The Long Night Rewatch (Spoilers!)

It’s been almost a week, so I will be freer with details than I was when I watched it the first time. The episode was chaotic and dense enough that I opted to watch it again this morning before tonight’s new episode airs.

I liked it even better the second time.

I am not remotely unhappy or even especially surprised by Arya’s role. In retrospect, it was not only telegraphed during the episode, but was also what drove her sometimes odd story arc throughout the series. In the “making of” after the episode, they talk about knowing it’d be her for at least three years. The question the wife had was whether that dates back to when they had the sit down with GRRM to have him disclose to a key group what his plan were for the various characters and ending, or whether this was an independent decision. If the latter, it makes one wonder if in the books who does it will ultimately matter less than what comes after, or other events. Speaking of what comes after, I see tonight’s episode as almost a part two (probably the first portion amounts to that, realistically, then it goes in the direction of what’s next) showing aftermath, spread of knowledge of details, and reactions. If one wanted to build a false myth and redirect away from her skills, they could fake that Jon did it, but they’d have to think of that fast.

I had actually meant to post thoughts on how we might not be done with the proverbial Dark One and, as such, not done with Rand AKA Bran having an important role. In the Wheel of Time, (spoilers!) the Dark One turns out not to be a corporeal being, but rather the ethereal personification of entropy. The God of Death, in a sense. The Dark One (DO) employs minions and an agent, or avatar, to act out in the world, with circumstances that allow the DO to touch the world making him increasingly able to do so. The Creator has an even less direct role. The Dragon is the person who acts as the Creator’s champion; the savior. The DO is represented by Ishamael, later resurrected as Moridin. Rand, Dragon Reborn, defeats and finally kills Ishamael, but this doesn’t defeat the DO.

The nature of the Night King is such that he was just going to kill Bran physically, once they were done staring at each other and doing whatever was connected with that, which may have been something virtual or astral. They are both connected to the Weirwoodnet and are greenseers to some degree. But was the Night King the Dark One, or was the Night King the avatar of the Dark One, who is ultimately unaffected by his avatar’s unmaking? If the force the Children of the Forest harnessed in creating the Night King always existed and continues to exist, well, it may have to take a long rest, but the proverbial wheel still turns. If that’s the case, is the GoT version of DO still able to touch the world, or is he the equivalent of trapped away until next time in a few thousand years when someone drills a bore into someone’s chest with obsidian at a weirwood tree?

I loved the echo between Lyanna Mormont and Arya Stark. I loved Lyanna’s heroic demise. She saved a lot of people from that giant and was every bit the badass we knew she’d be.

Arya was delightful to watch as she whirled through wights. It was fascinating to see the long game center on her, with her as much the agent of the Lord of Light, Creator or whatever the force of good, life, or anti-entropy might be as Bran was. Action element and mystic element separated between two people.

If Bran was manipulating things all along in the past to make sure events played out as they did, we may yet see some of that depicted on the show. I’d be surprised if there’s not at least a little cleanup of that entire plot line. I’d also be unsurprised if there’s not reason for him to contribute to how the politics goes, or to prep things for some long in the future repeat of the battle with evil.

I noticed this time the echo between Sam and Jon. Sam was almost useless and might as well have been in the crypts to get attacked by undead late in the episode. Yet he fought bravely enough, enough of the time, to have survived, if not without some hiding or cowering. Edd died protect Sam, and maybe that was as much Edd’s role all along as Baeric’s with Arya. And to different degrees Mel’s and the Hound’s, though the Hound remains with us. Toward the end there, all the badass fighting by Jon was for naught. There was as much hiding, cowering, confusion and despair as there was accomplishment.

The charge of the light brigade, as it were, was brilliantly done to show what they were up against. Melisandre made the Dothraki literally forces of light, so you could see them swallowed and extinguished by forces of darkness. I was fascinated by Melisandre’s greeting to Grey Worm.

House Mormont is no more. Jorah went out as a heroic badass in exactly the way we might have expected. Sam’s sword was incredibly useful. Perhaps that was tied to the depiction of Sam as being not especially useful. He owned the weapon, not the skill, and he knew it.

Melisandre had ways of knowing things, so it was no surprise for her to dredge up “not today.” What’s fascinating in retrospect is why Jaqen H’ghar was in King’s Landing in the first place and why he took Arya in as a trainee, then let her decline and leave once she’d passed the test. There have been theories about him all along. He was supposed to kill Ned but it was moot. He was Syrio. That sort of thing. It makes sense that she’d be prepared to do what needed to be done later, but someone would have needed to know. Was Bran manipulating people? Was H’ghar working with the forces of R’hllor?

What else? Been working on this off and on long enough to have lost track of things I might have been thinking.

I wasn’t surprised the Night King wasn’t harmed by fire. He was supernatural in origin. He had to be unmade at a weirwood, in just the right way. I loved the look on his face when the flames cleared.

I’m waiting to see Varys have an actual role this season, and a fitting death. We know it’s coming, after Mel predicted it. Will we ever learn what he saw in the flames? I wonder if he will be a traitor.

Anyway, can’t wait for the next one. I’ll update this or mention it later if I see something glaringly missing.

Update:
I haven’t rewatched that part to catch it myself, but I saw an intriguing catch from when Jon was facing off with Viserion and he seemed a bit lost. Apparently he stood up an yelled at the dragon, which would seem to most an odd mode of attack. Allegedly what he yelled was “go!” He apparently had seen Arya waiting to get past the dragon and used distraction to allow her to get through at the right time. That certainly changes things. I’ll have to look for it.

Game of Thrones 70 (Likely Spoilers)

At least, idle commentary that might allow you to extrapolate enough to constitute spoilers.

First, I actually went back to HBO Go to see what the episode title was and am astounded that it is listed as Game of Thrones 70. I’d been referring to it as Battle of Winterfell leading up to the episode, because, well, that was what it was expected to be and what it was. It’s almost as if the actual title was supposed to be inserted where a placeholder had been, and someone forgot.

Next, if you watched it you can guess at what key moment I yelled out “YES!” loudly enough to be heard through the wall and closed door from the other room. Not what I had expected, but not something surprising either.

After last week’s episode when Bran made himself sound like Rand Al’Thor and the Night King sound like the Dark One from Wheel of Time, I wondered if there would be some degree of virtual jousting between them as if the Godswood at Winterfell was Shayol Ghul and this was Tarmon Gaidon.

I feel like I need to rewatch to be sure I caught who did or didn’t survive more accurately, but I will probably see that information detailed soon enough by YouTubers. There were three super appropriately heroic deaths that were clear, and another that was both heroic and explained a lot. Or raised questions.

I really can’t say much without outright discussing it. It threw a ton of theories and deeper stuff out the window, overall. Maybe not for how the books will do things when they select someone to finish them in a decade or two after Martin has pulled a Jordan but less untimely and with slower writing.

Update:

I haven’t checked HBO again, but others seem to be referencing an episode name of The Long Night. That would make sense as a name, since it was essentially all over the course of one night.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (Spoilers)

Wow! We knew Martin had been a fan of Wheel of Time, and friendly with Jordan, but somehow I never pictured it quite as starkly as Bran being the Dragon Reborn and the Night King being the Dark One. All the “break the wheel” stuff, with a different meaning of course, last season drove me crazy because of the direct lifting of the term by the Game of Thrones show writers. Seeing Bran describe himself as the latest incarnation of the enemy the Night King needs to defeat in order to bring on endless night was perhaps the most glaring parallel there’s been.

Anyway, what a great episode, for all it’s a setup episode for the big action, and for all it continued to tick boxes of what we wanted or needed to see. When I saw the title, after the ending of the first episode, I figured it was Jaime-centric and he had to be the knight in question. I mean, obviously that much episode and stuff needing to happen would mean it couldn’t all be about him and updating the folks at Winterfell on his actual story. I just never expected the Brienne angle.

They continued the people showing up, being together for the first time, or after a long time, maybe the last time. It was chilling, some of the scenes where you might guess a death is being foreshadowed, or especially where “you’ll be safe in the crypts.”

Gendry! And now she knows. Both things. One might have fun with the fact that they represent elements of Mat and Perrin.

Daenerys learned the truth at arguably the best possible time, in the best possible way.

I was expecting “burn them all” to come up. Bran and Jaime went about as expected, if in somewhat of an afterthought way, since Bran was right he couldn’t have disclosed it to everyone.

Little Bear is brave. A shame she’s going to die.

Theon’s story has become fascinating to me. I know ultimately he saved her, but I wasn’t expecting the warmth between him and Sansa. Let alone the part with Bran.

I have to wonder if Bran and Night King will end up having a virtual duel alongside the physical fighting, as in A Memory of Light. The parallels aren’t exact, however much I make of Bran being Rand. In some ways, so is Jon, who is also Perrin, even though Gendry is also Perrin. Jon is certainly a reluctant king.

The little girl made me think of Shireen.

I expected fireworks with Tormund and Jaime being in the same place with Brienne.

Anyway, I actually want to watch this one again. I’ve never watched a second time, but there were a few words of dialogue I missed due to uneven sound. Next week is the big one! An entire episode devoted to battle, and at that it might leave us on a cliffhanger that concludes in episode 4. We’ll see. Episode 6 will have to be the conclusion and epilogue post Night King, and episode 5 will presumable be whatever battle follows that at Winterfell. It may be that there is a battle involving the dead after they defeat Winterfell and move south while the living flee. It may be that the dead are defeated or close enough next week and the rest is about Cersei, the throne, and the political fate of Westeros. Throw in fixing the seasons, if defeating the Night King doesn’t take care of that, and you have a bit more to tell.

At Least I Can Watch Game of Thrones

Somewhere along the way, Comcast talked the wife into adding TV and we got a lower bill for internet service that way. It’s pretty much basic plus HBO. Unlike The Orville now that Disney owns it and wants to punish Comcast’s customers, I can actually watch Game of Thrones on the web.

Despite Martin’s problematic writing of great concepts, and my resulting inability to read the first book, as if it were Winter’s Heart or Crossroads of Twilight, but without excellent context to keep you slogging, I absolutely love the show. I didn’t watch it really, apart from some clips, until after the first six seasons had aired and a guy I used to work with ensured I was able to see it. He later did the same for the seventh season, before he left us for parts unknown.

I fell asleep early last night, in response to that being closer to my normal schedule anyway, and my having gotten too little sleep Saturday night. I woke in the wee hours enough to stay up for a while and watch it.

Of course it was thrilling to see it again after the hiatus, but there were a lot of obligatory moments, and at times a feeling of dialing it in, that weakened the episode. Still, there were many things that needed to be done or checked off and it was well presented for doing so. There were the meetings of people who haven’t been together in a while, or have never been in the same place. Arya and Gendry flirting was everything the shippers could want.

What I don’t get is Bronn. I can’t remember the setup from the previous season that left him in King’s Landing and working for Cersei. WTF? Obviously I missed something, and I find it hard to believe he would actually do the thing she asks of him. Mercenary, yes, but we’ve seen he’s more than that.

Bottom line: I enjoyed it and can’t wait for more.

Time for a Reread?

Someone on the Wheel of Time group on Facebook posted a question about the consequences of something that happened near the end. I didn’t remember that thing happening. That might mean it’s time for a reread.

I read the first five so many times it’s ridiculous, since when I first read those books, they were all that had come out. I’ve read the sixth one a lot, but after book 8 I no longer did a reread prior to each new release. That made “the slog” even worse. The slog is when you get to books 9 and 10, and arguably 8, and it… just… drags… while the pieces move around the chess board. In book 11, Jordan’s last complete one before he died, I said “Jordan’s back!” It was classic Robert Jordan, back in good form.

What I found when I finally did a reread of the entire series was that the slog isn’t as much of a slog when reading start to finish without waiting for the next book. There actually are super exciting and consequential things that happen even in the worse of the books, since – and this has to be hard when writing such a series – each volume has a climactic conclusion, even if nothing seems gripping before that.

It has been a couple years or so since my last reread. I think I have read the final book twice, but maybe it’s been three times. That one needs it more than normal, and if nothing else, it’d be worth my picking that one alone up. Since then, being largely broke and hating what publishers have done to book prices, I have been reading mostly indie books on Kindle. Great discoveries, that way. For instance, I’ve never read a Christopher Nuttall book I haven’t liked, and mostly more than that, even when I go into it thinking I’m not so sure this is my thing. That reread, of all the books I have in paper format, took something like six months. The complete thing is a big commitment. I’m tempted to get them all in Kindle format, but they are one of those things where you don’t save much money by saving the publisher  100% of their marginal cost of publishing a book.

Anyway, even when I read the first ones, I sometimes see something I missed, and I always find I forgot the exact order of events or little details. It also changes it to have read to the end of the series, since there is a crazy amount of foreshadowing.

It’s a shame I was unable to get though even the first Song of Ice and Fire book, Game of Thrones. I love the series and the idea of the books, and appreciate the rabid fandom and the details I learn about the books from YouTubers, but to me GRRM just wasn’t a very good writer. It’s better to be a writer who’s as “not very good” as him and wealthy from your work than it is to have nothing more than ideas that may never make their way to print. That doesn’t make it any easier to slog through it, and it doesn’t make it any easier to pick up the book, open it, and recognize whether I have read a given passage or not on my last attempt. I’d drop it without marking my place and not be able to tell where I was. I could open it to later in the book, start reading, and not recognize that I had missed anything. I’ve never experienced anything like that.

Perhaps next winter, when I’m especially broke unless the pattern changes, I’ll reread all or some of WoT again.

As for the TV series, I am worried. I love the idea that it’ll be brought to life, but it could be a disaster so easily. It just feels too much like it’s being done to be done, by people who may not love or understand the books. It requires massive condensing, and it would be easy to mess that up, just for starters. We’ll see. I’ll be watching and no doubt commenting vociferously.

Sequel

I was thinking never mind a remake. A sequel could have been interesting. It could have answered some questions that will be left forever up in the air about what happened after, or it could have continued to leave ambiguity while still picking up later.

It could have been a bit like having a sequel to The Cutting Edge, another favorite movie of mine. Figure skating meets romantic comedy! What could be better? Besides something that resonates with my own childhood as dramatically as Melody manages. You come along later in their lives and they’re married. Hijinks ensue with their own kid and/or themselves. Times change. Kids not entirely. That they married for real would be some vindication, without regard for how they arrived there after whatever hell there was to pay for the antics at the end of the original.

Of course, in fan fiction anything could happen. A while back I saw someone posit a scenario where they find themselves at Hogwarts via the trolley. Surreal. Or you could put them in a post-apocalyptic situation. TEOTWAWKI could hit while they are off on the trolley, and they are fending for themselves, trying to get by with the clothes on their backs. Pure fantasies of whatever variety.

Skipping ahead would certainly fit the storytelling pattern of the movie. Just as we never see what happens when Daniel collapses after winning the 220. His mother panics! Get the medic! Maybe we don’t need to do more than infer just how traumatic it was for everyone to get their lives and schooling back to something passing for normal. Maybe we don’t need to know how the kids became married old miseries. They just are, and we revisit old friends later in their lives. Ornshaw graduates Top Gun, becomes a hero and gets to return there as an instructor. Wait, wrong movie. Since he’s actually smarter than the teachers, he goes on to become one and show how it’s done. Daniel becomes famous for his art. or at least struggles to make a living at it other than by illustrating Melody’s stories she writes for children.

Or we could throw them together years later, after they’d been torn asunder. Their love will never die, but if they are separated for a while, it takes the right circumstances for a reunion and a more adult romantic comedy before they actually live happily ever after together.

None of which is exactly where I was going with this. The wife started talking and had trouble stopping, much as happens too often when I start typing.

If you go with the Heinleinesque scenario of all realities existing even if they are fiction in our own, then there’s a very real alternate reality, timeline, dimension – whatever you care to call it – in which the events of Melody happened. Number of the Beast, but we’re not in Oz anymore. We don’t know anything about the fine details of that reality in the parts we didn’t get to see, or that came after, but they are happening to those people in that world. Except in the many worlds theory, we have infinitely branching timelines in which any little variation that could happen does happen, each propagating a new universe. Some seem familiar, even indistinguishable. Some seem utterly alien. It takes so little to make a change. A movie that’s released in 1971 and flops in the United States instead does well and makes stars of the people involved, or bigger stars of the already famous ones. That’s a huge ripple through time. Tracy Hyde becomes a household name. She has more and bigger roles. She never becomes a legal secretary. A ten year old boy who’s not entirely different from Daniel Latimer sees it and his life is changed. A far cry from seeing it 47 years later than that and feeling zealously happy yet wistful. Might not be as big a change as we’d have if that movie George Lucas released in 1977, you know, the space one, hadn’t flopped, but… oh wait, that one didn’t flop.

If you put those two concepts together, then every fiction is its own timeline, and every one of those varies and branches infinitely. The one captured by the purveyor of a piece of fiction in our world is just the one we know, not all that could be. Imagine that Icy Hot Song if Ned never lost his head. Or if Avienda, I mean, Ygritte, survived. You know nothing, dear readers.

Seriously, though, a sequel could have been fun. It would have required greater success of the original. While there’s been a great deal of inspiration provided by Melody, despite its cult status, giving us things like Moonrise Kingdom, since most people never heard of Melody, most people wouldn’t care to follow the rest of the story. A shame, but there it is.

1971 Was so long ago, I had to check with my siblings to see if we maybe had seen Melody. As expected, it was no. Never heard of it. I figured that the possibility existed that I could have seen and forgotten it. I doubt it, though. Much as I love First of May and Melody Fair, neither of those came to my attention until later in the seventies. I’d have known them from the movie. The thing is, I know for a fact that we went to see Flight of the Doves in 1971. I remember it being a big deal to my sister. That was yet another Jack Wild film. Yet all I can remember is that I saw it. I remember nothing about it. I remembered parts of the Planet of the Apes movies vividly. My father took as to all four, regardless of whether they might have been age appropriate. I think of myself as having an excellent memory, but things do get spotty from my youth. That wasn’t the best year ever, either, since my father had left in early 1970 and the divorce would be final in the latter part of 1971. Ironically, 4th grade was an exceptional school year for me, and that was 1970-1971. I had both my first crush on a peer, Carol, resembling Melody, and a crush on my pretty blond math teacher. I crashed in 5th grade and had one of my worst school years.  I’ve mentioned it before, but seeing Melody right when I had that first crush in Daniel-but-shyer (and younger) fashion would have been fascinating.

I’m rambling. (I know: “No kidding! You just figured that out?” Heh.) I should be asleep and instead I’m going on and on without saying anything further that pertains to the post. So I’ll stop and survey the damage now.

Modernizing Films and Shows

My youth, too. This is a topic I thought of long before discovering Melody, and had thought to write about in conjunction with it. I just remembered that when I sat down and started to read my unfinished book from a couple years ago. The very beginning holds up better than I had thought it would, for all I had been thinking of making substantial changes that would introduce the characters and modern location more fully. A tiny snippet:

Ben grumbled. He didn’t like camping much in the first place, so why should he have to help load the car with last minute supplies from the basement?

“Come on Ben, you dork!” His older sister, the older older sister, was probably no happier, but at least she loved camping. He was only in it for the swimming. Carrie put on her backpack and followed Lydia out the door and down the stairs.

“Fine,” he said grudgingly.

 By the time he got down two flights of stairs, he had almost caught up with his more enthusiastic siblings. They were at the back of the open part of the basement, looking at the shelves where odds and ends were stored.

 Ben noticed light glowing from under the plywood door to the landlord’s storage area and thought that seemed odd. Nobody ever went in there, and the landlord certainly wasn’t around just then. As he approached the girls, Carrie threw an unopened tarp package at him.

 “Here, carry that to the car,” she ordered.

 He picked up the tarp and the bag of snacks he’d dropped while trying to catch the unexpected missile, turned around and stopped cold.

 Not only was the light under the landlord’s mystery room door brighter now, but also the door was ajar. He had never seen it open. It was normally locked. Presumably it was locked. He had never checked it out. Why would he? But now…

The connection here is that they are going to find themselves in the past, but with one piece of modern technology.

What if the events of any given movie from the past were now? How would you write the same scenario? How amusingly or distressingly would that truncate the plot?

In Melody, phones are barely a thing. They exist, and toward the end are used, but people don’t seem to use them casually, or even have them if they are lower class or poor. Not like it’s the ancient past, after all. If I’d had a crush in, say, 1972, in theory I could have picked up the phone and called the girl, if I could obtain her number. It’s just that I wouldn’t have dared. I didn’t call my junior high crush until after I’d already made, in my eyes, a fool of myself. She liked me a lot but didn’t *like* me, and wasn’t bothered by my foolishness the way I am (decades later, we are friends on social media).

Now? Kids are online, depending on parents and age. They have phones after a certain point. I could say much about the wonders of being young now. The sum of human knowledge at your fingertips? I get absorbed sometimes for hours online, learning things, surfing from one topic to the next. I’d have been in heaven. Timid about calling? Where you might write a note decades ago, if you thought of it, you can write an e-mail or a text. It can spread embarrassment at the speed of internet, but hey. The tools for communication and knowledge are so much better, if less charming than alerts whispered across a room from kid to kid.

This happens in written fiction, too. Wheel of Time would be dramatically less drawn out with instant communications. It becomes more compressed and actions more effective as speeds of travel and communication improve in the manner they do during the series.

I’m so stuck on Melody, I am having trouble thinking of old enough examples to be deeply affected if you updated for internet or ubiquitous smartphones. It’s funny to picture the kids in Melody rushing home to get on their Xboxes to play online games with each other, but that’s a possibility. But then, it’s hard to imagine how one might put internet and a game console where people like the Perkins lived. Under those conditions, what kids would be excited about hanging out together in an overgrown cemetery?

I was thinking I should do a series of posts inserting new technology into old stories to imagine something along the lines of how it should have ended. We’ll see. They’ll need to be less lame and more coherent than this one, if so.