Monday, May 2, 2016

Melisandre makes the world right again in Home and Game of Thrones handed us one of the best episodes ever

This post is full of spoilers for last night's episode of Game of Thrones.

I think we need to talk about last night's episode of Game of Thrones, which was called "Home." Ser Davos finally voiced what I was wanting to say if I could talk to Melisandre. "Does Jon Snow have to stay that way or can you do something about it?" This pot has been simmering for many years now. The groundwork for a resurrection was laid with Ser Thoros of Myr who brought back Beric Dondarrion on six different occasions, albeit, with a caveat that each time it was done Beric lost something. And Thoros and Melisandre have something in common now: Thoros (when he performed his first resurrection) said that he didn't even believe in the Lord of Light anymore. Well Melisandre reached that point and bam, she brought Jon Snow back. I gotta say that I think it was handled perfectly in the sense that Melisandre truly seemed to have given up hope. I think that must be some kind of prerequisite to have access to powers like resurrection.

Resurrecting Jon would have been a great episode into and of itself. However the show writers of Game of Thrones gave us other gifts as well. Over in Mereen, Tyrion of all people went and freed Dany's dragons. I was worried that we were about to lose Tyrion, and I was pleased that he was right in that the dragons are intelligent and would understand what he was saying to them.

Over in Pyke, Balon Greyjoy was deposed by Yara's uncle, Euron Greyjoy. I think that's an interesting turn of events as the Greyjoys seem to have been marginalized pretty badly in the War of Five Kings. I'm not exactly sure how the Greyjoys are going to get back into the Game of Thrones, but the books have a hint: sailing to the far east to steal one of Dany's dragons with a magical horn that can control dragons.

And in Winterfell, we have Ramsay Bolton killing his father Roose Bolton and then feeding Walda Frey and her newborn baby to a bunch of dogs. This was an interesting turn of events, however, I was really surprised that Roose Bolton allowed himself to be killed by his bastard son. He was always so careful before. But it's not like he didn't deserve it.

I think the best scene of the night though belongs to the giant who burst through the gate and then killed the guy that shot him with an arrow in spectacular "squish" fashion ultimately causing all of the Night's Watch to throw down their weapons.

So now that Jon is back, I think he's no longer a part of the Night's Watch. His oaths are fulfilled now. And I think with the vision given to Bran from the three-eyed raven (played by Max Von Sydow) that we're about to see some really important revelations about Lyanna Stark. For not being a major character in the story, Lyanna is extremely important to everything that's going on (and perhaps to finally answer the question: is Jon Snow a Targaryen?) I think he most certainly is.

I can't wait until next week's episode. Sigh.

By the way, I'm taking a blog break until next Monday. Have a good week.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Dennis Hastert made me realize that the 107th Congress was filled with sexual predators many of whom marched under the banner of righteousness

Dennis Hastert, the longest serving Republican Speaker of the House, is guilty of molesting multiple boys. He admitted as much this week and has to serve time for paying "hush money." But the horrors of the crime made me think of other congressmen guilty of sex crimes and scandals, and it made me realize that all of the following names came from the 107th congress (including Dennis Hastert) but I think I'll start with him:

Dennis Hastert (Republican): Sexually abused multiple teenaged-men in the 1970's while in a position of power as a high school wrestling coach.

Mark Foley (Republican): Guilty of sexual predation of multiple teenaged boys (congressional pages).

David Vitter (Republican): Involved with a Washington DC escort service and a scandal around prostitution.

Strom Thurmond (Democrat): Had a mixed-race grown daughter out of wedlock.

Larry Craig (Republican): Lewd conduct in a restroom soliciting sex from an undercover cop.

Gary Condit (Democrat): Had an extra-marital affair.

Ed Schrock (Republican): Caught soliciting sex from men on an interactive telephone service where men could leave messages for other men in order to get sex.

Steven LaTourette (Republican): Left his wife for a female aide.

David Dreier (Republican): Was vehemently anti-gay and gay in real life (had a partner).

Don Sherwood (Republican): Caught having an extra-marital affair and accused of assaulting a woman who locked herself in his bathroom.

Vito Fossella (Republican): Admitted to an extra-marital affair that resulted in a child while he was married.

John Edwards (Democrat): Caught having an extra-marital affair.

John Ensign (Republican): Caught having an extra-marital affair.

Chip Pickering (Republican): Caught having an extra-marital affair.

Holy crap, people. The 107th congress was bad news. Maybe it's just a weird coincidence that the majority of these names are Republican. I'm sure that's it. :)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Peter Principle validates everything I've suspected about our society here in the United States and totally puts it into context I can understand.

Have you ever heard of the Peter Principle? I stumbled across it yesterday in another random search, and it totally validated how I feel most people in our (read United States) society are in all actuality, mediocre human beings. The Peter Principle is a concept in management theory formulated by Laurence J. Peter, and the overall idea is that our society is structured in such a way that people are promoted into positions for which they are doomed to failure. This is because people are not assessed on what they can do, but on their accomplishments in a previous position. So the higher and higher they go up the promotion ladder, every person eventually reaches a plateau called "The Level of Incompetence" in which they are unsuited to perform their job. Once they reach that plateau, they can't get promoted out of it because they are terrible at their job, and they can't get demoted because they deserved to be promoted. So they are stuck. In other words, "ambitious people will always rise to their level of incompetence." It's a fascinating take on the world and when I think about it, it makes so much sense to me because I see incompetent people all the time holding down positions they are incapable of performing. How did they get there? Easy, they were good at their last job.

Watch the video below if you have the time. It explains so much about this wonderful little theory that provides an answer as to why there's so much incompetence in every day America.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The season six premiere of A Game of Thrones was mostly just setting the table for the other nine episodes, but we at least found out that Melisandre may in fact be immortal.

Warning: There are spoilers for "The Red Woman" in this post.

The season six premiere of Game of Thrones titled "The Red Woman," seemed kind of short to me. And then I realized that a lot of the individual scenes were long zoom in shots that took up a lot of screen time. There was a nice panorama of the Wall and Jon Snow lying dead in his own blood, there were impressive shots of Jaime's ship returning from Dorne with a dead Marcella, and nice dramatic shots of Daenerys surrounded by a horde of Dothraki. So my first impulse was that this was an episode of style over substance, picking up where we ended off last season, and setting the table (as it were) for the other nine episodes in the season.

However, there was one shocker: the reveal with Melisandre. I never picked up on that in the books, but I guess it's been in there the entire time, this idea that the Lord of Light empowers Melisandre with glamor--a kind of magic that allows her to change her appearance. George R.R. Martin has also said (I looked it up) that she's ancient. This was a fantastic yet sad reveal. It made me realize that Melisandre needed to use glamor to appear as she does in order to be taken seriously or have any respect. But it does frame earlier events from prior seasons a lot better. For example, remember when she survived the poisoned drink back at Dragonstone? I think that's a hint that she's immortal. I kept wanting her to at least try and resurrect Jon Snow, but she obviously hasn't worked herself up to that yet. She just sits and stares into the flame.

It looks like the many plot threads that scattered the heroes to the four winds might be bringing them together in this season, and I think that's good because the show's at its best when the main characters are interacting with one another. Sansa, Theon, Brienne, and Podrick are headed to the wall to hopefully join up with a resurrected Jon Snow with a Melisandra and Davos at his side. I hope in Daenerys's storyline that we don't get bogged down in Vaes Dothrak. The Dothraki respect strength, so maybe Drogon will fly out of the sky and have all of the Dothraki name her as a Khal--could they even follow a woman like that? Who knows.

As far as what's going on in Dorne, I really could care less. Here it is in season six and we've got these new Sand Snake characters murdering their own patriarchy, and I fail to see how any of them are a part of the big story. It just seems to me that Dorne (like the Greyjoys) is where George R.R. Martin kind of fails because he just kept going with all of these extra characters and storylines and they aren't really connected in any way to the rest of the characters. It's almost like he got so into his world-building that he was like, "Hey...let me tell you what's going on over here..." "Ooh, and over here there's this other thing going on." I's cool...but I'm one of those people that isn't in love with the world but I am in love with the story. In other words...I don't want to know about what kinds of stew ancient Valyrians made on their nameday, but I do want to know how the Night's King gets his powers. I realize there are all kinds of readers who concern themselves with the tiny nuances of a fantasy world, and their appetite is insatiable. I'm just saying that I'm not one of those people.

And Arya's storyline (to be honest) is getting a little stale. She's obviously going to become a Faceless Man, and I've enjoyed the journey up to this point. But now we're just getting bogged down in the whole "superhero origin" story. I hope there's more to her storyline that explains who the Faceless Men really are. Do they get their power from the Great Other? Is the many-faced god opposed to the Lord of Light? I've thought for some time now that the Faceless Men were actually collecting souls for the White Walkers, which is why it's taken them 8,000 years to make another appearance. I think it would be cool if Arya ended up becoming a White Walker through servitude with the Faceless Men. After all, the Starks have had relations with the White Walkers before.

Friday, April 22, 2016

On Agents of Shield Hive is Legion for he is many.

I have to admit, I didn't think that Grant Ward was gonna pay off like he did for Agents of Shield. The twist in having him become a traitor and join Hydra was really interesting. I think it's about that time that I felt the show really took off. But I knew eventually that even Grant Ward with his almost superhuman ability to land kicks, jabs, and punches would get his comeuppance. I also knew that when that happened, they'd have to search for another villain. What I didn't expect was for the show to go back to Ward and have him return as a zombie alien squid-faced thing. And then for him to do even more creepy stuff, like invade Daisy's mind by being able to blow weird mind-controlling particles into her face (called Hive).

I suppose misdirection and suspicion are important quotas to maintain in a show that's about secret agents. And that ending of this week's episode called "The Team" was pretty gut-wrenching. And let's talk about Hive for a moment. The sand blast doesn't directly control the target. Instead it makes them look at Grant Ward (Hive) as their true savior. This is kind of an interesting take on fanaticism. And it certainly makes Hive the most dangerous inhuman because he happens to be every inhuman. "I am legion for we are many" sound familiar? Religion, even in a fictional show like Agents of Shield, continues to fascinate me. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Serialized storytelling is an old tradition and superhero movies are using the principle of it to bring together some previously impossible story arcs.

A friend recently said that superhero movies are just commercials for more superhero movies. I thought it was kind of brilliant to think that a three-hour movie is just a setup for bunches of three-hour movies that supposedly will pay of in one big three-hour movie. But then I started to think about how chapters in a book are organized, and how it's impossible in anything with an "epic" kind of scope to tell a complete story arc in just one chapter. Not everything can be boiled down to Hemmingway's famous line, "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

I think critics of superhero movies do them a disservice by just dismissing them as advertising for another movie. Batman V Superman isn't an advertisement, it's a chapter in a much longer story that has yet to be told. Maybe it's this idea of "serialized entertainment" that has thrown people for a loop. It used to be that novels would be serialized and released a bit at a time. My most recent memory of this (and it's not too recent) was Stephen King's serialized novel, The Green Mile. Since that came out more than a decade ago, it's easy to think that a whole generation (that doesn't read stuff on Wattpad or the Nifty Archive) is unfamiliar with stories being told in bite-sized chunks, released one chapter at a time.

And serialized storytelling has a lot of advantages. For one, it's kind of like a 401k investment plan. In other words, thinking of retirement as one huge chunk of money that you'll need in order to leave the workforce forever can be very daunting. However, taking it in small pieces over a great deal of time makes it a lot more palatable. The same can be true for storytelling. In our fast-paced low attention span culture, a serialized story does not ask for a lot of investment from a person. Everyone can spare ten minutes out of their day to read the latest installment.

Another benefit of serialized storytelling is that installments need to have a hook that brings the audience back. This is why in superhero movies, we usually have a complete story arc that has a definitive conclusion, yet leaves the door open for more growth.

Anyway, I guess all I was trying to say is that serialized storytelling is not advertising, and superhero movies are using the principle of it to bring together some previously impossible story arcs. Who wins in that situation? We all win because we get to sit back and watch the story unfold one piece at a time.

Monday, April 18, 2016

In iZombie are the zombies going to establish a nation where humans are raised as cattle to supply them with brains?

Spoilers ahead :) for season two of iZombie.

iZombie is a great show. The season finale two parter ("Dead Beat" and "Salivation Army") aired this last week, and it continues to impress by solid storytelling, fascinating characters, and a take on zombies that I never expected. Because the zombie outbreak (established in season 1) is chemical and linked to Max Rager energy drinks, there's a mechanic present that makes being a zombie more of an unfortunate lifestyle choice rather than an "end of the world" plague. As you can probably tell from that one line pitch, the story has got lots of humor but can go dark really quick if the situation warrants it. This gives it a kind of humor/horror mix I find really appealing, and it reminds me a little bit of Buffy.

Season Two had lots of very satisfying story arcs too. Clive figures out that Liv's a zombie. At first you think that this is going to be a card that they play very late in the series, but the writers don't shy away from it. Liv needs to reveal herself in order to stop Major from going full zombie in prison (and hurting a lot of people) and proves she's a zombie (to Clive) by stabbing herself in the heart. Unlike in other shows, the writers don't delve into Clive feeling betrayed, etc. and then trying to reconcile that over several episodes.

I also like how Blaine's character evolved. Initially a douchebag zombie, the cure left him with no memory at all of Mr. Boss (who orders Blaine killed). That plan fails and Blaine ends up rescuing his girlfriend in a story arc that's kind of romantic.

The season two finale had a lot of things packed into it, including singer Rob Thomas being eaten by a zombie along with a lot of Max Rager staff. Now the military contractor that had purchased Max Rager is composed entirely of the undead, and Seattle is going to become the capital of a new zombie nation. That sounds really an apocalypse of a different kind as the nation goes to war against zombies who need to eat their brains to stay human and use cell phones and check Facebook. It makes me wonder who will win, and it makes me wonder if zombies are ultimately doomed or will they become overlords of the humans and begin to raise them like cattle?

The CW is knockin' it out of the park with these shows. Sheesh.