So, here we are, episode three of the sixth season of Game of Thrones and it was another heady mix of manoeuvring, deaths, WTF moments and a clue towards unlocking the complexity of the whole story.
GoT writers have set a bit of a precedent for unpredictability this season: Jon Snow is not dead. Tyrion has developed a good sideline as a dragon whisperer and Bran Stark (complete with functioning legs) is on a mind-bending journey of the past with Three-Eyed Raven (Max Von Sydow). So, in the words of Cole Porter, “Anything Goes!”
What future wonders can we expect? We can but speculate that Joffrey will bring himself back from the grave. Or maybe Stannis Baratheon wasn’t cleaved in two by Brienne of Tarth. But until the next revelations, here’s what happened last night:
That wily old schemer Varys (Conleth Hill) has been busying himself around Meereen finding out who has been saying what to whom (the whom in question being the Sons of Harpy) and has found that Vala, the eunuch-killing prostitute (of season 5) and all-round Harpy fan girl, is the one doing all the talking.
Never one to spurn an opportunity, Varys makes a trade; information regarding the power behind the Sons of Harpy for a bag of silver, her son’s life and exile – which Vala duly accepts and scarpers.
Now that the major players are known, along with their motives for bringing down Meereen and Queen Daenerys, Varys, Grey Worm, Missandei and Tyrion Lannister (the stand-in ruler of the City State) must, for the sake of their own skins as much for the sake of the city, find a way of bargaining with the rulers of Astapor, Volantis and Yunkai.
Any thoughts the exiled and captive Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) had of subjugating the Dothraki with her defiant speech and fancy titles “I am the Breaker of Chains, the Mother of Dragons blahdy, blahdy blah…” fell on the deaf ears of her hosts as she gets locked away in a temple with the widows of other former Khals. Death or isolation are the only options on the table for her at the moment. However, it’s pretty safe to say she won’t be out of the picture for too long; both she and Jon Snow will be around come the end of the series to put a neat little bow on top of all those loose ends that have been driving people nuts for the past six years.
Meanwhile, Queen Cersei (Lena Headey) hasn’t quite got over walking through the streets of King’s Landing caked in excrement, and with customarily guileful intent she sets about the identification and liquidation of all who saw, laughed, hurled abuse or participated in her humiliation. Watch out High Sparrow, your wings are about to be clipped! That gold-plated, man mountain Ser Gregor will no doubt do the honours following his skull crushing exploits of episode two.
I was late to Game of Thrones: don’t ask me why, but I always saw it as a bit of an anorak-wearing, World of Warcraft-type programme. I’ve got over myself since though, and can appreciate its liberal lending of themes from classic literature and our own bloody medieval history. There is everything in here, from the Nordic sagas to the heroes of Homer, from the Ring Cycle to the Wars of the Roses and the Hundred Years War. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable long-form pot-boiler with, of course, plenty of sex, swordplay and blood by the bucket load.
Jon Snow’s (Kit Harrington) reanimation has left him all melancholy as he wrestles with the wounds of rejection after his pals, including his personal steward and total twerp, Olly, chose to stick their daggers in his chest. Showing that he is not one to hold a grudge, he hangs them all from a scaffold and hands over command of the Night’s Watch and Castle Black to Edd before walking out of the fortress and out into the snow for a future unknown.
Well there you have it, three down seven to go. Oh, and a girl who is no one (Arya Stark) got her eyes back.
Game of Thrones is broadcast on Mondays at 2am and 9pm on Sky Atlantic.
Matilda and the Ramsay Bunch is a CBBC cooking show starring Gordon Ramsay’s youngest daughter, Matilda, or Tilly, as everybody calls her. The show introduces us to the whole family and to moments of their everyday life during their holidays in various locations in the US and in the UK.
Tilly is proof that the apple does not fall far from the tree as she cooks various recipes of her own inspiration and creativity, sharing her cooking secrets with the audience through her cooking blog as well. Each episode shows Tilly prepare both savoury and sweet dishes, surprising her family and earning their praise and admiration – yes, even that of the tough-to-please father. Apart from Tilly and Gordon, the show spends a fair amount of time on the other members of the family, namely Tilly’s three siblings, Megan, Holly and Jack, and her mother, Tana. While Tilly is cooking, the action often cuts to the adventures of her siblings, who are either on their way to win one of their father’s bespoke competitions or give Tilly a hand with the meal preparation.
The show keeps a well-paced interchange between the cooking process and the rest of the action, while amusing sound effects and visuals heighten Tilly’s enthusiasm and passion for cooking. However, the spacious house and sunny landscape can easily give a carefree overtone to the Ramsay bunch, who are mainly portrayed as spending quality family time with each other and, in general, as having a lot of fun. Arguably, these may be the aspects which the show aims to highlight, especially given that it is hosted by the family’s youngest member; there seems to be, though, a blurred line between the aspiring cooking show and the reality TV often associated with celebrity families. Tilly’s cooking abilities and talent do indeed come across, as she more often than not prepares single-handedly food for the whole family. But, then, why add the ‘perfect-family picture’ in the mix?
Matilda and the Ramsay Bunch is an interesting show to watch because of its presenter and because it offers traditional recipes with a taste-enhancing twist. The recipes usually require little preparation and use fresh ingredients. After all, this agrees with the Ramsay’s healthy lifestyle, which is often – not so subtly – suggested by the workout outfits donned by the family themselves. Tilly is herself a quite competent host despite her young age, while her interaction with her “embarrassing family”, as she calls them, is a nice breather from the kitchen action. Her dishes do look good on screen and may be inspiring to budding cooks watching the show. But do bear in mind that this is a show nonetheless.
The new series of Matilda and the Ramsey Bunch starts at 17.00 on CBBC on 6th May.
This week’s Game of Thrones was like an old spiritual hymn and you can sing along if you like …
Jon’s not dead, he is alive
Jon’s not dead, he is alive
Jon’s not dead, he is alive
I feel him all over me.
We’re such idiots. If Bobby Ewing can walk out of the shower and unwrite a year’s worth of Dallas storylines, why would we ever consider that Jon Snow would spend any more than a couple of episodes in his lifeless state on a table top?
Episode 2 of this new series of GoT is low on intrigue and scheming – with the notable exception of Ramsay Bolton (the bastard son of Roose Bolton) who does not react well at all to news of the legitimate birth of a younger brother. Never one for peekish over reaction, Ramsay drives a dagger into the heart of his father and informs him he ‘would prefer to be an only child’ before feeding Walda, his stepmother, and his newborn sibling to the hounds. There’s an old saying that goes something like this: ‘what goes around, comes around.’ Take note Lord Bolton, you’re a very naughty boy!
So what else of note happened this week? Well, there was a bit of a kerfuffle at Castle Black where the Wildings stormed the gates just in time to save Davos Seaworth and the men of the Night’s Watch still loyal to the alive/dead/somewhere in between, Lord Commander.
The standoff as Aliser Thorne and his mutineers prepared to meet them in arms is brief; resolved quickly enough by Wun Wun (the giant freed by Jon Snow in the last series) who dashes the brains of the first aggressor against the ramparts of the fortress. The mutineers’ appetite for combat recedes immediately and they are more than happy to take up their new lodgings in the dungeons.
Meanwhile, Cersei Lannister is still in the Red Keep, without influence, prevented from seeing her daughter Myrcella’s body and detained against her will – for her own safety, of course, by the new protector of moral orthodoxy at King’s Landing, the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce). With the young King, Tommen, tucked in his pocket, the ever-so-humble mouthpiece of the Faith Militant is evolving into an interesting character. Having removed Queen Cersei, he is quick to show Jaime Lannister the new lay of the land – one in which those who challenge the authority of the Order will be dealt with severely.
Cersei’s 7-foot-tall bodyguard gets a nice couple of cameos, facing down a detachment of the King’s Guard and righting a wrong done by a boastful drunk – who you may remember for waving his tallywhacker at the Queen during her naked walk of shame. Like Wun Wun earlier in the episode, swift violent resolution trumps a clever line any day of the week.
Having said that, with the ‘Mother of Dragons’, Daenerys, gone – her dragons pine and starve themselves in the catacombs beneath Meereen, which leads Tyrion Lannister to reason that they need to be freed in order to find the Queen and return order to the kingdom. Unfortunately, the last visitor who presented himself before Viserion and Rhaegal was scorched and then eaten. With Varys for company, the half-man descends into the dark chambers under the city and not only manages to avoid being barbecued; he gains the trust of the beasts and set them free. “Next time I have an idea like that,” he says walking back to the city. “Punch me in the face.”
I think the same should apply to the show’s writers: “The next time we come up with a story line like that one, punch us in the face.”
Game of Thrones is broadcast on Mondays at 9pm on Sky Atlantic
This series of Line of Duty was an odd one because we knew who the baddie (or ‘the Caddy’ as the case may be) was from midway through its run. Nevertheless, it has never failed to impress and has carefully built and undermined a giant Jenga-like tower of lies, which, as we enter the final feature-length episode, is about to come tumbling down – and along with it the edifice of respectability and lawfulness of the establishment.
So poor old Lindsay Denton was telling the truth all along; she was conspired against and discredited when she uncovered high-level corruption; was framed and jailed by the powers she was intent on bringing to justice, and within touching distance of her goal she was silenced with a bullet to the head. But killing the messenger is no longer as easy as it once was and Denton’s evidence ‘list’ was stored in cyberspace and shared with AC12 as she was dying.
Among the names on the list of child sex abusers is the hitherto unshakeable former senior police officer Patrick Fairbank (George Costigan), all his previous bluster evaporates when confronted with the evidence and only his fitness to stand trial will save him from the beak.
In the meantime, Arnott is the prime suspect for Denton’s murder; already suspended for misconduct and with motive against the deceased. It doesn’t look good for Steve, his was the vehicle in which the body was found and his service weapon was the gun used. In cuffs, in disgrace, and in the frame to take the fall as ‘the Caddy’, just as Denton before him, Arnott has discovered to his cost that there is a criminal network – within the force – that will do anything to maintain its position.
And herein lies the problem for the real Caddy, Matthew ‘Dot’ Cottan, with three dead police officers and two in custody on murder charges, he is the last link to a decades-old web of corruption and cover-ups – and his masters do not like loose ends.
When the spotlight falls on irregularities in his evidence, the squeeze really starts to tell on Cottan and as slippery as he is, he cannot slip this one. Making a desperate bid for freedom with another corrupt officer, Cottan heads for the pre-arranged rendezvous that he hopes will be his ticket out of the ‘business’.
But it isn’t to be, and he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. The conclusion is cleverly handled – in that it offers up Cottan (dead) and Fairbanks to trial, sentence and prison, but omits to answer who either was in collusion with? How extensive the criminal network remains? And who the gunman in the back of the getaway car was (and why he was wearing a blacked out crash helmet)?
Great series, well written and directed and supported by an excellent cast, this Line of Duty has been the best yet and we can’t wait to see its return.
Line of Duty is available on BBC iPlayer for 29 days from 28 April 2016.
All together now:
Jon Snow’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave.
Jon Snow’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave.
Jon Snow’s body lies … er, well, not quite in the grave.
In point of fact, Jon Snow’s body lies frozen in the snow. And so opens the latest season of the sword and sandals, fantasy and intrigue, unashamedly gratuitous shag-fest that is Game of Thrones.
Season five and its conclusion was an absolute doozy and fans of the show have been on tenterhooks for the past God knows how many months in anticipation of the next instalment and closure on the respective fates of Daenerys Targaryen, the Lannisters, the Starks and, of course, the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch himself, Jon Snow, who sadly fell victim to dastardly betrayal and bloody murder in the end of series cliffhanger.
Snow, played by Kit Harington, is an immensely popular character and in spite of an unambiguous death, many fans just can’t seem to accept that he is no more.
Is there any hope of a return? His trusted lieutenants drag his body into a strongpoint at Castle Black and wait their fate at the hands of Snow’s slayers. With them is the enigmatic Red Woman, Melisandre; a scheming man-eater who holds a secret that delivered the episode’s one jaw-dropping moment – and it is a revelation that once again shows that you cannot take the characters or plot lines within GoT at face value. Without giving too much away, #magic, #sorcery, #ShesaWitchBurnHer, maybe there is hope for Snow after all. Who knows?
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) was last seen alone on a mountainside having just escaped an assassination attempt by those gold-masked killjoys, the Sons of the Harpy. From here she is carried away by a horde of Dothraki bloodriders and after a colourful assortment of threats ranging from decapitation to anal rape, she is presented to the Khal for her fate to be decided.
For some of the other major characters of the series the future looks equally uncertain, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) is destitute having lost her eyes to the faceless man, Sansa Stark (along with Theon Greyjoy – minus his wedding tackle) has narrowly escaped death by freezing + hound savaging + the swords of Ramsay Bolton’s men. High fallen nobles Jaime and Cersei Lannister (played Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Lena Headey) are reunited and take their sibling relationship to a whole other level of weirdness.
“It’s probably [Cersei’s] most interesting season,’ Headey revealed in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. ‘She really has nothing to lose and she has everything to gain from a horrible position she finds herself in.’
Having endured the Walk of Shame from King’s Landing at the hands of the Faith Militant, Cersei is plotting her next move – and when her brother ‘the King Slayer’ turns up, things get touch unconventional.
‘Her relationship with Jaime is at an all-time weird level,’ Headey explains before describing the sixth season as ‘juicy, and it’s so f**king dark.’
All in all, it was a good introduction to the new season and a taster of some intriguing plot lines – which goes to show that production company PRs do sometimes tell the truth. However as for lauding this as the best ever Game of Thrones, I think I’ll wait and make my own judgement on that one.
Countryfile’s Shakespeare special was good, if not that special. You might wonder what direction a countryside TV show about the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death would go in. I did.
It starts quite slowly with an inaccessible place named ‘Shakespeare’s cave’. Presenter Matt Brown admits it may have been hard for Shakespeare to even reach the cave in his slipper clad feet. That’s what happens in this show, at points it feels as if some of the links are tenuous. This criticism is not to say it lacked substance. Judi Dench lends gravitas as she recalls her own experiences of Shakespeare and recites his prose. The woman is amazing and the chemistry between her and John Craven is entertaining. There is also Shakespearean biographer Stanley Wells, who many think of as the leading authority on Shakespeare, talking about the Bard’s life.
We learn that the Forest of Arden, which is said to have inspired As You Like It, is now known as Birmingham. At least there still remains a tree that is ‘probably’ 1,000 years old and ‘maybe’ Shakespeare sat beneath it. Ale features heavily, the staple drink of most people back then. In fact a working man was officially allowed 8 pints a day, even toddlers drank ale, as it was safer than water. Wool is another topic that gets dissected. Protected by the crown, it was the ‘Aberdeen oil’ of its day. It is amazing to think of a time when farming was so profitable. This section is also one of the funniest when farmer Adam Henson herds sheep through the centre of Stratford only for them to bolt when they see open space.
The final part was fascinating. It was the building of the Minack theatre in Cornwall. Built into the cliffs by a visionary local Rowena Cade it still remains a place for Shakespeare’s The Tempest to be acted out today.
For regular Countryfile fans this edition was an amiable wander around Shakespeare’s life. To another channel hopper I’m not sure they would have been gripped enough to hang around as sometimes the links to Shakespeare felt a stretch. This is despite there being some very interesting things to learn and that’s why those that love it will continue to.
The Countryfile Shakespeare Special is now available on the iPlayer.
Isn’t BBC iPlayer a wonderful thing. I missed Line of Duty last week and caught up with it just in time for last night’s engrossing fifth episode. So there’s a lot to catch up on in this double header review.
From the execution-style shooting of a petty criminal by a bullying firearms officer, a trail has been laid to the doors of high-ranking police officers, well-known celebrities, respected politicians and other people in positions of authority that higher powers do not want exposed. Does this storyline sound at all familiar?
Of all the previous seasons of Line of Duty, this is the most difficult to watch. The exploration of the systemic neglect of duty and corruption that suppressed the abuse of vulnerable young people in state care and the subsequent collusion and cover-up continues to be painstakingly unravelled.
It is a case of art imitating life and though the knowledge of abuse is there for all to see, the evidential support is not and to make matters worse the AC12 officers find access to information blocked, redacted from files or worse still, purposely removed and destroyed.
Disgraced officer Lindsay Denton (Keeley Hawes) is now free from prison and categorically maintains her innocence – and is single-mindedly in pursuit of those who put her behind bars for 19 months. But who is her target?
Well, she certainly has DS Arnott (Martin Compston) in her sights and plays a trump card against him during a bureaucratic reconciliation meeting. She knows too well, how exposed an officer is when his/her integrity is called into question and Arnott’s forced admission of perjury in front Supt Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) and legal counsel for AC12 Gill Bigelow (Polly Walker) places him right where she wants him.
Denton is a very cool customer; she has had her conviction quashed and is in ruthless pursuit of her own ends, and will trample all who obstruct her path. She was fitted up for a reason in the last series and her knowledge of the corrupt activities of former and serving officers means she could hold the key the case and the exposure of the handlers of ‘the Caddy’.
“The people who actually did the crime that I was imprisoned for, they’re still out there,” she rages at Hastings. “If you held one iota of doubt about the conviction, no officer would do more to right that wrong.”
Indeed, but Hastings suspicions are misdirected and after more manoeuvring by the Caddy (Dot Cottan, played by Craig Parkinson) it is Arnott who is suspended from duty and in the frame as the inside man perverting the course of justice at the behest of an organised criminal network. What is clear is that Cottan is the footsoldier; the man on the ground doing the dirty work. Those pulling the strings are much more influential and extend their reach as far as Bigelow.
With both Denton and Arnott out in the cold and the Caddy busily extinguishing all avenues of further inquiry, it appears that the secrets of the past shall remain hidden. But Denton’s desperate need to be fully cleared and reappointed as an officer leads her to make a fatal error as she climbs into Cottan’s car and attempts to negotiate a trade; the list of names of those implicated in the child sex abuse ring for a pardon. However, she fails to measure just how desperate Cottan has become and though she seems to hold all the cards she is unable to reason with the bullet shot from his gun.
Line of Duty concludes next Thursday at 9pm on BBC2.
Chefs vs Science: The Ultimate Kitchen Challenge is a BBC Four 90-minute film that approaches cooking from two different but equally fascinating perspectives: as an art and as a science. Michelin-star chef Marcus Wareing faces off materialist scientist Professor Mark Miodownik in the ultimate cookery challenge which involves a selection of the most well-known and treasured British dishes: the tomato soup, the medium-rare steak with mashed potatoes and the chocolate fondant.
Along this cooking journey, Mark Miodownik tries to unearth the rudimentary principles of taste and flavour. What makes flavour what it is? How do we perceive taste and how can we differentiate between different flavours? These are only some of the questions to which Miodownik seeks answers. Through an experimental approach to the constitutive ingredients of taste, Miodownik links flavour with the cognitive process that takes place in the brain as we experience flavour with all our senses. A different colour perceived through sight may mislead the taste buds, different sound qualities influence the intensity of chocolate flavour and the smell emitted through different shapes of glasses can alter the taste of champagne. The renowned chef Marcus Wareing is also called to experience the interaction between science and cooking. To his own disbelief and surprise, Wareing frequently attests to the scientific core of taste-savouring and flavour-enriching.
As far as the ambitious menu is concerned, the cookery competition starts with a go at the smooth and filling tomato soup. Miodownik attempts to separate the tomato pulp from its juice in order to recreate Wareing’s perfectly-seasoned and rich-flavoured tomato soup. Moving from the entrée to the main course, chef and scientist aim for a tender, nicely cooked and pink-coloured rib-eye steak. Butter, herbs and seasoning go toe-to-toe with chemistry, water bath and liquid nitrogen. As for the accompanying side of mashed potatoes, a similar technique is deployed in order to give a smooth texture and rich potato flavour to the dish. Miodownik describes in detail the process, explaining any obscure jargon that may put off those less science-savvy. The visuals further illustrate the chemical reactions involved in cooking, often blurring the line between science and art. The kitchen becomes a laboratory where cooking textbooks are out the window and chefs-scientists rely on their experience and instincts.
When it comes to dessert, Miodownik opts for a less radical and more conventional cooking method so as to perfect the foamy sponge and gooey centre of the chocolate fondant: here comes the microwave oven. Utterly amazed and a tad dumbfounded, a worried Wareing watches Miodownik resort to ready-made cake mix in order to create the third and perhaps more challenging dish of the menu. When all is said and done and the heat has worn off, Wareing is asked to taste the fondant and evaluate Miodownik’s techniques…
Chefs vs Science: The Ultimate Kitchen Challenge provides an exciting outlook on cooking, frequently probing the question of whether taste can surpass all prior process of the raw materials. To sieve or to snip? To sear or to seal? To see or to perceive? That is the… cookestion.
Chefs vs Science is available on BBC iPlayer until Friday 22 April at 11.30pm.
Lonnie Donegan, the most influential musician you may not know. Called the ‘founding father of British pop’ by the Guardian, it’s strange to think he’s most recognisable now for the song, ‘My Old Man’s a Dustman’.
This one–off documentary for ITV sees lifelong fan Jim Carter, best known as Downton’s butler Carson, chart Lonnie’s life. Born in poverty stricken Glasgow in 1931 he rose through the jazz clubs of post war Britain to become a huge success in the 50s. His talent? Skiffle. A word that sounds as if it were a fight and a performance all at once. Encyclopaedia Britannica defines skiffle as a: “style of music played on rudimentary instruments”. It was a new type of music that stepped away from tradition, it was exciting, fast paced and accessible. Back in the 50s anyone could form their own skiffle band with whatever was in the kitchen. One of Lonnie’s old band mates shows Jim how to make a bass instrument with string, a tea chest and a broom handle. Lonnie was a pop star and then he faded away into cabaret, replaced by rock and roll and The Beatles.
Celebrities abound in the show. Paul McCartney, Ringo Star and Van Morrison all talk with Jim about the influence Lonnie had on their lives. It saved them, observes Ringo Star, from: “a life in the factories”. Then later it is Van who rescues Lonnie, from near obscurity. The presence of these well-known faces does fell as if it were a kind of belated dues to the man. There was a poignancy in their appearances to speak about him. Jim also talks about what it meant to be a fan of Lonnie’s. Imelda Staunton, Jim’s wife, even shares about what she thought about Lonnie’s music; not much apparently.
Reminders that this was a different era crop up throughout the documentary. His first wife recalls sleeping with a timer so she could wake at 3am to give him his meal when he returned from a show. I wonder how many women would do that now? Then the revelation that their divorce, because of his cheating, negatively affected his public persona is an insight into how conservative views were then.
There was an energy and enthusiasm to Lonnie’s music that is unmistakable. It felt exciting to hear about it. It’s a shame he has been so forgotten. Overall the show is quietly observed. Yes there were lots of clips of music and dancing but the pace is gentle. This was a window into a man’s life. An ordinary man, who, at the time, had an extraordinary life. Jim Carter did him justice.
All kinds of awkward. The definition of last night’s premiere of Camping on Sky Atlantic. Brought to us by the creator of Nighty Night Julia Davis, her latest offering is squirm-in-your-seat funny. The premise is a camping holiday in Devon for a group of middle aged couples. They are celebrating one of their birthdays. With glamping ever more popular this looks as if it could be a lovely few days in the countryside. We know it won’t be.
The first two episodes were screened back to back and there are a lot of recognisable faces. Steve Pemberton stars as the browbeaten husband who the trip is in honour of and Vicki Pepperdine as his dictator-style wife. Julia Davis also features as the sex-mad new girlfriend of the couple’s old friend. Jonathan Cake plays a reformed alcoholic who is fussed over by his insipid partner played by Elizabeth Berrington. By the first night tensions are already high as things start to go awry. Bickering, flapping and lots of snogging characterise the start, and that’s just the adults. The younger one’s fare no better, There’s Archie, a boy forced to wear a plastic bubble on his head by his mother to protect him and Jonathan’s teenage son, whose entrance is marked by disturbing noises from the bathroom.
While the holiday kicks off there are occasional glimpses of the creepy landowner doing strange things such as hanging out gigantic stained underwear while the group eat breakfast.
Elements of these characters are so realistic that it can make uncomfortably viewing. Vicki’s character as Archie’s over protective, routinely homophobic mother is one. It is amusing though, there are laugh out loud moments and I would watch this again. It left me turning my head away at points which classifies it as a certain type of humour. Agonising.
Camping continues as double-bills on Sky Atlantic, on Tuesday nights at 22.00.