Two for Tuesday

I’m unlikely to have time to post anything tomorrow, so here’s Tuesday’s post early. Don’t say I never do anything for you.

Our usual weekend routine chez Deathmetalflorist involves late night movies, regardless of whether or not we go out. If we go out, we just watch something when we get back; unless it’s one of those rare occasions where I, er, misjudge my capacity to consume alcohol.

The late-night trawl for horror movies on Netflix is a bit of a ritual, but lately it has become somewhat unrewarding. I don’t know what’s going on with Netflix, but there’s a bit of a dearth of content on there at the moment. Perhaps it’s a combination of a lack of capital, and other companies having exclusive deals, but my Netflix sub is getting harder and harder to justify to myself.

Anyway, we couldn’t find anything to watch on Friday so raided the DVD collection and came up with The Descent 2. Its been years since we watched it and probably that fact alone should have set alarm bells ringing. Hey, live and learn. We’re both big fans of the first movie so thought we’d give it a whirl.

Well, it sucks. I can’t remember disliking it this much before, but it’s really a bad film. Released in 2009, the film feels like it had no budget at all, but apparently it cost over six million bucks. The Room cost six million bucks too so it doesn’t mean much. The film starts off badly as main character Sarah, who we learn escaped the cave system via an abandoned mine shaft, is forced to return underground to accompany the world’s most incompetent rescue team. The film doesn’t explain why she has to go back, against her will, and nobody seems to have a real problem with forcing this deeply traumatized and possibly homicidal woman to go help the rescuers.

The rest of the team consists of a belligerent, fat old sheriff, his young female sidekick, and some cavers. It’s a singularly unattractive and uncharismatic crew and I found myself caring not one bit about any of them. The sheriff is particularly obnoxious and most of what goes wrong during the film is his fault. The only bright spot is the return of Juno (Natalie Mendoza), but her appearance is all-too-brief. The film ends in suitably bleak fashion but really the whole exercise just feels utterly pointless and essentially seems to have killed off the franchise. The existence of the film also kind of spoils the ending to the first film which is also a shame.

We had a bit of a surprise on Saturday night when we noticed that Anchorman 2 had been added to Netflix. Now, don’t get me wrong, we weren’t exactly excited. We’re big fans of Anchorman, but remember seeing the woeful trailer for its sequel and didn’t bother to look it up when it came out in 2013. But hey, it’s on Netflix, so we thought we’d give it a try.

I was shocked at how bad this film is, though not surprised. I read the book, Let me off at the top, which came out around the time the film was released, and I thought that was pretty good; but I’d heard nothing positive about the film from anyone I know. Turns out it is painfully unfunny and badly written. We had to stop watching after about half an hour, and for pretty much that whole time I was just sitting there trying to work out how this had been made. It feels like someone was challenged to write the entire script in an afternoon.

I don’t know, maybe they had to re-write everything at the last minute or something. It has none of the charm or humour of the original film, and instead is laced with mean and humorless ‘jokes’ that didn’t make us laugh but instead made me think the people responsible for this are just bitter old bastards. I don’t mind racial humour per se but this film is offensive and unfunny in the most uninteresting and banal way possible. It didn’t make me angry or anything, I just didn’t want to watch it.

I looked it up a bit afterwards and was briefly perplexed to see that Anchorman 2 actually has a fairly good critical standing. Then I remembered how venal and cynical most of the media is. Anchorman was one of the high points of that generation of “Frat Pack” films of the late 90s-early 00s, but I think this sequel really testifies to how artistically and culturally bankrupt that generation ultimately was. Zoolander, along with Anchorman, is probably the best of that bunch; if its sequel is as bad as this I think we will be able to conclude their legacy is moribund. They’re leaving us with a comedic landscape where Anchorman 2 is alleged to be a funny film, and where Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill are supposed to be entertaining. What a strange world we live in.

Both these films deserve no better than a 2/10 so that’s what they get.

The definitive answer to ‘What’s the best video game ever?’

Who doesn’t love lists? I know I do. I especially love lists of best things, and I love lists of video games; so lists of best-video-games-ever always interest me. GameFAQs is running one of these ‘competitions’ at present, and even better, someone has made a tool so that you can go through this competition yourself via their tumblr page. I had a go and found both the process and my own results interesting.

There are inherent problems with this sort of thing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it. Such lists are always biased towards more recent games and consoles, and the criteria for judging can be difficult to choose. How do you decide if a game is ‘better’ today than a game released 25 years ago? Then there’s the difficulty in comparing single-player and multiplayer experiences.  Also, I always feel like I’m being disloyal to a much-loved game if I say something else is better than it. As if I’m insulting the memory of those hours spent with Squall and Rinoa by saying I preferred my time with Shepherd and Liara. It’s so hard to choose! Fortunately, the tool linked above has an option to say ‘I feel the same way about both’. Can be a bit weird to select this for choices between games I’ve never played, as well as those I love, though.

I’ve played most of the games on the list, and I imagine it doesn’t really work that well if you haven’t played a good proportion of them. I found myself having to make some really hard decisions. It took me 281 ‘battles’ (head to heads), with the difficult questions starting at battle 97. That was ‘Metroid Prime or Half Life 2’? Some of the hardest were:

158: Final Fantasy 8 or Mass Effect 3?

184: Zelda: A Link to the Past or Super Metroid?

214: Resident Evil 4 or Mass Effect 2?

263: Mass Effect or Zelda: Ocarina of Time?

264: The Walking Dead or Zelda: LTTP?

Answering some of these conundrums could sustain entire articles in themselves. It’s an interesting process, though. I was actually quite happy with my results. According to the tool, I have four joint favourites; four in joint-second; and four in joint-third. Off the top of my head, there weren’t any major omissions from the choices, although the selection is generally quite heavy in RPGs and story-based games. There were no fighting games, for example. That’s probably interesting in itself. Anyway, head over and take a look! Oh, and the best game ever is Mass Effect. No surprise.

My own top 20 or so is:

1 Mass Effect
1 Zelda: Ocarina of Time
1 Resident Evil 4
1 Mass Effect 2
5 The Walking Dead
5 Mass Effect 3
5 Final Fantasy VIII
5 Skyrim
9 The Last of Us
9 Metroid Prime
9 Zelda: A Link to the Past
9 Super Metroid
13 GoldenEye 007
14 Super Mario Bros. 3
14 Super Mario World
16 Half-Life 2
17 Borderlands 2
18 Super Mario 64
19 Resident Evil
20 Tales of Symphonia
21 Pokemon Red/Blue
22 Batman: Arkham City
23 Smash Bros. Melee
23 Paper Mario: TYD


Black Friday arrives with a whimper

In Britain, Black Friday only really became a major event within the last couple of years. Its origins in the US are directly linked to the Thanksgiving holiday, meaning that it has roots in actual social behaviour and shopping habits, rather than simply being some kind of engineered media fad. That’s what it is in the UK, and it was a big deal in 2014 largely due to two things: novelty and hysterical media hype. Now the novelty has worn off, this year looks like it will be a bit of a damp squib, despite the media’s obsession with it.

Don’t get me wrong, just like Arsene Wenger  I love a bargain, and I checked a few websites this morning to see what was on offer. The general offering was pretty poor though, which figures. I mean, it just doesn’t make sense to offer huge discounts so close to Christmas, when people are going to be spending money like crazy anyway. Really the whole thing is just another media circus. Apparently there were a bunch of TV crews on Oxford Street at the small hours of this morning, and the number of media personnel outnumbered shoppers. Pathetic.

There’s a serious issue underlying some of this. Poverty in the UK is widespread, particularly outside London, and the generally low standard of living and low quality of life means people can get desperately excited at the prospect of getting something nice which ordinarily would be outside their budget. Our own 3DTV cost us £600 three years ago; my PC cost more than that; this stuff isn’t cheap. Of course the media, most of which is pushing various right-wing policies and agendas, loves to get pictures of people fighting each other for a chance at a cheap TV or whatever. It’s not just Black Friday–a similar thing happened when IKEA opened some new stores in deprived parts of London a few years ago. Constant media coverage and hype, short-term massive discounting, and impoverished and disenfranchised local communities makes for a combustible mix.

But I diverge. We are looking into buying a PS4 this Christmas, so I had a look at those. There’s a bewildering choice of near-identical bundles available. Virtually all of them come with the Uncharted Collection. Somehow I struggled through all of the Uncharted games on PS3 and you could not pay me to play them again. It’s really an illusion of choice with these bundles–there are so many options, but none of them appeal. If you’re not interested in Uncharted, FIFA, Call of Duty, or Battlefront, you’re guaranteed to be getting something you don’t want. It’s so wasteful. Back in the ’90s you’d generally have one or two bundles available: a no-games version, a Mario or Sonic bundle depending on if it was Nintendo or Sega, and maybe one other bundle with whatever that year’s top game was (Street Fighter II or whatever). You’d probably get two controllers too. That was plenty, and it was a meaningful choice. In contrast, the way they do it now seems completely random. And extra controllers are like £60. Flip.

I also avoided Amazon. As I understand it, their Black Friday deals are exclusive to subscribers to Amazon Prime, which I’m not. Amazon seem to be missing a trick here. A lot of people, like me, have been put off Amazon following reporting of their tax issues and employee practices, and so avoid using them whenever possible; and certainly won’t subscribe to Amazon Prime. To hide their best deals of the year behind a paywall seems an odd decision, considering it might be a good time to pull some of those people back in. It just means I use Zavvi instead.

My own Black Friday shopping so far has been limited to Arkham Knight and Divinity: Original Sin on the PS4, which together cost just under £50. Reasonable value but not exactly amazing. I don’t even have a PS4 yet but my shopping list of games is already 15-20 games long, so it’s good to make a start. And it should give me something to write about in the new year.

If you decide to make any shopping forays today, then good luck!

Dark Yojimbo: FFX2 moves it up a notch


^ Warning: this guy is a dick.

I’m still slogging my way through FFX2. I still have mixed feelings about this game. There is a massive difficulty spike at the end of Chapter 2 that lasts into Chapter 3, to the point that regular monsters in most areas are capable of spamming special attacks and killing you. It’s a really weird step up in difficulty but I suppose characteristic of JRPGs from 12 years ago, which is what this is.

My post here is about just one boss that I encountered last night, about halfway through Chapter 3: Dark Yojimbo. Yojimbo was an aeon in FFX (aeons are powerful spirits you can summon to help you in battle), but for storyline reasons, you have to battle them in FFX2. I got through the battle eventually, but it was a right pain in the neck. Again, it is indicative of the age of the game, but I think you can make some broader points about game design from this as well.

You encounter Dark Yojimbo at the end of a mission where you have to rescue a bunch of annoying survivors from a cave. I say annoying because they have various stipulations–like certain survivors won’t accompany you if you have more than five survivors already following you, and so on. This means that you have to make multiple trips to round everyone up. Of course, you have the usual incessant random battles, and certain survivors are ‘hiding’, which just means they are completely concealed behind scenery and you have to run around blindly pressing X to find them. So yeah… pretty annoying. Plus, there is no natural save point between this section and the fight with Yojimbo. So, you have to leave the area and the mission, save, then return and run back. Is this tiresome to read? It’s tiresome to play.

This is made worse by the fact you are almost guaranteed to get killed by Yojimbo the first time you fight him. His special attack, Zanmato, reduces the entire party’s health and mana to 1, which means each character can be killed by a single physical attack. He has a dog which can attack you, which you can’t target, so there are two enemies which can hit you. He can also poison you, meaning yes, you can also be killed by a single tick of poison. He has around 20,000 HP, and my characters do about 100-300 damage per hit, so you can’t burst him down. Your powered-up hero forms are pretty ineffective because you need all three characters there to provide enough healing and to revive each other. Eugh.

Anyway, after getting my ass handed to me, I managed to save the game the second time I rescued the survivors, meaning at least I wouldn’t have to do that again and could focus on taking down the boss. I had to look up tactics online, and there is a particular technique you’re supposed to follow. This involves spamming Mega-Potions after Yojimbo casts Zanmato. I only had one though, and I’ve done pretty much everything so far (45% completion and I’m not halfway through the game yet). Turns out you need the Alchemist dress-sphere for this (don’t ask), which somehow I managed to miss. So, without that, this is what you have to do:

Equip all characters with a null-poison accessory (1 of 2 accessory slots). Fortunately I have three, one each.
Equip all characters with an accessory that boosts them when they have low HP (2 of 2 slots). I used SOS Regen, SOS Haste, and SOS Protect.
Equip all characters with a Garment Grid that allows them to automatically cast Protect. This also required you to instantly switch Dress-sphere (like a combat stance) at the beginning of battle.
Equip one character with White Mage stance, one as Dark Knight. The other is optional (I chose Thief for its high attack priority).
During combat, every time Yojimbo casts Zanmato, you have to start spamming Pray with your White Mage to get your HP up before he attacks.
HOPE that you won’t get physically attacked three times after he casts Zanmato. Seriously, you can spend the entire time between Zanmatos just getting your team to revive each other. I must have used 20-30 Phoenix Downs (revive potions) during the fight.
Hit him with normal attacks when you get the chance. As I said, on average these did 300 damage for my Dark Knight, and 150 damage for my Thief. Let’s say 100 attacks in total.

Eventually I took him down. I saved immediately afterwards, and checked the time of the save. It was 31 minutes since my last save, which had been immediately before the fight. The fight took me 30 minutes. That’s not counting several failures which were 5-20 minutes each. Bear in mind, this is a quasi-optional boss fight and is not even halfway through the game. Does this remind you of anything? To me, it felt like fighting a raid boss in an MMORPG, which is something you would do with 10-20 other people. To require this level of preparation in a single-player console game strikes me as absurd.

Is it any wonder Final Fantasy and the Japanese RPG genre has been on the decline for the last decade? I’m playing Tales of Graces at the moment, which I absolutely love, and I have to say that one of the things the Tales franchise has got right in recent years is removing a lot of the needless frustration from JRPGs. They focus on fun and complex combat, beautiful environments, and great characters, and that’s enough. The challenge is there if you seek it out but all this nonsense I’ve described above is dispensed with.

You know, I used to like Yojimbo. This will only make sense to anyone who’s played FFX, but bear with me: I recruited him towards the end of FFX so I could use Zanmato to kill Dark Valefor, who had like a million HP and who I had to kill in order to get the aeon Anima which in turn I needed to get the Magus Sisters. Without all that I could never have completed the game. So, I thought Yojimbo and his Zanmato attack were pretty damn cool. Now I never want to see either of them again.

Stay tuned for more FFX-2 updates! Or, you know, read one of those millions of Fallout 4 blogs. This will probably turn into one of those after Christmas so why wait?

It Follows – Review


Halloween may have passed, but the British Winter is well and truly setting in. That means it’s horror season, and it’s as good a time as any to watch and discuss It Follows. This movie was released last year to no fanfare but has received wide critical praise and become something of a cult classic. I would argue that it’s on course to becoming a true classic of the horror genre.

This film is terrifying. There is something about the way the environment, cinematography, subject matter and musical score interact that makes it deeply unsettling. The first scene is perplexing but deeply compelling, and ends with one of the most disturbing yet understated single shots I have ever witnessed in cinema. The standard doesn’t drop from there for a single minute. This is not a film that is played for ‘jumps’ but nevertheless it contains some of the scariest moments I have ever witnessed in a movie. Moreover, it is able to cultivate a pervasive atmosphere of fear that lasts throughout.

For me, the secret of its success is that the film is not just a good horror film but an intelligent film, period. David Robert Mitchell, the writer and director, does a masterful job at telling the story while using a minimum of dialogue and verbal exposition, instead relying on environment, scenery, music, and his talented cast, who use subtle body language to communicate or hint at details of the plot without spelling everything out in black and white. Mitchell trusts his actors and also trusts his audience to be invested enough in the movie to try and work out what is going on, or what a line of dialogue or a single gesture might allude to. He is also not afraid to let you use your imagination to fill in the gaps, which is after all one of the secrets of good horror. Once we know everything about something it loses its capacity to scare us.

The film has a dreamlike quality at times and supposedly had its origins in a dream Mitchell experienced. Certainly the Detroit setting, which seems to combine elements of different time eras, feels like something out of a dream. Moreover the subject matter (fears related to sex, family and mortality) is ripe for Freudian deconstruction. The storyline can sustain a certain amount of analysis, and you can easily draw metaphors with regard to STDs, particularly HIV/AIDs, and also perhaps even things like pregnancy. But we shouldn’t deconstruct the film too far lest it start to lose its magic. This is a film that you should just allow yourself to experience and enjoy, and be thankful that such an intelligent and terrifyingly effective horror film can still be made in this day and age. I found it laughable to read that Quentin Tarantino, while claiming to like the movie, poked holes in how the film failed to stick to its own internal ‘rules’. The basic earnestness and humanity of this film is one of its best qualities and, to my mind, its sheer artistry far surpasses anything that has emanated from Tarantino. He should humbly try to learn from this film rather than criticize it.

Maika Monroe’s performance as Jay is wonderful, but all the characters come across well which testifies to the quality of the script. The musical score is absolutely stellar, being one of the most atmospheric and piercing horror themes I’ve come across in years. Parts of it capture a John Carpenter-esque 80s atmosphere but it also feels utterly contemporary as well, and is really very impressive. The first time I listened to it (at work, with headphones), my eyes literally teared up I was so scared. The composer, Disasterpeace (Rich Vreeland), deserves praise for it.

If you haven’t seen this film, do yourself a favour and watch it. If you’ve seen it already, watch it again. And never stay somewhere that has only one exit.


American Sniper – thoughts on the book

American Sniper was a disturbing book, but not for the reason I expected. The author, Chris Kyle, does such an effective job of dehumanizing not only his military opponents, but the inhabitants of Iraq in general, that the endless violence and killing loses much of its horror. Rather, the most disturbing aspect of this book to me was the lack of empathy or any reflection displayed by the author, and his unblinking belief in the justness of his own actions. This is partly a function of training and environment, but that’s surely not everything.

I haven’t yet seen Clint Eastwood’s film based on this book which carries the same name. My suspicion is that I will find it to be a complex tale and an effective piece of art; for all my reservations about Clint Eastwood’s politics, I am a huge admirer of his films and artistic vision. So my comments here are just about the book. I picked it up at an airport expecting that it might prove an interesting read about the reality of a recent major military intervention from the point of view of a highly trained special forces operative. In fairness, the most interesting parts of the book are those where the author discusses technical aspects of his work and training. Those sections are relatively brief and light on detail, though.

The first section where the author talks about growing up in Texas was eminently skip-able. I’m sure the reality is different but the depiction of Texas here is consistent with the trope that it’s one of those places where everyone is a legend in their own eyes. Most of the book deals with the author’s time in Iraq. The author has no empathy with those he’s fighting, or with the inhabitants of the country in general. This is something one should expect, I suppose, especially with special forces teams, but the utterly categorical nature of the author’s belief still surprised me. I wonder how representative it is.

In contrast, there is a moment of striking irony where the author’s wife comments on the lack of empathy other Americans show for people like her husband. A level of bitterness is shown by the author against the American population back home especially against anyone who spoke out against their intervention in Iraq, but I wonder how far this bitterness extended. There is a staggering list of bar fights and altercations recounted with some glee in this book. It really only seems to be others who served in Iraq that he has any time for.

There are a number of particularly troubling things here. For one, the author embraced Crusader iconography to the point of getting a red Crusader tattoo on one of his arms early on during his deployment. The author routinely refers to his enemies as “savages” and his fellow SEALs as “warriors”. He also talks about how much he loves “going to war”; but does not reflect at all on the implications of what this means in a situation where you have a vast technological and logistical advantage over the enemy, completely different from WWII or even Vietnam. He frequently makes alarming statements and comments about the people he’s fighting; but perhaps the worst was during a section where the author recounts an occasion where he was interviewed by Army investigators over one of his kills. The dead man’s wife had claimed to Army investigators that her husband had not been carrying a weapon when he was shot but had only had a Koran (the author was exonerated of any wrongdoing). During the interview, the author reports:

“I had trouble holding my tongue. At one point, I told the Army colonel, ‘I don’t shoot people with Korans–I’d like to, but I don’t.’ I guess I was a little hot.”

To be clear, this book does not suggest the author or other Americans were motivated by a hostility to Islam–they were there to “save American lives”. Nevertheless this sort of remark should surely set alarm bells ringing. There are other weird sections in the book which do suggest that the author suffered from PTSD. He talks about returning home and being angry at his two-year old son for not looking him in the eye when he was scolding him; or angry at his new-born daughter for crying and “rejecting” him when he held her.

For various reasons it seems inappropriate to give this book a rating as with most of my reviews. Overall, it’s a difficult and unsettling read and not one I would easily recommend to anyone, except perhaps in relation to PTSD as mentioned above. The author’s murder in 2013 by a fellow veteran suffering from PTSD was a tragic ending to what is in the final analysis a very sad story.


Game of Thrones: The Ice Dragon (episode six) – video game review

SPOILER WARNING: It’s not possible to discuss this game in any depth without revealing major plot points. If you’d rather not read any spoilers, please stop reading now.


The final episode of Telltale’s Game of Thrones season one felt like a bit of a watershed moment to me. I feel like I invested a reasonable amount of time and money in this game since the release of the first episode , which came out just shy of a whole year ago. And I feel cheated by the way the story of House Forrester came to such an unsatisfactory conclusion and blatantly teased a second season to resolve the story.

Let’s back up a bit. I enjoyed the first few episodes of this season well enough, and was prepared to wait and see what would come of the various story arcs and the mythical ‘North Grove’. Moreover, I was prepared to put up with the endless humiliations suffered by House Forrester in the hope that, eventually, you’d get some payback against the Whitehills. You did get to briefly begin a comeback of sorts around episode four as Rodryk’s alliances started to take shape and, in hindsight, that feels like the high point of the series. The problem is what Telltale decided to do after that, as everything started to fall apart and everything that mattered was outside your control.

Now, you can argue that futility of effort and random and depressing acts of violence are major themes of the Game of Thrones franchise, and perhaps the game needs to recreate that in order to remain true to the source material. I’m not a fan of the franchise so I can’t really comment on that aspect. What I would say is that such a narrative approach does not help promote ongoing engagement with the story or individual characters, and we see the fruits of that here. This approach is even more problematic in a decision-based environment where your decisions are supposed to resonate.

In the absence of any freedom to shape the story, Telltale contrives scenarios which force drastic decisions on you, but they feel just that: contrived. As a result, over the course of episode six I found myself choosing the silent option time and again in conversations, as I didn’t care about any of the responses; or more to the point, my experience with the game had told me they would count for nothing. I’ve never done this in a Telltale game before. The pointlessness of it all was particularly apparent in the story of Mira, which for the first few episodes was perhaps the best part of the game. Episode six has nothing for Mira to do, except account for her underhand efforts to help her family–none of which, by the way, ended up helping the Forresters in their laughably one-sided and futile struggle against the Whitehills. By the end of the episode Mira is forced to choose between execution or a life of sexual subjugation to a sadistic master. Game of Thrones is a fantasy, not a historical drama, and so putting women in these sorts of positions can’t alone be justified on the basis ‘that’s what the world is/was like’. Yes, but one of the things about fantasy is that it gives us the opportunity to experience a world where things are different. Again, the ending of Mira’s story was deeply unsatisfying and makes everything that came before it count for nothing. Her efforts to help her family come to nowt and she loses everything in the process.

The body count in this episode is absurdly high, but I didn’t really feel moved by any of the perfunctory carnage. Bizarrely, the only character left standing at the end of all this is Gared, who has finally made it to the North Grove. Considering this place has been teased since the first episode as a place of awesome power and mystery, I was underwhelmed by the reveal, to say the least. Basically the North Grove is a place where two of the late Lord Gregor Forrester’s bastard children lead a small group of reanimated corpses to fight against other reanimated corpses by way of blood magic. Why is it supposed to be so important? Who knows. I guess we don’t want the skeletons fighting their way down south but, you know, House Forrester is being wiped out anyway so who cares? Presumably this will feature somewhat in season two, but I’ve already sunk £25 into this series, and I feel I deserve a bit more resolution than I got here. I’m not coming back for round two.

And so, back to my original point about watersheds. Telltale announced a few days ago that GoT is coming back for season two, and that intention was obvious looking at the unresolved ending of episode six. Telltale made their reputation on the strength of good writing and gripping stories, evidenced by the first two seasons of The Walking Dead and the underrated The Wolf Among Us. But playing this season of Game of Thrones I really feel like their writing has lost its way. This makes it more difficult to tolerate the endless glitches, load times, frozen frames, and like that plague their games. What Telltale should do is develop a new engine and focus on one or two games, providing the best stories they can. Instead, they look set to be cranking up their output, with two new parallel seasons of Walking Dead, more Game of Thrones, Minecraft, a Marvel collaboration and a new IP. They’re chasing the money and in the process they’re going to stretch themselves too thin and lose what set them apart. For me, the evidence is they had six episodes of Game of Thrones to work with and by the end of it, I didn’t care about it at all. Is there anything more damning in an environment where your choices are supposed to count?