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Feed Your Game of Thrones Addiction By Sharing It With Friends

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WARNING: Vague Spoilers Ahead

A couple of weeks ago, my roommate finally hopped on the Game of Thrones bandwagon (about 6.5 years late). It’s been rough for me, being the only one in my house that watches. I have nobody to talk GoT theory with and as all of us know, that’s half the entertainment of the show. Then I realized an even greater joy. Watching someone else’s mind get blown and remembering how it felt when I binged the first 3 seasons back in high school (only about 2.5 years late).

GoT has been on for 6 years, but for those that have invested hours and hours of their time to watching, talking, and thinking about the show, it’s hard to remember a time before it. The vast amount of depth that has been placed into the show, which even pales in comparison to the giant books I haven’t read, submerges its viewers into a whole other world. You see these characters transform through the hardships they’ve faced, some for better, and for some, much worse. Our emotions ride with the ups and downs of the show, and watching someone else experience them, is like experiencing them for yourself all over again.

That’s what makes the whole show work. My roommate cheered for Rob Stark, God bless his soul, to rip Jamie’s head off, but in the back of my mind I know he evolves into a much more complex character, one that you’d root for, if he wasn’t stuck on the wrong side. He thinks Khal Drogo is a tyrannical asshole who deserves to be a vegetable the rest of his days, but now we know that he helped bring the ruthless side out of Dany (the future Mad Queen???). He thinks Joffrey is bad, well he is crazy annoying, but little does he know, there’s this dude named Ramsey that will haunt your nightmares.

Ramsay: Nightmare Man

So, find a friend and get them hooked. Pretend that you’re giving them your HBOGo login to be nice. Watch their life routine turn into sleep, eat, work, binge, repeat. Then just wait for the big payoff with soda and some popcorn, as they watch the Red Wedding in horror, losing all hope for humanity on Earth and in Westeros. Don’t worry, they’ll recover…right? Wait have you…have I? Man, maybe I don’t want to go through that again.

Red Wedding Memories

 

Image Credits: HBO

Divorce Songs

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HBO’s new series, Divorce finished its 1st season this year, and recently announced that a second season will be picked up. In the realm of all the action-packed excitement of shows that HBO has to offer (Game of Thrones, Westworld, True Detective), it is easy to gloss over some of the simpler, more idiosyncratic shows like Girls or Insecure. Divorce falls into the latter type of HBO program.

Created by Sharon Horgan and starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Hayden Church, the show takes place in New York, zoomed in on a married couple in their 40’s/50’s. It depicts a major fork in their marriage, and how they navigate through a divorce for the first time. The subject matter is bleak, but there are wonderful moments of humor peppered throughout every episode. Church definitely contributes most to the humor with his odd temper and sometimes inappropriate social awkwardness. Parker plays a very annoyed and very tired wife and mother to perfection. One element of the show that the audience may notice, is that most of the music is straight out of the 70’s. Every closing credit is accompanied by a classic 70’s song by musicians that range from Supertramp to Little River Band.

While Church’s character, Robert, learns that his marriage might be ending, he starts going through his old records. It’s a little cliché to have a man going through a mid-life crisis, re-discover his old records, but there’s a reason that always happens in movies and TV. People resort to music when they cannot express their feelings. When an old song from high school days comes on the radio, it automatically transports the listener back to that time. When Robert finds his old Yes! albums (which is a delightfully hilarious band for his character to love), he remembers what makes him passionate. He remembers what it’s like to feel alive again. The fact that so much of the music comes from the 70’s is a very poignant move by the music supervisor for Divorce, Michael Hill.

In a way, choosing music from this decade makes the audience remember that this is the music that the couple must have listened to all the time when they were younger, more carefree…more in love. It creates a lovely nostalgia in the show that impeccably contrasts with the struggles the couple faces in modern times. There are some rare moments in the show when modern music plays. However, when this happens, it’s usually during an awkward or uncomfortable situation. A great example of that: Parker’s character, Frances, is riding in the car with Robert and Coldplay’s Paradise is on the radio. It is at the part when Chris Martin is singing “para- para- paradise” over and over, and Robert is singing along with it…badly. He just keeps repeating that part over and over and the audience can see that Frances is boiling with irritation. Finally she can’t stand it anymore and abruptly turns off the radio without a word. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with Coldplay, but any time modern music is playing, it’s almost like the couple just doesn’t fit in…much like how they don’t quite gel with the life that they have created for each other. The music in this series echoes the melancholy of this couple’s marriage as well as the grating harshness of their divorce.

Season 2 of Divorce is expected to air this fall.

Main Image Credit: HBO

The Enchanting Music of Westworld

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It is almost unnecessary to go into how amazing Westworld is, right? Pretty much every person is watching this show right now. Created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, Westworld is a drama series on HBO that depicts a theme park for adults that is set in the wild west and made up of insanely real-looking robots.

Westworld is all about weaving unlikely elements together seamlessly. Robots and cowboys, the Wild West and the future, high technology and old-fashioned history.

The music reflects these juxtaposing components beautifully. The show’s composer, Ramin Djawadi, masterfully creates original compositions, as well as arranges classical takes on modern hit songs. Djawadi also composed the show’s opening credits theme song. Oftentimes, Djawadi also uses the Vitamin String Orchestra’s versions of famous songs such as “No Surprises” by Radiohead and “Something I Can Never Have” by Nine Inch Nails.

The Westworld theme park has a brothel that guests can visit, which has a player piano constantly playing. Sometimes it plays ragtime songs as it should, but sometimes it also plays songs from today.

When modern songs are played on this piano, it is typically very symbolic. In one of the first episodes, a major bar brawl was about to go down and “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden was eerily heard on the player piano. It definitely set a tone for destruction.

In a way, just the sheer image of a player piano in this type of robot-world in itself is symbolic, and perhaps even foreshadowing. The piano itself is essentially a robot in its own way…no longer needing any help from humans. It can play anything it wants on its own… songs from 100 years ago, songs from 20 years ago, and even songs that were just released.

Each song in the show is almost like a poem — exposing exactly what is happening in the storyline. The music is very strategically chosen, which only adds to the hauntingly beautiful plot.

A wonderful example of this is when Maeve, Westworld’s brothel owner (played by Thandie Newton), starts to learn that she is not a human. She befriends a human who is a robot tech behind the scenes of Westworld, and he walks her around the lab and shows her how the robots are created/maintained. It is a highly emotional scene as Maeve tries to grasp her own reality. The song playing in the background is Radiohead’s “Motion Picture Soundtrack,” performed by the Vitamin String Quartet.

Although the lyrics of the actual song are not sang, anyone who is familiar with this song can see how incredibly powerful it is in this scene. Some of the lyrics include: “help me get where I belong…” and “I think you’re crazy. Maybe…” and possibly the most evocative lyric, “I will see you in the next life…”

Being familiar with the music of Westworld is in no way a requirement for watchers. However, for those who do take the time to pay attention to the music and research lyrics and artists that are being used, they will feel a greater connection to the plot.

In a way, Ramin Djawadi rewards the music lovers who are familiar with the songs because he strategically chooses each song to uncover major characters and plot points. Thank you, Ramin Djawadi for making music a primary character in this amazing series.

Season one of Westworld is currently available to stream on HBO GO.

The Creepy, Addictive Mysteries of Westworld

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1976 was a big year for the United States, and well, really the world. Notably, Steve Jobs founded the fruit, NASA unveiled the first space shuttle, Enterprise, and denim skirt suits were considered fashion forward. The silver screen offered such perennial classics as Rocky and The Omen and a less remembered film written and directed by sci-fi master Michael Crichton called Westworld. Yep, Westworld, the biggest season premiere for HBO since a little show called True Detective, is a reboot from the bygone era of Beta max and the Cod Wars.

Straddling the line of Gen-Xers and Millennials, I had no idea that HBO was retreading old ground. Blessedly my mother is here to drop some knowledge on me. The TV series appears to follow Crichton’s original premise of a wild West themed park, catering to the wealthy and bored, that is populated by humanoid robots, hosts, that go very, very off script. The series cast is jam packed with heavy hitters and ubiquitous actors of our time.

Ed Harris is an unnamed “newcomer” (park-speak for the super wealthy patrons) indulging in every manner of sordid act, though he is apparently bored of the run of the mill rape-the-rancher’s-daughter package and is himself deviating from groomed storylines.

Anthony Hopkins, as co-creator of the park, conjures memories of a “spare no expense” John Hammond, though Hopkins’ character, Dr. Robert Ford, is far less naive and decidedly more aware of the full capabilities of his creations.

Evan Rachel Wood is disturbingly good as an optimistic, milquetoast host named Dolores, who is slowly evolving and losing her programming leash due to outside influences both known and unknown to the audience.

Thandie Newton effortlessly masters her role as a veteran saloon girl overwhelmed by experiences and memories she isn’t built to have — much less understand.

The creepy factor is as high as the tension, though I am forced to suspend my disbelief of the implausible scale of the park and the way in which the staff observe and intercede in the storylines, to fully buy in. Visually, Westworld is a wonder — the stripped down, moodily lit, R&D sets are all glass and metal contrasting the sweeping, dusty and quintessentially Western park sets.

The costuming is what makes people wish they lived in the 19th century, though your infatuation of bustled hoop skirts and three piece suits with a six-shooter in the holster falls to the wayside when you see the incredibly well-acted fear in the lady of the line’s eyes while a newcomer decides whether or not to sexually assault her.

The glitches the hosts experience are unsettling because their realism is emphasized; viewers are lulled into, albeit brief, complacency then jerked out when the programmed creations have emotional breakdowns and Max Headroom-like tics. The behavior in which the newcomers engage swings from one extreme to another. We see families with young children exploring the untarnished beauty of a river cutting through an arroyo, young professionals sating their thirst for hard liquor and easy sex in the saloon, and middle-aged couples thrill seeking as they hunt for bandits with the sheriff and his posse. Your familiarity with, and soon affection for, some of the park’s hosts leads to equally divergent feelings as you watch them suffer the cruel whims of the paying guests.

Unsurprisingly, the 3.3 million people who watched or streamed the season premiere have feelings about Westworld, its creators, and the inhabitants. Fan theories abound, and cognitive dissonance is getting more action than maybe anyone thought possible.

With ten episodes in the can and a growing and enthusiastic audience, it’s safe to assume we’ll get another season to obsess over — and I, for one, can’t wait.

Image Credit: HBO
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