First Impressions: Game of Thrones, Season 7 Ep. 4

[sg_popup id=”1″ event=”onload”][/sg_popup]What an absolutely heart-pounding episode of Game of Thrones! Definitely one for the fans. Here’s my weekly storyline breakdown.

Daenerys Storyline

Although it seems a bit too convenient, it looks as though Jon Snow has broken through to Daenerys. Thanks to the Children of the Forest, his point about the White Walkers has (quite literally) been drawn out for the Mother of Dragons, and it seems like the two may be headed in the right direction as far as creating a strategic — and possibly romantic — relationship, even if Jon Snow claims he has no time for such things.

The Daenerys/Jon storyline became overshadowed by an EPIC fight scene between the Lannister Army and Drogon & Daenerys with the Dothraki. While I loved seeing a vengeful Drogon destroy the giant crossbow prototype, until the mastermind Qyburn is shot down, new dragon-slaying crossbows can just keep on being built. However, finally, we have an episode of Game of Thrones without a Cersei win on the board. This episode finale keeps me greatly looking forward to the look on Cersei’s face when she hears news of the huge loss and (presumably?) the destruction of all the gold from High Garden. Was it in fact specifically shown that Drogon toasted all the gold? Or was it just implied? Or neither??

Also, if you guys want to do a little interaction, do you think Jamie is dead? It seems obvious that he wouldn’t die so suddenly and in such pathetic fashion, but stranger things have happened on Game of Thrones. Guess we’ll have to wait and see!

Arya Storyline

Another Stark daughter home in Winterfell. A very interesting interaction between Brienne and Arya leaves us wondering what Sansa’s reaction reveals. It was hard to discern jealousy, surprise, or disapproval of her sister’s mastery with a blade, but it begs the question why? I am definitely curious to see how this plays out. Not to mention, Littlefinger’s scheming face is the period at the end of every sentence involving the Starks. He is planning something huge, and I want to know what it is!

Cersei Storyline

Not too much progress in the Cersei storyline, and while it seemed that the debts to the Iron Bank were surely repaid, it now seems unlikely that the bounty will make it any further into King’s Landing. What could have been a very interesting relationship between the Lannisters and the Iron Bank may have been all for naught. However, the fact that the scene between Tycho and Cersei was included in the episode at all makes me think that their relationship is far from over, debts repaid or not.

Jon Snow Storyline

As mentioned previously, Jon’s storyline continues with positive news. He has gained more of Daenerys’ trust with his discovery in the caves, and even counseled Daenerys on what her next move should be. So was Daenerys then completely disregarding Jon’s advice by attacking Jamie’s army? Was this done to prove a point to Jon? I am interested to see whether he played a part in her decision to attack.

Also, as another interactive vote, who was it who attempted to save Jamie? Was it the obvious choice of Bronn? Or possibly Randyll Tarly or his son Dickon? Thoughts?

Bran Stark Storyline

Bran aka Three-Eyed Raven continues to put forth that super-creepy slash wise beyond his years demeanour. While he seemed to set off weird vibes with Sansa, he definitely intrigued Arrya with his knowledge. At this point, he seems to be creating a rift in the family, but knowing what Bran knows, I am sure he has his reasons. Ultimately, he really does hold all the cards.

Honorable Mentions:

Bronn laughing heartily at the unfortunate name of Randyll Tarly’s son, Dickon. Rickon? No, Dickon. LOL.

Arya turning heads with her impressive sword skills.

Drogon thankfully not taking that giant spear to the skull. My heart was pounding from the moment Bronn hopped on that Dragon killer.

Missandei and Daenerys’ total girl moment over Greyworm.

A rare glimpse of humility from Tyrion, who was clearly uncomfortable watching the Dothraki tear through the Lannister troops. A rather sad moment, honestly.

Any glimpse of the legendary Podrick! One of those subtly awesome characters that producers know fans love for some reason and always make sure to keep him around!

 

Well those are my thoughts for this week on Game of Thrones! An amazing episode, and surely one to become a fan favorite from this season. A heart pounder that leaves us impatiently waiting for week 5!

Maduro v. the People: WTF is Happening in Venezuela

It is no secret that the country of Venezuela is in a crisis. With the nation divided into two groups with vastly different agendas, it has proven to be the hate towards President Nicolás Maduro that has seemingly brought the population back together.

A Nation (no longer) Divided

Venezuela Maduro

The Chavistas is the name for the group of Venezuelan citizens who support the United Socialist Party (or PSUV). The Chavistas always supported candidates from Maduro’s side, particularly his predecessor Hugo Chavez. However, Maduro’s popularity has plummeted recently, and even his avid supporters in the PSUV have taken a stand.

The lack of popularity for Maduro stems in large part from the management of Venezuela’s rich oil fields. Hugo Chavez was and is still praised for his presidency; he used money from oil to raise Venezuela’s poverty line and reduce inequality in a struggling nation. Since Maduro took office, however, oil exports have fallen. For a country that relies so heavily on the success of the oil trade, this has hampered Maduro’s presidency considerably. Oil in Venezuela accounts for roughly 95% of the country’s export revenues and had funded multiple government programs, some of which were responsible for providing millions of Venezuelans with homes.

Fuel to the Fire

As if the failure to manage Venezuelan oil wasn’t enough, tensions only became worse between the citizens and government. The Supreme Court announced in March that it would be taking over the opposition-controlled National Assembly. The Court tried to argue that the Assembly was in contempt from previous rulings; however, even after the Court ultimately overturned the ruling, the clearly dwindling Separation of Powers between opposition and government was not going to be ignored. Distrust only grew.

The anti-government protesters had their demands, but two of these held clearer importance.  The first of these was to remove the Supreme Court justices who made the March 29 ruling to take over the National Assembly. The second was to push for general elections in 2017. Protests became a daily routine, and the Venezuelan people made their demands clear.

Maduro Strikes Again

Nicholas Maduro

Maduro felt a significant move was necessary. He was unwilling to grant early elections and instead decided to create a constituent assembly. Maduro felt that thepeople were trying to illegally overthrow his government, and felt that he needed to draft a new constitution that would “neutralize the opposition.”

Nothing good can come out of the constituent assembly for the opposition. It would prove to delay general elections even longer–further weakening the National Assembly–and continue to tighten the circle of the people that were calling the shots in Maduro’s government.

The Controversial Vote

Voting began Sunday on the new constituent assembly, the 545-person group that would have the power to “rewrite the constitution, dissolve state institutions, [and] bring peace to the struggling country,” according to NBC News. With the beginning of the vote also began a ban on anti-government protests until today; however, this fueled the fire even further.

Violence broke out in the capital city of Caracas between the opposition and the police. This resulted in the deaths of dozens, as well as multiple explosions that severely injured a group of police officers. The opposition essentially abandoned the vote, blockading streets and leaving a mere 7% of the population with tallied votes.

The U.S. State Department spoke out after the attacks, condemning the election. U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley tweeted out that the election was a “sham” and was just one step closer to a dictatorship.

Further Unraveling

It was confirmed last night that two Venezuelan opposition leaders have been arrested. Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma were re-arrested and taken to Ramo Verde military jail in Miranda, Venezuela. The two were under house arrest for violence during protests back in 2014, and the Supreme Court reported that they received intel that they were trying to leave the country. In a government so corrupt, the intelligence has every possibility of being bogus. The international condemnation of the arrests was inevitable. Online footage shows López taken from his home by authorities.

Although López and Ledezma played key roles in the 2014 protests, their roles were much less significant in Sunday’s protests. Maduro is in a very difficult position. The opposition is still absorbing the blow of losing two leaders for their cause. It will be very interesting to see the latest updates coming out of Venezuela.

First Impressions: Game of Thrones Season 7, Ep. 3

It just keeps getting better and better. Here are some thoughts on this week’s episode.

Daenerys Storyline

So as a recap from last episode, Jon Snow decides to accept Daenerys’ invitation to Dragonstone. While the visit begins with the fluffing of feathers and on shaky ground, we quickly see progress made. The two most rational characters on the show were bound to make something good of the experience, and I can only imagine further progress will be made between the two as they work towards a hugely important relationship.

Unfortunately, the storyline for Daenerys worsens, as while it initially seemed like she was in the driver’s seat with her planned attacks on different parts of Westeros, Cersei (or should I say Jaime) played her bluff. It will be interesting to see how much longer Greyworm will last in his difficult position, with the very heritable Euron sure to make his acquaintance next week. It seems to me that it is no secret that Cersei’s  downfall will inevitably be the betrayal of those who she feel has given their loyalty.

Arya Storyline

I guess we’ll skip this section, although I would have guessed that Arya would make it back to Winterfell before Bran. Oh well.

Cersei Storyline

Cersei was back in full force this episode, reminding us all why she is the most hated character on the show. Euron brings back the ultimate gift, vengeance for the loss of her daughter. While I imagine some moms watching are saying “You go girl!”, let’s be honest… she’s a monster. But unfortunately she’s a smart monster, and I would have to give the win this episode to her. Stranding the Unsullied on Casterly Rock, Jaime’s army overtaking Highgarden, imprisoning Ellaria Sand and inevitably killing her daughter, and apparently paying back her debts to the Iron Bank.

This brief meeting with Tycho Nestoris from Bravos initially proved intriguing and ambiguous. But after seeing Highgarden taken, we can only imagine that the rich Tyrell vaults will provide more than enough gold to pay back the deep Lannister debts. Yet another score for Cersei.

Jon Snow Storyline

Jon Snow didn’t see much of the screen this week, and while he’s already been touched upon in the Daenerys section, his news this episode was mostly good, as he has been granted access to the Dragon glass below Dragonstone. Does anybody else just want to hold up a picture of the White Walkers and say “Look, they’re real! Now let’s figure out something and destroy Cersei and the Night King!” No? I guess one episode a week is just never enough.

Bran Stark Storyline

Bran returned this week to a slightly awkward reunion with Sansa. With the complete 360 transformation of personality into the 3-eyed Raven, Bran is now all wisdom and slight creepiness. It will be interesting to see his role in Winterfell in the coming episodes under Sansa’s rule.

Honorable Mentions:

A huge relief for Sam! Great to see Jorah coming back into the picture without death hanging over his head. Unfortunately no promotion, and Sam is back to doing shit work (sometimes literally) for the time being. Definitely look for him to be helping out Jon some more from the Citadel.

Yet another episode that Tyrion had me laughing out loud! Has he always been this witty??

I promise I didn’t forget. Finally we know for sure who murdered Joffrey! It’s funny because now I can totally see Olenna pulling that move. I always liked her, and although her death has been certain for some time now, she really went out with a bang this episode.

Those are my thoughts for this week! Lots of questions to be answered. Where will negotiations with Jon and Daenerys go? Will Ellaria and her daughter somehow escape Cersei’s clutches? How will the Unsullied manage the loss of their fleet to the Ironborn? And a personal question I’m considering, will Jaime stay true to Cersei until the end? I feel as though I’m beginning to sense a wavering in his emotions.

7 Craft Beers You Absolutely Need to Try

Craft beer just continues to get better and better, and I for one won’t be stopping anytime soon. It is an ever-evolving industry, with endless options and creativity. Here are seven craft beers that I’m really digging right now.

Supplication, a Craft Beer King

Craft Beer

Look: Pours an opaque burnt crimson color, no head, quickly dissipating lace.

Smell: Dominated by oak and white grape, tart cherries, and peach. The woodiness is an amazing afterthought that is so crucial to the balance of aromas. The yeast even gives it a slight hint of mold and grain.

Taste: So much going on here. Very tart, but with such strong notes of Pinot grapes. The subtle acidity finishes with strong oak barrel influences and a very subtle smokiness in the finish. Fruit notes of tart cherry and peach again evident in the taste.

Feel: Very dry body, seltzery and medium bodied. Although it has sweet characteristics, it is definitely a lip smacker.

Final sip: An amazing experience. I’ve never had a sour so positively influenced by its containing barrel. You get notes of all the right things, and the yeast adds just enough chaos of funky tartness to perfect this beer’s amazing profile. It’s definitely one of the best craft beers I have ever had, so get this bad boy while you can.

Stone’s Ghost Hammer IPA

Ghost Hammer Craft Beer

Look: pours an orange-hued golden yellow, very short head of seltzery white foam. Good lace buildup.

Smell: Distinctly hoppy, but with a really pleasant tangerine sweetness that collides at the same time. A deep inhale even reveals brief tinges of vodka that quickly recedes.

Taste: A beautiful combination of citrus and pine, with those familiar tangerine notes taking over a bit more. Other tangy citrus fruit notes present, lemon and even mango in this. There’s a nice accompanying floral quality, an earth-like grassiness that compliments the hops.

Feel: crisp, fairly light-bodied beer with heavy carbonation that makes for a refreshing finish. Noticeable stickiness clings to the glass.

Final sip: I haven’t been able to review a new Stone creation in a little while, so I enjoyed this! Stone’s craft beers are in my GOAT list and this is great crisp beer. Refreshing and perfect for those who like a more slightly citrus-forward drinkable IPA.

Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout

Hanapu Craft Beers

Look: Pours jet black, dark tan head of foam. Amazing, thick, syrupy body when poured into the glass.

Smell: Admittedly a little soy sauce on the nose, bud it is followed by rich chocolate and coffee, with subtle coconut undertones.

Taste: Absolutely amazing. Met right away with bitter coffee, subtle yet rich chocolate and undeniable notes of coconut. The finishing notes bring out strong vanilla and more bitterness from a good black coffee.

Feel: Incredibly smooth from start to finish. Slight but necessary carbonation. Sticky, and with a distinct spicy finish down the back of the throat.

Final sip: What else is there to say? For me, this lived up to the hype and more. So many different components, all perfectly unified into this incredible beer. Even the peppers can be felt in the finish, and I’m just so amazed by this. Again a huge shoutout to my trade partner in Tampa for making this happen.

Delirium Deliria

Craft Beer Delirium

Look: Poured into a snifter from Delirium’s iconic 750mL ceramic bottle. Pours a cloudy gold with a foamy 1 inch head.

Smell: Great dry fruitiness, abundant with white grapes, apple, and a slight bitter wheatiness.

Taste: Wheaty, slightly herbal, strong yeastiness. Bitter and dry in the finish.

Feel: Very similar to champagne. Seltzery carbonation, light, smooth. Very pleasant.

Final sip: Overall a great Belgian blonde. Good balance of fruitiness in the smell with dry wheat and yeast in the taste. Like I said, very similar to a champagne with a great light, heavily carbonated body that finishes really well. The belgians are known for their craft beers for a reason.

Pliny the Elder

Craft Beer Pliny the Elder

Look: Deep golden hue, small head of foam, even carbonation flow from the base of the glass.

Smell: An incredible combination of sweet breadiness, bitter citrus, and piney hops. Beautiful floral balance.

Taste: An amazing hop explosion. Loads of grapefruit give a perfect balance to piney, resinous hops. Still a subtle breadiness, but just as a noticeable afterthought to the beauty that is Pliny!

Feel: Very smooth. Sharp, seltzery carbonation that is very smooth as it goes down. Incredibly crisp, the perfect summer IPA (that for many is a one summer in a lifetime).

Final sip: Okay so as I predicted, this beer is far from overrated. Its balance is incredible, and true hopheads will be able to truly appreciate the bitter grapefruit, herbs, and piney hops all being perfectly balanced into an amazingly easy drinking DIPA. If you ever get your hands on this, don’t pass it up. The fact that you can still grab it for under $10 is beyond me, because I would easily pay more to try this again.

Leo v. Ursus: Fortem

Leo Craft Beer

Look: Pours a deep orange gold with a thin, half inch head of quickly dissipating foam.

Smell: Powerful notes of Pine and hops. Resinous and wonderful, with just a subtle hint of citrus in the finish. UPDATE* As it warms a bit, the citrus really begins to become more apparent.

Taste: Again, great punches of piney, pithy hops. More noticeable citrus balance in the taste, specifically tangerine.

Feel: Great seltzery carbonation. Smooth and crisp with a slight resinous stick. Very smooth and very hoppy, with a lingering spiciness that I found enjoyable.

Final sip: A great Imperial IPA. Crisp and smooth, but packs a powerful hoppy punch that will have any hophead quickly going back for more. Firestone Walker is brewing some of the best craft beers on the market.

Black Tuesday

Black Tuesday Craft Beer

Look: Pours jet black, surprisingly high head of light tan, bubbly foam.

Smell: Very sweet! Notes of dark fruit, hints of chocolate with a slight booziness.

Taste: Incredibly smooth! Like this is 20.3, seriously?? A warm but pleasant warmth, with a body comparable to a barleywine. Many of the tastes found here are of burnt toffee, caramel, malt, and hints of toast.

Feel: Again, so incredibly smooth. A lighter body than expected , with a good amount of carbonation and an expected amount of stickiness.

Final sip: An incredible addition to my beer repertoire, although different than what I expected. Regardless, an amazing beer worthy of the hype.