“Justice League” Review

img01Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Ciarán Hinds
Plot: After his heroic sacrifice, the world mourns the loss of Superman (Cavill). Crime begins to run rampant as mysterious monsters prey on the fearful. Knowing an attack of epic proportions is coming, Batman (Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gadot) gather a team of super-powered individuals to combat the coming threat. The threat comes in the form of Steppenwolf (Hinds), an all-powerful being from another world. As Steppenwolf searches for powerful artefacts that will allow him to end the world, Batman fears that his new team might not be enough to save it. They need help, but more importantly, they need hope.

mv5bmdewytzkyjytzwyxyi00njk3lwjlotutyzg1mge3njrhntmyl2ltywdll2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndu5mje2mdc-_v1_sx1777_cr001777999_al_

Note: Mild spoilers follow in this review; but one of them was so obvious that I don’t think it even qualifies as a spoiler

It takes a special kind of talent (or lack of talent) to mess up a film that should be so easy to get right like Justice League. But yet, the team at DC managed to do just that.

Justice League is not a good film. That much is easy to explain. Despite starting incredibly well with an opening title sequence set to Sigrid’s Everybody Knows showing how the world has changed in the wake of Superman’s death, Justice League drops the ball incredibly quickly. The film starts incredibly rough, with the film jumping from scene to scene without any real rhyme, reason or sense of continuity. Scenes feel cut short, never feeling like they actually end. It feels like there’s someone with a stopwatch standing just off camera shouting “Too long! Next scene!” at different intervals. The film rushes to its next “big” moment with little thought for character or story. At first, I thought this was just going to be a rough opening half hour and the film would find its stride, but this was not to be. This is how the film is from beginning to end. I can’t recall ever seeing a film that was ever this desperate to reach its own credits as quickly as this one.

mv5bmteyode4mji1mzbeqtjeqwpwz15bbwu4mdewnjqwmtqz-_v1_sx1777_cr001777993_al_

While many may blame this on the studio mandated two hour running time, the problem can in fact be traced back to Zack Snyder’s own storytelling style. Snyder has always prioritised “moments” over storytelling and character. Justice League is then the ultimate version of this approach to filmmaking. The film is so concerned with reaching the next moment, that the story and characters get left behind. This problem was present in Sucker Punch, Legend of the Guardians, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman and it’s also present here. Ultimately all of the problems with Justice League can be traced back to this approach Zack Snyder takes to filmmaking.

A major casualty of this is the film’s villain; Steppenwolf (Hinds). Perhaps the worst comic book movie villain seen in a while, Steppenwolf is poorly written and poorly presented. Not least because Steppenwolf is a purely CGI creation who doesn’t blend very well with the live-action elements. Steppenwolf barely has any screen time yet we are supposed to accept he’s the most dangerous threat the DC Universe has ever seen. DC Films have had a problem with their antagonists so far and Steppenwolf is the worst of the bunch. Yes, even worse than Suicide Squad’s poor excuse of a villain in Enchantress. Hinds tries his best in a purely voice role (with some facial motion capture) but it never quite comes together. Steppenwolf’s dialogue is mostly generic dialogue we’ve heard every clichéd supervillain spout before. While Ares from Wonder Woman was also guilty of the same, he had the benefit of a rather excellent performance from David Thewlis who shared excellent chemistry on screen with Gal Gadot when threatening her. When a similar scene occurs in Justice League, there’s no sense of menace or threat. It’s hard to feel threatened when what looks like a reject from a Lord of the Rings video game spouts such plainly clichéd dialogue. Moments where Steppenwolf should be a threat fall painfully flat such as a scene when Steppenwolf growls at Wonder Woman, “You have the blood of the Old Gods in you! The Old Gods died!”. There’s no sense of threat or menace during this moment. When we’ve already been treated to some great villains in comic book movies this year such as Kurt Russell as Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, Michael Keaton as the Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Hela in Thor: Ragnarok, there’s no excuse for delivering a villain as clichéd and unmemorable as this.

hkg3qkvy2u6-l-0

Moving onto our heroes, more problems begin to emerge.

Ben Affleck seems utterly bored and looks like he’d rather be anywhere else and doing anything else. As Batman is meant to be our protagonist, this is a big problem. With rumours circulating throughout the year that Affleck was on the verge of quitting the DCEU, his performance here leads credence to those rumours. Has Affleck grown bored of playing the Caped Crusader after just one film? Did the negative reception to Batman v Superman burn him out that badly? Regardless, Affleck’s almost entirely disinterested performance does not lend the film any favours. How are we supposed to care about a Batman who is played by an actor that doesn’t seem to care?

On the other end of the scale however is Henry Cavill as Superman. While his role in this film is relatively brief for obvious reasons, Cavill is finally allowed to smile and embrace the charm and wonder of the character for the first time in the franchise. Superman finally feels like Superman. So, it’s baffling that the character is barely in the film. It quickly becomes clear that Superman’s death in Batman v Superman was not meant to fulfil any specific role in the story and was instead simply orchestrated for the shock value of killing the iconic character (another one of Snyder’s “moments”). If Cavill had been allowed to portray the character in this way from the very beginning, we’d be looking at a very different, and likely much better, Justice League. Instead one of its best aspects, a proper Superman at last, becomes a strike against it. Simply because he’s not utilised as much as he should be.

mv5bmji4odi2ntiwmv5bml5banbnxkftztgwmdy2ndaxndm-_v1_sx1777_cr001777955_al_

Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is once again the shining star. Gadot was clearly born to play the part and utterly smashes it for a third time. It’s a shame Gadot is caught up in such a disappointing film. Hopefully Wonder Woman 2’s 2019 release date won’t feel too far away.

As for the rest of the League, herein lies the rub. None of them ae given enough time to properly develop. Ezra Miller’s Flash is just a wisecrack machine. Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is presented as a typical “Surfer bro” who is just angry at everyone all the time while Ray Fisher’s Cyborg is about as interesting as watching paint dry. None of this is a fault of the actors. They all do a fine job with what they have. All of this can be traced back to the editing and writing of the film. In an ideal world, the movie would slow down and let us get to know these characters just a little bit more rather than the briefest of development they are given. This may ultimately have been the problem with rushing the DCEU; by not giving any of these characters their own movies, we don’t have reason to care and a crossover ensemble movie with at least eleven principal characters just isn’t the place to introduce and develop new characters. Or at least in a movie that runs towards its climax faster than the Flash himself.

mv5bmtk0mdcymjgznv5bml5banbnxkftztgwnti2ndaxndm-_v1_sy1000_cr0013171000_al_

The action meanwhile struggles to be entertaining. This is nothing to do with how the movie is shot, as Snyder certainly knows how to frame a scene. But while the cinematography looks fine, its ultimately all for naught as it all manages to be incredibly bland and uninteresting to watch. Snyder, again, prioritises moments within these action sequences but forgets to make the action itself interesting. As the heroes run around fighting Steppenwolf’s armies in a big kerfuffle of CGI, the one thought that kept running through my mind was “this action scene should not be this uninteresting”. But that’s ultimately what extends to all the action in the film. It’s bland. It’s slathered in CGI. And it’s ultimately incredibly dull to watch.

The sound in the movie is also worth criticising. Sound effects are mixed too loudly, making action scenes not just difficult on the eyes but on the ears as well. Sound mixing is all over the place; dialogue is at times hard to hear and big triumphant moments in the score are lost in the mix. The hyped return of Danny Elfman’s Batman theme for instance is almost lost as explosions and booms bury the score in the mix, making a heroic moment for Batman lose its impact.

mv5bote5yjuxm2ytnjmwni00mjdjlwi4mtetndrknmvmnjyxodc3xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndqxnjcxnq-_v1_

As for the story, the comparisons to the plot of Avengers Assemble are hard to miss; a villain from another world searches the Earth for a cube shaped McGuffin to unleash his army and destroy the world if a team of superheroes can’t stop him. Narratively, the film tries to hit the exact same beats; the first act assembling the team while the villain goes around collecting items necessary for their plan then a second act sees the heroes divided on a key issue before they all come together for an epic battle. But the film doesn’t seem to quite land them in the same way. It’s as if Snyder and writer Chris Terrio didn’t quite understand the magic that made Avengers Assemble work, eventually bringing on Avengers writer/director Joss Whedon to write new scenes (and eventually direct the reshoots in Zack’s absence) to do it for them… and failing. Narratively the film is a mess. There’s no emotional connection to events that occur, several key story elements are left unexplained, the heroes act like complete idiots when the plot demands they must do and so on. Justice League is the type of film where a convenience is created to move the story along to the next beat, instead of letting the story flow and develop naturally. There are many moments in the film where something narratively convenient will happen to advance the so-called plot. A moment in the second act where the heroes leave a key item abandoned in a car park where Steppenwolf can conveniently steal it left me scratching my head in confusion. When Batman, the World’s Greatest Detective, is part of the team, these types of heroic blunders are inexcusable.

mv5bmtywmjmwmtgwmf5bml5banbnxkftztgwnjq2ndaxndm-_v1_sx1777_cr001777958_al_

Justice League is a mess; a collection of Zack Snyder moments strung together by a paper-thin plot and incredibly poor character work as well as perhaps the worst villain ever seen in a major superhero film. If more films like this are on the cards, then DC need to seriously rethink their superhero universe. There’s a moment in the film where Batman quips that his working as part of a team “may be temporary”, and honestly, I feel that might be for the best. It takes a special kind of incompetence to make a bad Justice League movie and it’s here in spades. Justice League is not the superhero crossover we need, nor the one we deserve. It’s sort of like that person you’ll always give another chance to impress you, but instantly regret as they only find new, bigger ways of disappointing you.

 

3/10

Advertisements

“Thor: Ragnarok” Review

Directed by: Takia Waititi
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, Cate Blanchett, Mark Ruffalo, Jeff Goldblum, Karl Urban, Benedict Cumberbatch, Anthony Hopkins
Plot: Imprisoned, the almighty Thor (Hemsworth) finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk (Ruffalo), his former ally. Thor must fight for survival and race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilisation. 

mv5bmty1nda1mjc3mf5bml5banbnxkftztgwntexmjgwndi-_v1_sx1777_cr001777744_al_The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had a big year. After two massive successes with Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming, the franchise surely couldn’t hit a home run and have three great films in one year? Yet that’s exactly what it did. Thor: Ragnarok is big, bold and thrilling, emerging as one of the franchise’s best.

For the third Thor film, Marvel could have played things incredibly safe with a fairly atypical superhero entry. Yet, they went for the risky choice. Hiring Taika Waititi, known more for quirky comedies than action movies, was a risk that paid off. For Thor: Ragnarok is not just the best Thor film, but one of the best in the Marvel Universe. The film takes a drastic tone change for the franchise, opting for a big action-packed space comedy rather than fantasy. And yet, this stylistic change works. From an opening sequence where Thor fights the forces of Surtur to the tune of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song, things instantly feel fresh and unique. If Marvel has been trying to refine their “formula”, then Thor: Ragnarok is the ultimate refinement. There’s little that doesn’t work within the film.

Much of this is due to director Taika Waititi. Waititi brings his own unique style to the film, giving it a unique style and flavour not found within other superhero films. The quirky comedy and the embracing of the inherent silliness of the entire thing was perhaps the best decision that could have been made in regard to this film. Waititi gets that watching a guy in long hair wave around a magic hammer is, ultimately, a very silly idea, so he has fun with it. And this leads to some of the best comedy ever seen within the Marvel Universe.

mv5bnzbizme2mjetndhkmi00ngu4lwi1m2etmdzjmta2mmi1nji1xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndqxnjcxnq-_v1_sx1777_cr001777744_al_

But yet this added comedy does not stop the film from having an impact. In fact, this comedic tone helps the darker and more emotional beats of the film hit even harder than usual. In fact, it’s just surprising exactly how much this film is able to get away with. People have been crying out for superhero movies to have more consequences and they don’t get much bigger than this. The emotional beats hit harder than they ever have before. In fact, in terms of emotional impact, some of the moments here have greater impact than Captain America: Civil War.

All of this is helped along by an absolutely stellar cast. Chris Hemsworth has shown before that he has strong comedic chops both in the MCU and out of it and here he gets to run wild with them. Out of Hemsworth’s five appearances in the Marvel Universe so far, this is by far his best. Much like the film itself, Hemsworth shines with the comedy but really excels with the emotional beats. Hemsworth’s Thor manages to really come into his own here.

Likewise, Tom Hiddleston shines as Loki once again being a scene stealer. Hiddleston has always been a fan favourite and here he absolutely proves his worth yet again, giving Loki a depth and dimensionality that most other characters in superhero films lack. Hiddleston also provides some of the film’s most memorable comedic beats showcasing brilliant comedic timing.

Mark Ruffalo is also excellent as Bruce Banner/Hulk. Hulk is at his most complex here, with Ruffalo and producer Kevin Feige explaining this film is the first of three telling a new story for the Hulk (with the other two being the two upcoming Avengers sequels) and this works across well. While Hulk’s character arc is not resolved within this film, it doesn’t need to be. Seeing Banner awaken from two years of being the Hulk and worrying that transforming into the Hulk again will be a permanent transformation leads to some excellent character moments with Banner. Ruffalo handles these moments excellently as well as delivering some hilarious dialogue. Ruffalo’s Hulk is also on fine form with the character being able to speak properly now leading to some excellent moments. Hulk is also the source of some of the film’s best humour with one hilarious moment being an unexpected call-back to Avengers: Age of Ultron.

mv5by2iyzdm5mzgtnjjmzi00ytfhlwi3zgmtymvmmmi1yju5mta4xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndqxnjcxnq-_v1_

But the real dazzlers of the cast are the new additions. Tessa Thompson is fantastic as Valkyrie; a drunk, washed up Asgardian warrior in self-imposed exile. Thompson manages to instantly fit in with the group of Hemsworth, Hiddleston and Ruffalo and carves out a place of her own within the film. Thompson’s Valkyrie is one of the highlights of the film in humour, action and character with Valkyrie having one of the more defined character arcs in the film. Thompson is a blast on screen and I hope she sticks around for future Thor sequels as she’s quickly become an essential part of the series, being a more than adequate replacement for Natalie Portman; who did not return for this film.

Jeff Goldblum meanwhile manages to steal every scene he’s in as the Grandmaster. Goldblum is clearly having a lot of fun with the role and it quickly becomes very infectious with the film brightening up every time he’s on screen. He is certainly one of the more unusual Marvel villains but is certainly one of the most memorable and one I certainly hope to see return in future films.

mv5bmjq5otk4njiynf5bml5banbnxkftztgwotaxmjgwndi-_v1_sx1777_cr001777744_al_

And then we have Cate Blanchett as Hela. Blanchett does a fantastic job with what she’s given, managing to make Hela an effective and memorable antagonist. The only problem is that Blanchett is not given enough time to really play with the character. The decision to have most of the middle act set away from Asgard creates the problem of Hela being sat around doing nothing for much of this time. Indeed, the film has to create a narrative convenience just to delay Hela’s plans until the third act, with a key item needed for her plot conveniently going missing at the end of the first act. But despite this, Hela still manages to make an impact. An early scene of Hela invading Asgard and being able to take out its warriors all by herself is a thrilling scene to watch and Blanchett is clearly having a blast in the role. It’s just a shame she doesn’t have enough screen time to truly become an iconic villain.

The film is helped along by some truly stunning visuals. If an award was made for the most visually stunning superhero film, Thor: Ragnarok would win it. A true visual feast for the eyes with amazing CGI and excellent cinematography and art direction. The film also benefits from a fantastic score by Mark Mothersbaugh, which even manages to revisit Patrick Doyle’s brilliant theme from the first film.

mv5bmgiwmzu5nzatmgnlni00odg0lweyywitzdvjztljmwm0njdmxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndqxnjcxnq-_v1_sx1777_cr001777935_al_

To summarise; Thor: Ragnarok is not just a fantastic entry in the Marvel Universe, it’s also perhaps one of the strongest superhero films in recent years and one of the best blockbusters of the year. Marvel have struck gold and delivered the biggest, best and most thrilling Thor film yet. “What are you the god of again?” Hela asks Thor during a key moment. The God of all superhero movies would be a suitable answer.

9.5/10

“Hellboy” Reboot pictures emerge and why I’m excited

The first pictures from the upcoming Hellboy reboot have emerged showing actor David Harbour in costume as the title character and it looks fantastic.

Another Hellboy movie has been a long time coming. After Hellboy II: The Golden Army underperformed at the box office, it seemed that the future of the Hellboy franchise was in jeopardy. And indeed, Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy III quickly entered development hell. And as time went on it seemed the movie would never get made. Del Toro was always too busy. No one wanted to invest. So it came as no surprise that the project was quietly cancelled.

But what did come as a surprise was the announcement of a reboot.

With Neil Marshall in the director’s chair, the Hellboy reboot sees David Harbour of Stranger Things fame take over from Ron Perlman and also casts Ian McShane playing Hellboy’s adopted father Professor Broom and Milla Jovovich as the villain; the Blood Queen.

I was a huge fan of Del Toro’s first two Hellboy movies and have grown to love the character outside the movies via the comics. But my excitement for the movie also stems from a wider, more general perspective.

Hollywood is in a rut right now. There is no denying. Disney rules the day and while every studio may have the odd Wonder Woman or Jurassic World, no one else can seem to find a foothold. And the big problem here is that every major movie is beginning to look the same or just aren’t good.

For instance, the latest The Mummy reboot aped Marvel’s style so much that it forgot to find its own voice along the way, making it an ultimately lifeless venture. Warcraft struggled to figure out who it was for. Batman v Superman massively misunderstood why it’s two title characters are so appealing.

A Hellboy reboot, if done right, could provide the kick that Hollywood needs. It’s a great character and comic to adapt and it’s a weird property. But that’s good. With everyone else beginning to look so bland and lifeless, maybe Hollywood needs a little bit of weird. Something different. The huge success of IT should prove that audiences are craving something a little different and Hellboy could deliver on that.

If the movie doesn’t try to “Marvelise” itself and can forge out its own identity, it could be a massive success.

It has a talented director at the helm, a great cast, the support and writing talents of the characters creator Mike Mingola and has every reason to succeed.

Add in that Harbour looks perfect as the character and Hellboy has quickly shot up my list of most anticipated films of 2018. I just hope it’s able to deliver on the promise.

Game of Thrones S07E07 “The Dragon and the Wolf” Review

 

 

mv5bytjhmtiwogmtntc4ni00n2iylwe0mzctmzm3otgxnznlywzjxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjc3mjq4mdu-_v1_sy1000_sx1500_al_

Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) confronts Jon (Kit Harington) over his rash decision. Copyright: HBO.

Game of Thrones concludes its seventh and penultimate season with an absolute beast of a season finale that leaves us a lot to unpack.

The main plot thread of this episode was the parlay between Jon, Daenerys and Cersei (with their respective allies and advisors gathered around). The main goal of this parlay, was Jon and Daenerys hoping to convince Cersei to agree to a ceasefire; allowing Jon and Daenerys to deal with the White Walker threat without worrying about Cersei and her army. This parlay was one of the best parts of the episode, simply because it was the first time most of the show’s cast have been in the same scene together. Not only is it the first time Daenerys has shared a scene with Cersei, Qyburn, Brienne, Euron etc. but it’s the first time Jon has been in the same scene as Cersei and Jaime since the pilot episode.

It’s hard to describe exactly how tense this scene was to begin with. Cersei not showing up at first made me slightly worried that it was another trap similar to when Cersei blew up the Sept back in Season 6. Thankfully this was not the case and we were treated to some wonderful interactions between the show’s entire main cast – bar the crew at Winterfell and the Wall.

Cersei and Daenerys not so subtly giving each other the stink eye, Cersei giving Brienne the stink eye, Cersei giving pretty much everyone the stink eye, all of it was glorious. What made this work so well however was when Sandor unleashed the Wight. Seeing Cersei absolutely crap her pants was completely worth it. Cersei thankfully did not try to dismiss it all as a trick, and agreed that the White Walkers had to be dealt with. This was a surprising bit of rationality for the character, but it was quickly ended when Cersei refused to continue negotiations when she learned Jon had bent the knee to Daenerys.

mv5bmjawotg0mdm1nf5bml5banbnxkftztgwotg0odmzmzi-_v1_sy1000_cr0015021000_al_

Cersei (Lena Heady) schemes to wipe out all her enemies. Copyright: HBO.

This led Tyrion having to brave being alone in a room with the woman who hates his guts and has tried to kill him several times. The show has always thrived when it puts two of its best actors together and alone in the same scene. And this was one of those scenes. Lena Heady and Peter Dinklage were amazing in this scene. What’s interesting is the show’s decision to cut away from this scene, leaving exactly what terms Tyrion and Cersei agreed on a mystery. Whatever it was, it seems that Jon and Daenerys’s romance is going to throw a stone in all of Tyrion’s plans. Did Tyrion try and arrange a marriage between Cersei and Jon? Did Tyrion promise that Cersei’s child would rule after Daenerys, since Tyrion seemed to be urging Daenerys to name an heir in the last episode? Whatever it is, it probably isn’t going to end well.

Cersei and Tyrion then returned to the negotiations and Cersei promised to send her armies north to help fight the White Walkers. But this was all a ploy, as Cersei later revealed to Jaime that she had no intention of doing so. She instead planned for the White Walkers and Daenerys/Jon to wipe each other out, so Cersei can then mop up what’s left with the Golden Company. Jaime was horrified, pointing out the massive flaw in her plan; that the winner of the battle in the North will march south and kill them and they will be unstoppable. Cersei was set in her madness however and this led to Jaime to finalise his path to redemption; by abandoning Cersei for good. It seems the popular fan theory that Jaime will be the Valonquar (the little brother prophesised to kill Cersei in the books) is looking more true. And, in a turning point, as Jaime headed north to Winterfell, snow began to fall and cover King’s Landing. Winter has finally come.

mv5byjgymzq1ymutntmxyy00y2yxlthkoditnjizndm2mwjingixxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynzu2nduwnw-_v1_

Petyr Baelish AKA “Littlefinger” (Aidan Gillen) schemes his last. Copyright: HBO.

Meanwhile in Winterfell, Littlefinger continued his ploy to turn Sansa and Arya against each other by telling Sansa to imagine Arya’s worst motives for doing the things she’s done. Sansa seemed to be buying Littlefinger’s logic and called Arya to the great hall, seemingly putting her on trial. Sansa however then revealed that she’d seen through Littlefinger’s scheme and had put him on trial instead. Aidan Gillen has always been a talented member of the cast and he acted his ass off here showing Littlefinger as he truly is; a coward determined to save his own skin above all. Littlefinger was never going to last much longer, so for him to go out by vastly underestimating how much control he had was a fitting way for the character to go. And his death managed to bring Arya and Sansa closer together, so it was a win-win. It was also nice to see Sansa putting Bran’s skills to use at last.

Speaking of Bran, he and Sam managed to drop the (second) biggest shock of the episode; that Jon Snow is not Jon Snow. Bran and Sam, combining their knowledge, learned that Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark were married in secret and Jon Snow is not Rhaegar’s bastard but his trueborn son; Aegon Targaryen and the true heir to the Iron Throne. This throws a spanner in the works certainly, if Jon is the heir to the throne, how does this leave him and Daenerys? Will the two marry and rule together? Or will the knowledge they’re related change everything?

And of course, this episode saw the culmination of this season’s biggest budding relationship. That’s right, Jon Snow (or Aegon?) and Daenerys finally got together. The two have been slowly falling in love across the entire season and to end the season on them finally consummating that love made a lot of sense. But this romance has a lot of potential to cause trouble over the final season so it will be interesting to see it develop. I oddly find myself rooting for the two to stay together, perhaps because the two have excellent chemistry and also because the two have endured so much that I want them to have a bit of happiness.

mv5byti1mdm3mwqtyzq1mc00yzfiltgzmwitzji1nmvlmjjmmtdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynzgzmje3njg-_v1_sy1000_sx1500_al_

Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) grows concerned over his sister’s growing madness. Copyright HBO. 

Director Jeremy Podewsa did a fantastic job on this episode, with The Dragon and the Wolf being perhaps one of the best directed episodes of the season. Ramin Djawadi however is the true standout of this episode, doing a fantastic job with the score. Tracks like Truth, No One Walks Away From Me/Winter Is Here and Army of the Dead were fantastic and are still stuck in my head. Djawadi has always been a major part of the show and he was just as good here with the themes of Jon, Daenerys, Cersei and the White Walkers all getting new variations and improvements; with No One Walks Away From Me, playing as Jaime abandons Cersei, mixing both Cersei’s “mad queen” theme and the Lannister theme while Army of the Dead, played in the final scene, mixing all variations of the White Walker theme into one glorious suite.

And speaking of that final scene – wow. All I can say. Wow. We’ve been waiting seven seasons for the White Walkers to reach the Wall, and they did so with style. Riding on the back of the undead Viserion, the Night King destroyed Eastwatch and burst a massive breach in the Wall large enough for his army to cross. It was horrifying and strangely beautiful, featuring some of the best special effects work the show has ever seen. With the White Walkers crossing into Westeros, it’s certainly the sign that the story has reached its end. Now literally anything happen.

mv5bzgq0nja4nwyty2e1os00ytaxlwjinjytngmwzjeymmvjn2jhxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjc3odu2mjm-_v1_

Astride the undead Viserion, the Night King (Vladimir Furdik) destroys the Wall. Copyright HBO.

The Dragon and the Wolf perhaps emerged as one of the show’s best season finales. I was gripped throughout and was an absolute magnificent close to an amazing season. With only six episodes left, I can only hope the show can keep to this high standard for the rest of its run. 

10/10

Game of Thrones S07E06 “Beyond The Wall” Review

mv5bmja2oty5oteynl5bml5banbnxkftztgwnzm5mtkymzi-_v1_sx1777_cr001777999_al_

The Night King (Vladimir Furdik) prepares to make his move. Copyright: HBO

Game of Thrones took us Beyond the Wall for perhaps our most in depth, most intense and most frightening encounter with the White Walkers yet in an exciting episode that delivered plenty of action, story and character development.

The main plot thread of this week’s episode was Jon Snow’s brave band of warriors, consisting of Jorah Mormont, Tormund, Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr, Sandor Clegane and Gendry, on a mission to capture a live Wight in order to use it as evidence of the White Walker threat and convince Cersei to lend her aid.

And of course this plan falls to pieces very quickly. This led to a desperate fight for survival for Jon’s team while Gendry ran for help, with these sequences being some of the best of the episode. Sequences with the White Walkers have always been some of the best the show has to offer, possibly because it’s so very different from what the show usually does. Every time the Walkers show up, the characters are always on the back foot, always fighting just to escape. The Walker attack on Hardhome and the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave were excellent sequences and the White Walker attack here emerges as the best of them. They were utterly terrifying, standing and waiting for the ice to freeze so they could swarm Jon and co. I’d go on to say that this was perhaps the most terrifying the White Walkers have ever been, for this episode gave them another few qualities. Not only are they smart; clearly setting a trap for Jon but they’re also incredibly patient. And that’s a worrying quality for an enemy to have. This really sent the message that the Night King is a force to be reckoned with. Not only is he incredibly powerful, but he’s incredibly smart as well.

mv5botcznzm4mte2mv5bml5banbnxkftztgwmjm5mtkymzi-_v1_sx1777_cr001777999_al_

Jon (Kit Harington) and the group make a desperate escape. Copyright: HBO

And then we move onto the biggest development of this episode. Daenerys arrives on her dragons to save Jon and friends only for the Night King to throw an ice spear and kill one of Daenerys’s Dragons; Viserion. A moment that was surprisingly shocking and emotional, it pulled at the heart strings seeing the Dragon viewers have seen grow up from hatchling to die an incredibly painful death. This act achieved several things. It gave Daenerys her first major defeat on the open field; Daenerys has won every battle she’s fought so far so for her to suffer such a crippling loss is a very humbling moment for the character. This is reflected later in the episode where after Jon bends the knee, Daenerys says “I hope I deserve it”, showing how incredibly humbled Daenerys has become after her loss no longer as sure of herself. The death of Viserion also gave the Night King his biggest advantage yet; a Wight Dragon to add to his army. Exactly what sort of powers a Wight Dragon will possess are currently unknown (will it still be able to breathe fire for instance), but one thing is certain; this tips the balance of the war for the dawn in the Night King’s favour.

One thing the episode did well in this portion was giving all of Jon’s team chances to interact with each other; allowing the audience to grow attached to them a little more especially with characters like Beric and Thoros who haven’t had as much screen time as the others. This made Thoros’s death more touching than it would have been otherwise and set the stage for audiences to fear for the character’s lives. The moment where Tormund was being dragged under the ice by Wights had me certain that the fan-favourite character was doomed. Thankfully Tormund lives to boast another day. A lot of the episode’s humour came from this segment as well, with Sandor’s perfectly timed utterance of “Fuck” upon realising the ice had frozen over making me laugh out loud as well as perfectly mirroring exactly how the audience felt at that moment.

mv5bmjq1nza5mtg3n15bml5banbnxkftztgwntm5mtkymzi-_v1_sy1000_cr0015021000_al_

Arya (Maisie Williams) prepares to play “the game of faces”. Copyright: HBO

Back in Winterfell, we saw Littlefinger continue to play Arya and Sansa off each other and the two seemingly playing into his hands. Littlefinger, after allowing Arya to find a letter Sansa wrote to Robb while a hostage of the Lannisters back in Season 1, began to place seeds of doubt in Sansa’s mind; warning her that Brienne is sworn to serve both Stark daughters and could take Arya’s side if she and Sansa were to be at odds. This led Sansa to send Brienne and Podrick away from Winterfell, sending them to represent her interests at the parlay in King’s Landing, in order to remove them from being a possible obstacle in whatever intentions she has for Arya. Arya meanwhile continues to believe that Sansa intends to usurp Jon and become Queen of the North and the letter is proof, in her eyes, that Sansa’s loyalties are always with herself and not with her family; which would be a grave offence for the daughter of a Stark and a Tully – two family oriented houses (House Tully’s words are “Family, Duty, Honour” indicating the order of priorities for the family and Ned Stark once told his children “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives” indicating that the family needs to stick together).

This ended in a confrontation between Sansa and Arya, as Sansa discovered Arya’s collection of faces. Arya seemed to threaten Sansa, detailing how easy it would be for her to kill Sansa, take her face and become her. This greatly unnerved Sansa, but it was how Arya ended this conversation that interested me. After advancing on Sansa with the Valyrian dagger, Arya then flipped it around and gave it, handle first, to Sansa before turning her back on her and leaving the room. To me, this indicates something about the two. Was this Arya telling Sansa that she has no intentions of harming her and thus isn’t a threat? A simpler way of telling Sansa this instead of just saying it? “Words are wind” after all, so perhaps doing this is an easier way of making Sansa believe Arya means no harm to her. It could also indicate Arya showing she trusts Sansa for to someone like Arya, who has had several attempts on her life, giving someone a dagger and turning your back to them would require a great deal of trust. Perhaps this is Arya trying to tell Sansa that she trusts her and trusts that she’s doing what’s right?  Could this be an indication that the Stark sisters are going to outplay Littlefinger? That the pack of the Stark family will outlive the lone wolf that is Littlefinger?

mv5bmtu3mtkymtc4ml5bml5banbnxkftztgwmju5mtkymzi-_v1_sy1000_cr0015021000_al_

Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) advises Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). Copyright: HBO

At Dragonstone, Tyrion confronted Daenerys over her reckless behaviour and her putting off the matter of naming an heir if she were to die. Daenerys was having none of it, arguing her behaviour was justified and that the matter of succession doesn’t matter until she’s queen. Both parties had a point here; while Tyrion was pushing for Daenerys to be more fair and lenient, Daenerys knows that doesn’t work after her time ruling Meereen. She also wasn’t discussing a matter of succession to perhaps not give Tyrion another potential ruler to abandon Daenerys for/organise a coup for. Perhaps Daenerys feels that even though she trusts Tyrion, she doesn’t want to give him a way to abandon her. She could even see this as Tyrion looking for a reason to abandon her, with Tyrion seemingly growing a little disenchanted with Daenerys over the past few episodes. Tyrion did rightfully call out that Jon and Daenerys had fallen in love however, so he may push Daenerys to marry Jon for the political benefits and perhaps also hoping Jon could balance out Daenerys’s more volatile personality traits. Either way, the Daenerys/Tyrion relationship is on rocky ground and is a bomb waiting to go off.

One of the more important developments in this episode however was Jon and Daenerys finally realising they had fallen in love. Daenerys standing vigil over the wounded Jon’s bedside, Jon clinging onto her hand, the long gazes held between them, all of it showed that these two characters have fallen deeply in love. Exactly how this relationship will pan out, especially when it’s revealed the two are related, remains to be seen but the relationship is one I’m rooting for especially as Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke share fantastic chemistry together. While the two have yet to actually come out and say they have fallen in love with the other, they both know it. The entire series seems to be pushing them to get together; the overall name of the franchise is “A Song of Ice and Fire” with Jon being Ice and Daenerys being Fire, Jorah seemed to give his approval for Jon and Daenerys to be together when he returned Longclaw to Jon, Davos and Tyrion have already noted that the two have feelings for each other. I look forward to seeing the two’s relationship developed over the remaining seven episodes.

mv5bmtgwmzkxmdywof5bml5banbnxkftztgwmdm5mtkymzi-_v1_sx1777_cr001777999_al_

Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and Jon (Kit Harington) realise their feelings for each other. Copyright: HBO

Beyond the Wall saw the return of Alan Taylor to the director’s chair of Game of Thrones. The director, who directed six episodes in the show’s first two seasons, moved onto the world of Hollywood blockbusters, directing Thor: The Dark World and Terminator: Genisys. Taylor seemed to bring some of that Hollywood sensibility back with him as Beyond the Wall was a gorgeous episode, filled with wonderful shots and amazing camerawork. Taylor’s expertise with CGI-filled blockbusters likely gave this episode the cinematic feel it needed. Beyond the Wall felt big, it was epic, it was exciting and it was thrilling. Hopefully Taylor returns for the show’s final season.

mv5bmjm4odk5nti4mf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtu5mtkymzi-_v1_sx1777_cr001777999_al_

Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) prepares to fight for the Dawn. Copyright: HBO.

Being almost movie-length at 71 minutes, Beyond the Wall emerged as another fantastic entry in what is shaping up to be Thrones’s strongest season yet. Big character developments, massive plot developments, thrilling and terrifying action sequences all made this episode fantastic viewing. If Beyond the Wall teases what’s in store for when the White Walkers finally make it past the Wall, then that moment can’t come soon enough.

10/10

Game of Thrones S07E05 “Eastwatch” Review

mv5bnzrjzwq1ndgtnje5zi00ngfjltlkm2itmgqyy2mzmjqzngi1xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjc5mjg0nju-_v1_sy1000_cr0015021000_al_

Daenerys (Emila Clarke) and Jon (Kit Harington) grow closer. Copyright: HBO. 

Things are really beginning to heat up in Westeros now. With multiple character reunions, several plot advancements, a major plot reveal and the teasing of a major confrontation on the way, there’s a lot to unravel here.

 

This episode saw multiple character reunions; with Jaime and Tyrion being the major one. The last time Jaime and Tyrion saw each other was in the Season 4 finale The Children; just before Tyrion murdered Tywin Lannister. That’s a whole 25 episodes ago, believe it or not. Tyrion attempted to explain to Jaime exactly why he killed Tywin. Tyrion and Jaime didn’t exactly work through all of their issues in this scene however, despite Tyrion’s pleadings that Tywin always wanted Tyrion dead because of who he was and not what he did. Hopefully Jaime and Tyrion get another scene together this season were they can fully work through all their issues (perhaps during the planned meeting between Jon, Daenerys and Cersei). Peter Dinklage and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau gave wonderful performances during this scene, with Dinklage in particular being the standout; reminding us just why he’s a fan-favourite character (Tyrion has been a very passive character since Season 4).

Daenerys was reunited with Jorah, but sadly the episode didn’t find time to linger on this reunion too much. A nice touch was Daenerys showing how much she trusts Jorah’s word that he’s been cured of Greyscale by hugging him. Hopefully the two get more chance to interact soon.

And the third and final reunion this episode was between Davos and Gendry; Robert Baratheon’s bastard son who hasn’t been seen since Season 3 Episode 10 Mhysa. Gendry’s return felt a little rushed however, after a small joke about Davos thinking he was “Still rowing”. Perhaps Gendry should have returned in Season 6, being brought in to join Jon’s army, which would have allowed Gendry’s return to be a little less rushed and giving us time for Jon and Gendry to get to know each other. At the moment it feels like the two have become instant best friends. Not to say the scenes with Gendry weren’t good; it just feels a little rushed to bring him back into the fray now.

mv5bntgyzjqxotqtmmq2zs00zwq2ltgyytktzmjkndqwzdkzyji5xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjk3ntuyotc-_v1_sy1000_cr0014271000_al_

Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) reunite. Copyright: HBO

Eastwatch saw a major plot reveal however with Gilly discovering a hidden record revealing Rhaegar, Jon’s father, secretly had his marriage to Elia Martell annulled and married a “woman in Dorne”, who could be no one other than Lyanna Stark, Jon’s mother. This reveal was subtly done, but no doubt paves the way for Sam to realise what it means later. For this reveal is perhaps the biggest reveal since the revelation that Jon’s parents were not Ned Stark and a woman called “Wylla”. The reveal Rhaegar and Lyanna were married means one thing; Jon Snow is not a bastard and is the true heir to the throne (with Jon’s claim as Rhaegar’s son overtaking Daenerys’s claim as Rhaegar’s sister). Exactly when Jon will learn his true identity is unknown, but it’s likely going to cause some friction in his burgeoning relationship with Daenerys. Especially with the whole incest thing.

Up in Winterfell, Littlefinger is clearly trying to play Arya and Sansa off each other. Secretly meeting with several Lords, knowing Arya is following him, it was quite clear Littlefinger wants to build a rift between the two sisters. As Arya is already distrustful of Sansa, believing Sansa means to take Jon’s throne out from under him, this wasn’t exactly hard to do. Allowing Arya to find the letter from Sansa imploring Robb to bend the knee to Joffrey was also another stage of this plan. Could this lay the seeds of doubt in Arya’s mind that Sansa has the North’s best interests in mind? Will Sansa’s defence that the letter was written under duress (Cersei bullied Sansa into writing the letter, using Ned’s life as leverage) be enough to convince Arya? Why doesn’t Bran, who apparently sees all, warn his sisters that Littlefinger is trying to turn them against each other? Regardless of what occurs, it’s excellent to see Littlefinger actually scheming again and being the slimy scoundrel we all know him to be.

Eastwatch also had the next phase of the plot kick into gear; with Daenerys and Jon both agreeing to abandon the war with Cersei and focus on the White Walker threat with their goal now being to convince Cersei of the threat. This plan involves Jon attempting to capture a Wight to use as proof at a parlay with Cersei. This required Jon assembling a team to undertake an impossible mission of which there was very little chance of survival. Hmm… Wight One: A Game of Thrones Story and Suicide Squad parodies incoming. The White Walkers have been largely off-screen this season so far, and it looks like next episode will see things truly kick off up north. Considering the Walkers have been all over this season’s marketing, it’s about time they showed up.

mv5bztuxmmi5ntatnwfkyi00ytqzlthiotmtzgi1nmrmzwu3ndmwxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynzu2nduwnw-_v1_sx1777_cr001777999_al_

Jorah (Iain Glen) bids farewell to Daenerys. Copyright: HBO. 

Eastwatch was filled with great moments and acting. As well as the before mentioned moments, there were some wonderful character building moments as well. Cersei revealing to Jaime that she’s pregnant and she’s aware of his secret meeting with Tyrion was a great scene. Lena Heady managed to show both the softer side of Cersei and the colder, scheming side that we all know and love all in one scene. I can’t help but feel though that Cersei is using her pregnancy as a weapon to try and keep Jaime on her side. And it’s always possible this could backfire majorly on her; with Cersei not keeping it a secret she’s sleeping with Jaime and now being pregnant, it would confirm the rumours among the people (and what we know to be the truth) that Joffrey, Tommen and Myrcella were Jaime’s bastards and not Robert Baratheon’s trueborn children. How will the people of King’s Landing react upon learning that their last two kings were illegitimate and their Queen is pregnant with her brother’s bastard? I doubt they’ll take it well.

Another great moment came from Jon and Daenerys. Jon, showing no fear, slowly approached Drogon and Drogon, sensing something in Jon (perhaps his parentage) allowed Jon to pet him. This sparked something in Daenerys, as her attitude to Jon changes after this moment. Perhaps Daenerys has become to develop feelings for Jon? Maybe she on some level senses their bond and mistakes this familial bond for romantic feelings? Or perhaps she has actually fallen in love with him? Either way, Daenerys is clearly having feelings for him as she seemed desperate to keep Jon at her side and not allow him to go on his dangerous mission. Jon also seemed to have some feelings for Daenerys, with their farewell having a tinge of awkwardness about it, like there was something the two of them both wanted to say but found themselves unable to. It’s telling that Daenerys seemed more torn up about Jon going on the suicide mission than Jorah, her oldest friend and the closest thing to a father she has. Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke have natural chemistry and the two are a joy to see together on screen, so whatever direction their relationship takes I am eager to see.

However, after Daenerys’s brutal killing of Randall and Dickon Tarly, it could seem that Daenerys is set on a bloodthirsty path. With Tyrion and Varys worried that she won’t listen to reason, could it fall on Jon to level out Daenerys’s more strict tactics for conquering Westeros?

mv5bodgxyza3nzgtyjm5zi00ytk4ltk1ztgtndjhogjmmmiyzmvjxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjk3ntuyotc-_v1_

Jon, Jorah, Tormund (Kristofer Hivju), Sandor (Rory McCann), Gendry (Joe Dempsie), Beric (Richard Dormer) and Thoros (Paul Kaye) venture beyond the Wall. Copyright: HBO 

Eastwatch was another fine entry in what is shaping up to be the show’s strongest season yet. Significant plot advancements, the return of beloved characters, long awaited reunions, the teasing of a major White Walker conflict and the teases of a romance between the show’s two leads all made Eastwatch fantastic television. The long wait for the next episode begins for, as the marketing for next week’s episode stresses, Winter is finally here…

8/10

Game of Thrones S07E04 “The Spoils of War” Review

mv5bodblzmvmy2itn2uxyy00ztjhlthlnwetnta3yzewzdbhmza4xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjk3ntuyotc-_v1_The Spoils of War saw perhaps the most significant advancements in Game of Thrones yet. That may be a common saying going forward. This episode saw not just Jon and Daenerys’s relationship begin to grow, it also saw the reunion of the three surviving trueborn Stark children and the first major confrontation between Jaime and Daenerys; and our first proper battle sequence of the Season. Despite its relatively short running time compared to other episodes, Spoils of War was perhaps the best episode of the Season so far giving us time to check in with every plot line; bar Sam, the Hound, the Wall and the White Walkers. So much happened in this episode that it’s hard to condense it all into one review. The first confrontation between Jaime and Daenerys (and likely not to be the last) was fantastic to see, really hammering home that the series is coming to its end; and that there’s actually a war going on. At Winterfell, seeing the reunion of the Stark children at last was beautiful to see. Sansa, Arya and Bran have not been together since the first ever episode, so to finally see them reunited was a sense of victory in a way. They’ve gone through so much so for the family to be together again is incredibly cathartic for viewers.

Littlefinger seems to be growing more desperate to find someone to manipulate, with Sansa showing resistance to his advances and Bran clearly not being interested in politics; his parroting of Littlefinger’s saying “Chaos is a ladder” certainly seemed to put Littlefinger on edge. With Littlefinger’s uncertainty at seeing Arya; perhaps remembering her as Tywin’s cupbearer and thus knowing he helped Tywin plot the downfall of House Stark, will perhaps push him into making a move sooner rather than later. Exactly what that move will be is unknown, but it’s likely to be his last.

mv5bnge4yzcwnwitodcwmi00owuxltllnzqtzgjmmjy1mzixnjcyxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjk3ntuyotc-_v1_

The real shining star of this episode was Jerome Flynn as Bronn. With the show taking the approach of following Bronn through the battle (with occasional cutaways to Daenerys, Tyrion and Jaime), it allowed a very unique perspective on the battle. Much like Season 6’s Battle of the Bastards, following one man through a battle gives the audience a much deeper emotional connection to the stakes, with the main priority being just rooting for Bronn to survive. As Bronn had already showcased the signs any character about to be killed off would show; being in focus, getting a few endearing moments, mentions of their aspirations, that when the battle started I assumed Bronn was done for, but I was hoping he’d make it. Framing the battle around Bronn was an excellent choice, especially when Bronn showed significant character development; abandoning his gold in favour of trying to kill Drogon. Whatever he might say, Bronn is now a Lannister man through and through.

The Spoils of War also showed excellent character work for Jon and Daenerys, with the two being given significant time to bond. While the two aren’t seeing exactly eye to eye just yet, they are much closer now and it seems they are both beginning to see things from the other’s point of view. With Davos hinting that Jon may have a slight crush on Daenerys (“She has a good heart” “Yes, I’ve noticed you staring at her good heart”) and Daenerys making it clear she will not help Jon with the White Walker threat until he bends the knee but also valuing his opinion and input on what she should do, is it possible that the two could decide to unite their kingdoms through marriage, thus removing their main obstacle (Jon not wanting to surrender his Kingdom and Daenerys not wanting the North to be an independent kingdom)? Would Jon’s caution be a good match for Dany’s recklessness? And exactly how long will Bran just sit on the information that Jon is chilling with his aunt? Does the “Three-Eyed-Raven” not write letters?

mv5bmgu3yzrmmmmtywi2ys00nwy2lwjmndutmwu0mza4odhlytkxxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjk3ntuyotc-_v1_

Speaking of Bran, it was rather alarming to see how coldly he dismissed Meera’s departure. This is a far cry from the Bran we saw at the end of Season 6. How much further can Bran’s coldness go? Is he even Bran anymore? Bran’s arc has been one of the most interesting of the series and seeing Bran struggle with the amount of information uploaded into his head by the Three-Eyed-Raven has been heart-breaking to see. Where will Bran end up? Is there any of the old Bran left?

Huge props to director Matt Shakman, making his Game of Thrones debut. The Spoils of War was fantastically directed, with each scene being wonderfully shot (bar some poor editing decisions during Arya and Brienne’s fight). The battle at the end of this episode might just be one of the best battle sequence in the show’s history, overtaking the battle of Blackwater Bay in Blackwater, the battle of the Wall in Watchers on the Wall and being on par with the attack of the White Walkers in Hardhome and the battle of Winterfell in The Battle of the Bastards. Featuring fantastic CGI with Drogon, who truly looked like he’d flown out of a Hollywood movie, amazing visual effects and being absolutely thrilling; I can say without a doubt the entire sequence kept me gripped throughout. It’s one of the few times that the series has almost made me break out in a sweat with tension, with the afore-mentioned Hardhome and Battle of the Bastards being the other times. Shakman did a truly fantastic job with The Spoils of War and I eagerly anticipate seeing what he does with next week’s episode; Eastwatch. Hopefully Shakman is invited back to direct one of the six episodes for the show’s final season.

mv5bnty0mtriytutmmjhzc00yzcxlwi4zdgtntu5zdk1zjc4y2m4xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjk3ntuyotc-_v1_sy1000_cr0013331000_al_

The Spoils of War was a truly gripping and amazing piece of television. Every so often, Game of Thrones comes along with an episode that truly knocks the socks off the competition and reminds everyone why it’s the most popular television show on the planet. And The Spoils of War was one such episode. The Spoils of War was up there with the best of the show’s entire run and will certainly go on to become one of the show’s most memorable episodes. And this was merely the first of many battles to come.

10/10