TLP’s Progressive/nerd/parent reviews contain lots of spoilers and are intended for folks who have already watched the show and are looking for some supplemental commentary and analysis.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 3, Episodes 21 & 22 “Absolution / Ascension”
Bechdel-Wallace Score: 3/3 – May and Daisy had some dialogue that managed to be more about Daisy than about Hive, so it earned all three points. It was, I believe, the only scene in the two hours to actually score 3 points – which is a bit off for a show with four important women in the action – but at least the one scene passed the test.
Shukla Score: 3/3 – Mack and Elena score three points this week, as they tend to do. The scene was pretty funny, too, with Elena razzing Mack about how long it takes him to set up a gadget. Mack and Daisy also had some good scenes.
Russo Score: 0/3 – Sad that the show chose to finish without any LGBT representation, especially after what was otherwise Agents of SHIELD‘s best season for said representation so far. Hoping they do better in season 4.
Kittehs: 😺😺😺😺/5 – The episode could have gone for five kittehs, but instead they chose to try to manipulate viewers by keeping us guessing every few minutes about which character was going to die. It became not just boring, but off-putting, and that cost a kitteh. Otherwise, it was a pretty great double episode. The end was a satisfying resolution to the season’s storyline. They even kept up with the “anyone taken prisoner by SHIELD is gaurunteed to escape within the hour” continuity from other recent episodes. The writing in this episode was definitely above average for the series with a lot of delightful humor. The little taste of next season at the end was pretty cool. I appreciate that it was enough to make us wonder what is going on, but not a cliffhanger to leave us in agony for months. (More about that in a future post about TLP’s wishlist for season 4.)
Low points: It was obvious to anyone paying attention, as soon as Lincoln said he was going to leave the team and “see the world,” that he would be the agent who died at the end of the episode. I am mentioning this because not only was the gold-cross-as-existential-hot-potato a bit overwrought on its own, it was also an insulting distraction once Lincoln’s fate was so heavily foreshadowed. Without question it was the low point of the two episodes as it took away from the story and even made me hate the writers a bit. In the end, Lincoln does his noble sacrifice, but it felt unecessary. Fry the manual controls, have Daisy quake-crush Hive a bit and carry Lincoln off the jet, leave the jacket behind – and ta-da, Hive dies and we keep a good character. But no, they wanted viewers, and they decided to get them by promising to kill an agent. *sigh*
Highlights: The action and dialogue during the missile base sequence were really great. Mack is a great character, played fantastically by actor Henry Simmons, and he was an ongoing highlight for both episodes. Elena was great too. And we got back good Lincoln, yay! Plus, and I know I said this back at the mid-season finale too, but we finally get to see Ward die (again), and it sure does seem really permanent this time. I liked Hive better than Ward as a character, but despised Ward enough to be glad to see him go again in any form. Speaking of bad guys who needed to go, Fitz – Fitz! – managed to take out Giyera in a move that was definitely a highlight of the last half of the episode. In real life, I wish death on no one, but in fiction I want the villains to get it and get it good. This episode delivered plenty of that.
Dad edits: Yikes, what would even be left of this episode if it was edited for a younger kid? Not much. If my kid were old enough to watch the show, I think a discussion about Daisy’s condition would be interesting and fruitful. Particularly her decision to ask Hive to take her back – that was Agents of SHIELD keeping it real and I was impressed by that. Not much else happened to really talk about, mostly just action. And that’s fine!
TLP’s Progressive/nerd/parent reviews contain lots of spoilers and are intended for folks who have already watched the show and are looking for some supplemental commentary and analysis.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 3, Episode 20 “Emancipation”
Bechdel-Wallace Score: 2/3 – May and Simmons discuss Hive (a male) briefly in the computer room. All the other interactions among women are in a large group setting. I miss the May/Simmons dialogue from earlier in the season. That was good stuff.
Shukla Score: 3/3 – Mack and Elena have one of their heart to heart conversations in what I guess is the SHIELD lounge. It is a good scene and earns all three points.
Russo Score: 0/3 – Still no Joey means still no points earned for LGBT representation, which is the obvious downside of having only one LGBT recurring character anywhere on the show.
Kittehs: 😺😺😺/5 – The episode started with an obligatory nod to the events of Civil War that was handled pretty well. Then it just kind of coasted on expository dialogue and glacial plot development for a while. Then it got thrilling and awesome, with action, story, effects, and a few twists all in the last few minutes (and also, more exposition). It was basically 30ish minutes of two kittehs and 15 minutes of five kittehs, so I am awarding a messy average of three kittehs.
Low points: May actually said “you need to straighten up and fly right.” She actually said those words in that order. Also, yet again, someone escapes from a woefully inadequate and unguarded containment cell. This makes three episodes out of the last five that this has happened. You’d think they’d have a whole SWAT team staged around every cell at this point. This is definitely deep into lazy storytelling territory; people in containment cells make it off of SHIELD’s base more often than the agents do!
Highlights: I don’t know if I already said this or not, but it is great for me as a viewer to finally be able to appreciate actor Brett Dalton on the show. I never liked Grant Ward as a character. He was boring as a SHIELD Ken doll in season one and somehow, against all odds, was even more boring after he was revealed to be a Hydra sleeper agent in season 2. By the beginning of season 3, Ward was both murderous and whiney, neither of which are appealing characteristics. But here we are near the end of season 3 and, ever since Ward became Hive, he has been interesting and even fun to watch. But I digress. Lash was definitely the highlight of the episode, both because his scenes were cool and because the character, who has a problematic power level, was finally killed. In his final act, Lash saves Daisy from Hive, redeeming himself as an inhuman and giving us a last moment with Dr. Andrew Garner (even if we didn’t get to see Blair Underwood in the role again, which would have been really nice).
Dad edits: I don’t watch this show with my kid. Even if he were older and we did watch this show, I’m not sure how much there would be to talk about. Since we are in the final hours of the season, the show is busy wrapping up loose ends and moving pieces into place for the endgame. This always makes for extra thrills and emotional payoffs for regular viewers, but it also necessarily leaves out the kind of philosophical storytelling that made “Spacetime” such a great episode, or the kind of flashback driven character study from “Paradise Lost,” which was another season highlight. Hopefully the finale will provide a bit more parent/child conversation fodder.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 3, Episode 19 “Failed Experiments”
Bechdel-Wallace Score: 1/3 – I don’t recall any of the women on the show talking to each other during this episode.
Shukla Score: 3/3 – (Blue dudes don’t count as people of color, just FYI.) Mack and May, again, score three points a little more than ten minutes into the episode (and a few times later on). Mack and Daisy have some moments together towards the end as well.
Kittehs: 😺😺😺😺/5 – This should have been a three, or even two, kitteh episode. But they started with Kree aliens and that kept me glued to the screen until I saw more Kree aliens at the end. So basically the show cheated, but it worked. Four kittehs. MORE ALIENS PLEASE & THANK YOU.
Low points: When the Hydra peeps went Ark-of-the-Covenant on screen, that was gross. Also, Lincoln injecting himself with the serum. Not because he did it at all, but just because it was this week’s “Lincoln is out of control because he loves Daisy” bullshit, and now they’ve added “self-destructive behavior” to the list with “violent rage” of toxic masculine behaviors the show is associating with true love. Boo!
Highlights: Dr. Radcliffe has quickly become the comedic treasure of the show. Fitz and Simmons are really providing a lot of smiles as they keep developing their much overdue romance. May’s seduction/knocking-the-fuck-out of James was all kinds of entertaining. Also, ALIENS! And then aliens fighting people with powers! Hell yes to all that. Daisy and Mack at the end… …I almost put it in low points, because it was heartbreaking. Really though, the two of them delivered the only real drama of the episode and it was compelling. It made Daisy’s swayed-by-Hive storyline worthwhile for the first time and was just very well done.
Dad edits: Meh, not so much. This isn’t a show I watch with my kid and, for the third week in a row, there was a lot of good story movement but not much in the way of stuff to discuss with an older kid. I mean, there is the obvious “don’t sign up for a medical experiment in an abandoned town,” but that really should be part of the basic stranger-danger conversation, not its own separate discussion.
Shukla Score: 3/3 – The episode opens with exposition between May and Mack about the state of the base and the team after the closing events of the previous episode, which earns three points. Not much else in the episode, though.
Russo Score: 0/3 – Alas, no Joey, no Russo points. The show either needs an LGBT regular or a lot more LGBT guest stars (please, go with a regular).
Kittehs: 😺😺😺/5 – Sooner or later, after “Spacetime” and “Paradise Lost” being abnormally strong episodes, the show had to have an average episode. This was it. The season arc moved, Lincoln’s arc moved, Daisy’s new arc moved, but nothing especially gripping happened. I found my mind wandering too often for the episode to be awarded more than three kittehs for engagement.
Low points: So the new thing is Lincoln is a wild child who can’t control his rage. I would find this compelling if it wasn’t being presented part and parcel with his love of Daisy and desire to see her again. Here is a tip for writers: don’t ever make a man’s rage in service of something noble. That isn’t what happens in real life when men rage. Ever. Plus, I liked Lincoln as the mostly-gentle type he used to be. But c’est la vie.
Highlights: The suicide/murder vest conversation was morbidly hilarious. The Fitz/Simmons scenes are fun. Simmons said “sex!” They talked about sex. It shouldn’t be such a big thing, but I suppose it is (nerds on network TV, after all). And really, the Fitz/Simmons relationship as well as what their pursuit of Dr. Radcliffe were the only higlights of an otherwise perfunctory episode. Oh wait! Simmons shooting Hive/Ward a few times – that brought a smile to my face.
Dad edits: Yeah, I got nothing. Kid is too young to watch this show and I can’t find any theme in the episode that would make for good philosophical discussion if he was older. It was just a fun hour of TV, nothing more. (And that’s fine!)
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 3, Episode 17 “The Team”
Bechdel-Wallace Score: 2.5/3 – Technically Simmons tells May she can’t move and May is all like “whatever I can fly,” but it is dialogue that could have been between any two characters and was in a room full of people. I’m only awarding the 2.5 points because the room was half full of badass women. (Same goes for later Daisy/Elena dialogue.)
Shukla Score: 3/3 – Several scenes in this episode could score three points, but the first to do so without question is Joey and Elena in the elevator, talking about Joey’s ruined date, in Spanish. Mack talking to Elena (also in Spanish) is a close second place for best Shukla scoring scene.
Russo Score: 3/3 – Yay they did better this week! We got to see Joey be crucial to the whole episode and even first showed up while out on a date. Yes, his date was ruined by the call to duty, but the thing wasn’t underplayed or overplayed, just a gay man on a date.
Kittehs: 😺😺😺😺/5 – Gotta give some credit – two minutes into the episode, there is a meeting among the proto-Secret Warriors team that is: 50% women, 25% LGBT, and 75% non-white. This shouldn’t be a big deal and it shouldn’t be just for one episode, but the reality is that this is no small deal even if just for one episode. And on top of the way better than usual representation, a great story was told, with a four kitteh level of engagement. Nice job Agents of SHIELD, y’all have really hit your stride.
Low points: I don’t find it to be good storytelling when Coulson doesn’t tell Daisy et al., what is going on. Sure, if he had then the episode would only have been twenty minutes long and Daisy wouldn’t have gotten away, but it still would’ve been better storytelling from the standpoint of believable character behavior. Also, let us once again note that SHIELD’s containment pods seem to be woefully undersurveilled, which is kind of amazing considering that this is an intelligence organization. Especially after last week’s seatbelt buckle escape, it seems like they’d have figured out that some eyeballs and a tazer would be good to have nearby any containment unit.
Highlights: Well let’s be honest, as good as this show is when it is focused on the regular people, Agents of SHIELD is at its best when people with superpowers are kicking ass. And there was plenty of that this episode. The banter among the inhuman team of Daisy, Lincoln, Elena, and Joey was a real treat as well, especially later in the episode. The first 10 minutes of the show really were the best, including the regular human-folk holding fort in the supply room. Later on, other good things happened, with a highlight probably being Daisy doing away with Malick. That guy had it coming and I always like to see a bad guy get what’s coming. Best moment: Elena’s self-translation of what she said to Joey as “Screw SHIELD” – priceless 😂. Oh wait! How could I forget?! Fitz and Simmons! It is so nice the show is finally getting them together and letting us spend a few minutes each episode enjoying all that.
Dad edits: Well for sure we would revisit the conversation about whether or not you should sell people something called “containment pods” if they don’t, you know, contain things. At any rate, I don’t watch this show with my kid, but can’t think of much in the episode to discuss with him if he were older and we did watch it together. Fun to watch, just not much to discuss. Except maybe this: communicating with people is always a better option that hiding things from them.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 3, Episode 16 “Paradise Lost”
Bechdel-Wallace Score: 2.5/3 – Some combination of May, Simmons, and Daisy have dialogue as part of larger group scenes a couple of times during the episode. (I only award all three points if two women talk to each other alone, even if just for a moment.)
Shukla Score: 3/3 – Daisy and Mack shared several lines of personal and plot related dialogue early in the episode.
Russo Score: 0/3 – Seriously how hard is it to just have on single LGBT series regular? Just do it already. My zero key is tired and LGBT fans everywhere deserve more. Do better.
Kittehs: 😺😺😺😺/5 – Following on the heels of “Spacetime” is not an easy task for any episode, but “Paradise Lost” did it well. The episode managed to advance the overall season’s plot arc, introduce a new character, and provide character development for both Gideon and Hive. Four kittehs because, for the most part, I couldn’t turn away.
Low points: Giyera’s escape was seriously lazy, bad storytelling, let me count the ways: nobody bothers to watch a super dangerous inhuman in a containment pod; a fucking seatbelt buckle is strong enough to pry the doors slightly open; said doors are apparently easy to fully open once cracked (reminder: this is a pod meant to contain the most dangerous beings on the planet); Coulson, who watched the guy give May a run for her money earlier, tries to go fisticuffs with the fellow; Giyera, whose power we have been reminded this very episode only works on line of sight, is able to move the controls in the cockpit that he cannot see; Giyera is appareantly immune to the various laws of physics that negatively impacted everyone else on the plane during its tumultuous descent. I think that about covers it.
Highlights: The backstory on the Malick family, which also ended up providing some development of Hive’s powers/memory retention, was really well done and compelling. Powers Booth really does a great job playing Gideon as the character is caught in a vice of his guilt about the past and fear of the future he was shown in “Spacetime.” Still he seems to relish his role as a father in the present, at least until Hive/Ward/Little Bro Malick kills her. This wasn’t a highlight in the sense of being fun, but it was compelling storytelling and really good acting.
Dad edits: I don’t watch this show with my kid (way too young). If I did, we would talk about professional integrity and how you should always build containment doors that can contain things like, say, seatbelt buckles – or just get out of the business. We also might talk about how fear of death is one of the only things that can give love of family a run for its money in this world. Also, don’t kiss alien boys with parasite tongues. Bad news there.
Low points: The award for worst episode goes, hands down, to the penultimate episode of the season, Myriad. The worst storytelling decisions during the season were, in no particular order: Winn and Kara having a no good, very bad, completely terrible relationship; the way the DEO gradually became a hybrid of top secret government agency and The Max (the diner where the kids and their friends all hung out on Saved by the Bell); anything involving, or not involving, Superman. (I will elaborate on all these points, and the problematic representation scores, in the season 2 wishlist below.)
Highlights: The award for best episode goes to number 13, For the Girl Who Has Everything, with World’s Finestand Falling tied for second place. The best storytelling and/or performances of the season, in no particular order: Melissa Benoist as Kara Zor-El / Supergirl / Kara Danvers & Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant – both were fantastic all season long; while the romance between Kara and Jimmy formed seemingly out of nowhere, and the Lucy/Jimmy stuff was weird, it was nonetheless pretty great that Kara and Jimmy got it together right before the end of the season; bringing J’onn J’onzz onto the show was both smart and tons of fun; the crossover episode with the Flash was a blast.
Dad edits: The show was very kid friendly (if you’re okay with standard superhero type fighting scenes, which we are). There were a handful of moments all season long that just needed to be skipped over for my young kind, but most of the trouble he had with the show came from times when the plot was just too erratic for him to follow. That’s not an age thing, either – even a lot of the story is over his head, he can still basically find and follow the conflicts driving the plot. The episodes full of plot holes were the episodes that left him bored, disengaged, or asking questions. There was also a lot more gun play that I would prefer my kid see; the show deserves some credit, but only a little, for showing guns racked or holstered much more often than fired. Still – there is a Kryptonian on your team, and your enemy is impervious to bullets. Put the guns away, people!
Representation: So the Russo score of zero – ZERO – in every episode is unacceptable. The Shukla score of 1 in almost every episode is much better than zero but still not nearly good enough. The Bechdel-Wallace scores are impressive, unless you reimagine the test as the Bechdel-Wallace-Hooks test, and then you realize the scores would drop to zero. There are most certainly LGBTQ people of all genders and ages in National City, there must be more people of color in National City, and some of those people of color must be women. We need to see more of all of them on the show in season 2. A lot more.
Just getting to the point where the show even represents national averages of LGBTQ and/or people of color would be a start, but remember some of these folks need to be superheros and some of them need to be series regulars, too. As mentioned above, we know that Lynda Carter of Wonder Woman fame will play the President in season 2. The show is giving itself a pat on the back for this, but who cares? We are about to have an actual woman be actual President. The series gets some credit for having Tawny Cypress play Senator Miranda Crane in an episode or two during season 1, but again we are about to have an actual black woman be an actual Senator soon in real life, too. Sure, Hillary Clinton would be the first woman President and Kamala Harris would be only the second black woman to be a Senator, but my point is that Supergirl should stop giving itself a pat on the back for barely keeping up with current events and start pushing ahead to show us our real lives, which involve strong LGBTQ and people of color as members of, and leaders in, our communities. Television is a place where it is possible to show that reality sooner than can be done in the uppermost echelons of elite position and influence in our society. So please, get to it!
Fix the Superman Problem: In season 2 of the (excellent) animated series Young Justice, the core members of the Justice League (Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, etc) have to leave Earth to face trial for attacking a planet while they were being mind-controlled at the end of season 1. All season long, when the Young Justice team seemed in over their heads, there was always a good answer to the question “hey where is the Justice League?”
Supergirl never – not one single time – pulled this off in season 1. Superman either went unmentioned, showed up on instant message to say he wasn’t there because he wants to help Kara trust herself, showed up kind of sort of at the last minute and only for that minute, or – and this was the worst – was inexplicably felled by a mind control device that only effected humans, and then (in the shot above) rendered unconscious by the device being destroyed while all the regular humans were able to go back to their lives. All season long there was an army of Kryptonians plotting to conquer Earth, attacking his cousin, and causing mayhem – and Superman was AWOL the whole time. It was just absurd and distractingly unbelievable.
Since we already know that an actual actor has been cast to actually portray Superman in the first two episodes of season 2, then maybe the showrunners will do some kind of Supergirl/Superman team up that ends up with the Man of Steel having to go off and do something in the cosmos for a while. This would explain his absence for a whole season, no problem (and not for nothing, but they could have done this without an actor in the role for season 1). There is another solution, that I actually like better, but is a lot less likely to happen…
Join the Arrowverse: Season 2 being on The CW allows for more than just a crossover. With Barry Allen having begun something like the Flashpoint event in the final moments of season 2 of The Flash, rewriting some small or large pieces of the continuity of all of these shows is not out of the question. This could fix a lot of problems. We could have a reality where Superman has been gone for years, or was killed by Doomsday, or is a bad guy – all of those things would explain why he isn’t around to help Kara out, but wouldn’t disrupt the Jimmy/Kara storyline (since they would not have met without Supes playing matchmaker). It’s also a chance to bring a lot of good people back to life: Rip Hunter’s kids on Legends; Barry Allen’s dad and some new version of Harrison Wells on The Flash; Shado and/or Laurel Lance on Arrow; and did I mention it could be used to solve the incredibly annoying Superman problem? Yeah, I did, but let me say it again: this could provide a bunch of different ways to solve the Superman problem. Plus it gives a chance to merge Kara Danvers reality from Supergirl with maybe an Arrowverse reality where, unbeknownst to us, Kara has been living, looking for Kal-El, and slowly becoming villainously bitter about her cousin’s fate and the barbarity of human society – Supergirl vs. Power Girl, anyone? (Yes, please!)
This could also solve the representation problem! If you combine the LGBT folks on Arrow with the people of color on The Flash and the women on Supergirl… …well then all of those shows could start getting decently balanced representation scores. (Hey, an SJW fanboy can dream, right?)
There are also downsides to this plan. If Kara/Supergirl were present in the Arrowverse, while it might solve the Superman Problem on Supergirl, it would create a new Supergirl Problem for The Flash and Arrow (with the latter arguably already having a bit of a Flash Problem). Plus there is the risk of recreating the Season-3-Fringe-Problem – it is one thing to create an alternate universe and ask me to care about other versions of the show’s characters, but it is a whole other thing to replace the original characters AND the mirror universe characters with different versions from an alternate timeline. (I mean, Peter was a great character, but I still miss Originalivia.) Then again, Supergirl, has only had one season, and all the continuity changes could be explained away in one or two scenes of expository dialogue without much change to the defining events or characteristics of the regular characters.
I really hope somebody, somewhere is considering this. It would be great to see a Justice League of some kind form on TV (probably would need a different name to avoid irritating the DC/WB movie people). All we need now is to get Gotham to move to The CW on Friday nights and introduce year one Batman. Don’t even get me started on how many problems that could fix!
Supergirl Season 1, Episode 20 “Better Angels” (spoilers)
Bechdel-Wallace Score: 3/3 – This test was aced by Kara and Alex and/or their mom Eliza right at the beginning of the episode. (Many other scenes aced the test, as well.)
Shukla Score: 1/3 – Olsen and Henshaw/J’onzz figured prominently in the episode and were even in a scene together briefly, but never spoke to each other.
Russo Score: 0/3 – Another zero score for LGBTQ representation this week. I will save my complaints about this for the upcoming season recap & look ahead to season 2.
Kittehs: 😾😾😾/5 – Three unhappy kittehs. Remember, the kitteh rating is about engagement more than quality per se. I was engaged and curious to know what would happen, even if I was seriously bothered by many of the storytelling choices, during this episode. Certainly it was more engaging than the previous week’s shit show.
Low points: Sandwiched in between the episode’s highlights (we’ll get to those in a minute), the low points of this episode were all to be found in between when Kara defeats Non and when she goes back to work. Alex, in the process of having her brain fried, would not suddenly learn how to pilot Kara’s old shuttle, move it into a launchable position, fix the damage done to it during the previous episode, being able to locate Kara in space, have anyway of getting Kara into the shuttle with her, or any knowledge of how to successfully re-enter the atmosphere and land. That was just some serious bullshit. Next up, Henshaw/J’onzz being pardoned is believable – but his being reinstated as director of the DEO is just absurd. This isn’t an episode of Full House, we don’t just have an “everything goes back to how it was and we eat ice cream yay” moment at the end. Maxwell Lord’s redemption also didn’t ever sit well with me – and I am somebody who likes redemption, I forgave and came to adore Gaius Baltar, ffs – and so that was another low point in my mind. Also, if you ask me, the cliffhanger at the end was unwelcome. I guess at some level I actually prefer the “everybody is happy and we eat ice cream drink champagne yay” moment over a needless tease.
Highlights: Well it was a weak episode with many problems, but one highlight was just how much better it was than the previous episode. Also Kara’s defeat of Non, while not especially thrilling, was very satisfying. Fast forward past the next few scenes and we get to Cat Grant and Kara having one of their best scenes, which are by far the best thing about the show, as Cat gives Kara a write-her-own-ticket promotion. Finally, Jimmy Olsen and Kara finally got it together. While I have been critical of the writing of their relationship over the course of the season, I am nonetheless glad as a viewer that the two of them are together now instead of just circling each other. I really think TV shows can create more and better drama out of ongoing relationships than out of on/off relationships.
Dad edits: The moment when J’onn J’onzz tears apart Indigo with his bare Martian hands is a bit dicey, both because it is rough and because women always get the worst of the violence on TV shows. We skipped over that little bit. Otherwise it was fine, but one way I know the plot was weak is that the kid asked a lot more questions than usual to try to understand what was happening.
Welcome to TLP’s Voyeur Recap – a guide for staying conversant with friends, family, and colleagues who are really into a show that you do not have the time and/or desire to watch. The first and so far only series to be included in this feature is HBO’s Game of Thrones. (FYI spoilers abound)
What is Game of Thrones? Based on the novels by Politico reporter Jonathan RR Martin, Game of Thrones reimagines contemporary American politics as a violent, pointless struggle amongst petty families and tribes that are squandering the resources and personnel that will be essential in the coming struggle against the true threat facing all of us, climate change frozen zombies. Just like in politics there is a lot of sex, betrayal, and people who absolutely hate each other despite being very difficult to tell apart. There are also a few genuinely well meaning characters and a few more really, truly evil characters. If you think this description is inaccurate, check for yourself: there have been as many dick jokes in season 6 of GoT as there were during the GOP primary. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
What is a Voyeur Recap? TLP does not watch the show, but is a nerd amongst nerds both in real life and on the internet, so following the story is inevitable. As a service to others in a similar predicament – perhaps your family, friends, or coworkers are fans of the show – TLP has decided to provide the voyeur recap as a way to keep you informed about the goings on in the magical, bloody lands of Westeros and Essos. (As I hope is obvious by now, this whole thing is full of “spoilers,” except it is for folks who don’t watch the show, so… …not really.)
Which episode just aired? Last night’s episode was the ninth and penultimate of season six, “The Battle of the Bastards,” which was an experiment by the showrunners to see how much shit they could get fans to put up with for an hour if the eventual payoff seemed worth it. Result: fans put up with all the shit and completely relished the payoff.
What happened in the episode (and what should I say about it)?
In Essos, Daenarys got back to her city, Meereen, along with her new army and one of her pet dragons (she is the only character who has these creatures or, so far as we know, can control them). The city was under siege by a fleet of slave owners who don’t like Dany’s anti-slavery policy platform. Dany decided to negotiate with the attackers – just kidding! – she had her dragon light them all on fire. Yara and Theon Greyjoy showed up later, I guess, and they have a fleet of ships that could take Dany and her army back to Westeros so that she can finally reclaim the Iron Throne, which is a big chair made out of swords that nobody should want to sit on, but everybody does.
What to say: “Who gives a shit let’s talk about what happened to Ramsay Bolton!”
What to predict: “I think she will sail for Dorne, where Varys probably went to set up the alliance, and then move on King’s Landing from the south. I can’t wait until the Seven Kingdoms are all being run by women! That’s how you fight a zombie apocalypse, right there!”
What to say for a laugh: “A horse walks into a bar, the bartender says ‘why the long face?’ The horse says ‘shut the fuck up and tell me what happens to Ramsay Bolton!'”
The Battle for Winterfell, the episode’s main event, was either between the armies of Ramsay Bolton and Jon Snow, or between Bolton, Snow, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Golden State Warriors – it just depends on if you were flipping channels or not. Bolton had more men and a fortress. Jon Snow had fewer men and less self control. So naturally, Snow won. Although to be fair he won because another army, the knights of the Vale commanded by a guy named Littlefinger, showed up to save the day. And by save the day I mean they helped win the battle for Winterfell probably so that they can take it over themselves next week. The real question in all of this was: what would happen to Ramsay Bolton? Ramsay is basically a personification of all the nasty parts of the Game of Thrones story: he is relentlessly and chaotically violent, sadistic, murdery, rapey, and really into making sure there is an audience. As an example, during this episode, Ramsay set free young Rickon Stark, the youngest of the Stark kids, to run across the battle field to his half-brother Jon Snow. Then Ramsay shot the kid full of arrows, killing him. He is a bad dude and this was, frankly, the least of his atrocities this season. So the battle was not just for Winterfell, but also for whether or not the show would give Ramsay what he deserves and set us all free from the boring-yet-horrific tyranny of this nasty character. Good news! After the battle was saved by Littlefinger (which I maintain is the perfect nickname for Donald Trump, even if he is nothing like the character), Jon Snow embodied every fan of the show for a few minutes while he beat Ramsay nearly to death. Then, Sansa Stark fed Ramsay (still alive!) to his own dogs. I don’t even watch the show, but I am going to find a clip of those few minutes and watch them sometime. Because fuck that guy. One downer: during the battle, the last living giant died while breaking down the gates to Winterfell for Snow’s forces to get inside. His name was Wun-Wun.
What to say for a laugh: “My dog was watching that episode with me last night. I’m sleeping with one eye open and feeding her extra food all week, you know?”
What to tweet/hashtag: “Would it be that hard to make the big guy a little armor or a leather mask? Maybe get him a tree to swing around? #RIPWunWun”
What to say if you want to be like the narcissistically contrarian fans: “This episode was so predictable, the battle wasn’t that great, I don’t like that Sansa smiled when Ramsay was being eaten, and I’m really grumpy because my mommy put the milk in my cheerios a little too soon this morning and they weren’t crunchy anymore.”
What to say if you want to change the subject: “You know who really wun wun last night? Lebron and the Cavaliers! Boom!”
What to speculate about for next week: “So Littlefinger shows up to save the day, after Snow’s army is basically destroyed, and now he is hanging out with a bunch of knights… …am I the only one wondering what he is going to do with all that leverage?”
IO9’s review of the episode, which also has their user comment thread at the bottom (seriously, comment threads at io9 are the exception to the rule, I promise).
Welcome to TLP’s Voyeur Recap – a guide for staying conversant with friends, family, and colleagues who are really into a show that you do not have the time and/or desire to watch. The first and so far only series to be included in this feature is HBO’s Game of Thrones. (FYI spoilers abound)
What is Game of Thrones? Game of Thrones is a TV show based on a series of Bible-like books where sin and resurrection are major, recurring themes that keep viewers/readers distracted from inconceivably large plot holes and incoherent moral messaging. The series takes place mostly in the kingdoms of Westeros, a place where summer can last for years, but strangely nobody is happy. There is another continent called Essos, a Star-Wars-prequels style land full of thinly veiled cultural and racial stereotypes that serve to establish the story’s intense Eurocentrism. There are also dragons, zombies, a young woman with fire-proof hair, and a lot of really nasty murdering and killing.
What is a Voyeur Recap? A lot of us don’t watch Game of Thrones, but our friends and/or coworkers do. Some of the story is really pretty interesting, so it is nice to follow along and maybe even stay conversant with the folks we know who are into the show (I call them Thronesbros, because reasons). The voyeur recap is here to help you be informed enough to be able to talk to the Thronesbros in your life and navigate the difficult subtleties of this ostentatious fantasy story that wants to not be seen as just another fantasy story: there is mind control, but it is called warging; the difference between properly resurrected people, ice zombies, and improperly resurrected people that are the mindless minions of the ice zombies; there are magical horns, but no magical amulets; they have dragons, but only like three of them; the fact that Khaleesi is a title, not a name (sorry to all the babies with parents who did not get the memo in time). The voyeur recap is a non-viewer’s travel guide to this strange, yet familiar, landscape. Also some jokes are provided. Enjoy.
Which episode just aired? TLP already provided a voyeur recap for season 6 episode one and episode two, then went off line for a while. However, like almost everything else on this season of Game of Thrones, the voyeur recap has decided to come back to life in dramatic – if predictable – fashion. Below is a brief guide to each episode that we missed and what to say about it to the Ice and Fire singers in your life. Episode 9, “The Battle of the Bastards,” is actually airing right now and will get a full recap as soon as possible. (Update: Here it is!) In the meantime, here we go…
What happened in the episodes (and what should I say about it)?
Episode 3, “Oathbreaker”
What happened? Jon Snow finishes coming back to life, hangs the asshats who stabbed him, and then pulls the ultimate legalistic quitter move of leaving the Night’s Watch – which you can only do by dying – because technically, he did die. Recently blinded Arya Stark has her Rocky moment in a montage where she goes from “oh no I can’t see” to “I am a deadly assassin of the dark!” (She is basically Daredevil now.) Daenarys continues to be stuck in a flashback to her season 1 storyline (minus a brother, thank gods) of being held captive by the Dothraki, who are really into horses and ponytails; basically they are the ultimate Bronies. Bran Stark, who gets dragged around by a dude named Hodor and hangs out with trippy elves, has a flashback-vision-thing where he sees a long fabled fight his dad is famous for winning, but it turns out some guy saved his dad’s ass by stabbing his opponent in the back. Rickon Stark and OSHA turn out to be in Winterfell, held captive by the walking-reminder-of-why-I-don’t-watch-this-show, Ramsay Bolton. Ramsay kills people, babies, and dogs horribly and blithely. From what I have read of the show, OSHA has a lot of work to do in workplace-injury prone Winterfell, but it doesn’t seem like a very interesting plot for the show to be developing. And besides it is hard to imagine that the centralized authority needed for OSHA to enforce its directives is anywhere to be found since the disputed throne of Westeros is currently held by a kid named Tommen who has been usurped by religious zealots who are, apparently, fervent believers in wearing dirty nightgowns all the time.
What to say: “During the Arya training sequence, if you mute the TV and turn on Eye of the Tiger, it totally works, other than the whole ‘eye’ thing…”
Episode 4, “Book of the Stranger“
What Happened? Over in Essos, Daenarys comes up with a pretty good plan to change her fortunes around by burning all the Brony Dothraki kings alive, then walking out of the building unscathed and thus winning the allegiance of their huge, pony obsessed, warrior hordes. Nice move, Dany! On the same continent, but in a bad move, Tyrion makes a deal with the slavers (who are still really mad about Dany’s outlawing of slavery in Meereen) to make slavery legal again for a few years. I don’t know anyone to talks or writes about this show who doesn’t believe Tyrion will get betrayed by these guys, plus his boss, Dany, is going to come back to town with a huge army and probably not be happy about it. Back in Westeros Littlefinger, who is like a one man Ponzi scheme of power, gathers the soldiers of the Vale to go help retake Winterfell, or something. Nobody ever knows what that guy is really up to. The Tyrells and Lannisters, who are two most powerful families in King’s Landing (which ain’t saying much, these days), made a deal to help each other against the Faith Militant (the dirty pajama evangelist people) that probably won’t ever come to fruition and if it did each family will try to betray the other immediately thereafter. Oh and in Winterfell, without so much as a single ergonomic chair purchased of handicap ramp installed, the OSHA program suffered fatal cuts.
What to say: “Wow, really Tyrion? I don’t think slavery is something you’re supposed to compromise on.”
What to say for a laugh: “I guess I’m not the only one with the hots for Dany this week eh? Eh? SEE WHAT I DID THERE?” (Note: may produce groaning instead of laughter.)
Episode 5, “The Door“
What happened?Euron Greyjoy becomes king of the Iron Islands, promising to sail to Essos and win the heart of Daenarys Targaryen with his fleet and man bits. Unfortunately for him, Yara and Theon are stealing most of that fleet while Euron is becoming king, so that is going to be a big problem for him. Speaking of people after Dany’s heart, this guy named Jorah who has a disease called greyscale that turns people into an instagram filter and/or makes them crazy (I’m not sure), gets sent on a mission to find a cure for the disease. So if you see Jorah on social media, be sure to let him know about #nofilter. Arya Stark watches some bad theater while casing the place to figure out how to kill the lead actress, as is her wont as an assassin intern. Sansa Stark gets to be really mean, and maybe a bit cocky, when she see Littlefinger again. Sadly, Littlefinger is not a Donald Trump like character at all, which is too bad because that would just be the perfect nick name for Donnie. But I digress. The big story this episode is about Hodor. Hodor is this gentle giant stereotype character who can only say “hodor” and has been carrying Bran around since he got his legs all messed up in season 1. Bran decides to do his time travel vision quest thing to see if he can find out how Hodor went from being a regular guy with a real name and words to, well, Hodor. Turns out Bran is the reason why – while Bran is in the past watching young would-be Hodor, the Keebler elf tree house that Bran is hiding in gets attacked by the zombie army White Walkers and Bran wargs (mind controls) the present day Hodor and orders him to “hold the door” so he can escape. In the process, Bran somehow shows all of this to young Hodor, scarring his mind, and leaving him unable to say anything except “hold the door” which eventually becomes “hodor.” Poor Hodor is torn apart by mindless zombies wights while his younger self is forced to watch. It is a pretty awful end for one of folks’ favorite characters on the show. On the upside, during all this fiasco, Bran does learn that the zombies were originally created by the elves to fight against the humans. But now the elves have been wiped out by their own weapon. (It is possible that there is some allegory or symbolism happening here, but it’s just too subtle for me to discern.)
What to say if you want to make a Thronesbro cry any time in the next month or two: “Hold the door.”
What to say if you overhear folks talking about Hodor’s “noble sacrifice”: “Umm, noble sacrifice? He was being mind controlled by an landed lord’s kid who not only forced him to sacrifice himself, but did so in a way that robbed the man of almost his entire life. That isn’t a noble sacrifice, that is this show once again showing that as often as the aristocrat’s die, even more often they get other people to die for them.”
What to say if someone in your life has been trying to get you to eat more bran than you want: “After last week’s episode, I just can’t… …it’s too upsetting. Hodor.”
Episode 6, “The Blood of My Blood“
What happened? So Bran Stark and Meera, seemingly the next person to die saving him from zombies, ended up being rescued by Benjen Stark when he appeared and killed their pursuers. Benjen is Bran’s father Ned’s brother. Benjen is less dead than Ned, though. I mean he is dead, but he is one of those resurrected people. Not like Jon Snow “all the way back with just some unhealing gashes” resurrected, but still more resurrected than wights or even that Mountain guy that is following Cersei around King’s Landing, making sure nobody messes with her (again). Benjen is going to escort Bran and Meera south now, presumably making it possible for them to appear just in time to confirm Jon Snow is both a Stark and a Targaryen, or some such thing. In King’s Landing, that deal between the Tyrells and Lannisters ends up being useless as Tommen (Lannister) and Margaery (Tyrell), king and queen respectively, end up making a deal with the High Sparrow (the religious zealot guy who doesn’t ever wash his PJs). Some people named Frey are fighting with some people named Tully, although I’m not sure about what, but a town called Riverrun is involved and everyone will probably die. Meanwhile over in Essos, Dany gets one of her dragons back and gives one of her big pep talks to her new army, so she is continuing to just rehash previous parts of her story on her way back to Meereen. Arya Stark decides not to kill that actress, which means now some assassin will be dispatched to kill Arya and another to finish the contract on the actress, so not much good is going to come of that otherwise laudable choice. Although this season, death isn’t what it used to be, so maybe Arya is making better decisions than we think.
What to say about it to impress a GoT fan: “Isn’t this, like, the fifth time Dany has given that speech? Seriously. I don’t even watch the show and I’m tired of hearing it!”
What to say for a laugh: “How much would it suck to be on Tinder with ‘Coldhands’ as your name? You’re not getting any good swiping out of that.”
Episode 7, “The Broken Man“
What happened? So there are these two big, violent guys on this show, the brothers Clegane. One of them is referred to as the Mountain – he died but then got resurrected, but not the best kind of resurrected, kind of a low-end resurrection, and follows Cersei around King’s Landing now. The other Clegane, called the Hound, got hurt rolling down a hill or something and was presumed dead. In this episode folks learned that the Hound is alive, but not resurrected, he just plainly and ordinarily did not die, but he did fall in with some religious folks and now lives in their pacifist commune somewhere, which for him is at least a social kind of death. But I digress. While he is out maybe bravely trying to remaster rolling down hills, all of his new hippy friends get slaughtered, so he grabs an axe and decides it is killing time again. So I guess we will see him later, killing again. Oh and I found out more about that Riverrun place – it is being held by the Tully family, who are friends of the Starks, and currently lead by some kind of magical fish-man named Blackfish (makes sense that he would choose to hold a city on a river – needs water, after all). Speaking of friends of the Starks… …there aren’t really any others, which is a bummer for Sansa Stark and Jon Snow who are trying to recruit more folks for their army to take back Winterfell from Murdery McMurderface, aka Ramsay Bolton. Apparently some ten year old girl has an army and an attitude, the former of which she gave very little and the latter of which she gave quite a bit to Jon and Sansa. Over in Essos, Arya Stark lost all sense, spent money flamboyantly, then wandered around recklessly doing some touristy shit that you probably shouldn’t do in any city, but especially not if you’re being hunted by assassins who can change their face to look like anybody. In a completely unsurprising development, she got stabbed in the gut by an assassin that had changed faces to look like an old lady. Do they do slow clapping in Game of Thrones?
What to say: “So I guess Arya’s assassin training didn’t include counter-intelligence techniques or even common sense.”
What to say if you want to sound like a GoT nerd: “Oh man, somebody get me some tickets to Cleganebowl! I gotta see these guys fight?”
What to say if you want to get a laugh out of the half dozen people anywhere who will get your reference: “After sitting through six seasons of Lovejoy, I had no idea how much I wanted to see that guy die on screen. Lulz!”
Episode 8, “No One“
What happened? Starting in Essos this week with some good news – Arya lived! That actress she didn’t murder ended up saving her life, yay instakarma. Bad news – the actress got killed by another assassin right after saving Arya, then the assassin came for Arya. The assassin in question is known as the Wafer; her and Arya hate each other based on incredibly strong disagreements about what kinds of cookies are real desserts and which kinds are just little airy sugar nothings meant as a sweet side item for hot tea. Arya, like a lot of young people, decided to go pop-culture-reference-heavy in her fight and defeated the (very vanilla) Wafer in the dark, all Daredevil like, before getting all Hannibal Lector and cutting the Wafer’s face off (eww!) as a trophy. Arya presents the face to the assassin teacher and he… …congratulates her? These people have fucked up rules! “I did not do the homework, nor did I pass the exam, but I did kill the teaching assistant and cut off her face,” basically gets her an A+ at assassin school. Go figure! Back in Westeros, little king Tommen outlawed trial by combat, which is one of the main ways rich people got not-as-rich people to die for them. The show must really have some exciting material coming up if they’re doing away with one of the most beloved forms of violence as spectacle for fans. Meanwhile, Jaime Lannister catches that magical fish-man in Riverrun and has him gutted, whilst he has a nice (read: pathologically bizarre) long chat with one of the Tully folks and even gets to see Brienne for a bit. (Brienne and Jaime have a coed bromance thing going on, just FYI.) And Sandor Clegane, aka the Hound, found the people who killed his friends. Except it turns out that the folks that killed his friends are about to be killed by their friends for the crime of having killed the Hound’s friends. Anyway, the group is called the Brotherhood Without Banners and the Hound ends up joining them, because he likes going around killing people. He starts with killing the guys that killed his friends. Now he is friends with their old friends. Everybody is friends! That’s nice.
What to say if you want to make them groan: “Wow, Arya vs. the Waif. No one could see that coming. Eh? Eh? SEE WHAT I DID THERE?”
What to say if you want to make them groan again: “Hey, what happened to Dorne? I really like that part of the story.”
What to say if you want to impress a Thronesbro: “I’m worried we won’t see Lady Stoneheart after all. Since Thoros can only keep one person resurrected at a time, and Beric is still around, then he couldn’t also have resurrected Catelyn Stark already, and by now there isn’t much left of her body to resurrect. Bummer.”
If you have any questions about the show that you would like to be answered by someone who doesn’t watch it and has never read the books, use the links below to contact TLP.