Disgruntled, Freakish Reflections on Game of Thrones

The fifth season of Game of Thrones just ended and it’s been a doozy, so I figured it was time to peel off some disgruntled, freakish reflections on the show. In typical Kaedrin fashion, I’ve waited 5 seasons to do so, though I did once comment on the Red Wedding as it related to Joss Whedon. Major Spoilers for the entire show up until this point!

  • I enjoy the show a great deal, as evidenced by the fact that it is one of two shows that I actually watch live (the other? Silicon Valley, the show after GoT and coincidentally my favorite active comedy), a distinction that might be more due to its timeslot than anything else, but still. On the other hand, I’ve never really considered it more than a really violent, fun soap opera. Sure, you can read into it if you want, and the epic scope of the story is indeed impressive, but it feels a little on the bloated side, and I don’t know that I’d ever really want to rewatch the show. Indeed, it took me a while to get into the show for that reason. It’s a show that I watch to see what will happen next, not a show I generally obsess over. Nothing wrong with that, and the series ain’t over yet, so maybe I’ll change my tune on that in the future.
  • The first half of this season felt like setup and filler, but once things started happening, they came on fast and furious, and hot damn, the last three or four episodes were quite engaging. Cersei’s short-sighted and petty attempt to get back at Margaery finally turns back on her, as everyone expected (doesn’t make it any less satisfying when it happens!) Daenerys meets Tyrion! The Dorne thread doesn’t entirely work, but it ends with a bang. And then there were the really big things.
  • The battle of Hardhome was fantastic and signals a shift from petty politicking to existential struggle. The TV series is called Game of Thrones, but it’s worth noting that the book series is called A Song of Ice and Fire. The icy White walkers have been hinted at all throughout the series, but this appears to be the start of their campaign proper. Much is made in this episode about the ability of Dragonglass to kill them, and then we find out that John Snow’s valyrian steel sword can also do the trick. Note that valyrian steel is also referred to as Dragonsteel, and who do we know that has access to firey Dragons? Yeah, I’d say the endgame of the series is coming into focus, which is interesting because as I mentioned earlier, it really did seem like more of a neverending soap opera than a complete narrative. This isn’t to say that the series (book or TV) doesn’t have their work cut out for them, as this will still be exceedingly difficult to pull off. The themes of the series so far just don’t fit with Dany riding to the rescue on her dragons and then triumphantly taking the throne. Honor and righteousness is punished in this world, and though Dany has snuck by with her dignity, I don’t think unambiguous triumph is in the cards. On the other hand, I don’t know that anyone would be particularly satisfied by a cynical, nihilistic, and tragic ending either. There’s a fine line to walk here. Fortunately, it seems possible that this could actually work, which is a good thing.
  • Stannis has always been a turd, and attempts to soften his image earlier this season really telegraphed some of his (horrendous) actions later in the series, and when he finally burns his daughter at the stake (in a scene that genuinely had me asking why I watch this show – seriously one of the two most brutal moments in the series, particularly because they linger on it for so long). This resolution has me wondering what the whole point of the Stannis storyline actually was. Did we really need Stannis at all? I mean, I like Davos and I guess Melisandre could do some interesting things now, but otherwise, Stannis really is the Pierce of this show (perhaps one of many, but still). Tick this in the GoT is just a soap opera column.
  • On the occasion of the Red Wedding, I had opined that “while the Red Wedding is the end of characters we like, it’s also the beginning of a villain we’re going to love to hate!” and in large part, one of the things that keeps people watching this show is that we want to see our villains get their comeuppance. But it’s worth noting that this comeuppance is rarely as satisfying as we might think. Sometimes it’s great, as in Joffrey’s death. But it is often undercut in one way or another. Take Arya’s final revenge on Meryn Trant in the finale. It was fantastic! Then Arya goes back to the house of black and white, gets scolded, and finds herself going blind. While the show’s initial conceit was that honor and righeousness was a flaw that would get you killed, it seems that vengeance is also not all it’s cracked up to be, which is an interesting turn for the series, and we’ve seen a fair amount of that in this season…
  • The finale was a bit odd in that so much happened, and so quickly, that much of it felt unresolved and unsatisfying. But then, that’s kinda the point of a finale. Still, there were a lot of deaths, only some of which felt earned, and some of which might not actually be deaths? I mean, what happened to Sansa and Theon? Was that suicide, or were they jumping into a soft snowdrift or something? And whenever someone dies offscreen, it’s hard to not succumb to pointless conspiracy mongering (did Stannis actually die?) And so on. John seems like the most substantial death, though I can’t say as though I hadn’t been expecting it. I mean, that whole Ollie character seemed to be telegraphic it, and the fact that John actually came into his own as an honorable leader means that his time was coming to an end. I can’t say as though John was my favorite character though, and indeed, much of his misadventures north of the wall seemed kinda lame to me, though it was starting to turn around this season. Rumors abound that Melisandre might resurrect him, which feels kinda lame, but might come off ok if done well. Still, next season seems like a bit of a corker. As I understand it, we’re now caught up with and even eclipsing the books at this point, though it does seem like the next installment might be out in early 2016.
  • Speaking of the books, at the urging of a friend, I’ve taken to listening to the audiobooks of the series, so I may have more to say about that as I listen to them. My initial thought is that watching the TV show was actually good prep for the books, as the amount of detail and obscure characters packed into even the first few hours of the book would have been overwhelming or simply lost in the shuffle. But knowing who the Tyrells or Boltons are, right from the start, gives you a bit of a leg up on the books. As I mentioned earlier, I have no real desire to rewatch the series, and listing to the books makes me wonder if that’s actually true because I’m enjoying them well enough. They are super long, but because of my familiarity with the general thrust of the story, it helps.

That’s all for now. Will probably have more to say once I finish the first book…

More TV Shows I Should Probably Catch Up With

About a year ago, I posted a list of television shows I wanted to catch up with. I’ve actually made it most of the way through that list, with a few stragglers that will also appear below. People keep calling the turn of the century period when television got good the “Golden Age” of television, and while I’ve seen a bunch of that stuff (Sopranos, The Wire, etc…) some stuff I just haven’t taken the time to watch. Catching up with TV shows like this is probably a big part of why I didn’t watch as many movies last year, and I don’t see that changing much. The quality of television has risen so dramatically, and technology for consumption has gotten so much better that watching TV is actually a fair amount of fun. This is, of course, not a revolutionary notion, but I’m catching up here, so cut me some slack.

I’m enjoying several series currently on TV (notably True Detective, Archer, Game of Thrones, and a few others), but there are still a lot of shows I could be catching up on, whether they be Golden Age staples or just obscure weird stuff, like my first pick:

  • Clone High – After enjoying The Lego Movie so much, I decided to take a look back at what else Phil Lord and Christopher Miller had done, and this one popped up. I vaguely remember when it aired on MTV a while back, though it was originally produced and aired in Canada before coming to the US. I know the Extra Hot Great folks are big fans of the show too, and I’ve always wanted to check it out. Alas, streaming options are nil, so I’ll have to take a flier on the DVD.
  • Look Around You – Short spoofs of 80s educational science movies from Britain? It sounds rather strange, but from what I’ve seen so far, it’s hilarious. Another recommendation from our friends at the Extra Hot Great podcast from, this was a canon entry from Dave a few weeks ago. Thanks Dave. Thave. Once again, streaming options are limited. That sucks.
  • Louie – This is Louis C.K.’s show where he plays a presumably fictionalized version of himself. I’ve seen a couple episodes, and they’re pretty good, though this does get a lot of hyperbolic praise, so I’ll probably give it a more serious look at some point. And wonder of wonders, it’s on Netflix streaming, so it’s easy.
  • Psych – One of those seemingly light and fluffy USA series that a friend actually really loves. I’ve seen a few episodes, and they really are a lot of fun, so I’ll probably make my way through the series, and it’s nice to have a procedural detective show that doesn’t depress the hell out of me. Also on Netflix streaming.
  • Veronica Mars – I know almost nothing about this series except that Kristen Bell is the title character, and that she does detective stuff with her dad, or something like that. I figure I should probably check out the show before that Kickstarter movie comes out, and it just got added to Amazon Prime streaming, so that’s nice.
  • The Shield – One of those shows frequently cited amongst all the talk of Television’s Golden Age, along with the likes of The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and the like (it seems to be the first basic cable show to challenge HBO). All I know about it is that it’s about a dirty cop played by Michael Chiklis – one of them anti-hero shows. It’s also on Amazon Prime streaming, so I should probably hop to it.
  • Oz – HBO’s prison drama was kinda the first foray into that Golden Age of television thing, so I figure it’s the sort of thing I should probably nail down. It’s on HBO Go, but Comcast won’t let me watch that anywhere but my computer or tablet, so options are limited here.
  • Mad Men – A holdover from the last list that I’ve just never pulled the trigger on. It’s another highly praised show that I’m sure I could get into, but again, that trigger won’t pull itself.
  • Doctor Who – Another holdover, and I’m sad to say that I’ve made minimal progress on the show. That being said, I expect to make a concerted effort this year.

Phew, looks like I have my work cut out for me. Someday, I’d like to read Alan Sepinwall’s book The Revolution Was Televised, which covers 12 shows: The Sopranos, Oz, The Wire, Deadwood, The Shield, Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 24, Battlestar Galactica, Friday Night Lights, Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Fortunately, I’ve got about 2/3 of them reasonably well covered (need to finish off a few seasons here or there) and several on the list above, so if I make good progress, I might be able to read the book this year without having to spoil the shows. Score. Or maybe not. That’s a lot of television to be watching!

Three Canceled, Obscure TV Comedies You Should Watch

I know, when did Kaedrin become Buzzfeed, right? But for reals, one of the reasons I’m so behind on 2013 movies is that I’ve spent a portion of the year slowly making my way through this “Golden Age of Television” everyone keeps talking about. There’s certainly a lot to get through and I suppose I could do a list of the best TV shows I’ve watched or something, but do you really need someone else haranguing you to watch Breaking Bad? Nope!1 So here are three television comedies that are moderately to deeply obscure. And canceled. But that just makes them manageable to watch, and all three went out on the top of their game (insert lament for latter season Simpsons here). So here goes:

  • Better Off Ted – Single father Ted attempts to balance his ethics with his job as head of research at a soulless conglomerate. So two things to note here. This show is: 1. Funnier than it sounds and 2. Probably shouldn’t have been released right after the financial crisis in 20082. Like a surprising number of sitcoms, the titular character, who is ostensibly our protagonist, is also the most boring character. Fortunately, he’s surrounded by absolute gold, especially Portia de Rossi as the fearsome executive and the tag team of Malcolm Barrett and Jonathan Slavin as a pair of research scientists. Brilliant and funny performances all around. It’s two relatively short seasons, but it’s mostly gold. Also: this is the only show in this post available on Netflix Instant, and it’s well worth your time.
  • Happy Endings – There’s not a whole lot to describe here – it’s a hangout sitcom that revolves around a group of 6 friends. They hang out a lot and get into wacky hijinks. I was not really aware of this show until I heard about it from a canon submission on the Extra Hot Great podcast3 and those folks noted that VH1 secured rights to syndication and would be doing a marathon on New Years Day. I would say that my DVR is still full of episodes, but I’ve watched an embarrassing number over the past week or so. The cast is fantastic, with special notice going to Elisha Cuthbert, who shows a previously unseen comedic talent here4, Eliza Coupe and Damon Wayans Jr. as the poster children for married couples on sitcoms, and everyone else is a great too. The jokes (which are actually very funny, which I shouldn’t need to say, but given the way a lot of sitcoms are these days, actually does need to be said) come at a steady pace, the show rarely bogs down into “special moments” the way some sitcoms try to, and it’s got a perfect balance of elastic reality going for it. Ridiculous things happen from time to time, but the show remains grounded and even pokes fun at itself from time to time (reiterate lament for latter season Simpsons here). It’s not on Netflix streaming, but you can purchase it from the usual suspects (and it’s being aired on VH1, if you want to DVR it and watch slowly, but as someone who mainlined episodes this past week, I will say that it certainly holds up to such a viewing experience).
  • Lucy: The Daughter of the Devil – This is one of those Adult Swim 15 minute timeslot jobbies, so the one season of 11 episodes would probably only take you a couple of hours to watch, tops. It’s the totally sacrilegious story of Lucy, the 21 year old Antichrist and daughter of the Devil. She works at the Devil’s restaurant chain (one of Satan’s many hilarious attempts to bring about the apocalypse). DJ Jesus shows up from time to time, as well as a couple priests and a nun who are trying to destroy the Antichrist, but are constantly sidetracked. H. Jon Benjamin plays the Devil, and he’s a hilarious character. He wears Cosby sweaters and devises the most obtuse ways to bring about the end of the world, which he then manages to sabotage himself because he’s the Devil and not terribly good at this whole thing. This is one of those shows that I should be offended by, but something about it just tickles me silly. Unfortunately viewing options are somewhat limited. I believe it’s on iTunes, but not Netflix or Amazon.

So there you have it. Happy watching.

1 – For the record, I did end up loving Breaking Bad, though I will tell you that I found most of the first two seasons to be a slog. It certainly picked up steam after that though, and they tend to be relatively short seasons (the first season is only 6 or 7 episodes, I believe).

2 – Talk about your bad luck in timing, though it’s nothing compared to Buffalo Soldiers!

3 – Incidentally, I also heard about Better Off Ted from EHG (back before the days). They’re good people, and if you like TV, this is a podcast worth checking out. I have to admit that part of my newfound respect for television is thanks to their podcast…

4 – Unless you consider her season 2 performance as Kim “Cougar Bait” Bouer on 24 as comedic, which it totally is, though perhaps unintentionally.