Game of Thrones S608: ‘No One’ Recap

We open in Bravos, where we last saw Arya staggering through a crowded marketplace, bleeding profusely from substantial Waif-inflicted stab wounds.

But now we’re here to watch that play. Again. Is it just me, or has a good chunk of Season 6 felt kind of like calling for your favourite pizza but getting repeatedly placed on hold and forced to listen to a panpipe cover of Greensleeves? Except we’re being placated with a stage interpretation of Season 4 – you know, that season where plot-developing stuff happened on a consistent weekly basis.

Fine. We’ll run with it. Lady Crane has worked some of Arya’s advice into her performance and has the audience eating out of the palm of her hand. They actually cry (ha! HA!) when Joffrey dies in her arms and she vows revenge. Afterwards she heads backstage to find Arya hiding out and looking like she might need a bag of A-positive sometime soon.

Lady Crane’s apartment, where she’s bandaging Arya’s torso. And here’s my first proper beef with this episode; the Waif gored her last week. Literally twisted the knife in her guts. And we know now that it was for-realsies Arya, not just-pretending-Arya or Jaquen-Arya. But a bandaid, some milk of the poppy and a kiss-it-better from Lady Crane is all it takes to get her on the mend?

Okay. Still running with it. Lady Crane tells Arya she should join the theatre, since they’re short an actress. Arya says she can’t – she’d be putting them in danger. Lady Crane pours Arya some milk of the poppy and tells her to drink it because sleep is the only thing that will heal her. Um, how about some freaking STITCHES for one? Not to mention addressing any internal haemorrhaging? Nerve and tissue damage? Maybe any punctured organs? Yes?

Fuck it.

To Westeros, where last week’s baddies from the Brotherhood are chilling in the forest. We expend shitloads of valuable episode time watching them act like frat boys. Thrilling. Thankfully the Hound descends upon them with his axe and gratuitous, bloodletting violence ensues..ahhhh, the relief. There’s even entertaining Hound dialogue, just like old times: “You’re shit at dying, you know that?”. I’ve missed you, Hound. Don’t ever leave again.

Meereen, where they’re serving cous cous. Spellcheck wants to change that to cows cows. A Red priestess is preaching to the people, declaring that Daenerys is a gift from the Lord of Light and the Meereenese need to have faith in her and her advisors.

Tyrion and Varys wander past, and Tyrion smugs that his gamble with Kinvara paid off. Varys disagrees with a confusing shaving metaphor, and Tyrion makes the obligatory joke about Varys never needing to shave. They stop in front of a gateway leading out to the port, and we learn that Varys is leaving on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan. Tyrion tells him he’s going to miss him, and then they manage to talk about the political importance of Varys’ journey without actually mentioning where he’s going.

Varys says the Queen has to return because his heart has been broken too many times already. Then he and Tyrion farewell each other, and uh oh. Foreshadowing. This moment has all the colours of a they’re-never-going-to-see-each-other-again rainbow: Tyrion’s parting joke as an attempt to cover the depth of his emotions, the camera lingering on Varys’ sad parting smile, Tyrion watching him walk away. The question is, where exactly is Varys probably off to die? Dorne? The Iron Islands? Dorne makes the most sense politically, but if I had to choose between more Sand Snakes or more Euron screen time, murderous uncle Euron wins the meat tray.

King’s Landing, where the Faith Militant have entered the Red Keep. Lancel and his men are there on behalf of the High Sparrow, who requests that Cersei return with them to the Sept. Cersei refuses. Lancel insists. Cersei chooses violence. Frankenmountain chooses a Sparrow and tears his head off. Blood runs black on the stones and drips down into the drain. Lancel looks close to fainting. Cersei looks like someone bought her a pony.

Brienne and Pod arrive at Riverrun, and Pod quickly ascertains that someone is laying siege to the castle. Not just any someone, Pod. The morally-questionable ying to Brienne’s honorable yang, Jaime-fucking-Lannister. Brienne spots the Kingslayer and you can tell a Bryan Adams love ballad – probably All For One – is playing on the loudspeakers of her heart.

Pod and Bronn shenanigans. They play-fight. Bronn punches Pod in the face. This scene was utter gap filler and was probably improvised on the day when the director realised he’d need something sparkly-but-pointless to stretch the episode out, but I’ve missed these two so much I don’t care. Everyone wants to hit the fucking squire, Pod!

Jaime and Brienne! Shedding their armour! Brienne lifts Jaime in her arms, throws him on the bed and orders him to spank her with his golden hand.

Nah. They’re talking about Sansa instead. Blech. Then they talk about the Blackfish. Then they argue like old times. Then they come to an agreement; if Brienne can convince the Blackfish to relinquish Riverrun, Jaime will allow them free passage to ride North with the Tully army and assist Sansa. Brienne tries to give back Oathkeeper and Jaime tells her his heart the sword is hers – it will always be hers. Or is the sword just a metaphor for his honour? I don’t fucking know. Brienne reminds him that if she fails and he ends up launching an attack, she will be obligated to fight him. Jaime hopes it doesn’t come to that. They make meaningful eyes at each other before Brienne runs from her feelings.

Brienne pleads with the Blackfish to join Sansa’s fight. Blackfish does not give two fucks. Brienne insists. Blackfish reads Sansa’s letter and remarks that she’s ‘just like her mother’. But still no. Brienne asks Pod to send a raven to Sansa that reads ‘Brienne FAILED. FAAAAAAAAAIIIIILLLED!’.

King’s Landing, where there is to be a royal announcement. Cersei enters the Throne Room and tries to take her usual place beside Tommen, but is thwarted by Kevan Lannister. Tommen, nervously kneading the Iron Throne, announces that Loras and Cersei’s trial will be held on the first day of the Festival of the Mother, and by the way the High Sparrow has convinced him to completely sell his Mum out by outlawing trial by combat. FUCK. FUCKING FUCKING FUCK. You’ve ruined our chances of Cleganebowl, Tommen.

Cersei realises she’s completely fucked. Qyburn appears at her side and informs her that his little birds have explored an old rumour she once told him about, and it’s more than a rumour.  Thanks for the cryptic status update.

Oh God. Tyrion-Greyworm-Missandei awkward comedy hour is back. I’m pretty sure Peter Dinklage is actually drinking in this scene, wondering why they have completely fucking wasted his immense, Emmy-winning talent almost solely on fish-out-of-water sitcom sketches this year.  Watching him read a Dr Seuss book to the dragons would be better than this. In fact, that would be kinda awesome.

Fine. They have another stilted conversation. It gets marginally less stilted with the addition of wine. I wonder if this episode would get better if I drank wine? Blah blah blah, bells start ringing and the city is under attack. The masters have come for their property.

Riverrun, and Jaime is visiting the captive Edmure Tully…who is wearing a really terrible wig. The wigs this season have been comical all round.

Jaime starts off good-cop. Edmure isn’t buying it, and wants to know how Jaime can live with himself. Jaime goes off on a slightly creepy tangent about how Catelyn Stark and Cersei were similar in their maternal ferocity. Then he cuts to the chase and tells Edmure he’ll catapult his baby son into the walls of the castle if need be – whatever it takes to take back Riverrun so he can return to Cersei.

Edmure is apparently persuaded; he convinces his men to open the gates to the castle and let him in, despite the Blackfish’s warning of a trap. Edmure enters the castle. He and the Blackfish glare at each other before Edmure tells the Tully forces to lay down their arms.

The Blackfish helps Brienne and Pod escape, but refuses to go with them. He’d rather die a completely pointless and illogically wasteful death offscreen, thanks. Then Jaime and Brienne wave at each other and share one last meaningful look as Pod rows the boat away – and the geographical and moral distance between them grows once more.

Meereen! Is burning! BURN IT. BURN IT ALL. Erm…*ahem*, I mean…how terrible. Whatever shall we do.

To the Great Pyramid, where everyone is freaking the fuck out. There’s a sudden thud and the ceiling shakes. Missandei grabs a blade and gets ready to use Tyrion as a human shield. The Unsullied get into position. They open the door…and Daenerys enters with a what-the-FUCK-have-you-lot-done look on her face. Over her shoulder we see Drogon fly off into the distance…hopefully to torch some enemy ships? Does ANYONE on this fucking show know how to use a dragon? Anyone?

Undisclosed forest location in Westeros, where the Hound has tracked down Lem Lemoncloak; Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr are about to hang him. The Hound and the Brotherhood argue over who gets to kill them.The Hound negotiates two, but is pissed that he can’t gut them, or even ‘Chop off one hand?’. The men die, and the Hound is hungry.

The Hound, Beric and Thoros sit around a campfire. The Hound prefers chicken, wooop! Beric and Thoros want to recruit him to the Brotherhood; apparently they’ve heard of cold winds rising in the North and want to help stop them. For some reason the Hound gets up to take a leak during this conversation, and we see the second penis in the show’s history. Are they throwing random wang at us to justify the continual exposure of Emilia Clarke’s breasts?

Bravos. Arya is still asleep. Noticeably resembling Catelyn Stark, Lady Crane checks on Arya, then goes and stands on a stool to reach something. A figure of a man appears behind her. Eeeeeeeek Waif-terminator!

A crashing sound awakens Arya. She discovers Lady Crane dead. The waif appears holding a knife and tells Arya she should have done her job in the first place. Arya throws herself out the window, but that’s okay. SLEEP WILL FIX IT.

A ridiculously conspicuous chase ensues through the streets of Bravos. The Faceless Men like to be faceless and ninja-like, except when they’re not. Arya runs through a steamy male bathhouse, but no token penis here.

The Waif catches up on the street; Arya responds by throwing herself down a flight of stairs, toppling basket after basket of oranges. The resets on this scene would have sucked. There are lots of shots showing Arya leaving blood tracks everywhere. Jesus, we get it.

Arya runs for her secret hidey-hole. The Waif follows. She tracks Arya into a small, candlelit room, and closes the door behind her. She promises Arya it will all be over soon. Arya draws Needle and steels herself. YES! This is what we’ve been waiting for! FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!

Nope. Arya slashes at the candle, and we cut to black.

Note to the producers: Next time, maybe less money on the parkour acrobatics and more on the fight sequences? I could forgive not seeing the demise of the Blackfish if I’d at least gotten to see Arya stick the Waif with the pointy end. This felt like such a cheat.

House of Black and Boring, where Arya has thoughtfully mounted the Waif’s face in the hall. I can see why she never got into sewing though – the handiwork is a little, uh, ragged. Arya tells Jaqen H’ghar that a girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell…and she is going home, motherfuckers!

Next week: The Battle of the Bastards. Will Jon die? Again? Or will Ramsay finally get the slow beheading-with-a-butter-knife that he deserves?

 

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Game of Thrones S607: ‘The Broken Man’ Recap

We open in bizarro Westeros, where the sun is shining, the fields are green, and clean, cheerful people are working together in harmony to construct some sort of house of worship. Even the music is uncharacteristically uplifting, evoking a sense of hope and the possibility of a better future.  It stirs something deep within your heart, and you’re filled with a sudden clarity:  these people are going to fucking die.

Building, building, hammering. Jolly Papa Smurf Septon dude wearing a Seven-pointed-star necklace and joking about. People carrying big logs on their shoulders. One super-tough guy is carrying one all on his own and HOLY SHIT IT’S THE HOUND.

I totally didn’t see that coming. But you know what this means, right?

CLEGANEBOOOOOOOOWL!! And it better be this season, jackasses. Don’t cliffhanger this shit up.

The Hound is chopping wood. Papa Smurf Septon admires his form and muses that it must have been quite a man that cut him down. The Hound admits it was a woman. Papa Smurf laughs. Are they flirting?

Dinnertime. Papa Smurf brings the Hound a drink, presumably to wash down ALL THE FUCKING CHICKENS. Man I miss Season 4. We learn that the Septon saved the Hound’s life and believes the Gods have plans for him…like getting him to slay the Mountain in a trial-by-combat upset that results in Cersei getting the Anne Boleyn treatment, for example.

To King’s Landing, where Margaery is continuing her brainwashed-act in the High Sparrow’s lair. She’s wearing a modest dress that has more fabric than all her former dresses combined. The High Sparrow enters and she convincingly quotes the Book of the Seven: a wife salves her husband’s wounds and sings her son to sleep and makes nurturing casseroles before freshening up her makeup and popping some Xanax.

The High Sparrow ups his own creepy factor x 10 by asking Margaery why she isn’t putting out for Tommen. When Margaery tells him it’s because she’s no longer driven by ‘those desires’, her tells her that the King doesn’t need her desire – just patience. Patience? Why? Does it take forever? Tommen strikes me as a 10-seconds-and-done kinda guy.

Margaery agrees to give Tommen pity sex in order to produce an heir. The High Sparrow then openly pinpoints her grandmother as his next target. So with dour Septa Unella in tow, Margaery meets with Olenna and implores her to leave Kings Landing – then nearly blows her cover by squishing a note in Olenna’s hand. Olenna leaves and we see it’s a drawing of a rose, indicating Margaery’s ongoing loyalty to House Tyrell.

Stark Campaign Trail: Part 1. Jon, Sansa and Davos hit up the Wildling settlement and ask them to join the march on Winterfell. Jon reminds them that they’ll die if the Boltons aren’t defeated. Tormund weighs in with the emotional guilt: Jon, like, died for us. He’s the Christ figure that was promised. Wun Wun gives Jon the giant thumbs up, and the rest of the wildlings are on board.

Back to Kings Landing, where Cersei approaches Olenna and asks why she’s leaving the city. Olenna blows her off and reminds her that this complete cluster-fuck is due to her stupidity. Cersei agrees…she’s is weirdly passive during this whole scene. She tells Olenna that they need each other, and Olenna – ever eloquent and elegant – wonders aloud if Cersei is the worst person she’s ever met. I love this character. Run, Olenna! If the High Sparrow captures and beheads you, my heart will break.

Riverrun, where Jaime and Bronn arrive with the Lannister army. We hear the Rains of Castamere and Jaime is wearing Tywin’s threads, which I suppose is all symbolic of his moral pendulum swinging back towards being a coldhearted ball-bag who will compromise his honor to make Cersei happy. Hopefully Brienne sorts him out next week.

The Freys are trying to take back the castle by threatening to hang Edmure. The Blackfish appears and is all ‘meh’.  Jaime steps in and fires the Freys, then tells Bronn to get word to the Blackfish: he wants to party. What? Oh – parlay.

Stark Campaign Trail: Part 2: The Ballbreaker of Bear Island. Jon, Sansa and Davos meet with young Lyanna Mormont, who takes exactly no shit from anyone. She rebuffs Sansa and Jon, and asks why any more of her people should die in someone else’s war. Good question!

Lucky for Jon and Sansa, they have the best motivational speaker in Westeros by their side. Davos steps up and points out that the war is bigger than just a few squabbling houses; the dead are coming for them all. No one can resist a Davos sweet-talk, and Lyanna Mormont pledges them her fighting men… all 62 of them.

Back to Riverrun, where Jaime rides to meet the Blackfish. He tells him to surrender the castle and promises to spare his men if he does so. Blackfish tells him to go fuck himself. Jaime asks him why he bothered even meeting with him if he had no intention of saving his men’s lives. Apparently the Blackfish was bored shitless and wanted to get the measure of Jaime…and he’s disappointed. Eeeek! A zinger right to the heart of Jaime’s daddy issues.

Stark Campaign Trail: Part 3: Cranky House Glover. Lord Glover denies Jon’s request for support, and says the Boltons could skin him for even talking to them. Sansa is looking more and more pre-menstrual. Lord Glover learns that the majority of the Stark army is comprised of wildlings, and tells them to leave. Sansa bitchily reminds Lord Glover that his house is pledged to the Starks. Glover’s eye twitches and he informs her that the last time he fought for the Starks, his family and men were brutalised and murdered. So maybe shut up, Sansa.

Volantis, where Greyjoy sails are flying. Theon is sitting in a tavern looking twitchy, while Yara is enjoying some local hospitality. Boobs. Boobs everywhere. Theon asks why they had to come here, and Yara decides it’s time to give him a verbal kick up the arse; she forces him to guzzle ale and says she’s tired of watching him cower like a dog – it’s time for the real Theon to return. If he’s lost forever, he should cut his wrists – but if not, she needs him to come with her to Meereen (WHOOOP!) and make a pact with the Dragon Queen. Is he with her? Theon raises his head, looks her in the eye and nods. Another powerful moment from Alfie Allen.

Jon, Sansa and Davos arrive in Stannis’ old camp. You know, the one where he flambéed his own daughter. Speaking of, where is Melisandre at these days?

Sansa Snark bitches about setting up camp here, given that Stannis was defeated. Sigh. For someone who had zero fucking allies a few weeks ago, she’s pretty ungrateful. Davos reminds her that Stannis was the most experienced commander in Westeros and chose this location with good reason. Again – shut up, Sansa.

They dismount and talk numbers: 2,000 wildlings, 200 Hornwoods, 143 Mazins and 62 Mormonts make up their army. Um, you also have a giant. Just sayin’. How sweet would it be to see Wun Wun bitch-slap Ramsay against a wall?

Davos runs off to break up an argument between a wildling and a northman. Sansa snits at Jon about trusting Davos and tells him they need more men. Jon says they’ll fight with the army they have now, before the snow cuts them off. Sansa pouts before running off to send a raven to (presumably) Littlefinger. Dear Littlefinger, I know I told you to go fuck yourself a few weeks ago, but I’ve decided to revert back to my previously annoying self and hand you a chance to weave your poisonous web and create enmity between my brother and I. KTHXBYE.

Bizarro Westeros, where Papa Smurf is at the centre of a circle of trust and telling his people of his past transgressions as a coward, an arsonist, a thief and a murderer. Looking pointedly at the Hound, he says it’s never too late to come back. Aw. But also, it’s never too late to WREAK BLOODY REVENGE ON YOUR MONSTROUS BROTHER. So do that!

Three men on horseback approaching. The Hound smells trouble. Papa Smurf Septon greets the men, who claim to be protecting the people. They also want horses, gold, steel and food. Papa Smurf tells them they have none of the above, and they warn him that the night is dark and full of terrors.

Cut to the Hound, compulsively chopping wood again. Papa Smurf swings by and the Hound warns him that the men were from the Brotherhood Without Banners. Papa Smurf shrugs it off, and something tells me our brief time in bizarro Westeros is coming to an end soon.

Bravos! Arya finds herself some Westerosi sailors and buys her passage home. THANK FUCK. She’s even dressed like pre-House-of-Black-and-Boring Arya. Quick, Arya! Run home, reunite with the Hound and go on a justice rampage so we can forget this entire plotline ever happened. And when I say happened, I mean nothing fucking happened – for nearly two seasons.

Trip home sorted, Arya finds a bridge and looks towards Westeros. A little old lady approaches and says ‘Sweet girl’… before pulling a knife and stabbing Arya in the guts. She removes her old-lady face and we see it’s the Waif. Arya, bleeding like a stuck pig, headbutts her before throwing herself off the bridge. The water turns red with blood and the Waif is psychopathically happy.

Cut to see Arya surface elsewhere. She drags herself from the water and takes a look at her wounds. Erm…it’ll be fine. Just whack some Betadine on it. And maybe find yourself a Red Priestess.

We cut to see Arya staggering through the streets of Bravos, terrified and suspicious of everyone. She’s leaving a trail of blood behind her…deliberately? As some have already pointed out, she’s not carrying Needle – and the way in which she left herself utterly open to attack was very out of character. So hopefully Arya’s putting on quite the act, and the tables will turn on the Waif next week.

Back to the Hound, still chopping wood. Perhaps this is his version of nicotine patches? Instead of butchering people, he now channels his rage into the woodpile. He pauses for a moment to take a drink, and hears screams in the distance.

He returns to find everyone slain. Papa Smurf’s body hangs from the rafters. The Hound stares up at him for a moment, then grabs his axe. It’s time to eat ALL THE FUCKING CHICKENS.

Next week: Cersei chooses violence, Brienne arrives in Riverrun, Jaime loves Cersei and will kill every Tully ever in order to get back to her, the Waif is on watch, the Hound swings his axe, Tyrion inspects a chandelier, and Arya (I think??) parkours the shit out of Bravos.

Game of Thrones S606: ‘Blood of My Blood’ Recap

We open beyond the Wall, where Meera is dragging Bran through the snow. LEAVE HIM.

Bran is still warging out. A Bran-o-vision montage shows us pyromancers pouring wildfire, the Mad King instructing Jaime Lannister to BURN THEM ALL, the attack on Hardhome and the Night King raising the dead, a young Ned Stark wanting to know where his sister is, the death of Robb Stark, and the White Walker that Jon killed. Bran is apparently warg-cramming Westerosi History For Murderous Little Shits.

Back to reality, where the wights are in hot pursuit. Bran’s litter gets stuck and Meera cries. Bran wakes up and helpfully informs her that the wights have found them.

Believing they’re about to die, Meera tells Bran she’s sorry. Like, actually apologises TO Bran, the person responsible for them being in this position in the first place.

Just as the wights catch up with them, Uncle-Benjen-Coldhands a mysterious figure on a horse arrives, wielding a flaming mace….thingy.

He takes out a few wights, then tells Meera that they have to come with him right now. Meera hesitates, but given it’s this guy or death by snow-zombies, she doesn’t really have a choice. They haul arse out of there.

Sam, Gilly and Little Sam on their way to Horn Hill. Sam starts rambling about autumn foliage, which tips Gilly off to the fact that he’s nervous. Sam tells her that he never expected to come back here after his father threatened to kill him if he didn’t relinquish his birthright and take the black. Definitely a valid reason for skipping family Christmas. Sam also tells Gilly not to mention the wildling thing, because his Dad hates her kind.

Upon arriving at Horn Hill, they’re greeted by Sam’s mum and sister, who turn out to be lovely. Like, caramel-slice-making, school-fete organizing, blind-dog-adopting lovely. The nicest characters we’ve ever seen on this show. They’ll die soon.

Family dinner, Tarly-style. Lord Randyll Tarly looks like the BFG, but there’s nothing friendly about him. The ensuing awkwardness reminds me of the time 16-year-old me went to my boyfriend’s house for dinner and asked his mother why there were two kinds of meat in her casserole. Seriously – there was chicken and beef in there. As it turned out, that was her ‘specialty’ dish; she’d mix the leftovers from the previous two nights together and add a can of Campbells vegetable soup concentrate. Traumatic.

Anyhow, Lord Tarly is a douche. He belittles Sam, who visibly regresses as the scene plays out, and he disrespects Gilly. Gilly, meanwhile, is awesome and sticks it to Sam’s dad the way you wish Sam would.

In the end, Lord Tarly announces that Gilly and Little Sam can stay, but Sam is banished from Horn Hill forever. Sam seems to accept these terms and even says his goodbyes to Gilly and Little Sam, but thankfully sense – and a spine – prevails. Sam helps himself to Lord Tarly’s Valyrian steel sword and the three of them steal away in the night instead. Suck it, Randyll.

Ah, crap. The Sept of Baelor, where Tommen’s hanging out with the High Sparrow like it’s Tuesdays with Morrie. Jesus Christ, does anyone keep an eye on this kid? For all Cersei’s agonising over her children, she’s no helicopter parent when the only one that’s still alive is ducking out for tea and some fundamentalist brainwashing. Seriously, buy him one of those child harnesses with a leash or start knitting his golden shroud.

The High Sparrow and Tommen discuss Margaery’s impending walk of atonement,and Sparrow asks if Tommen would like to see her. Would he ever!

Cut to the High Sparrow’s altar room, where Margaery is looking demure and reading The Seven Pointed Star. This is the woman who pretended to find Joffrey’s compulsive sadism arousing for months, so I’m sure she can convincingly keep up the born-again charade for as long as she needs to.

Tommen enters. She rushes to his side and they hug. Tommen gushes that his penis has missed her – more than she could know. Margaery smiles with the polite tolerance of someone whose leg is being humped by their boss’s Labrador puppy.

She then starts gushing about the High Sparrow and how he’s led her to see the error of her ways – I think she knows the walls have ears and is toeing the line accordingly. Tommen, however, is genuinely subscribing to the High Sparrow’s newsletter. I’m calling it: Tommen won’t live to see season 7.

Bravos, where Arya is watching Joffrey’s death play out on stage and laughing inappropriately. So meta, but not quite accurate; in reality everyone pumped fists in the air and hugged in relief when that little shit died. My husband and I cracked a bottle of wine and hit replay about 40 times.

Arya sneaks backstage and empties poison into Lady Crane’s flask. Job done. But then Lady Crane catches her on her way out, and sparks up a conversation. Arya tells her she’s very good, and Lady Crane asks her what she’d change about her performance as grieving Cersei.

Arya answers based on her reaction to watching her own father die; she’d be angry and want to kill whoever did this to her. Then, in a moment that made my throat all lumpy, she tells the actress that she has to go – her father is waiting for her.

Lady Crane heads off to smash some rum. Arya runs back in at the last second, smacks it from her hands, and tells her to watch out for the younger actress who wants her dead. Then she heads to the rock wall to retrieve Needle. Woohoo! Welcome back, Arya Stark! Goodbye, No One! Better yet, goodbye House of Black and Boring. It’s been real.

The Waif sees everything and reports back to Jaquen H’ghar. He gives her the go ahead to take Arya out. Next week, if the Gods are good: the Waif meets the pointy end.

Back to King’s Landing, where Jaime and Mace Tyrell lead the Tyrell army to the Sept just as the High Sparrow is kicking off Margaery’s walk of atonement – or so it would seem. Jaime tells the High Sparrow that they’re there to collect Margaery and Loras.

The High Sparrow’s computer says no. Jaime assures him he means business, and the Tyrell army point their spears towards the Sept. The Sparrow Gestapo – Lancel included – stand at the ready. Shit gets tense.

Then, just when you think it’ll be the glorious, bloody slaughter on the streets that the promos all but promised, the High Sparrow is all ‘KIDDING! Here’s a moron I prepared earlier!’.

The doors of the Sept open. Tommen walks out. For fuck’s sake: CHILD HARNESS.

The last of Tommen’s brain cells, which were down to single digits anyhow, have been drowned in the Faith’s Kool Aid. He and Margaery have formed an alliance with the High Sparrow.

Tommen turns to the crowd and rehashes that crap about the Crown and the Faith being twin pillars upon which the world rests, blah blah blah. Dear God. This Faith Militant rubbish almost makes me miss Meereen. To think I could be watching Tyrion mansplain something to Missandei right now.

The High Sparrow looks on with approval as Tommen and Margaery clasp hands in a display of unity. But Margaery gives the High Sparrow a sideways glance, and you know it’s just a matter of time – and Loras being released – before she’s out to get hers. My guess is she’ll use the Faith to get her revenge on Cersei first, get her brother released, then unleash some Tyrell fury. Or at least I hope so…something interesting has to happen in King’s Landing at some point this season, right?

The crowd cheers. Jaime looks at Tommen with disbelief. That’s right, Jaime. Your only remaining son makes beetle-smashing cousin Orson look like a Grand Maester.

Cut to the Throne Room, where Jaime shrugs off his armor. Tommen informs him that when he attacked the Faith he also attacked the Crown, and as such he’s no longer fit to lead the Kingsguard. Oh, and he’s to leave King’s Landing. Forever.

What? Fucking what? Jaime’s being relieved as Lord Commander of the Kingshuard ala Barristan Selmy and exiled from the city, but Olenna and Mace and Mace’s army get a free pass? Are we just bypassing any attempt at having this convoluted, boring-as-fuck plotline make sense now?

To the Twins, where Walder Frey is reiterating the fact that the Blackfish has retaken Riverun. He also recounts the events of the Red Wedding for those of us who are no longer in therapy over it. He tells his inept sons to get Riverrun back by using Edmure Tully as leverage. Edmure Tully still looks like the guy from Little Britain.

Back to King’s Landing, where Jaime’s freaking out about being sent away. Cersei wangs on about showing the world what Lannisters do to their enemies and how they’re the only two people in the world, blah blah blah, twincest pashing. Something tells me these two are never going to see each other again.

Beyond the Wall, where Meera is watching Uncle-Benjen-Coldhands her mystery rescuer pour a nice hot cup of rabbit’s blood. Bran wakes up and is immediately overcome with grief at the thought of all the people that died because of him.

Except he isn’t. He doesn’t even mention them. He’s far more interested in the true identity of their rescuer. It’s Uncle Benjen, moron. Benjen’s got a dragonglass pacemaker that stops him from becoming a whitewalker. Now drink your rabbit’s blood; the Night King is coming, and you need to be ready.

Cut to HBO Headquarters, where David Benioff and D.B. Weiss realise the episode is nearly done and essentially fucking nothing has happened.

Benioff: “Fuck. We better end big.”

Weiss: “Tower of Joy?”

They stare at each other a moment , then burst into hysterical laughter. Benioff wipes a tear from his eye, pops another peeled grape in his mouth and instructs his editor to “throw them a dragon bone”.

So: to Vaes Dothrak. Daenerys is at the head of her new khalasar, on their way to Meereen.

She turns to Daario and asks how many ships it will take to get her entire army across the Narrow Sea. He ballparks around 1000. Euron Greyjoy pops up and cries BINGO! But he has to build them from scratch using tree logs and handspun cotton, so if you can hold off on invading for 30 years or so that’d be great.

Dany spots some unusual sand activity up ahead, and tells Daario to wait in the car. We watch as Daario and the khalasar get restless. Some of these Khals have some hilariously dodgy wigs, probably because production blew the whole budget on…

Dragon-shaped shadow overhead! Drogon appears and the dragon theme music kicks in…fuck you, Benioff and Weiss. It gets me every time.

Drogon’s all healed up and has apparently been getting his RDI of flame-grilled children and livestock, because he’s enormous. Daenerys is on his back, dragon-riding like a boss. At this point I got distracted thinking about her actual horse. Did Drogon eat him?

Daenerys throws the Khals a saucy look and gives a call-to-arms speech that makes Mace Tyrell look even more like a retired librarian in amateur drama class.

Will the khals cross the narrow sea on wooden horses? YES!

Will they tear down the stone houses of her enemies? YES!

Will they rape and pillage and terrorise the common people she used to care so much about? PROBABLY!

Are they with her, now and always?

The Khals and my husband: HELLS YES!!!

But what about Daario? We spend an inordinate amount of time on his reactions in this scene, and I don’t think it’s because he wants some Khaleesi action. My traitor-spidey-sense is tingling.

Anyhow, Drogon roars us off. You can actually see the little flame jet/outlet thingies in his mouth! Or are they tonsils? Whatever. I’m sufficiently mesmerized and forget that this episode had the plot density of a prawn cracker.

Next week: Jamie VS the Blackfish, Olenna VS Cersei, and the Team Stark recruitment drive kicks off on Bear Island.

 

Game of Thrones S605: ‘The Door’ Recap

We open on the Wall, where Sansa is catching up on her sewing. It’s so hard to juggle needlework with escaping your psychopathic husband and raising an army to take back the North. A raven arrives and it’s from Littlefinger, who wants to catch up for coffee in Mole’s Town.

The scene that follows is basically Sansa tearing Littlefinger a new one in magnificent fashion, cementing her newfound badass status. It’s the first time ever that we see Lord Baelish not just squirm, but also express something resembling contrition. He’s still the show’s greatest enigma, and it’s hard to believe he wasn’t aware that Ramsay is a monster – but this scene shows us that there’s something beneath the surface other than sleeze and cunning. And this week’s best one liner goes to Sansa: You freed me from the monsters who murdered my family…and you gave me to other monsters who murdered my family.

Unfortunately she decides to let Littlefinger live, and he scurries off to lay his chaos eggs elsewhere. If only she shared her brother Bran’s aptitude for getting people killed. But before he leaves, Littlefinger informs her that her great uncle, the Blackfish, has gathered Tully forces and retaken Riverrun. Yay! I miss the Blackfish.

House of Black and Boring. Arya is getting beaten up by the Waif. Again. Jaquen H’ghar comes in, and even he looks fucking tired of this plotline. He takes Arya to the Hall of Faces and gives her a bottle of poison to kill an actress in a local play that he clearly hated.

Arya attends the play, which turns out to be based on the death of King Robert and the fall of Ned Stark. This touches a nerve and I feel momentarily hopeful that Arya might get her stabby-stabby on soon. Nope. Arya ducks behind stage afterwards, supposedly to scope things out and figure out how she will kill the actress, but I’m pretty sure this scene was mostly to show a token penis and hit HBO’s episode tit quota.

Bran-o-vision time. Bran and 3-Eyes are visiting a weirwood tree in an undisclosed location, although it looks North-ish. The Children of the Forest have chained a man to the weirwood’s trunk and things are about to get kinky. One of them plunges a knife (is it dragon glass?) into the guy’s heart, and his eyes glow blue. Turns out the Children created the White Walkers in order to fight off the invasion of mankind, which is kind of like letting a heaving sack of baby huntsman spiders hatch on your ceiling so they’ll eat the mosquitos. That happened to me once.

Now we’re in the Iron Islands, just in time for Kingsmoot Fest 2016. Yara stakes her claim and Theon backs her. I can barely recognize Alfie Allen now that he’s washed/shaved/cut the Reek away. Euron Greyjoy arrives, admits to killing his brother Balon, and announces his intentions to sail his fleet across the Narrow Sea and marry Daenerys Targaryen. Pack some fire-retardent blankets, buddy.

Those fickle Ironborn give Euron their vote, and he’s off for the official drowning initiation ceremony, giving Yara, Theon and friends the chance to steal away with the entire Ironborn fleet.

Vaes Dothrak, where Daenerys is rocking fresh hair and surveying the leftovers of last week’s mixed Khal grill. She turns and we see Jorah and Daario. The three of them stand there. It’s awkward. Why are they all standing 3 metres apart??

Dany tells Jorah that she can’t take him back, but she can’t send him away. He says she has to send him away, and rolls up his sleeve to show off the progress of his greyscale. Dany freaks out and tells him she’s sorry. Jorah tells her he loves her. Daario stands there. Jorah turns to go, but Daenerys gets her Khaleesi on and commands him to find a cure, then return to her side. Jorah’s all ‘Yes, ma’am’. Awww.

Meanwhile, back in Meereen, Tyrion, Varys, Missandei and Grey Worm are having yet another strategy meeting. No one brought Jatz crackers.

Do you remember the scenes in the Star Wars prequels where the characters would converse woodenly and at length about the Trade Federation and embargos and the Senate and democracy, and you were all ‘For fuck’s sake, George. We’re not here to audit galactic politics, just show us some fucking lightsabers!’ That’s what these Meereen exposition scenes remind me off. We get it – Tyrion is honing his political chops. SHOW US SOME FUCKING DRAGONS.

Cut to Tyrion and Varys, having a meeting with a potential political ally. Sigh. Next week on Game of Thrones: Tyrion spell-checks his PowerPoint preso on dragon-raising while Varys tries to fix the conference phone in dungeon 4.

Meet Red Woman II: Essos Edition. She’s creepier than Melisandre and has her very own age-and-gravity-defying necklace. Varys hates her. She tells him all about that time he was eunuched. I have no idea where this is going…not Westeros, that’s for sure.

Back to Bran. Bran is bored, and so decides to fuck everything up. No, really. Everything. Because apparently he didn’t learn his lesson that time everyone told him to stop climbing the fucking tower and he did it anyhow and set off a chain of events that resulted in the War of the Five Kings and his Dad getting his head cut off.

 While everyone else is sleeping, Bran jumps aboard the weirwood party bus for a solo ride. He finds himself walking amongst the army of the undead. The Night’s King appears and grabs him. Bran wakes up with a handprint on his arm, and 3-Eyes tells him that the Night’s King has gained access to the cave through him.

Meera’s happy, at least. She packs and chatters to Hodor about how they’re going to go home and eat eggs. And that’s how you know either Meera or Hodor are about to bite it. Rule one of Game of Thrones character survival: never, ever talk about looking forward to the comforts of home. You may as well stick your thumbs into your own eye sockets and Red Viper yourself.

Here we go; Meera notices everyone’s breathing condensation, which is the White Walker way of announcing yourself. The Night’s King has arrived with his army of snow zombies. Meera races to wake Bran while Hodor rocks in a corner.

The Wights descend upon the weirwood. Meera, Summer and the Children of the Forest fight them off while Bran takes his sweet time watching his father as a boy, preparing to leave Winterfell. He hears Meera from a distance, screaming something or other about how everyone is going to die and they need Hodor RIGHT FUCKING NOW, BRAN. Bran gets that dim, slightly delayed look on his face that is the hallmark of teenage boys everywhere.

This is where recapping gets a bit fucking confusing. Bran glances at young Hodor in the yard at Winterfell, but wargs into Hodor beneath the weirwood.

Meera spears a White Walker like a boss.

Bran-Hodor drags warging-Bran away, and Meera and Leaf run after them. Summer stays to fight off the Wights.

Summer dies a horrible death.

I hate you, Bran.

Also…the army of the dead now have a zombie direwolf, which will probably kill someone else we care about later on. So, not Bran.

The Night’s King enters the cave and kills 3-Eyes while he’s still in the Matrix. Sorry, still grieving Summer and never liked that guy anyhow.

The Wights are in hot pursuit of Bran, Hodor, Meera and Leaf, who are running through a tunnel. Leaf is holding a Thermal Detonator, and sacrifices herself by blowing the tunnel up so the others can get away.

Meera, Hodor and Bran reach a door at the end of the tunnel. Hodor manages to push it open, and they drag Bran out into the snow. Meera drags Bran off and tells Hodor to ‘hold the door’, which he does. At this point I don’t know if it’s Hodor-for-realsies or still Bran-Hodor.

Meanwhile, inside Bran’s vision we hear the echo of ‘hold the door’ just before young Hodor’s eyes warg out and he keels over in some sort of cross-pollinated-timestream-warging-induced seizure. He fits on the ground and repeats Meera’s words ‘Hold the door’ over and over and over, until finally they slur together to become ‘Hodor’.

So it turns out Bran’s real talent isn’t green-seeing or warging or even climbing. Nope. It’s being able to screw up someone’s life from two separate points in time, simultaneously. In fact, he fried Hodor’s brain decades before he was even born. That’s talent.

Back in real time, Hodor holds the door. He uses every ounce of his strength to keep the Wights at bay so that Meera and Bran have time to escape, and he pays for it with his life.

Body count: All remaining Children of the Forest, 3-Eyes, Summer and Hodor – in the space of 10 minutes. Good job, Bran. You’ve officially stolen season-one-Sansa’s title as Most Unlikeable Stark Ever.

Game of Thrones S603: ‘Oathbreaker’ Recap

We open on Ser Davos ogling Kit Harington’s naked body. Cut to the (magnificent) back view as Jon Snow literally rises from the dead.

Kit Harington does a really lovely job conveying Jon Snow’s shock and how he even has to get the hang of breathing again. Then he looks at his chest wounds and remembers being murdered, which sends him into meltdown. Ser Davos wraps him in a blankie while Melisandre comes in wanting to know all about the afterlife: ‘Where did you go? What did you see?’ Jon informs her of the yawning maw of eternal oblivion that awaits us all. Cheery.

Melisandre’s all ‘Whatevs, Prince that was Promised! WOOP!’ until Ser Davos kicks her out, pulls up a stool and – motivational speech time! – gets to work on Jon’s existential angst. Jon’s grappling with the realization that being honorable does nothing but getting you scored like a pork roast by your own men. Ser Davos tells him to get back on the horse and make it dance like no one’s watching.

So Jon emerges into the yard, where all the men have gathered to see the Lord Commander resurrected. In a hilariously intimate exchange, Tormund comes in to whisper that he saw Jon’s pecker at the Dead Lord Commander Pecker Viewing ceremony, and it was way too small for Jon to be a God. They cuddle and a brand new stream of GOT erotic fan fiction is born.

Jon sees Edd and hugs him too. Edd’s happy to see Jon’s eyes are still brown, proving that those theories he read in the forums about Jon coming back as a Wight were bollocks. Jon makes a joke about not burning his body just yet. It’s a nice moment.

Now we’re on a ship with Sam, Gilly and Little Sam, on their way to Oldtown. Sam’s puking. For the sake of unnecessary exposition, they converse about Oldtown. Sam tells Gilly that he’s sending her and Little Sam to Horn Hill. This scene is the script version of gap filler, and I’m not recapping it anymore.

TOWER OF JOY! It’s so a euphemism. Bran and 3-Eyes watch on as young Eddard Stark and his men (including Howland Reed) arrive for Ned’s sister Lyanna.

Legendary Ser Arthur Dayne – the Sword of the Morning – isn’t having a bar of that, and throws his greatsword Dawn into the sand. There’s some small talk before Ser Dayne wishes Ned good fortune in the wars to come, and draws double swords; he’s going Darth Maul on their arses.

Epic showdown ensues, and the Sword of the Morning picks off Ned’s men until only Ned himself remains. Despite being reasonably badarse, Ned is clearly outclassed. Bran looks on and wonders aloud how his father ended up winning.

Dishonorably, as it turns out; Howland Reed stabs Arthur Dayne from behind. Ned finishes the job. Shame…I already liked Darth Dayne more than 70% of the other characters on this show.

Nevermind. Ned rushes off to find Lyanna! Bran goes after him! We brace ourselves to finally confirm Jon Snow’s heritage!

And then we don’t! 3-Eyes shuts this shit down. Even Bran is pissed, and demands to go back. 3-Eyes channels Yoda and tells Bran he has to stay on Dagobah a while longer in order to ‘learn everything…at a time that is optimal for ratings’.

So instead of the (presumably) extremely satisfying resolve the promos hinted at, we end up in Vaes Dothrak, where Daenerys is being dropped off to join the Dosh Khaleen.

Dany enters Khal-widow headquarters and is promptly stripped of her clothes. As usual, she responds by listing off her C.V; breaker of chains, mother of dragons, GQ Sexiest Woman Alive etc etc. The Head-Khaleesi cries bullshit and tells Daenerys that joining the Dosh Khaleen is the best possible scenario for her now; the Dothraki Khals are convening for the Khalar Vezhven – the Dothraki comic convention – and will be deciding whether she gets to stay with the Dosh Khaleen or…not. I’m guessing that if they run with the latter, she’s not headed for a Cat Café for cuddles and crepes.

To Meereen, where Varys is going through menopause. In an exchange that we really needn’t have witnessed, he convinces a bit-part actor from last season to tell him who is funding the Sons of the Harpy. I would have much preferred more time on Olly’s face at the very end of the episode.

Tyrion, Missandei and Greyworm are in the great pyramid, awaiting Varys. Tyrion tries to create conversation. Hilarity ensues, or at least it would have if this scene wasn’t written by the work experience kid. Not even Peter Dinklage can resuscitate it.  Thank God Varys arrives and surprises no one by announcing that the Sons of the Harpy are funded by the Wise Masters in Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen. Um…this is a surprise? Aren’t you guys like, cunning and strategic and stuff? Sigh. Anyhow, Varys is getting his little birds on it, and this scene ends up being yet another filler that’s on par with watching the Flying Toaster screensaver.

Speaking of little birds, Qyburn has adopted the ones Varys left behind when he fled King’s Landing. They’re being bribed to work for the queen now, and she wants them everywhere so she can find out who her enemies are. Then Jaime, Cersei and Zombie-Mountain crash the high council meeting, where Kevan Lannister and Olenna Tyrell are upsetting everything by being highly competent.

This episode’s best quote goes to Olenna, who kapows Cersei with: ‘You are not the queen, because you are not married to the king. I do appreciate that these things can get a bit confusing in your family.’ Maybe we could have an episode where Tyrion and Olenna just sit in a room and trade barbs all day while the dragons set fire to everyone else in the background?

Jaime and Cersei want in on the council action, but they’re shot down by Kevan. Cersei is all ‘You can’t make me leave, so there!’, prompting Uncle Kevan to stage a walkout instead. This scene is a bit flaccid but clearly demonstrates the shift in the power dynamic. How long it will last is anyone’s guess.

Oh, Tommen. Can’t you just stay home and play with your kittens and practise colouring inside the lines? Fuck. Tommen confronts the High Sparrow about letting Cersei see Myrcella’s crypt or something. The High Sparrow dusts off his best telemarketing salesman skillz and serves Tommen up a pile of suggestive religious horseshit mixed with some Jedi mind trickery. Tommen happily gulps it down like a foie gras goose.

To the House of Black and White, where I’m appalled that this is one of the more enjoyable scenes this week. Probably because it’s a training montage…you can’t remain cynical in the face of a training montage (or baby dragons singing). We start with Arya’s usual weekly arse-kicking, but we see her begin to make some progress. Meanwhile the Waif quizzes her on her kill list, and we learn that Arya removed the Hound because she both did and didn’t want him dead in the end.

Is it me, or are is the Waif right and we’re missing a few names? Or is this one of those things my baby brain has turfed overboard in the last 12 months in favour of remembering stuff like all 1,000 verses of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’?  Anyhow, Arya finally manages to serve the Waif a decent stick in the face, and thus Jaquen H’ghar gives her one final test; a nice cup of death fresh from the House waterhole. But she doesn’t die. In fact, she gets her eyesight back. Yay! Now go kill someone.

Winterfell, where surely things can’t get any more ghastly. Right? RIGHT??

House Umber has arrived. In a setup that resembles a job interview, Ramsay and his Karstark colleague are seated behind desks, screening Lord Umber. On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your ability to skin a human being? Would you consider yourself a team player when it comes to maiming? Have you had any experience with patricide?

Umber tells Ramsay his dad was a c*#! Ramsay smiles as if someone complimented him on his new tie. Then they to-and fro a bit about Umber refusing to bend the knee, until Umber presents Ramsay with a gift; Tonks and Rickon Stark, who’s hit the awkies-Kevin-Arnold stage of puberty mid-series.

Ramsay: How do I know this is actually Rickon Stark? He’s a lot bigger than the kid from Season 3.

Umber: I knew you’d ask, so here’s a little something I prepared earlier…

Me, fingers in mouth: NOTTHEWOLFNOTTHEWOLFNOTTHEWOLFNOTTHEWOLF NOTTHEWOLFNOTTHEWOLFNOTTHEWOLF-

Umber: HEAD ALA SHAGGYDOG!!!

Clearly Umber knows how to flirt with a Bolton. Ramsay gets his psychopath-on-heat face on and looks at Rickon like he doesn’t know whether he wants to carve off a wing or a leg.

Despite Shaggydog’s apparent demise (I choose to grasp at the it-could-have-been-a-decoy-wolf-head straw), I can feel an Umber double-cross coming on. Could this have been a ploy to get a male Stark back inside Winterfell? If so, it’s not without massive risk and probable Rickon-flaying…we all know Ramsay’s that kid who likes to rip the limbs off his new toys before using a magnifying glass to set them on fire.

Castle Black – and grab the popcorn, because it’s retribution time! Jon Snow is brooding in his office when there’s a knock at the door: it’s time. Jon symbolically throws his neatly-folded blacks on the table. If leading a wildling army doesn’t work out, he’ll easily get a job folding t-shirts at Topshop.

Cut to the yard, where we see the murderers standing on the gallows. Hey Olly! Good to see your pinched little face up there. Jon’s got Longclaw and his good Lord Commander fur on, so clearly he means business.

Like the good Stark he is, he gives each of his killer’s a chance to say their last words. Alliser Thorne in particular remains defiant and tells Jon he’d do it all again, for the sake of the Watch. Kudos to GOT for making Thorne’s character more than a 2D villain; he acknowledges his betrayal and thus comes across as complex and even admirable in a way. Olly, however, is still a sullen, spiteful little shit; he doesn’t bother with last words and simply glares at Jon as if he’s being grounded. You are, kid. For like…ever.

Jon draws Longclaw and – after a few tense seconds of deliberation – cuts the rope, hanging the four of them. Even then he watches Olly struggle against the noose and seems to be fighting an impulse to cut him down. I guess now that he knows firsthand about the void that awaits, it’s harder to condemn men to it. Not me, Jon! I’m still inappropriately fine with this.

Job done, Jon hands over his fur to Edd, announces his watch has ended, and storms out. Best. Resignation. Ever.

 

 

Game of Thrones S602: ‘Home’ Recap

Previously on Game of Thrones: Jon Snow got dead, Walda Frey got pregnant, Ramsay got told off by daddy, Sansa and Theon got free, Arya got beaten up, Daenerys’ fleet got burny, the dragons got chained up and Bran got his warg on.

Cue the music: Nyaah, nyaah, nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah, nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nahnah-you get the drill.

We open on Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven in the caverns beneath the weirwood tree. Well, their bodies are there. In terms of consciousness they’re at Winterfell, observing a young Ned and Benjen Stark training under the watchful eye of a young Sir Rodrik.

‘Keep your shield up or I’ll ring your head like a bell’ Ned tells Benjen, and now we know where a certain Lord Commander picked that one up. Lyanna Stark gallops in on her horse; it’s the first time we see Lyanna personified, as opposed to crypt-Lyanna. We also meet young Hodor, whose real name is…Wylis. Okay then. Anyhow, this is all apparently before whatever made Hodor Hodor-ish, because he says other stuff too.

Bran wants to hang out with the ghosts-of-Winterfell-past for a bit longer, but the three-eyed-raven ruins all his fun. So Bran returns to his body and goes to see Meera, who is apparently in a bit of a funk. She’s still grieving Jojen but also seems bored shitless, as if she’s just been forced to read the script pages relating to Dorne. Bran doesn’t understand what the problem is; she gets to sit in a dark cave and watch while he rides the weirwood-high all day and frolics about with his dead ancestors. What more could a girl want? God, she’s so high-maintenance. Bran leaves and a Child of the Forest tells Meera Bran totally needs her…laters.

Castle Black! Alliser Thorne has had enough and wants Sir Davos and friends to come out RIGHT THIS MINUTE. Sir Davos grabs Longclaw and it’s the scene from the season preview: ‘Apologies for what you’re about to see’. He draws his sword and the other men follow suit. We cut outside the door to see Olly, the little shit, standing with the other traitors. You’re direwolf meat, kiddo.

Thorne’s men start breaking down the door. Ghost gets ready to take names. But just as Thorne’s men are about to break through there’s a knock on Castle Black’s gate, and it isn’t a Jehovah’s Witness or Energy Australia wanting to offer Castle Black 15% off their electricity bill. It’s Wun Wun the giant and the rest of the wildlings.

The wildling theme music kicks in as they storm the yard. Awesome. Tormund takes down a crow and Thorne motivates his men with ‘FIGHT YOU COWARDS!’. This guy seriously needs to do one of those management training courses. Anyhow, one moron obeys and shoots Wun Wun in the shoulder with his crossbow. Just imagine his thought process beforehand: Fuck it, I’m just going to shoot the giant. What’s the worst that could happen?

Wun Wun brains him against the wall and tosses his body aside with the casualness of someone who just slapped a cockroach with a thong. Checkmate; the rest of the Night’s Watch drop their weapons and surrender. Thorne has a strop, and Olly lunges at Tormund (who admittedly played a large part in the murder of the kid’s parents…but my sympathies are fickle and have long since changed). Jon’s killers are sent to their cells without any supper. Tormund takes a look at Jon; yup, still playing dead.

King’s Landing, where some overacting twat is spinning a yarn about Cersei wanting a piece of his arse during her walk of shame. Cut to see Zombie-Mountain smash his head against a wall. Boring. You might be big and tough, Zomnie-Mountain, but Wun Wun’s party tricks put yours to shame.

Zombie-Mountain arrives at the Red Keep to escort Cersei to Myrcella’s funeral, but Tommen has sent his guards to ensure she doesn’t leave the castle. Cut to Tommen and Jaime in the Sept of Baelor, hashing out Tommen’s many inadequacies. I’m distracted from their conversation because i’m trying to see if there’s any hint of Dean-Charles Chapman’s Essex accent evident in his dialogue. Nope – perfect, init? (Side note…I now sort of understand why Prince Trystane was painting an eyeball on a rock last week. His rock was similar to the ones Myrcella’s corpse is wearing. But why he was painting one while on his way back to Dorne, I don’t know).

Jaime’s endearing character development as a father figure continues; he urges Tommen to visit his mother and apologise. The High Sparrow arrives and he and Jaime face off. Jaime wants to kill him but finds he’s surrounded by the High Sparrow’s henchmen. The High Sparrow alludes to the imminent overthrow of an empire and smugs off. Please can someone get stabby with this guy soon.

Cut to Tommen emotionally caving in to Cersei and opening himself up to future manipulations that will no doubt lead him to his own golden shroud. Basically he promises to be more Joffrey, and rule with selfish and violent impulsiveness. Good boy, Tommen. But someone might want to find Ser Pounce a foster home, because I think your days are numbered.

Now to the Great Pyramid in Meereen, where Tyrion is pouring himself wine. Missandei, Grey Worm and Varys watch on with evident disapproval. Varys tsk tsks, and Tyrion responds with ‘If I lost my cock, I’d drink all the time’. My husband – nursing his own glass of wine – laughs and nods ‘ah…so true’. Okay. Good to know.

Talk in the Pyramid turns to dragons. Tyrion tells them that dragons can’t be cooped up like cage hens if you want them to help you conquer a realm. Missandei is all ‘how the fuck would you know?’. Possibly the best Tyrion quip ever: ‘That’s what I do. I drink, and I know things’. My husband is never, ever going to stop using this quote.

Evidently one thing Tyrion doesn’t know is what happens in the books when people just drop in on the dragons, because he decides to visit their underground den himself. The show diverges from the books here…I don’t want to drop spoilers irresponsibly, but suffice to say that when the dragons get unexpected visitors in the books, they decide to have an impromptu Dornish-style barbecue.

But I digress, and this is a lovely scene regardless. Tyrion cautiously makes his way into the dragons’ den. Rhagal and Viserion clock his approach and come out to investigate. Tyrion tells them he’s friends with their mother and implores them ‘don’t eat the help’. Then he tells them a story from the books that I’ve been hoping would make it onscreen, about how Tyrion cried himself to sleep as a boy when he found out all the dragons were dead. As he tells the story, Tyrion reaches for Rhaegal (or Viserion…not sure who is who) and there’s this lovely moment from Peter Dinklage where you see Tyrion’s glee at getting to touch an actual dragon. Seriously, only Peter Dinklage could share a scene with the dragons and still manage to steal it.

Tyrion then unchains the dragons – who willingly submit – and gets the fuck out of there while the going’s good. It’s an awesome scene, but it’s also one that will have the Tyrion-Targaryen theorists in a frenzy. Having watched this scene and read the books, I’m leaning towards that camp myself. Assuming Jon is the second dragon rider, there’s still a position open and no one else (yet) who fits the secret-Targaryen bill as well as Tyrion does.

To Winterfell, and Roose is most disappointed in Ramsay’s failure to retrieve Sansa and Theon. Don’t worry Roose, your discomfort is very, very temporary.

Ramsay knows they’ll head for Castle Black, so suggests launching an attack and also killing Jon Snow. Roose’s expresses contempt for this idea, telling Ramsay it will unite all the houses in the North against them. Ramsay thinks they already have the ones that matter; Karstarks, Umbers and Manderlys (Manderlys! White Harbour! Manderlys!).

At this point Roose jettisons all pretences that Ramsay isn’t complete fuck-up, and warns him that acting like a mad dog will see him getting taken out back and fed to the pigs. Um, that’s still too good a death for this guy.

The maester interrupts this tense moment to inform everyone that Roose’s wife Walda Frey has given birth…to a boy. Uh oh. I think I’d rather be a boy born into Craster’s family than this one. Roose is chuffed. Ramsay comes in for a hug *shudder*. Roose tells him he’ll always be his firstborn son. Ramsay is all ‘awww, that means a lot Pops!’ before plunging his dagger into his father’s ribs. Bye bye, Roose. Should have worn the good Red Wedding chainmail today.

Roose drops to the floor and dies, and even Ramsay seems momentarily appalled. Now that they no longer have the books to guide them, the writers apparently just hit CTRL-ALT-STABBY-STABBY when they want to get rid of a character that has passed their use-by date.

But compared to what’s in store for Walda and baby Bolton, Roose’s death was merciful. I don’t even know how to recap this next scene. It’s probably the most sickening in GOT history. I’m trying to remember if even the gruesome death of the Red Viper was this confronting…I don’t think so, because 20 minutes after that episode ended I was attempting to (playfully) re-enact the Mountain’s thumbs-in-the-eye-sockets move with my husband (too soon, apparently).

Anyhow, I’ll recap the specifics using the least amount of words possible so I can thankfully move on: Walda. Baby. Ramsay. Kennels. Feeding time. Capiche?

Horrendous.

We escape to the woods somewhere North, where Sansa and Brienne are having a girly catch up about Arya. Brienne then asks what happened at Winterfell, and Sansa’s silence says it all. Oh, you know…I married the rapey son of the creep that betrayed my family and murdered my brother, and he made Joffrey look like Fozzie Bear. Brienne looks mortified, and Sansa tells her than she should have gone with her when she had the chance. Nevermind, Sansa – you were going through your (admittedly short and somewhat pointless) Dark Phoenix phase.

Next, Sansa and Theon discuss the Wall, and how Jon will want to kill Theon the moment he walks through the gate. Sansa says all crimes are forgiven when you take the black, but Theon doesn’t want forgiveness – he knows he can’t redeem himself. He tells Sansa he would have died to get her there. She realizes he’s not coming and hugs him. Theon cries. Cut to see Brienne looking choked up. I’m choked up. Theon asks if he can have one of the horses, and for some reason that makes me even sadder. You’re killing me, Alfie Allen. Sansa asks Theon where he’ll go. ‘Home’ he replies.

Which leads us right to the Iron Islands, where Balon Greyjoy and Yara have apparently spent the last couple of seasons in a room dithering over invasion strategy. Jesus. I almost miss Dorne. Anyway, this scene is really just a segue into the real action; Balon’s brother Euron Greyjoy arrives home after years abroad, and decides to celebrate by tossing Balon off a bridge. Meh. After Roose and The Thing That Happened in the Kennels and Theon leaving Sansa, my emotional fuse has shorted out and I might as well be watching the Greyjoys play Badminton.

Back to the Wall, where Melisandra is in her room, emo-ing out in front of the fireplace. Ser Davos comes in all sheepish, as if he’s about to hit her up for a loan. Melisandre asks him what the fuck he wants. He’s all ‘Erm…whaddya say we make Jon Snow not dead?’. There’s a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of Game of Thrones fans suddenly cried out in agreement. But the Red Woman is still suffering a crisis of confidence, and you know what that means: it’s time for one of Ser Davos’s rousing motivational speeches. Alliser Thorne should take notes from this guy.

Cut to Jon Snow’s naked body. For the sake of modesty and Kit Harington’s no-nudity clause, they’ve given him a tiny, hilarious loincloth.

The Red Woman gives Jon a sponge bath and a haircut while Ser Davos, Tormund and Edd look on. She then places her hands on Jon’s chest and chants a Valyrian spell over and over. Nothing happens.

Tormund gives Davos stink-eye and storms out. Melisandre gives up and leaves too. Ser Davos lingers a little longer, admiring Kit Harington’s ability to keep his six-pack flexed for hours at a time. Then he leaves too and closes the door behind him.

Now there’s only Ghost, asleep on the floor. Seconds pass before the direwolf’s ears suddenly prick up. We cut to Jon Snow. Wait for it….wait for it…BINGO! Jon Snow rises again! Azor Ahai reborn! Melisandre back in the game! Twitter in meltdown!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Game of Thrones S601: The Red Woman

We open on the Wall and descend into Castle Black, where Ghost is howling up a storm. And there’s Jon Deady-McDead-Dead Snow, right where we left him at the end of season 5. We linger on his deadness a moment to fully absorb the waxy finality in Kit Harington’s (DEAD) doe eyes; I’m half expecting some sort of neon ClipArt arrow graphic to appear onscreen along with a blinking SEE??! beside it.

Liars.

Yay, Sir Davos! He discovers Jon Snow and quickly has his (DEAD! REEEEEALLLLY DEAD!) body moved to a private cell so that it can be safely preserved for Beric Dondarrion to revive him in several episodes’ time placed in a locked room for no apparent reason. While Davos stares at the blood-soaked snow like he suddenly has a craving for a slushee, Dolorous Edd and friends move their Lord Commander’s body to a dark room, where Sir Davos tells Edd to spring Ghost from his kennel. Woooot, Ghost! EAT OLLIE, BOY!

The Red Woman arrives and appears upset and confused by Jon Snow’s death; she saw him in her fires, fighting at Winterfell. Meanwhile I’m struggling with an internal battle; I was gutted when Melisandre burned Princess Shireen, but now I’m all TEAM R’HLLOR! because I want her to save Jon Snow. The night is dark and full of moral ambiguity.

Now we head South to Winterfell, where the dreaded Ramsay is lamenting over Myranda’s broken body. No moral ambiguity with this one; I played and replayed the moment Myranda hit the ground and shattered like a dropped Crunchie bar last season and cheered every time. Just as Ramsay’s shred of humanity is starting to make me uncomfortable, he tells his maester to feed her to her father’s dogs. Phew.

Next, Roose and Ramsay are having a post-battle huddle, and Roose is digging his finger into Ramsay’s one true fear; losing his place as heir to Winterfell. He chastises Ramsay for having played games with Sansa and Theon that ultimately led to their escape. I love the way Roose is the only one who manages to mess with Ramsay’s head the way Ramsay does with everyone else. This scene feels like it’s foreshadowing something though. Ramsay murdering his father? Or killing his father’s Frey wife and their unborn child? Some heinous plan is surely brewing beneath Ramsay’s resentment, but for now he reassures his father that his hounds are full of fresh Myranda-meat and chomping at the bit to track down Sansa and Theon.

And now we come to the best part of the entire episode; a scene I felt marked the death of Reek, the restoration of Theon Greyjoy and the start of Sansa-Motherfucking-Stark, Princess of Power.

Sansa and Theon are running through the snow, pursued by Bolton soldiers and Ramsay’s hounds. They find refuge beneath a dead tree. There’s a really lovely moment when Theon hugs Sansa, and for the first time in six goddamned seasons we see her finally able to take comfort in another person.

Well, for a second or two. Then we hear the hounds. Theon urges Sansa to head North to the Wall where Jon is Lord Commander (Um…yeah. About that…) before handing himself over in an attempt to save her. He tells the Bolton soldiers that Sansa’s dead, but the hounds know the truth and lead Bolton’s men to her. Admittedly she was only three feet away.

Then, just as you think Sansa’s storyline is headed right back to sadistic shitsville, Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne arrive to save the day. The Bolton soldiers attack but Brienne’s all, bitch please, I killed THE HOUND.

In the midst of all the Brienne-carving-up-Bolton-arse, Theon also manages to relocate his figurative nads and stick a sword through one of the soldiers, saving Pod in the process.

I really, really enjoyed this entire scene. I’m trying to think back to the last time something good happened to a character I like on this show. Erm…Hodor dispelling with Noah The-Year-My-Voice-Broke Taylor’s vindictive character Locke back in season 4 was nice. But really, this feels like the first time one of the show’s most brutalized characters has caught a break. I’m hoping we get more moments like this in season 6, and if they’re taking requests I’d like to see Sansa borrow Longclaw from Jon and personally cut Ramsay’s head off. Fingers crossed.

Anyhow, Brienne swears fealty to Sansa, Sansa does the vice-versa bit with a little help from Pod, and there’s a collective global sigh of thank-fuck-for-that from GOT fans everywhere.

Now we’re off to King’s Landing, where Cersei is catching the breeze on her newly-shorn neck. She receives word that a ship from Dorne has entered the harbor, and races off to meet Jaime and Myrcella with a genuine, not-the-result-of-taking-terrible-vengeance-on-someone smile on her face. Awwww. That actually does make the inevitable all the more heartbreaking.

As the boat rows ashore we see Jaime standing in front, and behind him is the body of Myrcella, shrouded in gold as the witch prophesied. The happiness falls from Cersei’s face like a curtain, replaced by grief and resignation. I have to say, Lena Headey gives Cersei a depth of character that the books never quite reach. Especially in the next scene, when she acknowledges that her daughter was good and pure, without jealousy or meanness – and thus completely unlike her in every way. You get the sense that part of Cersei understands her own monstrosity and longs for redemption.

Buuuuuut she wants vengeance more, and Jaime is on board: ‘Fuck everyone who isn’t us!’. I wonder if he’ll be singing the same tune if/when he finds out about Cersei’s former play-dates with recently-born-again-psychopath cousin Lancel?

Suddenly Dorne, where Ellaria Sand is sucking up to Doran Martell as they take yet another leisurely stroll through the gardens. Is it just me, or is Dorne basically a retirement village with really expensive tiles?

Wait, there’s been a raven! As the messenger approaches, Ellaria is all sheeeiiiiiit. Doran barely finishes reading the note before Tyene stabs Areo Hotah. Then Ellaria stabs Doran. Then Tyene skewers the messenger before he can run off and dob. Then Ellaria stabs Tyene. Then a guard cuts off Ellaria’s head. Then another guard stabs him. And the cycle continues until everyone in Dorne is dead, not Jon-Snow-dead but for-realsies-dead, because NO ONE FUCKING CARES ABOUT DORNE. No One. Dorne is the Albion Park of Westeros; you drive through it because you have to but you don’t get out of the car, for fuck’s sake.

Fine. Ellaria stabs Doran, Doran dies, and it becomes apparent that this season we’ll be forsaking yet more focus on much better storylines and character arcs in order to watch the ever-irritating Sand Snakes play smacky-hands or whatever.

Ugh, speaking of which…we cut to see the other two enter Prince Trystane’s cabin aboard his ride home. The Prince is painting an eyeball on a rock. Either this is some sort of abstract fan shout-out that I don’t understand, or Prince Trystane peaked in Dornish kindergarten. Either way it doesn’t matter; Surly Whale Rider Snake spears him through the head, and we’re all out of Martells.

Now to Bravos, where Arya Stark has become Blind Girl, begging on the streets. The Waif shows up and beats the shit out of her. I turn to my husband and express frustration that Arya has been training with the Faceless men in Bravos for about three years now. He tells me she’s only been there since the beginning of Season 5. Seriously, The House of Black and White plotline is like when you bump into your super-chatty neighbour and they keep talking and talking and you’re trying to wind the conversation up whenever there’s a pause but it spirals out of your control and before you know it they’re on a tangent about how their second cousin worked in banking but now they breed show poodles and sell party decorations out of their guest room. My point being: it’s been too fucking long. Hurry up and let Arya start on that kill list.

Woooot! Tyrion! Walking with Varys quite openly through the deserted and dangerous streets of Meereen. But according to Tyrion it’s fine, because they’re dressed differently. Varys tells Tyrion he walks like a rich man regardless and he would have robbed him once upon a time. Then there’s banter about Varys having no penis. Then Tyrion awkwardly offers money to a peasant woman to help her feed her baby, but Varys has to step in because Tyrion’s Valyrian is so bad. I love these two characters, but this scene is weirdly sitcom-esque and wooden. It gets better when Tyrion and Varys discover the Mother of Dragons’ entire fleet burning in the harbour. Either a dragon sneezed without covering its mouth, or the Sons of the Harpy are gearing up for war.

Cut to Jorah Mormont and Daario picking through Drogon’s leftovers. They then discover Daenerys’ ring and deduce that she’s been taken by a Dothraki horde. There’s also chatter about Jorah’s unrequited love for her and how Daario wants to live long enough to see what the world looks like once she’s finished conquering it. Jorah’s all ‘yeah, me too! Totes!’ before sneaking a peek at the progress of the deadly greyscale creeping up his arm. His destiny as the first-ever statue commemorating the friend zone draws ever closer.

Speaking of Khaleesi, she’s back in the Dothraki ‘hood. Unfortunately as a captive, but surely not for long – I have a feeling Drogon is going to swing by for a horsie happy meal sometime soon. But for now Daenerys is stumbling along with the rest of the slaves the Dothraki have taken hostage. Two Dothraki keep a close eye on her whilst behaving like teenage jerks, unaware that she can understand every word. They present her to Khal Moro, and there’s more humorous Dothraki banter about how seeing a beautiful woman naked for the first time is one of the top 5 greatest pleasures in life. It’s fun dialogue, but do you remember when the Dothraki were fearsome and vicious? Me too. Now they’re like shirtless Shakespearean fools.

Back to Castle Black. Dolorous Edd is off enlisting the help of the wildlings. Alliser Thorne is trying to convince Sir Davos and the other Jon Snow loyalists to open up: ‘I promise I haven’t got every man in the Night’s Watch pointing a crossbow at you right now, wink wink!.’ Sir Davos asks for some mutton first. I could listen to Liam Cunningham say the word ‘mutton’ for hours. Anyway, it’s a diversionary tactic; he knows Thorne is bullshitting. The men wonder what to do next, and Davos suggests bringing in the Red Woman, cos she’s a child-burning badass.

We cut to Melisandre herself to find her having a Bridget Jones All-By-Myself moment in her room. Her King is gone, her faith has been rocked, and the veracity of her visions is in doubt. What’s a girl to do? Undress and stare at her unbelievably perfect rack in the mirror, of course. But then Melisandre takes off her necklace, and we see the Red Woman’s true form. And holy shit, she looks exactly how I felt after giving birth; like a 1000-year-old deflated balloon. Chin up, Red Woman! All will be forgiven once you restore the Bastard of Winterfell to life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Chewie, Our Good Boy.

Our boy Chewie wasn’t an easygoing dog.

He was accident-prone from the beginning and seemingly without any sense of self-preservation, an attribute that led to his parents jumping fully clothed into a local canal – not once, but twice in quick succession – in order to rescue him from a watery end. He always did love a swim.

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Sheepish post-canal-jump.

He was a smart boy, but resistant to training. He preferred to apply his brains to devising new methods of obtaining forbidden or inaccessible food.

To be honest, it didn’t even have to be actual food. He once got through three quarters of a full bag of Dynamic Lifter at my Mum’s place before we realized what was happening. The 3am digestive repercussions of that little incident will be forever preserved in our memories, if not in the carpet.

But over the years my husband worked tirelessly with him, and they reached a happy compromise; Chewie would do pretty much whatever Brendan wanted, assuming he was paid handsomely and immediately in treats.

But equally, I don’t think there was anyone he wanted to please more than his daddy.

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Brendan coaxing Chewie into the water for his first beach swim

And strong-willed. I thought I knew stubborn when I saw it, but he redefined it for me. When we picked him up from the breeder, she warned us: ‘He’ll train you before you train him!’. We scoffed at this and went on our merry way, confident in our ability to handle one small – albeit naughty -puppy.

She was right.

He trained us to abandon the puppy crate he hated so much. He trained us to accept his position as forever-inside-dog. He trained me to relinquish my his favourite blanket and to not even think of eating an apple without splitting it 50/50 with him (okay, fine – more like 70/30 in his favour). He trained us to happily accept our tiny allotment of couch while he spread-eagled himself across the lion’s share.

He did all this and much more through positive reinforcement: he was sweetest, funniest, most sensitive dog you’d ever meet. Yes, he was challenging, but his spirit was part of what made him so unique.

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Bedhead Chewie

 

 

And he was a bull in a china shop of course, but kind of like Ferdinand in temperament – only instead of wanting to smell the flowers, he just wanted to be with his humans and eat pizza.

How he loved pizza. And consequently, the doorbell. He learned to associate the sound with impending pizza, which says a lot about our dietary habits.

In turn, the pizza delivery guy – and eventually the Thai and Chinese delivery guys – learned to associate our house with a large fur-hurricane who desperately wanted to introduce himself (and take any food off their hands). The poor bastards would drop off our order and leg it out the front gate as quickly as possible. They weren’t to know Chewie wouldn’t hurt a fly (he’d happily hurt cockroaches though. For some reason he liked to kill them with a giant paw-swat and then work at squishing them flat as a pancake by repeatedly rolling over them on his back).

He also loved cauliflower. Pineapple. Hunting for earplugs like some sort of truffle pig and gobbling them up. Discarded kebab wrappers. ‘Helping’ me in the garden (read: eating my garden trowel). Sydney Park at 6am. Deliciously cool puddles he could plonk himself into. Curling up on my pillow not a minute after being expressly forbidden to do so. Stealing toilet rolls from the bathroom and burying them in the backyard. Have you ever seen 35 kilos of sheepish puppy trying to slink beneath your radar with a roll of Sorbent double-ply in his mouth?

He never failed to make us laugh. Sometimes I’d walk into the bathroom and find him randomly standing in the bathtub, as if he’d been waiting for me. God knows why.

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He had a face that enabled him to get away with nearly anything, including: stealing and eating entire cartons of eggs, digging up freshly planted trees, burying his dad’s favourite t-shirt in the yard (and faithfully returning it in an advanced state of decomposition six months later), liberating whole burger patties from the dining table, feasting upon snails while lying ON OUR BED, and – last but not least – wolfing down his own poo just before burping in my face.

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Digging? Who, me? Nope.

His charms even worked on complete strangers. During one particularly  embarrassing trip to the park, he stole a little girl’s sandwich right out of her hands. She cried. Her Dad had every right to be angry of course, but he took one look at Chewie and let it go.

He had that effect on people.

He was famous around the neighbourhood and at the local dog parks. People knew his name long before they knew ours, which I loved. Dogs bring out the humanity in people in a way that other people don’t.

Our local burger joint even got into the habit of cooking him his own ‘Chewie Burger’ whenever we’d show up with him in tow. They’d pack it in a little box with a drawing of him on the lid. It got to the point where we’d walk past the place on one of our early morning jaunts and he’d splay himself down on the footpath outside, refusing to move. It took a lot to convince him a Chewie Burger wasn’t forthcoming at 6am.

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And without fail, every time we took him out for walk people would stop us in the street to ask us his name, what kind of dog he was and whether they could pat him (many tried, but unless there were edible bribes on offer he was notoriously aloof with strangers…just another one of his many eccentricities).

So despite being a stubborn, highly neurotic tub-of-guts kleptomaniac who would happily sell you out for half a bag of organic fertiliser, it was hard not to fall in love with him.

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Chewie was only six months old when he had his first seizure. He was on the bed with me at the time (how well he trained his humans!). It was – and still is – one of the most violent things I’ve ever seen. I woke up to the feel of him thrashing against my back, and turned on the light to find him coiled up and convulsing. His jaws were locked open and ropes of saliva flew from his mouth as his whole body shuddered. His legs stuck out at odd angles while his paws paddled at the air, and he lost control of his bladder.

It was a sight we were to become familiar with, but it never got easier to watch.

I’ll never forget the look on his face when he came out of that first seizure – the confusion and shock and vulnerability. It broke my heart. I couldn’t even explain to him why he felt bad.

The vet diagnosed genetic epilepsy, an incurable disease all too common in purebred dogs. The treatment approach is to minimize the seizures as much as possible, not just because they’re individually traumatic, but because they’re cumulative; the more seizures a dog has, the more their brain learns to have them. And as a consequence, the more likely it is that they will go into status epilepticus – a state where the dog starts convulsing and doesn’t stop, leading to overheating that literally ‘cooks’ them from the inside-out.

Thus began our battle to keep the dreaded seizure monster at bay.

We tried the standard medications: Phenomav, Bromide, and eventually Kepra.

We put him on a raw food diet. We tried giving him fish oil. We tried icing his neck when a seizure started. We tried avoiding or pre-empting suspected ‘triggers’ – things like chemical flea treatments, household cleaners and extreme weather/temperature changes.

We tried keeping his weight down so that the meds would work more efficiently (no easy feat when you have a dog that will happily devour a tennis ball cover and several of his own poo bags if there’s nothing else on offer. Yes, that actually happened and it all came out the other end in one go, along with several earplugs).

Bromide was the most effective of all – it gave us Chewie’s longest seizure-free period. In late 2012 he went three whole months without having one, and it was amazing. He was his most joyful, naughty, robust self during that time, and we felt like we were getting a hold on the disease.

But eventually, the dam always broke. We’d wake up in the middle of the night to Chewie’s distressed barking at the bottom of the stairs – it was his way of telling us he’d had a seizure and needed our help.

Often we’d hear his initial collapse and make it in time to get a cushion under his head so it didn’t thrash against the floor. Then we’d hold him, stroke his rigid body and talk to him through the convulsions – tell him he was a good boy and that it was time to come back to us.

Eventually the seizure would end and his body would go limp and still – all but for his tail. His tail would start thumping on the floor when he realised we were there.

Sometimes the after-effects of a seizure were mild and all he’d need to recover was something to eat to get his blood sugar up. But more often than not he wasn’t so lucky; he’d come out of the seizure completely blind, disoriented and covered in his own urine. One of us would hold his collar and pace the floors with him so that he didn’t injure himself. He’d often slip into a second ‘aftershock’ seizure after a few minutes.

I don’t know how many times during those black, still hours between 12 and 5am I watched Brendan lift Chewie into the bathtub and wash him clean so he wouldn’t have to go back to bed covered in his own wee. And I think that, even though we had our first baby just months ago, it was Chewie that made us parents.

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I don’t want to focus too much more on the horror of the seizures, because they weren’t the main part of sharing life with Chewie. His joy and character were the main parts, the best parts of having him. But I loved him, our brave, funny, crazy boy, and I guess I just want to share what he went through.

He was a brutal literary critic. When we weren’t watching he’d select a book from the shelf and – with great relish – proceed to tear the pages out one by one and toss them over his head until they covered the entire floor. Weirdly, he’d go through phases where he’d only eat the books of one particular author before moving onto the next. I still wonder how he differentiated between them.

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One of Chewie’s book reviews.

And once, in a fantastic demonstration of irony, he actually ate his own homework from puppy school (along with a book titled ‘In Defence of Dogs’).

‘Mr Bacca’ (my niece Kasey gave him this nickname as a puppy and it stuck) also had a raging social life outside of his home life with us, a circle of people who loved him and helped us take care of him from almost the day we brought him home.

Everyone at Mutley Crew (Sydney’s best doggy daycare) looked after our boy like he was their own, and I guess in part he was. They were his daytime family. They picked him up and brought him home each day, looked after him when we went away, counted out his pills and made sure he swallowed them, and kept an eye on him when he wasn’t well (and towards the end that was nearly all the time). They’d even take him to our vet (the amazing Annandale Veterinary Hospital, where everyone knew Chewie by name) if he was unwell while we were at work. They were his humans too, and he dug his way into their hearts (and probably buried t-shirts there). He collected so many of us, the special boy.

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Chewie on his first birthday – complete with puppy-friendly cake.

 

 

Last June, while I was still in hospital after having given birth to our daughter, Chewie was on his way home with his (human) buddy Jason, when he started seizing in Jason’s truck. This escalated into cluster seizures – where the seizures come one after another with barely any time in between.

Jason raced our boy to the vet, where they managed to break him out of the seizure cycle. But the prognosis wasn’t good. Chewie’s epilepsy was getting out of control, and after several years we’d exhausted most of our treatment options.

The last hope on the medication front was a relatively new pill known as Kepra. We decided to give it a shot.

Kepra proved to be effective, but there was a catch. In order to keep the seizures at bay, we had to have Chewie on a dosage so high that he was constantly doped to the eyeballs – to the point where he started walking in his own excrement and his back legs began collapsing.

After a month or so on the highest possible dose, he (unbeknownst to us) developed excruciating pancreatitis, which left him unwilling to eat (unheard of in Chewie-world) and even worse, unable to swallow his pills. This led to our worst nightmare, status epilepticus.

At the end of a quiet day at home with me, Chewie went into a seizure on our kitchen floor. I put my daughter in her bassinet, shoved a pillow under Chewie’s head and wrapped my arms around him. But unlike previous seizures, he didn’t fully surface. The convulsions would slow down, only to rev up again, and again, and again.

With our baby girl screaming in the living room and Chewie still thrashing on the floor, I raced to grab his emergency Valium and injected him with it. It took about 15 minutes to take effect, but finally the convulsions slowed, then stopped. He came to and got up on his feet; I picked my daughter up and we watched as Chewie (high as a kite – his pupils were the size of 5-cent pieces) tried to ‘walk it off’, pacing from one end of the backyard to the other.

Even after this, it took time to reach a decision we’d always considered out of the question.

The smaller moments tipped us over, in the end. Watching him struggle to get up in the morning for the walks he’d always loved. Seeing him face-plant into the ground trying to chase his toys. Force-feeding him his 13 pills a day (even hiding them in mince meat didn’t work anymore, the cheeky sod would spit them out when we weren’t looking). Watching him loiter in the kitchen (which he liked to do in the off chance that there would be scraps on offer, or perhaps pate on crackers – another treat we liked to share), but struggle to stay upright on the floor tiles as his back legs buckled beneath him.

We made the agonising decision to let our boy go.

 

One sunny afternoon in early October, we took Chewie to the local doggy beach at Jubilee Park for a swim. His legs wobbled on the steps on the way down to the sand, but he managed to enjoy a quick dip and even tried to give chase to some of the other dogs.

That night for dinner, he got a whole pizza to himself.

We got up early the next day and drove to Sydney Park for our morning walk. This had been our beloved weekend ritual for over three years. It sounds trite and cheap when I put it into writing, but those early morning walks around that park with my husband and my dog – my little family – were some of the most joyous times of my life. And it was Chewie’s favourite place in the world, aside from maybe the couch and our bed.

On this occasion – as on many previous occasions – he found himself a delightfully muddy puddle to roll in.

We came home. I sat outside with Chewie and fed him an ice cream while we waited for the vet to arrive.

I can’t bring myself to go into detail about the rest of that morning, and I guess it’s not really necessary.  What I will say is that Chewie passed away peacefully and painlessly, with our arms wrapped around him, eating the last of his pizza.

Goodbye, my boy. I think about you every day. It seems I can’t cut up a cauliflower without thinking about you, or eat gelato, or bite into an apple, or walk past your favourite park – the one with the puddles under the swings.

I still can’t hear the damned doorbell ring without expecting to see you scream down the hallway, jumping out of your skin with excitement at the prospect of some irresistible delicacy coming through that door.

I remember the earthy smell of your paw pads. I remember the wet, rough surface of your nose. I remember the warmth of your big belly; I used to warm my hands on it in winter. I remember the silky feel of your ears and how you would nudge my hands when you wanted me to rub them.

No more nasty pills. No more shaking legs. No waking up blind and frightened, and no more muscles torn from convulsions.  The seizure monster is gone, vanquished. You can rest now.

You were naughty, funny, stubborn, eccentric, ever-hungry and always an individual. But most of all, you were our good boy. We love you. We miss you.

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The pregnant Hangry Wife

It’s been a while since we arrived home from our U.S adventure, and while I had every intention of continuing to post regularly, those good intentions got sucked up by the scary-noisy vacuum nozzle that is the pre-Christmas lead-up. Work got crazy. Weekends were packed out. And amongst all of that, I got busy working on a very different project.

The truth is, we brought more through Customs than we officially declared, and I’m not talking about an antique rug from New Mexico that we most certainly did not purchase, wrap in protective plastic and bury in our luggage beneath a pile of cowboy boots. No siree, Bob.

We are having a baby. Or potentially a large fruit salad, if the endless fruit-size comparisons on the internet are anything to go by. Mini-Clegg is currently at navel orange stage. Or, as one of my favourite pregnancy sites puts it, he/she is ‘the size of a ramekin of tartar sauce’.

Now I’m in my blessed second trimester and, as most sources promised, the queasiness, fatigue and ferocious emotional instability are finally levelling out. Despite having had family members and friends go through pregnancy, I didn’t really know what to expect from the first trimester, other than what the books/websites outlined. But my, how they sanitise things.

In fact, reading about what to expect from the first trimester is kind of like getting on an earthquake simulator at Questacon prior to living through an 8.5-on-the-Richter-Scale on top of a New Zealand fault line. My husband would probably (and justifiably) add some Exorcist-style head twisting and There-is-no-Dana-only-Zuul devil-speak to that analogy.

So now, safely cocooned in the much calmer waters of my second trimester, I give you my take on the first trimester of pregnancy:

 

Crying. So much crying.

In fact, crying was one of the first things that tipped us off at the start. Mostly because I did it for no reason. For an hour. In the bath. In New York, in the middle of the afternoon.  It was like a pop-up stage performance of ‘Girl, Interrupted’ in our hotel bathroom. Don’t I know how to show my husband a good time?

Since then, I’ve cried watching Youtube (admittedly – dog videos). I’ve cried eating chicken – for absolutely no reason. Crying in the bath is standard, presumably because mini-Clegg wants me to add some cold. I’ve cried browsing the Bonds clothing website. I’ve cried because it’s more than 30-degrees outside.  I sobbed – actually sobbed – when my trolley hit one of the fruit stands in Coles. Special thanks to the guy who left his sons with the trolley to come over and ask if I was okay. When I choked out that I was pregnant, a look of comprehension/amusement/fear dawned on his face, as if he was thinking ‘Christ…I remember this‘. But he was kind to the crazy pregnant lady.  And despite my rational internal voice telling me to STOP.CRYING.CRAZY WOMAN, I cried all the way to the self-checkout. I completely lost it while scanning my items and paying, and continued all the way home. Yup, I became the crazy person I try to avoid on public transport.

A male friend of mine once told me a story about how his pregnant wife cried because he cooked the bacon the wrong way.  At the time I laughed – now I wish I’d kicked him in the shins and revoked his bacon privileges.

Note: The crying may not be over completely. I just cried a minute ago watching this clip on YouTube.

 

The first trimester is kind of like having a hangover for three months

You’re tired, listless, queasy and you’re not sure if eating will improve things or actually kill you, because your stomach behaves like a moody teenage girl now and SHE DOESN’T WANT TO TALK TO YOU, OKAY? YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND ANYHOW.

But even if you do get a clear message that you are, in fact, hungry – you don’t want a bacon and egg roll. Or a greasy burger. Or cheese. Or nice, slow-energy-releasing wholegrains (HA! AHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh good God no).

No, you want chicken nuggets. Specifically the oven-cremated chicken nuggets the Goulburn North Public School canteen dished up in those little brown paper lunch bags in 1991. That’s it. That’s the one thing you want to eat today, and if those nuggets don’t show themselves, there’s going to be a bath with crying in it.

 

Unless you are or have been pregnant, your knowledge of cracker biscuits is subpar

Cruskits, Country Cheese, Peckish (Plain through to Cheese, Sweet Chilli and Barbecue) and Saladas were my constant companions. Not because I enjoyed them, but because they’re the food equivalent of undercover agents; your stomach is deceived into accepting them because they resemble box packaging. So when my teenager-temperment-stomach revolted at the prospect of anything, but I had to either eat something or forgo consciousness – I’d smash a handful of the crackers that I’d put in the pantry/my bag/the glovebox/on my desk/in my bedside drawer.

I’ll never forget sitting on the couch at 2.30 in the morning (teenage-girl stomach doesn’t care about your beauty sleep), trying to chew quietly so as not to wake anyone up while sharing a pack of Country Cheese biscuits with the dog. He loved the first trimester.

 

They’re not kidding about the peeing.

Again, this was one of the first signs that I was pregnant. The afternoon before we found out, I did a mad dash through the French Quarter of New Orleans, desperately searching for a public restroom. We eventually located a random, dilapidated Portaloo in the middle of one of the backstreets. Just what the pregnant lady ordered.

You really do have to go all the time. In fact, by the time you’ve peed and washed your hands, you’re probably going to need to go again. And there’s no ‘kind of need to’ anymore. You either don’t need to go, or you’re desperate to go RIGHT NOW.

So basically, your day revolves around a busy schedule of peeing, crying and eating crackers. Something like this:

Wake up and pee.

Eat a dry Cruskit. Give the dog one because he looks sad.

Pee again.

Exhausted from both peeing and chewing. Lie down.

OH GOD SO HUNGRY.

But feel sick.

BUT SO HUNGRY.

Pee.

Threaten stomach with avocado to dampen hunger.

Eat a Cruskit while crying at something on the news – possibly a singing dog viral or stock news footage of an old person sitting alone on a park bench. Or maybe the weather radar just looked at you wrong. Whatever.

At around 8.30am I’d break the cracker cycle with a banana, another fantastic decoy device my stomach didn’t seem to revile .  But the need to pee every 20 minutes would continue throughout the day. Silver lining: I have a comprehensive mental map of all known public restrooms in the Sydney area.

 

People are going to say some really stupid things.

I’ve worked in advertising – an industry renowned for its inappropriateness, sexism, nepotism, competitiveness and general wankery – for nearly 10 years now. It’s not all bad – in fact it’s usually heaps of fun and a hell of a lot more enjoyable than data entry or shovelling dirt – but you cannot survive or get ahead in this industry without developing and maintaining a seriously thick skin.   Especially in a creative department, where your boss is usually paid a lot of money to inform you when and why your ideas are complete turds.

So when I was told to expect some insensitive responses and unwanted advice in regards to the pregnancy, I kind of figured I’d be able to shrug it off just fine. Water off a duck’s back and all that.

To quote Obi Wan Kenobi: I was wrong.

The problem is that the early weeks and months of pregnancy strip back your defenses without you realising, leaving you extremely vulnerable to all external input – kind of like a naked snail. Which, when you think about it, is pretty much a slug.

You’re a cracker-munching, crying slug with a bladder problem.

By the time the second trimester rolls around, you’ve gained back some of your protective shell (and sanity… and basic ability to rationalise), and find it far easier to shrug off the stupid things people say. You start to realise that most of it stems from either misguided good intentions or complete cluelessness about how to respond appropriately to your news. Yes, some of it stems from a bad case of the dumb/insensitive, but you can’t do much about that. And the truth is – I’m fairly certain that pre-pregnancy, I said some dumb/insensitive/thoughtless things and offered up ill-informed advice to pregnant friends and family members too. Not out of a desire to be unkind or bossy, but because I was excited and didn’t know any better. Now I do, and I kind of wish I could blanket-email them an apology.

Of course, all of the less-than-stellar stuff above is counteracted by the awesome part: the ultrasound. It is actually a more mind-blowing moment than fictional TV pregnancies prepared you for. Some women cry but I couldn’t stop giggling (joyful giggling, not creepy horror movie giggling, in case you’re wondering). This of course ruined the ultrasound image, but the brief first glimpse of our future offspring was worth choking down a thousand dry Cruskits. Even if they did resemble a chicken nugget…that’s just a coincidence, right?

San Fran and So Long, USA

It’s taken me a while to work up to writing my last USA-based post.

Since arriving back in Australia and stepping back into my everyday existence, I’ve experienced some…let’s call them ‘adjustment and re-acclimatisation issues’ encompassing a range of emotions, including rage, disbelief and irritation at the characteristic rudeness exhibited by Sydney wankers (I was gone for three weeks – three weeks – and the wanker population here seems to have exploded. Did someone feed them? I told you, DON’T FEED THE WANKERS AFTER MIDNIGHT OR THEY TURN INTO HIPSTERS!).

Not to mention some good-old, post-trip existential angst; what are we doing here? Why are we not living on a donkey ranch? This time two weeks ago I was hiking through the ancient chasm of the Grand Canyon and contemplating the infinite stretch of time compared to the insignificant flash that is a human life; now I’m writing ads designed to sell mass-produced, obesity-promoting snack foods to families with the absurd promise that eating them will ‘elevate their mundane social occasions’. WHY AM I HERE WHEN THERE’S NO SAUSAGE GRAVY?!

And so forth.

I think the awesomeness of a trip is directly proportional to the misery you feel upon your return to everyday reality. But then, one of the best things about time spent travelling is the way it allows you to slip out the back door of your own life and contemplate where it’s going from a distance  – and you really do see  more from there than when you’re in the midst of it, buying eggs and setting alarms and having meetings and catching trains.

However, all this angst came long after our visit to San Francisco, where we ended our travels and said farewell to the USA. But to get to San Francisco we had to drive what felt like 5 hours on what felt like a 20-lane highway with what seemed like several thousand of the most alarmingly useless drivers on the planet. Or maybe Californians are born without a frontal lobe or a normal person’s innate fear of death – I don’t know. What I do know is that driving our rented convertible through a stampede of hormonal Velociraptors would have felt less risky in terms of the insurance excess.

Despite the odds, we managed to make it to San Francisco in one piece at around midday on Monday the 10th. By the time we’d said goodbye to silver Bumblebee (the Camaro – I never did get a full-frontal photo of it) and schlepped out of the Alamo rental depot, hanger had reached danger levels. So we caught a cab to our final hotel destination – Hotel Boheme in North Beach- and checked in before heading straight for the Italian restaurant downstairs, where we consumed a barge-load of carbohydrates. I’m talking garlic bread, followed by GARLIC FRIES – topped off with an entire salami pizza.

And that, my friend, is what happens when you eat cafeteria gruel for breakfast in Yosemite followed by a nail-biting, snack-less 5-hour drive across California. You try to kill yourself with carbs. But still – GARLIC FRIES. Crunchy, salty, tongue-titillating, hanger-placating garlic fries. San Francisco introduced me to them and my arteries will never be the same.

After lunch and our subsequent return to being reasonably nice people, we decide to take a short walk down Columbus Avenue to the Bay area, and see if we can spot the Golden Gate Bridge.

Our short walk turned into a 15-kilometre round-walking-tour of San Francisco. We briefly cruised Fisherman’s Wharf before getting the tourist-trap willies and walking further on around the shoreline through Fort Mason and the Marina District. One major observation: Joggers. I have never seen so many people jogging as I did in San Francisco. Cycling was a close second. Before too long we found ourselves a nice little beach with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge – not the best view, but a view. The best view would have required an additional 10km walk and our legs were starting to feel it.

Despite our aching calves, we decide to walk back to our hotel. We toy with the idea of a cab but dismiss this to instead walk up the steepest back-breaking hill we can find. It was punishing – actually more difficult than walking up the Grand Canyon. I found myself wondering how people could live here and do this every day, and then it occurred to me: they don’t, because they’re not masochistic idiots – they take the tram. The silver lining (aside from the pre-dinner cardio workout) was that we got to see loads of those iconic Queen-Anne-style San Franciscan homes, which were quite impressive and made me feel like I was walking around on a movie set.

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We finally made it back to our hotel and rested our weary legs for an hour before heading out for dinner. The guy at our hotel (who I’m 87% sure was called Kevin) pointed us towards a nearby restaurant in Chinatown called The House of Nanking. 87%-Kevin tells us that it’s his favourite Asian restaurant (after nearly three weeks away from Sydney we’re gagging for some good Asian food) and it’s usually packed out with tourists and locals alike.

He’s right. It’s packed. But somehow we manage to walk in just as a single table for two is vacated, which is lucky because my legs are actually refusing to hold me up any longer without some sort of delicious reimbursement. We quickly peruse the menu and order fried shrimp packets, fried pork egg rolls and the Famous Nanking Sesame Chicken with steamed rice. We order the egg rolls because I have a hunch that they’re actually the USA version of spring rolls – and I’m right!

My legs were exceptionally happy.

House of Nanking Brendan

House of Nanking

House of Nanking Em

House of Nanking

We’re due to board our flight home the late the following evening, which leaves us just enough time the next day to go to prison; namely, Alcatraz.

Should you have the opportunity to visit Alcatraz, I highly recommend you pre-book the first-thing-in-the-morning tour. You’ll still end up shoulder-to-shoulder on a ferry packed with other tourists, but when you arrive at Alcatraz you can breeze straight up the hill (unless you’re an imbecile incapable of basic directions and etiquette, you can skip past the ‘mandatory briefing’ they give tourist groups upon arrival)  and walk straight into the audio tour area (the old cell block) without any queues or tourists from previous sessions still swarming the place.

I was a bit sceptical when I heard about the audio tour, because previous audio tours I’d done throughout Europe and the UK had been fairly underwhelming. But the Alcatraz audio was awesome. It’s documentary-style storytelling done by former Alcatraz inmates and guards, which takes you through the history of Alcatraz, the famous criminals who did time there, the failed escape attempt and subsequent bombing of the island during The Battle of Alcatraz in 1946, and the amazing story of three inmates who escaped Alcatraz Shawshank-Redemption-style in 1962, never to be seen again. They either drowned in the strong currents of the San Francisco Bay, or they actually managed to successfully escape Alcatraz and got as far away from San Francisco as possible. They were probably gangster jerks, but I naively still hope they made it – if only because it’s a hell of a story.

We walked around the exercise block, the cells, the prisoner dining room and briefly entered ‘the hole’ – one of Alcatraz’s completely dark solitary confinement cells. I don’t know much about prisons, but Alcatraz certainly wasn’t the Hilton. After a few hours we made our way back to the pier, where 4 million other tourists were just arriving (dear God book the first tour of the day) and jumped on the boat to head home.

Alcatraz island

Alcatraz island

Alcatraz Cell Block

Alcatraz Cell Block

 

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Accommodations

Accommodations

 

Prisoner menu

 

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Guard control room

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Brendan in ‘the hole’.

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Mr Jingles?

 

Selfie on the ferry

Selfie on the ferry

As in – actual home. Sydney-home. We left San Francisco after lunch and made our way out to the airport. Barely 24 hours later (it actually seemed like no time at all because for the first time ever I managed to get a decent night’s sleep on a plane – 8 hours sleep on a 13-hour trip!), we touched down in Sydney, where it was a delightful welcome-home temperature of 34-degrees Celsius.  And even I have to admit – existential angst is a lot easier to deal with when it coincides with the start of a Sydney summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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