“House of the Dragon” (Episode 2: “The Rogue Prince”)

SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read this post if you haven’t seen, or don’t want to know, details from Episode 2 of House of the Dragon.

Rhaenyra oversteps at the Small Council. Viserys is urged to secure the succession through marriage. Daemon announces his intentions. -Synopsis from HBO

The events of this ep (which involves diplomacy and matchmaking) take place 6 mos. after the pilot ep. Surprisingly, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock), is still the royal cupbearer (though she was officially made the heir to the king). Wow, can y’all believe it- a death in this world from old age!? The Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Ryam Redwyne, recently passed away peacefully in his sleep. Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) bursts into the Small Council w/ news of his recent losses at the hands of the Triarchy. This is a group under the leadership of the Crabfeeder, who lets crabs feed upon the flesh of his victims (yikes)! When Rhaenyra offers her opinion on the matter, she’s quickly shut down by the Hand, Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans).

Rhaenyra is sent off to help choose a new member of the Kingsguard; this knight will be protecting her also. Ser Harrold Westerling (Graham McTavish) starts presenting the handful of candidates to her. Rhaenyra learns that ONLY one of these knights has experience in battle- Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel). When she chooses him, Otto pulls her aside and explains that the other knights come from important houses (so it’d be politically advantageous to pick one of them). Rhaenyra sticks to her decision, as she wants the best fighter to protect her father. I never considered that choosing a bodyguard could be political; I don’t think I’d last a day in King’s Landing- LOL!

In the sept, we have a touching/emotional scene btwn Alicent (Emily Carey), who seems to be more religious, and Rhaenyra (unsure of how to pray). Rhaenyra and her father have NOT been communicating much lately. Both girls are missing their mothers; Rhaenyra even cries a BIT. They kneel before a statue and light votive candles. This statue is The Mother, who represents one aspect of in the Faith of the Seven. Of course, Rhaenyra has NO idea that Alicent and her father have been meeting and growing closer.

Corlys: To elude a storm, you can either sail into it or around it. But you must never await its coming.

King Viserys (Paddy Considine) meets w/ Corlys and Rhaenys (Eve Best) in the royal garden; they propose that the he marry their daughter, Laena. Toussaint and Best have great chemistry; you can believe that these characters been married a long time. When the king discusses this w/ Ser Otto and Maester Mellos, they exchange some (scheming) looks. Otto’s comments reveal that the king should take more time to grieve. Notice that one of Viserys’ pinky fingers is infected; he puts his hand into a bowl filled w/ maggots- yuck! Later that night, Viserys meets w/ Lord Lyonel Strong (Gavin Spokes), in the Small Council chamber re: his remarriage. Strong thinks that his marrying Laena (though she is V young) is a good idea.

Rhaenys: Here is the hard truth, which no one else has the heart to tell you. Men would sooner put the realm to the torch than see a woman ascend the Iron Throne.

We have perhaps the MOST cringe-worthy scene (of this show) when Viserys takes a walk w/ Laena (12 y.o.) in the garden. He’s NOT comfortable w/ this at all. Being a kid, Laena’s interested in dragons. FYI: Viserys was a dragon rider; he was the last Targaryen to ride Balerion (AKA The Black Dread). Balerion (who died of old age after living 200 yrs) was ridden by Aegon The Conqueror during the Targaryen conquest of Westeros. In a balcony high above the garden, Rhaenyra and Rhaenys have a serious convo re: women and leadership. Y’all, it’s TOO real (though this is fantasy show)!

Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) sends a letter to the king, saying that he’s getting married and going to have a child. We also learn from one of the keepers that Daemon snuck into the dragon pits and stole an egg- wow! Now, this was the same dragon egg that lay in the cradle of Viserys’ dead baby son. Viserys declares that he will face Daemon and get that egg back, BUT Otto stops him (saying it’s TOO dangerous). Daemon was banished by Viserys from court in the 1st ep; he has taken over Dragonstone (protected by 2,000 men formerly of the City Watch). Instead of going back to his wife, he’s living w/ his foreign-born mistress, Mysaria (Sonoyo Mizuno).

Otto (wearing armor), Ser Criston, and a group of soldiers travel by ship to Dragonstone; they face Daemon and his Gold Cloaks on a high bridge near the castle. Suddenly, Rhaenyra flies up on her dragon (Syrax), and gracefully lands on the bridge behind her father’s men! Otto is stunned for a moment, then tells Ser Criston to take her to safety. Rhaenyra is NOT deterred; she talks to Daemon (in High Valerian). She dares him to kill her now, BUT (of course) he wouldn’t hurt his niece. Daemon tosses the dragon egg back to Rhaenyra, like it’s NO big deal- LOL! Rhaenyra can get stuff done, though she is young/impulsive!

Inside the castle, in the same room where Stannis and Melisandre plotted on GoT, we get a look into Daemon’s relationship w/ Mysaria. I’m NOT a fan of the (odd) accent chosen for Mysaria; it sounds like a mix of Chinese and French (to my ears). Some other viewers said it sounded Jamaican and French. Mysaria has a sense of mystery about her; I loved her dress/cape here. The wedding and baby were made-up by Daemon; he wants his brother’s attention and love! Mysaria is (obviously) angry, as his lies could put her life in danger. She doesn’t come from privilege like him; she was taken from her homeland and bought/sold many times. Also, Mysaria made sure that she can’t get pregnant (as Daemon assumed would eventually happen).

Back in King’s Landing, Viserys gathers his Small Council and takes a few moments to ready himself for his big decision. Aside from the usual men and Rhaenyra, we see that Alicent is also present. The king announces that he will marry… Alicent! Otto looks pleased beyond words; he’d urged his daughter to spend time w/ the king. Corlys is shocked/angry; he protests and then storms out of the room. Rhaenyra has a V hurt expression on her face, while Alicent looks apologetic. Before Viserys can say anything to her, Rhaenyra nearly runs out of the room, too.

Corlys: If those shipping lanes fall, my house will be crippled. And I will not have Driftmark beggared while our King idles himself with feasts, and balls, and tourneys.

Daemon: I will speak of my brother as I wish. You will not.

I liked how the tension/mystery was built up in the scene btwn Corlys and Daemon. They meet in Corlys’ castle (Driftmark) and discuss going to fight in the Stepstones; by going around the king, this would be called treasonous! When Corlys insults Viserys, Daemon shuts him down (as he’s the ONLY one who can cut down his brother). Yeah, he’s a fascinating guy!

Spoiler-Free Review: “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” (Episodes 1 & 2)

Epic drama set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-Earth. -Synopsis from Amazon Prime

Episode 1: A Shadow of the Past

Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) is disturbed by signs of an ancient evil’s return. Arondir (Ismael Cruz Cordova) makes an unsettling discovery. Elrond (Robert Aramayo) is presented with an intriguing new venture. Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh) breaks a deeply held community rule. -Synopsis from Amazon Prime

This show (which started streaming on SEPT 1st on Amazon Prime) is the MOST expensive ever made! Much money was spent on getting the rights to some appendices written by J.R.R. Tolkien. The showrunners (J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay) are relative newcomers to Hollywood; they’re long-time friends (and fans of Tolkien) who grew up in religious households in the DC suburbs. J.A. Bayona is a Spanish film director who made the films: The Orphanage (2007), The Impossible (2012), A Monster Calls (2016), and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. He directed the 1st 2 eps of this show. There will be other directors also at the helm of future eps. I’m a BIT of a “late bloomer” when it comes to the fantasy genre. I loved the LOTR movies (which I was re-watched recently) and think The Hobbit trilogy had some good parts, too.

The story starts out w/ a narration of past events, NOT unlike what was heard in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. In Middle-Earth, an evil being, Morgoth, was defeated before the current time period (the Second Age). Sauron (briefly seen in that spiky helmet/imposing armor, as in Peter Jackson’s trilogy) is somewhere out there. As most creatures don’t live as long as elves, they’ve come to forget Sauron/his dark magic. As a child, Galadriel looks up to her older brother, Finrod (Will Fletcher). Years later, she is a “commander” leading a group of elves as they hunt for Sauron (after a long war which left MANY elves dead). Galadriel explains that she has searched for hundreds of yrs; those under her command are almost ready to give up. The High King, Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker), calls Galadriel back from the North; he declares that it’s time for peace. Galadriel tells Elrond (now in role of a “herald”) that she is NOT ready to stop fighting. Elrond cares for Galadriel; they have friendly banter.

We meet several original characters (OCs) who are NOT in Tolkien’s works. The Harfoots (meaning “hard of foot”) are ancient Hobbits; they’re migratory creatures who believe in community and staying out of the concerns of others. Eleanor “Nori” Brandyfoot and her friend Poppy Proudfellow (Megan Richards) come upon a Stranger (Daniel Weyman). The characters seen in the Southlands are also OCs. A Sylvan elf, Arondir (Ismael Cruz Cordova), and his company of elves have been in this region for MANY yrs. There are several types of elves (as some of you may’ve recalled from LOTR). Legolas is a Sindarin Elf from the Woodland Realm of Northern Mirkwood. His father, Thranduil, is the King of the Silvan Elves living in that realm, making Legolas the Prince of Mirkwood. Haldir is guard of the borders of Lothlórien and guides the Fellowship while they are in his forest. We also meet a single mom/healer, Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) and her teen son, Theo (Tyro Muhafidin). The people of this community are NOT friendly to elves; we will learn why that is so.

This ep was quite slow, which will put off those viewers who were expecting the show to start out w/ a bang. There is one action scene, BUT it happens quickly (and some viewers thought it was unrealistic). I thought that the scenery (S1 was shot in New Zealand), CGI, music, and costumes were interesting. I wasn’t blown away w/ any aspect, BUT will continue to watch. I really hope the dialogue gets a LOT better! Some viewers (active on Twitter, YT, or on podcasts) are discussing who the Stranger could be.

Episode 2: Adrift

Galadriel finds a new ally. Elrond faces a cold reception from an old friend. Nori endeavors to help a Stranger. Arondir searches for answers while Bronwyn warns her people of a threat. -Synopsis from Amazon Prime

Elrond travels to another region (Eregion) and meets w/ Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards), a master smith among the High Elves. In the near future, Celebrimbor plans to “create something great,” BUT needs help to build a giant forge. Elrond goes to Khazad-Dun and meets w/ an old friend, Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur), thinking that perhaps dwarves can contribute. The music used for the dwarves is really cool! We get to see the kingdom of the dwarves at its height (unlike the ruin that it was in LOTR). We see how the relationship is between elves and dwarves. We learn that Durin’s wife, Princess Disa (Sophia Nomvette), has a bubbly personality. King Durin III (Peter Mullan- a Scottish veteran character actor) appears briefly; I’m curious to know more about him.

The Southlands could be facing a great threat; Arondir goes to check out a nearby town (and Bronwyn joins him). Theo had found a broken weapon under his house, from which comes whispers (maybe Black Speech); he keeps it hidden from his mom. There MAY be other dangers lurking! This ep raises the action; there are 2 action-oriented scenes which MAY be scary for younger audiences.

Galadriel ends up in the middle of the ocean; she had decided NOT to go to Valinor (Heaven for the elves). She comes upon a rickety raft w/ a small group of humans who are dirty, tired, and angry. They’d recently been attacked- we soon see from what exactly. After facing more threats on the water, Galadriel and one man, Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), come out as survivors. They will have to trust and rely on each other now; they face a violent storm! Some viewers think that Halbrand will turn out to be Sauron (in disguise); others think he’ll be like Aragorn (a reluctant hero and future king). Hmmm… keep on watching to find out more!

Spoiler-Free Review: “House of the Dragon” (Episode 1: “The Heirs of the Dragon”)

Lords, ladies, knights, high-born, or common-born- MANY of us were hotly anticipating this (prequel) show to Game of Thrones (GoT)! As many critics/fans/casual viewers commented, GoT was the last “water cooler” show in recent yrs. With almost 10M viewers, this ep was the MOST watched series premiere in HBO’s history; the HBO Max app crashed that SUN night (so I had to wait to see it on the following MON). The ep’s title is taken from the chapter’s name in the book Fire & Blood (by George R. R. Martin) on which the show is based. Are any of y’all book readers (as I’d like to know your opinions also)? This time, David Benioff and Dan Weiss are NOT involved (take a long sigh of relief, if you need)! The showrunners here are an American- Ryan J. Condal (who met w/ Martin 8+ yrs ago; they became pals and collaborators)- and British director Miguel Sapochnik (who worked on some of the highest-rated/most action-packed eps of GoT). There was some breaking news tonight: Sapochnik will NOT return as co-showrunner for S2. Alan Taylor will be taking over; he also worked on GoT.

As w/ GoT, you’ll meet MANY characters, BUT the main conflict arises from the (platinum blonde) individuals who are part of the same (Targaryen) family who lived nearly 200 yrs before Daenerys. Before King Jaeharys died, he held a High Council meeting where a 1,000 lords decided on who should be his successor on the Iron Throne. It came down to one woman, Rhaenys (Eve Best), and her (male) cousin, Viserys. Unsurprisingly, the lords chose Viserys; a woman has never sat on the Iron Throne. Will he be a good (effective) king to his people? Now, in the 9th yr of his reign, King Viserys (Paddy Considine- a British character actor), still doesn’t have a direct male heir (son). He has ONLY one child w/ his loving wife/cousin, Aemma (Sian Brooke), a 14 y.o. daughter named Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock- a newcomer from Australia). She is observant, intelligent, w/ a rebellious streak; some viewers thought of her as a mix of Arya and Daenerys from GoT. She has a dragon that she loves to ride; dragons are a part of this world (much more than in GoT). Ser Harrold Westerling (Graham McTavish- a Scottish character actor from The Hobbit and Outlander) is the bodyguard (one of the 7 in the Kingsguard) to Rhaenyra. Lately, the girl is concerned for her mother, as she is close to giving birth.

Rhaenyra’s best friend, Lady Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey- the young Diana in Wonder Woman), is red-headed, reserved, and lady-like. Some were reminded of Sansa (in early seasons of GoT) when they watched Alicent. Her father, Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans- a Welsh character actor), is the Hand of the King; he keeps things close to the vest. Rhaenyra also has an affinity w/ her uncle/Viserys’ younger brother, Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith- star of Doctor Who and The Crown). They speak together in High Valyrian (which adds to their closeness); he gives her a necklace made of Valyrian steel (as we saw in one of the promo pics). Daemon (an unabashed rebel of the family) seems to be popular w/ commoners; they call him “The Prince of the City.” He is commander of the City Watch (AKA Gold Cloaks) and the (unofficial) heir to the Iron Throne. (FYI: The throne has a different/more intimidating look than in GoT). We also get to meet the members of the king’s Small Council, which incl. Otto, Daemon (who never attends), Grand Maester Mellos (David Horovitch), Lord Lyonel Strong (Gavin Spokes), Lord Lyman Beesbury (Bill Patterson- veteran Scottish character actor recently in Fleabag), and Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) AKA the Sea Snake/Rhaenys’ husband. The Velaryons are an even older family than the Targaryens in Westeros, BUT they don’t ride dragons (they’re known for sailing expertise). Lord Corlys (a Black man in this adaptation) is the richest man in Westeros; he and Rhaenys have the (rare) love marriage.

King Viserys is happy and confident, feeling that Aemma will give birth to a boy V soon! Instead of worrying about potential threats to the kingdom (as Lord Corlys describes), he turns his attention to a grand tourney to celebrate his heir. Lords and ladies from ALL over the realm come to watch knights from various houses/backgrounds joust, conduct business, and share gossip. We see colorful/decorative heraldry (which is something Martin noted was missing from GoT). It looks like each of these knights has a slightly different design to his armor. One of the knights, Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel- an actor of French, British, and Indian heritage), wears slightly tarnished armor; he is common-born, BUT a strong fighter. Daemon (also a great fighter) has the MOST fancy/decorative armor (incl. a helmet w/ dragon-shaped wings). Some reviewers (YT; podcasts) compared the fighting to that of Ridley Scott’s recent medieval drama- The Last Duel. I thought the same, through I think this show is more bloody! There probably isn’t much that’ll shock those who followed GoT.

I was V impressed w/ Smith, Daemon already is a compelling presence! I haven’t seen him in many shows/movies yet, BUT plan to check out Doctor Who (he starts out in S5). I loved David Tennant in that role, so have high expectations. Alcock (who is just 22 y.o. now) looks to be a promising actress; I thought she had a good handle on Rhaenyra. I’m curious to see what Ifans will do w/ his role; I’ve seen him in a few movies MANY yrs ago. I loved the music (from Ramin Djawadi) and the general look of the show, esp. the costumes. Now, I’m NOT an expert on visual/special effects, BUT they looked impressive. Do check out this ep for yourself, and let me know your thoughts (in comments below or Twitter- where I’ve been sharing some content)! There are many “Easter eggs” for fans of the previous show, too.

“Ophelia” (2018) starring Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, Clive Owen, & George MacKay

As a rebellious/motherless child, Ophelia, is taken into Elsinore Castle by Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts) as one of her ladies-in-waiting. Years later, a grown-up Ophelia (Daisy Ridley- who had her breakout role in the recent Star Wars sequel trilogy) captures the affections of Prince Hamlet (George MacKay). A romance kindles between the two in secret, as the kingdom is on the brink of war, amidst internal intrigue and betrayal. When Hamlet’s father (Nathaniel Parker- who has no lines) is murdered and the prince sets his mind on revenge against the new king/his uncle, Claudius (Clive Owen- wearing a terrible wig), Ophelia must choose between love and survival.

What happens when “the message” (feminism- in this case) and style (locations/sets, hair, costumes, etc.) are made more important than substance (good writing)? Well, we get movies like this (available on Netflix) from Aussie director Claire McCarthy. The cinematographer (or D.P.) is McCarthy’s husband, Denson Baker; I think he did a fine job. This movie was shot on location is the Czech Republic on a mere $12M budget- wow! I learned that it’s based on a young adult (YA) novel by Lisa Klein, NOT the tragic play Hamlet by Shakespeare. The chanting (repeated in several scenes) comes from Hamlet’s letter in Act 2, scene 2: “Doubt that the stars are fire. Doubt that the sun doth move. Doubt truth to be a liar. But never doubt I love.”

Things just don’t make sense here- which is frustrating! Young Ophelia is running around the castle dressed in raggedy clothes w/ a dirty face, though her father is the king’s main advisor. As a young adult, the other ladies-in-waiting belittle Ophelia as she wears flowers, NOT jewels (b/c Polonius can’t afford them). WTH!? As one astute reviewer noted, lines and scenes from other Shakespeare plays (Much Ado About Nothing; Romeo and Juliet) are used here. In the play, Hamlet hates the wild/drunken parties thrown by Claudius; here he wears a mask and dances w/ those at court. Of course, Ophelia (being NOT like other girls- eyeroll), is self-conscious b/c she “dances like a goat.” Whatever… There is V little development of the love story; I also didn’t see any chemistry btwn Ridley and MacKay. I’ve heard that MANY young actors want to tackle the role of Hamlet, BUT I felt kinda sorry for him here. Emasculating men or casting them ONLY as baddies is NOT going to improve stories of women. Just don’t waste your time!

[1] The all-star cast were OK in their roles, but nothing earth-shattering. The love story needed loads of developing and loads more could have been made of Clive Owen’s character being a threat to Hamlet’s family, crown and future. Naomi Watt’s duel roles was super confusing and brought nothing to either characters. (Which pains me to say as I love her as an actress). I really feel this film is style over substance.

[2] Hamlet is a non starter, some angry little boy. and the men of course are evil: deny education, don’t take care of their wife, kill other men, try to rape and so on.

[3] Preachy, not empowered. Lose the agenda and the attitude. Too bad, this could have been something interesting.

[4] I’m an ultra-lefty feminist and even I eyerolled. Why couldn’t it be a genuine dramatic tragedy? It didn’t need this type of girl power remake.

-Excerpts from IMDb reviews

Spoiler-Free Review: “The Batman” (2022) starring Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Colin Farrell, & Paul Dano

…rather than make Bruce Wayne the playboy version we’ve seen before, there’s another version who had gone through a great tragedy and became a recluse. Kurt Cobain had a relationship w/ fame, where being famous was not his goal. He loved music, but the idea of being famous for music was a double edged sword for him. And that made me think of Rob Pattinson, actually. I felt that this rock-star vibe suited him well. After all, he became a pop-culture icon at a very young age and had to carry that burden too, and extricate himself from it to become the actor he is today. -Matt Reeves, writer/director

Bruce Wayne in this reimagining of Batman was partially inspired by Kurt Cobain. Reeves was listening to Nirvana when he wrote the 1st act. This is the 1st movie to directly address the black eye makeup under the cowl. In previous versions, the makeup just disappeared when Bruce took his mask off. Reeves explained: “I just loved the idea of taking off [the mask] and under that there’s the sweating and the dripping and the whole theatricality of becoming this character.” Robert Pattinson (whose acting I don’t yet know well) and Zoë Kravitz (who plays Selina Kyle AKA Catwoman) were friends for about 10 yrs before being cast in this film. Reeves commented that they already had great chemistry and a natural connection from the beginning of shooting. I thought almost ALL the scenes btwn Batman and Catwoman crackled w/ chemistry!

Bruce is obsessed in being Batman. He has no desire to be Bruce and he wants to just throw it away. He hasn’t gotten over being the 10-year-old boy who, in his mind, let his parents die. For him, being Batman is like a strange kind of therapy. He thinks this is the way he can save himself, by living in this kind of Zen state as Batman, where it’s just pure instinct and no emotional baggage. It feels like he has a death wish going out at night. I always get the impression that he wants to keep recreating the night when his parents died. In his mind, every single person he is fighting is the person who killed his parents. -Robert Pattinson

This Batman is a “detective” of sorts, as many critics/viewers noted; he works w/ the police to solve crime. He is a man of few words and doesn’t feel the needs to put on the persona of Bruce Wayne. At this point, he has been at the vigilante biz for 2yrs and Gotham doesn’t trust him. However, the respected Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright- always great in any role) brings him in on tough cases as he trusts Batman. Reeves’ version of the Riddler (Paul Dano- all grown up) was partly inspired by the Zodiac killer who operated in California in the late 1960s. I noticed that some Adam Driver fans also admire this character actor. Like Driver, Dano is V tall, doesn’t have a face typical of a Hollywood actor, and is able to project vulnerability. Andy Serkis takes on the (rare) good guy role; he plays Alfred, BUT doesn’t get too much to do. I thought he did fine w/ what he was given. Did some of you recognize Colin Farrell!? (I ONLY knew it was him b/c I listened to some movie podcasts before viewing!) John Turturro (a veteran character actor who I know from Spike Lee movies) has a pivotal role, BUT I don’t want to give too much away.

When my kid saw me for the first time, he was utterly horrified. I have it on iPhone. He was horrified.

-Colin Farrell re: his transformation to Oswald (AKA The Penguin)

I already have my fave Batman (Christian Bale), so wasn’t TOO eager to see this version. There is also charm (and nostalgia) when looking back at Michael Keaton’s take on Batman, many growing up in the ’80s have commented. Also, Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer (who were exes) were hot as a romantic duo in Batman Returns! It got some decent reviews and was streaming on HBO Max, so I checked it out a few weeks ago. Yes, it’s a V long movie (as is the case nowadays w/ many movies)! The filmmakers create a realistic and noir-like environment; Gotham is usually gloomy, rainy, and dark. It (mostly) kept my attention, BUT I didn’t think much on it after a couple of days. If you want a diversion and enjoy this character, then give it a look.