Lose a Coin to Your Witcher: The Witcher Season 1 Review

I wanted to like The Witcher.

I really did.

I swear, I was the stereotypical PTSD Game of Thrones viewer who was looking for something to fill the massive hole in my life since Daenerys burned down King’s Landing. I expected Netflix’s latest series, The Witcher, to fill that gap.

It did not, to say the least.

I had to force myself to watch the entire season because with each passing episode I became more and more dissatisfied with it. I found myself actively waiting for good moments, suffering through endless parts that made me grit my teeth in annoyance.

I mean, I thought the 3rd and 7th episodes were great, but the rest…

I’m a huge fantasy fan, but The Witcher did not tick me off because it was a fantasy story. It was just a terribly-told story, in my below average opinion.

That’s where the blame for my irritation with the show lies, the storytelling/writing aspect. The acting was as good as it could be, and I thoroughly enjoyed the fight scenes.

If you haven’t seen the show, by all means, watch it for yourself and form your own opinion. As for me, I’m about to rail against the four things that brought my esteem for The Witcher so low.

The Confusing Timeline of the Narrative

Normally, I adore time jumps. Flashbacks, flashforwards. Bring ’em on, I say! Christopher Nolan, do your worst.

But The Witcher’s gaggle of timelines left me reeling.

These disparate storylines set in varying times were confusing and unclear. Unless you had a prior understanding for how the story was going to be told, the jumps from one narrative to the next were not intuitive at all.

This is largely because there is no real indication of when the story is set in a different time beyond what characters tell you. Geralt and Yennefer, at some point, just stop aging, so there is no real way to indicate how many years have passed since you saw them in previous episodes.

For example, after Yennefer gleefully obtains a position at Aedirn, the next episode shows her dissatisfied with her position there. And beyond what she says about having been at court for so long, you never actually saw her progress from happy with this position to unhappy with it.

I understand why it’s needed for the show. The creators clearly wanted to tell a certain story, and in order to get to it, they needed characters to have a bit of background without lingering on it for too long. Geralt and Ciri need to find each other at the end, so the whole course of events that lead to that moment have to be shown while simultaneously maintaining an audience’s interest.

But if they were focusing on story elements that they believed mattered, they sacrificed so much to get there. These narrative time jumps, while they do the trick of setting up these “shock value” moments when you realize how the plot puzzle pieces fit together, end up feeling incredibly forced.

Character Development

When Ned Stark died, you cared.


Because Game of Thrones spent nine whole episodes building up the kind of man he was, the kind of honor he carried within him, so that when you saw him executed, you felt it in your gut. You were shocked. Horrified. Bereaved even.

Did you care when Borch “died” in Episode 6 of The Witcher?



Because you only met the man in that episode.

Geralt himself had only met the man in that episode, so when Borch purportedly fell to his death, Geralt’s horror-stricken expression feels completely undeserved.

True, Geralt is a good person, so that’s probably why he cares.

But as a remote viewer, there is no reason in the world for you to care what happens to Borch.

Thus lies the second problem besetting The Witcher. For all the time-jumping the narrative does, not enough time is spent in character moments. These moments could be incredibly small, but they’re needed to make you care. Geralts is who he is from the start of the show to the end of it, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s a tad irksome when you’re trying to connect with a show that’s set in a fantasy world.

It’s already difficult to find something to relate to with a man who is a mutant monster hunter. You know what I mean?

The one character who gets you to care is, funnily enough, Jaskier. He shows up enough times, spreads his humor around Geralt’s surliness like flowers, and sings great catchy songs, so that when his life is imperiled by the djinn, you as a viewer have that, “Oh shit, what’s going to happen to him” moment.

But other characters fail to have their moments.

Take Yennefer as another example. On the surface, you care about her struggle to get power, to escape her past as a deformed and powerless hunchback. But absolutely no time is spent developing her desire to have children, so when she begins to act on her wish to have one, it leaves viewers a little nonplussed. It doesn’t feel like she wants one. In fact, Yennefer has to state that she does for viewers to know she does.

Which leads me to my other grievance with the show…

Show Don’t Tell

“Show don’t tell” is an age-old writing adage that illustrates the necessity of drawing in your readers to conclusions instead of just shoving it in their faces.

The Witcher fails at this completely.

More times than I can count, the show freakin’ just tells you what’s what instead of showing you.

Understandably, the show has a time limit, and it needs to get its story across as much as possible within that time. But if your story can’t be shown to viewers, it has to be told, then there is something wrong with the way you’re conveying the narrative.

The perfect example of this is when the Law of Surprise is first mentioned. The character of Duny shows up in Cintra to profess his love for (and his claim to) Pavetta.

He then embarks on telling this tale of how he saved Pavetta’s father’s life long ago, and in repayment for his actions, the King granted Duny this (stupid) Law of Surprise.

Side note: For those of you who don’t know, the Law of Surprise is this thing where you can just be “Surprise, bitch! Give me something to pay back the debt you owed me.”

When this happened, I wanted to scream.

Duny is freaking telling us very important plot points to our faces instead of, I don’t know, having us see him save Pavetta’s dad’s life?!

Before this episode, we had never met Duny. All we know about him is what is told about him and what he tells us. The episode where he is introduced is like a wormhole of show-don’t-tell mistakes that you can get lost in.

But the entire show suffers from this malady. Too many times are things explained instead of shown.

Let’s take a look at Game of Thrones one more time.

During the first part of the show, you hear the term “Valyrian steel” dropped more than once. It’s not initially told to viewers what Valyrian steel is, but you get the idea that it is very valuable. Swords made of the stuff carry extra value and seem rare.

Later, it’s dropped that Valyria is the place where dragons came from.

After that, it is revealed that Valyrian steel swords were forged using dragon fire.

Even further after that, it is shown that Valyrian steel can be used to kill White Walkers.

These revelations happened over the course of five seasons. It wasn’t just an info dump done in a single episode.

The Exact Rules of Magic

The price of using magic in the world of The Witcher is initially made very clear. During a lesson that Yennefer attends, young mages are shown trying to levitate a rock. When a girl succeeds at this, her hand withers and drys in front of them. Their instructor then reminds them that magic comes at a cost. She advises the students to pick up flowers on the desk before attempting to move the rock. Once the flower is in their hands, when the students lift the rocks, the flowers wither instead of their hands.

Simple, right? Magic uses energy, and you have to give an appropriate amount or else it will take a lot from you.

But immediately after that episode, the cost of using magic is never mentioned much again or adhered to in any fashion.

Yennefer creates portals to other countries without losing so much as a fingertip.

A sorceress is able to kill a group of men with a gesture, and all she gets is a bloody nose.

Another mage moves a fog around over a wide space, and I guess that fog came at a hefty cost, ’cause he just keeled over and died.

There is no explanation for why magic works the way it does.

Maybe I have been spoiled by the Harry Potter and Eragon series, but I very much like it when there are rules to how magic works.

I prefer the rules for spells to be spelled out.

In The Witcher, magic does what it does seemingly for the sake of the plot.

Concluding Thoughts

I feel like I’m the only one who got massively annoyed by The Witcher, and I don’t know why it’s bothered me so much. The last time I got this peeved at something I watched, I had just seen The Crimes of Grindelwald. (Huh, maybe bad stories with unexplained magic are my Achilles heel.)

But in case you liked it despite my tirade against it, don’t worry. You’re definitely not alone. I have friends ready to figuratively die to defend it.

Plus, I enjoyed the hell out of The Rise of Skywalker, so who am I to judge someone for liking The Witcher. This is yet another example of how diverse everyone’s tastes are.

I rate the first season of The Witcher an I’m-still-going-to-watch-it-because-I-desperately-need-another-fantasy-show-in-my-life-but-I’m-not-particularly-thrilled-about-having-to-sit-through-more-contrived-plot-devices-so-here’s-hoping-the-next-season-is-better-narratively-speaking-or-includes-enough-sword-fights-and-naked-Geralt-to-hold-me-over.

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5 Review: Turning the Tables on Fate

As I write this, I know that people are going to be steamed at Game of Thrones. This latest episode, “The Bells,” is an emotional wringer. Characters die, and some of their deaths spit in the face of some rampant fan theories. I checked on Twitter to see general reactions, and a lot of people seem pissed that all this character development has “gone to waste.”

That’s the phrase I keep seeing.

“Gone to waste.”

I don’t think that.

Now, I’m not saying I was thrilled to see the destruction in this episode. But I do not think that a single part of the show has “gone to waste.”

One of the things I like about Game of Thrones is the idea that fate is just a word. Sure, beings like the Red God or the Three-Eyed Raven occasionally swagger forward throwing their weight around, but at the end of the day, death is the only sure thing in this world. Magic and miracles are fickle.

Death doesn’t care whether you grew as a person, got your revenge, or met the love of your life. It just is.

So even though Episode 5 of this season wiped out a bunch of main characters, I do not feel as if the whole show has “gone to waste.”

That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

So the episode opens with Dany still mourning the loss of Missandei back on Dragonstone. She has not been eating or sleeping. She has been keeping to herself.

I felt terribly sorry for her while watching this because no one goes to her to comfort her or be with her in her hour of need. Her isolation is an awful thing, and I wish someone could have reached out to her.

Varys is taking this opportunity to write letters. Who these letters are for exactly is unknown. We do know that each letter basically contains the secret of Jon’s birth. Apparently, Varys is doing more than talking about betraying Dany. He is actually betraying her.

Tyrion decides to remain loyal to his queen. He tells her that Varys has betrayed her.

As if to underscore that point, when Jon arrives at Dragonstone, Varys approaches him and not-so-subtly tells him that he should be king. Thankfully, Jon remains his loyal self and tells Varys he is loyal to his queen.

However, when Jon goes to see Dany, she is clearly a wreck. She sits alone at a fire with a very uncommunicative Grey Worm nearby. When Jon comes in, she tells him of Varys’ betrayal and, perhaps for the last time, reaches out to Jon. Jon maintains his loyalty to her, but knowing that she is his aunt prevents him (damn) from comforting her in other ways.

Later that night, Varys is arrested by the Unsullied. He’s taken to the beach where Dany, Tyrion, and Jon are waiting.

Yes, you guessed it. Varys is put to death for treason against the queen.

It was a very sad moment because you know that Varys is acting for what he believes to be the good of the realm. When I first saw this moment, however, I couldn’t help thinking about how ardently he used to promote Dany’s cause. His betrayal felt sudden, and I couldn’t blame Dany for wanting to punish him.

Though maybe Dany should consider another form of execution instead of roasting people alive with Drogon all the time.

Just before Dany’s assault on King’s Landing begins, Tyrion begs her to keep the common people in mind, the innocents of the city. He tells her that the bells of King’s Landing will ring when Cersei’s forces have surrendered. If they do ring, Tyrion pleads for Dany to stop her attack on the city. Dany nods once.

Now, Jaime, if you recall, left Winterfell and Brienne to return to King’s Landing and Cersei. He got himself caught by Dany’s forces outside of the city. Dany tells Tyrion about this, and of course, the first thing Tyrion does when he reaches the army’s encampment is find his older brother.

What follows is one of the most emotional scenes in the whole episode. (And there are a lot of emotional scenes.)

Tyrion knows that Jaime is going back to King’s Landing to rescue Cersei or die trying. Tyrion knows that Cersei is a tyrant that Jaime can’t help loving.

But he releases him anyways.

They hug each other one last time, and Tyrion tells Jaime that he (Jaime) is the one person in his (Tyrion’s) life who has never thought of him as a monster. Then they part ways.

The day of the battle arrives, and I honestly thought things were going to go terribly for Dany’s side. Their forces were severely depleted after their fight with the Night King, only one of the original three dragons remains, and the defending army is bolstered by the Golden Company and the Iron Fleet.

But Game of Thrones got me.

Once Dany arrived with Drogon, King’s Landing was doomed.

Drogon set all the scorpions on fire. The battlements never stood a chance. He and Dany just flew by so quickly. The Iron Fleet posed no threat either. Drogon set those poor wooden ships ablaze in seconds. And the Golden Company? They were incinerated.

Eventually, the Lannister forces throw down their arms because they realize how futile it is to fight against a dragon when all you really have are swords. Cersei can only watch in displeasure as the bells of King’s Landing are rung.

Here’s the thing.

Even though the bells were rung signalling the surrender of King’s Landing, Dany decides to burn them all anyway. She starts taking Drogon on strafing runs over the entire city, over soldiers and innocents alike.

Poor Jon Snow, who was leading the Northern forces through the city, has to watch as the scene devolves into chaos. Soldiers on his side, the “good guys,” start rampaging through the streets, slaughtering women and children. Jon actually has to kill one of his own men who was trying to rape a woman.

Aside from seeing Daenerys’ face as she makes the decision to destroy everything, we don’t see her expression at all once she begins. The rest of the slaughter is seen from the perspective of the people on the streets.

However, back at the Red Keep, Cersei is finally persuaded by Qyburn to get the hell out of dodge. She, Qyburn, and the Mountain descend the stairs, hoping to reach Maegor’s Holdfast and survive the onslaught.

Two parties are trying to reach Cersei specifically at this point. Daenerys isn’t one of them. She’s just looking to set everything on fire. Jaime is trying to sneak into the Red Keep to get Cersei out of there. And Arya and the Hound are trying to get inside to murder her.

Let’s start with Jaime.

He has trouble getting into the Red Keep through the front gates, so he goes through the secret tunnel that leads from a cave on the beach to the caverns beneath the Red Keep. Unfortunately, Euron, who somehow survived Dany’s assault on the Iron Fleet has washed up to this exact spot. The two engage in a sword fight, they both get wounded, but Euron gets wounded more.

It was a lot more intense than I’m currently describing it, but all you need to know is that Euron eats it and Jaime makes it (for the most part).

Arya is as determined as Jaime to reach Cersei, but for completely different reasons. However, once they reach the Red Keep, the place is shaking and crumbling apart from Dany’s attacks on the structure. The Hound pulls Arya aside and brings her to her senses. He tells her that no one is coming out of this place alive, and she should get out while she still can. There’s no hope for him, but there’s still hope for her.

For once, Arya chooses life over death.

It was sweet to see this moment of closeness between her and the Hound. But it felt oddly out-of-character for Arya to decide to just leave him.

The Hound meets Cersei, Qyburn, and the Mountain on the stairs as they’re coming down and engages in battle with his brother. Qyburn tries to stop the Mountain from fighting the Hound and gets a skull full of rock for his trouble.

Cersei is now officially alone.

And even though she started this whole thing, I felt bad for her.

God, this episode was all about me feeling bad for people who may or may not deserve it.

The Hound and the Mountain duke it out. It’s epic as fudge. At one point, you think the Mountain is going to pull his Oberyn Martell special on his brother, you know, thumbs through the eyeholes? But the Hound stabs a dagger into his brother’s eye, then pushes him off the building for good measure. Sadly, the Hound also falls off with his brother since it was a whole-body kind of push, and the two Clegane brothers meet death together.

They either splattered on the concrete or the flames from Drogon’s fires consumed them. Either way…oof. There goes the Hound.

Cersei makes it to one of the lower floors of the Red Keep, but she’s all alone. You can see the despair on her face. And just when she needs him most, Jaime appears beside her. He’s made his way to her with two stab wounds from his fight with Euron.

Their reunion, next to Tyrion and Jaime’s hushed good-bye, was strangely the moment that choked me up the most. I never liked Cersei much. She is such a selfish woman, with no thought of kindness in her head. But I felt…moved…by her desperation.

And Jaime has changed so much since we first saw him in Season 1, but he still can’t escape his feelings for Cersei. He traveled to King’s Landing knowing he would probably die, just so he could die with his twin/lover. That whole incest thing is still weird, but now it has a sense of pure sorrow to it that feels earned.

Jaime leads Cersei back the way he came, but the tunnel he used has collapsed from the destruction Dany is wreaking up above. Together, Jaime and Cersei are crushed by the collapsing cave.

Arya’s journey through King’s Landing is the most harrowing one. Following her through the burning, crumbling avenues was exhausting just to watch. It has the same kind of chaos to it that the D-Day scene in Saving Private Ryan has. She has some near misses, but she makes it out of the city alive.

And that’s where the episode leaves us.

There is only one more episode to go before the season and the show ends for good.

With most of Season 8 done, I can look back at the show in its entirety.

And you know what?

I can honestly say no matter how the show ends, my time watching it has not “gone to waste.”

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 4 Review: That Escalated Quickly

The third episode of Game of Thrones left me with so many questions.

With the Night King dead, what did that mean for the story at large? Ever since the opening scene in the very first season, the threat of the White Walkers has loomed over the plot like a tidal wave you can’t ignore. After Arya annihilated the undead threat with a single stab of a dagger, I couldn’t help being a bit stupefied at the prospect of a show without them.

I mean, after facing the living dead, what sort of threat could our heroes possibly come up against that would pose a serious problem?

The answer? Themselves.

Let’s start at the beginning of Episode 4, “The Last of the Starks.”

The survivors of the Battle of Winterfell deal with their dead by burning them on great pyres they’ve built in front of Winterfell’s battlements. It’s heartbreaking to see Sansa give her final good-bye to Theon and to see Daenerys give hers to Jorah. We’re reminded that the death toll after last week’s episode was enormous because the smoke from these pyres clouds the entire skyline.

Afterwards, there’s a half-hearted feast in Winterfell’s Great Hall. Everyone is kind of morose after their losses. Who would have figured that Daenerys would be the one to lift everyone’s spirits?

Gendry, looking for Arya so that they can have some more alone time probably, is stopped by Dany in the middle of the feast. The whole room hushes as she speaks to him. She asks him if his father is Robert Baratheon, and at first you think she’s planning to berate him for past deeds that are not his fault. Instead, she names him Gendry Baratheon, Lord of Storm’s End, lifting him up from his bastard-hood and into a lordship.

This thrills Gendry so much he decides he really needs to see Arya. He eventually finds her doing some target practice with a bow and arrow, and he asks her to be his lady when he is lord of Storm’s End. We all saw this coming, but the look on Gendry’s face when she turned him down still hurt. As Arya told him, she has not, and probably never will be, a lady.

Back at the party, things are tense as fuck for us poor viewers. Everyone is having a reasonably good time after Dany broke the somberness, except for Dany. She looks so alone in the Great Hall. Everyone else is talking and laughing in groups, except for her. Missandei, her only friend, is sitting with Grey Worm, and Dany sits alone, eyeing Jon Snow with…some troubled emotion in her eye.

Obviously, she has not forgotten her rushed convo with Jon about his heritage, and it is seriously bumming her out that not only does he have a stronger claim to the throne, he also has a greater rapport with “her” subjects.

She leaves the Hall alone, and I don’t know about you guys, but I felt a terrible sense of foreboding after that.

Brienne and Jaime, unlike Dany, have a great time at the feast, playing drinking games with Tyrion and Podrick. And afterwards, the moment we all thought about but never seriously considered would happen occurred.

Jaime and Brienne had a…romantic moment.

I won’t go into it too much, since I want to focus more on the endgame of the series. However, you should know their relationship begins and ends in this single episode. Jaime looks to start a life with Brienne at Winterfell, but he ends up leaving to return to Cersei for personal reasons. He told Brienne it’s because he loves Cersei. But something tells me it might be more complicated than that.

Anyways, back to Dany.

After the feast, she heads to Jon Snow’s room, looking to finally talk to him about the bombshell he dropped on their lives. However, the talk does not go according to anyone’s plans.

Dany clearly expects Jon to keep the fact that he is Aegon Targaryen to himself. She still loves him, so she initially pleads with him to keep this information a secret. We’ve been with Dany for a long time, so we should all know by now that she does not beg easily. She is clearly desperate to hold onto what she perceives as her destiny, her reason for living.

However, we’ve also been around Jon Snow long enough to know that he’s no liar. Telling the truth comes to Jon as naturally as a fish swims in water. Dany sees this, and you can tell it is driving her to despair. Jon is also unhappy because, for one thing, he doesn’t want the goddamned Iron Throne. For another, he hates causing Dany this kind of distress. But he can’t seem to understand how the truth of his birth imperils Dany’s claim. I think he cares more about how it is affecting their relationship.

After this gut-twisting conversation, Dany leaves the room and Jon unsatisfied.

So the plan to fight against Cersei continues after the Night King has been finished. Dany plans to return to Dragonstone with her forces by sea, while Jon Snow takes what is left of his Northmen south by land. Sansa isn’t happy about this, and she isn’t shy about letting it show. However, since Jon is King of the North and subservient to Dany, Sansa has to swallow her objections.

Well, she swallows her objections to Dany directly. Both she and Arya do not hesitate to pull Jon aside and say, “Dude-bro, what the fuck is your new queen’s problem, and why aren’t you siding with us?”

Side note: I’m paraphrasing.

This is the moment when Jon decides to tell them that he is not actually a Stark, but is instead a Stark-Targaryen hybrid. He makes them promise not to tell anyone, but Sansa breaks that promise almost instantly to tell Tyrion. I believe we’re meant to assume that she’s trying to cause strife in Daenerys’ home team.

And it fucking works. On the sea voyage back to Dragonstone, Varys and Tyrion have a godawful conversation (godawful because it hurts me to see Dany portrayed as a bad guy) about whether or not Jon would be better suited to the Iron Throne. Tyrion remains loyal to Dany, insisting she be given a chance. Varys seems to have lost all confidence in her though.

And this sea voyage only gets worse.

Tragedy strikes when, while flying in the sky, Rhaegal is struck down by scorpion bolts.

This moment sucked.

Big time.

It always hurts me when the dragons get hurt, and it was particularly hard to see Rhaegal go down for several reasons. For one thing, he was wounded in the Battle of Winterfell, during his fight against undead Viserion. While flying back to Dragonstone, it was clear that Dany was keeping a special eye on him from the back of Drogon in order to make sure he was keeping up. To see him taken down when he was already hurting hurt me.

And the worst thing about it was that it came right out of the fucking blue. At least when Viserion died, you saw the Night King aiming his spear at him. You thus had a little warning.

We as viewers did not know that Euron had brought a fleet of ships up to Dragonstone to lie in wait for them. Well, we didn’t know until Rhaegal was bleeding from his scorpion wounds and falling from the sky.

Euron, the stupid-looking, hateful, wannabe pirate, doesn’t stop with murdering Dany’s green dragon. He fires his scorpions on Dany’s small fleet of ships and sends most of them to the bottom of the ocean. He is somehow able to capture Missandei, one of Dany’s closest friends, and deliver her to King’s Landing too.

Dany, Tyrion, Grey Worm, and Varys head to King’s Landing to try one final time to get Cersei to surrender. Cersei answers with executing Missandei in front of them.

This episode was a major downer. I honestly would rather watch “The Long Night” again than watch Dany, one of my favorite characters, streak down into a pile of piping hot rage. Because that’s where she’s headed, and you can’t really blame her.

Her destiny, the one thing that has kept her going all these years, is threatened by the man she loves. Her children, the dragons, are now down to one. Her armies of loyal Dothraki and freed Unsullied have been decimated. Two of her most trusted advisers, Jorah Mormont and Missandei of Naath have been taken from her.

What else is left to her but fire and blood?

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 1 Review: The Show of Many Meetings


The evening started with screams.

I invited my long-time friends, Mia and Bubba, to watch the Game of Thrones season premiere with me today. They came over early, which may not have been a good plan because we were as tense as a drawn bowstring during the hours leading up to it. We are all avid Thronies, so when the episode (called “Winterfell”) finally began, we trembled and giggled like antsy children.

And right off the bat, the show let us know that it meant business.

The opening sequence was changed.

Normally, when the opening credits appear and the awesome theme song begins to play, we take a tour of Westeros, soaring over a mini-map that unfolds before us, showing us the many locations that will appear in the season.

This time around, our tour was shortened to two major locations: Winterfell and King’s Landing. Instead of roaming the continent, the mini-map instead dived into the respective castles of these two places and showed us their familiar interiors.

Just that change alone had us squealing.

This episode was all about meetings. Those long-anticipated reunions we have been waiting for since Season 7 ended finally happened. Gendry met Arya, Arya met Jon, Dany met Sansa, Sansa met Tyrion, etc. If I listed every new meeting and brief reunion that occurred in this episode, I would be here forever. Even though some of these meetings were woefully short, I enjoyed each and every one.

Daenerys Targaryen arrives at Winterfell with all her pomp and circumstance. While it’s delightful to see people reacting to her dragons flying overhead, I wish people would be more accepting of Dany and the help she is bringing to them. True, Northerners are not a trusting folk, but they should at least have an idea of the threat that is looming over them. You would think they’d be marginally pleased at the big army and two dragons Dany is bringing to their aid. They seriously do not have the leisure or the time to be distrustful.

“Time” is also a commodity in short supply for the episode as a whole. Because of all these reunions, reactions to huge revelations are not always given their due. Bran, at one point, tells Dany that he has seen Viserion turned into a wight, but beyond a slight look of dismay on Dany’s face, this piece of information is not given any more time.

While Dany is getting acquainted with the North, Cersei is patiently brooding in King’s Landing. The Golden Company, the group of sellswords she hired from the Iron Bank, shows up in all its glory, but we have yet to see them in action.

Cersei may not have to face White Walkers (yet), but she does have to deal with Euron Greyjoy, her ally from the Iron Islands. He is a mega-arrogant asshole, and the strange thing is she allows him to be. I’m waiting to see what happens between them. Rather, I’m waiting to see who stabs who in the back first.

Surprisingly, Theon rescues his sister Yara from Euron in this first episode. I felt like grabbing a Staples button and pressing it so I could hear, “That was easy,” in its robotic, dulcet tones. (Let me know if you get that particular reference.) The last we see of them is Yara heading back to the Iron Islands and Theon on his way to Winterfell to help his adopted family.

By far the best part of this episode was seeing Jon ride Rhaegal. That’s right folks, Jon rode a dragon. He and Daenerys are clearly still in love with each other, and they take a flight on her dragons in order to get away for a short amount of time.

Daenerys was the one who suggested Jon hop on, and I’m really surprised she did. She must really like him a lot if she trusts him with one of her babies. Or maybe she secretly hates him and wanted him to fall off (which he very nearly did).

The saddest moment of the show occurred when Dany approached Samwell Tarly in the libraries of Winterfell. After curing Jorah Mormont of Greyscale, Samwell has unknowingly placed Daenerys Targaryen in his debt. She goes up to him, pleasantly prepared to give him a hearty thank you, but her gratitude is marred when she finds out who he is.

If you all can recall from Season 7, Dany burned Randyll and Dickon Tarly, Sam’s father and brother, when they refused to bend the knee. During her conversation with Sam, she’s forced to tell him what she did, thereby scorching any chance the two of them had of being friendly toward one another.

Honestly, you could see this coming a mile away. Daenerys was strongly urged not to execute the Tarlys, but she did anyway. I actually appreciate the fact that her savage nature (which, yeah, I have cheered on in other episodes, but still) is receiving its comeuppance.

However, I’m wincing at Samwell’s tearful response. He didn’t even like his father, but it still hurt him. And seeing Sam hurting hurts me.

Sam finally tells Jon of his true heritage after his encounter with Dany. He strongly urges Jon to take up the mantle of King of the Seven Kingdoms because he is convinced that Dany would not make a good queen after what she has done. (You can’t blame him.) Jon is left pondering what this means for him and his life.

On an equally important note, Tormund is revealed to be alive! He, Beric Dondarrion, and even Dolorous Edd Tollett survived the breaking of the Wall. They are hauling ass to Winterfell to warn the people there that the White Walkers are a day away.

The episode ends with, perhaps, the most unexpected reunion. I was completely caught off guard because I did not think of it at all. Here I was anticipating the Hound and Arya meeting up again and stuff like that, but I completely forgot about the reunion between Jaime and Bran.

The episode ends with Jaime Lannister arriving at Winterfell after fleeing from his deranged sister. The first face he sees is Bran, who has been chilling in his wheelchair by the entrance to Winterfell waiting for an “old friend.” Apparently, by “old friend,” he meant the man who pushed him out a window all those years ago.

I am so pumped for the next episode, you guys. I can’t even with this show.

Have you seen it? Are you going to? It’s one heck of a wild ride (a dragon ride, maybe).

A D&D Story: Sneaking for Dummies

“All right, how are you going to do this?”

Sidney leaned back in his chair at the head of the gaming table. A slight smile was on his face. As the Dungeon Master for this session, he had the pleasure of watching the rest of us figure out how to infiltrate this fortress we really needed to get into. Not that he was overly malicious about it. When Sidney DMs, the games have more of a stress-free feel to them. We’re there to have fun, and Sidney helps facilitate that.

Our group’s objective was to sneak into a fortress that was heavily guarded on the ramparts, with clusters of undead patrolling the area outside the walls. Our party of adventurers was crouched by a copse of trees near the fortress’ doors, unnoticed for the moment.

But that would not be the case for long.

“So,” I asked, turning to the rest of the table, “how are we getting in?”

“Quietly,” Dalton replied. He was playing a man who was dubiously named Walter. We didn’t know much about his character except for the fact that he could use magic. He was also always the first to state the obvious in the most sarcastic voice possible.

“Well, of course quietly,” Mia answered, “but what’s the plan exactly?” Mia has always been our most sensible player, probably because she always plays sensible characters. Where the rest of us enjoy the hilarity of playing as drunkards, fools, and bloodthirsty rage monsters, Mia always makes characters that are fonts of practicality. In this campaign, she was a Druid named Ari.

“I’ll go!” Christian volunteered, speaking as his Rogue, Eldrin. “Sneaking. I can sneak.” Eldrin had not been having a good couple of days. Upfront combat is not his forte, and we had been fighting giants as of late. He much prefers stealing things from people’s pockets when no one is looking.

“I’ll go with you,” Mark responded. His and Christian’s characters, Nero and Eldrin, were buddies. Story-wise, this decision to accompany Eldrin made sense for Nero. Plus, Nero has always been the kind of guy to leap first and look later.

Mark and Christian turned to Sidney. Sidney shrugged at our half-hearted attempts at solid planning with a smile. “Roll me a stealth check.”

Mia held up a hand. “Wait! Let me cast Pass Without Trace. Please.”


Ari cast the spell over the entire group, allowing us all to creep up right next to the walls of the fortress without being seen. Once there, Christian said, “I have a grappling hook I’ve been dying to use.”

“How high is the wall?” Dalton asked.

“30 feet,” Sidney answered.

“Then I cast Misty Step and teleport up there. And since I’m still within 30 feet of Ari, Walter is still sneaky.”

Mia grew desperate to keep the group together. “Are we just going to split up?”

“Nero and Eldrin will use the grappling hook.” Christian gestured toward himself and Mark.

“I guess we are,” Mia moaned.

For Sidney’s campaign, I played a little Fighter gnome named Baloolah. Her small size allows her to sneak pretty well, and her high Dexterity score makes her a formidable opponent with her short sword. I considered my options for entering the fortress, but before I could settle on one, I remembered our missing player.

“Wait, what about Vox?”

Vox was a Blood Hunter played by our friend Jacob. Jacob had stepped out of the game to go get some sustenance (i.e. food). We couldn’t just leave his character outside of the fortress.

“I’ll have him go up the rope after Nero and Eldrin,” Sidney reassured us. “You two.” He pointed to Christian and Mark. “Roll me an Athletics check for your rope-climbing. Dalton, Walter has made it to the top of the ramparts. There is a guard to your left, but he hasn’t noticed you.”

“Is there anyone to my right?”

“No guards, but you do know that Nero and Eldrin are climbing up from that area. Beyond that, there’s a guardhouse.”

“I’d like to sneak into the guardhouse.”

Okay, roll me a Stealth check.”

While Sidney was dealing with Dalton, Christian, and Mark’s rolls (they all rolled high enough to succeed in each of their endeavors), Mia had had enough.

“Sidney, I’d like to turn into a snake and slither onto the walls that way.” As a Druid, Ari had the ability to transform into several different animals.

“Sure. You use your magic and transform into a dark-scaled snake. However, at that moment, the doors to the fortress are being opened to allow a patrol of Undead in. The doors are going to be closed behind them soon.” Sidney gave me a pointed glance.

I got the picture. My Fighter was the only one left on the ground. That door might be my only chance into the fortress. “I’ll make a run for it.”

“That will take you out of stealth,” Sidney reminded me. Mia shot me a look of horror, shaking her head in protest. She started mouthing the words, “Use the rope.”

In Dungeons & Dragons, whenever you’re faced with a decision you’re unsure about taking, just look at your character sheet and ask yourself, “Would my character do it?” And if the answer is yes, even if it’s a dumb idea, always go for it.

“Baloolah is going to book it toward the door.”

“Roll me a Dexterity check.” The way rolling a die works is fairly straightforward. You have a 20-sided die. You roll it. Based on your character’s skills, you either add or subtract from the number you roll. Baloolah, for example has a high Dexterity score. When using an ability that requires Dexterity, she can add +5 to her rolls.

I rolled the die.

I got a 1.

So a 1 and a 20 have special significance in the world of D&D. Let’s say you want to try doing a backflip. The DM has a number that you have to beat in order to accomplish that. So if you roll a 14 and the number to beat was 10, you simply perform an adequate backflip. If you roll less than 10, you can’t do the backflip.

If you roll a natural 20, meaning you added nothing to your original roll, it just landed on 20, you perform the backflip superbly. Anyone watching will think you are the king of backflips. Conversely, if you roll a natural 1, you utterly fail, possibly injuring yourself in the process.

Bottom line: 20 is good, 1 is bad.

Sidney laughed. “All right, well, Baloolah, you run as fast as you can, breaking cover to try and slip through that closing door, but it closes before you get to it and you hit it face first. Take 1 point of damage.”

Mia face-palmed.

“Am I out in the open?” I asked nervously.

“Completely,” Sidney said cheerfully. “A patrol is moving closer, in fact.”

“I’m going to run away in the opposite direction then.”

“Okay, move 25 feet over here.”

Mia raised her hand, and Sidney turned to her. “Can I slither alongside Baloolah as she runs away?” Despite her friends’ stupidity, Mia never abandons them. (Though maybe someday she will reach a breaking point.)

“Sure. What’s your speed as a snake?”

Mia checked the snake statistics she held in front of her. But suddenly her features fell. “Umm…wait, I think we have a problem.”

Christian and Mark, who had been whispering about their plans of attack once they reached the top of the wall, stopped and paid attention. Dalton, who had been patiently awaiting his turn, also glanced at Mia.

“I’m a giant snake,” Mia said.

Sidney blanched. “A what?”

“The snake that I can turn into is a Giant Snake. It’s not small at all.”

There was a pause, and then the entire table burst out laughing at the mishap.

“Okay, just for the sake of easiness, we’ll assume that no guard has noticed this extremely sneaky, extremely large snake on their walls,” Sidney clarified.

However, Mia, ever thinking with her brain, immediately asked, “Since I’m a large beast, can I pick up Baloolah and carry her up the wall? Can she ride me?”

Sidney hesitated, unsure of the logistics of this scenario.

I piped in. “I’m only a three-foot-tall gnome.”

“Okay, I’ll allow it. Ari can pick up Baloolah and carry her to the top of the wall. But you’re on the far side of the fortress still.” He focused his attention back to the boys. “Okay, what are you guys doing?”

“Can we stealth kill guards, or is that not a thing?” Christian asked.

Sidney indicated Dalton, Mark, and Christian in a sweeping gesture. “If all three of you successfully sneak attack a single enemy, I’ll count it as an instant kill.”

What followed was an unprecedented amount of sneaking in the history of our tabletop games. Walter, Eldrin, and Nero were handling the guards like there was no tomorrow. Seriously, if you knew what our games usually turned into, you would be amazed at the idea that they were all being stealthy. It was a stroke of luck and genius at the same time.

Then, Jacob returned to the table. We caught him up to speed on what had been happening quickly. His Blood Hunter, Vox, had been left holding onto the rope since Sidney had been reluctant to include a player-absent character in events.

Understandably, Jacob wanted to dive right into the thick of things. He had Vox climb the rest of the rope to the ramparts. “I want to peer over the rim of the wall.”

“You see a guard standing nearby,” Sidney told him.

“Okay. I want to grab him by the collar and yank him over the wall.”

Silence reigned at the table.

Jacob looked nonplussed. “What?”

Sidney leaned back in his chair. “So everybody, Vox reaches from his spot clinging to the wall’s edge and pulls a guard over the side where he plummets to his death. As he falls, he lets out a scream. The entire fortress is now alerted to your presence.”

For special effect, Dalton pulled out his phone and played an audio clip of the infamous Wilhelm scream.

As one, we turned to stare at Jacob.

But then Sidney told us to roll for initiative (a roll to determine who goes first in combat), and we prepared ourselves for a lengthy battle in the previously quiet fortress.

Dungeons & Dragons & Dorks (Oh My)

I was first introduced to Dungeons & Dragons by my friend Mia’s father. We were young at the time, me, Mia, and my sister. That didn’t stop Mia’s dad from showing us the ropes.

The way D&D works is not as complex as you may think it is. For the longest time, D&D has been seen as this complicated game that only nerds in basements play. Let me tell you, anybody with a good sense of humor and an active imagination can play Dungeons & Dragons.

You create a character for yourself first, with a small backstory, flaws, preferences, and things like that. Your character also has a Class, which kind of means a job (like Wizard, Paladin, or Fighter). You have varying degrees of Intelligence, Strength, or Charisma, each of which will help or hinder you on your journey. (Kind of like in real life.)

Then you find a Dungeon Master, or DM, who will create the map, world, and story for your game to start in. After that, it’s all up to the players how the adventure goes.

The actual rules of the game might make D&D sound technical as shit, which is why I’m not bogging you down with stats and die rolls. Just trust me, the game is fun.

Mia’s dad led me, Mia, and my sister through a roaring good time. There were laughs, tears, and adventures. I still, to this day, can’t properly express my gratitude that Mia’s dad was willing to sit down with three little girls and teach them how to play Dungeons & Dragons. That was beyond cool. Mia’s dad was a great man.

These days, Mia and I have our own D&D group. We try to meet every Saturday night in order to slay some monsters and find some treasures. Players have come and gone from our group over time, but we still try and keep the game going strong.

(We actually have several games going on at the moment, each set in their own universe and with different characters. A single game is not enough for our adventuring appetites.)

In all honesty, we’re not the smartest group of adventurers to ever delve a dungeon. The only sensible and practical character in our group is Mia’s. The rest of us play as a gaggle of idiots. (Sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally.) We charge ahead into fights without considering the fact that we may be outclassed by our opponents. We jump into suspicious holes just because we’re curious what’s at the bottom. Some members of our group (*cough, cough* Sidney *cough, cough*) don’t even have a clear understanding of how a door works.

Throughout all of our (mis)adventures, we have tons of fun. Not a single gaming night has gone by when we haven’t bust a gut laughing. D&D allows us to get into (and hopefully out of) absurd situations. And the best thing is we have so much freedom in how we solve our problems. Our more charismatic characters try to talk their way out of their troubles, and our more…barbaric characters simply hack and slash their way to a solution.

D&D has given me a chance to form friendships with really cool people and has given me a taste of what it would be like to exist in a place like Middle-Earth. It’s imaginative and fun-filled. I honestly can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday evening. If you’ve played the game before, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t played before, I hope you decide to give it a try.

I do plan on writing more about the foolhardy adventures my group has gotten into. (One of us really has to keep a log of our own stupidity.)

So, have you ever played Dungeons & Dragons before? Is it something you’d want to do in the future?