Game of Thrones

GoT logoOver the past decade, science-fiction and superhero genres have played an important role in my life. Fantasy genre TV shows or movies wasn’t my cup of tea until a few years ago. It’s surprising how some genres take time to eventually grow on you.

Honestly, I decided to check out HBO’s Game of Thrones on random whim four years ago. It was a short three-day holiday during the fall of my sophomore year in college. The night before I intensely binged all seven episodes of Downton Abbey Season 1 in one sitting. Chrissy, one of my cluster friends, had been raving about HBO’s Game of Thrones. I keep up with almost 10-15 TV shows throughout the year. At this point, my fall prime-time shows were back with their new seasons. I didn’t need yet another show to watch. My plate was quite full. Yet, I still decided to check out Game of Thrones Season 1 the day after my Downtown Abbey Season 1 binge marathon. I proceeded to watch the first four episodes of Season 1. Talk about a drastic change going from Downtown Abbey to Game of Thrones.

True Blood S3This was not my first rodeo with MA rated premium cable TV show. Not at all. During the summer of 2010, I began reading Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series aka The Southern Vampire Mysteries. I don’t recall how I even found out about HBO’s True Blood. By this point, I’d finished the fourth book, Dead to the World. There was enough interest in this book universe to check out this dark fantasy HBO series. Nothing could have mentally prepared me for MA rating in terms of profanity, violence/gore, nudity, and sexual content. It was entirely new territory for me. You quickly learn effective coping mechanism to deal with it. Despite all these elements, I got sucked into True Blood universe. For better or worse, I loyally stuck HBO’s True Blood until its final 7th season in August 2014.

The Tudors S1I unintentionally stumbled across Showtime’s The Tudors in spring of 2011. There was much hype months leading up to Will and Kate’s wedding in April 2011. I was very sick the week before the royal wedding which is why I wound up spending hours watching of programming about British monarchy. When I wasn’t sleeping, I was basically sprawled on the couch. BBC America was airing re-runs of The Tudors. I knew basic details of the Tudor dynasty. King Henry VIII and his six wives. Queen Mary (aka Bloody Mary). King Edward VI and Lady Jane Gray. Queen Elizabeth I. I was willing to keep an open-mind and check out The Tudors. Season 2 episodes was my official introduction. I was instantly hooked after a couple episodes. This was my second MA rated premium cable show. There was much less profanity compared to HBO’s True Blood. But nudity, sexual content, and violence/gore were still prevalent themes in this historical drama. At this point, MA rated programs didn’t make me as uncomfortable.

Mainstream fantasy genre usually is set in a Medieval-esque setting while simultaneously incorporating magic and supernatural elements. Lord of the Rings trilogy and HBO’s Game of Thrones are examples of fantasy film adaptations that achieved blockbuster status. Compared to my other fandoms, Game of Thrones has a very extensive universe. After intensely binging seasons 1 to 2, I truly understood the complex nature of the relationships between the major family houses. The cinematography was breathtaking. It enhances the beautifully dynamic storytelling in the plot arcs. I was even more impressed how Game of Thrones seamlessly transitions between the drastically different worlds. For better or worse, many main characters undergo huge transformation over the seasons. Game of Thrones perfectly cast all the major and minor roles too. The incredibly talented cast ensemble brings their characters and the intricate plot arcs to life on the screen. Plus, the cast ensemble has great chemistry. I had no idea how this fantasy HBO drama would be so addictive. I fall more and more in love with Game of Thrones with each consecutive season. Yet, I regret nothing about joining this crazy fandom.

Plus, the orchestral soundtrack music for this TV series beautifully captures the mood of scenes. I listen to a plethora of soundtrack composers. Yet, I’m picky when it comes to my favorite composers. Hans Zimmer has been my all-time favorite for many years. Thanks to Game of Thrones, I was introduced to another phenomenal composer. Ramin Djawadi. HBO’s Game of Thrones helped him earn many industry awards and recognition. Ironically, Ramin worked with Hans Zimmer and Klaus Badelt. Ramin is well-known as well for his soundtrack scores for Iron Man, Pacific Rim, and HBO’s Westworld to name a couple.

In August 2016, Ramin announced Game of Thrones Live Experience concert 2017 tour. 24 cities across the US and Canada. Thankfully, one of the concert tours were in Washington DC at the Verizon Center arena on March 1, 2017. “Music is Coming” was the promotional tag-line used for the Game of Thrones Live Experience concert. I bought my tickets for this concert on pre-sale not risking it selling out completely. My ticket was approximately $90 with venue and convenience fees. I’d forgotten how huge venues charge much higher fees.

The last concert I attended at a huge arena was Muse’s The Resistance tour in May 2010. So it’s been a while since I’ve been to a huge arena venue for a concert. They’re must different type of experience compared to small or mid-size venues. But it makes sense Game of Thrones Live Experience would go to much bigger venues. A full orchestra complete with a choir is a huge ensemble that requires a larger stage area. That’s almost 80 people in total! Plus, there are custom-made stages built specifically for Game of Thrones Live experience tour concerts. This would be my first orchestral concert. I was quite excited for it!

The day of the concert finally arrived. The travel to DC wasn’t necessarily fun but thankfully there’s public transportation via bus and metro to get to the Verizon Center arena. The place was filled to almost full capacity. People from all walks of life came in droves for the Game of Thrones Live Experience concert. That’s is evidence of the wide diversity in terms of Game of Thrones fans. Some hardcore fans went the extra mile by cosplaying their favorite characters.

My seat wasn’t close to the custom-made stage. I much preferred a comprehensive bird’s eye view for this concert. It is a 360-degree stage. The main stages feature King’s Landing, Winterfell, and other worlds in Game of Thrones. The most packed section of this massive arena were the seats right by the ginormous screen. Other smaller screens were placed around the stage as well. As the orchestra played the songs, a variety of still images and clips from Game of Thrones were played on the plethora of screens for each performance.

Earlier I mentioned how much a love the orchestral soundtrack music for this HBO premium cable show. It’s even more incredible to hear it played live! Words cannot even begin to describe how mind-blowing it is. There are quintessential orchestral songs from the show. The main title, Rains of Castamere, Mhysa, Light of the Seven to name a few. Yet, Ramin featured a wide selection of well-known and lesser known orchestral tracks. Essentially a highlight of songs from over the past six season. This was a phenomenal orchestral concert and totally lived up to its hype! This was a huge-scale production. Ramin really went all out for Game of Thrones Live Experience concert.

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Recently, Ramin Djwaldi announced Game of Thrones Live Experience 2018 North America and Europe tour dates. I hope to go again in September 2018. For the Washington DC tour date, there is even a Game of Thrones exhibition experience option.

In anticipation for the Season 7, a Game of Thrones-themed pop-up bar (PUB) opened in Washington DC. Drink Company and Ommegang Brewery collaborated together on this Game of Thrones PUB. This 3,000 square foot pop-up bar features four distinct rooms. The Red Keep, Winterfell, The House of Black and White along with Hall of Faces, and Meeren. There’s even a separate throne room with a replica of the Iron Throne. People have opportunity to take a photo on the Iron Throne replica with props. Game of Thrones PUB was open from June 21st to August 27th. This pop-up bar closed at 7 pm on Sundays so people could watch Game of Thrones Season 7 episodes without spoilers. As anticipated, there is a long wait to get into this venue even during the week day. It is recommended to go during the week day rather than weekend as the wait time is slightly less. The hours of operation for the week are Monday to Thursday 5 pm to 12:30 am, Friday to Saturday 5:30 pm to 1:30 am, and Sunday 1-7 pm.

On August 14th, I finally had the opportunity to check out Game of Thrones pop-up bar in DC with my friend, Doris. It was Monday. Luckily, it is located nearby the Shaw-Howard U Metro stop. We waited nearly 1.5 to 2 hours in line before getting inside the Game of Thrones PUB venue.  The wait was so worth it!

Got PUB The Red Keep

(Source: https://www.thrillist.com/news/nation/game-of-thrones-pub-pop-up-bar-open-in-dc)

You enter the Red Keep themed room upon stepping into the venue. The highlight of this room is the colorful banners of the major houses in Game of Thrones. Here you can pledge allegiance to your favorite family house(s).  My friend and I ventured to the other three room. The House of Black and White themed room wasn’t as colorful. More neutral tone room colors. The highlight of this room is the 3D displays of House of Faces along the wall opposite the bar. The door entry that leads into the Winterfell themed room is fittingly appropriate. It’s the wooden gate on the ice wall of Castle Black. There’s even an ice pick stuck in the ice wall. The highlight of the Winterfell room is obviously the white Wierwood tree with its vibrant red leaves. The House of White and Black, Winterfell, and Red Keep rooms even had intricately beautiful mural paintings on the glass windows facing the main street. Meeren is the only themed room that had no windows as it was located in the back of the venue. This is one of the darker colored rooms. There are two intensely awesome mural paintings of Daenerys’s dragons along the black walls. Also, a 3D dragon comes out of the wall breathing “fire” mist into this room. Songs of Harpy outfits and skulls hang on the wall by the bar. Each of the bar rooms are exquisitely detailed-oriented to its theme. Plus, orchestral tracks from TV show plays on loud speakers in each of the four rooms. I’d say my favorite of the four rooms is Winterfell themed bar area.

Got PUB Winterfell

(Source: https://www.thrillist.com/news/nation/game-of-thrones-pub-pop-up-bar-open-in-dc)

img_2352It makes sense this themed pop-up bar would offer alcoholic drinks with Game of Thrones inspired names. The North Remembers. Dothraquiri. The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors. Dracarys. Lady Mormont. The Lannisters Send Their Regards. The Imp’s Delight. What is Dead May Never Die. Valar Morghulis, Valar Dohaeris. Shame. I Drink and I Know Things. Milk of Poppy. Some of these drinks come in specialty Game of Thrones glassware such as The North Remembers. Whenever someone orders a Shame cocktail, bartenders will ring a bell in unison while loudly chanting “shame”. People in the vicinity of bar area are encouraged to join in the chanting as well. It’s quite intriguing and amusing. I personally don’t drink but I could still appreciate these pun-tastically awesome cocktail names.

My purpose of going to Game of Thrones pop-up bar was to get my picture on the replica of Iron Throne. Doris and I waited almost two hours just to get into the place. Then, we had to wait another 1.5 hours before it was our turn to take pictures on the Iron Throne replica. This Iron Throne photo opportunity was in an entirely separate room. There are sigils of the four main Game of Thrones families on the wall above the Iron Throne. House Stark. House. Targaryen. House Baratheon. House Lannister. The staff lets you wear a heavy fur cloak for this photo op. I was hoping there might be a sword prop as well. Not quite. Anyway, it got to our turn. Doris chose to wear the heavy fur cloak when it was her turn to sit on the Iron Throne. I opted not to wear the heavy fur cloak for sanitary reasons. Plus, I’d specifically worn my Game of Thrones tee for this reason. I got that black Game of Thrones logo shirt in the HBO shop a couple years ago. The staff gives you only a couple minutes to take photos on Iron Throne replica. The line for this photo opportunity is very long. So the staff had to keep the line moving as per the electronic wait list order.

Overall, I had a blast hanging out in the Game of Thrones pop-up bar. Doris and I spent nearly 4-ish hours inside the PUB. So much details to absorb in each of the four bar areas. Some people even cosplayed their favorite Game of Thrones characters. In fact, this is encouraged for attendees if they’re willing to put in the extra time and effort. One woman had an awesome Daenerys Targaryen cosplay outfit. I made sure to get a photo with her before leaving the pop-up bar. Also, all the bartenders were in appropriate outfits for their assigned theme bar area.

It was free to visit the Game of Thrones PUB. There was no cover fee. You didn’t have to be 21 or up either to enter this venue. But the staff carded everyone to stamp individuals who were old enough to drink alcohol. Whether you drink or not, you can have a great time at Game of Thrones pop-up bar. I’m glad they chose Washington DC as the location for it!

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I plan on reading A Song of Fire and Ice book series by George R.R. Martin after Game of Thrones TV series has ended. Luckily, my college friend, Kaitlyn, gave me her extra paperback copies of books one to four. I pride myself on being an avid bookworm. Yet, I can admit these books are very dense and not light reading material.

Outlander S1 promo posterI’ve started to experience Game of Thrones withdrawal symptoms. I needed some TV show recommendations. Awhile back, I got Starz’s Outlander pilot episode free on iTunes. It has been a long time since I’ve watched a historical drama television show. Let alone a premium cable historical drama series. So I decided to give Outlander a chance. That was on September 10th. Almost a month later, I’m only 7 episodes away from being fully caught up with the current season 3. This historical show is so damn addictive. I can’t believe I didn’t start it much earlier. At least, I’m on the fandom wagon now. Now, I just need to keep myself occupied with other TV shows the next two years. Game of Thrones Season 8 will most likely only air in 2019. That’s two years of agonizing wait for the final season. That’s why I need other TV shows to not dwell on that tormenting thought.

True Blood and The Tudors whetted my appetite for MA rated premium cable shows. From 2010 to present, I’ve watched my fair share of MA rated premium cable TV shows. HBO’s True Blood, Showtime’s The Tudors, Starz’s Camelot, Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, HBO’s Generation Kill, Showtime’s House of Lies, and HBO’s Game of Thrones, and Starz’s Outlander. Quite a variety of genres. In my opinion, premium cable programs have better cinematography and storytelling compared to majority of popular prime-time TV shows.

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Penny Dreadful

 

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I’d like to say I’m generally open-minded when it comes to movie and TV show genres. But usually I avoid psychological thriller or horror genres. Just ain’t my cup of tea. Yet, I’ve made few exceptions. This is applicable to more TV shows than movies.

Despite being behind on many of my prime time shows, I decided to start an entirely new TV series. I had no idea what at the time…except that it had to be fairly short. I wasn’t willing to commit to another long-running TV series. Showtime’s Penny Dreadful was one of the options. I’d heard of this show but just never had time to get around it. Plus, my friend gave high praise for Penny Dreadful. This further cemented my selection. In the end, I decided to check out Showtime’s Penny Dreadful.

First, I must give some historical context. There were many social changes during the Victorian era in Britain including increased literacy rates and technological advances in many industries. The working-class readers desired for more affordable popular literature circulated on a larger scale. This gave birth to 19th century publishing phenomenon of penny dreadful literature. Compared to popular serialized novels of the time, penny dreadfuls cost only one penny. These stories would be published in weekly parts. They were printed on cheap wood pulp paper. Penny dreadful literature included over-dramatic and highly sensational subject matters. Often, these stories included criminal or supernatural themes. This particular type of literature mainly appealed to working-class citizens.

I safely assumed Showtime’s Penny Dreadful would have an overall dark, somber tone. So I wasn’t going into this with unrealistic expectations. Beyond this assumption, I had no idea what to expect with this TV series.

After watching enough premium cable network shows, I’ve developed coping mechanism to deal with gory violence, sexual content, nudity, and profanity. I was hooked after watching the pilot episode. Penny Dreadful is an addictively heartbreaking show. The three seasons takes place between 1891 and 1892. Late Victorian era in London, England.

I’m pleasantly surprised that profanity wasn’t much of an issue. Only a total of 15-20 times “fuck” is used over 27 episodes. Of course mainly Ethan Chandler, the only American character, drops the f-bombs. Even scenes involving nudity were mostly tasteful. Scenes with sexual content is far and few throughout the entire series. Although, some sex scenes were pretty intense. Gory violence is  a common theme with this particular show. It can be tough to stomach at times. Yet, I’ve seen enough premium cable network shows to find a way to deal with it.

I love the opening credits and beautifully haunting theme song. The intense imagery used in opening credits brilliantly represents the show’s essence.  The main actors were perfectly cast for their roles. Each of them deliver incredibly powerful performances individually and collectively.

Penny Dreadful explores an overall theme among the characters. Everyone has their inner demons and we all have different coping mechanisms to deal with it. “There is some thing within us all” is Season 1’s promotional tagline. The show features captivatingly complex characters. Sir Malcolm Murray, Vanessa Ives, Victor Frankenstein, Sambene, Lily Frankenstein, The Creature, Ethan Chandler, and Dorian Gray. Of course there are reoccurring characters that play an important role in the seasons’ plot arc. Each character combats the dark forces that pervading their intertwined lives. I was so emotionally invested in these characters.

Over the three seasons, we learn more background story about the main characters except Dorian Gray. Basically we know nothing of his origins. Dorian Gray remains an alluring conundrum up till the series finale. My first impression of him was formed when he set up a private erotic photo shoot with Brona Croft. I found him uber-creepy until halfway through Season 1. Suddenly, I found him stunning beautiful and inexplicably charming. My impression didn’t change so drastically with the other main characters. (Side note: Dorian ain’t picky with whom he chooses as his lovers. Very experimental with both genders. He certainly gets around in three seasons. Basically he is the man whore out of all the Penny Dreadful male characters. Now that speaks volumes. But it makes sense for Dorian Gray’s characterization.He seeks out adventures of extravagant debauchery to make life interesting.)

Detailed and nuanced elements are intricately woven into each episode’s plot and sub-plots. In terms of the settings and costumes, I was vastly impressed by the accuracy of late Victorian era component inserted within the storylines. One of my favorite reoccurring sets was Dorian Gray’s Portrait Gallery. What extravagant detail in that one room alone. Each character had their own unique fashion style. No two main female or male characters had similar outfit concepts. Although, the characters’ costumes usually used darker color palettes. Very rare occasions were the characters in light color clothing. Most of all, the show’s storylines transports the audience to reputable and scandalous areas of London. Penny Dreadful heavily incorporates symbolism into the storylines. Abel Korzeniowski composes the soundtrack music for this show. The music brilliantly captures the dark themes of the show. Plus, the soundtrack music wonderfully captures the mood of the scenes. There are definitely over-the-top theatrical aspects  sprinkled throughout the three seasons. All of these devices exceptionally enhance your viewing experience. It immerses you into this show’s elaborate universe.

Season 1 gives you a feel for what to expect with this horror drama. Penny Dreadful is not for the faint-hearted. That’s safe to say. With every season, the sub-plots brilliantly ties back into to overarching plot arc. Season 1 introduces you to the dark universe of the show. Each character is richly developed through the intense storytelling. You’ll find yourself growing attached to the characters no matter how much you resist the urge. That’s the point of no return. At this point, you’ve got to see the show through the end. For better or worse. Often, plot twists don’t give me a surprised reaction. Usually I see it coming from miles away. Yet, this show threw numerous plot twists that really took me by surprise. Now that is quite impressive.

Season 2 overarching plot with the nightcomers was difficult to get through at times. I’m not a huge fan of witchcraft storylines in my books, TV shows, and movies. Yet some of my fantasy genre shows (ex. True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, and Supernatural) portray it in a manner that doesn’t entirely freak me out. Not the case with Penny Dreadful. Often, I skipped any scenes involving rituals or spells of any nature. Not my cup of tea.

Season 3 decently wrapped up the entire show. I still have mixed emotions over some sub-plots. In the previous two seasons, the overarching plot arcs typically revolve around London. More than half of the final season swaps between New Mexico territory in America and London, England. I felt the Ethan Chandler origin story dragged on too long. Also, I didn’t like how the crew was split up until the last two episodes. I much prefer the whole gang working together to defeat the dark forces. Not separately. Most of the final season, Vanessa battled the dark forces all by herself. She didn’t have anyone to lean on for comfort and emotional support. Poor Miss Ives. Thank goodness I watched the final two episodes by myself. Overwhelmingly tumultuous emotions. Tears and snot everywhere. I was a hot mess…not in a good way either. Very few show series finales have brought me to legit wretch sobs. Congratulations Penny Dreadful. You join this exclusively elite club.

To put this in context, I intensely binged all 27 episodes of Penny Dreadful over 16 days. I cannot even describe the whirlwind of tumultuous emotions I experienced watching all three seasons. This premium cable show has absolutely no chill with its storytelling. (WARNING: Don’t expect happy endings for any of the main characters.) It will put you through the emotional ringer multiple times in each episode. The season finales especially made me ball like a baby. Yet the overwhelming feels were so worth it! I’d highly recommend Showtime’s Penny Dreadful.

I wish I’d started this fantastic cable TV show sooner. Sadly, Penny Dreadful was not renewed for a 4th season. It has officially ended. The series finale didn’t give full closure for almost all the characters. On the bright side, there might be hope for a spin-off series.

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