“House of the Dragon” (Episode 3: “Second of His Name”)

SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read this post if you haven’t seen, or don’t want to know, details from Episode 3 of House of the Dragon.

Daemon and the Sea Snake battle the Crabfeeder. The realm celebrates Aegon’s second nameday. Rhaenyra faces the prospect of marriage.

There is a time jump of about 3 yrs from E2. We start w/ dark humor from the war in the Stepstones; a soldier captured by the Crabfeeder, hoping for salvation from Prince Daemon (Matt Smith), is crushed under the foot of his big/red/long-necked dragon, Caraxes. This fight isn’t about the “common-born,” it’s ALL about Daemon (who seeks glory for himself). He was exiled from court in E2; he and soldiers loyal to him have been trying to get control of these islands for 3 yrs. The Small Council debates sending some men to back-up the prince.

Princess Rhaenyra [to her father when they arrive at the camp site]: No one’s here for me.

Then it’s time to have a (hunting) party, thanks to your host- Lord Jason Lannister (Jefferson Hall- note that his name is in the opening credits). Hall also plays Ser Tyland Lannister (Jason’s twin w/ shorter hair), who is the Master of Ships, after Lord Corlys (Steve Toussaint) quit by storming out of the Small Council meeting in E2. Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) and Queen Alicent (Emily Carey) aren’t close friends anymore, as we see in the garden scene. (When Rhaenyra told the minstrel, Samwell, to repeat his song, I was reminded of the “play it again, Sam” line from Casablanca.) The nobles are excited to celebrate the 2nd b-day of Prince Aegon; he’s the blonde/healthy son born to King Viserys (Paddy Considine) and his young wife. Alicent is now (heavily) pregnant w/ their 2nd child.

Lord Hobert Hightower: Hail, hail Aegon the Conqueror-Babe, Second of His Name! Here’s to His Grace on his second name day!

George R.R. Martin regretted that there wasn’t enough money to have a royal hunt in S1 of GoT; he is V happy w/ this ep. We see the grandeur of the nobles, there are MANY extras present, and (of course) there is the beauty of nature. Rhaenyra is feeling left out and perhaps acting like a typical teen girl, which frustrates her father (who wants some pleasant/outdoors/family time). Rhaenyra can’t even keep from sniping at the noble ladies when she comes into their circle. Here w/ the ladies, we also have Larys Strong (Matthew Needham- also listed in the opening credits); he’s the 2nd son of Lord Harwin Strong (Gavin Spokes) and has a clubfoot. As he can’t go out sporting w/ the men, Larys can soak up ALL the hot gossip from the ladies.

Lord Jason Lannister: I’d do anything for my queen… or lady wife.

Lord Jason tries to run his game on Rhaenyra, offering her “honey wine” (from Lannisport), then declaring that Casterly Rock (his home) is large enough for a dragon pit. His style of speech/prideful manner MAY remind some viewers of the wealthy/entitled men in Austen’s books (who feel that every single lady should find them a catch). For a moment, Rhaenyra is confused, BUT then realizes that he’s talking marriage! Ser Otto stops her and her father from having a shouting match inside the royal tent, in full view of MANY guests/servants. The princess is pissed off and rides off on her horse, w/ her loyal protector Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) following close behind.

King Viserys Targaryen [to Otto]: I came here to hunt. Not to be suffocated by all this f*****g politicking!

It’s obvious that MOST of the nobles expect the king to name Aegon as his heir, surpassing his daughter. Viserys thinks it’s high time that Rhaenyra was married; he has been “besieged” w/ proposals from ALL over Westeros recently. In the past, she’d shown no interest in marrying or having children, BUT (as heir to the Iron Throne) she’ll have responsibilities. As he stands by a huge bonfire, Viserys (who had been drinking heavily ALL day) wonders IF he made the right decision; Alicent gently tells him it’s late (so he should rest).

Out in the woods, Rhaenyra and Criston get some time to walk and chat; she asks him re: his life (before he became a knight). Later that evening, she still doesn’t want to go back to the camp, so they relax (he w/o armor on) around a fire; a boar suddenly attacks and knocks out Criston! The boar then runs toward Rhaenyra, who fights him off, before Criston stabs it. Then, Rhaenyra rises up and unleashes her rage/resentment upon the animal MANY times w/ her knife.

The king takes his new/decorative spear (a gift from Lord Jason) and kills a large/brown stag, which was captured/held by few nobles. It takes him 2 tries, as Viserys is hungover and weak; this is yet another (pathetic) scene where we see that he’s NOT cut out for his role. Now, this animal isn’t the “white hart” that Otto explained was a good omen to see on one’s b-day. That white stag comes along Rhaenyra’s path, BUT she stops Criston from killing it (showing her mercy/character). When she struts back to camp (messy/bloodied) w/ the boar dragging behind her, there is at one man- Ser Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr)- who gives her a wicked smile/looks impressed. Back at home in King’s Landing, the king tells Rhaenyra that she MUST marry, BUT the man can be her choice!

The last 10 mins. of the ep is an (incredible) fight on a beach btwn Daemon and a slew of Triarchy warriors lead by the Crabfeeder. Daemon pretends that he is ready to surrender, waving a white flag, and offering up his sword. (I was surprised/confused for a few moments.) Of course, this is the type of man (Targaryen) who will NOT give up easily! Daemon fights w/ and kills MANY men, then (finally) defeats the Crabfeeder himself (who didn’t have any dialogue/was killed offscreen in the cave). A LOT of viewers loved this segment, BUT a few thought that it was unrealistic. The prince emerges w/ the torso of his dead enemy, hair a mess of tangles, and covered head-to-toe in blood- wow!

“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!

“Berlin Express” (1948) starring Merle Oberon, Robert Ryan, Charles Corvin, & Paul Lukas

Trapped on a Train of Terror! -A tagline (on the movie poster)

In a divided Germany (shortly after WWII), passengers from several nations are on a train heading to an international conference. Lucienne (Merle Oberon) is a French secretary who catches the eye of almost every man on the train. Dr. Bernhardt (Paul Lukas) is Lucienne’s German employer. Robert Lindley (Robert Ryan) is an American working for the Dept. of Agriculture. Perrot (Charles Corvin) is a French businessman. Sterling (Robert Coote) is an Englishman. Lt. Maxim Kirosilov is young Soviet soldier. When one of these passengers (working for peace) is kidnapped in Berlin, the others set aside their differences/work together to find him. Would you risk your life to help a stranger, IF it was for the good of the world?

Narrator: [voiceover] That’s right – the dove of peace was a pigeon. A dead pigeon.

The director, Jacques Tourneur, also directed the film noir classic Out of the Past (1947). The cinematographer, Lucien Ballard, was married to Oberon; he came up w/ a lighting technique which hid the scars on Oberon’s face. Cary Grant and John Garfield were considered for roles in this film. This is the 1st Hollywood production in Germany after WWII. The crew was the 1st to receive permission to film in Berlin’s Soviet zone. At the time of production, Berlin was divided into 4 separate sectors, controlled by the English, French, Soviet (now Russian), and American armed forces. American soldiers stationed at the I. G. Farben munitions building in Salzburg, left untouched during bombing raids (so the U.S. could use it as an occupation HQ), appeared in the film as extras.

Perrot: What chance has a European got with an American around?

Lindley: I’m afraid you overestimate us.

Perrot: Huh, not at all. How can we compete with your American charm, your chocolate…

Sterling: Your soap?

Perrot: Your cigarettes?

Lindley: Well, it’s more blessed to give than to receive.

Berlin Express is categorized as a crime drama, film noir, and thriller. It’s an unusual movie for its time; it has an international cast (before that became common) and was filmed on location (in rare/unexpected places). I rarely guessed what was going to happen next! I esp. liked the friendly banter between the 3 men (Lindley, Perrot, and Sterling) who seek the attention of Lucienne (who is NOT easily impressed). Each man has a different personality; it’s refreshing that they behave like gentlemen (instead of pushy jerks). Ryan is looking youngish/handsome and gets to show his charm/confidence in a (rare) good guy role. I’m NOT going to say much more; check this movie out! You can rent it on YouTube.

[1] Tourneur did a grand job in making use of the bombed out locations in Frankfurt where most of the story takes place. It certainly gives authenticity to the story.

[2] Filmed in the rubble of German cities in 1946 this film, basically is a very good and constantly weaving espionage drama; and not unlike NORTH BY NORTHWEST in deception, missing persons, terrific set pieces in ruins and epic visuals of genuine locations. Robert Ryan as the US everyman, all casual but tough, Merle Oberon gives ze Fronnch occent a good go, and a solid cast enjoying a provocative script.

[3] Some of the lines seemed stilted and staged, particularly toward the end, but given the time period when the movie was filmed, not at all surprising. There was a good mix of characters, but the real star of the film is the location: there are wonderful shots of Berlin and Frankfurt right after the war, and the devastation around the characters adds a powerful unspoken dimension to the film.

-Excerpts from IMDb reviews

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.

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.