The Voice Season 7: It just keeps getting better

After new coach Usher took The Voice crown last year with soul artist Josh Kaufman, I was really excited to see what Season 7 had in store. Unfortunately, Usher is on tour this year and Shakira is pregnant with another baby boy. So two new superstars had to step in to take the vacant seats left behind by original coaches Christina Aguilera and Ceelo Green.

When I heard that Gwen Stefani and Pharell took the gig, I was psyched. I was really interested to see how these two would gel with coaches Adam Levine and Blake Shelton, who have dominated the competition with a total of five wins in the show’s six seasons. Pharell intrigued me because he seemed reserved, unlike Usher who wore his swagger like a cape. And Gwen, well, I grew up with No Doubt music so I know what she brings to the table. I was really surprised how the first two episodes turned out because the two new coaches had no problem blending in. And the banter, oh the banter was super fun to watch. It was hilarious, and leaves no doubt that everybody brought their A game. Everybody wants to win.

Adam has grown really competitive this season and viewers can see the passion that he has for finding artists whom he can groom to be the next big thing. Its funny to see him beg contestants to pick him while Blake pokes fun at his pleas. Blake, in turn, has a goldmine of quips and the newbies were not spared from his quick wit and jokes. Of course, his favorite target is still Adam and I love to see these two go at each other’s throats. Gwen is such a big surprise. She is super badass on stage but I never would have guessed that she was so frickin nice as a person. She’s really down to earth, very earnest, and I love to see her guilt Blake into giving her a hug when he gets mean or laughs at her. Plus, she gives away t-shirts to her team members, which is very cool. Pharell, on the other hand, is cool as cucumber but very sincere. People can see his passion for his music and his genuine artistry with his words, and whether or not he gets the contestant, his speech strikes home. Oh, and did I mention how awesome this year’s pool of auditioners are?

So far, I’ve only seen two episodes but I couldn’t wait for more. I can’t wait to see whom the coaches will enlist as celebrity mentors. And just like that, I’m addicted to this show again. It happens every year.

While waiting for the next episode, here’s a spoof of The Voice done by Sesame Street to tide you over. Puppet Blake is totally spot on. :D

Sharknado: The Second One Review

sharknado2There is something to be said about a TV movie like Sharknado. Its a film that is meant to be enjoyed in all its silliness, and dwelling on the technical shortcomings of this SyFy production is definitely not the way to do it. Luckily, after last year’s surprise hit Sharknado (which I loved by the way, don’t judge me), the audience has learned what to expect from the sequel and were able to embrace it for what it was. I for one, waited for months for it to come out and was glad that it was aired simultaneously with the US so I didn’t have to wait around longer. Yay, SyFy.

Finn (Ian Ziering) and April (Tara Reid), who are trying to work through their relationship, head out for New York for a book signing (The two have collaborated on a book about their Sharknado experience in LA), and a visit to Finn’s sister and her family. But even before they reach the Big Apple, disaster strikes when their plane ends up in the middle of a giant Sharknado, where one of April’s hand becomes a casualty. With an idea of what to come, Finn tries to save his family and the city from hailstorm of sharp toothed menaces to follow and rallies everyone to work together to take back their city.

For all intents and purposes, the Sharknado sequel was just as silly and ridiculous as the first one, but because audiences already know what they’re in for, the idea of a Sharknado hitting New York was not as farfetched as it was in the first one. Besides, the scriptwriters made sure that they included a lot of technical weather jargon about the Sharknado phenomenon to make it seem like there was a scientific basis behind it. But the fact that it happened just as Finn and April were headed to NY, was kind of ooookay, so this is how this one is going to play out. I shouldn’t be surprised because of the amount of crap that the movie tried to get away with, really.

Because of the success of the first movie, The Asylum seemed to be greenlighted with a bigger budget, well, perhaps bigger than the $1-$2 million they had to work with in the first one. It was awesome to see how the filmmakers chose to utilize the money —  a.) the CGI was loads better than the first one, especially for the bigger shark close ups, and b) hiring more extras and disposable characters to up the body count, including Kelly Osbourne and Perez Hilton (the dude on the subway). I’m sure he blogged about it before Sharnakdo’s release. There were also guest appearances for Matt Lauer, Wil Wheaton, Kurt Angle and loads more celebrities who have gotten in on the joke that is the movie and joined the fun.

In truth, what I really loved about the movie was its consistency about its inconsistencies. True, there were less technical issues about the editing this time around but they were there, out in the open, with not even an attempt to disguise them. Still, audiences knew what they were getting into when they tuned and just didn’t care because they’re enjoying the show too much. There was a bit of a push for a romance between Ian Ziering and Tara Reid but given the state of Reid’s cosmetic surgery, it was just gross to even think about it. Sorry. In fairness, it gave me a kick to listen to Tara scream emotionlessly. It was like listening to bad porn, and it was hilarious. Ian, as with the first movie, seemed to embrace his role as the film’s hero and while most of his ideas were stupid and dangerous, you have to give the guy credit for acting like he would do the same thing in real life. On the other hand, Mark McGrath in a sweater and doing almost nothing was just so wrong. My teen years were filled with Sugar Ray’s music and this totally did not match his cool rocker image in the 90s. Vivica Fox seemed to lay on the tough black girl stereotype a bit too much but hey, this is a made for TV movie so I’ll give her a pass and applaud her for getting into the spirit of things.

Actually, the film got more silly as it progressed but what made it work was its ability to treat the whole thing as a joke and stick with it. There are so many things that are wrong with this movie but like the original, it managed to reach the level of “its so bad its good.” It was a load of fun, that’s for sure. More sequels? Bring it on!

Why the premiere of Under the Dome Season 2 rocked

under-the-dome-618x400I liked the first season of Stephen King’s Under the Dome TV adaptation well enough and I stuck with the show even though it deviated a lot from the book (I only saw the first half of the book. I’m still working on it) but after I saw the premiere of the new season, I am sure that I will like watching this series more now. Here are just some of the reasons why:

1. Two of my most hated characters are dead. Yes, it might sound insensitive to some of their fans but there are just some characters that you couldn’t wait to just get rid of and for me, these two are part of that category. I’m not going to divulge who they are (in case you haven’t seen the episode yet) but here’s a hint. They can be found on this list.

2. New characters. I am liking the new characters who have appeared in the first episode — Sam Verdreaux, Big Jim’s estranged brother in law, the mysterious girl from Junior’s mom’s sketchpad, Junior’s mom, who is apparently alive on the other side of the dome, and Rebecca, the Science teacher, who’s kind of quirky, which I like. It ought to be fun to see how well they play with the other residents of Chester’s Mill.

3. Its all a mess. Nobody really knows what’s going on. Weird things are happening and Angie keeps wanting to kill Big Jim while Big Jim is having issues with the dome himself. The first episode raised tons of questions like why are all the dead people walking around town and making appearances, or why the dome suddenly became magnetic,  and a ton of other questions– which I hope they will be able to answer in the following episodes. I read that the show will be departing from the book a lot more because they never expected to have a second season and basically covered the major stuff in the first season, so we’ll see how it goes. Good thing is, the possibilities are endless. Bad news is they might drop the ball as they go along. For now, its too early to tell.

4. Stephen King’s cameo. In case you missed it, Mr. King makes a very short appearance at Sweetbriar Rose as one of the diner’s patrons who asks Angie for a coffee refill after the drama with Big Jim, Julia and Barbie.

So for starters, I’m on board with this new direction for Season 2. Basically, the show is less dark and a lot less engaging than the book but it does have its good and bad moments, so I’m still willing to stick it out and see this through.

Why Nodame Cantabile is my all time favorite Jdorama/Anime

Nodame_Cantabile_1_coverBefore anything else, I would like to put it out there that I am a big Nodame Cantabile fangirl in any of its forms (manga, anime, live action) so if you’re not into these type of things, you might think that this post isn’t your cup of tea. Okay, now that you have been warned, let me continue. :D  If its not your first time in this blog, you may have noticed how I gushed about the finale of the live action and it was pretty much my entire feeling across the board for the series based on the popular manga by Tomoko Ninomiya. Recently, I discovered that the manga was being rerun on Animax, a marathon of four episodes every Sunday night and it got me hooked to the series anew. As the result, I’ve rewatched the live action Finale, the Paris Special, the first series of the anime and now the original 11 episode Jdorama featuring the beginning of Noda Megumi and Shinichi Chiaki’s quirky relationship in Momogaoka Music Academy in Japan.

A short synopsis: Shinichi Chiaki is a top piano student at Momogaoka Music Academy. Growing up in a family of accomplished musicians, he has developed a perfectionist attitude towards music in general and feels bored about the level of education in his school. The problem is, he has no way of pursuing his dream of becoming a world class conductor in Europe because he is afraid of airplanes due to a childhood trauma developed on his return flight from Prague 10 years before. When Chiaki hears a mysterious girl playing Beethoven at school, he is moved and captivated by the sound, despite the fact that the Beethoven version was not precisely according to the score. He finds out that this mystery girl is actually his next door neighbor, the hentai Noda Megumi, who falls in live with him at first sight and becomes a permanent fixture in his life from their first interaction. The second series and the finale both take place in Paris, Prague and London, while the last part of the manga — the Opera Hen marks the duo’s return to Japan to participate in an opera with the RS-Oke with the original gang.

The thing I most love about this series is that firstly, it appeals to the hentai/otaku in all of us. The reason why people are drawn to the lead character Noda Megumi is the fact that she is guileless, an innocent with raw talent, whose simplistic dreams are really short of her true potentials. But at the end of the day, her heart shines through and touches each person that she comes across. First, Chiaki, who fell in love with Nodame’s piano from the first encounter, allowing him to endure her lack of hygiene and her quirkiness — a running storyline throughout the series; Ryutaro Mine, Chiaki’s best friend and conscience, who was drawn to Nodame first because of her kawaii (cute)-ness, then her soulful piano before they eventually became friends; Kasunori Kuroki, who fell in love with Nodame’s kindness and innocence (of course, he later realized he was no match for Chiaki); the Frenchman Frank, who was attracted to Nodame’s hentai personality, and even Lucas, who harbored a crush on Nodame from boyhood to adolescence. Nodame is a character that draws not only fellow characters in the series but also the audience to fall in love with her.

Each of the characters are also bigger than life, relateable and remarkable in their own ways. They endear themselves to the viewers so effectively that each moment spent watching them is like becoming part of their gang.

Another thing about this series is its sense of vulnerability. Each of the characters have their own internal struggle to wrestle with and how they resolve each of their issues is a marvel to watch. Because the characters are so identifiable, viewers want to cheer them on. Nodame’s struggle to catch up with Chiaki, Chiaki’s struggles to start his conducting career, Kuroki’s struggle to adapt in a foreign country, Mine’s struggle to keep the RS Oke together, Rui’s struggle to have a life of her own away from her reputation as prodigy, Franz’s struggle to convey his love for the girl of his dreams, and countless other journeys that each of the characters have to take. They don’t always get it on the first try, but with each other’s help and support, they somehow emerge from their ordeals as different, better characters. My favorite scene in the manga is actually Nodame’s moment in Greece in a storage room alone, crying out for Chiaki while clutching his shirt. It was such a moment of vulnerability that was so moving and so pure that its such a perfect epitome of Nodame’s love for Chiaki.

The steady progression in the storyline is also something that I love about this series. Now that I’m rewatching the series from the beginning, after seeing the finale, I notice how different Nodame’s playing was from the first. It was mentioned countless times in the various stages that Nodame played sloppily at the beginning and it occurred to me how raw her performances were at the beginning, when she was playing Beethoven’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Rachmaninoff to her debut with Stresseman in London. Chiaki’s conducting style also changed from the beginning but continued to be as intense as ever. Their story has also evolved from a master/pet relationship in the beginning, to a denial and gradual capitulation on the part of Chiaki, and his understanding of Nodame as a budding artist, and later on his acceptance of her true feelings for her. This while they struggle to individually make their own way in the music industry on their own and eventually find their paths merging together in the end. I was a bit frustrated about how insensitive Chiaki has mostly been to Nodame but when his point of realization came, and he was even willing to sacrifice allowing Nodame to stop pursuing piano to do as she liked and still stay with her despite that, I was totally won over.

Another thing that got me hooked into this drama was the continuity of the presentation. True, that since the anime had more episodes, it followed the manga more religiously, but all of the versions had the same focus and the same heart as the original material, generally conveying the same idea and the same message, envoking the same feelings and emotions in all of its forms.

Finally, the music. I must say I’ve learned a lot about the classics and the great composers watching this series and it has been an education of sorts. It gave me a better appreciation of the classics and the sheer joy of simply listening to the pieces as the orchestras come together in perfect harmony. The purity of the sound was astounding, relaxing and simply amazing. Compared to songs with lyrics, the classics are so different but has a different appeal. It also gave a peek into the world of music students and the passion involved in mastering their craft. Respect,  is pretty much all I can say.

All in all, this series made me fall in love, with the story, the characters, the music, and the world… Chiaki and Nodame share an unconventional relationship but their journey was so touching. Learning from each other, together and apart. It was a journey all right, and in the end, they came full circle.  But Nodame was not only a story about romance, its a story about friendship, about growing up and reaching one’s potentials. Its about kindness and love and positivity and at the end of the day, these feelings are infectious. And that is why I love it so much.

The Master’s Sun: Korean Drama Review

The-Master’s-Sun-Poster5I didn’t originally plan on watching The Master’s Sun but because it was being shown on local TV every night and I kept catching glances of episodes, I was drawn to the plot and the easy chemistry of its two lead stars Jo Ji Sub and Gyo Hyo Jin, in a story that could best be described as the Korean version of Ghost Whisperer.

Fifteen years after a traumatic kidnapping incident which involved Kingdom Mall President Joo Joong Won (Jo Ji Sub) and his first love Cha Hee Joo (Han Bo Reum) where the latter died, Joong Won is still carrying the scars of the tragedy. As a result, he has become cold and calculating, relying on logic rather than emotions in his dealings with business partners and with family. When he accidentally meets Tae Gong Shil (Gyo Hyo Jin), a woman who has reluctantly acquired the ability to see ghosts after her own accident, the two immediately share a connection reinforced by the discovery that Joong Won can send away the spirits scaring Gong Shil with a single touch, a fact that Gong Shil finds herself desperately clinging to in order to avoid seeing the ghosts who follow her around everywhere she goes. After much discussion, the two finally agree on helping each other out — Joong Won in being Gong Shil’s protective shield against the spirits and Gong Shil in becoming Joong Won’s supernatural radar in getting his ex-girlfriend to confess where the ransom for his kidnapping is hidden.

The plot of The Master’s Sun is very interesting, although it abides by the damsel in distress formula found in most Korean dramas. At first, there is not much to draw younger audiences into the show because the stars are more mature and admittedly not of the K-pop variety. I for one, know So Ji Sub to be an excellent dramatic actor. I saw him before in two dramas (Memories of Bali and I’s sorry, I Love You) which were both heavy dramas and very hard to watch because they were both so tragic. On the other hand, I only watched one other Gyo Hyo Jin starrer which was Let’s go to School Sang Doo opposite Rain and she too, was performing in a very advanced dramatic level. I never saw any of these stars take on roles in light dramedies, not until Master’s Sun anyways and I must say that I was completely blown away by these two.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD. I love seeing these two together. Period.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD. I love seeing these two together. Period.

So Ji Sub has an easy charm about him and a way to personalize the character, using gestures and facial expressions that makes his character pop out of the screen. I know that he’s a great actor but he was a revelation for me in this series. He didn’t cry a lot but he was able to convey his emotions just as well with sort of a controlled grace. Gyo Hyo Jin, on the other hand, has a natural balance in her performance, shifting from comedy to drama in an instant fluidly. The chemistry between these two is explosive, and the evolution of their characters was done so gradually that viewers will feel a ready acceptance as their relationship unfolds. There are also strong and likeable supporting characters — Seo In Gook as Kang Woo, Gong Shil’s self appointed protector and Kim Yoo Ri as Tae Yi Ryung, Gong Shil’s former classmate turned celebrity superstar. Choi Jung Woo as Secretary Kim also played a key part in the series and became the source of some of Jong Won’s vulnerability.

There were a lot of episodic plotlines that served to establish the relationship of Joong Won and Gong Shil, with one main arc that ties the story together. There were a lot of emotional episodes, which were really moving because it dealt with death and different people’s way of dealing with losing the ones that they love. But always in the middle of it all is the progressing storyline of Joong Won and Gong Sil.

My favorite scenes were actually the ones where Joong Won finally caved in and admitted his feelings for Gong Shil, and then asking her to take responsibility for what happens. My favorite episode, however, must be the episode with the dancing dog Pil Seung and his distraught master because I love animals and that episode was a turning point in the two leads’ romance.

All in all, I enjoyed every episode of The Master’s Sun — yes, even those where Joong Won was a jerk. I liked the ending very much. Its good to see So Ji Sub survive and be happy instead of die or get his heart broken. I’m looking forward to more roles for these two in these types of series.

22 Jump Street: Movie Review

22_Jump_Street_PosterFollowing the unexpected success of the movie reboot of the 1980’s classic procedural in 2012, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum return to the big screen for a sequel which pretty much reprises the formula of the original movie, only with a bigger budget.

After best buds and undercover cops Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) successfully bust the syndicate manufacturing and distributing the synthetic drug H.F.S. in a local high school, the partners are assigned to a fresh case, this time embedding them as students in MC State College where a drug called WHYPHY, which is linked to the death of a young college girl. But because Schmidt and Jenko have polar opposite personalities, college proves to be very different for the two as Jenko is immediately embraced by the jocks, leaving Schmidt to run with the art school kids. As the two learn to work separately, they discover that their friendship is much stronger than any opportunity that college has to offer for either of them.

I loved the 21 Jump Street movie and was really happy to know that the same team (helmed by directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller) was working to make another one. 22 Jump Street (so named because the headquarters had to move across the street after the Koreans bought back the original location) basically recycled the entire plot of the first movie, and reused and improved on the parts of the formula that worked, making the sequel just as hilarious as the 2012 sleeper hit.

The only thing that was different with 22 Jump Street was the location (college), but the gags, the characters, and the issues remained the same.

What I liked about the sequel was its ability to embrace its lack of originality and the filmmakers’ sheer gall in using this as a running joke throughout the film. Nick Offerman (Deputy Chief Hardy) and Ice Cube (Captain Dickson) made constant references to the first movie and how much more money the studios have put in the budget because the first operation was such a surprise hit. It poked fun at the stars’ ages and handicaps and this was hilarious because Tatum and Schmidt were so comfortable with themselves and with their roles that goofing off seemed natural.

There were also links to the first movie with guests appearances from 21 Jump Street baddies Dave Franco and Rob Riggle, who are now incarcerated for their crimes, as well as scenes connected by dialogue to the first Jump Street like Jenko taking a bullet for Schmidt. In terms of new characters, I liked the character of Zook (Wyatt Russel) and the chemistry he had with Jenko. They had great rapport and it was awesome to see them share screen time together.

As with the original, there were also a lot of jokes referring to Jenko and Schmidt’s weird bromance, which became even more ridiculous when Jenko had to grope around Schmidt’s underwear for a hand grenade. The action was great, as there were more action sequences (owing to the bigger budget) —  Jenko did a lot of parkour while Schmidt, well, he pretty much stayed the same in terms of physical activities. The itemized list of where the actual money was spent, injected somewhere in the script, was a brilliant move on the part of Hill, who co-wrote the script. It was really funny and underscored how tight the budget for the 21 Jump Street was (the first movie was given a production budget of $42 million while the sequel was greenlighted with a $65 million budget).

Ice Cube was given a bigger role in the sequel which was hilarious especially after it was revealed that his daughter went to the same college as Schmidt and Jenko. One of my favorite scenes was his character texting Schmidt non stop with life threatening messages.  Plus there were also a lot of cameos and even more gags in the aftercredit, which leaves the door wide open for a potential sequel.

All in all, I liked the first Jump Street movie better because it basically had more substance but the sequel was not bad either. 22 Jump Street offered no pretenses and just served up a buddy comedy that was very entertaining and filled with mindless fun. Sometimes, that all a movie has to be.

Best characters in Game of Thrones: Dead or Alive

Because I have yet to get over the last episode of Game of Thrones (The Viper and the Mountain), I’m posting this collection of my favorite characters in the series so far. Not all of them are alive because this show has a high casualty rate, but their deaths don’t make them any less awesome.
tyrion (1)1. Tyrion Lannister: Born as an imp and considered an abomination by the powerful Lannisters, Tyrion has been the subject of his father and sister’s disgust since the moment he was born. He is the smartest person in Westeros but no one truly recognizes his genius because of their preoccupation with his appearance. He has managed to outwit even the greatest leaders in the Seven Kingdoms which did not help with his popularity issues. He has shown great kindness to Ned Stark’s bastard son Jon Snow, as well as his niece Myrcella and nephew Tommen, and basically baited Joffrey every opportunity he got just because the guy was a major douche. Peter Dinklage gives life to his character with a depth and vulnerability that won him an Emmy in the show’s first season. His heartfelt speech in his own trial where he lashed out at the jury and the audience will most likely earn him a second one. STATUS: Alive but sentenced to death

ned2. Eddard “Ned” Stark: One of the only genuinely honorable people in Westeros, Ned was smart but too trusting. Despite holding all the cards, he made a lot of poor choices during his time as the Hand of the King, made a lot of enemies and underestimated the pure malice of King Joffrey, to whom he originally betrothed his daughter Sansa. His heart was in the right place but in a place like Westeros, doing the right thing is not always the best way to go. Played by Sean Bean, Ned is added to the list of dead characters he played on the big screen and television. STATUS: Dead by beheading

joffrey-baratheon-903273. Joffrey Barratheon: The most evil and vile character in the Seven Kingdoms, Joffrey was the product of incest between his mother Cersei and her twin brother Jamie. because he was naturally malicious, he enjoyed torture and watching people’s suffering. He bullied the weak and took great pleasure in humiliating his uncle Tyrion and talking down to just about anyone except his grandfather Tywin Lannister. Jack Gleeson, who portrayed the role was a a class act, always hitting the mark every time, getting people to unite against Joffrey in hatred. I’m not surprised that he’s chosen to take a break from acting after his Game of Thrones gig because his role must have been very taxing. Despite his character raising my hackles every single moment, I find that I miss him very much. STATUS: Dead by poison in his own wedding.

Cersei Lannister - Lena Headey - Game of Thrones 0044. Cersei Lannister: A queen embittered by her King’s lack of attentions and obvious pining for another woman, Cersei early on learned the hard way that she must be ruthless in order to get what she wants. An intelligent woman by nature, her natural maternal instincts are only matched by her ability to scheme and conspire with Westeros’s political lechers to get the crown for her sons. Lena Headey portrays her role with a balance of vulnerability and strength. Nobody messes with Queen Cersei, especially since she delivered the most iconic line in the franchise : When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. This pretty much sums up the show so far. STATUS: Alive and on a warpath after the death of her firstborn.

EP3025. Stannis Barratheon: For all intents and purposes, Stannis Barratheon, Lord of Dragonstone should be the successor to the Iron Throne following the death of his brother Robert in a hunting accident, because none of Cersei’s children are biologically Robert’s blood. A hard man, but a fair one, Stannis is a battle worn and quiet man whose broodiness is often mistaken for insanity, especially since he takes the counsel of the Red Woman/Red Witch named Melissandre, who often manipulates his decisions. Stannis has only one child, Shireen, a sweet girl whose face is deformed. So far, despite his gruffness and seeming lack of affection for her, Stannis has stood firm in wanting to keep her safe and safeguarding her birthright. He will also be the only contender for the throne who actually sends aid to the wall against the Whitewalkers and that’s a major plus in my book. STATUS: Alive and in debt to wage war against the Lannisters, later diverted to the Whitewalkers

oberyn6. Prince Oberyn Martell: Prince Oberyn might have only been introduced in the show’s fourth season but he sure made an entrance (and exit). The sexy prince of Dorne came to King’s Landing to attend the wedding of King Joffrey to Renly Barratheon’s widow Margaery Tyrell, but secretly wanted to exact revenge for the death of his sister Elia and her children at the hands of Ser Gregor Clegane, the Mountain that Rides at the command of Tywin Lannister during the war that brought the Barratheons to power. In his limited engagement, Chilean actor Pedro Pascal managed to make Prince Oberyn a larger than life character with sensual drawl and fluid grace. I am still frustrated as hell over the outcome of the trial by combat in which he set out to seek his revenge in what was to become the most brutal scene in Game of Thrones history, for now. STATUS: Dead by eye gouging and skull crushing.

dany7. Daenerys Targaryen: Of all of the contenders for the Iron Throne, Daenerys, mother of dragons is one of the most evolved characters in the franchise. Starting off as the meek sister of another douchebag, Viserys Targaryen who luckily met his end in the early parts of Season 1, Dany’s innocence and charisma served her well in earning the love and compassion of her Dothraki husband Khal Drogo as well as his Khalasaar. In the seasons that followed, Dany has proven herself formidable, weathering assaults to her people, and amassing a loyal army of Unsullied warriors, thousands of freed slaves as supporters, and commanding the fear of Masters in Slavers Bay. She may well be the female version of Spartacus. STATUS: Alive, holding court at Mereen and ruling the three cities of Slaver’s Bay.

varys8. Varys: One of the most intriguing characters in the Game of Thrones universe is Varys, a eunuch who holds all of the secrets among all key players in Westeros and beyond. Varys sometimes speaks in riddles and gives hints to help those whom he thinks will be able to help the Kingdom. However, there are times when even Varys’s motives are unclear as he shows no particular allegiance in sharing the secrets that he has received from his “Birdies.” He has said at some point in the series, that he served “the realm, someone must,” and at some point indicated to Littlefinger that they are not of the same ilk as Baelish is guided by ambition and not loyalty to the people. Conieth Hill’s portrayal of this the mild mannered eunuch with a backbone of steel has made his character one to watch. STATUS: Alive and still collecting secrets.

Petyr Baelish9. Petyr Baelish: Like Varys, Petyr Baelish, also known in the Kingdom as Littlefinger, the motives of Petyr’s actions were initially unclear. Growing up with the Tullys of the Vale, it was known from the beginning that he was in love with Catelyn Stark for a very long time and resented the fact that Catelyn saw him only as a brother. He amassed great wealth by making strategic allegiances, first in his role as Master of Coin in the Small Council and by running a brothel and other illicit businesses. He is known to be clever and loyal only to his own ambition. When his role was revealed in the death of Ned Stark and King Joffrey, the depth of his machinations was surprising but made sense, given his character. STATUS: Alive and plotting to manipulate/kill Robyn Aryn, Lord of the Vale, or possibly marrying Catelyn’s daughter Sansa. Its hard to tell with Littlefinger.

Davos-Seaworth10. Davos Seaworth: A reformed smuggler, Ser Davos is Stannis Barratheon’s most loyal adviser, who constantly warns him against the ways of the Red Witch. Time and again, despite being thrown to the dungeons and ignored by his King, Davos has continued to caution and counsel Stannis in his campaign to secure the Iron Throne. He was also responsible for freeing Robert Barratheon’s bastard son Gendry from Dragonstone before Melissadre could kill him for his blood. Davos shares a friendship with Stannis’s daughter Shineen, who teaches him to read and write. Liam Cunningham has effectively carried on the role since Season 2 and has not faltered in his portrayal of Stannis’s faithful right hand man.

Runners Up:

Robb Stark: A brilliant tactician who shares his father’s integrity but made a fatal error in failing to abide by his agreement with Lord Frey to marry one of his daughters. I mourned his death because he was the most gorgeous among the Starks. STATUS: Dead by betrayal at the Red Wedding.

Podrick Payne: Tyrion’s former squire whose fierce loyalty to his Master did not waver even during the most difficult and dangerous times. He saved Tyrion’s life in Blackwater and refused to believe his guilt in the death of Joffrey. He now serves Lady Brienne in the quest to find the Stark daughters, at Tyrion’s request (so that he may also escape King’s Landing).