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The Orville – S01E02 & 03

You know what’s extremely annoying? Bumping around the time slot on shows, especially new shows, like The Orville. This is especially true for new shows. The Good Place did this last year and Episode 2 basically got lost in the flow after it’s “1 hour premier” then “On the regular time slot”. Anyway, thankfully, there is on demand, where you can’t fast forward through commercials like you can with the DVR.

I’m not entirely sure if I will continue talking about this show weekly, but I did want to at least do a follow up after last week’s Episode 1 write up. The show has definitely managed to shake off some of it’s “Pilot Syndrome”. The humor is more subtle and the actual plot lines are much more substantial. Surprisingly, there is actually a bit of continuation of plot lines across episodes. During Episode 2, it turns out Bortus, the Not-Klingon dude is having a child, which takes him out of the action for the duration of the episode, but transforms into the plot of the third episode. I honestly didn’t expect any level of over arching plot to this series, so this is a surprising twist and frankly, bodes well for the potential staying power.

Apparently it’s getting panned by the Critics however. It seems like everyone was hoping or expecting “Family Guy in Space”. Instead we get Star Trek with some humor. Granted sometimes it’s dick and fart jokes level humor, but a lot more it just feels like people making jokes occasionally. Instead of “everyone is all duty all the time” Star Trek, we get a bunch of folks working on a star ship being people. Which is kind of nice.

Also unlike Star Trek, there isn’t always a happy ending solution. The third episode involves Bortus and his mate’s baby. Bortus is a Moclan. They kind of come off like Klingons, but mostly for being gruff and stern and brooding, less so for being party animal warriors. Moclans are also all male. I mean it’s not quite the right description since they are single gender, but having a pair of “gay Klingons” is entertaining all on it’s own, if only because it’s a different juxtaposition of ideas. It also works well since it’s just the way they are, being aliens. It turns out that they aren’t so single gender as one might think, just more that females are extremely rare, since Bortus has a baby girl. The plot of the episode revolves around the decision whether or not to change the girl into a boy, a common Moclan procedure, given their culture. While there are some revelations, the ending doesn’t really turn out how one might expect since they opt to go through with the procedure.

Because culture really is a hard thing to shift. You’ve got an entire species of alien who has been doing this for generations. They aren’t going to deus ex their way into making the “good choice”. The better part is that the show doesn’t come off as some preachy sappy pandering piece for rights of the baby or whatever. Good arguments are presented for both choices and the reality as it were is that these aliens are not humans. The great example used is that humans correct a cleft pallet, they just do it. Moclans see this gender issue in pretty much the same light. It’s not a problem to do the procedure, it’s a problem not to do the procedure.

I’m looking forward to more of The Orville, I just kind of worry it’ll get canned for not being Family Guy enough.

The Orville – S01E01

So the obvious comparison here, is of course, Star Trek.  The story I’ve heard is that Seth MacFarlane has wanted to do a Star Trek series for a while but CBS has told him no, so instead, he’s not making The Orville, for Fox.  A better comparison is probably the movie Galaxy Quest.  Both are not quite parodies of Star Trek.  I say not quite because while both have their comedic elements and take their queues from Trek, both have their own little ideas and both have some level of trying to be serious behind them.

I kind of worry that this mixture may end up being the downfall of The Orville in the long run.  The Family Guy/Seth MacFarlane audience is going to expect a constant barrage of comedy, something that this show doesn’t really offer.

Yet.

Yet is definitely the possibility here.  Personally, I hope the show steers more into the serious side.  I’m not a huge fan of the Star Trek reboot films, and I’m not sure what Star Trek Discovery will bring, but this show definitely feels more like the older Trek when things were a bit more fun and less super serious all the time.  I say “yet” because this first episode definitely reeks of classic Pilot Syndrome.  It doesn’t quite know what it wants to be and half the episode is devoted to introducing the cast with a kind of flimsy plot tacked onto back end.

I do have to say the resolution of the actual plot and threat was pretty clever and did a nice job of wrapping together several of the previous elements that had popped up during the show.

I also don’t mind the comedy.  I don’t watch a ton of comedy TV these days and have not watched anything from Seth MacFarlane in years but I do enjoy it.  The little side comments and commentary worked well, some of the more random gags, like the guy working on repairs in the window at the end of the episode, not so much.

The cast all were pretty enjoyable.  There’s definitely potential in each of them to have some fun chemistry and interaction.  Some of the effects felt a little off but that is probably a result of Pilot Syndrome as well as the lower budget comedy series nature of the show.

I think a lot of my ultimate enjoyment of this series depends on what directions it heads off into in the future.  I’m not sure the Trek formula, even as a parody, works too well if things remain too episodic.  It kind of needs some level of world building, that’s what makes it fantastical and enjoyable.  Without the backdrop of the universe, I’m not sure that a bunch of random jokes making fun of Sci-Fi really will work in the long run without getting repetitive.

 

Game of Thrones – S07E07 – The Dragon and the Wolf

So, the season finale.  Though there were only 7 episodes this season, the last two have been longer so it’s sort of like getting 8.

The first half of this episode deals with the fallout from last episode, specifically, the meeting of our two groups for their negotiated truce.  Cersei caves essentially immediately after seeing the dead solider, but she demands Jon not take sides between her and Dany, which he’s already done.  So they have a little disagreement and Tyrion goes and convinces Cersei to side with them.

Euron Greyjoy, for all of his grandiose behavior, immediately runs away back to the Iron Isles, after learning the dead army can’t swim.  I have to wonder if this will come back to haunt him, The Iron Isles are pretty far north, it’s possible that during the long winter, they could become less of an island and more of a hill in the middle of a sheet of ice.  Probably not so much though since it was all a ruse for Cersei to send him off on a little fetch quest for more men in the form of The Golden Company.

Jon and Theon finally have a little heart to heart chat, Jon basically tells Theon that he’s a dick and he should go back to being a Greyjoy, even though he was brought up and treated right by the Starks.  Not in so many words, but you know, Theon basically betrayed Ned Stark and his family.  No redemption for Theon.  Except he’s still trying real hard for it as he heads back to his men to try to convince them to help rescue Yara.  I’m kind of inclined to agree with his men, Even if Euron hasn’t killed her, they aren’t any match for the Iron Fleet or Euron Greyjoy.

Meanwhile Littlefinger’s little games come to a climax finally.  Sansa finally wakes up to his constant lying and deceptions, though it’s not entirely clear if Bran simply told her the reality of the situation (he can basically see all time now or something) or if Arya convinced her of the reality of the situation.  Whatever the case, it’s used as a vehicle to wrap up a few loose ends somewhat unceremoniously.  Basically Littlefinger was behind driving Catelyn Stark and Lysa Arynn apart, he conspired to kill Jon Arynn, and he tried to kill Bran Stark.  So Arya cuts his throat.

The growing tension between Jaime and his sister also finally reaches an climax.  Jaime finally voices a lot of his concerns with her crazy obsessive behavior and Cersei basically tells him she’s pissed for his disloyalty.  She sort of threatens to have The Mountain kill him, but he leaves without a fight.

Then of course the final official reveal of Rhaegar and Lyanna.  Sam comes to Winterfell and has a little chat with Bran, and they put the pieces together about how Jon Snow is really the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryan and Lyanna Stark, and that is real name is Aegon Targaryen, and that he is the true heir to the Iron Throne.

Finally, the army of the dead makes it to Eastwatch and they use the captured undead Dragon to bring down the wall.  Except now the dragon has Ice breath instead of fire, wouldn’t that just reinforce the wall?  I don’t know.  Chances are the 7 kingdoms will be pretty safe though, it took the undead army a very long time to walk the little bit from Hardhome to Eastwatch, at this rate it will take at least 3 more seasons to even reach Winterfell.

So on the season as a whole.  It’s been, pretty good, though it feels less and less like Game of Thrones as it started out.  There were barely any meaningful deaths, for example.  There were plenty of chances.  I like Jaime, but having Cersei kill him would have been a very classic GoT move.  Ser Jorah, Tormund, most of the band that went north to capture the undead soldier, they could have all been killed off at any point with no real impact.  The whole thing is starting to feel a little watered down.  Everyone left feels like they are covered in layers of plot armor with no real threat feeling like much of a threat anymore.

Everything is becoming really predictable too.  I mean we have one season left, so, the army of the dead will march on Winterfell, which will probably fall, they all will retreat to King’s Landing where Cersei will have Euron and the Golden Company waiting, they will have to beg for help or whatever.  Still, plot armor.  Everyone seems too protected.  I can’t imagine too many others aside from The Mountain, Cersei, Euron and maybe Theon end up dying.  Maybe Tyrion and Davos, just to give the “Good Guys” someone to kill off.  I doubt Jon or Dany get killed, they are obviously being built up to sit together on the Iron Throne in the end.

Game of Thrones – S07E06 – Death is the Enemy

So, despite the pretty cool little battle, despite the extra long length, despite the little fellowship of heroes, I have to say, I found this entire episode really unsatisfying.  I think the main part is just, is a shinning example, of all of the nitpicky problems with the series this season.  Problems that are easy to overlook and ignore, except when they are all crammed into one episode.

There were two focuses here plot wise, the mission to capture one of the undead soldiers and the drama between Sansa and Arya.  I’m going to touch on the Arya/Sansa thing first.  I like Arya, but she has taken a sudden and weird turn.  Maybe she isn’t even Arya, with the whole Faceless God thing going on, but she seems needlessly sinister.  No, she and Sansa have never really gotten along, and no, I don’t like Sansa, but Sansa seems to be reverting to her spoiled winey princess Sansa from the early episodes a lot and Ayra is just suddenly evil.  She all but threatened Sansa for starters, like literally “I can just take your face and become you”.  She also seems to be making rash and unjustified actions over that dumb letter she wrote way back in like Season 2, asking Rob to side with Cersei.  The letter was years ago, and she was clearly under a ton of duress and basically a prisoner.  The whole situation feels a little ridiculous.

There’s some speculation that Arya will go to King’s Landing for the little meeting as Sansa, and she will kill Cersei, which would make some sense.  The whole prophesy thing is that Cersei will be killed by the Volenquar, which is “little Brother”, but they keep pushing how Arya, despite being a girl, acts more like a boy, not to mention she could end up taking the face of Jaime or Tyrion for the actual act.

Anyway, onto the who Fellowship of the Zombie, or whatever.  There was a lot of little chit chatty conversations pushing the story of the these characters along a bit.  My problems all tend to come from the battle.  For starters, the group ends up trapped on an island surrounded by the dead.  They somehow survive this for the time it takes for Gendry to run all the way back to Eastwatch, for a Raven to fly to Dragonstone, and for Dany to fly from Dragonstone to the north.  It’s all very contrived, and not awful in itself, except it’s not the kind of way this show has been run from the start.  It’s very “TV Show convenient” instead of “Epic Game of Thrones Fantasy”.

The battle itself was very confusing, confusing because people kept dying, except no one “important” dies, there seemed to always be a convenient nobody that showed up out of nowhere to be killed.  Like literally from nowhere, the scenes surrounding the events would just show our heroes, when someone needed to die, it would be some noname FreeFolk soldier.  Well, aside from Beric’s buddy.  It seemed really clear he was the patsy even last episode because he’s the one I didn’t immediately recognize as anyone.

I kind of feel like this group was just too protected by Plot Armor.  For example, there was a close call with Tormund.  There really isn’t any reason Torbund couldn’t have been killed off in classic GoT style, aside from fans like pairing him up with Brienne.  Beric would be another one to be disposable, aside from they never really explained very well his purpose to keep being revived.  Then there was Jon’s “death” which served absolutely zero purpose than to suddenly make Dany decide she loves him I guess.  A better rework, Jon is close to being killed, Beric jumps in and saves him, now Beric had a purpose, save Jon, the obvious contender for future king.  They even have connections through The Lord of Light.  Instead Jon gets saved, literally from nowhere by Benjen, who rescues him, then sacrifices himself for Jon’s escape.  Like I said, “TV Show convenient”.

It’s just sloppy.

They made a big deal about how this season would be 7 episodes but be more epic, it just feels rushed and too compacted.

 

Game of Thrones – S07E04 – The Spoils of War

So yeah, definitely one of the best episode of the series, though if I had them all laid out there might be better in there somewhere.  I kind of feel like the clear simplifying that’s been going on is really helping things a bit, there’s isn’t anything going on over seas anymore really, there’s not random places we don’t really care about like Dorne or Riverrun.  This particular episode essentially just had three main events, and all of them pretty good.

Firstly was Arya Stark’s return to Winterfell and her reunion with Bran and Sansa.  Arya has long been one of my favorite characters.  Her entire story is very adventury and has had so many twists and turns.  She’s also turned into this crazy bad ass assassin killing machine along the way.  Everything here was so well done.  Her getting stopped at the gates was a nice reflection on how she’s been treated in the past.  Her and Sansa meeting again, despite not really getting along in the past.  Even while it’s clear Sansa is less of a snobby bitch, Arya is still making jabs at her over the whole Lady Stark thing.  The reunion with Bran and her receiving the dagger from Bran seemed like a bit of foreshadowing as well.  This knife very likely belonged to Jaime or Cersei, who are the most likely people who ordered the assassin against Bran.  How appropriate would it be if that dagger were to be used against that very same person in the long run end game of things?

Then there was her little sparing match with Brienne.  Both so similar in their desire to buck the normal trend of Ladies but both so very different in their methods.  And such a contrast in fighting styles.  They both clearly enjoyed it and it was nice to see Brienne not stop halfway to apologize for kicking over Arya.

The middle act was a short scene with Jon, once again trying to convince Dany to help him fight the Night King.  She still says not until he bends the knee to her, so, in the end, not much has changed on that front.  Theon also returned from his crushing defeat at the hands of Euron Greyjoy, and ran into Jon, who was not particularly happy to see him.  Seriously though, FUCK THEON.

Then we wrap up with quite possibly the best battle of the series.  Everyone last season was raving about Bastard Bowl, but this battle was definitely better.  The battles in general keep getting better, I remember being supremely disappointed by how tiny the Battle of the Blackwater felt.  This battle, despite just being an attack on Jaime’s little convoy of gold, felt pretty grand.  It’s an interesting pairing to be sure.  Jaime has the Lannister Army, but it’s not super clear if he has all of it, the best of it, I imagine there ares some left in Highgarden and some still in King’s Landing.  Meanwhile, they are facing the Dothraki, who are not as well armed and armored, but they are much more berserker in their fighting style and certainly not any sort of force that the Lannister soldiers have ever faced.  This kind of cuts both ways though, since the Dothraki likely haven’t faced a ton of heavily armored soliders.

Then there is the dragon, and Dany.  Definitely something Jaime and his men have never seen or faced.  The dragon alone could probably have wiped out the entire force.  Maybe.  as Bronn demonstrates late int he battle, the dragons are not as invincible as everyone thinks.  I imagine that King’s Landing will be outfitted with a great many of those giant catapults on it’s battlements in preparation for the inevitable attack by Dany’s forces.

What I particularly liked was how the battle kind of had me rooting for Jaime and Bronn.  The Lannisters are arguably the “bad guys” in the series, but I rather like both Jaime and Bronn.  Cersei is evil, these two are more just along for the ride.   I’ve also never been particularly fond of Daenerys either, though it’s clear the series is pushing her to be a top level hero character I’m supposed to love.

There was also a bit of possible set up and foreshadowing going on with Bronn.  Before the battle, Bronn was complaining that Jaime still hadn’t given him a castle yet, as promised.  While he seems to enjoy hanging around with Jaime, he also seems to be getting a little disgruntled at how things are going.  He’s essentially in it for the money, he’s not necessarily loyal to the Lannisters.  Keep in mind, that he started out in the service of Tyrion way back in Season 1, Tyrion being on the other side of the battle here.  Then there is Jaime, who, while loyal to his sister, seems to be getting increasingly frustrated by her crazy.  They no longer have any kids connecting them to each other either.  He’s also just learned that Tyrion was not responsible for killing Joffrey, which was the catalyst for Tyrion ending up in prison and killing their father and basically siding with Dany in the first place.  Perhapse something may come of all of this in the next episode,  considering both Jaime and Bronn survived the battle.  Then again, Jaime did try to run Dany through with a spear and Bronn did shoot Drogon with a giant crossbow bolt, so Daenerys likely isn’t going to be in a very forgiving mood if these two end up being prisoners.  There could be another angle here though, Tyrion kind of owes Jaime for freeing him before, Tyrion also seemed to have a bit of regret while watching the Lannister army get slaughtered by the Dothraki.  Perhapse Tyrion may end up betraying Dany and returning to King’s Landing.

 

Game of Thrones – S07E03 – The Queen’s Justice

A lot of talky set up in this episode, though it’s still all good stuff.  The opening chat between Deaneries and Jon was particularly great.  Both standing their ground against each other, both justified in their position against each other, both wanting each other’s support.  Layered in was the pretty good reunion of Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister.  I particularly love when Tyrion was complaining that Jon makes him look like he is a failure at brooding.  Ultimately Jon and Dani both come to a bit of understanding of each other’s position.  Dani grants Jon the right to mine Dragon Glass, though she does not pledge her support to Jon’s cause.  I kind of wonder what she will think of Jon when she learns of his true heritage.

On a side note, there is also a little interesting conversation between Varys and Melisandre, it’s very cryptic but it helps push my little theory more about Agents of the Gods or whatever you want to call them.  These two are definitely two of those, more than meets the eye lurking int he shadows bunch I mentioned a few week ago.

Euron returns his prisoners to Cersei, much to her joy.  The justice she dispenses to Ellaria Sand is pretty good, though the scene is a little clunky and repetitive.

Meanwhile Sansa Stark is showing her leadership prowess again in the North, with concern about how much food stock there is to last through the long winter.  At least someone is thinking ahead, sure they need to survive the Lannisters, and the Night King, but they also need to survive the Long Winter itself.  and unfortunately War consumes a lot of the resources needed to survive.  We also get a nice reunion between Sansa and Bran.  Sansa suggests he is still Lord of the North but Bran doesn’t want the job now that he is the Three Eyed Raven.  Sansa really doesn’t seem to want Jon in charge, which feels like it might become a problem in the long run.

Things wrap up with Dani’s forces taking Casterly Rock, and rather much more easily than expected.  It turns out it’s a bit of a trap.  Euron Greyjoy had swept in behind them and torched the ships that they arrived on, trapping the Unsillied forces on the main land.  Meanwhile most of the Lannister force was off with Jaime Lannister taking Highgarden.  Jaime grants Lady Olenna an easy death, though they have a little chat about how evil Cersei is, and in her last moments, she reveals to Jaime that she knew Joffrey was his son and that she was the one who killed him.  That’s one little mystery solved, though honestly, while tyrion was tried for the crime, she was the one I suspected was the real culprit.  It was pretty obvious that it wasn’t Tyrion to be sure.

I wanted to wrap up today’s post with a bit on Jaime Lannister.  Most of the villains of this series, for who they are, are pretty despicable, with the exception of Jaime.  Oh yes, he has done some disreputable things in his time, but for the most part, he’s just doing his best to do his job and deal with his sister.  He has proven repeatedly, like with Lady Olenna, or when he took Riverrun, and with Tyrion, just to name a few, that he has some level of sympathy and is not really cruel.  Basically, despite being on the “bad guy team” he’s still pretty chivalrous and just does what needs done.  There seems to be a lot of build up to him betraying Cersei, though who knows how that will turn out for him, or Cersei.  He isn’t too happy about Tommin or how the throne was claimed, he doesn’t really like how Euron’s playing out, there was the nudging by Lady Olenna before her death, there’s just lots of set up to provide doubt in Jaime’s mind about the way things are going.  Also notable, because they pointed it out this episode, he has a sword of note, since it’s a Valyrian steel blade.

 

Game of Thrones – S07E02 – Stormborn

Dragonstone, Stormborn, this season certainly has some Daenerys themed names for it’s episodes. Things are certainly moving quickly with new alliances and everyone seems to be against Cersei Lannister, with good reason really. Even with those who may still believe Joffrey and Tommen were the proper heirs to the throne, I really don’t see any scenario where Cersei has any rightful claim to the throne. I don’t know the exact line of succession but surely there is some uncle or cousin or something that would be next in succession.

Daenerys gathers together her allies and lays out her plans to take Casterly Rock from the Lannisters while the others lay siege to King’s Landing. Unfortunately, Yara’s fleet encounters Euron’s Iron Fleet mid transport.  Things don’t go particilarly great and Theon abandons his poor sister to Euron, so much for his redemption arc.

Melisandre also shows up and advises Dani to align with Jon Snow in the North. Kind of convenient since Jon is on a quest to get Dragonglass from Dragonstone, where Daenerys now sits. unfortunately the other houses of the North don’t feel the same way and don’t trust the Targarians or Tyrion Lannister.  Jon insists that they need Dani’s army and dragons to defeat the Night King, and heads south to pledge his allegiance to Daenerys.

We also got a nice little reunion between Arya and Hot Pie. I’m not sure we have seen Hot Pie since Season 2. As well as a reunion with her wolf, Nymeria.  Hot Pie suggests she head north to meet with her brother Jon, which she does.  Apparently killing Cersei isn’t all she wants.

Game of Thrones – S07E01 – Dragonstone

Arya really got a lot of good moments here, we get a secondary wrap up with the Freys. Jon and Sansa seem to have a bit of friction going on but things are rolling along alright in the north, we get some Sam moments at the Citidel, and it seems not all is well between Cersei and Jaime in King’s Landing. I have to say the moment with Arya and the Freys was a little bit disappointing, if only because it was so incredibly obvious what was going on. We know she killed Walder last episode, and we know she can replace people, and here we are, suddenly Walder is alive again.

Poor Sam, it seems that living in the Citidel isn’t quite what he had hoped. He’s spending his days cleaning up shit and putting away books int he library. It seems being a maester is less glamorous than expected. Meanwhile Euron Greyjoy is trying to court Cersei in exchange for his armada, and promises to bring her a priceless gift, which I suspect is a dragon (yeah right, that will happen). I know the show is known for doing the unexpected, but there is no way after 6 season of build up Dani and her army will be defeated by Euron and these Iron Fleet jokers given how much of a nobody he is in the grand scheme of things. Not to mention Dani has already demonstrated that a Dragon is not a slave and basically won’t listen to some random loser.

We also got a bit more with The Hound, Sandor Clegane. It’s not real clear what role he has yet to play here, though I suspect it’ll involve his brother, Gregor, aka The Mountain aka Cersei’s big intimidating possibly undead body guard. Poor Sandor really has nowhere to go, pretty much everyone on all sides hates him with good reason. Unlike Theon Greyjoy, he doesn’t really seem to be interested in trying to redeem himself.

Then of course there is the dramatic return to Westeros of Daenerys Targaryen.  I guess this is the end of the Essos moments and Slaver’s Bay.

I want to wrap up with a bit of speculation. There are a few characters, Sandor Clegane, The Red Woman, Lord Berric, they all are sort of peripheral to the whole grander story, but also keep reoccurring and coming back. They also often have some association with The Gods. I almost wonder if there is something to this, like these people are special, possibly even direct agents of The Gods perhaps, though they may not be aware (though some more aware then others, such as The Red Woman). Like these handful of people will ultimately serve some higher purpose, together. Only time will tell on that one though.