The Mad Queen – Character Analysis

Though Daenery’s descent into madness felt undoubtedly rushed, the show has been foreshadowing it for years, all the while ostentatiously playing her murderous moments as heroic.

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Daenerys Targaryen going completely ‘Mad Queen’ and burning Kings Landing to the ground in the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones was met with universal disdain. Fans argued that the show had done little to justify her trajectory, with some even going as far as to compare Dany’s dark turn with Anakin Skywalker’s ill-conceived plunge to the dark side.

While I had a lot of problems with Jaime’s character arc, Dany’s wasn’t exactly a character assassination. The show has been building up to Dany’s descent into madness from earlier seasons and there is plenty of evidence to support that.

Season 2

  • Even when her dragons were just hatchlings, Daenerys Targaryen was never one to shy away from lofty proclamations. At Qarth, she declares that ‘We will lay waste to armies and burn cities to the ground’ and that ‘I am Daenerys Stormborn of the blood of old Valyria and I will take what is mine, with fire and blood I will take it.’
  • In the season finale, Dany has a vision of walking through the throne room, with white particles falling from the broken ceiling, which we wrongly assumed to be snow. We now realize that it’s actually ash from Drogon raining fire on King’s Landing, a chilling omen of things to come.

Season 4

  • After conquering Mereen, Dany orders for 163 masters to be crucified, without any regard for their individual guilt or innocence, as response to the 163 slave children the masters had crucified on her road to the city, despite Ser Barristan counseling her otherwise.

Season 6

  • At Vaes Dothrak, when the Khals verbally taunt her, she watches it all unfold with a badass smirk on her face before burning them all alive. She then makes the remaining Dothraki promise her that they will ‘kill (her) enemies in their iron suits and tear down their stone houses.’
  • She has also demonstrated on several other occasions that she is happy to burn her prisoners alive (Tarlys, Sons of the Harpy, Varys) against the better judgement of her advisors.
  • In the same season, when she finds Mereen under siege, her plan is to ‘crucify the masters, set their fleets afire, kill every last one of their soldiers and return their cities to the dirt,’ but thankfully Tyrion talks her out of it.

What the show successfully did was to make us root for Dany as the benevolent ruler who is trying to make the world a better place, all the while ostentatiously playing her murderous moments as heroic. It was only in the last two seasons that we started to question her actions. While I agree that Dany’s character arc was undoubtedly rushed in the last season, the show has been consistent in two regards.

One is that Dany wants to be loved. She believes that she’s the rightful heir to the Iron Throne and wants to be seen as a liberator to her people, the way she was worshipped as Mhysa in Essos. When the people of Westeros greet her with fear and open hostility, she comes to a grim realization that she will never be loved here.

Another aspect is that when she is provoked, she tends to quickly leap to ‘burn them all’ as the best solution regardless of whether it’s necessary or not. And she’s never been angrier than she is now, having lost her two dragons and two most trusted friends in quick succession. With her Targaryen blood, Dany never really needed that big of a push to commit genocide, and the final season actually gave her a really hard shove. As the Machiavellian saying goes, Daenerys Targaryen ultimately chose to be feared than to be loved.

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The Kingslayer – Character Analysis

Jaime Lannister was one of the most complex and nuanced characters in Game of Thrones, whose redemption arc deserves a better ending.

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Jaime was introduced as a dashing, but arrogant villain in Season 1; the golden boy of the rich and scheming Lannisters, paramour to his own sister, and an infamous regicide. He didn’t do himself any favors when he pushed 10-year-old Bran Stark out of a window in the very first episode. It seemed impossible that Jaime would be able to find any form of redemption after such a heinous act. But he manages to become a fan favorite against all odds, though it comes at a steep cost, as the show makes him lose everything he held dear.

First, his pride takes a beating when he suffers an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Robb Stark at the Whispering Woods. He is taken prisoner and separated from his sister/lover. He then loses what defined him as a person – his sword hand – which crushes his ego and leaves a lasting impact on his personality.

More than anything else, it is during his travels with Brienne that Jaime discovers his true self. While the moniker of Kingslayer was bestowed upon him for stabbing the Mad King, we hear his side of the story in Season 3, which marks the beginning of Jaime’s redemption arc. In an iconic scene, crackling with raw emotion, Jaime lays his soul bare to Brienne, confessing the real reason he killed King Aerys, the man he’d sworn to protect. When Brienne asks why he didn’t confide the truth to Ned Stark, Jaime responds, ‘By what right does the wolf judge the lion?‘, in what remains one of the show’s finest moments.

Jaime’s star continues to rise when he heroically saves Brienne from a bear, in a later episode. Despite being filthy, weak, and weaponless, he still cuts a dashing figure as he pushes his way past Locke (‘Sorry about the sapphires’), with the show’s best rendition of The Rains of Castamere thrumming in the background. Jaime’s transformation into a hero of Westeros was complete when he finally turned his back on his sister and decided to fight against the army of the dead. Even the actor who plays Jaime, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, indicated that this marked the end of his allegiance to Cersei in an interview. ‘I don’t know why it took him so long to realize what the rest of the world always knew – that she is a crazy monster – but he finally did.’

So, it was rather baffling when the showrunners decided to throw years worth of character development out of the window. After defeating the dead army, Jaime dumps Brienne in the middle of the night, before heading back to King’s Landing to die in the arms of his one true love. While this decision could maybe be explained with his infamous ‘the things we do for love’ quote, what was inexcusable was his dying declaration that ‘nothing else matters’ and his admission that he is just as hateful as Cersei. It was downright infuriating that Jaime Lannister was made to throw away everything his character had earned over several years, just because the plot demanded him to be with Cersei in her dying moments.

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Avengers: Endgame – Movie Review

Avengers: Endgame brings a decade of worldbuilding to a satisfying and spectacularly epic conclusion.

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Avengers: Endgame is a thoroughly rewarding experience for longtime fans, as the plot offers plenty of scope to revisit key moments from earlier movies. There are also so many subtle nods to the larger MCU that totally justified my decision to rewatch the origin stories and Infinity Stones-centric movies. The time-jump to the Battle of New York was particularly awesome and just unbridled fan-service. It felt like a series of Shawarma scenes as we get new perspectives of the Avengers doing mundane things. I whooped in delight when Endgame revisited the iconic elevator scene from Winter Soldier with an inspired twist.

At the heart of Endgame are the heroes we’ve been following since the very beginning. While Infinity War felt crammed with too many heroes, Endgame does a remarkable job of balancing its character arcs that it seemed like each hero got their own solo movie. Despite a runtime of over 3 hours, the movie whirs past at lightspeed, playing out as a series of exciting time-heists before the epic, climactic battle.

Even though the Avengers are only fighting CGI monsters, the battle is quite simply spectacular and works so much better than the Battle of Wakanda, since it is tempered with so many character-focused moments. The internet has theories, but the post-credit sceneclip is still undecipherable. I’d been hoping for a ‘Snikt!’, as there could be no better way to mark the Disney/Fox merger, but it was not to be.

Despite tackling ambitious projects with mounting stakes, the Russos have always managed to deliver movies that are loved by fanboys and critics alike. With an unprecedented mass hysteria accompanying Endgame’s release, it’s quite staggering that the movie managed to exceed expectations. It bears further testament to the Russos’ mastery of assembling tentpole movies that their portfolio of MCU movies (Winter Soldier, Civil War, Infinity War, and Endgame) is now good enough to rival even The Dark Knight, arguably the greatest superhero trilogy of all time. Nolan’s trilogy ended on a thunderous, satisfying note when the end credits ushered in Batman’s heir. Endgame somehow manages to emulate that by giving us a wondrous sense of closure as the MCU comes full circle.

In terms of sheer scope and ambition, the Infinity Saga (the first twenty-two films in the MCU) is a staggering accomplishment that has revolutionized cinematic storytelling. Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios can look back with pride as Avengers: Endgame brings a decade of worldbuilding and interwoven stories to a satisfying and spectacularly epic conclusion.

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Skyward – Book Review

Spensa will perhaps go down as Sanderson’s most inspiring heroine as she fights insurmountable odds in a high-stakes space opera.

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Brandon Sanderson is my most favorite author right now and I was lucky enough to get a signed copy of Skyward. I gobble up all his books, regardless of whether they are fantasy, YA, or sci-fi. His books generally have intricate worldbuilding, enthralling magic systems, protagonists you want to root for, captivating storylines, and an explosive final arc. Replace the magic system with pilot training, and Skyward is no different.

In typical fashion, Sanderson’s world-building is one of the most interesting aspects of the story. Skyward tells the story of Spensa, a young woman who yearns to become a pilot and protect the last remnants of the human race from a mysterious alien species. Their planet is overseen by the authoritarian Defiant Defense Force, an elite air force which Spensa aspires to join.

While I thoroughly enjoyed Sanderson’s lessons on magical systems in Mistborn and Stormlight Archive, I found the flight training segments a bit underwhelming. The Battle School in Ender’s Game was a lot more interesting than the aerial dogfighting lessons in Skyward. Touted as How to Train Your Dragon meets Top Gun and Ender’s Game, I found a lot of parallels with the Divergent trilogy as well, with the Defiants not that dissimilar from the Dauntless.

Spensa’s friends at flight school are as diverse as they are relatable. Their camaraderie is brilliant and completely organic, with amazing banter and sincere conversations. For a YA novel, the death toll is surprisingly high. Sanderson has a penchant for introducing some brilliant sidekicks in his books (Syl in Stormlight, OreSeur in Mistborn). Spensa’s talking spaceship M-Bot, whose life goal is to analyze mushrooms, might be the cutest of the lot. With his data banks corrupted, M-Bot comes across as an inquisitive child with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and collecting mushroom samples.

The battle sequences are as good as befitting a Sanderson novel. But more than the action, it’s the steadfast determination of the protagonist and the hope prevalent throughout the book that make Skyward such a memorable read. Spensa grew up listening to inspirational stories from her grandmother. Despite her outward bravado, she still has to fight the demons inside her head. She also faces insurmountable odds to realize her dreams. But the way she soldiers on, like the mythical heroes from her stories, is truly awe-inspiring.

People need stories, child. They bring us hope, and that hope is real.

Marvel Cinematic Universe – Top 10 Movies

The concept of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) began as a simple idea, thrown in during the post-credits of the first movie, Iron Man. Nick Fury was addressing the audience as much as Tony Stark, when he uttered the words. ‘You’ve become part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet.’

With the Infinity Saga – which includes the first twenty-two films of the MCU – drawing to a close with the release of Avengers: Endgame, here is my ranking of the multi-billion dollar franchise’s best movies so far.

10. Ant-Man

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Paul Rudd is just perfect as Ant-Man. Though the idea of an ant-sized superhero is quite ludicrous, the movie works because of its self-contained plot and drastically smaller scale. Despite the movie largely following Marvel’s origin story template, Ant-Man is a breath of fresh air in the MCU.

9. Black Panther

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Despite claims of Black Panther transcending the superhero genre, the movie feels like a familiar Marvel origin story, albeit set in a vibrant, rich and imaginative realization of Wakanda.

8. Spiderman: Homecoming

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Thanks to the collaboration between Marvel and Sony, Spiderman finally had his ‘homecoming’ in the MCU. Despite so many reboots, Spiderman: Homecoming still manages to feel fresh by steering clear of the origin story arc. The inspired casting of Tom Holland as a teenage Peter Parker and the injection of the charismatic Robert Downey Jr. make it a very enjoyable web-slinging ride.

7. Guardians of the Galaxy

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Guardians of the Galaxy is a surprisingly heartful, funny, and amazing sci-fi adventure with a motley bunch of characters – ranging from a talking raccoon to a sentient tree – whom you just can’t help but love. This galaxy-spanning saga is another reminder that there are more ways to tell a superhero story.

6. Iron Man

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Iron Man will always have a special place in my heart because this was the movie that started it all. Even after 10 years, Iron Man still remains one of the best Marvel movies ever. The movie’s blueprint for a superhero origin story has been adopted faithfully in so many MCU movies. Like Hugh Jackman, it seemed Robert Downey Jr. was born to play the role of Tony Stark.

5. Thor: Ragnarok

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After two lackluster solo outings, Thor finally strikes gold when Thor: Ragnarok embraces the inherent silliness of the character’s cosmic roots. With a dazzlingly colorful aesthetic and a brilliant ensemble cast, Ragnarok is an absolute laughter riot. The sight of a glowing Chris Hemsworth descending on the Bifrost battle to the rousing tune of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant is probably my most favorite scene in the MCU.

4. Avengers: Infinity War

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It was always going to be hard to cram every major MCU character (barring the ones from the TV shows, of course) in a single movie. But as was evident in their earlier MCU movies, the Russo brothers have a penchant for crossovers and Infinity War is no different as characters from different movies collide into each other in the best possible ways. Another big plus for the movie is Thanos, whose snap will go down movie folklore as one of the biggest wins for the bad guys since Empire Strikes Back.

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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The Winter Soldier is not a typical superhero movie. It’s intense, suspenseful, and ominous, as befitting a political espionage thriller. With a taut script and electrifying action sequences, this was the movie that made Captain America cool. The elevator fight scene leading to Cap’s escape from S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters was quite simply spectacular.

2. Captain America: Civil War

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The plotting of Civil War may not be as tight as Winter Soldier, but the airport scene when both camps of superheroes come to blows and throw barbed insults at each other is just pure comicbook bliss and makes up for any of the movie’s perceived flaws. In terms of superhero-vs-superhero action, this movie was everything that Batman v Superman wasn’t.

1. The Avengers

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The original Avengers is still the gold standard of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as Joss Whedon balances high-stakes action with Marvel’s trademark humor, while juggling such a wide variety of characters with impressive deftness. Thanks to Marvel’s organic world building, the character interactions work great and never feel forced.

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Marvel Cinematic Universe – Top 10 Powerful Characters

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is home to gods, aliens, wizards, androids, and other enhanced individuals. This is a countdown of ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ in terms of how powerful they are.

Note: This list is confined to only the movies, so it won’t include anyone from the Defenders, Inhumans, or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It is also restricted to only superheroes, and doesn’t include overpowered supervillains like Dormammu, Ego or Thanos.

10. Spiderman

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Spiderman made his bow in the MCU with Captain America: Civil War and has quickly proved that, despite being a teenage kid, he packs some impressive powers and is more than capable to take on seasoned villains (and heroes).

9. Captain America

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Captain America’s combination of serum-enhanced super strength, fighting prowess and a virtually indestructible vibranium shield have proven incredibly potent in combat.

8. Black Panther

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As the Black Panther, T’Challa is granted incredible speed, agility, and strength, and can easily hold his own against most heroes in a fight. He also gains an edge from his vibranium suit, which is decked with the latest technology from Shuri’s lab.

7. Iron Man

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From Mark 1 to Mark 85, Iron Man’s suit has undergone several upgrades and enhancements, with the latest version capable enough to trade blows with Thanos himself.

6. Vision

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Vision iswas the physical embodiment of J.A.R.V.I.S, capable of flight and changing his physical composition at will. He could also fire powerful beams from the Mind Stone, from which he drew his power.

5. Scarlet Witch

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Considered as an Omega-level mutant, Scarlet Witch is widely regarded as one of the most powerful characters in the comics, as she demonstrated during the events of House of M, when she very nearly wiped out the entire mutant population just by uttering three iconic words ‘No more mutants’.

In the MCU, Wanda’s telekinetic and psychic powers have not been fully explored yet. If she unlocks her true potential, she might make a case of being the most powerful Avenger.

4. Doctor Strange

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The Sorcerer Supreme is an incredibly powerful wizard, who can create weapons and shields out of thin air using magic, use his Sling Ring to travel between dimensions, and can fly using the Cloak of Levitation.

3. The Hulk

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The Incredible Hulk is easily one of the most powerful heroes in the MCU and has been the Avenger’s trump card on several occasions. The angrier he gets, the more powerful he becomes, and things/people invariably get smashed.

2. Thor

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As the Asgardian ‘God of Thunder’, Thor is naturally considered strong and a capable fighter. But his powers have grown exponentially since the events of Thor: Ragnarok when he fully embraced his true potential. In Avengers: Infinity War, he was able to withstand the full blast of a star and very nearly defeated Thanos, even when the Mad Titan was wielding all the Infinity Stones.

1. Captain Marvel

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Armed with superhuman strength, energy manipulation, and energy absorption, Carol Danvers can blast away most people with hyper-charged photons. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige recently admitted that the most powerful character in the MCU is indeed Captain Marvel.

She’s one of the most powerful – and one of the most popular – characters in our comics, and will be the most powerful character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.’

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Thanos: Titan Consumed – Book Review

While the book has enough references to the MCU to keep you turning the pages, I found Thanos’ backstory non-compelling.

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One of the biggest reasons why Avengers: Infinity War worked on so many levels was because Thanos is such an engaging and fleshed-out villain. Barry Lyga’s novel explores the origin story of Thanos, the Mad Titan, who ultimately decimates half of all life in the universe with the snap of his fingers.

According to the book, Thanos is a ‘Deviant’ child born to A’Lars (name-dropped by the Red Skull in Avengers: Infinity War) and Sui-San. Because of his purple skin (the color of death), Thanos grows up isolated from the rest of Titan and is homeschooled by his father. A chance remark from the first girl he kisses leads him to an epiphany that Titan was going to run out of resources and that 50% of the population needs to be euthanized. When he relays his message on a hologram, even offering his own life, it causes mass panic and he is exiled from the planet.

His space-faring adventures take him to Asgard, where he makes a futile attempt to steal the Aether (the Reality Stone from Thor: The Dark World) from Odin’s vault, before he crashes on the Chitauri home planet where he makes a pact with them (The Avengers). The story moves on to show how Thanos recruits Gamora and Nebula, and the Chitauri onslaught on Gamora’s homeland matches perfectly with the flashback from Infinity War. So, it was rather perplexing as to why the book was denied ‘canon’ status.

While the book has enough references to the MCU to keep you turning the pages, I found Thanos’ backstory largely non-compelling. There are too many unnecessary detours, involving characters and places you don’t have a vested interest in. The book becomes truly exciting only in the final chapters, when Thanos runs into an alien called the Loremaster, who shares interesting titbits about the Infinity Stones and other cosmic powers in the MCU.

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