Thinking Man Reviews: Game of Thrones “Blackwater”

By Anthony Medina

**Be aware this review contains spoilers**

Season 2 Episode 9

“Blackwater”

“Those are brave men knocking at our door. Let’s go kill them.” – Tyrion Lannister

All season long fans of the HBO series Game of Thrones waited for a big flashy battle to satisfy an ever growing blood lust. Episode 9 entitled “Blackwater” finally delivers. But can a TV show budget really do justice to an epic battle? Can it meet our high and often unreasonable expectations?

Apparently the answer is an epic and wild fire fueled YES! This episode was an instant classic and delivered on just about every level. The scenery was beautiful, the effects were flawless, the characters were both depressing and inspirational, and most importantly the dialogue was immensely clever and memorable.

The Rundown:

We open on the naval fleet of Stannis Baratheon (Stephan Dillane) as they make their way across Blackwater Bay. In King’s Landing, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) makes the necessary preparations for the defense of the city. It’s clear however, that they will be vastly outnumbered and are likely to lose. Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), who will spend the majority of this episode drunk and bitter, makes her own preparations securing a vile of poison to ensure she is not taken alive. Lastly, we see Sansa Stark (Sophia Turner) who throws a few veiled insults at King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and goes to stay with the other high born ladies during the battle.

As the ships approach the two sides play music at each other (a great little scene) and Tyrion launches his first assault. Wildfire. The sea lights up with an enormous explosion of magical green fire. However, this only takes out the first wave and soon Stannis himself is leading the charge. What follows is a truly epic battle with all the blood and gore you could possibly want. Eventually, the Lannister forces are driven back and King Joffrey (the little bastard) runs away to his Keep. It’s now up to Tyrion to lead the remaining soldiers in a final stand against the invaders.

They charge out in full force but are unable to stop the horde of enemy soldiers. In the fighting Tyrion is injured (by one of his own men) and collapses to the ground. Just when it seems like all hope is lost. Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) rides in with House Tyrell at his side. They beat back the invading forces and Stannis is dragged away from the battle still screaming at his troops to stand and fight. Lannister’s win.

Thoughts:

This episode was AWESOME. But it’s not just the fight scenes that were amazing. Inside the castle, the increasingly drunk Cersei Lannister reveals quite a bit in her conversations with Sansa Stark. Cersei seems to reach out to Sansa but can’t help showing her bitterness and resentment. As much as people will talk about Tyrion in this episode, Cersei will not be far behind.

It’s important to note that “Blackwater” was written by George R. R. Martin, the genius author of the Ice and Fire novels which spawned this televised masterpiece. And anyone familiar with his work can see the clear Martinesque style wit present in the dialogue making the conversations and speeches even more memorable then all the flashy special effects.

I couldn’t possibly say enough good things about this episode and it instantly jumped up to be my personal favorite of the entire series. And if somehow you managed to not like this episode, then clearly you’re worse then Hitler, there I said it.

Thinking Man Rating: 10/10

HBO Goes for a Series Set in the Future…in Belgium?

…Wow. We can hardly wait to see a series set in Belgium, known for its…it’s…wait, wait, we got one: Known for Tintin! Yeah, we can’t wait to see Tintin’s home the way it’ll look tomorrow:

Deadline.Com says one of these guys is Michael R. Roskam, creator of this show. But not which one. Ouch.

HBO Orders ‘Buda Bridge’ Pilot Script From ‘Bullhead’ Helmer Michael Roskam; Michael Mann And Mark Johnson Exec Produce – by Mike Fleming

Michael R. Roskam, who got a Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar nomination last year for his Belgian film Bullhead, is at the center of a new HBO pilot script order, one which teams him with Michael Mann and Breaking Bad executive producer Mark Johnson. HBO has ordered a pilot script for a drama titled Buda Bridge, a Belgian-set crime story that takes place in Brussels in the near future. It unfolds when a woman is found dead on Buda Bridge, which leads to a series of violent crimes and strange science that bring mayhem to the dark capital of the European state.

Roskam is writing the script and will direct the pilot. Mann, who teamed with David Milch for HBO on the horse racing series Luck (which got cancelled following its second season renewal when multiple horses perished) is executive producer along with Johnson, whose AMC hit Breaking Bad is heading into its fifth and final season. Roskam will be co-executive producer.

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It’s gonna be fun seeing how long HBO keeps this one around after multiple Brussels sprouts perish bridges start blowing up. (Okay, so the Brussels sprouts joke doesn’t work, but the thing about the bridges, see, has to do with Michael Mann’s propensity for blowing up everything in his films and…)

Norman Mailer’s Life Coming to HBO

How many of you are asking, “Who’s Norman Mailer?”

Yeah, we weren’t sure either. Some writer our grandparents probably bought but didn’t read. (Hey, books were cheaper then.)

At any rate. HBO and Tina Brown, another superannuated literary figure (former editor of The New Yorker, a magazine a few people cared about back when a few more people cared about the city of New York) think Mailer’s worth watching. He did stab one of his wives, which, we suppose, TV folks think is cool.

Oh, and he worked on a project with a convicted murderer, which makes Mailer even more cool, right? So the film will be about that, the feisty Jewish writer with the NY Irish accent typing away in the cell of Jack Abbott, the even feistier Irish killer, creating the book The Executioner’s Song, which won Mailer a Pulitzer Prize.

Stephen Schiff will write the screenplay, putting everything into it that made his screenplay, WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS, such a big hit. (Seriously, the screenplay really was a big hit with those who read it; it’s just the film – the sequel to WALL STREET – that tanked.)

Our suggestion for the part of Norman Mailer: Tim Roth. According to people we know who are in the know (read: our Boss, LB and also The New York Times) Mailer and Roth have at least three things in common:

  • Both of them are/were short
  • Both of them are/were Jewish
  • Both of them are/were assholes a******s

Mission accomplished. We’re done here.

LB: One TV Executive Who Really Knows What He’s Doing

by Larry Brody

…Is Chris Albrecht of Starz.

Yes, he’s had some funky personal problems, but all my dealings with Chris have been professional and positive. In everything we’ve done together, he has shown himself to be a man of great taste, which is all I think we should expect from a guy sitting in big room in a tall building looking down at the city and giving notes.

Which means I’m interested in everything Chris has to say, including this:

Starz’s Chris Albrecht On Ending ‘Spartacus’ And Launch Plans For New Series – by Nellie Andreeva (Deadline.Com)

At the top of Starz’s portion of the TCA summer press tour, the network’s president and CEO was asked about the decision to end the costume drama Spartacus after the upcoming third season. Albrecht said he joined Starz when the network was editing the first season of the show. “When I saw the ending of the first season, I said: ‘Uh-oh’, Spartacus just exited the franchise; it exited the Upstairs, Downstairs aspect of gladiators and Romans living together”. With the gladiators taking to the hills and the Romans in town, “we had to tell two distinct stories, and that is never the ultimate way to do a TV series”, Albrecht said. The series also had to deal with the departure of beloved original star Andy Whitfield. “Ultimately, rather than trying to string the story with one more argument, one more villain showing up, we decided to follow the historic trajectory and bring Spartacus’ story to an end. Better leave viewers wanting more than diminish the overall impact of the franchise”.

Spartacus creator Steven S. DeKnight, who is under an overall deal at Starz, is already working on his next project for the pay cable network. “Steven just returned from Hawaii where he shot ‘proof of concept’ for a show he’s developed”, Albrecht said. That show is sci-fi drama Incursion, which Albrecht described as “Band of Brothers meets Halo” and involves a lot of creatures.

Albrecht also gave an update on Starz’s upcoming series. Da Vinci’s Demons, which is currently in production, is eyed for the end of first quarter or second quarter of 2013. The series stars Tom Riley as young Leonardo Da Vinci. The Michael Bay-produced pirate drama Black Sails is currently in pre-production in South Africa where standing sets are being erected with the goal to also build one or two boats. The series is looking at a launch in early 2014, possibly inheriting the Spartacus slot.

Marco Polo is “taking more time than the producers thought”. The series is still in the planning stage as “the challenge to make the series in China has proven as formidable as we feared”.

Noir, which just hired a third writing team, “ran into some creative challenges but…I’m very confident Noir will be on, just not sure when”, Albrecht said.

Positively Our Last Post About THE NEWSROOM

We swear!

How HBO Made It Look Like Critics Liked ‘The Newsroom’, by Jeff Bercovici

Critical reception of “The Newsroom,” Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO series set in the TV news business, has been generally cool. On Metacritic.com, which averages out reviews from all over, its score is a distinctly mediocre 57. Even those critics who’ve embraced it have generally done so with considerable caveats.

You wouldn’t know that from ads HBO has been running to promote it, though. A two-pager that ran in last week’s edition of The Hollywood Reporter, among other places, quotes breathless-sounding praise from The New York Times, Time and Salon, among two dozen outlets. Yet all three of the reviews those blurbs were drawn from were distinctly negative.

The quote from the Times, bannered atop the full width of the spread, reads: “Wit, sophistication and manic energy…A magical way with words…a lot of charm.”

Times TV critical Alessandra Stanley did write those words. But she also wrote, “[A]t its worst, the show chokes on its own sanctimony,” said it “ suffers from the same flaw that it decries on real cable shows on MSNBC or Fox News” and called the show’s central structural conceit “probably a mistake.”

Time’s James Poniewozik, summarizing his views on “The Newsroom” for non-subscribers, flatly declared, “I was not a fan.” Yet the ad makes it sound like he was, burbling, “The pacing is electric…captures the excitement.”

Salon’s Willa Paskin is quoted in the ad calling “The Newsroom” “captivating, riveting, rousing.” Here’s what she actually wrote: “The results are a captivating, riveting, rousing, condescending, smug, infuriating mixture, a potent potion that advertises itself as intelligence-enhancing but is actually just crazy-making.”

Then there’s Paste’s Aaron Channon, who supposedly called the show “remarkable…intelligent.” Here’s a more representative sampling of his review: “Compared to the standard established during the past several years by HBO and AMC, early returns on The Newsroom are disappointing.”

A scandal this is not.  Movie studios have been doing this sort of thing, and getting called out for it, for decades. And, to be fair, a number of the reviews quoted in the ad are genuine raves.

But twisting slams to make them sound favorable is not something HBO has done much of in the past, or needed to, with most of its shows becoming instant critical darlings. The last new HBO series to fare this poorly with critics was the short-lived “John From Cincinnati,” which got a composite score of 51 on Metacritic.

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Aw, Jeff, you had the fish, but you let it off the hook. Why, baby, why? Remember what Alvin Sergeant and Lillian Hellman say in JULIA: “Be bold!”