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Rick and Morty: “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy” Review

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“Rick and Jerry episode!!!”

By Jesse Schedeen[1]

Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.

There’s a strong case to be made for the idea that Jerry is the best character in Rick and Morty. There’s something about that combination of his purity of heart and his utter lack of intelligence or anything resembling a spine. With that in mind, the biggest misstep in the otherwise enjoyable Season 3 has been the surprising lack of focus on Jerry. We’ve seen a lot of attention devoted to how the rest of the Smith clan is coping with the Beth/Jerry divorce, but not Jerry himself. But as Rick happily exclaimed in the opening scene of this episode, “It’s a Rick and Jerry adventure!” And that adventure didn’t disappoint.

I often get the sense from watching this season that Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon have taken the core Rick/Morty dynamic about as far as they care to. You still have the occasional episode like last week’s “Vindicators 3” that follows the traditional “Rick and Morty go on an adventure that spirals out of control” formula, but more and more often they tend to shake things up, either by throwing another Smith family member into the mix or rethinking what a Rick and Morty adventure actually entails. This has played a huge part in the show’s ability to remain fresh and unpredictable well into Season 3.

Take “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy,” for example. The alien setting – a glorified theme park where every guest is immortal – would been perfectly enjoyable even if Rick dragged his grandson rather than his ex-son-in-law along for the ride. But having Jerry around made for a much different experience. Above all, it allowed Roiland, Harmon and writer Ryan Ridley to really dig into the troubled relationship between Rick and Jerry. And in a fun, unexpected twist, Jerry wound up coming across as the bad guy. The very fact that Rick agreed to take Jerry on a pity adventure at all spoke volumes about the caring, well-meaning family man that only rarely bursts forth from Rick’s selfish, nihilistic exterior. So you really can’t blame Rick for being a bit peeved at finding out Jerry willingly collaborated on a conspiracy to murder him. And despite all that, Rick not only continued to protect Jerry, but seemed genuinely happy to have grown a little bit closer to the man he’s spent 20 years despising.

In a weird way, this was an unusually positive and upbeat episode in light of the crushing darkness of Season 3 so far. Not that there weren’t some pretty bleak moments. The alien boy shooting his sister after the immortality field went down was pretty heavy stuff. But with both the Rick/Jerry and Beth/Summer relationships taking some steps forward, there was definitely a weird note of optimism in the air. Somehow, I doubt that’ll last for long.

Season 3 has been especially great about letting the writers really dig in with the psychologies of the Smith/Sanchez family and offer up a little biting character commentary. “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy” really stood out in that regard, as it basically managed to offer insight into all five main characters at once. Jerry was easily the most interesting case. Rick’s observation that Jerry is a predator in his own, pitiful way really rings true. There’s truth to the notion that Jerry acts like an emotional parasite, making people feel sorry for him and then feeding off their concern for as long as possible. 90% of the time, Jerry is the helpless victim in these scenarios, but every so often he emerges as either hero (like in “Rick Potion #9) or villain (like we see here).

As for Beth and Summer, the enlarging ray subplot managed to be both grotesquely hilarious and a stark examination of the personality flaws both women are grappling with these days. Beth in particular has become a much darker and more complex character this season (though it is hard to top the ending of “Total Rickall” in that regard). And even as Beth and Summer slowly spiral out of control, Morty seems to be emerging as the most well-adjusted member of the family. For all the emotional and physical trauma he’s suffered at Rick’s hands, Morty really does seem like a calmer and more competent figure this season. He even sounds different. Roiland’s Morty voice is noticeably deeper this year, as though the character has finally entered puberty and calmed down a bit. Morty’s ruthless handling of the Ethan problem shows that his grandfather may be rubbing off on him a little more than he’d like to admit.

Two other elements really stood out this week. One was the very welcome guest appearance by Clancy Brown (Warcraft) as Rick’s would-be killer, Rosotto. Brown’s gravelly voice juxtaposed with his character’s utterly silly appearance made for a very memorable combination. I also got a kick out of the extended hallucination sequence, with Jerry, Rick and Rosotto all merging together in one thousand-year-long moment of “cosmic apotheosis.”

The Verdict

Is it any surprise that one of the best episodes of this season so far is the one that features the most Jerry? The unlikely Rick/Jerry partnership helped spice up what might otherwise have been a textbook Rick and Morty adventure. “The Whirly Dirly Conspriacy” struck that crucial balance between high-concept sci-fi premise, goofy humor and crushingly authentic character moments.

Editors’ Choice

References

  1. ^ Jesse Schedeen (people.ign.com)
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Why Game of Thrones Brought [Spoiler] Back

David Benioff breaks down that surprise return.

By Terri Schwartz[1]

Full spoilers for Game of Thrones’ latest episode, “Beyond the Wall,”[2] continue below.

Game of Thrones[3]‘ latest episode brought back a fan-favorite, familiar character for a very brief, significant purpose. Coldhands, aka Benjen Stark, reappeared in “Beyond the Wall” to reunite with and safe the life of his favorite nephew, Jon Snow.

By the time Jon Snow registered that Benjen was 1. still alive, 2. relatively undead and 3. there to save him, the half-frozen King of the North was already on Coldhands’ steed and being sent back to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. It’s a brief and surprising cameo appearance, but one that showrunner David Benioff thinks closes out Benjen’s story in a satisfying way.

“The thing with Coldhands is it allows us to work in a pretty compressed time frame because there just isn’t time. We need the emotional connection. Coldhands has to somehow convince [Jon] very quickly, ‘Do what I say,'” explained Benioff in this week’s “Inside the Episode.”[4] “The easiest way for him to do that is to show his face. Jon kind of has to respect the position because he just did the same thing.

“For Coldhands, I think it’s kind of a relief because he’s been trapped in this kind of purgatory state between life and death for quite some time, and like so many characters on the show, waiting to find out what his purpose is. Why is he still alive when he should be dead? For him, it seems like he’s found his purpose in these past two seasons by saving first Bran and now Jon.”

Benioff compares Coldhands’ sacrifice to the one that Jon Snow just made to save Daenerys Targaryen and the rest of his wight Suicide Squad. He explains that Jon was striking down wights walking away from Daenerys and Drogon to try to buy them time to escape.

“He sees that they’re all going to die if the dragon doesn’t take off. The rational decision at that point in time is you guys go to safety and I’ll try to keep them off you as long as I can. He’s the guy who jumps on the grenade to save the platoon. That’s always been Jon,” said Benioff.

As for why Daenerys dropped everything at Gendry’s raven to come save this dynamic crew, Benioff said, “In terms of going North to rescue them, a number of people up there have different claims on her heart. Jorah’s been by her side since the beginning. He’s saved her life so many times, I think she would feel as if it was a betrayal if she didn’t at least try to save him. And then, of course, there’s Jon Snow. You definitely get the sense that he’s become quite important to her in a pretty short amount of time.”

For more on “Beyond the Wall,” check out our full review[5], plus read how George R.R. Martin describes ice dragons in his books[6]. As for what’s ahead, here’s how the season finale promo seems to set up a certain fan theory[7].

What was your favorite moment in “Beyond the Wall”? Let us know in the comments below.

Terri Schwartz is Editorial Producer at IGN. Talk to her on Twitter at @Terri_Schwartz[8].

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How George R.R. Martin Describes Different Types of Dragons

The night is dark and full of terrors.

By Terri Schwartz[1]

Full spoilers for Game of Thrones’ latest episode, “Beyond the Wall,”[2] continue below.

Daenerys Targaryen was dealt a brutal blow in “Beyond the Wall” when her dragon Viserion was killed by the Night King and then reanimated with his cold magic. But does that make him an ice dragon? Not according to George R.R. Martin.

Stories of ice dragons have appeared in the majority of the A Song of Ice and Fire book series, and most notably were discussed in the canon World of Ice and Fire Game of Thrones[3] compendium. In those works, ice dragons are described as being a different type of species than a fire-breathing dragon, and not necessarily an undead version like seen here.

In A World of Ice and Fire, ice dragons are discussed as being native to the Shivering Sea off of Essos (if they even do exist at all in this world, of course). The passage says:

“Of all the queer and fabulous denizens of the Shivering Sea, however, the greatest are the ice dragons. These colossal beasts, many times larger than the dragons of Valyria, are said to be made of living ice, with eyes of pale blue crystal and vast translucent wings through which the moon and stars can be glimpsed as they wheel across the sky. Whereas common dragons (if any dragon can truly be said to be common) breathe flame, ice dragons supposedly breathe cold, a chill so terrible that it can freeze a man solid in half a heartbeat. … As ice dragons supposedly melt when slain, no actual proof of their existence has ever been found.”

Like the Children of the Forest, it sounds as though children in the North of Westeros were raised hearing tales of ice dragons existing. In A Dance with Dragons, Jon remembers Old Nan telling him stories about ice dragons when he was a boy, while in A Clash of Kings, Osha references the “Ice Dragon” as a type of star alignment in the sky.

Interestingly, Martin actually wrote a children’s book called The Ice Dragon in 1980, telling the story of a girl named Adara born during a long winter and who befriended an ice dragon. When it was republished with a new cover in 2014, book publisher Tor described this as being[4] “set in the world of the New York Times best-selling series A Song of Ice and Fire.”

It appears this description is inaccurate, however, despite the way it aligns with tales of ice dragons told in Game of Thrones. As Martin later clarified on his LiveJournal blog[5], The Ice Dragon “is not” in the world of ASoIaF as “the world of Ice & Fire did not exist when I wrote THE ICE DRAGON.” Clearly, though, he did have some alternatives to the typical fire-breathing variety of dragon on the mind.

So what does that make the Night King’s new undead dragon pal? Like the giants he brought back from the dead are giant wights, not ice giants, we would classify Viserion in the same category. Of course, it seems unlikely Game of Thrones the TV series will ever introduce a true ice dragon, so it could be that Viserion took on some of the Night King’s frigid powers in his transformation. As we only saw his eye flick open at the end of the episode, it’s unclear — though very likely — that Viserion will now be breathing icy blasts instead of fiery ones.

For more on “Beyond the Wall,” check out our full review[6]. As for what’s ahead, here’s how the season finale promo seems to set up a certain fan theory[7].

Terri Schwartz is Editorial Producer at IGN. Talk to her on Twitter at @Terri_Schwartz[8].

References

  1. ^ Terri Schwartz (people.ign.com)
  2. ^ “Beyond the Wall,” (www.ign.com)
  3. ^ Game of Thrones (uk.ign.com)
  4. ^ described this as being (www.tor.com)
  5. ^ clarified on his LiveJournal blog (grrm.livejournal.com)
  6. ^ our full review (www.ign.com)
  7. ^ season finale promo seems to set up a certain fan theory (www.ign.com)
  8. ^ @Terri_Schwartz (www.twitter.com)
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Game of Thrones Finale Promo Hints at Popular Fan Theory

Maester Hypemon says this would be so.

By Terri Schwartz[1]

Game of Thrones is already closing in on its Season 7 finale, and the promo for next week’s episode[2] is doing a good job of setting up a popular fan theory coming to life.

Full spoilers for Game of Thrones’ latest episode, “Beyond the Wall,”[3] continue below.

Jon Snow has his wight, Daenerys Targaryen is firmly anti-Night King, and almost everyone on Game of Thrones is heading south to King’s Landing. Almost everyone, it seems, including Sandor Clegane. (Not Sansa, though. She’s still at Winterfell.)

The promo for the Season 7 finale of Game of Thrones is setting up Daenerys Targaryen bringing all of her forces to King’s Landing, plus the Magnificent Six Five who came back from their ranging mission north of the Wall. Grey Worm, the Dothraki and the rest of the Team Dany crew line up outside of King’s Landing, and Jon Snow and crew arrive to try to court Cersei to not fight the wars inside Westeros. But we all know Cersei isn’t so quick to accept logic.

Jaime and Cersei Lannister have now had two episodes to think about how they should respond to Daenerys Targaryen’s arrival, and we know that Cersei will always “choose violence” when given the option. So why wouldn’t she default on the go-to Westeros way and make her decision based on a trial by combat? That certainly looks like the type of showdown the promo is setting up.

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On its own, this doesn’t tell us much, but these scenes align with one mysterious scene from the trailers that we haven’t gotten context for. A scene that looks a lot like the Hound (who notably isn’t spotted in this promo, despite everyone from Jorah to Jon to Davos being present) wielding a weapon on a platform that looks a heck of a lot like the one viewed in this promo.

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So why is this important? Because if Cersei demands a trial by combat, we know exactly who she will be summoning to fight for her: Zombie Mountain, aka Ser Robert Strong, aka Gregor Clegane, the brother of the Hound.

And people have been wanting these two to fight for years. Proof of the need for Cleganebowl, if you don’t believe us:

The premise of the Cleganebowl theory is pretty simple: the Hound and the Mountain will fight each other in a brutal showdown. Given the ripe dramatic history they have together, it makes perfect sense that this would one day come to pass should both of these characters still be alive and in the same place, which they (mostly) will be.

Game of Thrones has been delivering plenty of fan-desired moments, from Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen finally meeting to the Night King resurrecting a zombie dragon. Heck, they’ve all-but confirmed Jon Snow is actually a certain equation come to life[4] (*cough* R+L=J). So while they’re at it, why not make Cleganebowl happen while we’re in Season 7?

Still, there are plenty of popular fan theories still out there. That’s why we asked the cast to grade them on an IGN scale of 1 to 10. Hear their favorites in the video below:

Do you want Cleganebowl to happen? Let us know in the comments below.

Terri Schwartz is Editorial Producer at IGN. Talk to her on Twitter at @Terri_Schwartz[5].

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Game of Thrones: “Beyond the Wall” Review

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Sound off in the comments!

By Terri Schwartz[1]

Full spoilers for Game of Thrones’ Season 7 episode, “Beyond the Wall,” continue below.

Game of Thrones has long set the precedent that its penultimate episodes of its seasons would be the biggest in terms of scale and, oftentimes, loss, in everything from “Baelor”[2] to “The Rains of Castamere.”[3] In that way, “Beyond the Wall” was no different, as it arguably featured the greatest loss the series has faced to date: a dragon killed by the Night King, and even worse, resurrected by him.

But “Beyond the Wall” also suffers more than any other episode to date from the rushed, truncated storytelling in Season 7. Despite the incredible action sequences and solid performances from the stars, this week’s episode hurdled headlong through major plot developments without time to let them breathe or let their stakes become clear. Heck, the episode doesn’t even make it evident which dragon died beyond it clearly not being Drogon. (Spoiler: It’s Viserion.[4])

That loss is one of the most game-changing moments in Game of Thrones to date, and hopefully will be a good wake up call for the dragon queen, who has, until now, been acting as though she’s invulnerable. It’s something her Hand, Tyrion, has repeatedly criticized, and though he could have found a slightly more tactful way to bring up who would succeed her should she die, “Beyond the Wall” proved it was a prescient question.

Cersei Lannister might not have had the means to kill a dragon two episodes ago[5], but it turns out the Night King had a slightly more impactful Scorpion-like bolt in his arsenal (and slightly better aim than Bronn). To lose Viserion is a major blow, but to have the Night King resurrect Viserion and add it to his ever-growing army of wights, giants and bears is an even bigger threat. Heck, he might be able to fly over or around the Wall just like Daenerys did, though that wouldn’t help him get his army of wights into Westeros any faster.

Despite the major loss, Jon and his band of merry men did get the wight they needed to convince Cersei this threat is real. More significantly, Daenerys saw the threat of the undead herself and realized the Night King is the true enemy. We haven’t seen Daenerys truly afraid in a while, but she deserves to be at this juncture. “Beyond the Wall” also gave Jon Snow his first real glimpse of how he can defeat the Night King and his army: We seemingly learn that by killing a White Walker, you can knock out all the wights he created. Presumably all one has to do is kill all the White Walkers in the army, and the rest of the creatures (or at least the majority of them) will come down after. No wonder he so readily bowed a knee to Daenerys.

These are pretty major developments for any season of Game of Thrones, let alone a single episode — and we haven’t even gotten to the Sansa/Arya/Littlefinger storyline. (More on that in a bit.) In many ways, the biggest surprise of this episode wasn’t even the death and resurrection of the now-undead Viserion, but rather that any of this even happened at this stage in the story. For Daenerys and the Night King already to meet face-to-face on the battlefield is a hugely significant and exciting moment, and one that marks a major turning point for this show. There are only seven more episodes left of Game of Thrones before the end, after all.

But all that rapid storytelling isn’t necessarily a good thing, and I found myself increasingly frustrated by the whiplash pace of this episode. (At least Jon acknowledged that the Suicide Squad plan north of the Wall wasn’t his smartest idea ever.) After seasons of slow, drawn out plotting, Game of Thrones has had a marked shift in the past couple of seasons toward more expedited storytelling. In many ways, this has been for the better, as the show has gained momentum with the end in sight and brought many storylines and characters together in exciting ways after they’ve been apart for seasons. But, in the simplest of frustrations, it’s also made it unclear just how much time is actually passing from episode to episode, and from even scene to scene.

In no episode did that cause more whiplash than in “Beyond the Wall,” which saw Jon & co. make it from just north of the Wall to the Night King’s army, send Gendry back to Eastwatch, have him get a letter off to Daenerys, have her receive it and fly Drogon and her dragons up from Dragonstone, then get back to Eastwatch, have Jon get back and everyone depart. For the record, here’s the path of just the Jon/Dany storyline this week:

Game of Thrones Beyond the Wall map

It’s a lot of physical ground for one storyline to cover even by Game of Thrones standards, and as a result, little weight could be given to many of the key moments. The slow pacing of the walk toward the beginning of the episode allowed for welcome interactions between characters who typically don’t get to speak with one another, and provided good context. The scene with Jon and Jorah talking about Longclaw and the legacy of Jeor Mormont was particularly moving. Same with closing up loose ends with Gendry’s frustration with the Brotherhood. Those ranging conversations were high points of the episode. It also underlined just how many characters are “safe” on Thrones now; despite Thoros passing away, the ranging crew was padded with metaphoric Red Shirts who only appeared just to be the unfortunate non-named characters to get taken down by the Night King’s army.

Once the action ramped up, everything from Thoros of Myr’s death to the loss of Viserion to Dany’s first encounter with the Night King was brushed past without any time for the ramifications to sink in for the audience or the characters. Remember when Benjen showed up just in the knick of time, gave Jon his horse and then presumably didn’t die on screen so he can do the same again farther down the road when needed? So much happened in this episode, I’ve already written 900 words and have only had the opportunity to give about as much time to Thoros’s death as the show did. (It’s definitely worth noting there’s no easy resurrection in store now for Beric or Jon unless Melisandre comes back, and she’s not this season[6], which makes me pretty nervous for Beric’s fate.) With the pace the series is heading at, it doesn’t seem like that time will be allotted in next week’s episode either.

And that’s not even touching on the drama in Winterfell. What’s been most interesting about how Game of Thrones is bringing all these perspective characters together is that we’re no longer getting as much time in their headspace. When we were following Arya in Braavos, or Sansa in the Eyrie, we were seeing the world through their eyes and understanding their decision making. Now, specifically with Arya and Sansa, it’s become increasingly harder to understand what their ultimate goals are and whether they have any bigger picture plan beyond what is immediately apparent, despite Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams giving some series-best performances now that they’re acting opposite one another. That scene up on the rampart when they clash over how they were complicit (or not) in their father’s death and what came after is series-best for the two of them.

I can read a lot into why Arya is so antagonistic toward Sansa following their reunion; she hasn’t following Sansa’s journey like we have, so instead everything she’s seen her sister do — seemingly undermine Jon’s leadership and wish for control herself — reinforces the conception of Sansa she had from when they were children. For Sansa, Arya is a wild, violent stranger, and someone who doesn’t take a political approach to any situation. They see the world in different ways, but are we really supposed to believe that Littlefinger is playing them both against one another so easily? Sansa played right into his hand by sending Brienne away after he seemed to imply the knight of House Tarth might side more with Arya than her. Or do they have some bigger picture plan that will reveal itself in the season finale?

It all comes back to that catspaw dagger, and what role it has to play in Season 7. We know it’s important, though not for any of the reasons I theorized[7]. That tense scene between Sansa and Arya had me almost convinced the younger sister would take Sansa’s face (how crazy a twist would that be?) before Arya placed the dagger in Sansa’s hands. Was that just a power play? A wake-up call? Does Arya expect Sansa to kill Littlefinger with it? If Game of Thrones was able to dedicate more time to these complex character dynamics like it did in earlier seasons, we might have a better understanding, but for now the expectation is we just need to go along for the ride like any other TV show.

All that begs the question: why the rush? Of course, I know there are a number of budgetary and time concerns. From a business perspective, we know that the amount of time and money dedicated to creating each episode increased significantly this season[8], which is why there are fewer episodes overall. If Game of Thrones had continued at its Season 1 pace this year, the events of each of Season 7’s episodes probably could have stretched across a full season each.

But these business decisions are hurting the story, and plot holes are starting to show. For example, where is Theon? He arrived at Dragonstone two episodes ago hoping to speak with Daenerys about rescuing Yara, and presumably has still just been sitting around during the two episodes since when she’s flown to Dragonstone and away again. Also, if the wights all drown in the water, how did they get chains around Viserion to get it out? On that note, where did the chains even come from? And where is Bran at Winterfell?

For that reason, “Beyond the Wall” suffers in a way that earlier epic episodes this season, like the excellent “The Spoils of War,”[9] did not. For all that the action scenes were excellent and the shots of the dragons blasting down wights was chill-inducing in all the right ways, these scenes likely would have been much more impactful if the writers had allotted time for their impact to sink in.

Case in point: one of the most powerful scenes in “Beyond the Wall” was the quiet, vulnerable moment Daenerys had with Jon on the ship after losing her child. It’s the first time we’ve seen Daenerys be truly vulnerable in a while, and as much as it was an important moment to further cement the blossoming romance between Jon and Dany (and have him bend a knee), it always was important for the audience to see behind her facade as queen. For the first time all season, we’re fully seeing Daenerys the person, and she is terrified and shaken. That’s an important character detail, and one that hopefully won’t be brushed aside in next week’s finale — and beyond — for the sake of big action and faster storytelling.

The Verdict

Game of Thrones’ fast-paced Season 7 caught up to it with “Beyond the Wall,” which hurdled through a number of significant, game-changing events, deaths and revelations without giving them enough time or weight. While it did include some solid character moments and interesting exchanges, this week’s episode didn’t meet the same heights of similarly epic installments this season because of its expedited pacing.

Editors’ Choice