Monday, May 20, 2013

Weekend Reviews!

Well played, Moffat. Well played.
So long, Doctor Who. See you again on Nov. 23rd. You know, if you'd asked me a few weeks ago, I wouldn't have thought I'd be so excited for you to get back. I mean, this season--not just the half-season, but the whole thing--has been kind of disappointing. Especially for a new fan who bulldozed through the excellent runs of Chris Eccleston and David Tennant on Netflix, only to run into the gradually faltering adventures of Matt Smith.

Not that I think Matt's a bad Doctor. The show, under Stephen Moffat, has just gone a different direction than the one Russel T. Davies was taking it, and I preferred the latter's style. (Which seems strange to me, given how frickin' awesome Sherlock is.)

But with the reveal of John Hurt as... well, we don't really know what, yet, I'm suddenly in dire need of a TARDIS of my own so I can find out where they're going with this. Coming up with theories about the direction of a show's overarching plot is always a fun mental exercise--see Lost--and I've already come up with or seen a number of really potentially exciting ones. Is this the Doctor's final regeneration? Is it the original man, before he took the name of the Doctor? Is it a "lost" regeneration, between the incarnations we knew as Eight and Nine, the man who fought and won the Time War?

(Seeing as the latter theory came from a possible leak on the show's writing staff, it's most likely that one.)

Whatever the case, I'm thrilled. John Hurt's a damned good actor, and man, that intensely sorrowful, weary expression along sold me on his character. I want to know his story. I want to know what he did that was so terrible that the other versions of himself have shunned him. And I suspect he'll bring an element of gravitas that the show's been sorely in need of for a long time.

But enough about that; let's get on to the actual reviews.

Doctor Who: The Name of the Doctor

So, yeah, I kind of liked this episode.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I have nitpicks. Not everything worked as well as it could have, and there are some changes I might've suggested had I been in a position to be listened to by, well, anyone. But the overall impression the episode left on me was extremely positive, and the deal was sealed by the reveal of John Hurt's mysterious character.

Even before that, though, there was goodness. River played a big part, appearing as a sort-of-computer-ghost-thing (after she died back in Silence of the Library, the first and last time she met the Doctor) and got a really touching, heartfelt moment with the Doctor that I enjoyed greatly. Also, based on her "spoilers" comment? Pretty sure she and Clara have a closer relationship than she let on. I'll expound on this further in.

As always, Strax is awesome, and he really got embrace his dwarfiness in this episode. I mean, going to a bar in Scotland and picking a fight with the biggest bloke you can find? All he needs is a little viking cap and a beard, and we can start calling him Straxli. Gimtrax? Hm.

I also really liked the design of Trenzalore, particularly the giant TARDIS monument that turned out to actually be the TARDIS with all its "bigger on the inside" circuits broken. Also, interesting bit: the new crack on the box's window, made during the crash landing, is identical to the one on the giant, dead TARDIS. Permanent damage? Hmm.

I'm once again in the minority in actually really liking how they did Clara's "flashback" sequences. Yeah, it looked a bit silly and stylized, but it worked well enough. At least for me. I can understand why some purists might be angry about inserting her into the lives of every past Doctor, particularly by making her the one who convinced him to steal that very particular TARDIS, but I didn't really mind that. I was too busy waiting for her to bump into "Bad Wolf" Rose. /rimshot

On the downside, though, there were a few weak points. First and foremost, the Great Intelligence and his minions. I mean, the minions themselves were effectively creepy, but... if they were supposed to be the Big Bad, if the Intelligence had been plotting since the 19th century to find some way to completely defeat the Doctor, why haven't we seen hide nor... well, cloth of them since "The Snowmen?" They weren't any kind of looming threat, there was no greater arc trying them into this finale, they just sort of showed up and went, "Hey, remember us from six months ago? We're here now."

There also seemed to be a missing scene between Clara regaining her memories about being the "Impossible Girl" and she and the Doctor arriving on the main deck. I know, edits had to be made, but it was pretty noticeable and jarring. Heartbreaking revelations one moment, heroic "ha ha, we have found you, villain!" the next. Bit odd.

Finally, well, the whole Clara thing. Like I said, I don't mind the concept, and I actually liked the execution. It just could have been done better. Everyone knew what Clara was going to have to do the moment the Doctor explained the consequences of entering the... glowy... thing. (Actually, wasn't that technically his corpse, sort of?) And yet they kept delaying and building it up, and it went from dramatic to a bit obnoxious as the minutes ticked by. We all know you're going to do it, Clara, just get on with it.

That said, I'm interested in seeing the fallout of Clara's actions, and I have some suspicions as to what they might be. I think, and maybe this is a bit abstract even for Doctor Who, Clara became sort of the "all-companion." She didn't always reincarnate as a girl who looked like Clara, in other words. Or maybe just a bit of her got mixed in with all the others who traveled with him. So there's a bit of Clara in Rose, in Martha, in Donna, in the Ponds... and in River. And River knows this. And thus, "spoilers."

Okay, yeah, that's probably way too far out there. I'm just gonna leave this here on the off chance I'm right, though, so I can point to it and shout "I TOLD YOU SO!"

Game of Thrones: Second Sons

Wasn't Daario black?

I mean, in the books, Daeny always describes him as being this exotic, dark-skinned dude with a colorful beard. I always sort of pictured Dennis Rodman with better taste in facial hair.

Then again, a glance at the Wiki of Ice and Fire (yes, of course that's what the series' wiki is called) shows most of the artwork of Daario to depict an olive-skinned Middle Eastern man. So maybe I'm crazy. But either way, I think we were all pretty sure that Daario didn't look like this dude.

Ah well, whatever. Almost ever change from the books so far has been for the better. I'm sure the show's runners know what they're doing. I was just weirded out by it.

Anyway, Daario aside, this episode also had a bit of Arya and the Hound (sounds like a Disney film, yet is very much not) as they headed towards the Twins. Arya, for all her death-worshipping talk, turned out to not have the guts to stone-cold (ha!) murder the guy when presented with the possibility of broken hands. And the Hound got to talk a little about his brother, telling literally the mildest possible story about him that he could. It's really a shame that we haven't seen more of Gregor Clegane in the show. The Mountain Who Rides is a scary dude. He, Joffrey, and Theon's buddy should all team up to form a travelling sideshow of psychopathy. They could call themselves the Three Culeros.

Elsewhere, Cercei regaled Margaery with the story behind "The Rains of Castamere." And hey, the next episode is titled "The Rains of Castamere!" Man, that's a weird coincidence.

Tyrion continued to prove himself a genuinely good guy, mostly. Forced into a very understated and rushed wedding to Sansa and ordered to impregnate her immediately, he instead got plastered, told her he'd never touch her if she didn't want him to, and slept on the couch. He also threatened to cut Joffrey's manhood off (and, theoretically, feed it to the goats), though this was largely unrelated.

And over at Dragonstone, we finally get to see good ol' Davos Seaworth again, safely returned from his voyage as captain of a Soviet submarine that would have sparked World War III if not for the Doctor. He's finally released from his cell, as long as he swears never to try to shank Melisandre again. She, meanwhile, was banging Gendry in order to leech his blood--not really sure why she needed to do that first, but whatever--and then used the leeches to cast spells cursing Rob, Joffrey, and Balon Greyjoy. (Theon's dad, remember him?)

I'm sure nothing will come of that. Nothing at all.

Finally, off in the North, Sam continued to be far more irritating and unlikable than his book counterpart. He still managed to kill the white walker--the same one that stared him down at the end of Season 2, I believe--but, unlike in the novels, the "dragonglass" (also known as obsidian) dagger didn't shatter in the process. Instead, he just left it lying on the ground and ran away. Yeah, Sam, I'm sure a reusable weapon that can one-shot the undead wouldn't be useful at the Wall. Good thinking.

All in all, some nice character moments aside, this was a bit of an unexciting episode. The writers are just moving their chess pieces around, getting ready for what's going to happen very, very soon. Next week, I imagine I--and everyone on the internet, everywhere--will have significantly more to say.

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