It's a Knockaert

The ramblings of a football obsessive and Game of Thrones nerd.


Game of Thrones Review: S4E3 “Breaker of Chains”

After the brilliant opening episode, and the dramatic shock in last week’s episode, you could say we were due a slightly more boring episode, and we got one. This week’s episode featured a lot of conversations and not a whole lot of plot progression, but worse than that, there was a pretty awful change from the books that has enraged a hell of a lot of people. Spoilers to come.

We picked up immediately from the end of episode two, with Joffrey’s dead face staring right at us. As Tyrion was arrested, Sansa made a frantic escape with Ser Dontos onto Littlefinger’s ship. It’s the first time Sansa has left King’s Landing since she arrived there way back in season one, and this is where her character really starts to come into it’s own in the books. Hopefully seeing her change as a character will sway the people who still absurdly consider her annoying and weak. Littlefinger remains incredibly creepy.

Margaery and Olenna have a brief conversation about death, which wasn’t as interesting as it sounds, and then we were in the sept with Cersei, Tywin, the new king Tommen and Joffrey’s corpse. Tywin and Tommen had an interesting conversation about what makes a good king, and then it was time for the scene that many fans had been waiting for – Jaime and Cersei having sex in the sept. However, although it was consensual in the books, and the director and writer of the episode claim it was meant to be portrayed as consensual, this was very clearly rape. A really poorly done scene which has quite rightly made a lot of people angry.

After not seeing them last week, we then back with the Hound and Arya. They met a farmer and his daughter and had dinner with them, before the Hound robbed and beat the farmer up – despite claiming not to be a thief in episode one. I’m starting to agree with the writer of this tumblr post – – that Arya is becoming something of a comic relief character, and that they have missed out on a lot of her character development, such as her mourning her family, and how she got offended when people thought the Hound was her father – now they’ve got her claiming he is her father herself. Arya never stops hating the Hound in the book, but the show has her almost as his side-kick.

We then had some pretty boring scenes with Sam and Gilly that dragged on far too long, on either side of a scene with Stannis and Davos. Stannis was a lot more interesting this week, pulling out the “I will not become a page in someone else’s history book” line from the trailers, and then a scene with Davos and Shireen that seemed to set in motion where this particular storyline is heading this season – to Braavos. This is a totally new direction from the books, hopefully it will work out alright.

Then we were treated to yet another scene of Oberyn in a brothel, before Tywin comes to ask him to serve as a judge in Tyrion’s trial, and denies telling the Mountain to kill Oberyn’s sister Elia – although he does not deny that it was the Mountain who killed her, as he did in the book. One issue I have with this scene is that Tywin is far too proud to lower himself to going and visiting someone in a brothel – he would have summoned them to him. Pedro Pascal is still playing Oberyn really well however, getting better every week I feel.

Then we came to my personal highlight of the episode, Podrick going to visit Tyrion in his cell. They discussed his trial, and how Podrick was bribed with a knighthood to testify against Tyrion, which he refused. Tyrion told him to escape King’s Landing before it was too late. It was a really moving scene, I had a tear in my eye when Tyrion said “There has never been a more loyal squire.”

Then there was a pretty brutal scene of the wildlings massacring some people living near the wall. The Night’s Watch want to go and defend them, but Jon and Alliser Thorne remind them that that is what the wildling’s want – to draw them out and pick them off. Then, Grenn and Dolorous Edd returned from beyond the wall, where they were being held prisoner at Craster’s Keep. Jon points out that if the wildling army finds the Keep, they will find out how few men there are at Castle Black, and that they should go and kill them. Another deviation from the books, but this one looks more promising.

The episode ended, as they so often do, with Dany. She approaches Meereen – alone, on a horse, a very easy target for any decent archer – and they send out their champion. Since Strong Belwas has been written out, it was expected that Daario would be her champion, and this proved to be correct. However the champion’s fight was over very quickly and felt very anticlimactic. She then gave a speech to the slaves about how she was not their enemy, the slaver’s are their enemies. I find it hard to believe that the slavers would have just stood there and let her put rebellious thoughts into the slave’s heads, which ruined the realism of the scene for me. She then sent barrels full of broken chains flying into the city with catapults – sending a pretty clear message to the slaves, and the moment that gave the episode it’s name.



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Game of Thrones Review: S4E2 “The Lion and the Rose”

It’s only the second episode of the season and we’ve been hit with an absolutely jaw-dropping episode that is sure to have shocked the non-readers. Yes, the long-awaited ‘Purple Wedding’ has arrived, but did it live up to the huge expectations placed on it? Spoilers to come.

Viewers everywhere rejoiced, because Joffrey Baratheon, King of the Seven Kingdoms and one of the most hated characters in television history, is dead. After the heartbreaking deaths of  Robb and Catelyn Stark, it was about time a villain died and this felt like some sort of justice for our fallen heroes. However, it was slightly soured by fan favourite Tyrion being falsely accused of poisoning his wine and being arrested. The real killer is not made obvious, and non-readers must be scratching their heads trying to figure out who did the deed – it’s not as if Joffrey lacked for enemies.

The Royal wedding took up a large part of the episode, and with so many characters flitting around there was lots of opportunites for character interactions we didn’t see in the books. The ones that stood out where Jaime and Loras trading barbs, Cersei giving Pycelle a piece of her mind and Oberyn’s thinly-veiled attack on Tywin. Less interesting where Brienne’s interactions with Margaery and Cersei – Brienne didn’t appear for most of the second part of A Storm of Swords, so the show runners are having to come up with lots of new material to give her enough screen time, and it shows. The wedding went sour when Joffrey unveiled his five dwarves who re-enacted the war of the five kings, which was rather uncomfortable to watch – as was probably his intention. Overall, I felt a little underwhelmed by the wedding, but that was probably just because of the massive amount of anticipation I had for it.

Earlier in the episode, the character interaction I have been looking forward to most took place – Bronn and Jaime training at swordplay. As they are my two favourite characters, I was delighted they would be sharing scenes, and it didn’t disappoint. Hopefully we will see a lot more of them together. Later on, Tyrion sent Shae away to Pentos on a boat – this is a very strong deviation from the books, as Shae is involved in an important scene near the end, which surely won’t be written out. Hopefully D & D know what they’re doing with this storyline.

We also spent some time with the Bolton family and their pet, Reek. Roose returned to the Dreadfort, and chastised Ramsay for mutilating Theon, who was a valuable hostage. Ramsay revealed to Theon that Robb was dead while Theon had a knife to his throat – that Theon did nothing showed how Ramsay has truly broken him. Roose also finds out that Bran and Rickon are alive, and sends Locke out to catch them. This is an interesting deviation from the books. We also saw Ramsay on one of his hunts, with his show-only girlfriend Myranda. Whatever your thoughts on them, Ramsay and Roose are always entertaining to watch.

We also caught up with Team Dragonstone – what I felt was the weakest part of the episode. Their scenes felt rather pointless, as if D & D just wanted to remind us that Stannis and his family exist. Selyse was annoying, Stannis and Davos had the most boring writing possible, but Melisandre was her usual cool self. She had probably the best line of the episode, to Shireen: “There is only one hell Princess. The one we live in now.”

Finally, we caught up with Bran and Co. north of the wall. He had his first experience with a weirwood tree, and we saw a cool vision sequence. A lot of book fans are up in arms that Coldhands seems to have been written out, but I don’t get the hype around him personally, and I don’t think he is that big a loss.


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Game of Thrones Review: S4E1 “Two Swords”

We’ve waited 10 long months for the biggest show on TV to return to our screens, and just like that the first episode is done already. But what an episode it was, setting the tone brilliantly for what is bound to be one of the best seasons of TV ever made. Based on the second half of the third book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, there are so many huge events to come in the next nine weeks we should be blown away.

Spoilers for the episode to come obviously.

The episode began with Lord Tywin Lannister melting down Ned Stark’s greatsword Ice into two smaller swords for Jaime and Joffrey. With The Rains of Castamere playing, and Tywin taking the wolf scabbard and dropping it into the fire, it sent a very obvious message about the focus of the show switching from the Starks to the Lannisters. An amazing opening scene.

Into the opening titles, which included two new locations of the map: Meereen, the next slaver’s city that Dany has set her sights on destroying, and the Dreadfort, the infamous stronghold of House Bolton. This being added to the map, and the amount of material of Roose and Ramsay we have seen in trailers, suggests that they will be quite important characters in their own right this season.

We then see Tywin presenting Jaime with his new sword. Jaime is pleased with it, but the feeling is slightly spoiled when his father commands him to return to Casterly Rock to rule in his stead – away from Cersei and Tyrion, and meaning he would have to leave the Kingsguard. “You would have me break another oath?” Jaime asks. He refuses, and Tywin disowns him. This scene could have packed more of an emotional punch I felt – Jaime was the only child that Tywin was in any way proud of, and disowning him must have been one of the hardest things he had to do.

Over to Tywin’s other son Tyrion, along with Bronn and Podrick as they await the arrival of Prince Doran Martell. However, Prince Doran has sent his feisty brother Oberyn in his stead, and Oberyn has decided to head straight to a brothel rather than arrive the conventional way – he does things his own way. Oberyn has been a fan favourite amongst book readers for a long time now, and most are pleased with Pedro Pascal’s depiction of him so far. The show also decided to show him as bisexual, something that was hinted at in the books. But before the orgy can get under way, he decides to go and stab a Lannister guardsman. Oberyn’s true purpose in coming to King’s Landing is to have his revenge on Tywin Lannister. “Tell your father I’m here, and that Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts” he tells Tyrion.

Now we’re off to the poster girl of the series, Daenerys, and her rapidly growing dragons. Despite her constantly being made out to be the main character of the series, she really doesn’t have that much story to tell this season. However, the CGI dragon’s are looking absolutely brilliant, and any excuse to have them on screen is welcome. We’re also introduced to Michael Huisman, the new Daario Naharis – he certainly seems a better actor than Ed Skrein, but does he have the required swagger and cockiness to play Daario faithfully?

Now, our first scene with a Stark – Sansa. Shae and Tyrion are trying to cheer her up following the news of the Red Wedding but they’re not doing a great job. Shae then has a bitch-fest at Tyrion because he hasn’t seen her much. This is more like the petulant, bratty Shae from the books, setting her up for the events to come. We also see a spy of Cersei’s listening in on their conversation.

Over to everyone’s favourite incest twins, as Jaime is fitted with his golden hand. Cersei says she has grown fond of Qyburn – some more foreshadowing for when she gives him a very special task in the future. Cersei’s spy shows up again – I felt this whole spy thing was a bit heavy-handed, and could have been more subtle.

Now, over to a storyline that the book readers won’t know anything about – Tormund, Ygritte and the other wildlings as they prepare to attack Castle Black. It will be interesting seeing it from their perspective, as after Jon leaves them we don’t see the wildlings again until the battle. We are also introduced to the Thenns – a group of wildlings who are more sophisticated than most, and just as savage. They are also shown to be cannibals – something not mentioned in the books, but it puts another interesting twist on them.

We know see Jon talking with Sam about Robb, and then as he is put on trial for breaking his vows. Kit Harington seems to have really upped his game this season – I’ve always preferred the book version of Jon, but if he can act like this all season then that might change. Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt, two of his adversaries in the Night’s Watch are back after not appearing during last season, which is good as Jon’s storyline gets very good soon and those two are important to it.

We then have a brief scene with Queen-to-be Margaery, her sharp-tongued grandmother Olenna and Brienne. Margaery and Brienne are an odd couple, but their conversation feels like good closure for Renly. Then it’s off to Joffrey discussing plans for the wedding with Jaime and Ser Meryn. Joffrey takes a few swipes at Jaime – “Oh look, someone forgot to write down all your great deeds!” – but Jaime handles himself quite well.

Back to Daenerys again, and after some flirting with Daario we see the first of the slave children nailed to sign posts by the Meereneese, in anticipation of her arrival. The episode had been fairly light hearted up until now, but this was a good reminder of what show we are watching, where grim things happen regularly.

Now it’s over to Jaime and Brienne as they watch Sansa in the godswood. The chemistry between these two is still great, although it’s strange to see them in a situation other than slugging through muddy fields. Sansa then has a run-in with an old character, Ser Dontos Hollard, from the first episode of season 2. He gives a surprisingly moving speech about the collapse of his house, and she takes his necklace – which is more important than you might have thought at first, as you’ll see next week..

And finally, it’s over to TV’s best double act, Arya and the Hound. They have amazing chemistry, and the banter is hilarious between them. However, the laughs don’t last for long before they find themselves in a fight with several Lannister soldiers – including Polliver, who took Arya’s sword Needle and killed Lommy Greenhands. And, we get to see a massively anticipated scene from the book, when Arya claims sweet revenge on Polliver, by reclaiming Needle and slowly killing Polliver, repeating the same taunts he said to Lommy before killing him. The episode ends with the Hound eating the chicken that he wanted, and Arya on her pony.

A fantastic start to the season, and belive me when I tell you that things are going to get even better, starting next week, with the royal wedding of Joffrey and Margaery.


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Facing the Abyss: Five Teams in Danger of Relegation

All across Europe, teams near the foot of their respective leagues are starting to panic as the prospect of relegation becomes more and more likely. Relegation is disastrous for any football club, but even more so in the current financial climate, as the loss in revenue can be crippling and it is not uncommon for teams to go into administration, or even go out of business after dropping out of their country’s top division. This season, there are several teams in real danger of relegation that you might not have expected to be back in August.

English Premier League: Fulham and Sunderland


Fulham and Sunderland are two of those teams that always flirt with relegation at some point in the season, but eventually the quality in their relatively expensive squads lifts them out of danger into a boring mid-table position. This season however, they have both been in trouble since the first day and are running out of time to sort things out.


After 13 years in the Premier League, which has included a run to the Europa League final and escaping relegation on the final day, Fulham look to have run out of steam and inspiration. A squad with players such as Dimitar Berbatov, Bryan Ruiz, Scott Parker and Lewis Holtby ought to be well clear, but some of those players have been accused of laziness and lacking the ‘fight’ for a relegation battle. As such, Barbatov and Ruiz were shipped out in January and they broke their transfer record to sign Konstantinos Mitroglou – who has gone on to make just two appearances. Sacking two managers also hasn’t helped with stability – Rene Meulensteen replaced Martin Jol in December, who only had 16 days of experience as the main man at a football club, and he was then replaced by notorious megalomaniac Felix Magath, the first German manager to take charge of a Premier League club. The Cottagers are currently five points from safety, but they are at a disadvantage because of their significantly worse goal difference, and have also player more games than the sides just outside the bottom three. As it stands, they look the most likely team to drop out.


Despite several magical moments provided by the on-loan striker Fabio Borini – including a late winner in the Tyne-Wear derby, a winning goal against Chelsea and putting the Black Cats ahead against Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final – Sunderland have had a very disappointing season. They took a big gamble in appointing the unpredictable Paolo Di Canio as boss, and it has backfired spectacularly. After splashing the cash on several little-known players from obscure foreign teams, he then fell out with his players and was sacked after just five games in which they mustered only one point. They appointed Gus Poyet to replace him, who had done well at Brighton in the Championship but results haven’t improved enough to lift them out of danger. They currently have home games remaining against fellow strugglers Swansea, West Brom and Cardiff, coupled with away games at Man Utd, Chelsea, Man City and Spurs, so they simply have to win their home games if they are to survive. Currently four points from safety, but with a game in hand on several of their rivals, they have shown this season that they can pull off a shock win when they need to – but will they be able to do enough?

Bundesliga: Hamburg and Stuttgart


Stuttgart and Hamburg are two of Germany’s biggest and most storied clubs, but they are both in danger of the drop. Stuttgart were Bundesliga champions as recently as 2007, while Hamburg have been in the Bundesliga since World War One, and have never been relegated from the top flight.


The five-time champions Stuttgart have missed only two seasons of the Bundesliga since it’s conception in 1963. They surrendered a two goal lead to lose to Dortmund at the weekend, and have only one win in 2014. They face Bayern, Schalke and Wolfsburg in their last six games, they need to get something from their next game against Freiburg to try and kickstart a comeback.


German legend Franz Beckanbauer has said it would be ‘unthinkable’ to see Hamburg in the Bundesliga 2, and with players like Rafael van der Vaart in their squad it would be a huge shock to see them go down for the first time in their history. They and Stuttgart are both only two points from safety, so they still have their future in their hands.

La Liga: Real Betis


After last season’s 7th placed finish and entry into the Europa League, Betis seemed to be heading in the right direction. It has all gone very badly wrong this season, following the sale of star man Benat and the long-term injury of star striker Ruben Castro. Popular manager Pepe Mel, who led the club out of the Segunda and into Europe was sacked, their President has recently resigned and they are still in administration. All the signs of a club in chaos. The only highlight of their season was a decent Europa League run, but that ended in heart breaking circumstances – a penalty shootout defeat to bitter city rivals Sevilla. A massive eight points from safety with seven games to play, if they were to escape the drop it would be one of the most dramatic turnarounds in football history – but they have been looking more like their old selves lately, so don’t right them off just yet.