Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Gravity Falls: My Top 10 Favorite Episodes

      In the strange little town of Gravity Falls, twin siblings named Dipper and Mable spend their summer going on wild and hilarious supernatural adventures. Watching over the kids is there cranky old uncle named Stan, who makes his living as an expert con-artist. This show came well after my childhood had passed, but word of mouth got around to me, and upon my first viewing I realized that this series was right up my alley. It’s got the spooky charms of shows like “Goosebumps” or “Courage the Cowardly Dog”, combined with the brilliant comedy one would expect from shows like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” or “The Simpsons”. Unlike other Disney programs, I was quiet surprised with just how funny this show got, as well as how exciting it got. It had an engaging mystery plot that was slowly unraveled, but more to the point, it just had a splendid cast of characters that I loved going on adventures with. I loved the atmosphere, I loved the creepy moments and the cast was solid. Rather then spoil the experience by covering the show as a whole, here are my personal 10 favorite episodes that might just win over anyone not familiar with the series.

#10 The Deep End (Season 1 – Ep. 15) 

It’s the hottest day in Gravity Falls history, so our Treo head to the public swimming pool to cool off. Upon arriving they break up and have three separate little adventures in this one location. Mabel befriends a merman trapped in the deep end of the pool, Dipper is put through intense life guard training and Stan is competing with his arch enemy little Gideon for ownership of the best sun-tanning chair. I love how this episode can take a small location like a swimming pool, and give it a large variety of funny side ventures. There’s some hilarious jokes involving the detention center for misbehaving swimmers, an uptight life gourd who’s more like a drill sergeant, and Mable’s relation with the stranded Merman is every bit as charming as it funny. The episode actually ends with a surprisingly wild car-chase involving mini-carts, and everything closes with a nice little wink to “Free Wily”. It’s charming, it’s funny and a refreshing offset to some of the stranger and scarier things our hero’s come across in the show.

#9 Scary-oke (Season 2 – Ep. 21) 

Following up on the epic season one finally, season two picks up with our hero’s throwing a party to celebrate their resent victory. The one person who’s not in the party mood is Dipper, who’s more eager then every to solve all the supernatural mysteries of Gravity Falls. When two government agents make a sudden arrival to investigate, Dipper instantly wants to join them, and tries showing them his special magic journal as proof that he can help crack the case. In a hilariously dark turn of events Dipper unintentionally brings to life an army of Zombies, and nothing quite livens up a party better than an army of the dead. Most of my favorite episodes tend to be the really spooky ones, and this Zombie themed episode just hits it out of the park with some really cool creature designs, and awesome zombie action. This is also a very colorful episode and features some terrific animation highlights. There's also some really funny lines from Uncle Stan’s remarks at the dead. Best of all, this is the first time Stan reveals to the kids that he’s known all along about the oddities of the town, and aids the kids in saving the day. Needless to say, it was a real treat to finally see all three of our hero’s together. This leads into one of my favorite finales in which the group need to sing karaoke to defeat the Zombies, which is hilarious. 

#8 Little Dipper (Season 1 – Ep. 10) 

When Mable learns that she’s slightly taller than her twin brother Dipper, she finally has an excuse to upstage him at something. In order to get back on even ground (or in this case height) with his sister, Dipper discovers some magic stones and uses them to create a device that can shrink or grow items. His efforts to grow himself fall short (pun intended) when their arch enemy little Gideon steals the shrink guy, reduces both Mable and Dipper to the size of ants, and threatens to use the shrink ray as a weapon against Uncle Stan in an effort to claim his mystery Shack. Now brother and sister find themselves off on a grand adventure of a small scale. This is the mandatory shrunken kids adventure, which I’m a sucker for. I love when characters explore regular every day surroundings that appear larger in scale. Its just a cool way to make the familiar, everyday world feel so much more epic. While not a very original concept it’s still executed very well in this show, with no shortage of funny situations, and lots of creativity. I especially love how the shrink gun is simply a flashlight with a multi-colored lens. Also Dipper and Mable’s sibling relationship is always at the heart of the show, so it’s great to see them resolve issues together and share an adventure.    

#7 Gideon Rises (Season 1 – Ep. 20) 

Little Gideon had been the main antagonist of season one, and it’s here in the season finally that we see him unhinged. He steals the deed to Uncle Stan’s shack, banishes our hero’s from town, becomes the towns idle and learns of Dippers magic journals. Outmatched and beaten, Dipper and Mable decide to head home, but not before battling a giant Gideon robot. Meanwhile, Uncle Stan is looking for a way to expose the little monster for the fraud he is. I was quiet surprised with this one and never would have expected things to get as epic as this riveting season finally did. The climactic showdown with the giant robot is both funny yet quiet intense, and features one of Dippers most heroic moments as he faces the villain head on. It’s beautifully animated, and highlights Little Gideon as a surprisingly fun antagonist. Plus, the episode closes on a nail biting surprise cliff hanger that’s among the shows best, and was bound to bring in fans for another season.

#6 Summerween (Season 1 – Ep. 12)

This was the episode I was looking forward to the most, as I love Halloween episodes, and to see the possibilities of what “Gravity Falls” could bring to my favorite holiday was beyond exciting. Now while the show is set during the summer time, the people of Gravity Falls love the holiday so much that they celebrate it twice, and one of them is during the summer in which it’s lovingly called Summerween. That premise alone is ingenious and makes me wish I could have grown up in that town. As the episode continues we see that Dipper is ready to grow up, and spend Halloween with the older guys as opposed to his sister. This causes a rift between the two as Mable wants to savor every Halloween she can with her brother before they become teenagers. To make matters worse, the kids are soon chased by a deadly entity called The Trickster who threatens to harm all who don’t keep the holiday spirit alive. The details in this episode are great as it creates a perfect Halloween atmosphere, and feels like a special I’d watch yearly around the season. The back-story behind the Trickster is brilliant, the spooky action sequences are great, and there’s yet another really sweet sibling story going on between Mable and Dipper. It’s a solid episode and personally one of my all time favorite Halloween themed episodes I’ve ever seen from any TV series.   

#5 Dreamscaperers (Season 1 – Ep. 19) 

Just before the events of the season 1 finale, we see Little Gideon hatch a plan to steal the deed to Uncle Stan’s mystery shack, and it all starts by summing an ancient demon called Bill Cipher. With the evil entity unleashed he probes Stan’s mind to uncover his most valuable secrets. Once the kids learn of the threat they follow Bill into their Uncles mind, which leads in one heck of a trippy dreamscape adventure. The setting of Stan’s mind is one of my favorite locations from the show, with twisted visuals, and literally features a lot of imagination at work. There’s even some great morals revolving around the “tough love” some family members inflict on their kids in order to make them both physically and mentally stronger. This also marked an important introduction to the shows greatest antagonist Bill Cipher, who’s every bit as charismatic as he is threatening. Throw in one of the shows most entertaining final battles, along with an exciting cliffhanger leading into the season one finale and you got a solid episode.  

#4 Northwest Mansion Mystery (Season 2 – Ep. 10) 

Of all the dark spooky adventure episodes, this one is my personal favorite by far, and probably features some of the creepiest imagery. Bratty rich girl Pacifica Northwest, who’s always been a rival of our hero’s now finds herself in a situation where she needs their help, or more specifically Dippers help. Her home is haunted by a mysterious ghost and is threatening to ruin her parents party. I love seeing two enemies paired together to solve a problem, and both Dipper and Pacifica actually make for a terrific match. As the two look for clues and battle all kinds of haunted house obstacles, more and more dark clues about both the ghosts past, and Pacifica’s cruel parents are slowly being revealed. It’s a captivating dive into the study of a bully character whom we the audience didn’t initially care for. The animation in this episode is also gorgeous, with some downright terrifying haunted house imagery that could have be right out of the “Evil Dead” movies. Also the back-story of the ghost himself is one of the darkest the show has ever gone, and proves that this series wasn’t afraid to take risks. The episodes haunting atmosphere is sensational, the colors pop on the screen and it made one of the shows least likeable characters quiet interesting by the end.   

#3 Dipper and Mabel vs. the Future (Season 2 – Ep. 17) 

With one week left of Summer vacation, Dipper and Mabel prepare for their 13th birthday party which promises to be a huge turning point in their lives. However, change is both an exciting and frightening concept as both the twins soon discover. Dipper on the one hand after rescuing his Uncle Ford from an Alien space craft is offered a chance to take his life in an exciting new direction where he can live his dream. Mabel mean while is terrified of the changes she’ll have to face when she grows up, is also bummed about leaving town, and worse yet may be separate from her brother for quite some time. This for me is one of the shows most emotional episodes, and one that I can honestly relate too. I remember what it was like to face big changes in my life, I still face changes every day, but I also learned to compromise, grow and it’s a thoughtful message to convey to a new generation of kids watching this show. Of course one of the shows greatest strengths is Dipper’s sibling relationship with Mable, the challenges they face and it’s very touching to see them face the unknown that lies ahead. The episode then closes on a deeply thrilling segue into the three part series finally and leaves you exhilarated to see how their story will come to a close in the following arch.  

#2 Not What he Seems (Season 2 – Ep. 11) 

This episode is often described by fans and critics as arguably the best of the show, and who can blame them because it’s an amazing episode that changes everything. The episode begins with our three principle characters having a fun morning bonding together, which is both funny and always gets me in the feels. Then things take a sudden turn when strange gravity anomalies start to spike up in town, and Uncle Stan is arrested by the government agents on charges of creating a secret dooms day device. Dipper and Mable begin investigating to prove their great uncles innocents, but only discover more and more odd secrets about him that throws all their trust in a loop. Maybe their uncle isn’t even their real uncle at all, and worse yet, he might just be creating some kind of dooms day weapon. This was a surprisingly dark episode, with a very different tone then anything previous. This was an episode that had fans second guising a character we thought we knew, and it just keeps delivering one exciting twist after another. More than anything, this episode features one of the most emotionally resonant finals of the whole series, and possibly my favorite moment of the show. Sure enough the kids discover a secret machine hidden under their shack, and its slowly ticking away to something big. At this point Mable’s trust in her uncle is put to the ultimate test, dose she destroy the machine before the final countdown, or dose she trust the mysterious uncle she still loves. It’s leads into an incredibly beautiful visual of her surrendering to her faith in Uncle Stan, as well as a long awaited reveal as to what’s been going on. It’s an emotional ending with a great cliffhanger and without a doubt one of the shows greatest achievements ... but there is still one more episode I personally like more. 
Before I reveal my #1 favorite episode here are some special Honorable Mentions ... 

A Tale of Two Stans

Little Gift Shop of Horrors

Dungeons, Dongeons & More Dungeons 

Soos and the Real Girl

The Inconveniencing

#1 Weirdmageddon (Season 2 – Ep. 18-20) 

When I first started watching “Gravity Falls”, it felt mostly derivative, just a little slice of fun and creativity, but as the story began to unravel and the characters became more interesting I slowly found myself getting more and more submersed into this series. Then the journey reached its end with the epic three part ark titled “Weirdmagedoon” and I couldn’t even find the words to describe how amazed I was with this show. Following immediately after the events of “Dipper and Mabel vs. the Future”, the demonic entity Bill Cipher is released, at fool power, and ready to kick start the end of the world. For good measure he traps Mabel in a prison bubble where she lives in a colorful fantasy that’s making all her dreams come true. 
Meanwhile the apocalypse is raging outside, armies of monsters have taken over the city and it’s up to Dipper to rally as many friends as he can to stop Bill. It seems that all the best shows have similar series finalizes in which a super villain is threatening to end the world, the sky permanently turns red, cities are brought to ruins, and our hero’s make a desperate last stand against improbable odds. “Avatar: The Last Air bender” had a similar series finally, as did the initial series finally for “Teen Titans”, and heck even “Pok√©mon: XYZ” had a similar series finally. “Gravity Falls” however dose something wildly different with its apocalyptic final, as the design resembles the cover of a heavy metal album, and it seems to pay homage to ever popular “end of times” setting including “The Walking Dead” and “Mad Max”. There’s a wild car chase that takes many odd turns, including a moment in which the characters are live action for a second.

I also love the internal conflicts of Mable’s arch and how she’s torn between living in either her beautiful fantasy world or the terrifying real world, which reaches a very emotional and poignant conclusion. One of my favorite moments is when Mable and dippers awkward sibling hug becomes a sincere one. subsequently, the world of Mable's mind is one of the wildest and most creative I've ever seen, and I love how all the bright colors of her world clash with the darkness of Bill fiery Apocalypse. The final battle with Bill Cipher is nothing short of epic as the mystery shack comes to life like a giant anime robot and battles various monsters, all while matched to a thrilling rendition of the show’s theme song. On a side note, Bill Cipher had already proven to be an awesome villain, but this arch really made him stand out as one of the greatest cartoon villains of the millennium. When all the exciting action is said and done, we’re treated to a very heartfelt epilogue that ties up everything beautifully, and gives the audience a chance to say good-bye to the characters we’ve come to know and love. 
It’s simply the perfect ending to a great series, and a perfect final episode usually stands as my personal favorite. As the credits of the last episode rolled by, I slowly realized that “Gravity Falls” wasn’t just a derivative piece of fluff, it was actually an experience, and one that I’d gladly keep with me. It was a show that proved almost too good for Disney channel, it was creative, it was funny, it had fairly good morals and just a wonderful cast of characters. I don’t watch cartoon shows that often unless I have some kind of nostalgic connection with it, but “Gravity Falls” was a special treat that took me by surprise and proved to be a fantastic series that I wouldn’t mind experiencing again. If you’ve never seen this show I highly recommend it to anyone that loves fun, imaginative, coming of age stories, fantasies or spooky mysteries, because this show has it all ... and then some.

The End  

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) (Movie Review)

     When I was a little child I was crazy about having my parents read me fantasy based stories. I couldn’t get enough of really classic fables or fairytales, and the first thing that always drew me to them was the titles. Strait to the point with today’s movie, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is a very colorful title and harkens back to classic fantasies that seemed to sum up the whole story at once. Of course this 2016 fantasy adventure is also set in the “Harry Potter” film universe, which I’m a devoted fan of. I’ll admit, after “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2” wrapped-up the journey of our hero’s, I felt very satisfied and done with the series. It didn’t need anything else, Harry Potter’s story had a perfect beginning, middle, end and I just didn’t find myself that excited for a spin-off movie set in this universe. Well, I sat down, gave it a watch, and it turned out to be an unremarkable but mostly welcome add on to the series. It really builds on the mythology of the universe, explores places never seen before, and honestly ... it brings back the “MAGIC” that I found lacking in the later HP films. Now I loved this series almost consistently but even at their best, the later films just lacked that same magic touch. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” while far from perfect at least brings back the colors, the other worldly atmosphere, and it made me want to explore their wizard world.   

      Set several years before the birth of Harry Potter, the magical community is currently in a state of distress as sinister forces are at large, and hiding secretly in the human world. While most magical authorities are trying to root out these threats, a visiting wizard from England arrives in New York with a very special suit-case. Soon upon arriving, the visiting wizard gets his suit-case accidently switched with a mortal’s identical looking case, and that becomes the start of a lot of problems. Turns out that the case contained several magical creatures that the wizard aimed on returning to their proper homes in America. Well, thanks to this switch of suit-cases the creatures have been unleashed in New York where they run amok. To make matters worse, those other evil forces are causing chaos and using the newly escaped beasts as scapegoats for their actions. Now our visiting wizard must join forces with a female wizard detective to track down all the magic beasts, root out the evil wizards, and the mortal who initially opened the case also gets himself roped in for the adventure. The simplicity of this premise is both a strength and weakness, as it works for an exciting mini-adventure in a larger universe, but it doesn’t leave much of an impression either.

     The concept is actually very similar to an old cartoon show titled “The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo”, in which several mystical creatures are accidently set loose and need to be put back in their magic box. It’s a set-up that lends itself to many creative possibilities, and it dose fit within the borders of the established Harry Potter universe. The setting of New York also gives us a unique look at how the wizarding world operates in America as opposed to Britain. This helps give the movie its own atmosphere and I love all the details of this universe never explored before. There’s a shady magic pub hidden behind a painting, which reminds me of the alien saloon from “Star Wars”, just with a fantasy makeover. My favorite addition of all is when our hero’s actually enter the magic suit case and discover a whole world within where all the magic beasts thrive. 

The concept of another magical universe inside of a tiny suit-case is sensational, and something we’ve never experienced from any of the previous HP films. The suit case world also has its own magical dream-like atmosphere and visually it’s stunning to behold. In general, the special effects on display are a mixed blessing. I love the set designs, and the overall visual layout is great, but I found the creature effects to be very mediocre. For all the unique creature designs, they just look like cartoons that only exist in a computer. Take for example the winged Hippogriff named Buckbeak from the earlier HP movies, I knew it wasn’t really there with the cast, but it never felt like a special effect, it honestly felt like a real living creature. The beasts in this film by contrast just don’t have the same genuine feel, and I never got the impression that the characters were really interacting with them.  

     Speaking of characters, this is one of the films bigger set-backs when compared to the other HP movies. The characters from the original films are so iconic, memorable and even the smallest side character could stand out. While the cast in this film is clearing giving it their all, and are even likable on some level, they just can’t leave an impact of any kind. I do love the setup of a mortal person going on an adventure with two wizards from opposite sides of the world, and there is even some real chemistry between them. I also like the inclusion of this one female wizard telepath who can’t always control her talents. While she can be annoying at times she also adds something new to the series that we’ve never seen before. With all that said, this is still an average group of characters at best, and I really can’t even remember any of their names. Also part of the appeal from the other films was seeing kids and teenagers going on these larger than life adventures. Putting childish adults in these situations just lacks the same charming touch.  

      My biggest issue with this movie by far is that both the tone and the simplicity of the story aren’t always consistent. Half the time the movie is just trying to be this funny little adventure with these characters chasing down these magical creatures. The other half gets kind of dark and ugly as there’s a subplot revolving around these disturbed kids and their hidden secrets which this bad guy is trying to exploit. It’s so tonally jarring to go from silly shenanigans with cartoon monsters to something that’s trying to be a slightly dark entry in Harry Potter lore. Once we get to the climax, the movie no longer has anything to do with the magical beasts that the film is named after. It’s all about our hero reaching out to this cursed child while also fighting off an evil wizard, and it’s very distant from what the film started as. There’s also pointless set-up’s for other potential spin-off movies that have nothing to do with this film. Then there's random appearances from talented actors like Jon Voight and Johnny Depp who again are just there to hint at other potential films. 

    In the end, I really think this film would have worked better as a standalone movie that wasn’t bound to the Harry Potter universe. The overall simplicity of the story is perfect for a standalone fantasy film, but being tied-in to a classic series like Harry Potter measures you to a high standard where it needs to give me more than simple derivative entertainment. Yes, this film brought back the magic touch I felt lacking in later films, but it didn’t give me much beyond that. It didn’t tell me anything I wanted to know, and to be honest, I don’t think it will hold up for repeated viewings. I watched it once and enjoyed it, then I watched it a second time and found it kind of lacking. This is one of those harmless rentals but it’s not something that left impression either. While not the most persuasive reason to start a new cinematic Harry Potter film universe, it still had its merits and a fine piece of magical entertainment. If you’re curious you’ll get your fill of magic and fun. You Just need to be in the right mind-set for a film of this sort and don’t raise your expectations to the same high Harry Potter standards. My advice, don’t think of this as a Harry Potter movie but more along the lines of the lighthearted fun and magic of “Bed knobs and Broom Sticks”. Certainly not on par with the original Harry Potter, but very magical in its own right, and I’m genuinely intrigued to see where the series will go from here. 

I give “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” 2 ½ stars out of 5.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Game of Thrones: My 10 Favorite Battles

In all my experiences watching TV, and can’t even think of another series that’s felt grander or more cinematic then the HBO series “Game of Thrones”. Despite some controversial content, this is honestly one of my all time favorite shows, largely thanks to its compelling characters, captivating story, complex themes and a large scope that rivals any other network program. Seriously, just about every episode looks and feels like something grand that belongs on the big screen, and no-where is that more obvious then with this shows epic battle scenes. With season seven over and one final season on the way, this feels like the right time to count down my personal top 10 favorite battle scenes thus far from the acclaimed “Game of Thrones” series.

#10 Young Ned Stark vs. Arthur Dayne from “Oathbreaker” (Season 6 – Ep.3) 

Season 6 featured many flashbacks that helped provide us fans with some much needed answers. A personal highlight of mine is seeing a young Ned Stark (before he was played by Sean Bean) in one heck of a cool sword fight. Most of the battles on my countdown are fairly large in scale, but this is a special exception in which it's a small scale fight with only a hand full of people. The sword fighting choreography on display is great, and when the match concludes it puts a new light on Ned Stark’s character. It's intense, and it also works as a prelude for the surprises to come.   

#9 Surprise attack from Euron’s fleet from “Stormborn” (Season 7 – Ep. 2) 

In what was intent to be a good move of strategic planning, Yara’s fleet of boats have set sail, but are suddenly attacked by her evil uncle Euron. This is perhaps the most exciting action scene to be featured in the second episode of a season, and it just closed things with a bang. It’s also a rare treat to see a ship-to-ship confrontation in this show, and while it definitely brings to mind “Pirates of the Caribbean”, it features just enough cracking action without being as over the top as those movies always got.

#8 Brienne of Tarth vs The Hound from “The Children” (Season 4 – Ep. 10) 

There’s plenty memorable one on one duals in “Game of Thrones”, but the one I always found the most memorable and brutal is in the season four finally when Brienne of Tarth fights The Hound for custody of Princess Arya Stark. Not only are both skilled warriors, they’re also both two towering giants with almost matched strength and mass. Kind of the show in a nutshell is how it gets us to cheer for both sides, and it’s especially challenging to decide who to root for between these two fan favorite characters. I also love the fighting variety on display during this dual, as it starts off almost playful with strait up sword fighting, and then things take a sudden left turn with brutally tense fist fighting. It’s a satisfying clash between two great characters, and it ends on a nail biting note.  

#7 Nightwalkers attack Hardhome from “Hardhome” (Season 5 – Ep. 8) 

The malevolent army of frozen zombies called Nightwalkers had been built up big time for the first four seasons of the show. Now at last in this deeply thrilling attack near the tail end of the fifth season, we see just how lethal, frightening and unstoppable this army of the dead truly is. As these magic zombies launch their surprise attack on the base camp of Hardhome, we get a perfect blend of horror movie thrills and spectacular blockbuster action. John Snow is personal one of my favorite characters in the show, and it's here we see both his heroism and skill at work as he fights off the invading beasts. He even manages to slay one of the zombies, which is no small accomplishment. This was one of the more terrifying battles of the show, but it also delivered a powerful, game-changing payoff as John Snow meets the Night King and for the first time realizes who his real adversary is in this war. 

#6 The Battle of the Bastards from “Battle of the Bastards” (Season 6 – Ep. 9)

The penultimate episode of every season usually delivers the best action, and here’s the one that’s described by fans as the greatest battle sequence in the shows history. John Snow makes it on my list again, this time he’s leading an army to liberate his home from the clutches of the Bolton’s and their wicked ruler Ramsay. The set-up for this confrontation couldn’t be better as two half-sons fight for what they believe to be their rightful homes. Not only is the fight itself stunning to behold, but it’s also one of the shows most intense and brutal battles. We have piles of bodies relentlessly being built up, claustrophobic battle field atmosphere, white knuckled fist fighting, and our hero’s are constantly at tense odds. We also have one of the shows best hero’s fighting against one of the most despised villains, and it all ends with some savagely satisfying vengeance to boot.

#5 The Battle of Blackwater Bay from “Blackwater” (Season 2 – Ep. 9) 

While the show had featured some decent action, this was the epic battle that established once and for all the sheer scope, cinematic quality and thrilling tour de force that is “Game of Thrones”. When a massive fleet invades Kings Landing, our favorite dwarf Tyrion Lannister finally shows what he’s made of and rallies the men to defend his home Kingdome. We see a magical weapon called “Wildfire” used to even the odds, sinking several ships, and that’s just the beginning. What follows is one of the most spectacular battle sequences ever featured on television, but it’s also boasted with an equal amount of powerful drama. Seeing Tyrion bravely defend his home and get nothing for it in return made me respect his character all the more, and highlights just how cruel this world can be. 

#4 The Fighting Pit Massacre of Meereen from “The Dance of the Dragons” (Season 5 – Ep.9) 

When Queen Daenerys Stormborn frees the slaves of Meereen, she finds that her actions make dangerous new enemies. The most terrifying of her foes being the mysterious masked killers called the Sons of the Harpy. While viewing a tournament, her coliseum is suddenly invaded by a small army of Harpies, who are intent on slaying her and all her allies. This is a deeply thrilling seen that puts our hero’s at odds, and had me biting my nails wondering how they’d escape. Fortunately, just when all seemed lost, the queens loyal Dragon named Drogon returns and battles the Sons of the Harpy in a fiery spectacle. While we’d seen her dragons many times throughout the show, this was the first full on battle in which we see a dragon in action against lethal foes. Despite being a fire breathing dragon, it’s still an intense battle as the Harpies manage to wound Drogon. Thankfully both Drogon and our favorite heroine escape the coliseum, marking this the first time we see Danny flying on the back of her dragon and just a plain unforgettable moment.

#3 The Night’s Watch vs. The Wildlings from “The Watchers on the Wall” (Season 4 – Ep.9) 

This really is one of the shows most sensational battles because the whole episode is an hour long action packed siege. Castle black is invaded by the free folk from the other side of the wall, who’ve come in greater numbers than anticipated and have freaking giants and mammoths on their side. After four seasons, it was a real treat to finally see a battle featuring actual fantasy creatures like Giants and so forth. Now obviously I’ve praised this show for feeling more cinematic then most other programs, and this battle truly features some of the shows most cinema-worthy visuals. Despite all that, this all-night castle siege ranks higher for me because it’s the first to feature John Snow as the main focus. As he fights to protect his castle he finds himself on opposing sides with his lover Ygritte, who’s leading the rebellion of free folk. When the dust clears, the battle ends on one of the shows most tragic notes as John Snows secret lover dies in his arms. It’s a powerful ending and makes this battle one of the most hollow victories in the shows run.

#2 Fire versus Ice from “Beyond the Wall” (Season 7 – Ep. 6) 

Once again John Snow finds himself battling the Nightwalkers, and while he and his alies try to capture a corpse to show to the Kingdome, they find themselves trapped on a frozen lake. As the situation gets more intense, Daenerys Stormborn comes flying in on her dragon to rescue her friends, and it leads into a very exciting clash between fiery dragons and icy zombies. Holly cow, not only was this a thrilling rescue scene, it was also a dream come true as we finally see a battle between two different fantasy creatures. I also like the novelty of seeing two polar opposite creatures fighting. We also have soldiers with magic fire swords slashing through these icy monsters, which is nothing short of awesome. While the rescue is successful, it all ends in tragedy as one of our dragons is killed by the army of the dead, who then revive the beast as one of their own. This eventually leads to one of the shows greatest cliff hangers as we see the Nightwalkers bring down the wall with a zombie dragon on their side. It may be over the top, and looses the realism the show began with, but for me, a battle between dragons and zombies is just too cool to glance over.  

Before I reveal my favorite battle, here are some other action scenes that deserve an Honorable Mention ... Arya vs. the Waif (Season 6 – Ep.8)
Jaime and Bronn vs. The Sand Snakes (Season 5 – Ep.6)

Barristan & Grey Worm vs. The Sons of the Harpy (Season 5 – Ep.4)

Ned Stark vs. Jaime Lannister (Season 1 – Ep.5)
The Hound vs. Beric Dondarrion (Season 3 – Ep.4)

#1 Dragons attack Lannister convoy from “The Spoils of War” (Season 7 – Ep. 4) 

After a humiliating defeat, Daenerys Stormborn is riding on her dragon and leads an assault on what remains of the Lannister army. Even though this wasn’t a battle from a penultimate season episode, no other battle thus far from this show left me feeling more breathless then this epic surprise attack. We have Dragons in full force setting flames on a powerful army, there’s great tension as new dragon killing weapons are unveiled, and best of all is the thrilling final charge of Jamie Lannister against Daenerys Stormborn. It’s a rare case in which we see two of the shows most iconic characters on the battle field against one another, and naturally we can’t help but cheer for both sides. This is simply “Game of Thrones” at its most pulse pounding and stunning to behold, as this battle is nothing short of an exciting, epic, fiery spectacle.       

The End