Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Wait to Read A Song of Ice and Fire

On the Game of Thrones Facebook page this morning, I responded to someone who wanted to know if they should read the books. My response was short, but I implied they should not read the series.

George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series is brilliant, loaded with wonderful, rich characters. Its plots are dense, its stories interesting. The details he puts into his descriptions of armor and setting and food, the dialogue, and character histories are amazing. While some of the installments are much stronger than others, his worst is still better than most fantasy novels on the market.

So why, you might wonder, would I recommend not reading the books?

For starters, when I first learned the series was going to be adapted by HBO, I immediately started to wonder how they would portray certain scenes; I already had expectations. In my head, I had already decided how each character should look, how they would talk, and what I would see, and when they didn't match my vision, I got a little grumpy. I hated the choice of Carice van Houten as Melisandre up until her first appearance on the show. Despite not being fond of the Reeds, I wondered why they were left out of season 2, and I struggled to accept their absence.

A problem us readers have is the fusing of multiple characters or cuts from the show. This week I argued with a reader about the exclusion of Strong Belwas. His take was Belwas was absolutely essential to a particular scene, whereas I argued the scene and action Belwas performs could be fulfilled by any number of nameless characters. We are partial to Martin's creations, having spent hours upon hours living with them in our heads, and because of our fanhood, we tend to overreact to such situations. Even if we understand the changes, whether they are due to time or budget restraints or are altered to simplify the story (many nonreaders are already confused by the extensive cast), there's a voice inside the reader that screams, "These changes are a travesty!"

The changes aren't a travesty. In most cases, the changes aren't even a bump in the road, but many readers get hung up on them. Eventually, it becomes all they can think about, and those thoughts turn into complaints, which turn into public tirades. That same reader that couldn't accept Belwas' absence, also knocked Game of Thrones' spectacular writers for shifting the Reeds from season 2 to season 3; it's a decision I not only support, after my initial resistance, but think was done well and for good reason--there was a whole lot of character introductions season 2 and an added storyline might have made things cluttered more than it already was. Yes, what's happening with Brann and the Reeds should have happened sooner in a slightly different way, yet it's happening; the writers understood it needed to happen, and since it's a separate tale pushing back the "when" had no effect on the rest of the show.

And I'm not just writing about the changes in reference to what has been taken out or multiple characters fused into one character (The Bloody Mummers basically represented as Roose Bolton's Locke), I'm also writing about the added stuff: Dany's dragons being stolen, Loras' love life, Margaery's rise to power, Stannis' affair with Melisandre, Joffrey's twisted nature. Many of the things I listed were insinuated within the dialogue of the books, yet readers either didn't take note or felt the show should have spent its time elsewhere. As for Dany's missing dragons, Khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen is a fan favorite on and off the show, and in the second book, she does almost nothing. I was glad to have a new story which added a bit of flair to her character. It's not often HBO is going to surprise me as a reader, but when they do, I feel they've done so without taking away from what happened in the books. The chapters in the books follow a single character, whereas the show can follow multiple characters and explore tales that were merely hinted at secondhand.

Ultimately, the reason I would not recommend the books being read before viewing the show is my lack of surprise. I was jealous when I read about and saw the outrage after what happened to Ned Stark. There will be similar shock value by the end of season 3 as well, and in a way, I wish I didn't know what was coming, because it's epic and non-readers will never see it until it happens...unless, of course, they've had it spoiled. At least my having read the books makes me immune to spoilers. Then again, had I never read them, I would steer clear of all sites related to the show.

I feel if a person began reading A Storm of Swords now and finished before the big event that's looming it will end up being a spoiler. It will lessen the blow, take away the astonishment, and it will last unto season 4, when the show completes the third book. My suggestion would be to read each book after its correlating seasons are finished. Otherwise, you're spoiling your own fun.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Thor: The Dark World Trailer

Here's the first glimpse of the next Thor movie, and I'm a bit undecided about what I think. While I loved Anthony Hopkins as Odin and the scenes in Asgard during the first movie it didn't impress me when the action shifted to Earth/Midgar, and the trailer for The Dark World definitely appears to have several scenes in London, but I guess that's the only way to get Jane Foster, Natalie Portman's character and Thor's love interest, to other realms. Plus, I admit, Thor has a crush on Earth, and that's where he likes to hang out, so it's to be expected.

I have my fingers crossed, however, that majority of the film will take place in Asgard and Svartalfheim, one of the nine worlds of Asgard ruled by the Dark Elves. The major villain, as seen near the end of the trailer, is Malekith the Accursed, who is a sorcerer with faerie magic with the gift of changing the appearance of objects or people. One of his storylines was a partnership with Loki, and I wouldn't be surprised if the movie is based off that--after all, Loki is also in the trailer.

What worries me the most about this particular franchise is Jane Foster. It's easy for comic book movies to fall into the cliched damsel-in-distress pit and suddenly, not unlike Spider-Man or Superman, never be able to crawl out. The love triangles become the centerpiece, and there tends to be that yawn-moment when the villain kidnaps the damsel to lure the hero in for the kill...ultimately failing. I don't want to be bombarded with mush when paying to see Thor bash things with Mjolnir; I prefer not every superhero movie revolve around the hero saving his girlfriend.

In the trailer, Malekith is about to kill Jane. Despite liking Natalie Portman, I wouldn't be displeased if he went through with it. Though it would diverge from the source material, there's a much better story with Thor recovering from the inability to save his beloved, especially since bringing her to Asgard is what put her in jeopardy, than constantly swooping in to the rescue in predictable fashion.

Questions I hope the movie clears up are: how did Thor get back to Earth in the Avengers and why did he not see Jane while he was there? Did Odin forbid it? Has traveling between realms been outlawed? Has Jane been brought to Asgard to be a goddess?

I think it's time, even if it's brief, Thor puts on his helmet. Sif and he are the only ones without headgear in that battle, and it's silly.

It'll be a while until The Dark World hits theaters. There will probably be two or three more trailers, and maybe when I see more glimpses I can solidify my opinion, decide whether this installment will be worth viewing in a theater or if I'll wait for a rental, like I did with the first one.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Missing Novel

I recently finished the fifth revision of my fantasy novel, and I have spent the past weeks trying to decide what to write next. There are several options: continue with the sequel, which I have written two hundred pages for, revise one of my other two novels, start on something new, or complete one of several novels I started years ago, yet my frustration does not come from indecision.

This morning I tried to locate the horror novel I began writing in 2005. Over the years, I intended to finish it--the horror novel was more than halfway done. I even went as far as completing a screenplay a few years ago to use as an outline, incorporating a lot of dialogue and all the major events and characters. I assured myself it was stowed away safely, waiting for me.

I back-up every story I write. I have a stack of CDs and flash drives in a desk drawer, and going through them this morning, reviewing everything I had written since the first computer I owned in college, I discovered my horror novel had not saved correctly; there were only 24 pages, when there should have been over three hundred.

After I cursed and double-checked my storage devices and triple-checked my storage devices, I berated myself for not opening the file after I thought to save it. Eight years ago, when I upgraded my failing computer, I should have made sure everything I saved was correct before I wiped the hard drive and disposed of the tower and monitor. Shamefully, my music compilations received more attention at the time, and my novel is gone with no hope of return.

Let my carelessness stand as an example to any writer that reads this. Back-up your work. Keep your files updated. Make sure your saves are proper. Keep every draft. Duplicate every line, even the ones you hate. Otherwise, years from now, you'll be like me and wish you had a time machine to punch the old version of yourself in the face until they understand to care for their stories like a newborn baby.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Awkward Interview

This morning I woke bright and early for an interview. I woke too early. After showering, dressing spiffy, and gathering my things, I set out to Amsterdam for my appointment in my dad's car (he blocked mine in when returning with groceries) and arrived half an hour early.

When I entered the store, I was greeted by a shift manager. He told me the interviewer would be right out, so I stood in a corner near the front, taming my anxiety, fiddling on my phone, shifting my feet, steadying my breathing, and trying to remain unnoticed by the shoppers going through the line and staring at a me. I stood, daydreaming, looking out windows, reading signs, adjusting my glasses, folding and unfolding my arms, checking the time on my phone, looking for games to play on my phone, eavesdropping on conversations about the weather and ex-husbands and a sale in aisle three. I stood there, begruding that I didn't sleep in an extra half an hour. I stood there for forty-five minutes and squirmed, fifteen minutes passed my scheduled time because there was someone already being interviewed.

Once it was my turn, I was asked inside a room. I was asked to take a seat. Once seated, a woman around my age, probably a little younger, sat directly across from me in an identical fold-out chair. I immediately noticed her bright blue eyes, dark blue suit, and pulled back hair--she was attractive; I also noticed her height. I kind of had to look up to meet her gaze, but that didn't throw me off. What had me discombobulated was I figured out instantly why I was asked to sit first and why it took so long for the woman and the man to take their seats--the woman's pose was identical to mine.

For anyone else, the notion of mimicing the interviewee's pose is to alleviate their nerves. For me, I was distracted; I kept wondering if I changed the way I sat, would she do the same? Was I sitting weird, and if so, did she feel as if she was sitting weird? If I sat in a different way, would she have copied that position? I believe so, because I was not in a normal or comfortable pose. It had rained that morning, and on my way into the store I stepped in a puddle. Despite how long I waited, I did not discover the mud on top of my black shoe until walking into the room for my interview; when I sat, I crossed one foot over the other to hide/rub off the mud.

After introductions, the interview began. During multiple sentences I lost my train of thought, thinking, "Her eyes are the brightest blue I've ever seen," and, "Don't look down. Don't look down. You just looked down. Look back up. And now you're staring at her forehead. See, she just touched it. You dolt."


A loud alarm went off, and I practically jumped out of my seat. It was explained to me buzzers were how the back of the store communicated with the front, and as all three of us shared a laugh at my expense, I started to wonder about the two interviewing me...

Was the woman being trained for a managing position or was it customary to have two interviewers in the room? Was it a ploy to see if I could maintain eye contact between the two? Would they ever be a couple? Had I been picked for an interview so she would have a challenge, since the man met me yesterday? Should I not have told them I was on Medical Marijuana in Denver for stomach problems as I touched my belly to demonstrate where it had hurt?

I imagined false backstories about each interviewer in my head. I imagined their memories and conjured details, guessing who they are, and as I did that in my thoughts, I rambled off responses to the questions posed to me about myself. Somewhere along the way, I forgot their question about my work history, what I intended to say, trailed off and finished with, "I think that's it." It occured to me my head might have shook involuntarily while I spoke; I cleared my throat as if that would remedy the situation--oh, the joy of being unable to obtain my medications.

Suffice to say, the interview went horrible. As I left the store, I heard my interviewers laugh, and I know I won't hear back from them by Tuesday. I still considered it a victory.

Every interview, every time I go into public it is a victory, because it scares the shit out of me, and I do it anyway.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Man of Steel Trailer

Here's the latest trailer for Man of Steel, and though I'm not the biggest Superman fan and I've been skeptical of this movie since its teaser (who wouldn't be after the last one?), I've been convinced there's a lot of potential for this to be a great film.

First of all, at least in the trailer, it appears Zach Snyder has finally moved away from his incessant slow-motion and bullet-time yet maintained his hallmark CGI that always drew me to his work. The action sequences look fast, and I've always wanted to see a Superman zipping through the air, smashing into things, and so far Snyder appears to have delivered.

Around the 2:20 mark, there is a glimpse of a bald man in a metal suit, swatting exploding debris with the back of his hand. Lex Luther, maybe? Or is it just Zod in a spacesuit? Or a henchman? It's hard to tell. LexCorp is visible, but I can't find any solid information that confirms Superman's arch enemy will make an appearance.

One thing I appreciate is that the main villain will be General Zod rather than Lex Luther. I have nothing against Lex, but when it comes to the other movies and TV shows, Lex was usually the central enemy. It's become a bit tiresome, especially since the comics have so many great characters like Darkseid, Braniac, and Doomsday that oppose Superman. I have also read Kryptonite will not be in the film, meaning Zod and Superman should spend a good deal of time beating on each other. How one will defeat the other is a mystery to me, as they will both be nearly invincible.

From the musical score to the questions surrounding Lex Luther's involvement--he could be played by a relatively unknown actor--to the absence of Kryptonite, Kal-El's new origin story should make for an interesting reboot. It's a reboot that was definitely needed to salvage the franchise, boasting a stellar cast.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Hannibal Review

Usually I need three episodes to decide whether or not I like a new show, but Hannibal already has me hooked. After The Following, I expected this show to be dumbed down, loaded with over-the-top lunatics and portrayals, gore for gore's sake, and a formula that matched CSI, where there was a crime every week and the duo of Graham and Lecter went about solving it. I also had little faith in NBC, as most of their shows tend to bore me.

I don't often like the sets used in NBC dramas; as seen in Revolution, they're too clean and organized, but in Hannibal they work, especially Dr. Lecter's office, where every book is in its place and the furniture is pristine. Even the crime scenes and hideouts of serial killers seem oddly picturesque, which lends to the notion that these criminals might be lunatics but they're lunatics with a purpose, finding a disturbing beauty in death.

While I suspect serial killers will continue to pop up during the course of Hannibal, giving Graham cases, by the second episode it's clear that past cases are not going to be easily forgotten by the characters. Graham, in fact, is haunted by them, and similar to Twin Peaks there are trippy dream sequences where a feathery stag walks down a hospital hallway; he also has hallucinations while awake. Our hero is flawed. I've read viewer comments complaining Hugh Dancy's portrayal is stiff, but I think it works. After all, Graham, though functioning, is mentally ill, and one of his biggest problems is the wall he puts up to keep others out--I believe such a person would have a very stiff personality. At this point in the show, it also works in that Lecter and Graham are still feeling each other out, and they are tentative of their relationship. Perhaps, their character's personalities will unfold over the course of the show.

Mads Mikkelsen is an excellent choice to play Lecter. There are times in the show, where I find myself wondering, "What's he thinking?" as conversations and plots unravel and Mikkelsen remains calm, delivering subtle expressions where you can really tell there's something going on behind his forced smiles. When he confronted Freddy, his lack of emotion convinced me she was going to die in his office. I don't think it would be fair to compare Mikkelsen's portrayal with Hopkins' as they're playing the Lecter role in different stages of the character's life: in one, Lecter is in captivity or on the run with no need to hide what he is, whereas in the show Lecter is a respected psychiatrist no one suspects as a cannibalistic serial killer. Any emotion he would show would tip off Graham, who is an empath. I'm actually surprised the show was able to make it plausible that neither Crawford or Graham would suspect Lecter.

I find Laurence Fishburne to be equally enjoyable to watch, callous and domineering. I get the sense that Crawford cares more about solving crimes than any of the people around him, and he acts as if Graham is a weapon, not a man. Plus, Fishburne maintains a level a charm. Crawford's an ass, but I still like him.

Part of the fun of the show are subtle things that go unsaid. It's a psychological journey, especially during Lecter and Graham's sessions--there's a double meaning to most of what they say. When Lecter makes meals for Graham and Crawford, we're left wondering if they're being tricked into eating people or if Lecter hasn't progressed to that level of madness and is actually feeding them what he says he is (sausage and pork). We know what Lecter is, yet the characters don't. In the first two episodes, Lecter went as far as assisting the serial killers. Though it wasn't shown like the premiere when Lecter called the man they were hunting, I suspect he tipped off the pharmacist, too--it's all a mind game, a cerebral form of cat and mouse.

Hannibal succeeds where shows like The Following and The Cult failed, brimming with interesting characters, believable plots, fascinating and subtle dialogue, all of which asks viewers to think, rather than explain or divulge every secret. So far, I'm impressed.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

LFR Griefing

For my alts, I especially enjoy the Looking for Raid (LFR) feature, but with it comes griefers and ragers. I was in the process of doing the second part of Throne of Thunder (ToT) this morning on my goblin mage, drinking some coffee, winning some loot, when a couple of dregs from the Illidan server thought it would be funny to grief.

Someone asked for an explanation of the second fight, so I typed out what to do as DPS. No sooner had I finished typing when another player pulled the boss. Half the raid died, and within seconds I was blamed, though my combat log showed I had not attacked the boss. In fact, I was standing so far back I wasn't in range to cast a spell.

When I said, "Make sure you kick the right mage," because there were only two of us, I was blamed for pulling the first boss, too, even though for the start of Tortos I had been standing far back against the ledge eating for a food buff at the time and had to run in to start attacking a boss that was already engaged.

My rebuttals went unheard. The griefers even went as far as to claim, "You died, so it musta been you," yet half the raid had died, and I wasn't anywhere close to the first one to die. Because the players from Illidan, all guilded, were able to convince our group I was the culprit, protecting their mage that actually did the pulling of both bosses, and I couldn't link my combat log to show I had not attacked, nor was given a chance to link my Recount to demonstrate I did zero damage, I was promptly vote-kicked.

Well, the joke's on them. I already received the loot I had joined the LFR for. I was only sticking around because I didn't really have anything else to do on that character. Wherever that group is now, I hope their griefer is still with them, pulling mobs and wiping them and making them all look like sheepish idiots.

I didn't think my opinion of Illidan's Horde could lessen, but after today, it certainly has. For whatever reason, it seems to attract some of the worst offenders in the Warcraft community.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

My Top 10 Horror Movies

Horror movies are one of my favorite genres, so a lot of debate went into my list; it also explains why my Honorable Mentions are extensive. While I wanted to throw Alien on there I didn't want to repeat titles my other lists either. Again, these are my personal choices.

10. 28 Days Later - Prior to this movie, I considered zombies slow, shambling monsters that could only do harm when they gathered in large groups. While the infected aren't the undead, 28 Days Later changed the formula, and other filmmakers borrowed it (Dawn of the Dead remake, World War Z due out this summer), making zombies creepier. The film is complimented by a great soundtrack, good performances by Brendan Gleeson and Cillian Murphy.

9. The Mothman Prophecies - Being rooted in actual events while also being based on a nonfiction book (it's debatable) by John A. Keel, a paranormal/UFO investigator, gave this film an eerie sense of realism. Until I saw the movie, I wasn't aware of the book. Both creep me out and amp my paranoia to insane levels. Whenever my phone rang while reading, even after watching the movie, I somehow expected a Mothman on the other end. Plus, the film toys with the viewer; there are red eyes and shadows in the background and lines like, "John died twelve hours ago. When did he call you?...About an hour ago," play tricks on the mind.

8. The Mist - Based on a novella by Stephen King, Frank Darabont's adaptation is one of the closet and truest that I have ever seen up until his shocking and depressing ending, which he altered. Like a zombie movie, The Mist is more about people than the monsters outside. Part of what I love about this movie are the monsters; I can't help think the dimension they spilled from is Mid-World, home of the Gunslinger. I thought that in reading, and I was giddy to see Thomas Jayne's character, David Drayton, painting Roland in the intro. While I've seen and heard people take beef with the acting or the ending (it can be a bit B movie-ish, including the monsters, but I've always felt that was intended), I enjoyed both. There's something about Marcia Gay Harden and Andre Braugher's characters that entertain me every time I throw this DVD in my Xbox.

7. The Woman in Black - I've seen a lot of horror movies in my life, a ridiculous amount, and I can't recall a single one that made me jump as many times as the remake of The Woman in Black. The lack of dialogue lends to the decrepit Victorian atmosphere, but I'll never understand why people think jump-scares are cheap or annoying; isn't the point of a horror movie to scare, and doesn't a jump-scare do exactly that? Still, I thought the toys were the most disturbing aspect of the movie. I actually just found out recently this was a remake, so I will have to find the original, see how they compare.

6. Evil Dead - I have yet to see the remake, which looks serious and creepy, but the original Evil Dead has a special place in my horror movie history, from a night spent in college watching the entire trilogy with my roommates. One of my honorable mentions, Cabin in the Woods, is a nice homage to this iconic, comedic, and campy indie movie that solidified my joy in watching Bruce Campbell. It's a fun movie; if you go into it expecting a masterpiece, you'll be disappointed.

5. The Thing - The remake/prequel of John Carpenter's classic is awful, but the suspense and paranoia of the original are amazing. For its time, maybe even today, the animatronics are great, and I especially love the reveal of the Thing in the kennel. One of the most tense moments of the movie came with the blood tests, everyone strapped in a chair, but what truly drives this film, which the prequel failed at in every capacity, was the characters and actors: Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley, Richard Dysart, and others--the cast was amazing.

4. The Shining - Despite the many changes from Stephen King's novel, which avid readers seem to abhor (I've heard King wasn't a fan either), Stanley Kubrick's vision is both haunting and disturbing on a psychological level. The twins in the hallway stalking Danny terrified me when I was a kid; I think they still might, and my mother can't watch a Jack Nicholson film because of his eyes--she also admits to having to leave the room during the maze-chase scene. Along with the soundtrack, the imagery is outstanding, and it causes the Overlook Hotel to take on a life of its own.

3. Night of the Living Dead - "They're coming to get you, Barbara." Without a doubt, George A. Romero is the godfather of zombie movies, and the most interesting aspect of his films is the notion that humanity is just as bad, if not worse, than the zombies. It's a theme that persists in modern shows like The Walking Dead. While I would admit the quality of this franchise diminished after Dawn of the Dead, they keep me entertained. Even their remakes, which I normally loathe, are fun to watch (I could go on and on about how great the opening scenes of Dawn of the Dead's remake were), and I liked Tony Todd as Ben in the 1990 version. I think the Night of the Living Dead is my favorite remake of all time and a vastly underrated zombie film.

2. Jaws - I don't know which came first: my fear of oceans and sharks or Jaws, but I wouldn't be surprised if this movie played a part in my terror. To this day I have nightmares involving sharks, and I don't think it's coincidence they usually have that initial tug on the leg as seen in the opening of the movie, where the swimmer is briefly pulled underwater (writing that just gave me chills). Steven Spielberg's decision to add camera shots of people's legs underwater, as if a shark perusing a buffet, was brilliant. Then there's the soundtrack, a script with many quotable lines, and the cast; would the film have been as good without Robert Shaw as Quint?

1. The Exorcist - The idea of possession scares me to no end, and this is the unchallenged king of possession stories. Beginning to end, this film unnerves me on a psychological and spiritual level. One thing I've always enjoyed in movies is the build-up of tension, the slow progression of both characters and their enemy, and The Exorcist's is flawless. Even the small mysteries along the way are freaky: disappearing crucifixes, shadows moving in the room, and clocks stopping. Stellar performances such as Max von Sydow as Father Merrin and the soundtrack compliment the dark tone of the film. Many possession movies have come and gone, unable to reach the same level as The Exorcist, unable to scare me, yet I could watch this movie tonight and be tempted, even at my age as an agnostic/borderline atheist, to say a prayer and sleep with the lights on; that's why it's my number one.

Honorable Mentions

Shaun of the Dead, Interview with a Vampire, Silent Hill, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Saw, Scream, Hellraiser, The Ring, Carrie, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Final Destination, Cube, Let Me In/Let the Right One In, Psycho, Wrong Turn, Poltergeist, Pet Semetary, The Grudge, Audition, The Sixth Sense, Jeepers Creepers, The Fly, Session 9, Jacob's Ladder, Bubba Ho-Tep, It, House on Haunted Hill, The People Under the Stairs, Creepshow, House, The Monster Squad, The Howling, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, The Gate, The Blob, Night of the Creeps, Graveyard Shift, Salem's Lot, The Cabin in the Woods, 1408, Tremors, Gremlins

Feel free to agree, disagree, or mention a movie I might have missed.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Game of Thrones Returns (Spoiler Alert)

While the season premiere of A Game of Thrones wasn't the action-packed debut most viewers have come to expect from a television show, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Most scenes were full of exposition, setting the stage for what is bound to be the most controversial season, and I must say, the actors brought their A game for every scene.

Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister surpasses my own imagination as to how I perceived the character, and I was captivated by his scene with Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). His delivery was flawless; I hinged on every word, and when in a room with his dwarf son, I sympathized with Tyrion. I understood both characters at once, and the Halfman, who I already cheered for, became even more endearing as he yearned for his father's acceptance.

Another star of last night's episode was Ciaran Hands as Mance Rayder. I admit when I read the novels I always pictured Mance younger, despite knowing he was older and around the same age as Halfhand. It was just the way my mind decided it should be, yet I was convinced shortly after the introduction of Giantsbane and Mance that once again the show had been cast without flaw. Even Davos, who I was still up in the air about, evolved to closely resemble my vision of him after being stranded; the scene with Davos and Salladhor Saan (Lucian Msamati) was also noteworthy--that pirate cracks me up.

I had also wondered how the giants beyond the wall would be depicted, if they were to even be in the show. Some part of me expected HBO to either eliminate them or make the giants tall men but somewhat normal to save money. I was wrong, and I was excited when the giant lumbered past Jon Snow.

As with every adaptation, there were changes from the source material, and the choice to completely skip the Battle of the Fist and give us a dark screen with sounds of war was a bit of a head-scratcher. I do hope there are flashbacks or a dream sequence giving us visuals as the Crows march back to the Wall, but that's probably wishful thinking, as HBO is prone to skip the lesser battles from the books--I would venture a guess that it's monetary restraints. I'm not quite sure why Ghost, Jon Snow's direwolf, is hanging out with Sam instead of with his master though...

Barristan Selmy also declared himself outright and was alone, though I do understand why his character's name was not kept a secret; it might have become distracting for the audience at home who recognized the actor. If they hadn't read the books, they could have been confused, thinking the actor had been cast to play two different roles. Whether Strong Belwas has been completely eliminated as a character remains to be seen. He was noticeably absent, and there are a couple of important scenes for him later on in the story. It could be we'll be surprised by him this season, or he could have been slated to appear next season due to the introduction of so many new characters, the way the Reeds were pushed back. As a favorite of mine (probably many other readers), I'm hoping he hasn't been scrapped.

For us readers, we know the destination of all the clever lines, nuances, and glances the characters deliver; we know the weight of their words, so when I read on fan sites that people found the opener boring, I laughed a little. Soon enough, they'll understand the set-ups, and if they should re-watch earlier episodes after the season has fully aired, they'll see the hints and foreshadowing the writers carefully plotted along the way.

I also won't be surprised if next week's episode has as much exposition as the opener, for a lot is going to happen this season into next season, and when it does, it's going to unfold rapidly. There are stories, such as the whereabouts of the Hound, Arya, Brienne, the Mountain, Gendry, Brann, Theon, and Jaime that haven't been shown, but as promised by HBO to those that complained season 2 was too condensed, they are taking their time. I appreciate the care, despite any changes. After all, if George R.R. Martin doesn't mind the alterations, why should I?