Belonging And Betrayal Drive The Action In ‘Storm Of Locusts’

When Storm of Locusts, the second book in Rebecca Roanhorse’s Sixth World series, begins, the monsterslayer Maggie Hoskie has trapped her teacher and first love, the lightning-god Neizghání, under the ground; killed (impermanently, but still) her lover, the medicine man Kai, who is avoiding her; and reached a careful, exhausted détente with the paramilitary Thirsty Boys, a détente which is verging on friendship. She is brittle, cautious, and trying to recover from the personally cataclysmic events of the first book, Trail of Lightning — but Locusts drops her directly into a much wider cataclysm, one which threatens the continued existence of Dinétah, the post-climate-apocalypse Navajo nation which is her home.

Widening is a characteristic feature of Storm of Locusts. There is a widening of scope, as Roanhorse takes her protagonists outside of Dinétah into the Malpais — what remains of the American Southwest after the Big Water reshaped the world. Roanhorse also accomplishes a widening of emotional range, as Maggie begins to allow herself to make friends, especially female friends, and take her place as part of her community when she becomes a mentor and auntie to Ben, a young woman who has clan powers — magic linked to her heritage — like Maggie herself does. But the most significant widening is that of questions of identity, loyalty, and community — because Maggie’s adversary in Storm of Locusts is Gideon, a half-Diné man stolen away from his family to be fostered by Mormons, who calls himself the White Locust and preaches an apocalypse that will flood all of Dinétah while providing safety, salvation, and comfort to his followers.

(He also transforms said followers into half-locust creatures, complete with grafted metal wings that allow for true flight — and controls them with locust-song, a sound which induces a will-sapping ecstatic peace.)

Gideon feels betrayed by almost everything around him. By Dinétah, whose god-created walls are closed to him; by his foster brother Aaron, who attempted to kill him (righteously) over his willingness to engage in rape and exploitation; by his white heritage and by his Diné heritage, neither of which give him enough space to build from in the post-Big Water Sixth World; and by the gods of the Diné, whom he believes refuse to favor him — and that feeling drives his plan to drown Dinétah.

It also parallels Maggie’s sense of being both betrayed and betraying. In Trail of Lightning she betrayed all of her close ties, and feels abandoned by all of them in turn. But Maggie never wavers in her certainty of where she belongs, even if she isn’t sure who she is or how to be herself in a non-destructive fashion. Maggie Hoskie is Diné, and in the course of Storm of Locusts she begins to integrate into a community role, to tie herself willingly to other people.

The contrast of responses to betrayal that Roanhorse explores through Gideon and Maggie is one which centers belonging, identity, and connection. It pushes the reader to think about the struggles of being not quite of one people and not quite of another, the problems of not ever really being able to come home to a home that was stolen from you as a child. In this exploration, Storm of Locusts is a triumphant book — one which weaves fundamental questions of assimilation and diaspora into a fast-paced, action-filled adventure that puts a completely Indigenous spin on the post-apocalyptic Wild West narrative.

This is Roanhorse’s truest strength: She shows us a world that is scarred by colonization and Western despoliation of the environment, but which is entirely centered in the metaphors, worldview, and long history of the Navajo people. This is the Western seen from the Indigenous perspective, and refashioned entirely thereby.

If Storm of Locusts has weak points, it is in the relatively simple emotional arc of Kai, Maggie’s lover and a weather-working medicine man. After the reader spends much of the book wondering if Kai has abandoned Dinétah for Gideon, the climax quickly and painlessly resolves the question of his loyalties, and puts his relationship with Maggie on equally steadier footing. Since so much of Storm of Locusts is deeply concerned with loyalty, betrayal, and kinship, the simplicity of Kai’s arc, which could address these same questions quite deeply, is given short shrift.

Nevertheless, this second volume is a worthy sequel to the first Sixth World book: Sharp, exciting, dramatic, and entirely rooted in a Navajo sensibility which is both strikingly new to the genre and should have been with us all along.

Arkady Martine is a speculative fiction writer, a Byzantinist, and a city planner — the latter two as Dr. AnnaLinden Weller. She tweets @ArkadyMartine.

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Preserving The House Of A Pioneering Musician — Who We Will Never Hear

The only known photograph of Buddy Bolden, standing back row and second from left, horn in hand. Also pictured: guitarist Brock Mumford, bassist Jimmie Johnson, clarinetists Willie Warner and Frank Lewis, and trombonist Willie Cornish.

Courtesy of the New Orleans Jazz Museum

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Courtesy of the New Orleans Jazz Museum

On a sunny Thursday afternoon in May, the corner of First Street and LaSalle in New Orleans’ Central City neighborhood was lively. Kids tooled around on bikes and grown-up neighbors danced to the sounds of DJ Jubilee and Al Green, spun onstage by DJ Mannie Fresh, the producer whose exceptional skills put Cash Money Records on the map back in the ’90s. The party was hosted by PJ Morton — a native New Orleanian and the keyboardist for Maroon 5 — who followed Fresh’s set with a long, jammy performance of his song “New Orleans Girl,” including both a bounce verse and a trombone solo.

The party took place at a hot locus for New Orleans musical culture, where second line parades roll through and Mardi Gras Indians show off, near the housing projects where the Neville Brothers and Juvenile and Harold Battiste, the modern jazz innovator who worked as Sonny and Cher’s musical director, grew up.

And also it’s where Buddy Bolden, the mysterious cornetist who scholars and fans credit as a pioneer of jazz, lived during the peak of his short, improbably influential career. Born in New Orleans in 1877 and self-taught, Bolden quickly became an in-demand act in his youth, popular for the forcefulness of his cornet’s sound and his tendency, novel at the time, to improvise on the blues and ragtime and parade-band standards that were the standard repertoire around the turn of the century. (Also for what would become his theme song, the bawdy “Funky Butt” — or “Buddy Bolden’s Blues.”) As historian Don Marquis wrote in his landmark 1978 biography In Search of Buddy Bolden: First Man of Jazz, he “played all over town… for every conceivable function,” at parks, picnics, parades and dances, and on the back of wagons that drove around town to advertise them.

Not that you can hear any of that.

The subject of an impressionistic biopic, Bolden, being released May 3, Bolden is a historical wraith who still looms large over the legacy of jazz. No written compositions or recordings of his playing exist; Wynton Marsalis, who scored the film, had to reconstruct a facsimile of his sound based on both recordings of his contemporaries and their recollections of his playing and his presence. To date, researchers have identified only one photograph of him (which you can see above). In the first years of the twentieth century, he was the biggest name in town. But, as researcher James Karst recently wrote in Preservation In Print, by the time “jazz” entered the lexicon in the mid-teens, Bolden had been gone for years.

It was much later that the first jazz scholars took an interest in establishing a record around the birth of the music and began interviewing the remaining people and players who remembered its creation. Bolden’s name was uttered over and over again, with awe — in the preface to First Man of Jazz, Marquis quotes Louis Armstrong reminiscing: “He blew so hard that I used to wonder if I would ever have enough lung power to fill one of those cornets.”

With nothing but secondhand reports and imagination, Bolden’s legend grew. He was a ladies’ man and a boozer who played all night, and louder than anyone; an innovator who catalyzed one of America’s most important cultural inventions. Marquis writes that it’s certainly possible that very absence of hard facts is what has fed his exaltation. But the memories of those who did hear him still stand out. “There were other cornetists and soloists who were prominent, but they were just not remembered like he was,” Karst told me.

Based on news reports and arrest records, historians surmise that the horn player became unpredictable and violent in his late twenties, suffering psychotic breaks and episodes of paranoia. His mental illness chipped away at his ability to work, and he stopped performing. In 1907, he was committed to the Louisiana State Insane Asylum at Jackson, where he died in 1931. He was buried in a potters’ field in New Orleans — the specific location of his resting place has been lost to time. Where he lived his life, however, could be on the verge of avoiding the same fate.

PJ Morton’s party was a kickoff celebration for the Buddy’s House Foundation, his recently announced plan to renovate Bolden’s house, in consultation with the Preservation Resource Center (PRC) of New Orleans, an organization which advocates for the city’s historic architecture. According to Morton, the house will become a community center, museum and recording studio, offering music-business education for young performers and celebrating the jazz originator’s legacy.

Buddy Bolden’s former residence, on First Street in New Orleans.

Courtesy of the Preservation Resource Center

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Courtesy of the Preservation Resource Center

Bolden’s house, at 2309 First Street, stands two doors down from the Greater St. Stephen’s Full Gospel Baptist Church, the worship center presided over by PJ Morton’s parents, Bishop Paul S. Morton and Pastor Debra Morton, from whom its fate has become inextricable. The house was granted landmark status in 1978, following the publication of Marquis’ book. In 2000, the Times-Picayune reported that after the property suffered minor damage from a fire, its owner approached then-Mayor Marc Morial for financial help in restoring it. The city offered to move the building to a site in the Treme neighborhood, but the owner declined; it remained a rental property until 2008, when the Mortons’ church bought it. In recent statements, the elder Mortons have said they were unaware of its history when they bought it, and PJ learned even later. “I found out when I moved home three years ago,” he said. “And shamefully, as a musician who grew up in New Orleans, I didn’t even know Buddy’s story.”

There have been murmurs of dissatisfaction among jazz fans with the new film, Bolden, for liberties it takes with the historical record. (Director Dan Pritzker has said that the film deliberately leans into his mythology because of the dearth of confirmed facts and the phenomenon, even in the face of that, of Bolden’s massive legend.) But as the clock ticked down to the movie’s release, a lot of those critics and scholars, in New Orleans at least, were concerned less with the story on the screen than with that double-shotgun house.

Bolden lived there for about fifteen years, from age ten to 25 or so, James Karst said. His residence there coincided with his most active and fertile time as a musician, and the family’s move, “to a much shabbier house” nearby, said Karst, was timed to his decline.

The house was included on the Louisiana Landmarks Society’s annual list of the city’s nine most endangered properties in 2011, when it was also cited for blight (as it was in 2014, too). At that time, according to a report in the New Orleans Advocate, the Preservation Resource Center, an organization that advocates for the preservation of historical architecture in the city, offered to help renovate the landmark and find a new buyer, as it had done with the historic homes of other early jazz artists. But the church declined to sell, saying it planned to renovate 2309 First Street itself.

But jazz scholars and preservationists like John McCusker, author of the 2012 Edward “Kid” Ory biography Creole Trombone and a tour guide who’s been bringing groups to see the house on First Street for more than twenty years, were growing skeptical. When the New Orleans City Council voted to approve a federally-funded rebuilding plan for the Mortons’ church in August 2018, which did not include the Bolden house, McCusker and others led a charge both at the council meeting and online, arguing that the jazz site should be prioritized. (Many tweeted at Wynton Marsalis, hoping that he might weigh in due to the forthcoming film.)

McCusker, though, is taking a skeptical wait-and-see approach to the new plans. (“What does the Bible tell us?” he said. “‘We shall know by their acts.'”) This is less cynicism toward the new Foundation and the church in particular and more a learned response to New Orleans’ track record with the physical markers of its extensive musical legacy. Louis Armstrong’s birthplace was torn down in the sixties as part of the construction of a new police headquarters and court complex. The site of J&M Studios, where Cosimo Matassa waxed hundreds of groundbreaking early rock and R&B recordings, is now a laundromat. The Dew Drop Inn, a major locus of black music and cultural life in the city from World War II until the ’70s, stood shuttered and crumbling for decades, as did the Eagle Saloon and Odd Fellows Hall on South Rampart Street. The latter sites have been the subject of periodic attempts at restoration and reinvention, though nothing substantial has yet panned out.

“The city really actively tried to suppress jazz music for years,” Karst says. By the time that history – and that of rock and roll, and R&B – was looked at with reverence, it was often too late. “Armstrong himself wasn’t really appreciated til the sixties. Due to racism, ignorance, disinterest in black pop music … it’s really kind of a shock that [the house] is still there.”

According to McCusker, the whole neighborhood around the First Street house deserves more attention as a generative zone for jazz. Within six blocks of the Bolden house, he said, were also homes occupied at the same time by pioneers like “Kid” Ory and Johnny Dodds.

“But nobody talks about Central City as a birthplace of jazz,” he said. “And it’s a gateway to a better understanding of music and a better understanding of New Orleans, and I don’t understand why it hasn’t been more of a priority.”

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Boeing Knew About 737 Max Sensor Problem Before Plane Crash In Indonesia

Boeing said on Sunday that it was aware of problems with a key safety indicator in 2017, but it didn’t inform airlines or the FAA until after the Lion Air crash a year later. Here, 737 Max jets built for American Airlines, left, and Air Canada are parked at the airport adjacent to a Boeing production facility in Renton, Wash., in April.

Elaine Thompson/AP

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Elaine Thompson/AP

Boeing knew that there was a problem with one of the safety features on its 737 Max planes back in 2017 – well before the Lion Air crash in October 2018 and the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March. But it did not disclose the issue to airlines or safety regulators until after the Lion Air plane crashed off the Indonesian coast, killing all 189 aboard.

In a statement Sunday, Boeing said its engineers discovered a problem with a key safety indicator within months of Boeing delivering the first 737 Max planes to airlines. The indicator, called an angle of attack disagree alert, is designed to warn pilots if the plane’s sensors are transmitting contradictory data about the direction of the plane’s nose.

Boeing intended for the indicator to be standard on the 737 Max, in keeping with the features available on previous generation of 737s. But its engineers discovered that the sensor only worked with a separate, optional safety feature. Boeing said the faulty software was delivered by a vendor, which it didn’t name.

When it learned of the issue in 2017, Boeing says it conducted a safety review and concluded that the non-working alert did not affect airplane safety or operation. The review also concluded that the indicator could be decoupled from the optional indicator at the time of a future software update.

Boeing says its senior leadership wasn’t aware of the problem until after the Lion Air crash. Boeing says it discussed the indicator problem at that point with the Federal Aviation Administration — a year after the company knew about the problem. The company then convened another safety review, which concluded once again that the absence of the alert was not a safety issue. It shared the analysis with the FAA.

The FAA said in a statement that its review board “determined the issue to be ‘low risk’ and would be required to be a part of Boeing’s overall enhancement announced after the Lion Air [crash]. However, Boeing’s timely or earlier communication with the operators would have helped to reduce or eliminate possible confusion.”

A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines, the largest operator of the 737 Max, told the Associated Press that Boeing had informed it of the indicator issue in November, following the Lion Air crash. Southwest then added the optional feature so the angle-of-attack disagree indicator would work.

But only 20% of customers had purchased the optional feature, and neither Lion Air nor Ethiopian Airlines had functioning angle of attack disagree indicators on their 737 Max fleets, The New York Times reports.

If angle of attack sensors indicate the nose of the plane is too high, an automated flight control system on the 737 Max automatically forces the nose of the plane down, as NPR’s David Schaper reported in March:

“Investigators of the Lion Air plane crash … say a faulty sensor fed the system erroneous data, and the system forced the nose of the plane down repeatedly. The pilots may not have known the system even existed and engaged in a futile struggle to regain control of the aircraft.”

Boeing maintains the 737 Max was safe to fly even without the alert, which it says provides only “supplemental information.” But the new disclosure raises questions about how forthright the company has been about issues with the planes.

“We thought [the disagree light] worked,” Jon Weaks, the president of the Southwest Pilots’ Association, told the Times. “If they knew it in 2017, why did we get to nearly the end of 2018 until the manual was changed?”

The 737 Max, the fastest-selling plane in Boeing’s history, has been grounded around the world for almost eight weeks. The company is working on a software fix it hopes will get the planes flying again this summer, as it faces congressional scrutiny and lawsuits by family members of those who died in the crashes.

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‘Game Of Thrones’ Season 8, Episode 4: ‘Vomiting Is Not Celebrating’

Boy, Mike Brady really let himself go, hunh?: Schemin’ seaman Euron (Pilou Asbæk) and cunning queen Cersei (Lena Headey) look awful pleased with themselves on Game of Thrones.

Helen Sloan/HBO

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Helen Sloan/HBO

We’re recapping the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones; look for these recaps first thing on Monday mornings. Spoilers, of course, abound.

After great pain, a formal feeling comes.

That’s a quote from Lady Emily of House Dickinson, who might as well have been describing this episode, which probably couldn’t help but feel anti-climactic and setty-uppy, coming as it does in the narrative gully that naturally stretches between last week’s exultantly fire-and-bloody spectacle and next week’s likely disastrous siege of King’s Landing.

The aftermath of the Battle of Winterfell does some weird things to our heroes. Not to Jon Snow, who stays maddeningly on-brand, clinging to honor and truth because he’s somehow still too thick to understand — even now! after getting, you know, murdered for it! which you’d think would the most teachable of moments! — when a little discretion is called for. Sansa keeps on Sansa-ing, as she once again raises concerns about the well-being of soldiers, displaying a keen tactical sense of exactly the sort of logistics you’d otherwise expect Tyrion to be all over. But no: Instead Tyrion dithers, Varys schemes, Arya remains cool and aloof, Bran MacGuffin gazes at folk unblinkingly a lot — so, yeah, all those characters are staying true to form. They’re not who I’m talking about.

Daenerys, too, sticks with the characterization we’ve been getting from her lately, though the demands of the plot drive her straight into the outer suburbs of Crazytown, and it becomes explicitly clear that the show is giving her the villain edit.

But let’s talk Brienne, you and me.

Raise your hand if you had “badass Brienne of Tarth finally gets herself some, and immediately transforms into someone who’d stand sobbing in the middle of a courtyard while begging her boyfriend not to go off to war and leave her” in the predictions pool. None of you? That’s because it doesn’t make a lick of sense. Her character arc just took a deep downward curve and is plummeting toward the x-axis.

The episode also featured several farewells to characters who’ve been around a long time – both the actual, permanent kind (Protect ya neck, Rhaegar! We’ll miss you, Missandei!) and goodbyes which are clearly head-fakes, as they’re certain to show up again (Sam, Gilly, Tormund, Ghost).

But this episode will probably best be remembered for the comically cavalier way these characters suddenly approach keeping secrets. Winterfell is leaking like the Titanic.

To begin:

A song of ice and pyres

We start with that formal feeling mentioned earlier. Our heroes stand stiffly, morosely,looking out over the plain before Winterfell, which is filled with pyres stacked with the bodies of the dead. (That’s the winning army’s dead, to be clear, not the “argh, argh” dead — no word on how all those rotting corpses got disposed of. As for the remains of the Night King and the White Walkers, that’s a much easier problem to deal with — sprinkle a little Snowmelt and they’re slush, sprinkle a little more and they’re gone.)

We get lingering shots of five of the six casualties of the last week’s battle as they light them up up up, light them up up up. Ser Jorah, Theon Greyjoy, Dolorous Edd, Lyanna Mormont and Beric Dondarrion.

We cut from a shot of the smoke rising from the flames engulfing the bodies to a shot of candles burning in a chandelier above the Winterfell great hall, where a feast is in progress. Our main heroes sit along the head table, glumly stuffing their faces. This episode is big on long, meaningful looks passing between characters, and we get our first one here, as Jon looks over at Dany, who’s not eating, just staring Brannishly into the middle distance.

Gendry looks around for Arya, and The Hound either intuits what went on between them, or — far less likely — already knows because Gendry told him, at some point. (Take a moment and try to picture Sandor Clegane singing “Summer Nights” from Grease (Tell me more! Tell me more!) in a Pink Lady jacket and pedal pushers, and you’ll see why I’m going with “intuits,” here.)

Gendry gets up to leave, and is called out by Dany, who announces to the assembled throng that he is the son of Robert Baratheon, and we’re meant to worry that she’ll get her “Off with his head!” on, but no: She makes him Lord of House Baratheon, and gives him the House’s seat, Storm’s End. Davos gets a little proud papa moment, which is nice.

Brienne and Jaime drink while Davos and Tyrion talk eschatology (so Brienne and Jaime are having a much better time). Then Tyrion moves on to Bran MacGuffin, who probably demands a new nickname now that he’s suddenly become much less important to the plot. There’s a nice bit where he mentions how he lives mostly in the past, so maybe I’ll call him Uncle Who Makes Everyone Listen To His Grateful Dead Bootlegs At Thanksgiving. (We don’t get a clear sense of what Bran and Tyrion talked about back in episode two, when they were alone by the fire. It wasn’t Jon’s true parentage, as that’s something Tyrion only learns about later in this episode.)

We get a Boisterous Drunk Tormund scene, the better for Sansa and Dany to shoot icy looks hither and yon, while Brienne and Jaime are joined by Tyrion and Podrick to play Tyrion’s drinking game. (Or at least, Brienne, Jaime and Tyrion do — they seem to have collectively decided to ignore Podrick, so while me may look favorably on these characters, we are reminded that they are trapped in a class system founded upon the oppression and exploitation of one group over all others.) Anyway, point is: They’re getting happily drunk.

Tormund spills half of his horn of booze while gesticulating wildly about his love for Jon Snow, cueing more long, meaningful looks from Sansa and, especially, Dany, who’s clearly threatened by Jon’s men’s love for him. In this scene, Tormund casually mentions that Jon has returned from the dead, so while last season that fact seemed like something Jon was taking pains to conceal, it’s clear that the secret is out now.

As we’ll see, there’s a lot of that going around, these days.

Varys joins the long, meaningful looks club as Dany leaves. Speaking of leaving — Tyrion takes the drinking game a scosh too far when he guesses that Brienne is still a virgin. She peaces out, and Jaime follows her — but not before gently blocking Tormund’s advances, putting a merciful end to the Tormund-Brienne ship, once and for all.

Everyone starts pairing off — Podrick, Tormund (not, um, with each other, though it’s a matter of record that Tormund would be game — and would have a great time, if it were to happen with Podrick). Sansa goes over to an even grouchier-than-usual Hound and we’re just gonna skip right over this conversation, which includes Sansa saying that the ghastly abuse she suffered from sociopathic men made her a stronger, more clear-eyed person which is — just not a great look, show. Moving on.

Gendry finds Arya doing some target practice, tells her his news and proposes to her. There’s no real suspense that she might say yes, of course — but it’s nice for the series to show us a woman for whom sex is not a magically life-changing thing, because it’s about to show us another woman for whom it totally, bafflingly is.

Maybe it’s not just his hand that’s golden

Jaime comes to Brienne’s room and …

Look, if this is how you wanted these two characters to end up, I’m happy you got to see it. I truly am. But compare this scene to the one in Episode 2 of this season, where Jaime knights Brienne, and tell me you don’t agree that that scene was so much more layered, and surprising, and compelling, resting as it did on a bed of conflicting emotions. That scene felt uniquely rewarding because it paid off several seasons’ worth of hard-won mutual respect.

This, by way of comparison, is a… sex scene. We’ve seen hundreds of others just like it — a lot of them just on this show.

Dany goes to Jon’s room, and proceeds to explain her plan, which can be boiled down to, “You say nothing, Jon Snow.” She warns him that if he tells anyone his true parentage, it will destroy their relationship — and, not for nothing, the goal she’s been striving for ever since she was a little fireproof baby.

He insists that it won’t — that the world works in a way it has been shown repeatedly not to, because he’s pretty dumb. (I like Kit Harington’s choice, in this scene, to stare at her with a kind of uncomprehending, mouth-breathing dullness.) “I have to tell Arya and Sansa,” he says, because Truth and Honor — and also because, once again, Dumb. Dany makes him promise not to, and he reluctantly agrees, which turns out to be the one promise my dude’s made over the course of eight long seasons that he will willingly shatter to smithereens the first chance he gets.

At a big war meeting the next morning, we learn that the Battle of Winterfell has effectively halved our heroes’ forces, and also that, now that Cersei is joined by Captain Jackass Sparrow’s Iron Fleet, and The Golden Company, the two sides are roughly equal.

Dany wants to go in, and go in full throttle, but she is convinced — reluctantly — to adopt a strategy contingent on the people of King’s Landing ousting Cersei themselves. She’s fine with that much, but when Sansa (sensibly!) suggests letting her army heal a bit before heading down to King’s Landing, Dany grows affronted, Sansa claps back, and Jon’s all, “You GUYS you GUYS come onnnnnnnnn.”

Arya calls a family meeting in the godswood, where she and Sansa are like, “When you’re a Stark/You’re a Stark all the way/From your first direwolf/To your last dying day/Because you’ve already died once/So it’s the next one we’re referring to here in this song.”

Jon says, “Yeeeeeeah, funny story, in re: my Starkness.” For those keeping score, the elapsed time between promising Dany he wouldn’t ever tell them his secret, and him telling them his secret: six minutes. He makes them promise never to tell anyone else, because though the horse has left the barn, he’s determined to at least make a convincing show of closing the barn door, and putting on a shiny new lock.

Jaime and Tyrion are drinking by the fire, and have a conversation about Brienne that’s a good deal less bawdy than it would have been if it had taken place in an earlier season. Bronn shows up and threatens them with the crossbow he’s supposed to use to kill them, but Bronn gotta Bronn, and wheedles a promise out of them to give him Highgarden (seat of the late lamented House Tyrell) and leaves — but not before punching Tyrion in the nose.

The last time Tyrion and Bronn saw each other, in the dragon pit in King’s Landing, the actors played up the warmth of their old relationship. Here, Jerome Flynn instead leans into Bronn’s exasperated impatience, which gives the scene a tension lacking from much of the rest of this episode.

The Hound and Arya head down to King’s Landing, both with unspoken business to handle. (His is to take care of his brother, and hers is, mostly likely, to take care of Cersei.)

We watch Rhaegal — who was, you’ll recall, wounded in the Battle of Winterfell last week — take off and fly; he’s a little wobbly, with some sizable holes in one wing, but he’s got gumption, this one. He’s showing some real hustle out there. You guys I think he’s gonna make it! I think he’s going all the way this season!

Sansa is on something like her fourteenth long, meaningful look of the episode, standing on one of the Winterfell balconies where characters gather together to intone dialogue in one another’s general direction without actually looking at one another. Tyrion approaches, and here’s where, if the show was gonna end with Dany on the Iron Throne, he’d argue a solid case for her to Sansa.

That’s … not what happens. Instead, Sansa gets Tyrion to admit that he’s a little afraid of Daenerys, and goes full Yoda in Empire, (“There is … another”). For a ghastly second I feared the “someone else … someone better” to which she referred was Robyn Arryn of the Vale, and while I admit it’d make for a satisfying ending if she married the littler pisher and proceeded to rule in his stead, she’s of course referring to Jon. Elapsed time between promising never to tell anyone else about Jon and telling Tyrion about Jon: 10 minutes.

We next get our fake-out goodbyes to Tormund, Gilly, Sam and Ghost. Sorry; not buying it. They’re not off the show for good, they’re just getting strapped into the show’s elaborate and well-worn deus ex machine, for later use.

Dragon? Dra-GONE

We see Dany’s fleet of ships sailing toward Dragonstone. Grey Worm and Missandei hold hands and smile. We practically see tiny red hearts popping over their heads. I don’t know what the Westerosi equivalent of a malted with two straws is, but they’re metaphorically sharing one right now.

Happiness. Contentment. On Game of Thrones. This is the show screaming “DOOM DOOM DEATH BLOOD DANGER” at you.

Below deck, Tyrion and Varys are having one of the conversations they haven’t had in years, with Varys expressing doubts about Dany’s fitness to rule and Tyrion insisting that everything’s fine shut up not listening la la la la la la la. Tyrion’s told Varys Jon’s secret, of course (elapsed time: Five minutes) so, now that eight people know, Varys astutely asserts that it’s no longer a secret — it’s information.

As Drogon and Rhaegal (who’s really comin’ along! Such spirit! Such heart! I believe in this kid!) fly toward Dragonstone, a bolt launched from an unseen ballista lands in Rhaegal’s chest. Then his wing. Then another take him out, right through the throat. Down, down, down he goes, into Davy Jones’ Locker, down past Mike Nesmith’s Steamer Trunk, Micky Dolenz’s Dopp Kit and straight into Peter Tork’s Duffel Bag.

RIP Rhaegal. You had a love of the game that really showed on the field.

Another bolt whizzes past Dany’s ear, and we see the Iron Fleet — each ship carrying a ballista on its foredeck — and there, seated behind the one on the lead ship, is Euron Greyjoy himself, who for the rest of this recap will be referred to as Urine Greyjoy, to reflect the fact that once we get rid of him, we will all feel a tremendous sense of relief.

Dany, outraged, turns and bears down on the fleet, but that Pacey-Witter-lookin’ freak and the rest of them just fires bolt after bolt at her. It’s too much — she can’t get close enough to light them up with dragonfire, so she retreats — leaving her own fleet of ships wide open in the process. (You guys, maybe she’s not gonna be a good queen after all?)

Urine fires upon Dany’s fleet, reducing her ships to flotsam and/or jetsam. Most of her army washes up on Dragonstone — except, alas, for Mellisandre.

At King’s Landing, Urine and Cersei — once again rocking her metal shoulderpads from the Julia Sugarbaker collection, which she’s matched with a wig that’s giving you serious Season 5 Carol Brady — stand looking down from a window in the Red Keep. She’s invited the people of the capital within the walls of the castle, to use them as human shields.

She lies to Urine that the baby she’s carrying is his (there’s a nice moment when Lena Headey shows a quick flash of revulsion at his touch, but recovers before he can notice). We see that she’s got Missandei as prisoner.

Back on Dragonstone, Grey Worm urges Dany to storm the city. Varys warns of the tens thousands of innocents who will be slaughtered. Gotta say, he’s right, but he’s really the guy in the meeting who lists problems without offering solutions, so if I were Dany I’d start a paper trail on him ASAP.

Tyrion pipes up with a possible solution — see, he’s a team player, at least — to meet with Cersei and demand her surrender. Dany agrees and she says all the right things — like how important it is for people to see that when Cersei goes low, she’ll go high — but she says it in this really kind of hilariously testy way, so while the transcript will reflect she adopted the more reasonable approach, the people who were in the room will remember her super angry tone.

Which is what happens, when Varys and Tyrion talk it over afterwards. Varys is openly advocating backing Jon over Dany — even marrying Jon to Sansa, which: Ick. He’s convinced that the best political platform to launch a campaign on is “I Don’t Want To!” They part ways, with Varys all but threatening to kill Dany, and Tyrion all but threatening to kill Varys if he tries.

At Winterfell, Jaime learns of the Iron Fleet’s attack on Dany’s forces. He resolves to sneak off to King’s Landing, but Brienne confronts him. He’s not like Cersei, she says — he’s a good man. He proceeds to read from his extensive c.v. of dirty deeds done for Cersei. Stay with me, Brienne of Tarth(!) wails(!), don’t go. He … goes. She sobs.

Gah. Who even are you all of a sudden, my girl? What show am I even watching?

Barely a parley

A small company of Dany’s troops — along with Dany, Tyrion, Varys and Grey Worm — stand outside the gates of King’s Landing.

On the parapets atop the gates stand Cersei, Urine, the Mountain and — very near the edge, too near it, frankly — Missandei.

Qyburn steps out of the gates and walks toward Dany’s company. Tyrion meets him halfway. We’re in real Mouth of Sauron territory here, but instead of creepy dental work there’s just costume jewelry: They’re each wearing matching brooches that signify their status as Hands of the Queen (brooch buddies!). Qyburn’s wearing a kind of boat-neck number that’s accentuating his worst features in a really unflattering way, also it’s more wearing him, you know?

They both demand the unconditional surrender of the other. Tyrion appeals to Qyburn’s sense of decency, which gets him exactly as far as you’d expect it to, which is to say: precisely nowhere. He then walks past Qyburn to approach Cersei herself. We all know that attempting to reason with Cersei is a colossal waste of time — we’ve seen the show. In his defense, Tyrion knows that, too. He proceeds to play a game of Two Truths and a Lie with her:

  • “I know you don’t care about your people.” – TRUTH
  • “They hate you, and you hate them.” – TRUTH

He then attempts to play on her love for her children – for the baby she’s carrying, specifically. We know it won’t work, and it doesn’t. She steps over to Missandei and tells her to say any final words. “Dracarys,” she says, and then DROGON COMES DOWN FROM THE SKY AND LIGHTS UP EVERYONE BUT ESPECIALLY URINE WHO REALLY JUST SUPER DIES LIKE DIES EXTRA HARD DIES GREATER AND WITH MORE INTENSITY THAN ANYONE ELSE no of course that’s not what happens.

What happens is: the Mountain comes up behind Missandei and cuts her dang head all the way off.

And then the episode comes to a close on — wait for it — a host of long, meaningful looks. Grey Worm: Devastated. Cersei: Gloating. Urine: Smug. Tyrion: Worried. Daenerys: Shock, Confusion, then — suddenly, finally — Cold, Seething Rage.

Just two episodes to go. Almost three hours — and just one dragon — left.

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New CBS News President Aims To Make Mark On Network With Staff Shake-Up

Susan Zirinsky, president of CBS News, hosts the CBS News and Politico 2019 White House Correspondents’ Dinner Pre-Party at the Washington Hilton in April.

Shannon Finney/Getty Images

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Shannon Finney/Getty Images

CBS News is expected to announce a major shake-up in the lineup of its flagship shows on Monday morning.

In what would represent the most significant changes under new CBS News President Susan Zirinsky, the network would be dropping chief evening anchor Jeff Glor in favor of one of Zirinsky’s morning stars, Norah O’Donnell, and rebuilding the morning show around CBS’s Gayle King.

CBS News would not comment on the changes, which have been the subject of media speculation and coverage in recent days, but a person knowledgeable with the plans confirmed them to NPR.

The moves stem from shrinking ratings for both CBS This Morning and the CBS Evening News, alongside reverberations of sexual harassment revelations that have rocked the news division.

Under the revamp, King will remain co-host of CBS This Morning, where Zirinsky plans for her to be joined by Anthony Mason, currently a correspondent and host of CBS’s Saturday morning news show, and correspondent Tony Dokoupil.

Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell attend The Hollywood Reporter‘s Most Powerful People In Media last April.

Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Image

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Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Image

Meanwhile, O’Donnell, the network’s former top White House correspondent, is slated to leave King’s side as co-host of CBS This Morning, to replace Glor on the CBS Evening News. Glor has been at the job for less than a year and a half.

John Dickerson, a highly regarded political reporter who was previously host of CBS’s Face The Nation, is expected to switch from co-hosting CBS This Morning to become a correspondent on the prestigious Sunday night news magazine 60 Minutes, which generates huge revenues for CBS with its high ratings.

CBS, the network of Eric Sevareid, Edward R. Murrow, and Walter Cronkite, has a proud tradition in the news business. CBS This Morning and the CBS Evening News enjoyed something of a comeback with a renewed focus on hard news under Zirinsky’s predecessors. Yet both started to sag and remain perennially third-rated shows behind major broadcasters ABC and NBC.

Back in 2012, Charlie Rose’s appointment to co-host of CBS This Morning breathed new life into the program, and the unlikely combination with King and O’Donnell yielded a lively chemistry.

But Rose’s career collapsed under scrutiny in fall 2017 as numerous women came forward in articles in The Washington Post and The New Yorker, among other outlets, to make accusations of sexual harassment. Scandals also knocked out former 60 Minutes executive producer and CBS News chairman Jeff Fager and CBS CEO and Chairman Les Moonves.

In the aftermath of those scandals, CBS in January named Zirinsky as head of the news division, replacing David Rhodes. Zirinsky, the first woman to head CBS News, came to the position after serving as senior executive producer of the true-crime-driven news magazine 48 Hours.

Before that, she held significant roles at almost every element throughout the news division. She was a producer of CBS Evening News and has led the network’s coverage of the White House.

Known as a tough leader who inspires loyalty, Zirinsky also inspired the lead character of the 1987 movie Broadcast News, played by Holly Hunter.

As CNN reported in January, staffers were largely excited about Zirinsky’s step into the leadership role. King celebrated Zirinsky on This Morning as the right person to take over the post. “I feel that she is somebody who can right the ship,” King said. “Because she gets us. She knows us. And by us I mean this organization.”

NPR’s Emma Bowman contributed to this report.

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