Game of Thrones: Some Final Thoughts and Questions…

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Spoiler Alerts

It was only this past March that I started binge-watching Game of Thrones in preparation for the launch of Season 8. My hat goes off to the legion of fans who tenaciously worked their way through the show over the better part of a decade. I don’t think I would have weathered all the waiting in-between. The good thing is that all the story and character arcs were still fresh in my mind as the series wound down.

That being said, I was able to buy into many of the developments that most fans seemed to hate. Yes, Daenerys went bad all of a sudden in reaction to the brutal loss of people closest to her, but the seeds of her destructive nature took root little by little over many years. She was the daughter of an insane king and as they say, the apple falls close to the base of its tree, just as Jon reflected the benevolent nature of who his father truly was.

I think Cersei’s death was metaphorically satisfying with the weight of her transgressions raining down on her. It also saved any other character from being labeled a baby killer. I can even buy Jaime holding true to his warped sense of love and going against all the years’ worth of hard earned redemption. People do that sort of thing, it’s human nature.

A couple of the things I had hoped to see in the end were the knowledge of Jon’s true identity becoming common knowledge. Who was Varys sending those letters to? Had all the other kingdoms’ representatives understood Jon had the clearest claim to the throne (Gendry Baratheon notwithstanding), it might have ended differently? And then there is “Chekov’s Gun” principle. Why did they concentrate on Varys removing his rings and placing them in a cup, what was that all about?

I have to concur with so many fans in my disappointment that Bran became king of the now six kingdoms. Brava to Sansa for withholding her consent to remain part of the larger realm. The thing is, I don’t see how Bran as a character earned the right to be elected. To my mind, Tyrion would have been the correct choice. The roles should have been reversed. Bran would have made an excellent hand given his vast knowledge of the past and his ability to warg his way into seeing what everyone else was up to. Also, I think the collective voices voted in the affirmative for Bran way too easily – most of the time, these people can’t agree what day of the week it is.

It was difficult to swallow Jon’s banishment to Castle Black. What purpose does the Night’s Watch even have at this point? Surely they could have found a better way to deal with him. Regardless of his true parentage, Ned Stark’s sense of honor shines through Jon and you would hope he might pass that along to his own children. Jon did the world a favor and is being punished for it, why, because a newly insane leader of the unsullied needs justice? Grey Worm’s uncompromising devotion to follow madness, up to and including slitting the throats of prisoners, should deny him the right to call for anyone else to pay a price.

And Drogon, how do you not love that beast? I had hoped in some way the one remaining dragon and Jon would develop a relationship in the end. They’re first cousins after all. I know Jon killed his mother, but I think Drogon understood. It’s why he melted the Iron Throne and left Jon uncrispy.

Regardless of the pitfalls faced by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss in concluding this body of work, I must applaud them for creating the stunning visual representation of George R.R. Martin’s incredible stories. As a writer of fantasy, I am inspired and further educated in the art of good storytelling. Yes, there are areas that might have been better written. I think HBO should have allowed for a couple more episodes to flesh out the events taking place in the final season. Looking back, however, we have 73 episodes of jaw-dropping production quality and sublime acting from one of the largest casts of any show in the history of television. I’m pretty sure I’ll never see anything quite like this again.

 

 

Jesus Christ Superstar: John Legend’s Revival

Jesus Christ Superstar

 

As one who wore out multiple cassette tapes (yes, remember those?) listening to the original 1970 concept album for Jesus Christ Superstar, I planted in front of the TV on Easter to watch John Legend tackle the revival. It was a little confusing, given the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber play never deals with Christ as a divine figure, for it to appear as a feature on Easter. The particular notoriety of the day is to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. The end piece of music titled John Nineteen Forty-One references the biblical chapter and verse:

“At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had even been laid.”

The play never goes beyond his death. At the time of the album release, I was a PK. That means, I was a priest’s kid, living in the rectory of my father’s parish church. He and my mother held a dim view over the play’s treatment of the Apostles and the fact the true aspect of Christ’s “superstar” status resulted from his rising from the dead. They didn’t enjoy the concept that Christ should have picked a more suitable time, one with the power of modern media coverage to debut his message, that he was merely a societal sensation two thousand years ago.

As for me, I loved the music and the vocal performances of Ian Gillan, Yvonne Elliman, and Murray Head. I wanted to hear those songs performed again. I never saw the original play, I only had the album, so I couldn’t compare acting performances, but I could compare how the old vocals would stack up against the new ones by John Legend, Sara Bareilles, and Brandon Victor Dixon.

As the play unfolded, disappointment grew. First, the acting wasn’t good. I’ll leave it there. I wanted to experience voices that recreated the range the music demanded, those visceral screams only a rock-and-roller can muster. Ian Gillan sang with Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. When he sang The Temple, his vocals touched every nerve in your spinal column. Similarly, Murray Head dropped the mic with Damned For All Time on the original album. Both Legend and Dixon have beautiful voices, but this kind of production did not fit their vocal style. If called upon to cast the role of Jesus for this rock opera, American Idol alum, Adam Lambert would have been a first choice. His vocals are ridiculous, and the restoration of Superstar would have been complete.

Most of the reviews for this production have been positive. Taking nothing away from John Legend as a singer, younger people should grab the music service of their choice and check out the 1970 original. For this revival, I have to cast a dissenting vote.

Review: Wake Up and Smell The Coffee

Wake Up and Smell The Coffee

Wake Up and Smell The Coffee, is a collection of monologues from actor and playwright Eric Bogosian that stream together into a one man show that examines a variety of topics from family to religion to the frustration of societal inequity and the devastation that comes with the realization there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s a play that makes you think.

In the interest of transparency, I must admit two things: I have some acting experience, and I know Frank Zagottis, the consummate performer in this adaptation. First, from an acting perspective, to tackle an eighty to ninety minute monologue is insane. In a normal play, an actor is part of an ensemble, sharing dialogue and blocking. In “Wake Up” it’s Frank and only Frank. Second, I know Frank can sing – I’ve seen him, he teaches film, he’s an all-around good guy. What I didn’t know was that he can act. My yardstick for measuring a performance is when an actor is subsumed by a role. When you watch Tom Hanks play Forest Gump, you’re not thinking “oh, that’s Tom Hanks playing Forest Gump”. When you see Stanley Tucci preen as Caesar Flickerman in Hunger Games, you’re witnessing a wholly new entity in the form of a character. Watching “Wake Up and Smell The Coffee”, I lost Frank. I forgot I knew Frank. He disappeared in plain sight.

This one-man performance is a must-see and begs the question, what will he do next and how long will we have to wait for it.