Sunday, April 28, 2019

Fulminant Cadenza I

"Thunderbolt and Lightning"

[This is one post in a series about my music mixes.  The series list has links to all posts in the series and also definitions of many of the terms I use.  You may wish to read the introduction for more background.

Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—that is, I don’t guarantee that the next post in the series will be next week.  Just that I will eventually finish it, someday.  Unless I get hit by a bus.]

My eldest child and I have wondered what the music of the post-2000s is.  If psychedelia is the 60s, and disco is the 70s, and new wave and alternative is the 80s, and grunge and emo is the 90s ... what comes next?  I proposed two possible trends.  The first is large, folky/neoclassical bands full of non-traditional (for rock, anyway) instruments: banjos and cellos and trumpets.  Examples would be the Decemberists, the Lumineers, Arcade Fire, and of course Of Monsters and Men.  The second is a tendency towards the melodramatic, the bombastic—the operatic.

Now, I just said in our last installment that I don’t care for opera.  But there’s a difference between opera music and operatic music.  In fact, they don’t sound much alike, really.  What makes a tune operatic is more a sense of style vs the actual melodies or instrumentation.  It’s a chance for the music to swell and burst forth in unexpected ways, for vocalists to show off their emotional range, for the song to attempt to stir the listener—forcibly, if need be.  A “cadenza,” says Wikipedia, is an ornamental passage that often allows virtuosic display.  There’s certainly a lot of that going on here.  Wikipedia further tells us that “fulminant” means something that occurs suddenly and escalates quickly; from the Latin fulmināre: to strike with lightning.  I think you’ll find that an appropos descriptor as well.

Because of my perception of this as a trend for the music of the last two decades or so, only 4 of the 20 tracks here are older than 20 years old (which is fairly unusual for this series).  But of course we could never make a mix like this without including the original operatic rock song, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  Released way back in 1975 on A Night at the Opera, Freddie Mercury referred to it as “mock opera” and famously introduced it to his bandmates by playing the opening melody and then stopping and saying “And this is where the opera section comes in!”  The faux-Italian nonsense section in the middle (“Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango?” and so forth) only emphasizes the operatic connections, and yet the song is undeniably (and indelibly) a rock classic: #1 in the UK, top 10 in the US, nominated for two Grammys, spawned one of the earliest music videos, re-immortalized in Wayne’s World, and its name was used for last year’s biopic of Mercury.  Our volume title is an obvious lift from its lyrics (“thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening”1).  And, above and beyond all its importance and relevance to the theme, it’s just an amazing, fantastic song.

It was frankly amazing that I restrained myself from opening the mix with it, really.  But I felt like an even better opener would be the theme from The Shannara Chronicles: “Until We Go Down,” by Ruelle.  Like “You’ve Got Time” from Orange Is the New Black2 and “If I Had a Heart” from Vikings,3 the non-abbreviated version from Ruelle’s EP is even better than what you get on TV.  It’s the perfect opening for the first section, and for the second section I use Muse to introduce Queen—which is ironic, since the first time I ever heard Muse on the radio, I immediately thought they reminded me of Queen.  Not in a musical sense, particularly, but in their sense of scope and grandeur, which is why I knew they had to appear here.

Other obvious choices were Kate Bush (almost any of her hits would have worked, but I felt like “Cloudbusting” fit here the best), and Pat Benatar, who actually trained as an opera singer before switching to rock (and here the obvious choice was Benatar’s cover of Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”): that’s 2 more of the 4 selections from the 80s or prior.  Emilie Autumn is another no-brainer; Fight Like a Girl has been called “an operatic feminist treatise set inside an insane asylum,” and, while I don’t think it always works, “If I Burn” is a shining example of her at her best.  My Morning Jacket, who I first heard on Stephen Colbert’s show, are sometimes described as alt-country, but I find their album The Waterfall to be way more operatic than twangy.

Closing out the “no duh” list would be MILCK’s dramatic tune that came to epitomize the Women’s March in 2017, “Quiet,” and “Conqueror,” by Aurora, a Norwegian artist sometimes characterized as baroque pop.  For introduction to the former, I have to thank Samantha Bee; for the second, I have absolutely no recollection of where I first heard it,4 but I fell immediately in love and knew it had to land here.  “Conqueror” is one of those songs that just fills you with a sort of joy despite all attempts to resist it.  The early 2000s offers me multiple candidates here, but some of them—such as Evanescence, Rag’n'Bone Man, and Hundred Waters—will just have to wait for volume II.

Of course, not everything here is only about the melodrama.  Several songs are cherry-picked from adjacent subgenres.  For instance, representing the oldest song here post-80s, and representing the tendency of a decade’s music to start slightly before the decade itself,5 we have Incubus, with the title track from their amazing 1999 album Make Yourself.  Theoretically, Incubus was nu-metal, in the vein of Linkin Park or Korn.  But they managed to break out of that mold in many ways, primarily with a flair for the dramatic.  “Make Yourself” is not a song for you if you’re bothered by the F-bomb, but, assuming you can get past that, it’s pretty amazing.  I can also draw a straight line (in my mind, anyway) from Incubus to the Struts—a line that has to stretch from Southern California to East Midlands, England, granted—whose lead singer has said he was pretending to be Freddie Mercury and Bon Scott when singing in the mirror as a child, so that pretty much nails the æsthetic in my book.  Plus the similar styles mean they pair very nicely as we move to close down the volume, and “Could Have Been Me,” with its pulsing drum-driven call-and-response, is just a natural fit here.

Another genre with some major similarities is goth.  You may recall that back on Penumbral Phosphorescence I talked about how goth wasn’t technically about death and darkness; its original meaning was more about drama and spectacle.  Which is also the aspects of “operatic” that I’m talking about here.  So I threw in a little goth: first of all and most obviously, “Garden of Delight” by the Mission, who are probably the most operatic of the proper goth bands, and then “Ancient Delirium,” the title track off the odd collaboration between Angels of Venice’s Carol Tatum and Seraphim Shock’s Charles Edward.6  Finally “The Woman of the Snow” by goth/industrial/darkwave duo Faith and the Muse is one of those layered, voice-as-instrument affairs that can often be found in works by Beth Quist7 or (especially) Julianna Barwick;8 here’s it’s a bit of a bridge between the powerful, raw emotion of “Quiet” and the subtler but also soaring vocals of “Home.”

This latter tune, by the way, is from an undeservedly obscure artist called Glasser.  I only discovered her while idly looking up what the members of Human Sexual Response9 were up to now and finding that their only female member went on to mother a musician herself.  So I had to check that out, right?  Glasser is hard to pin down: she’s a bit electronica, a bit indie, a bit experimental ... and, yes, a bit operatic.  “Home” is, in my opinion, the most emblematic of that off her excellent Ring.

Which nicely transitions to other female vocals that only occasionally drift in operatic territory.  Iiris is an Estonian singer who has thrice come in the top 5 in the Eurovision Song Contest but is not europop in any meaningful sense; she’s more of an indie voice who’s more likely to show up on Sirenexiv Cola.  But “Curaga” is actually sort of a sister tune to “Conqueror” and flows beautifully from it.  It’s a bit more mellow than the latter, but has its moments of bursting forth (“to wake up is to light up all the nightmares by your side”).  Lucius is a beautiful melding of two female vocalists, and we’ll no doubt also see them eventually on Sirenexiv Cola, but also probably on Smokelit Flashback, which gives you some idea of their range.  “How Loud Your Heart Gets” has many moments of upswelling beauty (“we were children now we’ve grown” and, later, “the things we know we just don’t know”) and also fades out with an interesting discordant section that jumps from left speaker to right and back again.  Definitely a great track.

Fulminant Cadenza I
[ Thunderbolt and Lightning ]

“Until We Go Down” by Ruelle, off Up in Flames [EP]
“Quiet” by MILCK [Single]
“The Woman of the Snow” by Faith and the Muse, off :ankoku butoh:
“Home” by Glasser, off Ring
“Il Pirata” by Ugress, off Cinematronics
“Resistance” by Muse, off The Resistance
“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, off Greatest Hits [Compilation]
“In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)” by My Morning Jacket, off The Waterfall
“Garden of Delight (Hereafter)” by The Mission, off Godʼs Own Medicine
“Cloudbusting” by Kate Bush, off The Whole Story [Compilation]
“Wuthering Heights” by Pat Benatar, off Crimes of Passion
“Conqueror” by AURORA, off All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend
“Curaga” by Iiris, off The Magic Gift Box
“If I Burn” by Emilie Autumn, off Fight Like a Girl
“Ancient Delirium” by Carol Tatum, off Ancient Delirium
“Peel” by Jade Leary, off The Lost Art of Human Kindness
“Make Yourself” by Incubus, off Make Yourself
“Could Have Been Me” by The Struts, off Everybody Wants
“How Loud Your Heart Gets” by Lucius, off Wildewoman
“Ban the Game” by Men Without Hats, off Rhythm of Youth
Total:  20 tracks,  76:49

For bridges, I was first off drawn to a weird little track by Jade Leary: “Peel.”  Featuring an airy flute counterpointed by some strings which somehow convey the impression that you’re late for something dark and foreboding, and whispered, distorted vocals, it’s certainly got melodrama in spades.  And the bridge between our all-female opening quartet into the more male-dominated stretch of the next 4 tracks is 48 perfect seconds from Norwegian electronica artist Ugress.10  “Il Pirata” sounds like an old 78rpm record that would be played as the soundtrack for a silent movie (probably during the scene where the train is about to run over the heroine tied to the tracks), but set to a drum machine beat.  Definitely an attention-getter.

Our closer has similar DNA, but lives at the other end of the spectrum.  “Ban the Game” is a slower, piano-driven track, about as far away from “Safety Dance” as you can get and still be Men Without Hats.  But somehow it still feels like the soundtrack to an old movie, only this scene is the one where the heroine is walking off into the sunset, leaving the hero to wonder how he’s going to live without her.  Which leaves us in precisely the proper mood to say goodbye to a set of tunes that is properly operatic without sounding anything like opera.11

Next time, we’ll mix a little magic into our music.


1 Also quite fulminant.
2 Which is our closer on Sirenexiv Cola I.
3 Which we haven’t seen yet, but we probably will sooner or later.
4 Although I note that she was also on The Late Show, in July of 2016, so that’s a good guess.
5 For instance, one of the most iconic songs of the 80s is “My Sharona” ... released in 1979.
6 More discussion of both those bands and albums can be found in Penumbral Phosphorescence I.
7 We’ve heard from Quist many times: Shadowfall Equinox IV and V, Numeric Driftwood III, Paradoxically Sized World IV, and Sirenexiv Cola I.
8 Who we shall hear from in the fullness of time.
9 I talked a bit about this somewhat odd Boston classic new wave band back on Totally Different Head.
10 Ugress is one my favorite musical discoveries from LittleBigPlanet, as we discussed back in Paradoxically Sized World II.
11 Thank goodness.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Pleasant Ēostre

This weekend has been a double hit for me: yesterday I had some sort of stomach flu—I wasn’t barfing, but I spent all day almost wishing I could—and then today was, of course, Easter.  Not a big religious day for us, but we have our egg hunting traditions to uphold.  Long story short: no proper blog post for you today.  Next week, something more substantial.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Game of Thrones Rewatch: the "Short" Version (Part 3)

Here’s the final two seasons of my Game of Thrones rewatch.  A reminder of the rules of my rewatch commentary:
  • THERE ARE METRIC SHIT-TONS OF SPOILERS HERE.  One wouldn’t think I would have to point this out, as it’s a rewatch, but people will complain.  If you haven’t already watched all the seasons of GoT up till the last one, DON’T READ THIS.  Perhaps you can come back when you’re all caught up.  (To be crystal clear: just because the comment is in season 3 doesn’t mean that it won’t contain spoilers for season 4 ... or season 7.  Obviously there are no spoilers for season 8 yet.)
  • (Speaking of “shit-tons” ...)  I curse.  Anyone who’s read any of my other blog posts will already know this, but perhaps you got here via some link or other and don’t know what you’re in for.  Although the previous bullet point should have been a giveaway.
  • My opnions are just that: opinions.  I present them here in case you find them interesting, but I’m not trying to convince you to believe as I do.  I ask that you show me the same courtesy should you choose to leave a comment—that is, feel free to share your own opinions, but don’t try to tell me I’m “wrong.”
  • Likewise, whatever moments I found worthy of comment are also my opinions.  If I left out one of your favorites, sorry about that.  Feel free to remind me of it in the blog post comments.
  • My comments are always super-quick.  If I want to expand on a particular thing, I do it as a pseudo-footnote.  In this case, “pseudo-footnote” means “formatted almost exactly like a footnote, but way more obvious.”  These “footnotes” are designed to be less ignorable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ignore them if you want to.  They’re just topics I wanted to explore a bit further.  Sometimes only a sentence or two more, sometimes whole paragraphs.  Read ’em or not: your call.
  • There’s not a comment on every episode.  Especially in the early episodes: sometimes there’s just nothing that jumped out at me that hour.
  • I am watching the “Inside the Episode” shorts after the shows, for every show.  Occasionally that will inform my commentary (but usually not).
  • Once I’m done with the rewatch, I may keep some commentary on the final season.  Or I may not; no promises.

Season 6

  • Episode 1: Well, I guess after you’ve jumped off a 50-foot castle wall, walking through a frozen river and wandering around in a blizzard is nothing.
    • Aaaand there goes Doran.  And Trystane.
    • Aaaand there goes Melisandre’s glamour.
  • Episode 2: Finally! the return of Bran.  I mean, it’s only been 12 episodes ...
    • I just caught this one too: what Ned says to Benjen in Bran’s flashback is the exact same line Jon says to Olly when he’s training him.[S5E1]
    • I’ll give Tyrion this: he’s got big balls.  Huge, even.
      • “Next time I have an idea like that, punch me in the face.” —Tyrion
    • Aaaand there goes Roose.  Good riddance to him too.
      • And his wife.  And his newborn son.  That part was sad at least.
    • Aaaand there goes Balon.  No tears for that one either.
    • “I’m not a devout man ... obviously.” —Davos
    • Aaaand here comes Jon!  He’s back! [1]
  • Episode 3: “Hold off on burning my body for now.” —Jon
    • Aaaand there goes Ser Alliser.  And Olly.
  • Episode 4: Aaaand there goes Osha.  Totally pointless death. [2]
    • Aaaand there goes all the remaining Khals. [3]
  • Episode 5: “You freed me from the monsters that murdered my family.  And you gave me to other monsters that murdered my family.” —Sansa  (A well-deserved slap in the face for Littlefinger.)
    • “Where are my neice and nephew?  Let’s go murder them.”  —Euron
    • Tormund’s keen interest in Brienne is another thing I’d forgotten.  It’s quite cute.
    • Another White Walker goes down to dragonglass.  I guess Meera made some spearheads out of what Sam gave her ... ?[S3E10]
    • Aaaand there goes the remaining Children of the Forest.  And Bran’s wolf.
      • And Hodor, of course.  I think his death may be more affecting than even Shireen’s, somehow. [4]
  • Episode 6: Finally: the return of Benjen. [5]
    • Wow ... Sam’s dad is a real dick.  And, in this show, that’s saying something.
    • It takes a massive amount of work to make Joffrey look like the tragic hero.
      • And even more to make Cersei look sympathetic.
    • I think Tommen thinks he’s growing a pair (finally).  I’m not sure I agree.
  • Episode 7: “And you’ve got one hand.  My money’s on the old boy.” —Bronn
    • I fucking love Lady Mormont! [6]
    • “Fuck justice, then: we’ll get revenge.  Drink.” —Yara
    • Aaaand there goes guy-we-just-met.  Don’t worry: by this point, we knew perfectly well not to get too attached.
  • Episode 8: “I choose violence.” —Cersei
    • I really try not to blame Tommen too much, but this is clearly a case of foolishly underestimating his mother.  He knows perfectly well what she’s capable of.
    • Aaaand there goes the Blackfish.  Pisses me off that he wouldn’t go with Brienne.  He was a very cool character who got shafted out of his deserved amount of screentime.
    • Aaaand there goes Lady Crane.  Not a huge surprise, but a bit of a bummer.
    • Aaaand there goes “the Waif” (that’s how she’s credited).  A.K.A. Arya’s arch-nemesis.  Oh, and: Arya kill #8.
      • “A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell.  And I’m going home.” —Arya (Bam!)
  • Episode 9: “Tell your people what happened here.  Tell them you live by the grace of Her Majesty.  When they come forward with notions of retribution or ideas about returning the slave cities to their former glory, remind them what happened when Daenerys Stormborn and her dragons came to Meereen.” —Tyrion [7]
    • “No one can protect me.  No one can protect anyone.” —Sansa
    • “I never demand, but I’m up for anything, really. —Yara  (I love how Yara is like: sure, I’ll marry you, if that’s what it takes.)
    • Aaaand there goes Rickon.  This too was inevitable, from the moment he was delivered to Ramsay.  (As Sansa predicted mere moments ago, actually ...)
      • Don’t do what he wants you to do, Jon!
        • Idiot. [8]
    • Aaaand there goes the last giant on the planet.  That’s quite sad.
      • Hey, don’t stop beating the shit out of Ramsay on Sansa’a account! [9]
    • Aaaand there goes Ramsay.  That’s quite joyous.
  • Episode 10: The whole “trial” business is hard to watch knowing how pointless the whole thing is going to end up being.
    • Aaaand there goes Pycelle.  Finally.
    • Aaaand there goes Margaery.  And Loras, and Lancel, and Mace, and Kevan.  Oh, and the High Sparrow, of course.  But mainly Margaery. [10]
      • Aaaand there goes Tommen.  Inevitable, that.
    • Very satisfying for Davos.
    • What? Winter’s not coming any more??
    • Aaaand there goes Walder.  Arya kills #9, #10, and #11. [11]
    • Baby Jon: dragonwolf.  Or wolfdragon.  Or ... something. [12]
    • God damn I love Lady Mormont!
    • A particularly bloody episode, even not counting the death of Lyanna, who is both not quite an important enough character to count and also has actually been dead for like 20 years so really shouldn’t count anyway. [13]

Season 7

  • Episode 1: You know, if I’d remembered this opening scene, I wouldn’t have bothered counting Arya kills up until this point. [14]
    • I love how there’s no significant difference in either color or consistency between the bedpan contents and what passes for food in the Citadel.
    • “No need to sieze the last word, Lord Baelish.  I’ll assume it was something clever.” —Sansa [15]
    • “It’s my fucking luck I end up with a band of fire worshippers.” —the Hound
    • 61 episodes to reach this point: Dany sets foot on Westeros.
  • Episode 2: “Are you a sheep?  No.  You’re a dragon.  Be a dragon.” —Olenna
    • There have been several times in this show that I have been pissed off at the writers.  But this is the worst of them. [16]
    • Aaaand there goes Sand Snake #1.  And Sand Snake #2.
  • Episode 3: Here’s another line I’d completely forgotten: “I have to die in this strange country.  Just like you.”  (That’s Melisandre, to Varys.)
    • Aaaand there goes Sand Snake #3.
    • “I can never be Lord of Winterfell.  I can never be lord of anything; I’m the three-eyed raven.” —Bran
    • Aaaand there goes Olenna.  Fare thee well, Queen of Thorns. [17]
  • Episode 4: “You died in that cave ...” —Meera [18]
    • And now Arya has Valyrian steel as well.  That’s her, Jon, Jaime, Brienne, and Sam. [19]
    • Bronn vs Daenerys.  No clear winner, surprisingly. [20]
  • Episode 5: Yeah, Jaime! May as well just jump back in the river!
    • Aaaand there goes Sam’s dad, and his brother.  No great loss, and some small loss.  (But pretty small.)
    • Is there going to be any discussion of the fact that Dany just fried all the remaining male family members of the guy who is the best friend of the guy standing beside her and who cured the man kneeling in front of her? [21]
    • Yay! Gendry’s back.
    • “Yep, nobody mind me.  All I’ve ever done is live to a ripe old age.” —Davos
    • Gilly just gave Sam a crucial piece of history there and he never even noticed ... [22]
    • “I’m tired of reading about the achievements of better men.” —Sam
    • Hey, look: everybody hates everybody! [23]
  • Episode 6: “Your lips are moving, and you’re complaining about something.  That’s whinging.  This one’s been killed six times; you don’t hear him bitching about it.” —the Hound
    • Watching this scene between Sansa and Arya ... how much of that anger is just for show?
    • Third White Walker killed.  That should leave just 3 more ... but we see 5 a bit later. [24]
    • Aaaand there goes Thoros.
    • Aaaand there goes ... one of the only three dragons on the planet!!
    • Aaaand there goes Benjen. [25]
    • Another scene between Sansa and Arya that doesn’t feel like an actual conversation between real people, given what we know is coming.  Feels more like a cheesy plot device.
    • Oh, wait ... dragon’s back.  Shiver.
  • Episode 7:

[1] I would just like to say that I called this, even the first time through, even without getting anywhere near this far in the books.  (In fact, I really don’t know if this even happens in the books or not.)  I just extrapolated from knowing that, while George R. R. Martin may piss me off at times, he’s still a competent writer.  Thoros of Myr exists for exactly one reason: to bring Beric Dondarrion back from the dead.  And bringing Beric back from the dead only happens for one reason: to let us know that this is possible, so that when we see a high cleric of the same faith in the same place as someone who is well and truly dead that we know is important to the story, we’ll understand that there’s some possibility that things can be reversed.

Interesting to note that the showrunners seem to be trying to get some extra use of Beric by bringing him back late in S6.  I would actually be somewhat surprised if GRRM does the same in the books.  I feel that, as far as he’s concerned, Beric has now fulfilled his duty and can just fade into obscurity.

[2] I don’t mind a senseless death ... well, I mind it, obviously.  But at least I understand it.  A senseless death still has a point to it (otherwise it would be a pointless death).  Take the death of Shireen, for example.  Senseless and tragic, yes, but not pointless.  It signals the downfall of Stannis, and that’s important for the story.  But the death of Osha is entirely pointless, and that I object to.  What was even the point of bringing her character back for that tiny bit of screen time and then poof! she’s dead?  May as well have killed her offscreen.

[3] This is the third great “fuck yeah!” moment for Dany (of four—so far), and the only one that doesn’t involve dragons.  In that respect, it’s probably my favorite.  This is the moment that Dany proves she can kick ass all on her own.  Dragons?  We don’t need no steenking dragons!

[4] It’s not as tragic, and definitely not senseless.  But the circularity of it all, and realzing how many years he’s been locked into waiting for this exact moment ... it’s certainly one of the most effective moments of the series.

[5] I always said there were 3 characters that had disappeared that I refused to believe were gone forever: Benjen, Nymeria (Arya’s wolf), and Syrio Forel.  I think I may end up being wrong about Syrio, and I was extremely disappointed in the “return” of Nymeria.  But the return of Benjen, at least, was totally worth it.

[6] If you can’t get enough Bella Ramsey from her appearances in Game of Thrones (and who could?), check her out in The Worst Witch on Netflix.  My littlest one and I love that show too.

[7] This of course is the fourth and final (so far) great “fuck yeah!” Dany moment.  It’s not just the dragons which are awesome (although of course they fucking well are), but Grey Worm and Tyrion are both pretty awesome too ... even Missandei gets a bit of a chin lift.  Also, that annoying shit from way back in S3 gets slaughtered, so that’s always a bonus.

[8] At least you can see in his eyes that he knows he fucked up.  Right before shit gets really insane.

[9] During the “Inside the Episode” for this one, the showrunners suggest that Jon stops because he realizes upon seeing Sansa that Ramsay is not his to kill.  I have to say, however, that Kit Harrington’s performance didn’t convey that to me.  What I got was more being embarrassed about knowing his sister sees him reduced to that state of mindless bestiality.  But I suppose I must have misread it.  Or maybe Kit was going for a mix of both, and I only caught the one.

[10] This is probably the largest named-character body count in a single event for the entire series.  Quite a few of those are not a big deal: Mace and Kevan are hardly going to be missed, and the High Sparrow is certainly no great loss.  But Loras is a slight bummer, and Margaery is a huge loss.  Much of the remaining tragedy to come is, in my opinion, a direct result of this “triumph” of Cersei over Margaery.

[11] The advantage of the rewatch is that I actually worked out that Arya is recreating the story of the Rat Cook, which Old Nan told to the Stark children, and which Bran relates to Meera and Jojen while they’re at the Nightfort.[S3E10]  At the time, it just seems like a bit of Westeros flavor: their version of a ghost story, which sets the mood nicely for everyone being extremely spooked when they hear Sam and Gilly coming up the ladder.  But now I can see it was to prepare us for a fuller appreciation of the (ultra-well-deserved) fate of Walder Frey.  “It wasn’t for murder the gods cursed the Rat Cook, or for serving the king’s son in a pie.  He killed a guest beneath his roof.  That’s something the gods can’t forgive.”

Fun fact: the showrunners want us to believe this is a worrisome development for Arya’s character.  Fuck that.  I’m not worried that Arya can smile as she slits a man’s throat and watch him bleed out, ’cause I’m smiling right along with her.  Go Team Arya!

[12] You know the implications of this are staggering.  The obvious ones are the ones that get repeated the most often: Dany is Jon’s aunt, which certainly means a bit of incest ... but then again Targaryens commonly wed sisters to brothers (as Cersei is constantly reminding us, and as did our own ancient Egyptians, for that matter), so what’s a little aunt-nephew wedding among royalty?  But let’s dive a bit deeper.  If one considers the Targaryens the rightful rulers of Westeros—and of course we could easily dispute that, noting that they just came along a few centuries ago with their dragons and ate all the really properly rightful rulers—but, assuming we grant that, that means that Aerys, mad or not, was the rightful king, and therefore his eldest son would inherit the throne, which is Rhaegar, who has exactly one (surviving) son, who is Jon.  Therefore, friggin’ Jon is the goddamn rightful king of Westeros ... he has a stronger claim on the throne than Dany does, really, even throwing the question of gender out the window.  And, because he is actually older than any of Ned’s children, he has exactly the same amount of claim to King in the North as Dany does to the Iron Throne—that is, he’s the oldest surviving Stark, and he’s not, in fact, a bastard.

[13] Since the body count from just the explosion at the Sept of Baelor equalled our previous record for an entire episode, this episode easily surpasses that and becomes the new standard to beat: 9 named character deaths, all told.

[14] As Arya is technically responsible for the death of every living Frey (or at least all the male ones), and as Walder was notoriously prolific, I don’t know that we can really assign a number to how many kills she has at this point.  Let’s call the number of post-Walder Freys killed “F,” just for purposes of further counting.

Another interesting point: at the Red Wedding, Walder Frey somewhat ironically plays “The Rains of Castamere.”  If you didn’t catch the story behind this song (which Cersei tells to Margaery just before the Red Wedding[S3E8]), it’s this: House Reyne rebelled against Tywin Lannister, who not only defeated them, but slaughtered them all—men, women, and children.  The Reynes of Castamere no longer exist in Westeros.  And, now, no longer do the Freys.  Poetic justice don’t begin to cover it.

[15] This may be my favorite line of Sansa’s.  Granted, that’s not saying much, but still: this is one of the few moments where I actually kinda like her.  Not too many people get to say they had the upper hand in a conversational gambit with Littlefinger ... not even Varys, really.

[16] What I’m talking about here is the “return” of Nymeria, Arya’s wolf.  Been looking forward to it for 61 episodes and this is what I get?  Bullshit.  Too cheap to pay for the CGI, I suppose.

[17] Note that, even in death, Olenna gets her last digs in.  Whereas Cersei is scary in a disturbing, psychotic way, Olenna is disturbing in a way that makes you kinda smile for her.

[18] Meera leaves Bran.  Another thing I hadn’t remembered.

[19] The Game of Thrones wiki says there’s also one in the Vale—specifically, the guy in Littlefinger’s trial who isn’t Lord Royce and isn’t a woman.  Since he was only on-screen for like 20 seconds, I’m not sure if that’s really going to be the case in the show; apparently, it is the case in the books, so the wiki is just extrapolating.

[20] I didn’t include this as one of Dany’s four great “fuck yeah!” moments.  Perhaps I should have, but I felt this was more of a sprawling battle than a personal triumph for Dany.  Drogon’s performance is certainly impressive, and there is a certain sense of personal accomplishment for Dany, because this is the point where she stops listening to everyone else and fights the way she wants to fight.  And that’s good.  But of course there’s a certain amount of sense in what Tyrion (and Varys?) is telling her, and so she actually is playing into Cersei’s hands just a bit by delivering on those “foreign boogymen are coming to get you” tales that Cersei was spouting.  I dunno; I still could be wrong, of course, and it is a great scene, but I still think the previous four sum it up for me.  To recap:
  1. Burning that dick in Astapor and freeing Missandei and Grey Worm and the rest of the Unsullied.
  2. Burning all those dick Sons of the Harpy at the fighting pit in Meereen.
  3. Burning all the dick khals in Vaes Dothrak.
  4. Burning all the ships beseiging Meereen and then having Grey Worm just slice up some Good Ol’ Wise Ol’ Masters.  Who were both total dicks.

Interesting that, while they don’t all involve dragons, they do all involve fire.  “Fire and Blood,” indeed.

[21] Nope.

[22] In case you too missed it, she just read him story of the annulment of Rhaegar Targaryen’s marriage to Elia Martell.

[23] I found this quite amusing.  Jon hates the Hound because he served the Lannisters, who murdered quite a chunk of his family.  Gendry hates Beric and Thoros, who sold him to Melisandre.  Tormund hates Jorah, whose father murdered a metric shit-ton of his kinsmen.  Meanwhile, Jorah’s not fond of Thoros, who is a reminder of his time before (remember: Thoros fought in the same tournament that Jorah won, thus attracting his ill-fated wife, whose golddigging is what led him to sell people into slavery, which is why Ned Stark banished him and his father disowned him); the Hound’s not fond of Beric or Thoros (remember: fire worshippers, plus Beric did try to kill him that once); Jorah’s not fond of Tormund (remember: Northman, wildling) ... it’s just a fantastic stew of distrust and buried enmity, which Jon finally puts an end to by pointing out that they’re all on the same side because they’re all breathing.  It’s a great scene.

[24] There are several points where you can count the White Walkers, but it never seems to make much difference.  There’s always more of them in the next shot.  I thought I knew how many there were after the attack on the cave of the Three-Eyed Raven, but now there’s more.  Maybe they’re constantly minting new ones.

[25] This is another scene I’d totally forgotten.  It’s a pretty good death scene.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Birthdays are done for a while

Another March birthday season is in the books.  The little empress didn’t demand too much: take-out from Panda Express, and eat-in at Chez McDonald’s, avec Play Place.  I was required to cook my world famous potato soup,* and also to take out a second mortgage to be able to afford heating the pool for the first real swimming of the year.  Happily, we live in Southern California, so the water temp as of the last weekend in March was only 61 ... a mere 20° lift.  I’m sure it was only a several hundred dollar windfall for SoCalGas.  But, hey: when your baby girl says “heat the pool” ... whatchagonnado?

There was also a strawberry cake with strawberry icing and a metric shit-ton of sprinkles—which was way too sweet for me—and birthday donuts, and way too much Barbie spewage.  But she had a lovely weekend, and that’s all that really matters.

As with last year, there was a little bit of “birthday weekend hangover”: at 7 years old, it’s tough to have that amount of power for 2½ days and then lose it all just ’cause you went to bed and woke up again.  But she’s worked through it this past week and I’m pretty sure she’s back to Norman now.  Next year, we do it all again.


* To be fair, it is only world famous because this blog post is visible worldwide, and I just talked about it here.