Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Game of Thrones: Episode 4: Sons of Winter review


    The events of the Game of Thrones Telltale adaptation are gradually, very gradually, coming to a head. We discover a rough outline of where everyone is attempting to go with their various plots and have a vague hint as where it's all going to climax in the coming two volumes. I'm fairly sure this is a story which is going to have a sequel, at least as long as the series is on, but it will probably bring a definitive climax to the Forrester-Whitehill feud.

    The premise this time around is that the Forester fortunes receive a sudden and unexpected boost from his fiance. Lord Whitehill forced her father at swordpoint to end her engagement with Rodrick Forrester before attempting to marry her to his son Gryff. This final humiliation is too much for either Rodrick or his beloved, resulting in her recruiting the elite guard of House Glenmore to assist him in retaking Ironrath. This, of course, means that suddenly the Forresters have a potential hostage of their own.

Daeny reacts negatively to anything you have to say. Which is weird because Asher is the roguish mercenary type she loves.
    Mira, meanwhile, starts to investigate the plot by Lord Whitehill in King's Landing, which shows Ludd to be more shrewd than he appears. Daenerys Targaryen is less than pleased at a Stark bannerman coming to recruit some of her mercenaries on the ease of a major battle, so she is less than sympathetic to Asher's plight but an old wound of his friend Beskha can be exploited. Finally, Gared must deal with the consequences of killing his fellow Nightswatchman Britt, despite the fact he's a psychopath.

    In short, there is a staggering amount of stuff going on in this episode. This is what inclines me to like it. It really felt like it was a much-much denser story than the vast majority of Telltale episodes. While other episodes in the series may have been more "fun", I'm going to say this is probably amongst the best they've ever done, period. I liken it to the  Around Every Corner of The Walking Dead, which is my definitive example of a packed storyline.

It's like the Last Supper, except everyone is Judas.
    Another thing I liked about this episode is we managed to get a lot of characterization for numerous minor characters, which expands the cast beyond the somewhat stereotypically Stark-like Forresters. Lady Elaena and Arthur Glemore are two very proactive and rootable heroes who give our heroes a much-needed victory against the scummy Whitehills. Beskha's background is expanded from beyond being Asher's notable Brienne-esque sidekick to someone suffering from the tragedy of Meereen's sick decadence.

    However, the biggest beneficiaries of the game's character development are the unlikable Frey-alikes in the Whitehill family. As Bolton bannermen, they are disgusting petty bullies. They aren't nearly as evil as Ramsay Bolton but they're also more believably despicable too. There's few Hannibal the Cannibal or the Joker serial killers like Ramsay in real-life but plenty of people like Lord Whitehill. I knew I would have to kill the fat bastard as soon as he mocked the Forresters over the body of their dead lord from Episode One.

    Here, at least, we get a sense for why Ludd Whitehill is such a piece of offal. We find the magnificent Whitehill castle which has fallen to utter ruin, we find out his wife died horribly when his child was very young, and also that they're surrounded by a desert of clearcut Ironwood. They're impoverished patricians who are, rightly, embarrassments to their status. It may be all their fault that they've run their family fortune into the ground but poverty can ruin people and it's at least *A* motivation other than: "The Whitehills are just dicks."

I'm not sure if she's supposed to be a potential love-interest for Gared or twelve. Which is kind of disturbing in terms of character-design.
    The King's Landing segments are also extremely tense and interesting, allowing Mira Forrester to play politics seriously for the first time. She can betray her friend, Sera, and gain a political advantage or she can stay loyal with the potential of destroying her family. As mentioned, we also find out Ludd Whitehill is a lot smarter than he appears, fully aware House Forrester will avenge themselves if given a chance. The villain there is something of a caricature but I actually liked Lyman Lannister as he turns out to have had an all-too-human weakness.

    The best part of the episode was also the chance to chance to sit down across from the Whitehills at a quote-unquote peace-summit. Watching Ludd Whitehill bluster, hiss, and stomp his way around you at a situation where he's not in complete control is delightful. I also liked the non-standard game over you can adopt if you choose to break sacred hospitality. Walder Frey has destroyed any notion that lords and ladies of Westeros can negotiate in peace and such will have long-lasting repercussions.

Was there anyone who encouraged Beskha not to kill the guy?
    I'm iffier about Asher and Gared Tuttle's plots. The depiction of Daenerys Targaryen is hostile, sneering, contemptuous, and a trifle insane. She's smug and self-righteous too, which isn't entirely inappropriate but seems strange for a woman charismatic enough to win an army from nothing. I'd buy it if she was growling at Asher because his family were Stark bannermen but that doesn't come up.

    Likewise, Beshka's storyline arc goes in a rather obvious direction. I'm getting that we're making a slow but obvious choice of Essos vs. Westeros for Asher's priorities but I can't imagine anyone sparing Beskha's former master once they hear the story of her abuse.

    Gared's plotline is enjoyable with his encounter with the Wildlings being genuinely tense. Unfortunately, Gared Tuttle's inability to give more than a token defense that anyone listens to exposes the fact Telltale games are still as on the rails as your average subway train. I don't mind that choices in Telltale games are illusionary in their importance but I do like it when they're not immediately made unimportant by the next episode's events.

    There's a lot of potential "gasp" moments like the results of revealing Sera's paternity, Beskha's vengeance, and Gared's treatment by Frostfinger. I never expected Gared to remain at the Night's Watch very long but I like how they're keeping the general shape of the Jon Snow arc without being completely identical.

Arthur Glenmore is a hilarious character and a much-needed source of levity in this series.
    I think one of the weaknesses the game has had is the over-reliance on show characters whereas the cast is finally growing large enough that we can deal with characters which are entirely under the control of Telltale games. This adds a layer of urgency as while Ramsay Bolton or Cersei Lannister's fate is out of our hands, Sera Flowers or Gryff's is entirely in our hands. Well, at least until the next episode when I'm certain that events will conspire against them no matter what we do. I care what happens to Gwyn Whitehill and poor Gared, even if I think the show could be a trifle more adult rather than the PG-fantasy it's been so far.

    PG-13, if not the show's R.

    In conclusion, Sons of Winter is a powerful action-packed episode which manages to make its dense plotting and heavy-characterization work well. The Forresters are finally feeling about 7/10ths of George R.R. Martin's work rather than just pale-imitations of the Starks. Given the show has doubled-down on some of its questionable elements as well as taken the grimdark to a new level, watching the heroes slightly improve their station is welcome.

10/10

3 comments:

  1. I also felt this episode really raised the plot up to another level, Along with feeling like the Forresters had a chance of not being sorely crushed, even though they still very well might be by the end of the six episodes.

    If Ramsey coming back at the end of episode four is any indication. Since he is pretty much by season five a VillainSue who gets away with pretty much all his actions, it's becoming very tiring to watch despite Iwans fab performance as Ramsey.

    the show runners I feel don't get why Joffery worked as a character and why Ramsey doesn't so much, it's because with Joffery he had other characters to play off like Tyrion, his mother, Sansa, Tywin and actually suffered for his stupid vicious actions quite often. Not to mention he actually developed as the show and book went on.

    Ramsey on the other hand has never developed one bit as a character and only has his dad and theon to play off, and it mostly comes off one note despite the actors best efforts in trying to make it work. Too much screentime and plotarmor has made Ramsey actually part of the shows declining quality in season five, along with just the continuing piling on misery and deaths of good characters, the show I feel just pushes the misery and grittiness too much now (not to mention where they went with stannis this season) and it is becoming quite boring and predictable to watch overall I feel.

    Sorry got off track there, but the above ties into where I have a bit of fear of where the last two episodes will go with Ramsey very likely to be the main factor in it all considering the Bolton storyline of season four and five.

    Though there still is a lot of good stuff I think that can come out of the next two episodes, not to mention that I have some sucispions on certain characters. Like the Glenmore's there's something off about them I feel in their actions, since they are Tyrell like and might possibly be eying the Forresters lands for themselves.

    Not to mention who Tom is working for in Kings landing, I get the sense someone is playing the Whitehills and the Forresters off each other for their own end. Who it is and why they are doing it is the main attraction I have towards the storyline at the moment.

    You know your mention of Walder Frey is interesting considering Rodrick brings up the red wedding at the meeting and Ludd takes exception to Frey. since I remember seeing the Whitehills banner at the Red Wedding, it makes me think if the Whitehills position is actually as weak as the Forresters with them having lost men there due to Roose not telling them about his plan to betray the Starks, not to mention how Ramsey doesn't seem to like Ludd all that much.

    Since why would Ludd rely on sellswords if he had the men to destroy the Forresters already, I also suspect that the fad merchant in kings landing isn't Ludd's main merchant there, Tarwick or Morygan are actually his main man.

    Again ties into who I suspect Tom is working for.

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  2. I also suspect the North Grove is not anything we think it is and is something like a dragon if the title of episode six is something to go off.

    Oh I did for one playthrough hold off killing the slave owner due to Darnerys most likely not being happy about Beskas or Ash's actions, Like how Gaards killing in episode one brought the Forresters trouble.

    I also think Ash's actions with the Whitehills are a lot more complex than we have led to believe, especially if it helped to bitter Ludd to the Forresters, since planning Elope with his daughter doesn't seem enough of a reason to exile Ash.

    But then again who knows, I also think they will do sequels in the future.

    I wouldn't mind if they took the focus and plot elsewhere and focused on other characters, River run or the reach I think would be good places to focus on, especially the former since the show has cut out since season three.

    Brotherhood of banners with Beric and Thros would be nice to see.

    But I would love to see the Tyrell's territory to see if they really are all they crack up to be, what with the Lannisters not being as rich as they seem to be, the Starks still being popular etc., what GOT does best and subverts usual tropes.

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    Replies
    1. Not much to say other than I 100% agree.

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