What's next for HBO's Sunday Night Lineup?

Last night 3 of HBO's hit shows delivered some incredible season finales. A lot happened and we have a lot to think about for the next seasons.

Game of Thrones

Jon. A raven came from the Citadel. A white raven. Winter is here.
— Sansa Stark

In the wake of Battle of the Bastards, we have but a moment to catch our breath before giant plot points reveal themselves in the stunning finale, The Winds of Winter. The North names a king, King's Landing gains a queen, all while another queen sails to take The Iron Throne. So much happened last night so let's start at the beginning.

The first 25 or so minutes of The Winds of Winter were the most cinematic in the shows history. A very reserved score, starting just with a melodic tune on the piano slowly adds in cello and vocals. Give it a listen here, it's fantastic.

We always knew Cersei was fucked up but in this episode she unleashes the monster that we always thought she could be. She kills hundreds by setting off The Mad King's wildfire reserves, including her queen and The High Sparrow. She locks a Silent Sister in a room with Zombie Mountain. She causes her sons suicide, has his body burned and eagerly takes his throne. What is even more messed up is that she blew up the bodies of her other children. This whole sequence was so suspenseful and heart-breaking, but also it felt satisfying to see the wildfire explosion that's been hinted at all season. Cersei will no doubt be the big villain in Season 7 and we might be begging for King Joffrey to come back.

With so much tragedy in the first we see a lot of great things happen in the second half. Arya avengers her mother and brother and put an end to Walder Freys long, disgusting life. Dany names Tyrion Hand of the Queen. Lyanna Mormont rouses The North into proclaiming Jon their King, which Sansa finds bittersweet. I don't like where this business with her and Little Finger is headed. Will Sansa cause the second death of Jon Snow? Without The Red Woman around he could be gone for good.

Of course, it only takes Olenna Tyrell and Varys to come to Dorne for it to become interesting. Two of the show’s best conspirators are now in cahoots (assuming the Queen of Thorns agrees to Varys’ terms, which, at this point, why wouldn’t she?). So we’re seeing the power dynamic shift into 4 factions at this point in the show.

  1.  Cersei, Jaime(?), and King’s Landing
  2. Jon Snow, Sansa Stark, Sam, Littlefinger, Houses of The North, and The Knights of the Vale
  3. Daenerys, Tyrion, Varys, the Greyjoys, the Tyrells, the Unsullied, the Second Sons, and the Dothraki
  4. The Night King and the Army of the Dead

I think it can be expected that the Stark faction will join the Targaryen faction. Leaving Cersei in the way of Daenerys’ rule. Jaime seemed none to thrilled that Cersei was Queen of the Seven Kingdoms as he returned to King’s Landing. The Kingslayer stopped the Mad King from igniting the wildfire caches years earlier, and now Cersei has done exactly that. Is Jaime finally going to fall out of love with his sister, now that she’s in power, and adopted an all-black wardrobe?

The most important event in last night's episode was overshadowed by so many amazing moments. Bran returns to his vision where he left off in The Tower of Joy, and it is finally revealed that Ned Stark is not Jon Snow's father and Lyanna Stark is his mother. I have a theory that Jon and Dany are twins. In the books Dany is a year younger than Jon and we all know the story of how she was storm born so this seems unlikely. If The Mad King is the father, her and Jon could be brother and sister. However, it seems more like that Rhaegar Targaryen is the father, making Dany Jon's Aunt. The truth behind this matter is the cornerstone of the meaning of the entire story. There is a reason for everything that is happening that has yet to be revealed. This is a big deal that this secret was revealed and it was the most satisfying part of the finale for me.

This will go down in history as one of the greatest season finales of television history. The episode was visually remarkable, and masterfully written. It gave fans the answers to questions they've been asking for years. Next season we may see Stark reunions and Stark betrayal, Bran will reveal more secrets from the history of Westeros, and I can't wait the Battle of The Mad Queens. Dany's dragons will reach Westeros at the perfect time, let us not forget, Winter is Here.

Silicon Valley

I swear to god your dicks would’ve blown out the back of your assholes if you’d been there.
— Erlich Bachman

The season finale of Silicon Valley got right into it, immediately the addressing the big conflict set up at the end of last week's episode: the fake users. Richard realizes what Jared did right away (it was pretty obvious) and the two carry the secret. However, when Erlich leverages the fake user surge into a multi-million investment offer, the secrets carries more weight.

We got to see the shows funniest characters working together, as Danesh and Gilfoyle coyly offer Richard a flash drive with a program that can make the fake users appear real. Our "hero" is presented with a moral dilemma and of course does the right thing, even though it means the end of his company. Our villain Gavin Belson makes a comically low bid on Pied Piper and it seems all is lost, until we see a touching display of humility from Erlich as he outbids Gavin. After Richard and Erlich make up, and Danesh's video chat feature gets a ton of users, they reference the ending to the first episode of the show. The guys play their "always blue" game, laugh and have fun together, signifying that everything is somewhat back to normal.

This show is a lot like Game of Thrones, if something good happens something bad is right around the corner. Mike Judge uses Jian Yang's prank calls to Erlich as a way to make the viewer worry what bad news waits on the other line. Luckily, Jian Yang just pretended to be Erlich as an old man and we get a happy ending for the first time in a long time. I'm sure the guys will face their fare share of challenges in the next season, but for now all is right with the universe.

Veep

General George Washington could climb out of his grave right now and I would rather eat out his zombified wooden asshole twice a day than be his [Tom James’] vice fucking fucking anything
— President Selina Meyer

As always, President Selina Meyers carries herself with grace and dignity while pitching giving a founding father a rimjob. Veep was BAD for Selina this week/season/series. Last season ended with the electoral tie cliffhanger, and after everyone figured out that a Senate vote would lead to Tom James being elected president, Selina being VP was likely. But, after current VP and President of the Senate Andrew Doyle stabs Selina in the back and votes for Laura Montez (have to say it with her Ohio-Mexican accent), Selina is out of a job. Even her one legacy, freeing Tibet, slips into overtime and is credited to President Montez

So what's next for our band of vulgar incompetent Washington insiders?

Winners

  • Sue Wilson: Sue pivoted into the administrative assistant position of President Montez without a second thought, but I guess being immortal has its perks. Very little changed for Sue, but not losing can be called a win.
  • Jonah Ryan: This failed, hairless, spastic bigfoot clone is a United States Congressmen. With his posse of fratboy staffers, he seems indestructible. Jonah seems that he could trip into success. Maybe we'll see him make moves on the White House in the future?
  • Richard Splett: DC's most adorable aide wins big this episode, working for Representative Ryan, and hearing Selina admit she should have looked to him more was a big moment (only made better by his 100 clones scenario).
  • Dan Egan: Dan knows when to jump ship, and I don't think the Oval Office's chair was cold yet before he was on TV covering the inauguration. Moving to CBS (with a B, yes) could see Dan playing critic to the moves of other characters, which he excels at.
  • Catherine Meyer: Catherine's new style and animal sanctuary is getting great press, to the point that she may become more relevant than her mother. Selina wouldn't be able to handle a power shift in that regards well at all, so Catherine's success is going to equate to Selina's misery.

Losers

  • Selina Meyer: Out of a job, losing staffers, the future is unknown for Selina. Assuming she's unwilling to quit her political climb, I can see her shifting to an advisory position in Washington, even as a lobbyist, which could lead to great role-reversal (imagine Selina having to suck up to Jonah or Furlong).
  • Amy Brookhiemer: Amy is attached at the hip to Selina, even being dragged by Selina onto Marine One before it descended into a barren field. Amy's going to be stuck with Selina for the rest of her career, and her bolo-tie wearing boyfriend is going to be a high-point for her days going forward. Tragic.
  • Mike McLintock: Mike isn't allowed to win, ever. Toting around a six-year-old on his chest, and with twins on the way, Mike looks to be a stay-at-home dad in future seasons. If his man-cave/nursery conversion is any previews of that, it will be pathetic and hilarious.
  • Tom James: Tom was so close to the presidency, and it was his to lose.. While he still has his job in the Senate, you have to believe he's lost out on a lot more opportunities. Maybe he could be President Montez's economy czar?

To Be Determined

  • Kent Davison: The number-crunching analyst seems to be the best choice to be kept in the White House. But Kent could also end up writing romance novels. Which honestly is win-win, but the Veep writers have been known to be cruel. We'll see what happens.
  • Ben Cafferty: The eternal loser, Ben doesn't make out too bad in this one. Seen in the brief epilogue at Disneyland, Ben is emasculated in his Mickey Mouse hat, but that's really nothing new.
  • Gary Walsh: Gary is happy. He's with Selina. Although her downfall could lead to Gary's reputation and stature in the bag-man community taking a tumble. Additionally, we saw Mike recording his freakout in the Roosevelt room, so that could have ramifications if leaked.

After showrunner Armando Iannucci's exit after last season, viewers were concerned if Veep could keep its bite. It sure did. I think the show had it's best episode to date (Congressional Ball was a whirlwind of profanity, backstabbing, fucking, and fucking-over) and the show has a bright future with a lot of options. I'm looking forward to Season 6.

 

Ranking the Episode Nines of Game of Thrones

Spoiler Warning: This post contains spoilers from the Ninth Episode of the Sixth Season of Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones has its format pretty much locked in at this point: episode one catches us all up on what's happening, episodes two-five/six are rising action, episode seven or eight usually have a major development, and episode ten is a denouement, letting us see how all these actions have changed Westeros and Essos. But episode nine is the one where all the juicy goodness comes from. From the death of Ned Stark to the Battle of the Bastards, episode nines are the best Game of Thrones has to offer. So, from worst-to-best, let's talk about these climactic episodes.

#6 - The Dance of Dragons

The Dance of Dragons slides to last simply because it features the Dorne storyline (I’m kidding, but that is a slight against it). But, Jaime and Bronn’s roadtrip to Dorne certainly was a disappointment that led us to the awkward banter of the Sand Snakes, and taking Ellaria Sand from a small side character to a conspiring villain. We get a negotiation scene here, (highlight of which is Bronn getting punched, because everything Bronn does is magical), but nothing special. Moving on.

Stannis sets his daughter on fire as a last-ditch effort to beat the Bolton Army. Does not work. I feel like the less we talk about this, the better. Remember folks, when setting people on fire to appease the Lord of Light, results may vary.

Over in Braavos, we do get a little bit of revenge through Arya as she kills Meryn Trant, known asshole (and pedophile we learn). Revenge is always fun in Game of Throne and it’s a satisfying way to scratch a name off of Arya’s kill list.

Alright, finally we end up in Meereen, which to me is typically where Game of Thrones struggles to move quickly. We see an attack on Dany by the Sons of the Harpy, Jorah has a cool spear throw to kill one directly behind Dany, and Drogon comes in and does his Drogon thing. But, here’s where I really start to slight The Dance of Dragons as an episode. Dany hops onto Drogon and disappears for 8 episodes essentially. You’re telling me we have to stop worrying about Dany’s quest for Westeros now because she’s been abducted by a Dothraki horde? Are you serious? I mean, I loved Game of Thrones Season One, it was awesome. But if I wanted Game of Thrones Season One, I would watch Game of Thrones Season One. Essentially, The Dance of Dragons makes us wait until next season’s episode nine to continue Dany’s journey towards Westeros. And that's not cool.

#5 - The Watchers on the Wall

The Watchers on the Wall is a single-battle-centric episode, as Mance Rayder’s wilding army attacks the wall. This was a great episode, and I’m bummed it’s fallen this far down on the list, but I think it really comes down to how Game of Thrones has dealt with the wildlings since: Tormund has become an excellent foil to Jon’s serious brooding frowny-faced nature in later seasons. Imagine how much easier the battle for Winterfell would have been if Stannis had Deus Ex Machina’d in and killed most of Mance’s army! But, hindsight is 20/20.

The Watchers on the Wall did an excellent job of resolving the will-they/won’t-they, Ross & Rachel-esque love story between Jon and Ygritte as newly joined Olly shoots her in the back (remember, we used to like Olly). We also see Alistair Thorn get injured (yay!), Janos Slynt show his true cowardice (YAY!) and Grenn and Pyp are killed defending Castle Black (RIP Grenn and Pyp, you were like a second and third Edd to us). A solid battle episode, well-shot, well-acted, well-written. Certainly not the worst Game of Thrones has had to offer, but it's beat by some of the better episode nines.

#4 - Baelor

Baelor is our first episode nine, and you always remember your first. This really showed fans that the show runners were not fucking around, as Joffrey ordered the beheading of Ned Stark, absolutely the star of Season One. It created one of the shows finest villains and really let book-readers laugh at show-watchers utter shock that Sean Bean was killed in something again.

Baelor does a lot to set up the future of Game of Thrones. Robb makes his promise to marry a Frey daughter (Robb. Your future wife. Woof!), Tyrion meets Shae here, and he makes an emotional connection with someone for once. Jaime is captured by the Stark Army, kickstarting his road from Kingslaying Sister-Loving Blondie Asshole to a genuinely reputable person. Dany makes a gambit to save Khal Drogo (Episode Ten is really the moment to shine for Dany as she emerges from the funeral pyre with her dragons – we’ve yet to see her as the many-named Dany so far). Arya witnesses the death of her father and starts her list.

Baelor’s implications on the Game of Thrones universe are huge, and the episode shouldn’t be slighted for being earlier in the show’s run, but it’s lack of a giant set piece really hurts it (knocking Tyrion out in time for the battle, while creative, is still a way to rob viewers of some big army-on-army action). But, it’s still the biggest Game of Thrones has had yet, and left viewers asking “Wait, he’s not really dead, is he?” for the next week. This is where Game of Thrones elevated itself from respectable HBO drama to a cultural maelstrom.

#3 - The Rains of Castamere

If you’re ever having too good of a day, put on The Rains of Castamere and feel terrible for the rest of the week. The episode also features continuations of Dany’s attack on Slaver’s Bay, and Bran’s journey north, but they aren’t super critical to why this episode is great. Even Jon’s final betrayal of the Wildlings, in hindsight, isn’t the biggest development to Game of Thrones’ plot in the long run (a similar reason why The Watchers on the Wall is so far down on this list). What really makes this episode an all-time best is the marriage of Edmure Tully to Roslin Frey. Who doesn’t love a wedding, right?

Everyone is rooting for Robb Stark, the King of the North, late in season 3 of Game of Thrones. The War of the Five Kings is two seasons deep, and it looks like Robb could actually win this war. Talisa Stark is pregnant! They’re going to name the baby Ned! Well shit, bye Ned Jr. You just got brutally stabbed in the womb by one of Walder Frey’s garbage sons, as Roose Bolten and the Frey boys brutally destroy the Starks and Tully’s to the haunting version of The Rains of Castamere played by the wedding band. If book-readers were excited to see the reaction of show-watchers to Ned getting his dome lopped off, they were near hysterical waiting for this moment to happen. The Red Wedding is just brutal. I rewatched it for this piece, and still found myself reacting just as I did 3 years ago, mouth agape, horrified.

The lead-up to the Red Wedding is brilliant. All season, Tywin Lannister has been writing notes, scheming on how to destroy the rival house to the north. Roose Bolton, the guy who I would have described at the time as “The dude who looks like Stannis but isn’t Stannis” stabs Robb, whispering the perfectly vile quote:

The Lannisters send their regards.
— Roose Bolton

Roose Bolton you piece of shit. There is no way anyone in this stupid show could be worse than you. Wait, you have a son? Oh I’m sure he’s charming.       

#2 - Battle of the Bastards

This may be so highly rated because I am so excited about Ramsey “Weird Kid” Bolton getting his just desserts. Seriously, They could have resolved the battle in the first 2 minutes and have had the next hour just be Ramsey getting punched and eaten and I would have been thrilled. The suffocating feeling as Jon is crushed by the Bolton army’s Hannibal tactic lasts just long enough to drain us of all hope before the Knights of the Vale’s cavalry come charging in a la Theodin and the Riders of Rohan fashion, in Return of the King.

Ramsey racks up the emotional kills as he shoots down Rickon just before Jon reaches him (the serpentine maneuver should have been taught at Winterfell), as well as putting the final shot into everyone’s favorite giant, Wun Wun. But as Jon nears the final blow on Ramsey Bolton, he glances at his half-sister, Sansa. As a character, Sansa has made a big change from season 1, when her goal was to marry Joffrey. Yeah. Remember that? Sansa's dating life has some serious red flags.

Additionally, Dany’s storyline was handled really well in this episode. No padding, no extra drama, just good ol’ fashioned dragons lighting shit on fire. Groovy. The opening of the episode is great with Dany and Tyrion discussing her absence, and goes right into the master’s negotiations, which was brutal. Grey Worm’s badass duel-throat-slit reminds us the unsullied army is still incredibly lethal, just as much as Dany’s newly acquired Khalasar.

My one concern in the episode happened when we went back to Meereen just before the battle on the fields of Winterfell. C’mon guys, Snowbowl is about to happen and we’re back here? But, Theon and Yara made the quickest trip around Westeros and across the narrow sea to pitch Dany on taking their ships over Uncle Euron’s, in a really good negotiation scene. Yara really has shined in the scenes she’s appeared in since the death of Balon, her father. I’m excited to see where this Greyjoy/Targaryen alliance will take us (please take us to Westeros).

Ultimately, Battle of the Bastards gives the audience what they've wanted since The Rains of Castamere: the Starks taking sweet sweet revenge on the Boltons. Jon died one time already to give us this epic battle, and I'm sure glad he didn't have to die again. We're left wondering what will happen now, with Sansa the presumed ruler of Winterfell. Is a marriage to Petyr Baelish out of the question? Will we get the reunion between Arya and Jon? What's Jon's plan now? With the Starks back in charge of the North, Walder Frey's centrally located castle, The Twins, is now between Winterfell, The Eyrie, Casterly Rock, Riverrun, and King's Landing. I'm really looking forward to next week's reactions to this upheaval in the North.

#1 - Blackwater

It has to be. While Season One’s episode nine, Baelor, elevated the stakes in Westeros, season two’s penultimate episode Blackwater cemented the fact that episode nines were going to be the critical episodes in every Game of Thrones season. The only episode nine written by A Song of Ice and Fire writer George R.R. Martin, Blackwater was our first episode to focus on one single storyline in Game of Thrones, and boy was it a good one. Stannis’ fleet sails on King’s Landing, where the defense is staged by current Hand of the King, Tyrion (remember when his family actually liked –no- accepted him?) Tyrion delivers a positively awesome speech to the soldiers of King's Landing, ending with the classic quote:

Those are brave men knocking at our door. Let’s go kill them!
— Tyrion Lannister

But really, the moment that locks up first place is the one starring our favorite rogue, Bronn. Waiting alone on the shores of Blackwater Bay, Bronn gets his signal from Tyrion and takes the ultimate kill shot in Game of Thrones, and shit gets LIT.

This episode just gets better and better as you look back, seeing it features the flight of the Hound from King’s Landing, Davos NOT dying (thank god), Tyrion going lumberjack on a poor Baratheon leg, and Joffrey doing what he does best, being a whiny twat. Blackwater is Game of Thrones at its finest, and while it may be a controversial choice for the best episode nine, looking back, it was the moment the Game of Thrones became something so incredible it couldn't be missed.

Here's hoping that next years episode nine will usurp Blackwater as the best. Or it could be an hour of Dany hanging out in Meereen, sipping on wine and reciting her multiple names into a mirror (you know she has to practice that paragraph on a daily basis). But that's a worry for next year, as we've got episode ten next week, and I'm hoping it will deliver. #CLEGANEBOWL2016HYPE