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Game of Thrones Recap Season 6, Episode 3, "Oathbreaker"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 3, “Oathbreaker”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 3, “Oathbreaker”

The first thing Vala (Meena Rayann) does upon being brought to Varys (Conleth Hill) for interrogation in tonight’s Game of Thrones, “Oathbreaker,” is to explain that she won’t betray the Harpies, and that he might as well begin torturing her. This, however, isn’t Varys’s way; he insists that he much prefers to make her happy, which is to say, he wants to find an amicable way to console her perspective of reality—that she’s helping her people fight off those who would destroy her city and its history—with his own somewhat rosier view of the Unsullied. That his threats against her son are more implied than spoken doesn’t make them any less real, and this is the way the world works: such that fundamental rules—of leadership, of power—are the fiction of mass consensus rather than any sort of god-given fact.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 6, Episode 2, "Home"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 2, “Home”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 2, “Home”

Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) is dreaming of better days, specifically his long-lost Winterfell, where he watches as his father, Ned, and uncle, Benjen, learn to spar. He even happens upon a slow stable boy, Willis, and realizes that this is an even more innocent version of the man who’s been protecting him in the present, Hodor (Kristian Nairn). This, of course, is an illusion, and the mysterious vision-sharing man known only as the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow) soon pulls Bran back to his crippled reality. “You finally show me something I care about, and then you drag me away,” shouts Bran, and it’s hard not to hear echoes of the most ardent yet frustrated Game of Thrones fans, because the show’s sprawling narrative has room for no more than 10 minutes an episode for each character. That makes it increasingly hard to becoming truly invested in any of them, especially with a new subplot on the Iron Islands, where the possibly insane Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk), claiming to be the Drowned God, deposes his brother, Balon (Patrick Malahide), by flinging him over a rickety bridge in the middle of a storm.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 6, Episode 1, "The Red Woman"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 1, “The Red Woman”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 1, “The Red Woman”

Previous seasons of Game of Thrones have played a precarious dance between the past and present action detailed within George R.R. Martin’s series, but the season-six premiere episode, “The Red Woman,” provides viewers with their first glimpse of what the future looks like, and it’s disappointing. Melisandre (Carice van Houten), the sorceress from whom this episode takes its title, stands over the bloodless corpse of Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and remarks that “I saw him in the flames, fighting at Winterfell.” Magic may yet play a role in some sort of resurrection, but this episode focuses only on the weary, bitter state of affairs in Westeros.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 5, Episode 9, "The Dance of Dragons"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 9, “The Dance of Dragons”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 9, “The Dance of Dragons”

The title of tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones comes from a book of Westerosian history, the so-called Dance of Dragons, which, as Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) points out to his daughter, Shireen (Kerry Ingram), is an awfully poetic way of putting things. From a safe distance, these moments in history might look quite beautiful, filled with ominous foreshadowing and eerie parallels, but on the ground level, things can be quite horrific.

So it is, for instance, with Stannis’s own situation. The episode begins with a fire breaking out across his camp—an act of sabotage from the Boltons in Winterfell—which in turn leads to Stannis caving into the black-magic demands of Melisandre (Carice van Houten), as he allows the witch to burn Shireen alive in a blood sacrifice to the Lord of Light. And while it’s easy to allow such necessities in the abstract, as Selyse Baratheon (Tara Fitzgerald) is at first able to do, when a mother hears her daughter screaming for help within the billowing flames, the cost seems too high. This may explain why Stannis chooses to share a fatalistic philosophy with Shireen in his last conversation with her. If it’s true that his history has already been written, then he has no choice and can absolve himself of this murder: “He must become who he is meant to be, no matter how much he may hate it.”

Game of Thrones Recap Season 5, Episode 3, "High Sparrow"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 3, “High Sparrow”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 3, “High Sparrow”

Despite being home to the Faceless, the House of Black and White is filled with a variety of visages: statues to the various gods of Westeros. These are at once examples of the Many Faced God whom the Faceless worship and a pointed demonstration that the one true god is the one god who doesn’t need to be memorialized in stone—because that god, Death, is already everywhere. It’s a fitting setting for Arya (Maisie Williams) as she begins training under No One, the mysterious assassin currently wearing the face and name of Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha). It’s here that she can begin reclaiming her independence, after seasons of fear and flight, though—ironically—she can only do so by first figuratively murdering herself, casting off all her possessions in service to the god of Death. (There’s still a trace of the defiant girl from previous seasons when she chooses to hide her sword, Needle, rather than to throw it into the ocean.) It’s a perfect example of the erosive effects of tragedy, in that a person can only survive by becoming something else, and not for nothing does Arya spend the majority of this episode silently doing menial tasks, scrubbing away the past.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 5, Episode 2, "The House of Black and White"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 2, “The House of Black and White”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 2, “The House of Black and White”

It’s fitting that the titular House of Black and White is home to No One, for if there’s anything true of Westeros, it’s that nothing is ever black and white. Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), for example, blames the Lannisters for her beloved husband’s death, and from her viewpoint, it would be just to mail parts of an innocent young girl, Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free), back to her mother, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey). Back in King’s Landing, looking at the threatening statue of a snake that’s been mailed to her, Cersei acts like the victim; she can’t fathom why Ellaria might seek revenge, even as she herself swears to burn Dorne to the ground should anything happen to her daughter. Everybody is the hero of their own narrative; those who are mere bystanders, like the current prince of Dorne, Ellaria’s brother-in-law, Doran (Alexander Siddig), are warned that their inactions will swiftly lead to their own deposal.

Creditors at the BAM Harvey Theater

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<em>Creditors</em> at the BAM Harvey Theater
<em>Creditors</em> at the BAM Harvey Theater

Actor Alan Rickman’s staging of playwright David Greig’s adaptation of Creditors is striking for the way that it both softens the edges of and preserves the problematic acidity of August Strindberg’s original piece. Creditors is probably one of Strindberg’s most complex one-acts, a stinging tragicomedy that is every bit as troubling in its philosophy as it is remarkable for the inventiveness and ferocity of its convictions. This is largely because Strindberg’s plays are notoriously never truly sympathetic toward their female protagonists and Creditors is in large part about an individual woman’s role in a failed marriage. Exciting and engaging as a drama, yes, but also deeply troubling.

A large part of what makes Strindberg’s plays from this period (roughly 1887 to 1889, the short but definitive years when he dabbled with “naturalism”) so problematic is that they are not simply concerned with the elusive human condition, but rather in relating and enforcing the moral code that governs it. Inspired by Zola’s writing, the “naturalistic” philosophy that Strindberg subscribed to when he wrote Creditors emphasizes a concept of human nature that’s almost entirely divorced of a theological imperative. As no one governs his protagonists’ actions, men and women (but let’s face it, mostly women) that do not uphold their responsibilities to another and are not mindful of how to hold their worst behavior in check are, to use the work’s prevailing metaphor, accountable for their transgressions. As such, Tekla, played by a striking Anna Chancellor, is essentially a self-serving vampire and is described as such by both her ailing husband Adolf (Tom Burke) and Gustav (Owen Teale), his friend, along with other choice epithets like “snake” and “cannibal.”

Torchwood Recap Season 1, Episode 6: "Countrycide"

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Torchwood Recap: Season 1, Episode 6: “Countrycide”
Torchwood Recap: Season 1, Episode 6: “Countrycide”

With the sixth episode of its debut season, Torchwood’s identity crisis continues. Its premise collapses under mere moments of scrutiny, there’s no cool technology or special effects, and my favorite character does something rather loathsome. But don’t let all that put you off: “Countrycide” fires on all cylinders, featuring brilliant camera work and believable character development. Now, whether or not you will like it depends on your tolerance for on-screen blood and guts.

The pre-credit teaser sets up the episode when we see a woman driving alone and at night, through the Welsh country. She has just reached the limit of her cellphone’s range when she notices what looks like a body stretched across the road. Since she’s a character in the story and obviously has never seen a single horror movie, she makes two fatal errors. First, she stops the car and gets out to investigate. Second, she leaves the car running. I can see the logic in that, I suppose: the light from the headlamps was useful in illuminating the thing in the road, which turns out to be something made to look like a body—a decoy, bait for a trap. That suspicion is confirmed when the woman runs back to her car only to find the keys gone. Throughout this scene, we see figures dash past the camera, out of focus. We know there’s someone—or something—else there with the woman, and this is confirmed when the car is attacked.