Friday, May 31, 2019

John Wick 3: Parabellum (2019) - Review

John Wick and the highly stylized world of suave assassins and sophisticated murderers have not lost their appeal yet! Actually, the deep lore of this universe is ripe for the picking in future instalments of the franchise. Needless to say that John Wick Chapter 3 is not a dramatic movie with a touching story, but a purely entertaining experience with new genre-defining standards for stunt work.

The movie picks up mere minutes after the previous chapter with John Wick (Keanu Reeves) on the run from all the assassins in New York - who are interestingly a significant portion of NYC's population. Winston (played by the incomparable Ian McShane), the manager of the Continental Hotel in New York, declared John exocmmunicado from the guild, but gave him an hour head start. Once the grace period is up, a bounty of $14 million is placed on his head and goes up by the hour.  John reaches out to different factions of the guild, who all still operate under the supervision of the High Table, and cashes in all the favours they owe him in an attempt to buy in more time...

As I mentioned, it is not a deep story and can be simply summarized as 'John Wick fights to save his life'. But the visual spectacle of Keanu Reeves going through hordes and hordes of increasingly tougher enemies is a sight to behold. Very much like Mad Max: The Fury Road, it is a cinematic experience that needs to be seen on the big screen. Stories of John Wick and Mad Max may not make the best and most rewarding reading material, but they saturate your visual sensory channels in the most pleasing way!

My two minor gripes with John Wick Chapter 3 - Parabellum are the following: i) John's reason for wanting to stay alive was thin and was not really necessary to express in the first place, and ii) some of the fights in the last act dragged on for a little too long and desensitized me to the stylized violence - maybe it was just too much of a good thing... But these two minor issues aside, John Wick chapter 3 "has served and it will be of service" to the fans of the genre.

Hats off to Keanu Reeves for his dedication to the craft, and Chad Stahelski - the director - for the magnificent visual experience. Despite minor flaws, it was a 10/10 for me.
Si vis pacem, para bellum! 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Game of Thrones - S08E06 Recap and Review

SPOILERS follow...

Picking up from sacking and burning of Kings Landing, we catch up with Tyrion and Jon Snow who are visibly shaken and in shock. Queen Daenerys finally lands on the ground with Drogon in the background taking off shortly, giving the image of Daenerys spreading her wings. She addresses her unsullied and Dothraki soldiers and tells them that the conquest of Kings Landing was just the beginning, and she plans to 'liberate' every city and kingdom on the map. Jon Snow is not quite comfortable with these sentiments, but as a man of his word, he does not dare question his queen. Tyrion, though, takes off the hand-of-the-queen pin and throws it away in disdain. Daenerys is of courses offended by this insult, and orders her unsullied soldiers to take Tyrion to a cell (rather than burning or executing him right there, which she should have).

Jon visits Tyrion in the cell. Both are concerned with the mental state of their queen. Jon is in love with Daenerys and is also loyal to her by oath. He remembers Maester Aemon (a Targaryen by blood) of the Nights Watch and his quote of "love is the death of duty". Tyrion flips it around and says sometimes "duty is the death of love". This wordplay, along with a reference to Sansa, is enough to turn Jon against Daenerys. He goes to the throne room and meets up with Daenerys. She is walking towards the Iron Throne and examining one of the thousand sword hilts that formed the throne; this image is an exact recreation of a vision that Daenerys had back in season 2... Jon voices his concerns with Dany's "liberation agenda", but she tries to convince him that they (the Targaryens) know best... Jon tells her that she is and will always be his queen and then proceeds to kiss her. Daenerys suddenly pulls back in horror and we see a knife piercing her heart. Jon's duty to the realm made him end the life of the woman he loved.

Drogon shrieks and comes to his mother's side. He nudges Daenerys hoping to wake her up, but soon realizes that it's too late... He contemplates burning Jon (or Aegon Targaryen VI), but decides against it and instead melts the iron throne with his fire breath. Maybe he sensed the Targaryen blood in Jon and couldn't bring himself down to executing him considering the fabled blood connection between Targaryens and dragons... Drogon grabs Daenerys and flies away, hopefully to Volantis where the red priests and priestesses believe in her and might be able to bring her back to life...

We catch up with an unkept Tyrion, supposedly months after the death of Daenerys, as he is escorted by Grey Worm to the dragon pit. All the lords and ladies of the big houses are there to decide the future of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Tyrion takes the stage and says that the most important qualification for being a king is having a good story (and not benevolence, governance experience, or a competent track record...). Among all the people we know -- including Jon Snow the rightful heir who was thought to be a bastard for most of his life and served as the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, who once died and came back to life to lead the war against the undead, or Arya Stark the master assassin who travelled the world and then single handedly killed the Night King -- Brandon Stark (or Bran the Broken)  is the person with best stories, and hence, he should be king. Bran's character development in the show included being thrown out the window in the very first episode, and from that point on has only been a plot device for flashbacks, In the books, Bran is a point of view character, so we get to hear his inner thoughts to some extent. But in the show, he has been merely an empty vessel. Even a few episodes ago, he said that he was not human anymore... Only a storage device for keeping the past history...

Tyrion asks Bran the Broken if he will accept the crown, and Bran responds "why do you think I came all this way down here?" (or something equally stupid to that effect). Starting with Samwell Tarley (whose proposal of a democracy was rejected a few minutes earlier), everybody pledges fealty to Brandon Stark. The only house that refuses to accept Brandon Stark as king is the Stark house. Sansa says that the North had been independent for thousands of years and it deserves to be independent again, to which Bran gives a nod. This logic applies to the six other kingdoms as well, as they all had been independent until 300 years ago when Aegon 'The Conquerer' Targaryen united all of those kingdoms. Hence, this was a legitimate enough reason for all the other lords to ask for independence as well. Moreover, why should they accept a member of a separatist house (or the citizen of a foreign country) as their new king? Wouldn't citizenship be a necessary requirement for ruling the united kingdoms? Obviously the plot armour is thick enough, and nobody bats an eyelash.

Bran the Broken is dubbed the King of the Six Kingdoms (Seven minus the Winterfell) and forms his small council (or cabinet) with Tyrion as the Hand, Bronn the sellsword as the Master of Coins, Sir Brienne (who had pledged to protect Sansa till her death) as the new Lord Commander of the King's Guard, Samwell Tarley as the Archmaester, and Sir Davos as the Master of Ships. Like an office sitcom, they gather to bicker and banter with one another about whether to rebuild the brothel or fund the navy. Bran the Broken decides that his top priority is wargging into (or hacking into the brain of) Drogon rather than concern himself with the boring chores of ruling the realm... Considering Bran's ability to see the past, present, and future, and also controlling animals and humans, I wonder why he did not do anything to stop Daenerys from burning all the innocent citizens of Kings Landing in the previous episode? Was it all part of his plan to become the king in the end? Is he any better than Daenerys who was accused of being a power hungry tyrant?

The show ends with a montage of Arya sailing to west of Westeros on a ship with a direwolf figurehead, Sansa wearing a weirwood themed robe and crowned Queen in the North, and Jon Snow (whose real identity did not matter at all during the whole show) arriving at Castle Black. He finally pets Ghost (his direwolf) and then rides with the wildlings beyond the wall. Is he fleeing from Castle Black to finally live a normal life with the wildlings, or is he just escorting them to their now-safe lands? This is left to interpretation by the viewers.

Final Words:
After the showrunners (David Benioff and D.B. Weiss) had lowered my expectations gradually with each episode of season 8, my disappointment is only moderate! Daenerys' extreme change of character in the last episode made no sense. She was not a merciful ruler, as she executed anyone who refused to bend the knee and refused to forgive mistakes, but neither was Ned Stark - the epitome of morality in the show. Daenerys was a pragmatic ruler for 71 (out of 73 total episodes of the show), and then suddenly turned into a blood-thirsty tyrant. Even Emilia Clarke (the actress playing Daenerys) thought it came "out of f**king nowhere" (according to this interview). Isaac Hempstead Wright (the actor playing Brandon Stark) was also caught off guard by the plot and thought Bran becoming king was a prank (see this article). The actors who embodied these characters for almost a decade know them better than almost anybody (except for George R. R. Martin who knows them better), and yet, these plot points did not make sense to them either, let alone us the viewers... I'd give this episode a 4/10.

I have been a fan since Day 1, and read all the books back in 2011. So, I consider myself in (at least) the 95th percentile of the fans who know more than enough about this universe. The poor execution of this final season (from illogical character changes to #woke agendas and thick plot armours saving all the major players till the end), ruined the whole show for me. There are also many plot points that were left unanswered, including but not limited to Children of the Forest, the Azor Ahai prophesy, the three heads of the dragon, the spiral shapes that white walkers left behind, and many more... Game of Thrones was a 10/10 for me, but these last few episodes knocked it down a couple of points to an 8/10.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Game of Thrones - S08E05 Recap and Review

SPOILERS follow...

Following Missandei's death and learning that her advisors plotting against her, Dany is clearly shaken. She scolds Tyrion for his loose tongue and making too many mistakes. The only person who could have consoled Dany was Jon, but he instead walks out after just saying hello, and hence, makes Dany feel worse... I wish I knew what Kit Harrington (Jon's actor) had done to the writers of the show. It seems they have an agenda to ruin Jon, who was the hero of the story until the previous season, and portray him as the most useless and insignificant character.

Within the campgrounds, Tyrion keeps defying his queen and frees his brother who was recently captured by the unsullied. Tyrion makes Jamie promise to persuade Cersei to surrender the throne and flea the city. The viewers of the show know how unlikely it is for Cersei to accept that proposition; the fact that Tyrion doesn't know his own sister is mind boggling to me.

Besides Jamie, we also see Arya and the Hound sneak into Kingslanding while Dany's army are lining up outside the gate. When all the pieces are in their rightful place on the chessboard (from Dany's unsullied and Dothraki to Cersei's Golden Company and the Iron fleet), we suddenly see something penetrate the clouds making a hole for the sun to shine, and descend towards the sea... It's Dany riding Drogon who is ready to set the whole Iron fleet on fire. Euron Greyjoy shoots Scorpion arrows at Drogon, but Dany has learned her lesson from the previous encounter and knows how to dodge and take out the enemy without taking damage. The dragon also blows up the gate and kills the Golden Army troops lined up in the front. The battle seems to be over, and we hear the bells ring as a sign of the city's surrender. But suddenly Dany decides that surrender is not enough, and the whole city (military and civilian) has to pay for Missandei's death and maybe also for her own hardships earlier in life. Dany and Drogon set the whole city on fire and destroy most of the Red Keep (the king's castle). At this point, Cersei, Qyburn (hand of the queen), and the Mountain realize that they have lost and need to escape and save their lives.

On the grounds, we see Arya and the Hound in the Red Keep. Hound pulls Arya aside and asks her to reevaluate her vendetta lest she becomes like the Hound. Seems the words land well with Arya, and Arya thanks the Hound after calling him by his first name, Sandor. They go separate ways, and we see Hound run into Cersei's entourage. Sandor 'The Hound' Clegane challenges his older brother, Gregor 'The Mountain' Clegane, to a duel. Cersei runs to the lower levels of the castle and lets us watch the much anticipated Clegane Bowl. Our friend, the Hound, takes the upper hand in the beginning, but the Mountain is an undead zombie and there is no killing him with natural means. As a poetic climax to the Hound's revenge story, he tackles his brother off the ledge and both jump into the fire. This is a poetic ending since it all began when the Mountain pushed the Hound into the fire when they were children. This incident had scarred the Hound for life (physically and mentally).

Jamie also manages to find a way into the castle. He has to go through Euron Greyjoy first, but a few stab wounds are not enough to hold Jamie back from finding his way to Cersei. The twins / romantic lovers have an emotional reunion, and try to find a way out. All the exits are blocked with debris though, and the dragon is tearing down the castle. Cersei cries and says she doesn't want to die. Jamie holds her and says nothing matters but them. They seemingly die in each other's arms under the ruins of the castle.

We catch up with Jon, who has a crisis of conscious and looks to his left and right with utmost confusion. The least valuable player of season 8 decides to gather a handful of his followers and get out of the city. Arya is also on the grounds. The most lethal and fearless assassin in the land is also shellshocked. She runs from a few stampedes, dodges debris, and drags people with her to their deaths!

From a filmmaking point of view, these stampede scenes and the scale of dragon attacks are simply marvellous. But I was bored looking at Arya running away from a different stampede every few minutes. Instead of showing debris, rocks, and stampedes, perhaps more character development with other characters would have been useful... This was the only episode this season that I looked at my watch hoping that it would end sooner.

I am seriously losing faith in the writers (David Benioff and D.B. Weiss) and their ability to conclude the series the way it deserves. The books spent a lot of time justifying each character's actions and motivations. In this season, though, characters turn on a dime. Dany is an empathetic leader who wants to free people from tyranny, and then in a split second, decides to burn them all. Arya, for the second time, becomes a scared little girl despite years of training as a faceless man.  Jon, the pragmatic hero of the story, has turned into a bumbling idiot whose absence from the scenes wouldn't change the plot one bit. Or Tyrion, the smartest person in the realm, also becomes an emotional fool who doesn't have a goal or a plan.

I read that George R. R. Martin (the author of the books) had given the showrunners an outline of how he wanted to end the saga. As we all know, the journey is almost as important as the destination. The show may take us to that destination, but so far, I'm disappointed with the route that they have taken us on in the last few episodes. Despite the impressive shots and spectacular filmmaking, I'd give this episode a 7/10.

Game of Thrones - S08E04 Recap and Review

SPOILERS follow...

The episode starts with saying goodbye to the fallen heroes of the battle of Winterfell. The mourners hold a wine-filled wake for the lost and party the night away. After sufficient libation, Jamie and Brienne take their relationship to the next step and spend the night together. As a result, Sir Brienne is not a girl anymore... Dany also talks to Jon and asks him not to share his true identity (Aegon Targaryen VI) with anyone, but Jon insists that he cannot lie to his sisters. Later, Jon gathers Sansa, Arya, and Bran under the redwood tree, and after asking them to swear secrecy, he nods to Bran to tell Sansa and Arya how Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen were married and hence, Jon is the true heir to the throne. I get Jon being as honourable as Ned Stark and not being able to lie, but I don't consider this act "not lying". It was basically voluntary disclosure of irrelevant information. Moreover, if the identity of Jon Snow had given him title to a land or position, then I could see how the burden of a lie could become too cumbersome for him. But as a bastard with no entitlement, why did he need to overshare and set a crisis in motion?

The next day, the forces set for Kingslanding: Dany and the unsullied by sea, and Jon's army on foot. Once Jamie hears the news, he decides that he needs to be with Cersei and turns his relationship with Sir Brienne to a one night stand - which breaks Sir Brienne's heart. Another former couple, Sansa and Tyrion, also say goodbye to one another. Sansa's last words to her former husband are Jon's secret (which she had sworn to protect). I don't understand Sansa's angle here. Is she trying to sow the seeds of mistrust between Jon and Dany? Or is she just trying to weaken Dany's claim out of spite? Or maybe she wants these two remaining Targaryens to eliminate each other at the same time? Sansa has become too Machiavellian just for the sake of being Machiavellian and no other logical character or plot-driven reason.

The saddest and most anti-climactic goodbye was between Jon and Ghost, his loyal direwolf. Jon simply nods at Ghost and asks Tormund to take Ghost with him north of the Wall. After all Ghost had done for that ungrateful piece of excrement, couldn't he pet the poor direwolf at least once??

On Dany's ship to Kingslanding, Tyrion leaks Jon's secret to Varys, the self-proclaimed martyr of the realm. While these two are still discussing Dany and Jon's claims to the thrones, Euron Greyjoy attacks the fleet from his hideout. He kills Rhaegal the dragon, drowns most (if not all) of Dany's ships, and takes Missandei hostage.

Once Dany's unsullied army regroups, they walk to the gates of Kingslanding to give Cersei one last chance to surrender. Cersei knows that Dany's dragons are not hard to kill and also that most of her army are dead after the battle of Winterfell. Thinking that the odds are mostly even, she refuses to surrender, and in order to send a message, she orders the Mountain to behead Missandei. Missandei's last words were "Dracarys", which mean fire in High Valeryan. The episode ends with Dany furiously walking towards her camp.

This episode was a return to the earlier format of plotting, scheming, and playing games for the throne of the Seven Kingdoms. As I mentioned above, characters' actions and Jon's in particular (insisting on sharing the "secret" and leaving his allies behind) were frustrating, and didn't make much sense. But still, as a form of escapism, the show still manages to hold the viewer's attention and keep them invested in the characters and plot. I'm concerned about how the show is going to end, but I'd like to keep an open mind... This episode was a solid 8/10.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Game of Thrones - S08E03 Recap and Review

SPOILERS follow...

This episode on its own was breathtaking (literally). It was 82 minutes long, and I checked my watch a couple of times fearing that it would be over soon (and hoping it would last longer). The showrunners (in the video below) broke down the episode into three genres: suspense, horror, and action, each taking almost a third of the runtime.

Humans had four factions: Dothraki on their horses, the unsullied on foot, the Northeners within the walls of Winterfell, and Dany and Jon with their two dragons camping outside and waiting to ambush the Night King. Whoever came up with the attack strategy, decided to put the cavalry in the frontline (instead of flanks or behind the enemy) and placed the infantry behind them. Medieval historians consider this the worst strategy, which is why the Dothraki are decimated within seconds. Dany, seeing her Khalasar (Dothraki army) dead, decides to go against the initial plan and take her dragon to the offensive line. Jon of course follows her, and these two dragon riders spend almost the first hour of the episode in the air playing hide and seek with the Night King in the blizzard. Other characters are fighting to death to protect the living. Although, none of the A-list characters (whose names appear in the credits) is harmed except for Lord Friend-Zone himself - Sir Jorah Mormont. In the end, when all hope is almost lost, Arya (the ninja assassin) saves the day by stabbing the Night King in the chest with a Valyrian steel dagger.

The episode is full of heart pounding moments, and instead of recapping each plot thread in detail, I'd like to rank the players in the game:

Most Valuable Players (MVPs):
Arya Stark: Well, obviously! She is the one who tells god of death "not today". All those years of training in Bravos with the Faceless Men finally paid off. She took down many of the White Walkers, then hit her head on the ground and changed character (maybe she was concussed?) and became a scared little girl. Until Melisandre reminded her of their previous meeting and also Syrio Forell's teachings (her Bravosi swordmaster who taught her to say "not today" to the god of death in the first place). Arya snuck up on the Night King and delivered the killing blow.

Lady Melisandre of Asshai: She showed up just before the battle to light up Dothraki's swords (Arakhs as called in the books). Later she lit up the trenches, and most importantly, gave the pep talk to Arya; maybe it was Melisandre who cured Arya's concussion too. She also saluted Beric Dondarrion as he gave his seventh life to save Arya.

Most Heroic Deaths:
Jorah Mormont: He fought all night and gave his all to his Khaleesi. He first led the cavalry (the Dothraki army) and as one of two or three survivors of that attempt, managed to show up in the last second to save Daenerys from the undead (after she was pulled down from her dragon). He took a dozen stab wounds but kept on fighting until the death of the Night King to protect Khaleesi. His last words were "I'm hurt".

Theon Greyjoy: As I had predicted in the season premiere, Theon was on his redemption path and he killed tens of the undead protecting Bran Stark while Bran had warged into the ravens. He died attacking the Night King

Lyanna Mormont: The 12-year old lady of the Bear Islands fought a giant and stabbed him in the eye with dragon glass. She was a fan favourite since her first appearance, and she went out like a true warrior.

Least Valuable Players:
Daenerys Targaryen: She broke the strategy and flied her dragon cluelessly in the blizzard for 70% of the episode. Then, in her attempt to save Jon from the undead, she landed her dragon on the ground and got attacked by the undead. Jorah Mormont had to give his life to save Daenerys.

Jon Snow: He also spend 70% of the episode with Dany, and in the rest, he ran from cover to cover ducking ice dragon's fire. He was about to run to the dragon without any plans and get incinerated that Arya killed the Night King and all the undead went down with him. Jon was supposed to be the most heroic character of the show and probably the promised prince or Azor Ahai who ended the Night King. I don't mind that it was Arya who fulfilled that prophecy, but I wish Jon has been a little more useful in the battle. Maybe at least killed the ice dragon or one of the Wights.

This would've been a pretty good movie, let alone an episode of a tv show! I was on the edge of my seat for 80% of the episode (except for the second horror act, where Arya was hiding from the undead in the library reenacting Jurassic Park's kitchen scene). As a standalone episode, I give it a 10/10. But considering that only three episode remain, I'm worried about how they would end the whole series, and whether they'd manage to answer all the remaining questions (e.g., What about the Lord of Light? Are the Children of the Forest all dead? What was the significance of this whole zombie plot to the overarching political game of thrones?)

Friday, April 26, 2019

Avengers: Endgame - Review

Mini Review:
We finally get to see the one out of 14,000,605 scenarios that Dr. Strange saw in Infinity War! Endgame was pretty much a series finale of the Infinity Stones saga with fan-service galore. It drags out a little, but overall, it is a satisfying movie experience and a must see for all MCU fans.

Full Review (spoiler free):
The film picks up days after the events of Infinity War, and the remaining Avengers need to regroup and decide on possible courses of action. The tensions are high and the characters that we have spent the last 11 years (since 2008) following, need to make one last play to bring half the population back. What was shown in the trailers and the post credit scene of Captain Marvel only cover the first 30 minutes of the movie. The rest must be seen with as little background information or expectation as possible!

So, without covering the plot, all I can say is that each Avenger grows and copes with the situation differently over the course of the movie, but at the same time, stays consistent with the characterizations developed over the last decade. You root for all the players in the Endgame, and everybody - literally every body - gets a money shot with the spotlight shining right over them! As a comic book movie, you need to leave realism at the door, but having said that, the plot makes sense! The only issue that I had was with certain moments that dragged a little. For example, knowing what is at stake and how easily things can get undone in a matter of seconds, some of the characters still procrastinated and delayed making the last push after 99% of their individual assignment was done. What's the point of lingering on and contemplating about a trivial issue when all you need to do is just push a button??? Those questions don't go anywhere, and you can muse about life after you pushed the button too!!!

That frustration aside, which could have reduced the three-hour run time by at least 20 minutes, the rest of the movie flies by and you find yourself next to those characters right in the midst of the mission. There are many moments where I pumped my fists with joy and excitement. Fewer instances of heavy-handed virtue signalling exist, but they are not distracting.

All in all, I don't think the ending would be polarizing, as I expect most audience to come out happy. Considering that it was like a series finale, many may hypothesize about more satisfying conclusions, but it was Kevin Feige and Russo brothers' story, and I have the utmost respect for their creativity!
I'd give Avengers: Endgame a 9.5/10

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Game of Thrones - S08E02 Recap and Review

SPOILERS follow...

The episode picked up with Jamie Lannister's trial at the great hall of Winterfell. Daenerys stated how much she had been anticipating to come face to face with the King Slayer (her father's killer) and how she had fantasized about retribution. Jamie, however, did not defend his actions nor did he apologize. Tyrion's plea for his brother's life was immediately shut down (considering his previous record of showing blind spots towards his family). But it was Brienne of Tarth's turn to come to the rescue. Brienne might actually harbour some romantic feelings toward Jamie considering their rather long history: Jamie once saved Brienne's honour and paid a rather hefty sum for his chivalry by losing his right hand (which was his greatest strength as a swordsman). Jamie also once opened up to Brienne about his concept of honour and why he killed the mad king even though he was under oath to protect him as a member of his KingsGuard.

Sansa Stark, due to her complete trust in Brienne, voted in favour of Jamie. Other than Brienne's testimony, perhaps Sansa's actions were fuelled by her power struggle with Daenerys in trying to establish who the alpha was in Winterfell. Daenerys treated Sansa's ruling as just a vote on her council, and then turned to Jon Snow for his opinion. Jon said they could use any additional soldier that they could get.

Daenerys, clearly shaken by Sansa's power play, went to have a private conversation with her and extended an olive branch. After dissecting the issue, Sansa disclosed he skepticism regarding Daenerys and how she might be manipulating Jon. But Daenerys claimed the contrary and confessed that it was she who was blinded by her love for Jon! Sansa and Daenerys seemed to have reconciled for a second, but their disagreement over the North being independent or a part of the seven kingdoms put their peace on hold.

Speaking of putting things on hold, Jon avoided Daenerys for much of the episode. He was clearly shaken by the news that he, Aegon Targaryen VI, was the rightful heir to the seven kingdoms... Daenerys finally caught up with him in the Winterfell crypts, next to Lyanna Stark's statue, where Jon told his lover and aunt of his recent findings. Daenerys' first impression was of mistrust for another pretender to the throne, but it seemed that their feelings for one another was deep enough to get over this hurdle. This conversation was caught short by a call to the wall...

The other characters also tried to celebrate their potentially last night of life in style. Arya consummated her relationship with Gendry, and on another front, Tyrion, Jamie, Brienne, Podrick Payne, Tormund, and Davos drank wine next to the fireplace. Besides Arya becoming a woman, the other "empowering" moment was when Jamie granted Brienne's wish of becoming a knight of the seven kingdoms (which was also the title of this episode). As for ranks of chivalry and knighthood, "Dame" is the appropriate title for a female knight, but the writers decided to use "Sir" instead. If Brienne identified as male, then Sir would be the right rank, but she doesn't... If virtue signalling was any higher in Westeros, they might have called Daenerys and Cersei kings!

Wrap up:
Similar to the season premiere, we got another "calm before the storm" episode. The show tried to position all the secondary characters in the right place before the big war. We witnessed some dramatic conversations (a la earlier seasons), but no action. Considering the fewer number of episodes in the final season, audience may expect more progression after watching on third of the season (2 out of 6 episodes), but I actually didn't mind it. Even the slower episodes of Game of Thrones are still much better than anything else that is, or has ever been on TV. I'd give it an 8.5/10.