Game of thrones

Shaping up nicely for some truly epic bloodletting: House of the Dragon reviewed

House of the Dragon got off to a pretty uninspirational start, I thought: no major characters brought to a shocking and premature end; no bone-chilling spookiness like that White Walker opening scene in the frozen woods; far too much dreary, half-inaudible talking round long tables in ill-lit halls. If this hadn’t been the long-awaited prequel to Game of Thrones, I doubt I would have bothered watching the second episode. But I did and guess what? More dank, chiaroscuro interiors; more old men out of Shakespeare history plays mumbling into their beards; more complicated, almost-impossible-to-follow-unless-you’ve-read-the-books disquisition on inheritance, lineage and succession. The difference is, though, that by this point you’ve had

House of the Dragon: So far, so unexciting

About halfway through the first episode of House of the Dragon I found myself squirming in my chair, covering my eyes and muttering ‘Why the hell am I watching this vile schlock?’ I think this is probably a good sign. One of the main attractions of its predecessor Game of Thrones was that it kept taking you to places you didn’t want to go – incest, crippled children, mass murders at weddings, sacrificial daughters, lead characters culled long before their time – and on this score at least, House of the Dragon looks unlikely to disappoint. But I’m less sure, so far, about the court intrigue. Everyone is saying that

The sad decline of my one-time favourites

I don’t think it’s my imagination: it really is getting harder and harder to find anything worth watching on TV. But then, why should it be otherwise? Entropy has afflicted every aspect of our culture from holiday flights to the supply chain to the efficacy and integrity of our political and legal system to the quality of pop singles, so we should hardly be surprised if the quality of material on the gogglebox has taken a dive too. One metric of this is the decline in quality of long-running TV series. Game of Thrones was not the exception but the rule. Even the series I sometimes consider to be the

Latest proof that western civilisation is over: Sky Atlantic’s Domina reviewed

I’ve been looking at the reviews so far of Sky’s new Romans series Domina and none seems to have noticed the most salient point: it’s crap. This is almost more depressing than the fact that the series got made in the first place, for what it suggests is this: our culture is now so debased that even our arbiters of taste can no longer tell the difference between quality and mediocrity. Domina follows the story of Julius Caesar’s great-nephew Octavian, from when he was a member of the triumvirate to his apotheosis as Caesar Augustus. You’d think you couldn’t possibly go wrong with such fascinating historical material, rich with gore,

Diary – 9 May 2019

Multiple copies of a Labour leaflet for the European elections are being shared on messaging apps by horrified activists. Not only does the draft leaflet omit mention of a second referendum, it seems to suggest Labour’s MEP candidates will ‘do a Brexit deal with Europe’ while actually being members of the European Parliament. The leaflet causes a furore among the candidates, is disavowed by Labour HQ as a ‘draft’, and the whole caravan of Brexit chaos lurches forward to its next absurdity. Game of Thrones means Monday mornings are the new Sunday nights in our household. The battle of Winterfell is as thrilling as it is absurd. If you have

Goodbye to all that | 17 April 2019

If you’ve ever faced the social embarrassment of having to admit that you’ve never seen Game of Thrones (Sky Atlantic, Monday), then imagine what it’s like when you’re a TV reviewer. The customary excuse of ‘There really isn’t time to keep up with everything on telly’ might work for most series. But now that GoT is officially a programme that everybody watches (apart from all the people who don’t), it’s beginning to feel a bit feeble for this one. So it was that, after swotting up as best I could on the scores of backstories over the weekend, I decided to give the final series a go. I was, of

Toby Young

No, I’ve no idea what’s going on in Game of Thrones either

By the time you read this, James Delingpole and I will have made our first podcast in 596 days. That’s the length of time that elapsed between the last episode of Game of Thrones and the new one broadcast on Monday night. Yes, that’s right, we have our very own Thronecast in which we dissect every instalment of the long-running saga. This isn’t exactly original. Every self-respecting broadcaster has a Thronecast these days. There’s even a Thronecast Shopping Network where you can buy miniature iron thrones for your mantelpiece. Although why anyone would want to is a mystery. The era when the series enjoyed cult status is long gone. Last

Which came first?

Those who study culture — or think about public policy in relation to it — often wrestle with the classic post hoc dilemma: did a work or movement in popular culture influence events in real life, or did it simply reflect the zeitgeist? Were, say, ‘video nasties’ responsible for an uptick in violence and sadism in a generation of British youth? The Daily Mail seemed to think so, although today their hysterical headlines appear faintly ridiculous. Were the two broken boys who committed the Columbine shootings in Colorado shaped by The Matrix? Or did they simply recognise in that film a stylish myth in which to dress their murder/suicide pact?

Mash-up of all mash-ups

It’s a terrible thing for a TV critic to admit but I just don’t know what to make of Britannia, the new Sky Atlantic drama set during the Roman invasion of Britain, scripted by Jez Butterworth, starring a top-notch cast including David Morrissey, Zoë Wanamaker and Mackenzie Crook, and heavily touted as the next Game of Thrones. Is it really in the Thrones’s league? I’d say not. You remember how Thrones started, all those seasons ago: the scouting party in the creepy frozen wood; the dead child with milky-blue glowing eyes; the shockingly draconian punishment meted out by Ned Stark to the party’s sole survivor. Within the first ten minutes

Game of Thrones bungles the execution of its last great villain

Another season of Game of Thrones is over, and nobody knows when it will return. After a run of seven short weeks, last night’s extended ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’ brought the curtain down on Westeros for the time being, except the curtain here was the colossal wall of ice that is the last barrier between the living and the dead. ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’ is a strange beast – extending its running time to 80 minutes allows the filmmakers to avoid most of the pitfalls of this season (notably the characters’ mysterious ability to teleport around the vast continent) but they are missing the confidence to know exactly

Action soars but acting plummets on Game of Thrones

The penultimate episode of a season of Game of Thrones is usually the point where something spectacularly game changing happens. In previous seasons, there’s been Ned Stark’s execution, the Battle of Blackwater Bay, the Red Wedding, the wildling attack on the Wall, the dragons in Meereen, and the Battle of the Bastards. It is sensible, therefore, to always enter the penultimate episode with a sense of trepidation and excitement, knowing that the events will not be inconsequential. Last night’s ‘Beyond the Wall’ ended up being less ‘Rains of Castermere’ and more ‘Dance of Dragons’ (i.e. nothing of any huge import happened). The resurrection of the Ice Dragon offered an opportunity

Daenerys Targaryen has become the Donald Trump of Game of Thrones

If he takes a break from the 24-hour feed of Fox News and switches over to HBO in time to join his country in the millennial kumbaya that is Game of Thrones, Donald Trump might find himself gazing into the uncanny valley. Daenerys Targaryen is a striking doppelgänger: same initials, same preternaturally bright hair, same reliance on ‘fire and fury’. If Trump becomes a full-on Thronie, it’s surely only a matter of time before the White House’s conveyor belt for officials includes a demand to bend the knee in the Oval Office. We open the latest episode of Game of Thrones – ‘Eastwatch’ – by witnessing the fallout from the last

Game of Thrones has its first winner: Bronn

For the third episode in a row, Game of Thrones has devoted its final act to the sort of blockbuster battle sequence that would’ve been unthinkable on TV a few years ago. Now it’s a weekly treat, and the dish presented to us in ‘The Spoils of War’ was the most visceral, disarming battle since Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton went head to head in the sludge at Winterfell. Indeed, the sequence – led by a shot of Bronn in the chaos which owes a lot to the opening scene of The Revenant – overshadows all that comes before it. Raised eyebrows abound as Jon and Dany enjoy a deeply flirtatious

Game of Thrones? More like a game of Risk

Risk, the classic strategy board game, involves the careless deployment of tiny figurines across the continents of the world, with the opportunity to move, strengthen and attack based on how you think it best to outmanoeuvre opponents watched by the clock of human patience. The writers of Game of Thrones appear to have caught something of that spirit, deciding that viewers no longer require plausible military movements, and are, instead, happy for the entire landscape of the board to be rearranged in the time it takes to roll some dice. In the latest episode, ‘The Queen’s Justice’, Cersei is holed up in King’s Landing, but, militarily, she’s playing across the

Game of Thrones gets back to brutal business

A good measure of whether Game of Thrones is feeding you a placeholder episode is to imagine trying to spoil it for a close friend who has yet to watch. After the series opener, ‘Dragonstone’, I was left scrambling for ways in which I could ruin the viewing experience for virgin eyes. Daenerys arrives at Dragonstone? Not exactly news. Cersei schemes against everyone? Change the record. Jon Snow makes a brooding, portentous speech about the White Walkers? Got the t-shirt. And it took a fair time for season seven’s sophomore effort, ‘Stormborn’, to tread new ground, but, when it finally did, it was in a heady blaze of sex and

How Game of Thrones gave Northern Ireland a £146 million boost

I’m a huge fan of Game of Thrones, the epic television drama that has returned for a seventh season. This is a show that offers wisdom as well as bloody excitement — and parables for the Conservative leadership struggle, though I hope we’ll never have to watch Theresa May emulate Cersei Lannister’s naked walk of shame. It’s also a rich source of aphorisms for management gurus, emphasising as it does the importance of succession planning, the dangers of debt (especially to the merciless Iron Bank of Braavos), and the need to be prepared for a long economic winter ahead. But most of all, Game of Thrones shows how the UK’s strengths in the ‘creative

Winter is nearly here – bring on the body count

As a Game of Thrones fan, I feel ambivalent about the fact that the saga is finally wending its way to a conclusion. The latest season, which debuted on Sunday, is the last series but one; there will only be a total of 13 episodes across both. On the one hand, I feel sad about the fact that a television series that has given me so much pleasure is coming to an end. But I’m also a little relieved. At times, following the sprawling cast of characters and multiple story-lines has felt a bit too much like hard work. The past few seasons have become bogged down as the writers

Martin Vander Weyer

Bending London’s listing rules to win Saudi favour smacks of desperation

Now here’s a tricky question. The world’s largest oil company, potentially worth six times as much as ExxonMobil and ten times as much as Royal Dutch Shell, wants to list its shares on a major stock exchange next year, and has indicated that the choice is between London and New York. The company’s initial public offering of just 5 per cent of its shares promises a $100 billion deal that will generate a fee bonanza for bankers, lawyers and PR men in the chosen marketplace, with several more tranches to come. Clearly London should go all-out to win this lucrative and prestigious piece of business, which would reconfirm the City’s

James Delingpole

Dethroned by feminism

I’m a bit worried about Game of Thrones (Sky Atlantic). Not seriously worried: there’s too much money invested, too much narrative hinterland accrued, too much fan-loyalty not to frustrate, too engaging a cast, too brilliant an original conception for the makers to cock it up too badly. Nevertheless, there were a couple of things that troubled me about the first episode of season seven. One: Ed Sheeran. He’s not the first pop star to make a cameo appearance in Thrones — that honour fell a while back to purveyors of epic, weirdy-warbly, Icelandic whale-music-rock, Sigur Ros — but he’s definitely the most obtrusive. When Sigur Ros did it, no sooner

Game of Thrones returns with more of a whimper than a bang

Like an ex-politician with a hot take on Brexit, Game of Thrones is back. The first episode of this seventh, and penultimate, series – ‘Dragonstone’ – saw the entire ensemble of familiar faces return, as the finely poised situation in the show was laid out for all to see. The first six seasons charted the War of the Five Kings, but now, with the Targaryen heir returned to Westeros, and the White Walkers almost at The Wall, we are heading towards the War of the Two Wars – and ‘Dragonstone’ is the start of an inexorable motion towards the show’s final showdown. But by Game of Thrones’s own rollicking standards,