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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Man of Steel



"This man is not our enemy."

If you need a city demolished, Kal-El is your man. Why stop at a city? How about a small town in Kansas too? And part of the Indian subcontinent. To be fair, Kal-El can't do it alone. He wouldn't demolish anything at all, in fact, without unwanted help from his long lost brethren from the planet Krypton. But when those Kryptonians get together and start whaling on each other, hoo boy, can they smash our planet to smithereens. The Avengers caused billions of dollars in property damage defending New York City from aliens last summer, and they kept the devastation contained to a couple dozen blocks. The Man of Steel is a man of action, and he's here to show those Marvel heroes how wanton destruction is done.

Man of Steel, brought to us by screenwriter David S. Goyer and producer Christopher Nolan of The Dark Knight Trilogy and directed by Watchmen's Zack Snyder, is a massive escalation of the summer superhero movie crossed with an alien invasion space opera. In Man of Steel, things from the doomed planet Krypton keep crashing on Earth and most of those things mean to do us harm. All except one man, the earnest, cleft-chinned super hunk Kal-El (Henry Cavill), who was rocketed to Earth as an infant by his scientist action hero father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) with the destiny to grow into a god powered by the light of Earth's yellow sun and become an action hero himself. Adopted by kindly Midwestern farmers Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane) and raised with the American values of Smallville, Kansas, young Clark Kent, as Kal-El was named, was a misunderstood, bullied child with special abilities and a deeply held desire to do good and help people. 

All of Clark's troubles, however, really start on Krypton, re-imagined in Man of Steel as a brown palate cross between the planets in Avatar, John Carter of Mars, and Dune, complete with flying creatures and denizens in bulky armor wielding high tech etch-a-sketches. Krypton was a great spacefaring civilization that exhausted their natural resources. Their planet will explode. Their military leader General Zod (Michael Shannon) attempts to stage a coup; he and his minions are sentenced to eternal imprisonment in a black hole called the Phantom Zone. Turns out that was a fate better than death as Krypton explodes, killing everyone but Zod and his soldiers, who are freed from the Phantom Zone. Intriguing new ideas introduced into Superman movie lore include Kryptonians being birthed artificially for specific purposes (scientists, warriors, laborers, etc.). Zod was bred to protect Krypton. It's in his very nature to do anything to maintain the Kryptonian race. As for Kal-El, he was a natural birth, the first in centuries, and Jor-El encoded the codex of Kryptonian DNA in his cells. Kal-El is literally and unwittingly the future of Krypton, until the rest of Krypton's survivors come calling.

After an unabashedly sci-fi opening, Man of Steel leaps around in a single bound with the trials of Kal-El's life on Earth as Clark Kent. Structured similarly to the Goyer-penned Batman Begins, we meet Clark immediately as an adult, a mysterious bearded drifter laboring odd jobs under false identities who uses his powers and abilities to save people from tragedies and calamities. Whenever Clark is knocked unconscious, he dreams of his childhood in Smallville, when he first learned he had super senses, first started saving his fellow school chums who in turn mocked and bullied him, and sought solace from his adoptive father, whom he watched die in a tornado in honor of his wishes to not reveal himself to a frightened world not ready to accept him. The bullying doesn't exactly stop when Clark's a jacked up man in his 30's, but he's less likely to abide assholes without some (hilarious) retribution. The Smallville sequences are efficient and emotional, yet feel slight, especially in light of the television series Smallville recently spending ten seasons covering the ground of Clark Kent coming of age to become a hero.

Clark Kent does his best to cover his tracks but he's not so careful that he doesn't find a bloodhound on his trail in the form of the fetching Lois Lane (Amy Adams), a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter with no fears or compulsions about, say, following a mysterious stranger into an ice cave and walking right into a Kryptonian space ship buried for thousands of years in the Northern Canadian ice. Lois and Clark more or less discover Clark's alien nature together, though she can't get such a wild story past her stern but fair editor Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) at the Daily Planet. Soon Clark meets the avatar of his true father Jor-El, who rather briskly explains all the details of the first act of the movie to Clark. Clark barely has time to download all this information before Jor-El presents him with the blue and red-caped space long johns which will become his superhero suit. Somewhere between meeting his dad and putting on the cape, Clark got it in his head he can fly. Boy, can he. Anywhere in the world, and above it. Faster than a speeding bullet. (Though his first flight ends with crash landings reminiscent of the indignities suffered by The Greatest American Hero, believe it or not.)

Clark activating the space craft to meet his birth father turned out to be the very thing that General Zod needed to locate the son of Jor-El. In his time away, Zod learned a thing or two about 1950's sci-fi B movies on Earth because his approach to first contact with the human race is right out of The Day The Earth Stood Still playbook. Zod scares and blackmails humanity into turning over Kal-El, and humanity barely has time to process the very idea of aliens before, after some soul searching, Kal-El turns himself over to the US Military to be turned over to the custody of Zod. Soon Kal-El learns Zod's true plan is to terraform the Earth and turn it into another Krypton (this plan is spelled out deliberately to the Army's dimmest female captain, the one who thinks Superman is hot). Oh yeah, they're calling the alien "Superman" now. Lois coined it when she asked Kal-El about the S on his chest (it means "hope" on Krypton). She never got to actually say "Superman", but she must have mentioned it later on and the name stuck.

Violent and relentless action is the audience's reward for sticking though Man of Steel's creaky storytelling. The final thirty minutes of Man of Steel is a superpowered conflagration the likes of which humanity has never before witnessed in a movie. Once he pops the cap off the action bottle, director Snyder goes for broke, unleashing the full capabilities of a bunch of beings who have Superman's powers as they annihilate anything in their path while doing battle with one another. Buildings topple across the great city of Metropolis and shout outs to the absent Lex Luthor (a Lexcorp oil tanker) and a certain Dark Knight (a Wayne Tech satellite) are dropped in for the sharp-eyed as Superman tries to save the world from Zod's terraforming machine, all the while fighting off Zod and his soldiers who have all of his powers and none of his morality or concern for others. The scope of Man of Steel's action is staggering, and indeed, it all seems too much even for Superman, especially this young Superman who just put on the suit a little while ago and never even had time to wow the world with heroic do-goodery like saving Air Force One or fetching a cat stuck in a tree to get people to love him before the evil Kryptonians descended to destroy everything and everyone. 

Trust is a key issue in Man of Steel. Humanity, represented primarily by Army General Harry Lennix and Colonel Christopher Meloni, aren't ready to trust this handsome space man in blue who flat out says he grew up in Kansas. Intriguingly, Superman doesn't have a whole lot of faith in the human race either. Nor does this neophyte Man of Steel always know exactly what to do. And yet, when nothing the human soldiers shoot at the Kryptonians phase them and the only guy trying his damnedest to stop the invaders is Superman, Lennix and Meloni can't help but grudgingly admit Superman is on our side. Everyone else on the humans' side, including cast members from Battlestar Galactica (one of whom, Alessando Juliani, played Dr. Emil Hamilton in Smallville and appeared in a scene with Man of Steel's Dr. Emil Hamilton) also fly the flag for Team Superman.

The Man of Steel's biggest cheerleader, Lois Lane, believed in Superman the whole time. From their meet-cute on the Kryptonian ship where Clark cauterizes her injury with Heat Vision, their scenes together crackle with sly sexual chemistry, though with Man of Steel's breakneck pace, there's no time to explore anything beyond a well-earned climactic liplock. Lois goes above and beyond in helping Superman stop Zod. Lois even meets Jor-El's avatar aboard Zod's ship and gets the rundown straight from Superman's dad about how to save the Earth. One thing about this Lois Lane, she takes instruction from a Kryptonian incredibly well. She's very good. Lois is also fortunate, as the Kryptonian shit kept hitting the fan, the Army didn't think twice about making that day Take Lois Lane to Work Day. Man of Steel also boasts my absolute favorite line of dialogue ever uttered by any Lois Lane: "Now, if we're done measuring each others' dicks..." Adams is wonderful as Lois Lane, but the show stealing female is German actress Antje Traue as Faora, Zod's steely cool second in command, a lethal soldier-philosopher and the bane of human soldiers and Superman alike. Faora was phenomenal.

As the most heroically proportioned cinematic Superman ever, Cavill rises to the occasion, gradually becoming ever more awesome as the Man of Steel throughout. Screenwriter Goyer peppers in bits of soul searching and uncertainty in Clark's journey to become Superman, and he doesn't miss a beat in contrasting Superman's inexperience to Zod's superiority as a warrior. Shannon is a malevolently unhinged Zod, a creature in his own way doing what he thinks is best for his people because it was what he was bred from birth to do. When Zod ditches his bulky armor to reveal his own dark skintight body stocking, his status as the dark mirror to Superman is clear. (There's an amusing bit of dialogue late in Man of Steel between Zod and the Jor-El avatar where Zod expresses his meta-frustration that somehow Russell Crowe managed to stay in the movie this long. If Zod were Michael Bluth in season 4 of Arrested Development, he'd have bellowed "YOU'RE OUT OF THE MOVIE!!" after deleting Jor-El.)

Zod's rivalry with the father easily transfers to the son, and the final choice Superman has to make to stop Zod once and for all in order to save some innocent people from Zod maliciously roasting them with Heat Vision is truly shocking. (It's bound to be controversial to nerds, but the precedent for Superman sanctioning Zod was established in the comics, and Christopher Reeve's Superman sort of killed Terence Stamp's world-ruling Zod in Superman II, so there you go.) Me, I loved it, everything about it, especially Superman's scream of anguish. In my eyes, Superman had no choice; he crossed the line but grew up in the process, leaving behind childish notions.

Untold trillions upon trillions of dollars in property damage later, Man of Steel concludes with a quickie head scratcher establishing the classic status quo of Clark Kent joining Lois Lane as a reporter for the Daily Planet, but how does the secret identity make any sense? After everything that happened, Superman is the most famous man in the world. Then again, when did that secret identity ever make sense? What's next for the Man of Steel? Superman's immediate cinematic destiny is assured with a sequel already green-lit. More pressing is what the future holds for the long rumored Justice League motion picture. Jury's out on that. For now, we can take heart that the Man of Steel is indeed back. He's not perfect, he's still learning, but he's definitely Superman. The Man of Steel is our man of tomorrow.

No Pressure, Man of Steel.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Game of Thrones 3x10 - "Mhysa"

Here comes the King in the North!
Here comes the King in the North!
The King in the North!

Arya Stark has seen a lot of horrible shit in her 12 or so years on Westeros, most if it involving the violated corpses of her immediate male relatives. She was still groggy from the floggin' on the noggin the Hound gave her (before smartly taking a Frey banner so that they wouldn't be massacred like the legions of Stark bannermen), so she didn't quite register what she saw. Nor did the show put too fine a point on it, because it's one of the most repulsive, ghastly things George RR Martin wrote in the book, but that was supposed to be Grey Wind the direwolf's head sewed onto the beheaded corpse of the late Robb Stark. So I like to think it's the same on the show too. Because I'm a romantic. Later, Arya and the Hound happened upon the Frey soldiers who took credit for decapitating Grey Wind and Arya couldn't take it anymore. Nor should she. Invoking the coin Jaqen gave her in the season 2 finale (callback!), Arya rabidly stabbed the soldier in the neck while the Hound felt obligated to murderize the others. Valar Morghulis. Arya Stark has just taken her first step into a larger world... of killing.

"Mhysa" is a very talky episode to wrap up the season and put everyone in place for next season and beyond. The Red Wedding, of course, is the talk of the realm, or at least the Southern portion of the realm. Reactions must be gauged and motivations weighed in as to why it happened. We knew Walder Frey committed the heinous act of killing guests under his roof because of the slight of Robb breaking his oath to marry Talisa, but there was more to it, which Walder happily conveyed to his accomplice Roose Bolton, the new Warden of the North. It's a very old grudge Walder held against Catelyn's father Hoster Tully for coining the nickname "The Late Walder Frey", and to a lesser extent, a grudge Frey holds against the rest of the realm for thinking him a disgusting old coot. We learn Edmure is in a dungeon and he never got to bed his new bride Roslin. The Blackfish escaped after taking Westeros' longest, most eventful piss. Bolton, for his part, hated Robb Stark for his arrogance and for ignoring his advice at every turn. No more bowing to the Starks for the Boltons; they now control the North. Sunrise, sunset. Bolton also definitively established the man torturing Theon is his bastard Ramsay Snow, and explained the whole gambit of what went down at Winterfell, which is still a complete ruin we've not seen since the end of season 2, despite the opening credits routinely stopping by its smoking crater.

Ramsay also made it abundantly while eating a sausage that yes, indeed, he cut Theon's dick off. No, he won't kill Theon and put him out of his misery, but he did give Theon a new name: Reek. Reek, it rhymes with peek, as in this whole storyline is a peek at what happens in book 5. Meanwhile, the news of what's happened to Theon along with an ultimatum to withdraw all Ironborn forces from the Bolton-controlled North arrived by raven at Pyke. Balon Greyjoy was expectedly quick to forfeit the son he never liked and ignore the threat, but the daughter he does like committed her first act of rebellion. Because despite Theon being dope and a skeev who went to third base on her while riding a horse, Yara understands family. In defiance of her lord father's wishes, or maybe rather preferences, Yara gathered fifty of the Iron Islands' best killers and their fastest ship to save her idiot brother. It's impossible for the Greyjoys to ever watch Saturday Night Live on Pyke, but nonetheless, Yara found out what her least favorite digital short is:

Speaking of defying your king, Davos Seaworth doesn't see any other way to do business. Somehow, Stannis made him Hand of the King again, and Davos used his new found skill at literacy to learn of the Night's Watch's warning of the impeding attack of the White Walkers. There's also Gendry, sitting in the dungeons of Dragonstone, possibly in the same cell Davos was recently in. Davos has a bit in common with Gendry, both born in Flea Bottom and finding their fates at the mercy of the whims of the highborn, but his pleas to Stannis about letting his nephew live fell on deaf ears. Davos hates all of this red god magic stuff, but Stannis actually made a good point that the Targaryens used the magic of dragons to conquer the Seven Kingdoms in the first place. What's good for the dragon is good for the stag, right? Nonetheless, Davos can't help himself from committing treason and helps Gendry escape Dragonstone. Stannis rightfully sentences him to death until Davos plays the "Winter is Coming" card and even Melisandre concurred that it's Stannis' role in the grand scheme of things to be the one to meet the threat of the White Walkers. And for that, he'll need Davos to help him raise an army. Davos escapes death once more by the skin of his teeth.

Hey, does Stannis ever stop and ask himself, "What kind of weird ass king am I, anyway? I know exactly two people: a lowborn smuggler who keeps betraying me for my own good, and a hot nudist witch. If I expand my relations to my family, I've got my kid with the half face of stone and the crazy wife with all my stillborn sons in jars."

With Osha and Rickon off to the Last Hearth and off the show, presumably, Bran, Jojen, Meera, and Hodor have made it to the Nightfort, famous for a ghost story about a man punished by the gods for murdering someone under his protection. The kids and Hodor get a good scare when Sam and Gilly appear from the black gate, and for the sake of expediency and convenience, Sam knows all about Bran and Hodor from conversations he and Jon Snow had off camera. Sam fills them in on his encounters with the White Walkers and I guess I owe Sam an apology for calling him an idiot when he left the dragonglass behind because he had tons more on him, which he distributed to Bran, Hodor and the Reeds. For reasons no one quite understands or agrees with, Bran must go beyond the Wall to find the three-eyed raven and refused to go with Sam and Gilly to Castle Black. Well, good luck to them. I hope Bran's adventures beyond the Wall work out better than what happened to the garrison of crows Lord Commander Mormont sent out there. Sam and Gilly watch the bravest little crippled Stark and his weirdo friends march off to their white doom, to go get the shit kicked out of them by White Walker love.

Meanwhile, Jon Snow and Ygritte have probably the worst breakup ever, at least on this series. Jon said sorry/not sorry for bailing on Ygritte but she knew he was a crow double agent all along. Ygritte and Jon do love each other, but she also loves him enough to stick three arrows in him while he rode off. Three arrows stuck in him! Jon Snow really is Boromir's kid. (So was Robb, come to think of it. He had more arrows in him.) Jon made it to Castle Black, finally, collapsing in front of his old friends he hasn't seen in ages, including Sam. Sam and Gilly had made it to Castle Black prior and reported to blind old Maester Aemon (Targaryen) of all they had seen and what had transpired. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and Maester Aemon even allowed Gilly and her baby, now named Sam, to remain as guests of the Night's Watch. Sam writes the 40 letters sent by 40 ravens to the realm of the need of the Night's Watch for aid against the White Walkers. At least, for the moment, with Jon and Sam reunited, Gilly and her baby safe, there's a little bit of good news at Castle Black to go along with all of the horrible news. (I mean, Jon doesn't even know about Robb yet.)

At King's Landing, news of the Red Wedding was met with approval by the Small Council, except for Tyrion, who was pried away from starting to get along rather well with his new bride Sansa (despite the stern looks of Shae) when Podrick - he who makes the ladies giggle and swoon - summoned him to the Tower of the Hand. Joffrey was jubilant that Robb and Catelyn Stark are dead. Except for Stannis, effectively the War of the Five Kings is over, thanks to Tywin, who masterminded the Red Wedding affair. Joffrey royally fucked up when he told his grandfather he was a coward for "hiding under Casterly Rock" while his father Robert won the Iron Throne - everyone at the table was like, "Ooooh." Tywin fucking sent Joffrey to bed, while it was still daytime like Joffrey was Bart and Lisa while living in Ned Flanders' house. Tywin dismisses everyone except Tyrion, who, mind you, still has not impregnated Sansa. (Prompting Tywin to state outright: "I'm not going to rape her!") The old grudges between Tywin and Tyrion flared up again. When Tyrion returned to his chambers, he found Sansa already learned about the Red Wedding. Before Podrick called him to the Small Council, Sansa was telling Tyrion about Arya's practical jokes of leaving sheep "shift", re: shit, in holes in Sansa's mattress. I guess Tyrion will be finding some shift under his couch. It's the only revenge Sansa has.

Here's the thing about Tywin: What he wants, besides all the stuff he already has like the power to control the Seven Kingdoms from behind the scenes and the preservation and security of the Lannister family, is someone to talk to. He liked Arya because she had the capacity and wherewithal to engage him in conversation. So does Tyrion, except 1) Tyrion can't help but remind him of his dead wife and 2) Tywin has a hard time looking past all of Tyrion's flaws. Plus Tyrion, being one of his kids, harbors all kinds of daddy issues of his own that always worm their way into every conversation. And yet, Tyrion is the one man (besides Varys or Littlefinger, whom Tywin would never entrust personally) in all the Seven Kingdoms who actually could understand Tywin's reasoning and stratagems. This is something Varys understood and tried to explain to Shae, when he gave her the smoothest "attagirl, now please GTFO and don't come back" speech I've ever heard to get her to leave Westeros. Varys even told Shae to shine bright like a diamond, here are some diamonds. Shae threw them back at him. Big mistake, girlfriend.

One of the highlights of the past two seasons has been the little verbal jousts and tete-a-tetes between Tyrion and Cercei, another Lannister who's in desperate need of someone intelligent to talk to, even if it's the misshapen little brother she despises. Only a Lannister can understand the inner torment of another Lannister and Cercei once again bares her soul about how unhappy she is, except for her children, including Joffrey, who also makes her deeply unhappy, but he didn't when he was very young. Cercei also pretty confidently stated he isn't marrying Loras Tyrell (all of the Tyrells were noticeably absent from the last couple of episodes. And come to think of it, so is Bronn. Where the hell is Bronn?! Was he at Tyrion and Sansa's wedding?) But into everyone's gloom and doom, a little light must shine, and finally, after two and a half seasons, Jaime has returned to King's Landing and to his sweet sister. We only got a moment to see them reunited, and Jaime came in stump-first.

Game of Thrones has established a pattern of the ninth episode of every season being where the most batshit crazy, game-changing killing happens, and the finale ends with something uplifting involving the true heroine and beating heart of this story, Daenerys Targaryen. Compared to the prior two seasons, Daenerys has had a really good year. I mean, Tywin had a great year, but Daenerys even moreso. She walked out of Qarth with all of Xaro Xhoan Daxos' money, went to Astapor and acquired 8,000 Unsullied and Ser Barristan Selmy, now at Yunkai, with the help of Daario Naharis, she took Yunkai with almost no bloodshed and freed all their slaves. Plus she must be regularly moisturizing and conditioning, because she looks better than ever.

So it's only fitting we once again say goodbye to another year in Westeros with our beautiful Kahleesi as she waited for the gates of Yunkai to open and all of her freed slaves to come out and greet their new Queen. Which they did. Daenerys gave them all back their lives and self-determination, and they greeted her with a new word: "Mhysa", meaning "mother". And like the rock star Queen that she is, Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, the Unburnt, the Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, and Kahleesi of the Dothraki is crowd surfed by the people of Yunkai. Everything's coming up Kahleesi!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Revolution 1x22 - "The Dark Tower"

This is in no way meant to be a comprehensive nor, at times, possibly even coherent recap of Revolution since I stopped recapping it mid-season. I did continue watching it out of some misguided sense of... I'm not sure what.

In any case, season one has ended, with season two assured. And my oh my, was the second half of the season's quality consistent with the show's first half. The high point during mid-season - and of the series as a whole - was the show killing of Danny. But then slowly and surely, Revolution went about deleting much of what made it unique or interesting, like the sword fights and what few inconsistent details they offered on the outset of what life would be like in a world without electricity.

No, Revolution often went to the same well: send the characters in small groups to whatever places they had to go for whatever reason, and watch them wrestle with insipid moral dilemmas while engaging in gunfights. Yes, in the second half of the season, swords and muskets gave way to everyone and their mother armed to the teeth with machine guns.

BLAM! BLAMBLAMBALABLAM! KA-BLAMMO! is how much of season 1.2 went.

We got constant drama between Miles Matheson and General Monroe, the show flogging their Good Friends/Better Enemies relationship and even mocking it in the finale with a funny line from Giancarlo Esposito's character about Monroe's "erotic fixation" on Miles. Monroe cemented his claim as one of the worst and most ineffectual villains in the history of television.

We traveled to other Republics, most notably the Atlanta Republic, at war with the Monroe Republic based in Philadelphia and the Great Plains Republic further out west. They all have two things in common: They all hate the Texas Republic, and all points are reachable on foot within a few hours, as Miles, Charlie and friends are able to just walk to any point on the map lickety split as the plot requires. Are there wormholes in the woods across America? Must be.

We learned what turned the power off: nanobots. I shit you not. Gazillions of nanobots released all around the globe. "They're everywhere, they're in the air, they're inside of us", the show not-so-helpfully explained.

And then there is the saga of the Tower, the government control system where the nanobots were launched and controlled from, which all roads lead to, and all the characters converged. There are troops at the Tower guarding the secret of turning the power back on, and after a lot of gun fighting, a lot of regular fighting, a major character death (Nora, who died knowing Miles liked her more than Charlie's borderline insane mom Rachel), and a bizarre suicide by Colm Feore's ridiculous villain character, two major things happened:

1) Aaron, Rachel and friends turned the power back on.

2) Colm Feore launched two ICMBs at Atlanta and Philadelphia before killing himself.

Let's talk about 1. The power came back on, which we saw in some cutaways to various parts of the country where lamps came back to life, radios begin playing music, and cities started to flicker with light. Wait. Wait wait wait. It's been over 15 years since all the power went out. A generation has gone by without it. You're telling me all those lamps and electric devices were still plugged in? Those lamps still had bulbs inside them?

In the final shocker of the season, we find out the mysteriously silhouetted President of the United States is still President of the United States (what's left of it) and has been living in the US colony... in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba!

Boy, am I looking forward to Revolution season 2 when Miles, Charlie, and friends need only a scant few hours to walk to Cuba.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Game of Thrones 3x9 - "The Rains of Castamere"

You know, you wait years to see something. You know it's coming. You think you're ready. And then it happens. It's one thing to see it in your mind's eye. It's another thing to see it. And it is beyond fucked up.


You are cordially invited to the wedding of Edmure Tully of House Tully and Roslin Frey of House Frey, hosted by Lord Walder Frey with special guest the King in the North, Robb Stark of House Stark.

The Red Wedding. It's the social event of the season!

Over his War of the Five Kings of Westeros chess set, Robb lets Catelyn in on his plan to take Casterly Rock from the Lannisters. It's theoretically a good plan full of pro-Stark symbolism. If they can take Casterly Rock, they get Tywin Lannister's gold and power base, plus it sends a message to the realm that the Lannisters are not invincible after all. Of course, to do any of this, Robb needs Walder Frey's men and cooperation, and even if he has those, an error in timing would allow Tywin to send his army from King's Landing, trapping the Stark-Frey forces against the Lannister Army and the sea. It's a risky game of Risk. Catelyn has her doubts the plan could work even if she didn't deeply suspect the intentions of Walder Frey. But see, Robb made this bed and he has to sully its sheets because what else can he do?

Finally arrived at the Twins, Lord Walder greets the Starks with the Westerosi custom of bread and salt, thereby offering them his protection. But that doesn't mean they're protected from Lord Walder being a skeevy old asshole. Walder sends his harem of daughters and granddaughters out for display - he knows most of their names - to show the King in the North what he missed out on when he broke his oath to make one of them his queen and instead marry that Volanti girl. But he saves his extra skeeviness for Talisa, who he evaluates with his Old Man Frey X-Ray Vision, seeing through her dowdy dress to the tight body underneath that made the King in the North an oathbreaker. As if he were the Larry Flynt of Westeros, Lord Walder sized Talisa up like a piece of meat in front of her husband the King. Oh sure, Robb begged forgiveness from the Freys for his offense, and that he married Talisa out of love, but Lord Walder isn't entirely wrong in pointing out lust had more than a little to do with it too. Edmure, who still doesn't know which Frey daughter he's going to make an honest Tully out of, was pretty funny making faces in the back of the room.

The Red Wedding (as it will become infamous for) proceeds immediately. It's a classy affair, done up in all the traditions in the light of the Seven gods of Westeros. Lord Walder brings forth Edmure's bride and instead of throwing up, Edmure is delighted! Roslin Frey is hot! Lord Walder's been holding out on us. That clever old coot. Biggest laugh of the night was Walder and Robb making faces at each other. The relief of Edmure's face is palpable as he marries the hottest Frey and came away from this with the literal pick of the litter. Lord Walder's full of surprises, but that was the only good surprise.

In the riverlands en route to the Twins, Arya and the Hound bicker and banter as the Hound knocks out a merchant delivering salt pork to the Twins for the wedding feast. Arya doesn't want the Hound to kill the old man but she's cool with bludgeoning him into unconsciousness. The Hound, in his way, is actually being kind of noble, and he seems to have a soft spot in his heart for unfortunate Stark girls victimized by affairs beyond their control or understanding, but those Stark girls hate him and always will. Arya sure does. She knows the Hound is scared of fire like the Martian Manhunter and promises to kill him herself some day. She's nervous, being so close to the Twins, her mother and brother, just on the horizon, yet so far. What if something goes wrong? Something always goes wrong. On an unrelated note, agreed with the Hound, pig trotters are good stuff.

Across the Narrow Sea, Daario Naharis pours on the sexual tension with Daenerys as he maps out his foolproof scheme to sack Yunkai. It seems simple: He walks right in the back door by just being Daario Naharis, kills some guards, brings in Grey Worm and Jorah Mormont, then they open the main gate and let the Unsullied army in. Jorah is suspicious because Jorah's always suspicious. It's Grey Worm who gives Daario the thumbs up, and that's good enough for the Kahleesi. And so it was Daario marched into the back gate of Yunkai just by saying his name, whistles for Jorah and Grey Worm (he's one of the world's best whistlers), and they stride right in to a waiting horde of guards. Whom they fight and kill. Dig how Grey Worm fights, perfect form, smooth as silk executions with his long pointy stick. And faster than you can say "we did not have the budget to show the actual battle", the three amigos return to Daenerys' tent with the awesome news: Yunkai has fallen. The city is hers'.

Sam and Gilly make it within sight of the Wall as Sam regales Gilly with more Facts You Learn From Books that Gilly can't understand how he can possibly remember. Gilly calls Sam a wizard. Like the big fucking nerd he is, Sam takes it as the greatest compliment he ever received.

Meanwhile, in The Gift, Jon Snow and the Wildlings make it to the farm house of the old man who breeds horses for the Night's Watch. Tormund Giantsbane and Orell the Warg still don't think Jon is one of them as he tries to talk them out of killing the old man. The Wildlings storm the old man's farm and chase him as he heads off. While this is going on, the Endless Camping Trip lead by Bran has made their way to a stone tower, where they hide out from a gathering storm. Hodor is apparently freaked out by thunder and won't shut up with the Hodoring. It seems like Hodor is about to Hodor it up for them with all his Hodoring as the Wildlings chasing the old man end up right outside the tower. Bran Wargs it up somehow and enters Hodor's mind, putting him to sleep. This is a big deal; Wargs can enter animals but a person's mind? Then again, it's just Hodor. Surely the direwolves' minds are more complex. Outside, the Wildlings force Jon to kill the old man but unless your name is Quorin Halfhand, Jon just can't bring himself to do it. So Ygritte puts an arrow in the old man and that sets off a Wildling revolt against the two of them. As Tormund restrains Ygritte, Jon slays the Wildlings and kills Orell ("You were right about me!") but Orell Wargs with his dying breath into the raven above and nearly pecks Jon's eyes out. At the urging of Jojen, Bran is able to Warg into Summer and saves Jon, who gets on a horse and gallops like hell out of there, leaving an incredulous Ygritte behind. You know nothing about escaping with your girlfriend, Jon Snow.

In the stone tower, Bran makes the executive decision to break up their Camping Troop for good. Osha and Rickon are to make for the protection of the Umbers, while Bran, Hodor and the Reeds will continue North of the Wall to find the three eyed raven. Rickon has the most lines he's ever had in the series as he tearfully says goodbye to his older brother and for all we know the viewing audience because how often are we going to check in with Rickon Stark from here on out?

Back to the Red Wedding, everything's going splendidly. The King in the North isn't seated on the dias with Lord Walder, Edmure, and Roslin, but he doesn't seem to care. And hey, Lord Roose Bolton made it to the wedding feast. That's gotta bode well. Edmure is a happy, happy camper with his hot new wife, which doesn't escape his sister Catelyn or their uncle the Blackfish. Meanwhile, Robb and Talisa are all lovey dovey. But it's time for Joffrey's favorite part of a Westerosi wedding - the bedding ceremony! This involves all the men crowd surfing the bride Roslin to the bed chamber while the women grab ahold of a giddy Edmure and help wisk him off to consummate their holy union. While they watch. A custom Talisa doesn't understand. Talisa does tell Robb that if they have a son, she wants to name him Eddard. Robb is the happiest guy in the world.

Hey wait, why's that guy barring the door to the chamber? Catelyn's Spider-sense is tingling. Why is the house band ominously playing "The Rains of Castamere", the most famous song in the realm about that family who dared challenge the Lannisters and was wiped off the face of Westeros?

Outside of the Twins, Arya and the Hound are denied entry with their salt pork since the wedding feast is over. Arya's Spider-sense goes off and she sneaks away to see Frey men slaughtering the Stark soldiers. Grey Wind the direwolf is caged and his direwolf sense is going off, but the Frey men line up their crossbows and slaughter Grey Wind. Arya finds herself back in the arms of the Hound, who has figured out this place is bad news for anyone named Stark, so he knocks out his Stark and carries her out of there, lest she join the fate of her family inside.'

And finally, Lord Walder Frey plays his hand, breaking his oath to protect Robb Stark just as Robb Stark broke his oath to him. Turnabout is fair play, except it's horrible. It's pure blood spurting slaughter. Talisa is knifed in the belly, killing her and the Stark child she carries. Crossbows open fire on Robb and Catelyn, who noticed the chain mail Lord Bolton mysteriously was wearing too late to save herself or Robb. In her last act as a bad ass, Catelyn grabs onto whichever Frey girl Walder was married to and begged for Robb's life or else she'd kill the girl. Lord Walder couldn't have given a shit. Lord Bolton delivers the death stab to Robb on behalf of the Lannisters, who he sold Robb out to. Catelyn slits the Frey girl's throat, Catelyn gets her throat slit, blood spurts everywhere, and the most batshit sick and crazy event in Game of Thrones' history has now been televised for the viewing pleasure of audiences around the world. 

It was as good and even more horrible than I imagined. Bravo.

Say hi to Ned for us, Robb.