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I Didn’t Make It Past the First Season of Game of Thrones

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It was the biggest small screen phenomenon of the 2010s. Each season, nay, episode, was an event. Discussion of the show would flood social media every night the show aired and the morning after. Premiere parties were thrown. Cosplays were made. Memes were created. Game of Thrones was a cultural icon.

 I didn’t make it past the first season.

GameOfThrones/TheDanceOfDragons

Game of Thrones/HBO                                              Gotta admit this looks pretty cool, though

Game of Thrones was a young show when I stumbled upon it. Season one had recently ended, and I heard rave things about the editing, the production value, the music, the acting, and more. I was told by friends that the show was shocking and would blow my mind; that I’d never be able to see what’s coming next. I jumped in.

As I watched the opening scene, I noted how elaborate the setting was and how detailed the costumes were. Dead bodies started to appear, and soon I was watching a man get decapitated. As his head was tossed into frame, I remember thinking: this feels like it’s trying to shock me. Maybe I was biased by having been told I won’t know what to expect, but the trend of feeling like the show was constantly trying to blow my mind persisted, both in the show’s imagery and jarring character actions.

Westeros isn’t our world, and the premiere needs to establish the environment the story is taking place in. The more shocking the violence, the better we’ll understand what kind of awful place Westeros is. It establishes a world where no good man stands a chance and you never know what’s going to happen next, and it really establishes this. By the time the premiere “Winter is Coming” ends, viewers have witnessed multiple beheadings, rape, incest, and (attempted) child murder. Yes, Jaime Lannister pushes 10-year-old Bran out the window in the final shot of the episode.

This cliffhanger didn’t grip me. It left me disliking Jamie a hell of a lot, that’s for sure, but I wasn’t dashing to hit play on the next episode. I didn’t care all that much about Bran, so the fact that he may now be dead didn’t affect me. It was a bit of a bummer that he’s a child, for sure, but asides from just not being invested in the characters yet, it felt again as if the show was trying to shock me with its brutality. As I understand it, this moment had massive implications on the story to come, so to say it was there for shock value only would be completely false. In the framework of the episode, though, there had already been so much emphasis on stunning me that it was impossible to distinguish between a plot development and a moment meant for shock value, even if in theory they were intertwined. 

Game of Thrones/BeyondtheWall

Game of Thrones/HBO                                              Where was this guy in season one?

This only got worse as the season went on, as the White Walkers and the beheading in the premiere weren’t followed up on. Bran’s storyline also seemed stagnant as he developed amnesia after the fall. The lack of follow up made me question the point of these moments. The blood, violence, and nudity continued as well, and the intense imagery began to make me numb to shocking plot points and character twists. They melted into each other, each trying to outdo the other in blowing my mind. Between watching an innocent canine get slaughtered, watching Danearys eat a heart, and witnessing Little Finger’s betrayal, Ned Stark’s death became just another moment. I wasn’t surprised by this development because the show had trained me to expect these twists.

Part of what makes a twist effective is the pulling of the rug from under your feet. You realize that things aren’t what you thought they were, and now the status quo has changed. Due to Game of Thrones’ method of storytelling, there didn’t seem to be a status quo. Season one established a world with no rug, so I was unable to get comfortable with any situation or any scenario.

This style made the show prime “edge of your seat” viewing, and for some viewers, that lack of security made the ride thrilling, but for me, it felt like there was nothing to hold on to. With Game of Thrones’ “no one is safe” philosophy, I found it hard to become invested in anyone’s story.  You win or die when you play the Game of Thrones, so at any moment their story could come to an end to serve the larger purpose of the show. This isn’t to say that the show never put character at the forefront. It may have; again, I didn’t watch so I don’t know. The emphasis on head trauma and blowing minds in season one, however, implied to me that the show’s priorities were different than my own.

That’s not to say that I hated it. There are several aspects of the first season I enjoyed. I loved that Ned’s role in the story advanced the theme that those who are noble and play by the rules are doomed to fail. Arya seemed pretty cool, and I liked her dog that was still alive. She was so loyal! I considered watching the second season for Tyrion alone (I had my poor sister update me on Tyrion’s journey every week).

Game of Thrones - Home

Game of Thrones/HBO                                               A beast looking at a dragon

I almost jumped back onto the show several times over the last eight years; four times to be precise. Once when I saw the trailer for season two and heard Varys say to Tyrion, “A small man can cast a large shadow.” Once when I heard that Joffrey got poisoned in season four, cause he was annoying AF.  Once when a girl I was into was more into Game of Thrones than she was me. And lastly when season eight was starting, because I bought into a Game of Thrones pool at my sister’s office and wanted to see how I did (I did pretty well). Unfortunately, the characters I was invested in weren’t enough to balance out my fear that the characters would end up serving the show, nor enough for me to put up with the gratuitous violence and the diminishing returns of the shocking moments. 

I kept tabs, though. I was curious about how the show would manage to keep surprising its audience in any meaningful way since I had already been conditioned to expect the unexpected in season one. From what I could gather, it’s almost as if the show became a game itself. Viewers guessed about who would die and when, and speculated over who would obtain the throne, hence my sister’s office pool. Between The Red Wedding, Battle of the Bastards, and “hold the door;” Game of Thrones consistently swerved, shocked, and impressed the audience, or at least that’s what my news feed implied. However, that sort of thrill ride can compromise a story. 

The promise of the unexpected cannot hold universally true if you want to tell a coherent story. Even with dozens of smaller characters, a story will always center around the few meaningful pieces: Danaerys, Jon Snow, Arya, Cersei, my boy Tyrion, etc. The Game of Thrones writers knew this, which is why every name above made it through 8 seasons, and innately most viewers know this, which is why everyone knew Jon Snow wouldn’t stay dead. These are the characters audiences are intended to hold on to, but if your storytelling philosophy relies so heavily on shock and a constantly shifting status quo, what happens to these characters when your plot lines start to wrap up? What happens when the answers are provided, the pieces are in place, and all that’s left to watch is the main players finish their arcs? Characters may end up getting sacrificed to maintain the ride. This is where the crux of my fears and the decision to stop watching lied. After wrapping up the first season, I felt that eventually the characters I was interested in would become subject to the machine, sacrificed to keep the engine that powered Game of Thrones running. 

Game of Thrones/TheWolfandTheLion

Game of Thrones/HBO                                              This is Ned, in case some of you forgot

I didn’t want to get invested in a character’s story only to have them literally axed in the middle of their arc. I didn’t want to watch Tyrion lose his swagger because the plot needed him in a different place than he would want to be. And I didn’t want to watch more beheadings, rape, and thirteen-year-olds drink out of their mom’s. 

I don’t know if characters were sacrificed for plot or philosophy at any point after season one. Considering all the praise Game of Thrones got, I imagine they weren’t, at least not until the last two seasons. The conversation around season seven got heated (I remember a lot of talk about characters warping across the continent), and the internet erupted in season eight. What I saw was mostly negative, such as characters acting out of character, plot lines being rushed, and arguments over the difference between foreshadowing and character development. I don’t know if these complaints were the realization of my initial fears or completely unrelated. I will never know for sure.

Game of Thrones/HBO

Game of Thrones/HBO          How it should have ended

I never made it past the first season.

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Chicago Med

Did Dr. Zola Ahmad Leave ‘Chicago Med’ Already?

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Did Dr. Zola Ahmad Leave 'Chicago Med' Already?

Chicago Med introduced a new third-year resident to the fold in season 9—Zola Ahmad played by The Wilds’ Sophia Ali.

Ahmad’s character was initially described as “impulsive” and a troublemaker who tends to cause “headaches” for her Gaffney Medical fellows, which we saw play out in real-time when her unconventional approaches rubbed Crockett Marcel (Dominic Rains) the wrong way.

Marcel tried to give Ahmad the benefit of the doubt on numerous occasions, and Sharon Goodwin (S. Epatha Merkerson) even acknowledged that she was taking a big chance by hiring her on a prohibitionary basis given her track record with previous hospitals—but ultimately, Ahmad’s behavior and decisions to overstep and not follow protocol got the best of her.

When Ahmad decided to declare a patient—letting the fact that he wasn’t a good man dictate her reasoning—dead prematurely (and then attempted to justify it), nearly killing him, Dr. Archer (Steven Weber) chose to suspend her. It was very obviously a fireable offense, so it’s a good thing that the series writers held her accountable. Plus, it seemed like the perfect chance for a teachable moment and a redemption arc, not to mention, there was definitely some chemistry with Ahmad and Crockett that could’ve been explored down the line. She had potential as a character at Med, if she just reeled it in a little bit—and that would’ve been interesting to explore on a more granular level.

However, by Chicago PD Season 9 Episode 9, it was over for Ahmad. 

Did Dr. Zola Ahmad Leave 'Chicago Med' Already?

CHICAGO MED — “A Penny for your Thoughts, Dollar for your Dreams” Episode 9008 — Pictured: (l-r) Sophia Ali as Dr. Zola Ahmad, Dominic Rains as Dr. Crockett Marcel — (Photo by: George Burns Jr/NBC)

The series seemingly listened to the Chi-Hards fanbase as Ahmad paid the ultimate price for her reckless decision; Goodwin very briefly (and in passing) informed Crockett that Ahmad was let go, something he called a “shame.”

And that was that. There was no further mention of it, nor is there any indication that she’ll return anytime in the future. Her final episode of the season was listed as Chicago Med Season 9 Episode 8—and it seems like she’ll just be a blip on the radar of the show’s long-running tenure. 

It’s a drastic decision for the series, especially after hyping up Ali’s character at the beginning of the season. Why wouldn’t they give her arc a proper conclusion? Many of the complaints from the fan base were that her character was written inconsistently—her intentions were good most of the time, it was the execution that suffered—and crammed into an already shortened season due to COVID, so they weren’t able to build her character up in a way that would’ve given her the necessary nuance; her portrayal was overly negative and it was hard to defend her actions or keep her around when each week, she was pushing buttons and creating unnecessary issues without having the tenure to excuse them or back her up, like her predecessors Will Will (Nick Gehlfuss) and Natalie (Torrey Devitto). When those two acted irrationally back in the day, they had a history with Med and Goodwin that allowed them to stir the pot. 

It seems that the writing was on the wall for Ahmad from the get-go—the lack of good character development in the writing sealed her fate prematurely and gave fans whiplash with her quick arrival and departure. 

Would you like to see her return to the series?

Vanessa Morgan Is Finally Getting the Recognition She Deserves With ‘Wild Cards’

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Editorials

Walker Season 4 Premiere Review – The Quiet

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Walker Season 4 Premiere Review - The Quiet

Walker returned to The CW for its 4th, and, likely final, season. 

Despite a 5-month time jump, the focus remained on serial killer Jackal, whom Walker and Trey were pursuing at the end of season 3, and the suspect that previously drove Cap. Larry James into a tailspin, effectively ending his marriage to Kelly before fate gave them another shot. 

Only this time around, Larry’s wife, Kelly, asks Cordell not to drag her husband down this road again—a promise he intends to upkeep, though, knowing Larry, he’ll figure out that his rangers are up to something and have no other choice but to get involved, especially since Trey’s tip for a detective reveals that Jackal, whose trail previously went cold for several months, is gearing up for “something big.”

This will be the overarching mystery of the season, while other weekly cases will also see our rangers getting into plenty of shenanigans, as they did with their pursuit of the Delmonico brothers. Also, props to all of them for taking part in a steak-eating competition and then jumping into a raid. It was bold of them, but it’s how Cordell wanted to spend his birthday, so I’m glad that despite the best-laid plans being uprooted, he was still able to feel the love from those around him.

A lot seems to have changed in the past five months, as evidenced by Walker and Geri’s steamy hook-up. Even when everything is going wrong, we can have faith in their love being a constant, which is what fans have been hoping for since season 1. 

There’s also Cassie, who blows back into town after taking a lengthy leave to go work for the FBI. She’s back with a newfound confidence about her abilities on the job, but she’s also struggling with a personal decision as she’s been offered a spot at Quantico, which means further uprooting her life and leaving behind her loved ones, er, Trey. 

Yeah, Trey and Cassie kind of addressed the elephant in the room—their feelings for each other—but neither of them was honest about it, so we’ll likely get something more truthful and heartfelt in the near future. 

Another lingering storyline is the break-in at Geri’s place that rattled Stella to her core. She hasn’t been the same since shooting and killing Witt, and it’s likely because she also lied to the police about having met him before. The officer who called her and Liam in over a “breakthrough in the case” said that the case was closed due to lack of resources, but the way he watched Stella sign the paperwork (and questioned if that’s “all she knew”) makes me uneasy—there’s definitely more to this storyline. What does he know that he’s not letting on?

As for change, I think that in the midst of all the “I’m Walker, Texas Ranger, you’re under arrest” in case you needed the reminder, we’re also continuing to see Cordell as a flawed human and a father coming to terms with the fact that he’s about to be an empty nester. It’s the next phase of his life—and one that brings about plenty of concern over the “quiet” that will allow his dark thoughts to flourish. Hopefully, Geri will be the light to cut through all of that. 

What did you think of the episode?

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Wild Cards

Vanessa Morgan Is Finally Getting the Recognition She Deserves With ‘Wild Cards’

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Vanessa Morgan Is Finally Getting the Recognition She Deserves With ‘Wild Cards’

I meant to write this post when Wild Cards first premiered on The CW, but time got away from me, and before I knew it, the season finale of the series was upon us! 

I’m not a huge fan of The CW’s decision to axe some of our favorite shows in its rebrand, but what does ease the pain of losing the likes of Nancy Drew is the addition of promising shows like Wild Cards

To be quite frank, Riverdale never did Vanessa Morgan much justice. She amassed a huge number of fans, who were mostly hoping to see her character Toni reunite with on-screen love interest Cheryl (played by Madeleine Petsch) in the later seasons, and while she was seemingly considered one of the “core” characters, she rarely got the storylines she deserved.

We knew she could act—but Wild Cards shows us the depth of Morgan’s talents. It lets her shine, dominate, lead,  and even carry the series, opposite her on-screen partner and potential future love interest, Giacomo Gianniotti’s Ellis. 

Morgan delivers with the role of Max, a whip-smart and very charismatic con artist who utilizes her special skillset to help a “down in the dumps” maritime officer get his mojo back—and, spoiler alert if you’ve watched the season finale, his badge and desk back. 

Despite his initial hesitation with the idea of her joining the force as a consultant, even Ellis comes around, amazed by her abilities and the way she’s able to navigate every crime scene and follow the leads to produce results.&nbsp

The two grow very close over the course of the season’s 10 episodes, largely due to Morgan’s delightful on-screen persona and presence. Even when it’s not clear whose side she’s really on (is she fully on board with helping the cops or does she have a larger-than-life plan up her sleeve to pull off her greatest con yet and help her dad George—90210‘s Jason Priestley—snag a “get out of jail free” card), you find yourself drawn to her and rooting for her because of her likable personality. 

Vanessa Morgan Is Finally Getting the Recognition She Deserves With ‘Wild Cards’

Credit: The CW

The series not only gets us invested in Max’s character—learning about her past—and what it entails for her future, but we also find ourselves rooting for Max and Ellis to finally get together… or even test the boundaries of that electric chemistry that they share (a moment that is, sadly, ruined when her husband Olivier (Dewshane Williams) blows into town). 

And it’s the mystery of Max that has all of us begging The CW to renew the series for a second season. We need more Max. We need more Ellis. We need more Morgan and Gianniotti. And we need answers. The good news is that Morgan told TVLine that season 2 of the quirky crime procedural is “very likely,” and trust that we put all our faith in her. 

As for the answers I mentioned we need, well, we need to know who killed Ellis’ brother, a murder that was the catalyst for him to get knocked down from his detective responsibilities in the first place. When he met Max, he was in a hard place, still trying to pick up the pieces of his brother’s death. And though he’s come a long way, surely, the fact that he can crack this specific mystery is one that he won’t be able to pass up. 

At the end of the finale—spoiler alert, again—Max convinced the authorities to help her pull off a heist that was two years in the works, hoping to frame her estranged husband Olivier after he steals a $33 million egg (he’s the one who betrayed her dad and landed him in prison), lessen her father’s sentence, and restore Ellis’ badge. However, there was a piece of the plan she didn’t share with Ellis—she swapped the real egg for a fake egg, and hatched a plan to disappear forever alongside Ricky and her millions. 

She didn’t expect Ellis to figure it out, though, this was one of the weaker points in the episode because she should’ve known him better than that by now, but she figured she’d be halfway across the country and it wouldn’t matter. What she didn’t anticipate in her plan is that Ricky, who was transcribing incriminating recordings from the mob as part of their safety-net policy, would find something on the drive about Ellis’ brother, namely, who murdered him. 

It’s at this moment that we see the biggest change in Max. She’s not the same person she was when the series first started. Her skills have become more valuable to helping than stealing, and she’s grown to care about someone other than herself and her father. She can’t, in good faith, leave with this knowledge and leave Ellis hanging. 

And that’s where we leave off—a promising cliffhanger on a promising series with two very promising leads. 

Your move, The CW.

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