Ten things we wish for various characters on “Game of Thrones,” season six

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Sunday, HBO’s smash hit epic fantasy “Game of Thrones” returns for a sixth season.

The show is at an odd point (besides ending its last season on roughly a billion different cliffhangers).

If each previous season is roughly equivalent to one book (which it isn’t quite, I know, so stop typing that angry email), this is the first season that won’t have a corresponding novel by George R.R. Martin completed before the season starts. “A Dance with Dragons,” Martin’s most recent book in the A Song of Ice and Fire cycle, was published in 2011, and Martin has said there is no way a next book, “The Winds of Winter,” will appear in 2016.

While Martin and “Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have said some “Winter” plot elements will appear in season six, the show and book could go in radically different directions.

The following are not predictions, nor are they questions we want answered, really. This is what we wish for various characters on “Game of Thrones” and one thing we hope for the show in general.

  • We hope that Jon Snow continues to know nothing…as a living human (but we are not holding our breath).

When season five ended, Jon Snow was lying on the ground, bleeding out, eyes wide open, betrayed by his men on the Watch. (His fate in “Dragons” is similarly up in the air.) If he is just grievously wounded, that would be swell (though his Wildling love Ygritte is dead). But if he’s a (very handsome) corpse, there are various magical ways he could come back to life. But one of the nice (as it were) things about “Thrones” is the extent to which the dead stay dead (Ned Stark, we will never forget you). Most depressing scenario? Snow comes back as an undead White Walker.

  • We hope Sansa Stark gets to flex a bit.

When we last saw poor Sansa (and that “poor” might as well be an honorific now), she and a barely-sane Theon Greyjoy had to literally leap out of Winterfell to escape the savage Ramsay Bolton, the meanest man on television. In the trailer, there is a shot of Sansa in a cloak that screams “Queen of the North,” so here’s hoping she raises an army, maybe of Stannis’ men with Brienne of Tarth (who doesn’t know she needed rescuing) by her side, sacks Bolton and becomes queen in the North.

  • We hope Ramsay Bolton is torn apart by direwolves.

The usurper in the North still has control of Winterfell but no longer has Sansa or Theon, who were basically his slaves and pretty good bargaining chips. It would be great if Sansa had his head sent to his father Roose Bolton, one of the Red Wedding’s architect’s. Look, this show makes us a little cruel.

  • We hope Arya Stark becomes the badass assassin we have long been promised.

We last saw Arya blinded by one of the Faceless Men (the order of assassins she is trying to join) for killing Ser Meryn Trant because she wanted to rather than was ordered to. Odds are she gets her sight back, then we are in favor of her grabbing Needle and raining stealthy death on everyone on her kill list (even if it annoys the Faceless Men), especially…

  •  Cersei Lannister, whom we hope gets Westeros’ Trial of the Century.

That said, she did get a humiliating (and, as the kids say, problematic: see below) walk through the streets of King’s Landing. There is nobody who wouldn’t enjoy her getting a taste of grim, Thronesy justice, but at the hands of the antipope High Sparrow and the fanatical Faith Militant? That’s less appealing.

  • We hope that Jaime Lannister stays out of his sister’s eyeline, forever.

When we left Jaime, he had just rescued his and Cersei’s daughter Myrcella from her thus-far-not-too-terrible time with the Martells. They reconciled, hugged and then she died, assassinated by the Sand Snakes. Jaime’s mission was the definition of “you had one job,” and he blew it. Cersei is going to kill him, bring him back to life, then kill him again.

  • We hope Bran Stark … well, who cares?

The Bran-as-visionary plotline, his seemingly EXTREMELY LONG quest to find the three-eyed raven, has been so far removed from the central action that it’s increasingly hard to stay engaged – Daenerys over in sunny Meereen is closer to the events in King’s Landing.  I am pulling for Bran to meet someone, anyone from his family, if only to apply Mr. Tossed-Out-A-Window’s powers to one of the bigger, denser plots.

  • We hope Daenerys rides into battle on a freakin’ dragon because, come on, they have been teasing that since the things were hatched.

Turns out that Daenerys, who seemed like a yasss-queen-level boss for a while there, is kind of a mediocre ruler, what with the whole soaring out of Meereen, now in chaos, atop a dragon, only to end up back with the Dothraki. Oof. Get back on that horse, er, dragon, girl!

  • We hope Tyrion can bring the noise.

Seriously, I don’t care where he is or what he is doing. Stuck in Meereen, on a boat with Jorah Mormont, hanging out as the King’s Hand, whatever. Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister is delivering one of television’s all-time great performances, and his sly humor works in almost any situation.

And finally…

  • On behalf of characters and viewers, we sincerely hope the sexual violence gets, at a minimum, dialed down.

Here are some sex crimes in “Game of Thrones,” just off the top of my head: It is implied that Ramsay’s sexual abuse and rape of Sansa is near-constant, sometimes with Theon forced to watch.  Cersei was raped, as was Daenerys.

Joffrey killed one of the women he bedded by tying her naked to a bedpost and shooting crossbow bolts at her. Cersei’s sexual humiliation in last season’s finale was brutal. And this is just what I could remember. I am certain I am forgetting quite a bit and none of them resulted in much character development for anyone involved

The level of sexual violence on “Thrones” has gotten so egregious that the fansite the Mary Sue threw in the towel on the show altogether.

Last year, one fan tallied up all the sexual assaults in the books and on screen. Over the course of five seasons, there were 16 rapes or attempted rapes. (It also turns out that there are something like four times as many sex crimes in the book, which is a mighty depressing thought.)

Enough already. Enough, enough, enough.

There is a lot to love about the show: stellar acting, palace intrigue, giant wolves, sword fights, dudes wearing all black, and dragons.

There is just no narrative reason for the level of sexual violence depicted on this show. None.

“But it’s in the books!” Well, a lot of things are in the books. The books are huge. The producers make choices on what to include. They chose to include a whole lot of sexual violence (some of it by characters we are supposed to root for in the long term).

In addition, the producers chose to add an assault when Ramsay raped Sansa, combining the experiences in the books of two characters: Sansa, who is not raped in the books, and Jayne Poole, a Winterfell servant whom Ramsay marries and rapes. (I can’t believe I typed all that, either.) Again, they didn’t have to use the Sansa rape plot – they chose to.

“But ‘Thrones’ is a riff on the War of the Roses! Rape happened all the time in 15th century war! This show thrives on its realism.” The show also has dragons.  I am pretty sure they weren’t in the War of the Roses. Again, the show’s producers made choices.

“But HBO pushes the content envelope!” Hey, the producers want to show explicit consensual sex, they are more than welcome.

Besides, again, the nice thing about season six is, unless they want to show us a whole mess of flashbacks, the producers are out of books to draw from. For the first time in the show’s history, it can go pretty much anywhere it wants to. And if it chooses to move away from using sexual violence as a plot engine, then everybody wins.

 

Tribe is for the children: The Sesame Street Muppets vs. “Scenario”

As heads everywhere know, A Tribe Called Quest rapper Malik Izaak “Phife Dawg” Taylor died on March 22 due to complications from diabetes, a disease Phife struggled with his whole life. He was one of the all time greats.

So it is not entirely surprising that this video mash-up appeared April 9. It’s not a new idea (this is still one of the best), but this one is executed just perfectly.

Doesn’t hurt that the song is bullet-proof; still, well done, everybody. (Thank you to the great Marlon James for putting it on his Facebook page.)

And for those who don’t feel like looking it up (or aren’t 40-somethins who know this song cold):

Phife = Elmo

Charlie Brown = Kermit

Dinco D = Grover

Q-Tip = Fozzie

Busta Rhymes = the Count

 

 

 

 

R.I.P. Phife.  (On a side note, Jim Henson will be dead 26 years on May 16.)

Ten records to look out for on Record Store Day

Love it, hate it, look forward to it or avoid it, April 16 is Record Store Day.

Here are 10 records that caught my eye, in no particular order.

  1. “Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks” (Demon). A story-telling record (Remeber those? “Rebel Mission to Ord VBDaleks_CD4pp.inddMantell,” I will never forget you)  on “‘70s Tardis blue colored vinyl.”  LP. Tom Baker (The Fourth and most famous Doctor) narrates one of the key episodes in the extremely long-running series, as the Time Lords send the Doctor on a journey through space and time to try to prevent rhe Daleks from being created. My kids are getting into Doctor Who, maybe they would like it.
  2. David Bowie, “I Dig Everything: The Pye Singles 1966” (BMC/Sacntuary). A six song EP of the tunes a very young Bowie knocked out for Pye in ’66. Bowie before he was BOWIE, essentially.
  3. Buzzcocks, “More Product in a Different Compilation” (ORG): Almost all of the A-sides and a whole mess of B-sides from first-wave punk’s greatest singles act. All of these bangers appeared between 1977 and 1980.  It’s an expanded version of “Singles Going Steady” sort of. Perfect for the younger person in your life who keeps listening to terrible pop-punk. (Do young people still do that or is it all stuff like Bring Me The Horizon now?)
  4. 418457270158-284D.O.C., “No One Can Do It Better” (Get On Down): First time in print on vinyl since this West Coast hip-hop classic dropped in 1989. A rapper from Dallas, production from Dr. Dre, NWA guest
    appearances: What are you waiting for (other than Record Store Day)?
  5. Alejandro Escovedo, “Gravity” and “Thirteen Years” (New West). Two early (and extremely heavy) solo albums from one of Austin’s most beloved are realaunching the defunct Austin label Watermelon as a division of New West.  On 180 gram vinyl.
  6. Fleetwood Mac, “The Alternate Tusk” (Rhino): The “alternate version” (read: alternate takes of songs from) of “Tusk,” previously released on CD in that massive “Tusk” reissue, now on double LP. A few songs really do sound like Pavement.
  7. Ida “Will You Find Me” (Polyvinyl): I used to think you could find this excellent 2000 LP anywhere, but it’s currently going for about $30 on discogs. (That said, if you want it on CD, it will cost you a dollar.) A double LP, gatefold version mastered at 45 for maximum sonic whump. Perhaps these acoustic singer-songwriter-indie-folk-rock titans made a bad record, but I sure haven’t heard it.
  8. The James Brown Revue, “Get Down at the Apollo with the J.B.’s” (Get On DGET54082-LP_JAMES BROWN_LIVE AT THE APOLLO '72own). A full 1972 set from Brown and his funk machine, then operating at yet another heady peak. Previously available as as download but not on LP. As I said, I am not made of stone, people.
  9. Lydia Lunch and Marc Hurtado, “My Lover the Killer” (Munster): Latest collaboration between Lunch, a queen of musical-and-lyrical transgression (both major and minor) since the 70s and Hurtado, one half of the French industrial duo Étant Donnés. I will always give at least a listen to whatever Lunch is up to.
  10. Superchunk, “Tossing Seeds: Singles 1989-91” (Merge): The first LP Merge (Arcade Fire, Neutral Milk Hotel) ever released. The Platonic ideal of early ’90s indie rock and a perfect album. Not a bad pairing with the Buzzcocks joint (for obvious reasons).

There are, obviously, dozens more.   Check it out for yourself.

What say you, Austin? What are you looking forward to?

The Julie Ruin announce new album, “Hit Reset,” debut new song

The Julie Ruin — which features half of Bikini Kill (frontwoman Kathleen Hanna and bassist Kathi Wilcox) along with Kiki and Herb’s Kenny Mellman on keys, drummer Carmine Covelli and guitarist Sara Landeau — announced a new album Monday titled “Hit Reset,” out on July 8 on Hardly Art.

The Julie Ruin at Fun Fun Fun (photo: Tina Phan)
The Julie Ruin at Fun Fun Fun (photo: Tina Phan)

Their last album, “Run Fast,” appeared in 2013 on Dischord and the band played Fun Fun Fun that year.

“The Punk Singer,” an excellent documentary on Hanna, played SXSW in 2013 as well.

 

 

 

I will admit to being a little lukewarm on the last Julie Ruin album, but the new song, “I Decide,” is a blast, a catchy drone of New Wave pulse and Hanna’s sing-song. Hit reset, indeed.

 

 

Why the trailer for “Rogue One” makes it look even better than “The Force Awakens”

Oh, man.

So, I liked “The Force Awakens.” Was it satisfying? Sure. Was it better than the prequels? Yes. Did it have its flaws? Yes. It was, as a friend once put it about a Liz Phair album, “scrumptiously overratable.”

And I am on the record as having my wig pushed back by the possibilities delivered in the “Force Awakens” trailer.

The trailer for “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” directed by Gareth Edwards (who directed the VERY mixed 2014 “Godzilla”) made me legitimately excited. True confessions: I am a 41-year-old man, and this trailer actually put me in a better mood this morning.

Let us count the ways:

The title: “Rogue One” is an absurdly awesome title. “The Phantom Menace” sounds like a 1940s movie serial, which is fine, but it is not cool. “The Force Awakens” is more of a plot point. “Rogue One” sounds like a post-hardcore band from 1994. It is sleek and vague. Not “Something’s Gotta Give” or “It’s Complicated” vague (peace to Nancy Meyers), but both enigmatic and badass. Is it the name of the mission? The heroine?

Here is the other half of the title: “A Star Wars Story.” Note the indefinite rather than definite article. This is a story not about the Skywalker family, but other folks in the Star Wars universe.

When Disney purchased Star Wars, it got rid of “the Expanded Universe,” all of the books, cartoons and comics (many, many, MANY comics) that had filled out the Star Wars universe, in some cases stretching back thousands of years, much of which had nothing to do with the Skywalkers. Some of them worked, some did not. All of that was scrapped.

This movie is the first post-Disney film step into creating a new expanded universe. (There have been books and comics that have contributed to a new canon.) And there is a bit of freedom there, a looseness that can happen. This isn’t THE Star Wars story, it is A Star Wars story, the kind that millions of kids made up with their action figures.

The plot: “Rogue One” is rumored to be the story of how the Rebels got the plans to the Death Star, rumors that seem confirmed by the trailer, which places the movie between “Revenge of the Sith” and “Star Wars: A New Hope”

We see Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly, who played the character in Episode II and really does look like Caroline Blakiston, who played her in “Return of the Jedi”) discussing with newly-minted rebel Jyn Erso (Oscar nominee Felicity Jones) a “major weapons test.”

The chatter: Mon Mothma: “On your own from the age of 15, reckless, aggressive, and undisciplined.”

 Jyn: “This is a rebellion, isn’t it?” [nice fat pause] “I rebel.”

The lead: Oh, yeah, that. In a sharp reminder that this is a movie from the 21st century, the main character, Jyn Erso, is a woman. Her boss is a woman. Does it solve the wage gap? No, but it’s nice to see. The movie also stars Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk and Jonathan Aris — which also reflects the 21st century.

The Empire, the Rebellion and nostalgia: The Empire is, in this film, as strong as we have ever seen it. The Rebellion isn’t quite off the ground, at least not in a Battle of Yavin kind of way. So we see stomtroopers with tanks and a few shots of Imperial Walkers storming what looks like Florida. We have not yet seen a Florida-planet.

We also see the planet-busting Superlaser being put into place on the Death Star and plenty of those weird, longish helmets the rebels used to wear.

Is “Rogue One” nostalgia-mining? Oh yes. But it is both more direct and cannier, I think, than much about “the Force Awakens.” The latter film borrowed heavily from the previous movies – shot selection, plotting, McGuffins, the whole bit — to remind viewers this is a cyclical story about a family.

But I am hoping “Rogue One,” not being about the Skywalkers, can break free of that narrative. This is still very much a Star Wars story. Indeed, we know how this story has to end: The plans have to be passed to Princess Leia, who then puts them into R2-D2. Whether it will end before that point or after it or during it remains to be seen. But there are many ways to get there and so far, “Rogue One” looks like it is the Star Wars movie that presses every possible button for both serious Star Wars nerds and casual fans.

What say you, folks?