Game of Thrones, Season 7 Premier: Snap Reaction

Winter is here, and it’s about damn time. Daenerys sailed west, and it’s about damn time. Game of Thrones has always been thrilling and intriguing, but after six seasons it was time for the over-arching story to pick up speed. The time for pissing matches was over, the time for war had come.

The season six finale brought that speed and put the three characters in place who will fight to keep, hold and entrench power during seasons seven and eight. Jon Snow is King of the North, Cersei sits on the iron throne and Daenerys is about to make land in Dragonstone.

Good. It’s time for what we’ve been waiting to arrive and for the wait to pay off.

And now, thoughts.

Arya Stark is a serious bad ass. “When people ask you what happened to you, tell them the north remembers. Tell them winter came for House Frey.” Well alright! Arya’s mask is going to make her ultimately powerful, and I like the addition of more magic. But I hope the writers use it sparingly. A character with the ability to be any character is easily abused. I don’t want to sit her wondering if I’m looking at Arya or the real character.

Jon Snow as mining industrial dictator is going to cause problems, as is Jon Snow the king of equality. If his decision to not exact homestead revenge on the Karstarks and Umbers doesn’t cause unrest that undermines his kingery, these two acts will.

I look forward to watching Littlefinger (my favourite character on the entire show) try to fan the flames of a divide between Sansa and Jon. He enjoyed seeing her combat Jon over the traitorous Karstarks, and the look on her face after Jon declared that yesterday’s wars don’t matter betrayed more disagreement than their one-on-one conversations let on.

That’s Petyr’s influence, but don’t count on Sansa to knuckle under to his manipulation. She’s strong as ice, as evidenced by the way she told him off in front of Brienne.

Speaking of Sansa, I’m curious to learn more about the things she learned from watching Cersei. Sansa’s tough and Cersei’s cunning would be a formidable combination. I look forward to seeing that play out. Perhaps this “murdering whore” will get to confront Cersei and take vengeance on the evil queen.

The death of Jamie’s children falls almost entirely at Cersei’s feet. I’d love to see her relationship with Jamie broken and Jamie turn against her. The Lannisters are fiercely loyal to each other…well all except for one and Jamie hasn’t turned his back on Tyrion the way his sister has. Their conversation about dynasty shows he feels their deaths more than she does. It’s almost the reverse of the stereotypical war-mongering father and emotional mother.

Poor Tarly. All he wants to do is read but here he is cleaning shit pans. What’s his role here? How does book boy fit into the bigger battle? Does he figure out some historic secret to defeating the white walkers? He will bring the one who begins the memories to the war. Or find a mountain of dragon glass. That’ll do.

God I hate celebrity cameos. We all know that was Ed Sheeran. And it ruined everything.

What’s the legal drinking age in Westeros anyway?

Arya says she is going to Kings Landing and kill the queen. The boy soldiers laugh, but the audience believes her.

Oh yeah, the Mother of Dragons.

A picture of God

Deus ex machina.

God from the machine.

I avoid predicting television shows because viewers rarely have enough information to make good ones. I tried earlier this season with Person of Interest and it blew up in my face, so I’m loathe to do it again. But I will.

My prediction for the Person of Interest season finale is that Harold has to choose between The Machine and Samaritan.

I am pushed to the point of prediction by the dialogue surrounding Harold in the past two episodes. Look at some of these lines:

“I can’t help you make a picture of God.” – Grace said to Greer as he seeks information about Harold.

“Perhaps you can.”

This conversation between Greer and Finch was amazing.

“I want to talk about the future. And who more qualified for that conversation than the father of artificial intelligence?” – Greer to Finch while Greer has him captive.

“I’d always imagined it was about the power of creation.” – Greer

“Now your God has disappeared, operating on its own accord. Children can be so disappointing.” – Greer

“I’d be aware of false idols, Mr. Greer.”

“As the father of AI you’re the only one in the world that can destroy it.” – Greer. Noah? The flood? Anyone?

“Having built something significantly smarter than myself how could I possibly anticipate its evolution?” – Finch

“You’re a destroyer, not a creator,” – Harold. OH MY GOD.

“The father became fearful of his son.” – Greer

“I built the machine to save lives. But how could I be certain that it wouldn’t one day determine that all of humanity was irrelevant?” Finch, to Greer.

“It’s pure hubris to think that you could control something so powerful.” Finch, to Greer.

“That is the most important man in the world. The father of a new age.” – Greer about Finch.

Father, creator, evolution. Shows don’t run up to their season finale with dialogue like that by accident. Greer’s search for Harold has now spanned two seasons and it will come to a head in a season finale entitled Deus ex Machina. Making Harold the subject of all this talk – the one who created this intelligence and imparted into it his humanity – leads me to believe he is approaching his moment of truth.

Covering my bases:

In the midst of a double-bogey this morning I was thinking back to the end of last season. The Machine went into “God Mode” and spoke directly to Root and Reese after shutting itself down due to a virus unleashed by Decima. Everyone converged on what they thought was The Machine, only to find out it had dissembled itself and shipped its components off to parts unknown. We still don’t know where it went, and it hasn’t been very much of a subject this season. I doubt that facet of the story will be brought up in this season’s finale, too.

But it got me thinking. God from the machine. The Machine evolved from what Harold first created. It knew enough to hide from Root, then it initiated an “analog interface” to use Root to prepare for what she (The Machine she, not Root she) saw coming, which we now have to believe is Samaritan.

There’s a literary meaning to deus ex machina that symbolizes when a story suddenly comes together in such a preposterous way that it is almost comedic. Writers try to avoid it for that reason, but it doesn’t have to be that literal for the season finale. It can mean The Machine does something no one – Harold, Greer, Collier – expects. Something like take herself apart and ship herself somewhere else.

One last thing bugs me from the most recent episode: Who sent Collier that text? He just found out his brother committed suicide for wrongly being accused of a crime by The Machine and – bam – he gets this text from someone who claims to be able to tell him what happened. My crackpot theory: The Machine sent it to start the process that will end in the season finale. My even more crackpot theory: Samaritan did it.

We’ll find out Tuesday.

Lionel’s redemption

It’s not a spoiler to say Lionel Fusco is in trouble. The trailer for the three-part Person of Interest sweeps series puts it right out there for us:

I love Fusco, you love Fusco, we all love Fusco. But, like the best ice cream cone you’ve ever had, Fusco is melting under the heat of HR. That was a painful analogy, and I’m sorry for making it. I was going to do up a long preview post, but this piece from TV Guide online covers most of it. Jonathan Nolan goes out of his way to not confirm that Fusco is the odd man out but he’s not fooling anyone. Take this statement:

“We promised all of our actors a journey with their characters. And a journey means a beginning, a middle and, sadly, an end.”

Fusco is the only character who meets that condition. He began, like Nolan says, as a bad guy. His journey began when Reese flipped him in the pilot and later, in season one’s Blue Code, kept him as his eyes and ears inside HR. He spent the next two seasons not fully in but not quite out. He had every opportunity to turn on Harold and Reese (and even his partner, Detective Carter) but he didn’t. Why?

The answer is found at the end of Blue Code. After being caught accessing the file of an undercover cop, a guard on HR’s payroll marches Fusco out to the woods. With a gun to his head, Lionel says:

“Think you’re the first person to ever put a gun to my head? Ever been shot? The craziest things go thru your mind. Glad I put on clean underwear or hid that stash of porn. Sorry that you’re son had to find out his old man was a dirty cop. Then you realize you’re gonna die. You try to go down doin’ somethin’ good. You wouldn’t know about that would ya you dirty sack?”

That is the arc of Lionel Fusco. He thought his death was at hand in the series premiere as a dirty cop whose truth would crush is young boy. From that moment on, under Reese’s direction, Lionel made his mission “to go down doin’ somethin’ good.” With his Endgame now becoming evident, I hope his death is a heroic one. I am certain that when we see Lionel’s final moments he will be content to know that he completed this journey of redemption for his son.

One last tidbit. The first episode of this three-part series is titled Endgame. The episode near the end of season two that saw Fusco finally and fully break from HR’s grasp? In Extremis, or finality at the point of death. From the moment Carter and Bear moved Detective Stills’ body to keep Fusco alive, his fate in the show was sealed.

Week 2 update:

The only thing I could say after last week’s episode was

As Carter drove to the judge’s house to get the warrant for Quinn’s arrest I felt like the show pulled a great misdirection on us and was going to kill off her instead of Fusco. The judge was crooked, and as they stepped Joss onto the tarp I screamed at my TV, “Reese? REESE?!?” Having the rug pulled out from under my assumptions like that is one of my favorite things a show can do to me. Much to my relief, Reese was waiting outside but after clearing out Quinn’s goons he made a disastrous mistake: He got caught on a squad car’s dash cam. (I thought he had been sloppy all season in his appearing at crime scenes to talk to Carter.) Simmons, who I hope really gets good and dead during all this, found it and put a hit on him. This week’s episode deals with Reese’s number being up.

But let’s be real: They aren’t killing off Mr. Reese. It’s still going to be Fusco and it appears that it will be tonight:

I’m leery of making predictions but I can see at least two tactics HR could use to put Lionel in grave danger. First, he knows how to contact “the man in the suit” who is now atop HR’s hit list. By forcing him to choose between his life and Reese’s, Fusco would get the chance to prove that his mortal loyalty is to good. Or, HR could get wind that he has a key to the safe deposit box where Carter stashed copies of everything she learned about the organization. Give up the key or die. If I had to bet money I’d put it on the first one.

In this extended clip from CBS, Michael Emerson said the writers gave him three scripts for who could be the one.

So we will have to wait until the very end to see it. I am just glad it is happening this week, not next week when I’ll be at my parents’ house. I will surely cry for Lionel and I don’t need them to see that.

Image credit:

Feeling for Revenge

It was really hard to come up with something to write about Revenge. I re-read a piece I wrote after the season finale and re-watched the two-hour episode to get in the right mindset to think about what will be a make-or-break third season.

I got nothin’. Even though I really liked the finale and believe booting Michael Kelley was the right thing to do I can’t come up with any emotion for the season that premieres Sunday, September 29. Why not?

Maybe it is due to the teaser ABC released showing Emily being shot in the abdomen. She gets shot, but does she really? She doesn’t appear to bleed, in fact the impact appears to give off black residue as if it hits some kind of matrimonial Kevlar. I grew to loathe these teasers during Lost because they are put together by marketing departments with the goal of making you watch the show, not writers with the goal of giving a glimpse of what will happen.

I am not up for being teased and misled. Maybe someone wants Emily dead, maybe someone wants someone else to think Emily is dead. We will find out. What is not happening, we can be absolutely sure, is that Revenge is not killing off its main character. Trying to make us think it might is insulting to our intelligence.

Maybe there is a silver lining here. After Emily appears to fall off a yacht the narrator says, “and that’s just in the first 60 seconds.” A lot of people met the second season with discontent as the story meandered in too many directions, but I think the show really started to slide halfway thru its first season. A reminder of how the show began: The first scene of the series premiere was Emily and Daniel’s Labor Day engagement party and what appeared to be Daniel getting shot on the beach. The rest of the episode and first half of the season was a flashback of everything that happened from Memorial Day until the party. Everything worked perfectly for Emily’s plan as she took out one enemy after another. Of course it did. For the show’s purposes, all of it already happened. Some of it was a little far fetched, a little too perfect, but we bought it because it had to have happened for the engagement party to happen.

Once the show caught up to that first scene, things changed. It didn’t have that anchoring moment to build up to anymore. The story had to be told in real-time, and it really began to falter. My hope is that this teaser is a sign the new showrunner will model the first season’s structure and, by extension, get back much of what it lost. If not that then at least a different creative way to shake up the show.

It lost more than its storytelling prowess, though. Its characters sagged. Nolan lost all of his mojo after falling for dear dead Padma and ended last season in jail for the blackout and bombing at Grayson headquarters. Actor Gabriel Mann said Nolan gets his sex on in season three, so presumably his time in jail doesn’t last long. Good. The whole Padma storyline and his sudden rivalry with the hacker Falcon need to be two things the show jettisons from its lackluster sophomore season.

The same goes for Victoria. She was neutered by Conrad becoming the one who plotted Fauxmanda’s downfall and death and further diminished by his run for governor. The show needs her to be the cunning, protective mother she was in season one. The son she gave up for adoption came back in the finale, how will that affect her? Will she be as protective of him as she is Daniel and Charlotte, or will the humiliating way he was exposed knock her off her game entirely? Let’s hope the show has a real purpose for him, the last thing it needs is a useless new character.

Conrad is the governor. He takes a spill in the teaser as if he is having a stroke. That would be cheap. I really feel the show bungled The Initiative’s presence last season. Now that he revealed his role in it to Victoria and Daniel, is it over or will it ascend to a bigger role with the governor and the head of Grayson Global in its confidences?

What about Daniel Grayson? Will he accept what Conrad did and what it means for him? What does it mean for him? It is time for the young Mr. Grayson to become more than Conrad and Victoria’s son. He deserves to fully establish himself as his own person, and the show needs him to. Ousted showrunner Michael Kelley is rumored to have wanted to shorten Revenge into a 13 episode run similar to most cable serials as opposed to the 20-plus episodes of most network shows. He lost that fight, so his successors will have to rely on deeper characters to fill all that time if they intend to reduce the amount of sprawl in the storyline. A better Daniel character can help them do that.

And, no, I still haven’t forgiven them for killing Declan.

ABC, Michael Kelley and most everyone involved with Revenge admitted it went awry in season two. Hopefully that recognition and the new lead writer will get a once a very enjoyable and saucy primetime soap back on track.

I guess I did find an emotion: Hope.

Thinking ahead: Criminal Minds

This will be my first season watching Criminal Minds in-season having only seen it on Ion and A&E reruns. I made the decision to watch last year’s season finale because 1) I knew it is the kind of show you can jump into mid-stream without feeling lost (pun…intended); and 2) I heard they were going to kill off one of the team. Unfortunately that turned out to be a bit of an oversell as it was Strauss who bit the bullet at the hands of Hans Solo. Not really what I was expecting and, frankly, kind of a cop out. I generally do not subscribe to the theory that killing off a character is gimmicky but in this case it clearly was exactly that.

Because Crim is a procedural there isn’t much to think about before the season. If there is one thing I would like to see it is that the writers would crimp into Garcia’s data mining abilities. She is every bit the electronic snooper that Harold Finch is on Person of Interest but her methods are simply a means to an end for Criminal Minds. I want to see this for two reasons. First, the more I watch the show the more “hand of God” her work seems. Her ability to pull up exactly the right person through the most exacting and bizarre search parameters is often too much to be believable.

Here is an example. In season seven, episode 11 Hotch asks Garcia to find everyone in a region with an IQ higher than 120. Then she is cross referencing Zodiac Killer researchers with high-level chess players. I mean, come on.

How they might throttle her back can be found in the second reason: The NSA spying revelations resulting from Edward Snoden’s stealing and subsequent leaking of government documents. Garcia only acts when the BAU is chasing an unsub as opposed to the NSA’s blanket surveillance but the limitless pools of data she is able to tap into and the relative ease with which she does it make an easy comparison. I would love to see a case where her work incorrectly identifies an unsub and leads to her being sidelined or severely crippled in what she is able to do. How the team does its work without her would be interesting to see. Except for when she was shot (by Longmire’s Bailey Chase, no less) she has been one of the show’s most constant characters, right up there with her dark chocolate, Derek Morgan. Let’s shake it up a little.