An Analytical Breakdown of the Game of Thrones Season 7 Trailer

After a lengthier than usual hiatus, the penultimate season of Game of Thrones is finally nearing. As if I wasn’t impatient enough already, a fantastic trailer dropped this past week. I would have had this post up earlier if I wasn’t at MegaCon all weekend, but I’m sick of apologizing to a non-existent audience. Enough gonzo rambling, today I’m going to break down all of the important elements of this trailer, and what they mean for the season to come.

I feel I should get the elephant in the room out of the way- the new season will only consist of seven episodes (as opposed to the usual 10). I have a feeling this will lead to a pace increase and harsh narrative tightening. This can work as both a positive and a negative for the series. We will definitely be seeing more frequent fan service action. However, I sincerely hope this focus doesn’t betray the core of what makes Game of Thrones such a masterpiece, the quiet character moments. After what is arguably the best season of the show, I do have faith that Dan and Dave can stay true to this core. However, I’m still cautiously expecting the worst and hoping for the best.

An important element of the trailer that shouldn’t be ignored is that Cersei is the narrator. This leads me to believe that she will be paramount to this season. It seems that she may even be the main focus character, with all of the other arcs splintering off of her conduit narrative. Since Cersei is a fantastic character, and Jaime is one my favorites in the show, this is definitely not an issue for me.

What does concern me, however, is the complete lack of Bran in this trailer. With his arc coming to an all-time high last season, I’m concerned this abandonment will remove some of the mystical tension that has been building up in the narrative. Based on what is shown to us in the trailer, it seems season 7 will take more of a human route, focusing mainly on the non-mystical characters and “game of thrones” aspect of the plot, designating season 8 as the home for “ice and fire” developments. This follows my prediction that the War for the Dawn, Azor Ahai, and White Walker plot threads will come to a head only after Daenerys finishes or fails her conquest. Don’t get me wrong, I do think we will definitely see sprinkles of mysticality this year, as made evident by multiple beyond the Wall shots and a single Melisandre shot. Regardless, I really do hope we see at least a bit of Bran this season; his arc is one of my favorite in the show.

Cersei spends an early chunk of the trailer monologuing about the enemies she has in all four cardinal directions. While north is clearly implying Jon and company, and east is obviously referring to Daenerys’ forces, south and west require some further speculation.

With the ominous shot of a pirate-like ship accompanying “enemies to the west,” it seems like the ironborn arc is not dead. I was sure that Euron was only introduced in the show as a conduit to get Theon and Yara to ally with Daenerys. I’m happy that he will be more of a threat, despite being introduced so late in the game. It’s unclear whether he will mainly oppose Cersei’s regime, or serve as an obstacle to Daenerys’ conquest. I’m leaning towards the latter, but open to the prior.

The south, while still speculative, is a bit more straightforward. From this shot, it seems they are implying that the Sand Snakes and Dorne will serve as a more prominent aspect of the narrative than before. This opposes my post season 6 finale idea that their arc would probably just be assimilated into Daenerys’. This opposition comes as a pleasant surprise- they simply weren’t developed enough as characters to be through with. We also see a brief shot of Yara Greyjoy and Ellaria Sand passionately kissing. This may be simple fanservice, but there’s also the possibility that this relationship will be integral to the narrative.

Circling back to Cersei, it is time to address one of my favorite characters, Jaime. The look on his face when standing next to Cersei in the throne room shows nothing but pure, unfiltered regret. He realises the monster that Cersei has become, and feels he is somehow responsible. This further ignites the flame under my theory that he will be the one to kill Cersei in an action that will parallel his assasination of the Mad King.

Speaking of parallels, Daenerys is definitively arriving in Westeros this season. Eerily mirroring Aegon’s Conquest, Daenerys has seemingly taken Dragonstone as her home base. This serves as a fantastic tribute to her ancestry; Dragonstone is the location the Targaryens made their headquarters after the Doom of Valyria. It was commandeered by Stannis after Robert’s Rebellion seemingly wiped out the Targaryen line, so it’s nice to see the island back under its namesake.

With Daenerys definitely in Westeros, it seems the vast majority, if not the entirety, of her conquest will take place this season. We even get shots of the Unsullied in direct combat with the Lannister army. While this may be depicting the taking of Casterly Rock, it seems more likely that these are glimpses into the actual taking of King’s Landing. The latter makes me a bit nervous; Daenerys’ arc is moving unprecedentedly fast. Regardless, I’m happy the trailer didn’t use any shots or imagery to imply the victor of this battle; knowing the writers, it really could go either way. However, I do stand by my theory that Jaime will kill Cersei and allow Daenerys’ forces to assume control of the castle. The Mad King parallels may even grow from there; it may be Cersei’s crazed command to burn the entire city with wildfire that triggers this assassination.

A potential liability in Daenerys’ success comes in the form of the Dothraki she has assimilated into her forces. Despite direct orders from their Khaleesi, it may be hard for a barbaric people to abandon their old ways in favor of formal warfare. Raping and pillaging might become an issue; despite being an integral element of Dothraki culture, it directly contrasts with Daenerys’ code of ethics. Will the Dothraki be able to break their old habits? Will this very regression be the key to Daenerys’ victory?

Moving up to the north, Littlefinger still hasn’t called it quits. With eerie imagery and dialogue, it seems like he is trying to manipulate Sansa behind Jon’s back. If Sansa is, once again, brainwashed by him, I will be very disappointed. In the show, Sansa is a character plagued by swift regression in the face of steady progression. With the show nearing its close, I pray that her character gets the permanent development she deserves. Regardless, this conflict seems like it will be a tedious, but important arc in the season to come.

Speaking of northern conflict, the Arya shots in this trailer hint that her past may be coming back to haunt her. Although not definitive, I theorize that the Faceless Men (particularly the agents they must have in Westeros) are still after Arya. This makes perfect narrative sense; it was way too easy for her to escape back in Braavos. The nature of this assassin cult also adds to this tension; they could be anyone. Since Arya is another character that I genuinely care about, I pray she doesn’t succumb to this horrid situation.

That’s pretty much it for this analysis. The trailer promises some essential fan service scenes, but is also plagued by some notable absences. Despite a probable focus on the non-mystical elements of the series in the upcoming season, I really hope we still get some drops of the mysticality to come. After all, season 8 is most likely going to cover the War for the Dawn. If you are a fan of Game of Thrones and/or A Song of Ice and Fire, you are in for a treat this July and August. I will be analytically reviewing all seven episodes of the upcoming season, so stay tuned.

Gurren Lagann- The Consequences of “Fighting the Power”

At its core, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is a show about maturing as an individual and rebelling against oppression. Despite the equal importance and narrative intertwinement of these themes, today I will be focusing on the latter. More specifically, I will be looking at how, without the second half of the series, Gurren Lagann would not be remembered today.

Rebelling against oppressor is one of the oldest, and therefore, most used storytelling devices. After all, rebellion is a frequent and important element of real-world history. We saw revolution in the earliest human societies, and we still see it regularly throughout the world today. Further, it is so simple to garner support for a character when they are fighting against a tyrannical regime that is trying to put them down.

The first half of Gurren Lagann takes that narrative device and boils it down to its absolute pure essence. We are provided with one of the most clean-cut, smooth, and satisfying rebellion stories in fiction. There you have it, Simon and the rest of the Dai-Gurren Brigade defeated Lordgenome and the Beastmen forces, regaining control of the surface world. They had some tragic losses, but also made some new friends along the way. A young boy who started out as a non-confident, bullied antisocial in his underground village transformed into the man who led the rebellion to its victory. As most writers would put it, THE END.

What makes Gurren Lagann stand out from its contemporaries is that this “ending” is only the halfway point of the series. After a seven year timeskip, “act 2” begins with what I like to call the “political consequences arc.”

Historical rebellions aren’t as clean cut as most fictional works would have you believe. Revolution often comes with the desire for a new form of government, something that is immensely difficult to implement in a nation so accustomed to tyranny. Systems must be destroyed and rebuilt, citizens must be accounted for and entered into government programs, and all prior opposition must be dead or imprisoned to prevent regime reversal.

The second half of Gurren Lagann addresses all of these elements, and more. Simon and Rossiu, who occupy the two most prominent government leadership positions, are having an excruciatingly difficult time running their nation. Initiatives to move citizens from their underground villages back to the surface world are failing; they didn’t account for people wanting to remain in that oppressed lifestyle. They find out Viral, a high-ranking and unaccounted for member of the original oppressive regime, is working as a terrorist, undermining citizen relocation efforts.

When citizen dissatisfaction and political unrest begin to spread through the new capital, we see Rossiu, a rebellion hero and close friend to Simon, turn on him in a political move he believes is in the best interest of the nation.

All of this climaxes with the invasion of the anti-spiral forces. You see, it is revealed that the initial oppressive regime was present in the first place in order to prevent this external “nation” from invading. Simon must escape from political prison, gather his old rebellion friends (and even some former enemies), and fight against the invading anti-spiral.

Despite being presented through high-concept science fiction and dimensional shenanigans, the second half of Gurren Lagann is showing real-world consequences. Political turmoil, betrayal, and even foreign invasion in times of weakness are common elements of real post-revolution nations. Most fight against the tyrannical regime stories don’t dare tread these complicated waters, they are satisfying enough as it is.

The fact that Gurren Lagann takes a step beyond mere satisfaction, and addresses these logical consequences, is why it is still remembered as a masterpiece today.

Rapid Reviews- Alien: Covenant

Introduction:

Rapid Reviews is a new series I’m launching. Here, I will be covering films that I want to talk about, but don’t plan on writing in-depth analytical essays on. I will also include a final verdict section at the end of each review, so those who don’t feel like reading the whole post can gain an even quicker summary of my opinion (skip, worth seeing, and must see are the three verdicts I can assign). Anyway, enjoy the first of many rapid reviews to come. Who knows, one day I may expand to other mediums, but for now, I’m just sticking with movies.

Review:

Alien: Covenant serves as both the sequel to Prometheus and the second prequel to Alien. I consider myself to be somewhat of a fan of the Alien franchise, having really enjoyed the original, but not yet got around to watching Aliens. My opinions on Prometheus, however, can be best described with one point: I can’t seem to recall almost anything that happened in the entire movie.

Thankfully, Alien: Covenant doesn’t fall into the same forgettable trap. Combining the strongest elements from both Prometheus and the original Alien, Covenant serves as the bridging point between the two. Despite some major issues, I really enjoyed this entry into the legendary science fiction franchise.

Michael Fassbender reprises his role as David, while also portraying a new character named Walter. Regardless of who he is in any given scene, Fassbender is the standout performance of this film; he’s worth the entire price of admission alone. However, when it boils down to the rest of the new cast, we are left with an undeveloped and generically bland horror ensemble.

What makes this movie stand out over its prequel predecessor is the villain, the identity of whom I will not spoil due to its implications in the Alien lore. Despite being an amoral and nefarious character, you find yourself rooting for him due to the sheer blandness of the protagonists. I found myself wanting his sinister plans to succeed, despite their horrible nature.

Aside from one standout performance and a tremendous villain, there isn’t really much to Alien: Covenant. At its core, the movie is a fun popcorn flick, and a solid entry into the classic sci-fi/horror saga. If you were disappointed by the lack of Xenomorphs in Prometheus, you will be immensely satisfied this time around.

Speaking of Prometheus, I would recommend giving it a re-watch before seeing Covenant, just as a refresher. It’s not absolutely necessary, but based on the amount of recap questions I had to ask my friend during and after the movie, It’s probably a good idea.

Final Verdict: Worth Seeing

One Piece: Chapter 865- Review

I want to start off by immediately addressing the elephant in the room. I apologize for the unannounced hiatus. I did not intend to cease posting for nearly a month. In the weeks since I arrived back in South Florida for the summer, I have been focusing my time and creative energy on both my fiction writing and professional endeavors. In this unexpectedly busy haze, I simply lost track of my gonzo journalism efforts. I promise I will go back to posting more frequently, at least once a week excluding One Piece chapter reviews.

With that out of the way, let’s jump right into this week’s chapter. Chapter 865 was an overall mixed bag for me. While there were some elements I absolutely loved, I do have some concerns that I plan on discussing in-depth. The main takeaway from the chapter was the cliffhanger, the implications of which I will inevitably address before this review is through.

The cover pages have always been one of my favorite components of the One Piece manga. I love how cleverly Oda uses a standard element of the medium that so many mangaka simply take for granted. He recently transitioned from fan requests back to traditional side-story arcs. This time around we are following the remaining captains of the Straw Hat Grand Fleet, and what each of their respective crews are up to. I find the potential in this cover story to be immense. We are dealing with intriguing characters that didn’t get the time they deserved in the immensely complex Dressrosa arc. Although I never really cared for Cavendish, the current subject, I look forward to the possibilities of cover pages to come. P.S- I don’t expect to see Bartolomeo in this cover story arc, due to his involvement back in Zou.

On to what you are all really here for, the main story. This chapter was heavily action based, which typically is not a problem. However, I was somewhat disappointed in the cluttered and disorienting action that Oda conveyed in this chapter. The smoothness and weighty impact that typically defines One Piece action was traded for a choppy, non-impactful, and hard to follow mess. I found myself constantly scrolling back up to make sure I understood what had just transpired. Panels didn’t flow into each other well, making the transition of focus between characters downright confusing. Although there isn’t any way to prove this hypothesis, I have a theory that Oda was heavily rushed on this chapter; it just doesn’t seem like him.

A problem I had with the previous chapter has become increasingly more evident this week. Judge is acting excruciatingly out of character. For a supposed genius scientist and power-hungry dictator, he is behaving awfully cowardly and unintelligently. I’m having a hard time telling if this is supposed to be comedic, or if I’m just dealing with bad writing. Even if he is being played for laughs, the fact that I am not sure whether this is the case shows poor character writing regardless. Obviously I’m nitpicking here; Oda is one of the greatest writers of all time. It’s just this particular instance that perplexes and disappoints me.

One element of recent plot progression that actually surprises me is how smoothly the Straw Hat/Fire Tank alliance plan is running. Obviously there have been some serious bumps along the way, but for a Yonko assassination plot I thought was for sure dead on arrival, I am pleasantly surprised. Obviously there is still room for the plan to fall apart (throwback to the Battle of Marineford), but, for the sake of the characters, I really hope it doesn’t. If we do end up taking the Marineford route, Jinbe is screwed.

I promised I’d circle back to the cliffhanger, and here we are. The final three panels of this chapter comprised one of the most simultaneously satisfying and frustrating cliffhangers in recent memory. We are finally getting a Big Mom/Mother Caramel flashback sub-arc, and much sooner than I expected! I was also correct about Big Mom’s ties to Elbaf; it seems this is where she and Mother Caramel are from. We are going back to the past people, 63 years ago in Elbaf to be exact. As someone whose favorite element of One Piece is the flashback sub-arcs, I got literal chills absorbing these finishing panels. The reason I bring the word frustration into play is because of how pissed off I am that I have to wait almost a week for the next chapter; I WANT IT NOW!

As I said earlier, this chapter definitely gave me mixed feelings. Despite choppy and confusing action coupled with strange characterization choices, the cliffhanger nearly redeemed my reading experience. I can’t wait to see what Oda has in store for us over the next few weeks, and the opportunity to share my thoughts with you all only amplifies my excitement.