Kevin Wetmore is an author and professor at Loyola Marymount University. His books include The Theology of Battlestar Galactica, Post-9/11 Horror in American Cinema, and The Empire Triumphant: Race, Religion, and Rebellion in the Star Wars Films. For more information about Kevin, check out his website, Something Wetmore This Way Comes, and to purchase his non-fiction and fiction books, see Amazon.
A tangential note before we begin: This episode premiered the day George Romero passed away. Romero was a remarkable filmmaker and a kind human being who made movies in Pittsburgh, PA, away from Hollywood. In this episode of GoT, I could not help but think of his influence on our culture when we saw the Night King leading an army of the frozen dead towards the wall – if there had been no Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, then popular culture would be very different. Raise a glass to the man who gave us the modern zombie and so many other fascinating and enjoyable films.
Many tributes have been pouring out over Facebook and other social media. I understand why. First, 2016 has taken a lot from us. Not that every year doesn’t do its fair share of reaping, but this year’s “in memoriam” looms larger than most, I suspect because those of us who are Gen X (the original fanboys and fangirls, thank you) are seeing our childhood literally pass away. We are used to seeing the elderly pass, those whose achievements we have collectively filed in “the past.” But this year seemed to take those still very much present who also shaped our lives. George Michael, Prince, David Bowie, and Glenn Frey - whether or not you cared for their music, they were the soundtrack of childhood and early youth. Nancy Reagan, first lady for most of the eighties, passed away, as did Gene Wilder - the only Willy Wonka for a certain age set - Florence Henderson (C’mon - Mrs. Brady?), and even Kenny Baker - R2-D2 himself. Alan Rickman hit many of us hard - raise a glass to Professor Snape, one of the bravest fictional characters I have ever read. And now, to lose Carrie Fisher right at year’s end seems wrong, somehow - just cruel.
Okay, at this point you HAVE to know there are going to be spoilers here. It’s unavoidable. Like, even here, in this spoiler alert, I’m just going to throw out that the chick in The Crying Game is really a dude, and that Rosebud was Citizen Kane’s sled (and, apparently, William Randolph Hearst’s nickname for his mistress'…know what? Let’s not go there.) The point is: There be spoilers here! You have been warned. No refunds past this point.
For those not inclined to classical music, “The Well-Tempered Clavier” was written by Johann Sebastian Bach in two books, each consisting of a prelude and fugue in each of the 24 major and minor keys in chromatic order from C major to B minor. The “well-tempered” of the title refers to a type of tuning in which the keys will be in tune with one another. An interesting choice of title for an episode that also shows off intricate patterns, fugues, and characters coming in tune with each other. The entire episode is a bravura score, touching on all the keys of the show. Plus, it’s really hard to play.
HBO’s Game of Thrones played the episodic series structure differently. Think back to the number of genre shows that would end their season with a big climax and perhaps a cliffhanger. This structure was de rigueur. (I’m looking at you, Walking Dead and every Star Trek series from the nineties!) Then, along comes GoT and suddenly the penultimate episode (number nine) is the big climax. The finale is for cleanup, reset, and setting up the next season, not as a cliffhanger, but as the next arc of an ongoing story. Westworld might be following this model.
If you have not seen this episode, or if you are waiting to watch the series, STOP READING! IT WILL RUIN IT FOR YOU!!!!
(Oh, and Bruce Willis is dead. That’s why Haley Joel Osment can see him.)
SEE!?! TOLD YOU!!! STOP READING!
Maeve wakes, dresses, and walks the street. Behind her two men bump, turn, and shoot - one falls. She does not even turn. She is fixed and focused. She enters the Mariposa Saloon and Hotel where she is the madame and relieves Clementine of a newcomer who looks like he plays rough. She insults his manhood, taunts him as he prepares to have sex with her, and then encourages erotic asphyxiation by further insulting him while he assaults her. She dies and wakes on the table looking at Felix.
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita.
The opening lines of Dante’s Inferno (which if you have not read, shame on you - go read it and then come back)1, which, roughly translates, “As I had wandered halfway through our life’s way, I found myself in a shadowed wood, for I had lost the straightforward path,” begins an epic journey that takes thirty-three cantos to work its way through nine levels of hell and a whole bunch of sublevels through the craziest landscape you will ever encounter. Hell is full of the famous, the infamous, and the common. Dante keeps fainting, but he keeps going because the woman he loves, Beatrice, sent the poet Virgil to guide him through. Gotta keep going, Virgil reminds him. But Dante, when he is not fainting, is also constantly stopping to chat with the residents of hell.
Whatever happened to Sunday night? Used to be a fanboy/fangirl could enjoy The Simpsons then The X-Files and, if feeling really kooky, maybe watch a late-night rerun of a ST: TNG episode. Now, my goodness, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Preacher, Fear the Walking Dead, Westworld, and Fox’s ongoing animation sort-of-domination have made Sunday a Tivo-filling night. Add in John Oliver, and I’m swamped. [Note to self: Stephen Ogg appears in both The Walking Dead (Simon) and Westworld (Rebus) - crossover character? Is he the thing that ties all of Sunday night’s narratives together? Must watch to see if he shows up in GoT (looks a little Night Watch-y), Simpsons, or Preacher.]1
“It’s a tricky thing - weaving the old into the new.”
Robert Ford to Bernard Lowe
(perhaps speaking of the show itself?)