Movies & TV Shows

Tywin Lannister and subtle symbolism

tywin lannisterWARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR EVERYTHING RELATED TO GAME OF THRONES!

Game of Thrones is praised for many things: the brilliant casting of roles, the fresh take on an already interesting story, the fantastic locations and more. However, like in many pieces of art, the true brilliance lies in the little details, and George R.R. Martin and the creators of the show have put quite some effort in hiding subtle symbolism throughout the show (which Martin already did in the books), and one of the characters they like to use for that is the always threatening Tywin Lannister, head of house Lannister and all-round badass.

Everyone who has read the books knows that Martin is a sucker for “signs and portents”, mysterious symbolism that foreshadows future events or abstracts current situations. When the Starks find the litter of dire wolf cubs, it’s no coincidence that there’s one for each of them. It’s also no coincidence that Jon receives the albino cub. It’s damn symbolism, linking the Stark children to their dire wolves (some more than others). The books offer a few other examples, but the show is also filled with them. Tywin Lannister is used for two really obvious portents, at least if someone pays attention.

In the first season, during a conversation with Jaime, Tywin is busy skinning a stag. Well, who’s coat-of-arms is the stag? Exactly! And who dies during a hunting “incident”? Precisely! Coincidence? I think not. The great touch in this scene is how careful Tywin empties and skins the animal. He shows the same precision in this craft as he does in politics, a magnificent method to portray his lethal accuracy.

It turns out that Tywin has a thing for the simple things in life, as we see him fishing in this deleted scene from season 3. Next to discovering how vigorous Pycelle actually is, we also see what Tywin was fishing up: trout (at least I think they’re trout). He hands the basket full of fish to Pycelle, ordering him to bring them to the kitchen ’cause he wants them “for supper”. Hm, I heard the Freys also like some trout for supper…

Again, it’s subtle, but that’s what makes it great. I can’t wait to see more of these little hints in future episodes. Also, I can’t wait to see more of Tywin. He’s such a badass!

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Martin and the reason for his killing sprees

got jk rowling grr martin georgeHERE BE SPOILERS FOR GAME OF THRONES, BOTH THE SHOW AND THE BOOKS!

The reason to write this post has two origins. First of all, I’ve caught up with the TV show of Game of Thrones, and now I’ve joined the great amount of people who are waiting for the next season. It’s better to be late to a party than to never arrive, right? Second, a comment from the Nerd Maids on my previous post about Game of Thrones has prompted me to share my opinion on the way Martin handles popular characters and death in his works.

First of all, thank you for commenting and sharing your opinion! You have valid points, and I can understand that killing off popular and cool characters seems counterproductive: readers care about them and use them as a way to interact with the written world, and so their deaths are all the more cruel. Plus, why not end the lives of characters nobody cares about, like the Freys in Game of Thrones? You can tell better stories with the “cool cast” still alive than with those…weirdos. I can relate to that opinion, but let me explain why I can’t agree with it.

You see, I’m also a person who really gets into the characters of a book, a show or a movie. If their story is intriguing and well-written, I’m hooked and reeled in like a fat carp. I’m a fan of good versus of evil, of knowing who I should cheer for or having the possibility of choosing a “team”. If both sides of a conflict have interesting characters, the whole conflict gets even more interesting. If you add an epic climax to it then, something that has been built up for multiple books or episodes, you have found a sure way to please me. However, you have also found the easiest way to please me, by serving me a meal I have eaten so many times the flavor has dulled my senses. If you happen to be George R.R. Martin though, you throw a plate in front of me with food that looks familiar, but with a taste that will overwhelm me.

Alright, enough of the weird culinary metaphors. What I’m trying to say is that Martin dares to cross lines other authors don’t, and all of this “trespassing” of his makes his work all the more interesting. Where other writers are afraid to kill their or their reader’s darlings, Martin will rip them out of his stories in a cruel way to propel the entire plot into a new direction. Sure, one might argue that death is the cheapest way to add drama, but it’s also the most efficient way to add emotion and the chaos it causes. Killing someone is final, it presents the reader and the characters in the story with an event they can’t just ignore. Everyone has to take a stance, and these stances will drive the story into an unexpected direction. Sure, the Red Wedding is bloody and cruel, but it turns the entire War of the Five Kings upside down and makes you, the reader and viewer, re-think your opinion about certain individuals. It keeps you engaged in a cruel, yet effective way.

A result of this murderous tendency Martin shows is that no character is ever safe. Fantasy writers tend to save the “heroes” of the story in that last, dramatic moment, just so that they can save the day, free the kingdom and rule with a gentle hand. Martin doesn’t do the “hero”-thing, and he puts everyone and their mother into permanent danger. Every character in his books can be killed, and you should learn that rather sooner than later. This fear of death is a good thing though, since it will make you care even more for the individuals in the story. Why hope that the hero will make it, when you know that the author is using every trope in the universe to make it so? What use is appreciating the depth of a fictional character, when he cannot be taken from you at any moment by some malicious enemy? This fear you feel, and your wish that your “beloved” character will make it actually strengthen your bond with the story, turning the reading of a simple book into a fantastic emotional rollercoaster ride.

I’m not saying that all fantasy authors should be like Martin. We still need the “classic” novels, where good and evil are clearly separated and where the brave hero gets the girl. However, we also need more writers who raise the stakes and add danger to their stories, having their own beloved creations entering the lion’s den multiple times. They might make it out…or they won’t.

No matter the outcome, you are cheering for your favorites, and you will remember their story. You should not weep for the dozens of characters Martin has killed, but the dozens of new plot hooks their deaths have spawned. Where one story ends, a new one begins. Trust Martin to make them good ones, and you will find out that he does not slaughter for fun, but for crafting an epic masterpiece of a story.

A nice day for a Red Wedding

WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS FOR GAME OF THRONES AHEAD

Gosh! Freaking finally! Though I haven’t seen the last five episodes of this season, judging by the madness in my Facebook and Twitter feed, the Red Wedding has finally happened in Game of Thrones. Damn, am I happy that it has finally happened! Don’t get me wrong, I still want to punch Martin in his round, bouncy belly for killing off a slew of cool characters in a single scene, but I can finally talk with the non-readers about this dramatic event.

It’s a strange thing, to watch the “moving pictures”-version of a book you’ve already read, knowing what doom is waiting around the corner for characters you really like. I have to admit that I’m often the person in the room who hasn’t read the book the movie / show is based on, so it feels nice to be the one who saw all of this coming. On the other hand, I still have to keep my yapper shut about crueler and worse things to come, though one of them is actually quite pleasant…in a morbid way.

I have to give it to Martin though. No other writer I know is capable of making people love an entire family of characters, while also setting them up for their own deaths. Where most writers are very hesitant when it comes to killing of the “loved ones”, Martin is willing to end their literal lives when it makes the story better. Personally, I think that the Red Wedding is a critical dose of spice the third book / season needed, and after I was done crying like a baby, I saluted Martin for the sacrifices he’s willing to make.

Anyway, return to mourning the lives lost during the Red Wedding, but know that George R.R. Martin will surely have another favourite character’s death waiting for you. You have been warned.

A Marvelous Weekend

marvel heroes roleplaying action cortex

“Marvel Comics presents cvr” by Elde;gado

Next to having too much fun during a birthday party and a Mark Knopfler concert this last weekend, I found a way to make Friday till Sunday even more awesome by squeezing in some Marvelous pastimes. Yes, that’s Marvelous with a capital M, since both of the games I played this weekend use the Marvel universe as their setting. Together with Dee, I explored the rules of Cortex Plus and the Civil War campaign in the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game, while I was also able to take a quick look into the final beta weekend of Gazillion’s free-to-play game Marvel Heroes. What’s my opinion about both games? Well, read on to find out.

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Iron Man 3 – an opinion

iron man 3 stark movie trailer

“Iron Man” by doppingqnk

Even though I think most of you know this, I still feel legally obliged to say that the following post will be filled with spoilers of Iron Man 3. If you still have to see the movie and don’t want to be…well, spoiled, keep on scrolling and read one of my other articles.

With that out of the way, let’s dive right into my opinion on the newest Marvel cinematic universe flick, starring our man in a can and his entourage. I’ve been waiting for this movie for quite a while now, and my excitement reached its peak when I sat down in my local cinema to see it with my girl. After more than two-and-a-half hours, I felt like I had been both rewarded and punished for my patience, and here’s why.

Before I say anything else, let me say that I think that Iron Man 3 is a really good movie. It’s great to see the comic book movies grow, seeing how lame the first heroes-gone-cinema were. The third movie, still with the ever brilliant Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, is a really entertaining and action-packed piece. The special effects are really neat, and even the dialogues are fun to hear (kudos to the writers here). When Tony talks with that kid he meets while being stuck in some backwater town, you will laugh your pants off. When Tony and Rhodes work together to escape from the bad guy’s mansion and save the president, you get a genuine buddy cop movie-feeling. Indeed, it’s impressive how many things Iron Man 3 is at one time: a continuation of the cinematic universe, the next step in Tony Stark’s personal development, a movie about friends and love and, to my big surprise, a damn fine Christmas movie.

And there lies the problem with this film: it might try to be too many things at once. While I did enjoy all the different storylines, I feel that the movie could have used a bit more focus on the more important plot lines. Killian, the bad guy of this movie, could have used somewhat more development (though his motivation to be evil is legit), and I would have loved some more interaction between Stark and Potts. Also, what the flying frakk was up with that Mandarin twist? I’m still shocked by what they did to this badass, and I won’t forgive Marvel for it. Ever.

Bottom line, Iron Man 3 is a strong foundation for Phase Two of the cinematic universe. We have to wait and see how the next Thor movie builds upon it, and what more lies in store for us. Nevertheless, if you enjoy an action-packed comedy with a dash of drama and a great surprise after the credits, you should see Iron Man 3 when you have the chance.

4 out of 5 Chins!

Geek Jitsu – three movie speeches that will keep you going

inspiration forward speech

“Moving Forward” by *Kaira27

It seems like motivation is a topic I keep returning to in this column, but there’s a simple reason for that: it’s what will make you succesful in the long run, so I don’t mind spending much time on this theme.

Motivation is something fragile and precious, and we run out of it faster than we expect. A few punches from life, and many of us are on their knees begging for a breather. Nothing wrong with that, we all need to catch our breath once in a while. However, giving up should not be your modus operandi. Your modus operandi should be to wipe off the blood, get back on your feet, and step right back into the arena of life.

Of course, getting that necessary kick for such a deed can be hard, and that’s where this post comes in. In this week’s Geek Jitsu, I’ll share with you my three favourite motivational speeches from three very different movies. Let’s get ourselves some motivational refills!

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Strange Sunday – Roman steampunk and other genre mash-ups

“WWII roman steampunk” by Robbiekooljive

I’m lucky enough to be running my first game of Dungeon World next week, with two people that have made this hobby such a blast for me. As a preparation for the session, I have asked my two players to share some ideas for the setting and “feel” of the world, and after stating that I would like to see some kind of Industrial Revolution and drunken dwarves, while shunning the conflict of technology versus nature and evil orcs, my players shared with me their ideas. The final result is both wicked and challenging: our game of DW will take place in an industrialised Roman Empire, fighting a war against both the barbarians at the gates and a race of space dragons, coming from fallen stars that have ravaged a great part of the world.

Yeah, let me claim copyright on that idea right there, ’cause even Hollywood couldn’t think of that!

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