a typical first episode, heavily packed with a lot of short scenes, and it doesn’t get much narrative momentum as it has the difficult job of catching up viewers to the current status quo.

Surprisingly, in many ways the second episode feels very similar, suggesting that the the growth of the story means that it now takes the better part of two episodes before significant advancement can take place. This may be a problem for the remaining seasons of the show, unless they become quite ruthless with some of their storylines.

Three particular areas of season 5 seem worth talking about in this discussion, and the first of these is the one that dominated our video: changes. This is a season with a host of changes, many minor, but a handful being among the most substantial deviations from the novels that the series has ever tried. In some cases, changes are presented as a means to simply close down one particular avenue of the story: we discuss one of those at some length in the video involving the death of a certain character in the first episode, and another change of this kind presents itself in the third episode as readers of the novels come to realize that a significant section of story for one popular character (a section that has implications for other, equally significant storylines, to boot) has been excised in its entirety to speed on a character’s journey.

This puts me in mind of one of the analogies George R.R. Martin has lately brought forward when asked about the different stories of the novels and the TV show. After asking how many children Scarlett O’Hara has in Gone with the Wind, GRRM notes that while she has 3 in the original novel, she only has 2 in the movie. This, George notes, is a significant storytelling difference in the case of Gone with the Wind, and yet the film (noted for a number other such differences) is considered a faithful adaptation of the novel, and one that is the highest grossing film in history once adjusted for inflation.

Deviations in “The Wars to Come”

After our return from the London premiere, we managed to film this video discussing a particular aspect of the first episode: some significant deviations from the novels. Unfortunately, shortly after filming it we both became rather violently ill, so it’s taken awhile to actually get it edited together.  This video goes along with our early impressions of the episode, though for reasons we explain there, neither of these items are proper reviews.

First Impressions from the World Premiere

A whirlwind visit to London—we spent less than 24 hours there, and got very little sleep indeed—saw Linda and I at the world premiere of season 5 of Game of Thrones at the historic Tower of London. As Dan Weiss would say in a specially prepared video (neither he nor David Benioff was in attendance, claiming too much work finishing up season 5), the Tower was the “throniest” place they could think of at which to have a premiere. Thanks to the good offices of Sky, it was a spectacular occasion, filled with projected displays, costumed caterers, a Dornish-themed party, an enormous group of actors (35 actors from the show, past and present, were in attendance according to HBO CEO Richard Plepler; we’re fairly sure that this was the largest public gathering of the show’s cast to date), and of course the first episode of season 5, “The Wars to Come”.

As it happens, this is not really a review. Various U.K. newspapers were very quick to scrape out reviews and commentary, some more spoiler-filled than others, and you can go look at them if you really want someone’s measured opinion (for the most part, it seems the press was enthusiastic). Because of the circumstances of our trip—very early flight, little time to get ready, little time to rest—for my part I think I was a bit too tired to really be fully attentive to the episode. My habit of checking my watch was at first an effort to just track the pace of the episode and try and help fix in memory sequences of events… but eventually it was simply the distraction of a wandering attention. Linda, on the other hand, was more well-rested, and she felt her attention wandering as well. Perhaps it was the experience of watching it in a packed theatre? That might be it, as it’d be a new experience and the novelty of it may have been distracting, but we’ve another thought.

Game of Thrones Exhibit in Stockholm Report

Thanks to the good graces of HBO Nordic, Linda and I travelled to Stockholm this past Friday to take a look at the Game of Thrones exhibit in Kungsträdgården. A quick train trip from Gothenburg and after checking in to our hotel we took a walk over to the park, where we meet our press contact who got us our press passes. We had arrived too late to take part in the panel with Coster-Waldau, but Nikolaj has been a frequent interviewee of our site already so not a big deal, we thought.

The exhibit is housed in a large tent in the middle of the park, which extends down to one of the more scenic views of Stockholm’s glorious waterfront—though with the grey, windy weather, it wasn’t all that beautiful at the time. Ushered in, we were greeted first by a few heraldic banners, and then a mass of costumes, armor, weapons, and props that ran the gamut from all four seasons of HBO’s hit show… and even into the fifth season.  Naturally, we took many pictures.

While there, Nikolaj came in to do a series of television and radio interviews, but before they started he came by to chat with Linda (who he’d not met before, but evidently recognized) and I. He remarked that the Oculus Rift-driven Wall experience was particularly amazing and wondered if we’d tried it (we had.) And then back to interviews for him, and back to looking around for a bit more. During this time, Elana Loewenthal of HBO introduced herself, revealing that she was largely responsible with arranging the exhibit and its contents. She was particularly helpful, discussing some of the thinking behind the story of the exhibit—the way things were laid out in conjunction with one another—and the little hints of season 5 they were able to work into the show with the permission of executive producers David Benioff & Dan Weiss. Afterward, she said we’d see her again at the opening party held in a nearby gallery….

Review of Game of Thrones: Episode 2

The second episode of the Telltale Games Game of Thrones game was released today on PC. Titled “The Lost Lords”, the launch trailer can be seen below:

For the most part, our thoughts on the game based on the first episode hold—it’s a solid but (so far) unexceptional game, with some of the annoying Game of Thrones quirks present, like veritable teleportation between far-distant locations (made even more blatant in this episode, as a character makes his way to Yunkai from the North in what seems to be a span of a few days). So far the game seems to be moving around pieces on the board, not least because this episode introduces two additional point of view characters, but that seems reasonable in a six-episode series.

There are a few thematic notes that we’ll discuss beneath the cut, for those who (like us) are interested in how Telltale has worked the setting into its narrative.

Review of Game of Thrones: Episode 1

The newly released first episode of the Game of Thrones adventure game from Telltale Games—a company that’s been around since 2004, creating adventure games of all sorts, but which only fairly recently rose to prominence with the critical acclaim for its The Walking Dead game—has certainly drawn some attention. Reviews have varied (see Polygon at one end, IGN at another, and Rock, Paper, Shotgun is always worth reading) but everyone certainly seems to feel that they’ve captured something of the Game of Thrones TV series in its tone and style (even if, in certain areas—the sexual content, namely—it’s toned way down [so far]).

I myself have had a little experience of Telltales’ games, but from their pre-TWD period when the games they produced (such as the licensed Back to the Future and their first episodic title, Sam and Max: Season One). These were much more traditional adventure games, and were solid-to-pretty good. But the real boom of success that The Walking Dead brought—a success that has led to their Fables: A Wolf Among Us game based on Bill Willingham’s comic book series, and more recently Tales of the Borderland based on the popular FPS—was also paired with a very different approach to the adventure game. At the outset, Telltales Games made very traditional adventure games. No surprise there, really: several members of the company came there by way of Lucasarts, famous for its adventure games such as The Day of the Tentacle, Sam and Max Hit the Road, and the Secret of Monkey Island series among others. Those games generally featured a lot of puzzles, and while they had strong central narratives you had relatively little control over it. You might end up with two or three different end states, with some minor variations in the mechanics of how to get from point A to point B, but your character’s interactions would have little lasting impact in terms of the dynamics of character relationships. The characters would generally always think of you in the same way, regardless of what you did.

Osuna’s Bullring: Why Game of Thrones Shouldn’t Film There

It has been mooted about for awhile—ever since it was first announced that season 5 of Game of Thrones would film in Spain—that one of the locations that was under consideration was the Andalusian town of Osuna. Full of history, Osuna features some noteworthy buildings—the University of Osuna building was declared a monument, and the Colegiata church across from it is a noteworthy example of Renaissance architecture—and the arid landscape so common in Andalusia. It seems, on the face of it, an excellent location for filming scenes for the new season.

But speculation turned to one particular possible site for filming in Osuna: the Plaza de Toros of Osuna. Built in the early 1900s, it is a substantial bullring, capable of holding 6,500 specatators and has one of the largest diameters of any bullring in Spain. Many saw photos of it and immediately pronounced it a perfect location for a key sequence from A Dance with Dragons which many speculate will be part of this season. What we saw, however—and what, we think, a few others have seen—was a building whose sole reason for existence was the long-held tradition of the bullfight. Bullfighting has been romanticized by many notable persons over the years—Hemingway is an obvious example—and it continues to be a significant attraction in parts of Spain, particularly Andalusia.

Reports from Spanish language media and fan sites appear to confirm that the bullring will be used, and the mayor of Osuna is quoted remarking that the publicity the show will bring to their town “could not be bought”.  Even the official Facebook page of the bullring has remarked on the rumors regarding the filming of Game of Thrones:

LFCC Diary: Kristian Nairn

One does not simply… NOT say hi to Kristian Nairn!

Hodor may not have the most interesting story arc. He is not even a knight (can you hear it? It’s Finn Jones and Daniel Portman screaming: “kniiiiiights FTW, yo!”) He does not plot unfathomable schemes we then remember for the ages (or does he?), nor does he have a sharp, clever tongue ready to outwit or charm at whim. He doesn’t even own a monster-pet like Dany or a pet-pet like Tommen. Up until recently, he was just the bulky simpleton pushing the Bran-mobile around. Now he also kicks skeleton asses while possessed, which qualifies for some awesomeness, but still the question remains…

Why do we all LUV Hodor? What’s in a name (a name repeated once and again and again)?

You are so NOT finding it out here!

KRISTIAN: Hi!

Woot. Not what I expected. Yeah, the “H-word”. Yeah, “hi” is an “H-word”; I meant the other one. The one with “Ho”. Hehe. “Ho”.

MARINO: Kristian, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us.

KN: No problem, you are welcome!
LFCC Diary: Kate Dickie

There are a number of more or less obvious differences between Ms. Kate Dickie and Lady Lysa Arryn. Firstly, Kate is blonde. Yeah, I know. And it makes you look twice, as in “am I in the right queue?” Another major difference has to do with her mouth. Kate’s mouth only knows about smiling; a mirthful, joyous laughter that can be heard at quite some distance emerging from it. Lysa, she was not too much into the “being happy” attitude. Finally, Kate Dickie is not a jealous, tortured soul full of regret who breastfeeds her eight-year-old son. At least not that day, as far as I know.

Since my back was already pretty mauled, I chose to kneel opposite the Lady Lysa, much to her surprise. While she greeted me and I prepared my recording thingies we engaged in some small talk, mostly my going all “OMG YOUR SCOTTISH ACCENT IS SO CUTE!” and Kate going “OMG I NEVER REALIZE I HAVE AN ACCENT!” We were kind of shouting, yes.

MARINO: Hi Kate, thank you for being here (wherever here is now!) There is this famous sentence which Jaime Lannister utters, “the things I do for love”, to justify his actions. Does Lysa feel the same?

KATE DICKIE: Oh, absolutely. I mean, Lysa fell in love with Littlefinger when she was a teenager and he has played her all her life and then, after she got pregnant to him and had to abort the baby and then she got married off to Jon Arryn and all the things she has done for Littlefinger that ended up getting revealed in the [fourth] season were quite mind-blowing and I think that’s a perfect comment: “the things I do for love”. When you see what Lysa has done and the people she has betrayed and cut off her life for him…and then he just pushes her over the Moon Door! *laughs*

It occurred to me that being thrown down the Moon Door is no laughing matter, but since I have no actual experience, I chose not to press the matter further. I know nothing!

LFCC Diary: Daniel Portman

After dealing with a knight and a dead almost-king, with all their courtly eccentricities, I decided it was high time for a dose of less noble chatting; hence, Podrick Payne. Squire extraordinaire, brothel cruising legend and so-so horse rider, Daniel Portman’s Pod has won the favor of the fans thanks to his humility, devotion and courage, traits which make him a most rare Westerosi bird indeed. Even non-squires such as you and I can empathize with him at some level (not necessarily about the brothels.)

Daniel Portman may share some traits with young Payne. As opposed to Finn Jones and Gethin Anthony’s more openly extrovert demeanor, the Glasgowite looks more serious and contained. Ultimately, he is a most polite and straightforward lad who just seems a bit overwhelmed by the magnitude of the Con. Welcome to my world, Pod!

MARINO: Hi Daniel, thank you for taking these questions.

DANIEL PORTMAN: My pleasure!
LFCC Diary: Gethin Anthony

Gethin sounded like Renly but looked like a normal guy. A normal, very handsome, guy, that is. His hairstyle was way cooler than in the series, IMHO, and the many girls queuing in front of me seemed to agree and approve the whole package, judging by the pretty heavy swooning and giggling. Such was the presence of the late Renly Baratheon, First (and Last) of His Name!

The man did seem to be having a good time: he smiled and laughed profusely, shook hands a-plenty, spoke cheerfully and had nice words for all and each fan, all while deftly personalizing the items people offered him. And he still found the time for posing for more selfies per minute than the World Health Organization would recommend.

When my turn was about to come, I felt I might squee a little, but I managed to contain any inadmissible sounds within my vocal apparatus. Gethin stood up to greeted me (so nice of him; 100 points to House Baratheon) after washing his hands clean with some sort of magickal elixir. His grip was strong, as one would expect from a king wearing a t-shirt and a pair of jeans.

Interview

Marino: Hello Gethin!

Gethin: Hey Marino, how’s it going?

Marino: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me.

Gethin: Nononono, don’t be silly, that’s awesome.
LFCC Diary: Finn Jones

Just like his alter ego, the Knight of Flowers, Finn Jones is a very passionate, energetic individual.

Understandably, the fans are really pleased with his enthusiasm; he does get carried away while chatting, and I could hear him utter the “F-word” more than once (tee-hee!) His slender frame and that mop of quasi-alive curly blondish hair are quite striking, even more so with him sitting close to the mighty Kristian Nairn.

When my turn comes, Finn’s hand darts towards mine and shakes it effusively. A quick smile. Bright eyes. It shows today’s just the first day of the Con. I check my recording device (or “Phone”, as I am fond of calling it), like this:

Interview

Marino: OK, let’s try this… Hello?

Finn stretches his body from the other side of the table and with the grace of a shadowcat starts throwing words at the device.

FINN: Hello? One-two, one-two!

“Man, he speaks fast,” I find myself thinking. I wish the few thousand people around would lowered their voices a few decibels, but since it seems unlikely, I ready my ears and buckle up to fight Ser Loras Tyrell in the merciless arena of light-speed-interviewing.

Marino: Finn, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. We didn’t get to see much of you last season, but Loras is in a difficult place right now with his wedding looming on the horizon and all the politicking. How is he faring?

FINN: Well, from my point of view… I haven’t seen the scripts for Season 5 yet so I don’t know what to think. As an actor you can have all these ideas of how you think a character should be, but until the writers write you what you are meant to think, you don’t really know. From my perspective, Loras is pissed off. He is PISSED OFF. He is pissed off with everything; he is pissed off that he has to marry Cersei… He is just pissed off. And I can imagine seen him quite hot-headed in Season 5, but again I don’t know what the scripts say so I don’t know what to think, I don’t know what Loras thinks just yet.
LFCC Diary: Introduction

Well-met, fellow ASOIAFers and AGOTers! This is Marino Santirso-Dayne, the Pale Dornishman, straight from Northern Spain. Pleased to meet you all!

It has been my pleasure and distinct privilege to attend the London Film and Comic Con 2014 in, well, London, as a proud herald of this most excellent site in order to have a chat with some of the many Game of Thrones guests invited this year. I wish I had more time to properly

annoy

... I mean, to properly engage in intimate and revealing one-to-ones while sipping Earl Grey, but imagine if you would an event with thousands upon thousands of attendees all looking forward to meeting their idols; it turns out it’s quite an ordeal to secure a few minutes with the guests, and once at the venue, the prospect of carrying a bone china tea set, however tempting, became much less appealing and practical than when I was daydreaming in my couch.

On Season 5 Casting

With a number of fellow fans asking us to discuss the casting news from San Diego Comic-con, Linda and I have gone ahead and recorded a brand new Youtube video discussing just that. Note that it contains some spoilers for A Feast for Crows, and minor spoilers for A Dance with Dragons:

For more of our videos, see our Youtube channel. And yes, we’re planning at least a couple of more videos—we say as much in the video—but if there’s any other topics people are keen on hearing our thoughts on, do say in the comments!

Season 4 Interview: Isaac Hempstead-Wright & Thomas Brodie-Sangster

Concluding our interviews from February, I had the chance to meet and talk with Isaac Hempstead-Wright—the adorable Bran Stark, who I had last met years ago during the first season filming—and Thomas Brodie-Sangster whose portrayal of Jojen Reed has been a study in maturity and understated performance.

When Isaac saw me, his genuine pleasure at meeting again reminded me of the cheerful, enthusiastic child I’d met years earlier. He’s grown up in a lot of ways—I remarked that Kristian Nairn has mentioned how glad he is that he hasn’t had to carry Isaac on his back any longer thanks to that!—and he (and Thomas) both gave some very thoughtful answers to the questions posed.

Interview

So, what can you say of any visions you have this season?

Isaac: Over the series, we’ve seen Bran explore his mystical elements more and more. By season 3, with the arrival of Jojen, he definitely starts to understand it better and what this higher calling is. Season 4 continues this, and aiming at the pinnacle—at this supernatural force desperately pulling Bran towards it.

In the books, Jojen knows the date of his death and what happens to him. Is this something present in the show?

Thomas: I believe he doesn’t think the future is set, as such, but he gets senses and feelings. He just knows something, but without knowing it in its entirety. It’s a general feeling that he can’t really change and just has to accept. He’s aware of his own mortality, but this makes him calmer, more upstanding, clearer. Everyone dies, of course, but knowing when or where—or both—must ... Well, I wouldn’t want to know, but Jojen is quite cool about it. He’s accepting of it. That helps him have clarity.