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Monthly Archives: April 2014

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It’s the biggest show on television at the moment and the one everyone’s been talking about ever since Sean Bean did what Sean Bean does and die in a piece of fiction. The critical acclaim around the show has intensified season after season and it now rightly sits in the pantheon of Greatest Ever TV Shows. Yet in spite of its monumental success, there’s always been a degree of criticism over the shows prevalence of tits and arses. Particular criticism has been levelled at its use of “sexposition” as a plot device, as well as the frequency of female nudity over male.

Both of these arguments have merit. I may not necessarily agree entirely or in the case of the sexposition even consider it a problem, but I can see the general point. However, this Huffington Post article by Osahon Okundaye on the sexual violence in Game of Thrones falls somewhat wide of the mark for me.

Apart from seemingly quite oblivious to the nature of the books and not being a frequent viewer of the show, Okundaye misses the point in several key aspects of his argument.

His opening gambit about the timid prostitute that the Martells deal with is somewhat convincing. She is quite clearly unwilling and Oberyn’s disrobing of her is unnecessary except to give the impression that he’s capable of being a bit of an arsehole. And yet I feel Okundaye maybe misses a larger point, which is Thrones’ use of the Happy Hooker cliché. To my memory, this is the first one we’ve seen who’s somewhat unhappy about her job. Now of course viewers of the show would know that Littlefinger owns the King’s Landing brothels and the one thing he can’t stand is a “bad investment”. Perhaps a bunch of happy prostitutes is management orders, kind of like a kinky Disneyworld.

His second and main point regarding the tavern girl at the end being sexually assaulted by Polliver and his men is a larger issue and one which I have a problem with in his assessment of. I wouldn’t for a second claim this isn’t sexual violence as it quite clearly is. However I would argue its presence in a fictional world is not necessarily a bad thing.

His breakdown of the scene is either based on personal opinion or is a case of 2+2=5. He says: “It cuts to a medium shot of a groping soldier repeatedly fondling her chest for way too long.” Now, I’ve rewatched the scene I have to disagree. The camera passes over it but it’s by no means the focus of the shot.

Where I really must object is in his next paragraph: “These few minutes of excellent dialogue are ruined by the guards we can still see groping that poor woman over Polliver’s shoulder. They add nothing to the crucial dialogue, so why are they there? Who is enjoying this detail?” Again, not only is this pure opinion but I would also argue he’s missed to entire point of this scene. Does the assault of this girl add anything to the dialogue? No. But does it add to the scene? I would say it does. As with every other instance of sexual violence in the show I can recall, it exists to make the viewer uncomfortable. You aren’t meant to enjoy it. As for saying it adds to nothing to the dialogue, I don’t even get that as a complaint. Part of what makes Game of Thrones a cut above the rest is that stuff goes on beyond the dialogue.

That scene is also all about Arya and her journey down a dark path. When these men are killed, we aren’t conflicted. These aren’t just men following orders or commanded by a monster, they’re monsters themselves. Seeing them put down by the Hound and Arya personally makes me feel somewhat satisfied.

What really adds insult to injury is that this guy has even had a chance to ask George R.R. Martin about this! And he’s still not satisfied despite an entirely reasonable answer. His solution would seemingly be for Martin and the showrunners to have Thrones exist in a world entirely at odds with the one they’re trying to reflect. Martin is on record as saying that this story is loosely a War of the Roses allegory, only with dragons and monsters beyond The Wall. Certainly the universe is meant to mimic early-to-mid second millenium Europe, with certain aspects more primitive and others nearer the Renaissance. “Instituting gender equality,” as he suggests, would not only be a total departure from this period but it would utterly ruin many of the main female characters plot arcs. Arya, Brienne, Daenerys and Cersei’s journeys would be infinitely weaker for such a move without a patriarchal society to fight against. It would also defeat the point of this very idea as these are some fantastic feminist characters that would be destroyed with that same pen stroke.

It’s more than reasonable for a person to have a problem with the sexual violence in the show. There’s a lot of it and if that bothers you I don’t blame you. But you can’t misrepresent what happens or project your own opinions in an unfair and ignorant way. Saying stuff like: “at best, it obscures the plot and at worst, it makes a real evil look attractive,” is purely trolling. If anybody finds the sexual violence in the show attractive that says far more about them than it does the show.

If Okundaye finds the sexual violence in the show repugnant then Jesus Christ, I hope he never reads the books…

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Unfortunately those tracks turn out to lead to cannibals, but you can’t have everything.


 

I think it’s fair to say that The Walking Dead is a hit and miss show. Apart from a largely excellent first season, each season has had one good half without much to write home about in the other. The first half of season two was a complete mess, the second half excellent. Season three started strong before going off the boil and that trend continued into season four. The two Governor centric episodes aside, season four had a fantastic opening. The plague storyline allowed for Herschel’s character to grow and culminated in his brutal murder at the hands of the Governor. And yet in the latter half of season four the episodes have flip-flopped more than an indecisive trout.

As viewers, we’ve been blessed with fantastic episodes like Claimed and The Grove, but suffered through the unremitting bullshit that was Still, with varying shades of mediocre in-between. It’s perhaps not surprising then that the finale was approached with some trepidation on my part. Not helped at all by the experience of the season three finale, Welcome to the Tombs. Thankfully we were treated to one of the best episodes of the series so far. Easily the best since Clear in season three, maybe even the best since the pilot.

It’s been a long road to travel for the show to get to this point, not least for Rick Grimes who finally seems to be in a place where he can be seen as a competent, decisive leader. From season one he’s had people in the group holding him back. From Lori’s constant hen pecking to Shane’s insubordination to Dale’s naivety. The only person whose caution and gentleness has really aided Rick’s evolution as a leader is Herschel. In showing him he doesn’t have to be a warrior all the time, Rick’s turn from benign to brutal when necessary is all the more notable.

Nowhere is this more evident in the scene near the start of the finale with the showdown with the Marauders, Joe’s pack of wandering hicks and nutcases. I’d argue it’s one of the best scenes the show’s ever done and it shows how Rick has evolved to be a true survivor and one who isn’t to be fucked with. One minute he’s sitting round the campfire with Michonne. The next he’s ripping out a guy’s throat with his teeth and cutting his son’s attempted rapist from balls to brain with a knife and stabbing him 20 times for good measure. It’s a scene that in previous seasons would’ve had Lori whining “she doesn’t know the person she married anymore” or Dale castigating him as a “danger to the group”. Yet the way these characters have developed over the years has hardened them to true steel and any less of a reaction would feel weak and a betrayal of these characters as survivors. And it’s hard to argue that the show is worse for levels of violence these people are capable of.

In stark contrast to the violence of Rick’s group is the cunning trickery of the residents of Terminus. As soon as you see Tasha Yar cooking huge slabs of meat on the barbecue at the end of the previous episode it’s pretty obvious they’re going to be cannibals. Despite what we’ve just seen Rick do, there’s still that line in the sand that you don’t cross. You simply don’t eat people. Daryl may have found the Marauders code rightly stupid, but that’s a rule you can really live by.

What makes this episode stand out amongst other great episodes is the quality of the writing and directing. Showrunner Scott Gimple has been responsible for some of the series’ best episodes (Pretty Much Dead Already, Clear, This Sorrowful Life, The Grove) and combined with Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones alumna Michelle MacLaren you can be sure this won’t be a standard episode. The shot selection is smart, scenes blend together naturally and there’s great foreshadowing with Rick teaching Carl about the snare. MacLaren also gets a great performance out of Chandler Riggs (Carl). Working with child actors is always a risk and we’d not been blessed with great performances from the two girls playing Lizzie and Mika throughout the season. Riggs’ acting could so easily have been a weak spot in this episode if directed by someone else.

For so long what’s held the show back is AMC’s seeming reluctance to splash out on consistently good writers and directors with a proven track record. Look at some of the episodes from this season and their writers and directors. Curtis Gwinn, writer of Dead Weight also wrote for such high quality drama such as NTSF:SD:SUV and Fat Guy Stuck in Internet whilst Julius Ramsay, director for the worst rated episode of the show on IMDB in Still, had never even directed before. It’s ridiculous that for a show with such potential and aspirations and that’s making a ton of money for AMC they aren’t getting in people the likes of HBO take for granted.

Hopefully for season five AMC will let Scott Gimple have much more of a say in the way the show goes and doesn’t leave him hamstrung with financial constraints. I get that they had to deal with one hell of a mess following Glen Mazzara’s stint in charge, but with a whole season of his own there’s no excuses now. They’ve set up something great with Terminus, a strong group of survivors (shit even Tara’s tolerable now she’s stopped with the fistbump nonsense) and a darker direction. If they manage to screw it up from here, they’re in trouble.