Tuesday May 7, 2019

About that Starbucks cup that found its way into Winterfell, HBO had fun with it.

Some GoT odds as we approach the end:

When Will Cersei Lannister Perish?
Does Not Perish At Series End +500
Episode 5 Or 6 -900

Who Will Kill Cersei Lannister?
Jaime Lannister +125
Arya Stark +160
Does Not Perish At Series End +400
Cersei Lannister (Suicide) +600
Tyrion Lannister +900
Sansa Stark +1300
Daenerys Targaryen +2200
Euron Greyjoy +2500
Jon Snow +2500
Qyburn +2500
The Mountain +5000
Ellaria Sand +10000

Who Will Perish First In Season 8?
Gilly -300
Hot Pie +200

Who Will Perish First In Season 8?
Jamie Lannister -300
Tyrion Lannister +200

Who Will Perish First In Season 8?
Bran Stark -120
Jon Snow -120

Who Will Perish First In Season 8?
Arya Stark -140
Sansa Stark EVEN

Who Will Perish First In Season 8?
Cersei Lannister -300
Daenarys Targaryen +200

Who Will Rule Westeros At The End Of Season 8?
Jon Snow +250
Sansa Stark +275
Bran Stark +400
Gendry +550
Daenarys Targaryen +650
Tyrion Lannister +850
Jon And Daenerys' Baby +1400
Arya Stark +1800
Petyr Baelish +2000
Cersei Lannister +2500
Samwell Tarly +2500
Bronn +5000
Jaime Lannister +5000
Varys +6600
Brienne Of Tarth +10000
Davos Seaworth +10000
Euron Greyjoy +10000
Jaqen H'ghar +10000
Daario Naharis +12500
The Hound +12500
Yara Greyjoy +15000
Tormund Giantsbane +20000
Gilly +50000
The Mountain +50000

Wager will be settled based on the confirmed 'King' or 'Queen' of the Andals and the First Men. If there is no King or Queen, whomever rules or controls King's Landing will be deemed the winner.

How Many Dragons Will Be Alive At The End Of Season 8?
Over 0.5 -170
Under 0.5 +130

Which Lannister Will Die First?
Jaime -110
Cersei +125
Tyrion +300

Which Stark Will Die First?
Arya -115
Bran +200
Sansa +200

Will Arya Stark Marry Gendry?
No -1000
Yes +550

Will Bronn Survive The Final Season?
Yes -200
No +150

Will Jon Snow Marry Daenerys Targaryen?
No -850
Yes +450

Will The North Be An Independent Kingdom At The End Of Season 8?
Yes -230
No +160

Will Daenerys Targaryen Survive The Final Season?
Yes +325
No -550

Will Jon Snow Survive The Final Season?
Yes -300
No +200

HBO premieres Foster tonight, a film that gives viewers unprecedented access into the L.A. County Dept. of Children & Family Services and provides insight into the world of foster care.

How is Walt, Jr. NOT a part of the Breaking Bad movie?

A Better Call Saul blooper reel.

Another Easter egg from The Office.

Emmy-winning docuseries Who Do You Think You Are? is returning to NBC for a second go-round. The network has ordered 13 episodes of the docuseries from executive producers Lisa Kudrow, Dan Bucatinsky and Ancestry. Shed Media is producing. In the docuseries, each week a different celebrity will go on a poignant search to trace their family tree with the help of historians and experts, unlocking past mysteries and real-life stories across the world and through time. Who Do You Think You Are?, an adaptation of the British BBC series, premiered on NBC on March 5, 2010 where it ran for three seasons before being cancelled in 2012. It was then picked up by TLC, where it has aired for seven additional seasons. The series was renewed for an eleventh season, which premiered on December 3, 2018 and features Mandy Moore, Regina King, Josh Duhamel, and Matthew Morrison.” Stupid.

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From The Hollywood Reporter: “Two weeks have passed since Gwendoline Christie's beaming smile as Brienne warmed the Game of Thrones fandom's collective hearts, and the feelings have yet to subside — even after "The Last of the Starks," which included the impromptu knight ceremony's sad counterpart. Following her survival at the Battle of Winterfell, Ser Brienne found herself with a new lease on life, and a new partner with whom to share it: Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), if only for a time. The final season's fourth episode ends with Jaime and Brienne's brief romance here and gone in a flash, as the Kingslayer rides away toward King's Landing and back to Cersei (Lena Headey). Whether Jaime plans to return to his sister as a lover or an enemy remains unclear, but in either event, the heaviness of his departure leaves one with the sense of a one-way ticket.

“With or without Jaime, Brienne of Tarth's future feels as wide open as ever, alive with possibilities. She's a knight through and through, with her faithful squire Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman) alive and by her side. Brienne still stands by Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), their trust so ironclad that the Lady of Winterfell willingly allowed Jaime to stay at Winterfell despite understandable frictions with House Lannister. War is still very much on the horizon, and it's not impossible Brienne will follow Jaime to King's Landing in order to stop him from doing something stupid, to help him do something heroic, or some combination of the two. 

“For now, through four episodes at least, Brienne is alive and thriving — already a major win in the world of Westeros, where life is far from a guarantee, let alone a thriving one. For her part, Christie is thriving as well, within and beyond Westeros. As Thrones eyes its series finale, Christie next looks toward taking the stage in director Nicholas Hytner's adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Bridge Theater in London, playing the dual role of queens Hippolyta and Titania. Ahead, she joins The Hollywood Reporter to look back on Brienne's journey through the final season thus far, her own journey through Thrones and where she hopes she's heading next:

Through the final season's four episodes, Brienne has experienced so much: war, love, and beyond. What have you experienced in terms of the audience's reaction to Brienne, and what was your own reaction to the material?

It's been incredible. I've been so happy. I've never had such a response to work, and also, I couldn't be more delighted that in the final season of Game of Thrones, I was given such good material to play. I have been very open about how I've loved this character from the beginning, and what she represents. She's literally stepped out of the shadows and started exploring a different side of herself — who she is as a woman. It's another dimension added to the writing. What's so amazing about Game of Thrones is how they take characters and put them in the most unlikely situations. We've seen that done particularly acutely with this character this season. I couldn't be more grateful. 

While we were shooting, I was really delighted to have this material to work with. I was really glad it had arrived. I've never before felt such love from people, just walking down the street. It's an amazing testament to the character George R.R. Martin created and the work that [creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss] have done with the writing, and how they brought it to life with all the creatives and cast this show is so lucky to have. I truly feel so lucky to be a part of this show. It's a phenomenon that will probably only happen once in any person's life. I feel really lucky to be a part of it.

How much did you wonder about Brienne's eventual fate over the seasons, and how did the reality measure up to your expectations? Was the eventual turn in the relationship with Brienne and Jaime what you expected, for instance?

I really didn't know if that would happen. I wasn't necessarily hoping for it. What I've always loved about playing that relationship with Nikolaj is that it's so unlikely. It's so unlike the kinds of relationships we see in our mainstream entertainment. No one's really known what kind of shape it would take. That's what's captivated people for so many years. From my perspective, although I've known what I was playing in a given scene, I haven't had an overriding goal of wanting them to end up in bed together or in a relationship together. We never knew where it was going, so we always played it moment by moment.

Of course, I had wondered where [the story between Brienne and Jaime] was going, and all sorts of other things. What was it Brienne wanted? Companionship? Did she want to be alone? To be with a man? A woman? What is it she wants in life? All I've known is I really loved the relationships she's formed, particularly with Jaime Lannister. Playing it has been incredibly exciting, because I never know where we're going to end up in a scene. I could be laughing uproariously with Nikolaj, or I can end up wanting to scream at him and claw his eyes out. (Laughs.) It's been so entertaining to play. I've been so lucky to play these scenes with such a brilliant, mercurial actor. It's what made the scenes so good; they move around, and neither of us ever really knew where it was going to go.

Speaking of not knowing whether to laugh or claw his eyes out, this episode features a bit of both. Brienne and Jaime not only solidify their relationship, but also end it in the space of one episode.

I love a challenge. When you read it, you think, "How can I go there? How can I go on that roller coaster and make it happen?" That's what's so exciting about an acting challenge. Those things do happen in life, and that's what you get to work with. I thought it was phenomenal and typical of Game of Thrones that in a space of one episode, after seven years of building this relationship, it not only comes together but also falls apart. Those things do happen in life. It was very much about putting ourselves in a situation of not knowing how to play it that allowed us to let it happen. [When Jaime arrives to her room], Brienne is just going with it in the moment. She's going with her feelings, going with something that she as a character has never really done before. She doesn't know what she's doing, but she's committing to it. As an actor, that's what you do: you just commit to it. 

I've been very open about how much I love this character and how protective I am of the character, and I know I'm just an actor and this is just a character in a TV show, but I can't help but be invested because of how much I have invested to make this character come alive. The idea of her being brutally hurt [by Jaime], what I really loved about it and what helped in the playing of it, is that Brienne made the decision to be with him. Although he comes to her room and it's all a bit overwhelming, she chooses to have the experience. I loved that. She elects to go for it. She's not stupid. She's really aware that this is a conflicted man on many levels. But she wants that moment. She's just cheated death; she managed to survive the battle. She decides to give herself that experience. 

In leaving herself so open and so raw, the pain is so acute [when it ends] because she's taken such a risk. She's done something for herself. For once, she's really done something that was all about her, in an area where she has no experience at all. She's hurt in the worst way possible. Even now, when I think about it, it makes me feel… (Pauses.) You know, it makes me feel. It was a glorious acting challenge. It wasn't easy to play at all. I feel like this character has given a voice to people who maybe don't feel like they fit in, or feel marginalized, or feel they don't fit into a patriarchal mold of what it is to be considered attractive; I don't know. There are lots of people who identify with her. It means a lot to me. 

We laughed a lot on the day, shooting [the love scene], because it's ludicrous! You're in there with a medieval fireplace and a hundred people in the room… it's ludicrous. (Laughs.) But that's also what was so thrilling. Somehow, you connect with the suspension of disbelief. In that moment, you just let the characters live. It's what was so thrilling about playing the writing.

In episode two, Jaime knights Brienne, which itself is an expression of love, and to my mind, the happiest moment in Game of Thrones. It was such a joy to watch. What was it like to play?

When we got the final season's scripts, I wanted to receive the story. I didn't want to race ahead and see how it ended up for Brienne. When I read that scene [in "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms"], I couldn't believe that something good was happening to my character. (Laughs.) Something that she actually wanted! But on a larger scale, I was really delighted, because it felt like it was about a larger idea. It was about acceptance. Sometimes, there's nothing more powerful than a good story. Sometimes, when you have a character who has battled for so long to overcome obstacles and does not tend to have a lot go their way, the idea of that person finally being given some kind of acceptance is extraordinarily beautiful. She's toiled for so long, and she never expected it. 

I really wanted to bring a reality to it. I wanted her to experience the journey of emotions that she would have, in all of its conflicting parts. There's a lot of conflict inside Brienne. Acceptance is not something she's had readily. I think it meant an enormous amount to her. I wanted to portray that. But it meant a great deal to me, too. You just allow yourself to be present. [Director] David Nutter made the crew cheer for me as well, when it was that close-up [on Brienne smiling]. It was the crew I've worked with for seven years. These are people who have taught me how to act, who have supported me and have made me laugh and are my friends. It made the moment larger than just a scene. It was really beautiful. I worked very hard to try and convey all the fantastic things on the page. I have to say, David Nutter really did an incredible job. He was a brilliant director who really worked with me and worked with all of us. He was patient, kind and gentle. He took the time to coax performances out of people. I'm really hugely grateful. I had a wonderful time working with him. He really moved me on as an actor. I couldn't be more delighted to have had that experience on the final season of this amazing show.

Brienne is now a knight. You are on the cusp of becoming a queen, twice over, in A Midsummer Night's Dream. As you're saying goodbye to Brienne and Game of Thrones having had so much to play in the final season, what kind of momentum do you feel as you're looking ahead to new roles and projects?

I feel really buoyed by this experience to try some new things. I'm really delighted to come away from this with a little bit of confidence. That's the most incredible gift of all: to feel some confidence and acceptance to go forward. I want to play all sorts of extraordinary women. I want to look into the darker recesses of human life and explore those, and explore what we're not supposed to talk about and look at. I'm really excited to explore more unconventional characters. It's thrilling to be getting back on stage again and to explore reality in a live space, with such a revered theater director in the form of Sir Nicholas Hytner. It's exciting times. Mostly, I'm really looking forward to the projects I feel passionately about with auteurs and artists who really speak to my sensibilities. I want to create more content myself, and be more involved in a creative role. That's what I'd really like, going forward. Quite genuinely, I'm really grateful to have been employed over these past several years, and I'll forever be grateful to Game of Thrones for giving me the opportunity and the platform. It means a great deal to me. I just hope I keep working. (Laughs.)”

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Per Vulture, “[s]treaming TV’s newest critical darling is Ramy, the already-renewed Hulu original starring comedian and co-creator Ramy Youssef. Primarily about a Muslim 20-something, portrayed by Youssef, who’s walking a social tightrope between the expectations of his faith and Northeast progressivism, Ramy has been widely praised for its thought-provoking writing and Atlanta-like rawness mixed with surrealism. It’s also scored high marks because of its cast diversity, most prominently highlighted by the presence of Steve Way, Youssef’s real-life best friend who has muscular dystrophy.

“Way, 28, from Rutherford, New Jersey, is a stand-up comedian as well as a public speaker who raises awareness about people living with disabilities. He supplements his income as a substitute teacher at Rutherford High School, where both he and Youssef graduated — though their buddy status dates back to the first week of fifth grade, as it similarly does on Ramy. Near the end of the fourth episode, after a preteen Ramy is ostracized by his classmates for the crime of being Muslim on 9/11, the young Steve wheels up to him on his way to school, shouting, ‘Hey, terrorist!’ After a brief conversation, the episode closes with the two outcasts traversing the route together, side by side, beginning a beautiful friendship.

“The older TV version of the pair continues to find themselves in unsettling situations, allowing the for-real twosome to splay their comedic acting talents. Way shines on the show as the somehow straighter man to Youssef’s straight man who sometimes breaks a little bad.

Vulture sat down with Way at one of the many midtown Manhattan Starbucks locations to talk about his work on the show, a near-death experience, and the one scene on Ramy that, at first, made him ‘so uncomfortable:’

Ramy has just been picked up for a second season, so congrats on that!
Thank you!

How does that make you feel?
Really good because now I have that job security, and I’m just really excited to see what ideas Ramy has — for the whole show and for my character.

Are you going to stick with substitute teaching for a while?
Yeah, I always want to have that job where I don’t have to work hard at all to get paid. I otherwise sit at home all day and do nothing, so I might as well sit at school and just make sure my students don’t murder each other and get paid for it. I can’t throw that away yet.

Do you enjoy it?
I love it. The students are super respectful, super helpful. They’ve been nothing but welcoming and accepting. I always tell people I never wanted to teach younger kids because that would be too much of a distraction. The high-school kids get it. Most of them know who I am anyway. They’ve seen my work online — my speaking and my stand-up.

What was the process like to get you on Ramy?
Ramy was a big advocate for me. He used a lot of my stand-up and I did some audition tapes. It’s very, very hard for people like me to be on TV. I mean, when was the last time you saw someone who looked like me on TV or in a movie?

I can’t remember, ever.
Exactly. There are just so many excuses out there: “Oh, can he film a full day? Does he have the strength to do it? Is he even good enough for it?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten in front of a casting director and they just cut me off before I even do my lines. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve auditioned for a disabled person’s role and I was the only disabled actor, and I still didn’t get it.

I saw this interview on Good Morning America with Bryan Cranston, whose work I love. But he was promoting The Upside where he played a quadriplegic person, and he talked about how he researched for the part by meeting with disabled people. He was trying to sound really sensitive about their struggles, but I was taken by how he made them all sound like huge sympathy cases. He wound up sounding really insensitive to me.
He did an interview about that, and his exact words were it was a “business decision” to play that role. And it’s like, not only is that really offensive, but it’s really hurtful.

I was thinking at the time that there’s got to be someone who lives with that same disability who could give a more authentic performance, perhaps, if they have any kind of acting chops.
There are thousands of disabled actors, writers, and directors, but they don’t give us a chance. Obviously, having a nondisabled actor play a disabled person’s role is bad, but I think the real problem is having a nondisabled writer write a disabled person’s role. To have a movie like Me Before You, and people come out of it thinking, Oh, wow, people with disabilities just want to kill themselves because they feel like a burden and they’re incapable of love. And then you see a movie like The Theory of Everything, where at the end you have Eddie Redmayne get up out of his wheelchair, and people come out of that theater like, Oh, that’s what disabled people dream about. And it wins a fucking Oscar! Like, it’s a joke. It’s really, really harmful to people’s perceptions of disabled people.

Maybe we’re getting into a place now where we can have these discussions, culturally. With your presence on TV, maybe we can have a broad perspective shift about people with disabilities being represented in media.
I really hope so. A couple years ago, with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, the Academy put out a statement about diversity, and they listed all the marginalized groups that they want to put more emphasis on. “People with disabilities” wasn’t even in that statement. I mean, how much harder do we have to fight?

How far back do you and Ramy go?
We’ve been friends since 2001. We met in fifth grade, the week before 9/11. So that episode of Ramy is somewhat true.

How long have you been doing stand-up?
I started in 2010. Ramy, along with two other friends of ours, had a sketch-comedy group, and they did a show at this old movie theater, with a stage from like the 1920s, in our hometown. They wanted to turn it into a charity show for muscular dystrophy.

And Ramy had you in mind in arranging that, right?
Obviously! It was a year after he and I had graduated high school, and we’d worked on a bunch of projects, like sketch videos — this was during that big sketch-comedy YouTube boom of the late 2000s. Our high school had a full TV studio, so we always had access to equipment. But one day during the summer Ramy was over at my house and said, “I want you to write a stand-up set.” Two weeks later, he was over again and I said, “All right, here it is.” And he said, “Great. You’re gonna perform it at the show.”

So he kind of tricked you?
Not really, but I think he knew that would be a way to get me to do it, because otherwise I’d be scared. It was in front of like 300 people.

How did it go?
It was amazing. You know, I have been public speaking since I was 10 years old with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, just helping raise money and raise awareness. So being onstage was never a problem for me, but to do, like, an organized set, it was so different. But it ultimately felt natural. It felt right.

Where do you usually perform stand-up? What’s your material like?
I mostly perform at the PIT — the Peoples Improv Theater — mostly because UCB was never wheelchair accessible. The PIT was my only option. I can’t perform at the Comedy Cellar. I can’t perform at the Village Underground. They’re not accessible. People don’t realize that comedy is not really accessible to all people in New York. I’ve been trying to change that for years. It took so long just to get a ramp at UCB East to get up on the stage. I’ve been fighting for wheelchair accessibility in all buildings since I was 10 years old.

So I don’t perform as often as I’d like, but I do the PIT. I do SubCulture now. I usually do like eight to ten minutes, and the audience is automatically an obstacle. It’s not every day they see somebody who looks like me, so it’s really my job to get them on my side as early as I can.

Do you have an opener that you do to help with that?
I say, “Let me get this out of the way: No, this is not my Make-a-Wish.” And then they say, “Okay, I can laugh at him.”

In episode three of Ramy, Ramy gets really high, goes over to your character’s house, and sits with him and his mother. He starts talking about how your character is going to die relatively soon, that his mother’s life sucks because she has to take care of him all the time, and that she’ll one day be at her son’s funeral, for sure. How did that scene come together, and what did you think of it?
Ramy wrote it, and I remember reading that for the first time, and it made me feel really uncomfortable. So uncomfortable. Then I gave it an hour and I read it again. I thought, Oh my goodness, this is brilliant.

What changed your mind?
I understood the absurdity of it, while still getting the realness of it. Because obviously we talk about [my death], but not like that. So to have that conversation in that situation is so funny.

Did he ever confess to you that these were thoughts he really had, or was he just getting creative with the friendship?
With me, it’s implied. I mean, I almost died when I was 14. Ramy saw me in the hospital.

What happened?
When I was in the eighth grade, I had back surgery to correct scoliosis. It was getting to the point where if I didn’t have this surgery it was gonna kill me because it would’ve just crushed everything inside. So I have the surgery, I was in the hospital for ten days, and I came out and I got so sick. I couldn’t eat or drink anything because my throat was so swollen from being intubated during the surgery. I couldn’t get comfortable. I couldn’t sit up, couldn’t lie down. I’d wake up like every hour when I was trying to sleep. It was like this for five weeks, and it was really the only time in my life I thought about suicide. I wasn’t depressed, but I was scared to live the rest of my life like that — just constant pain and discomfort. And then five weeks after I came home, there was one day where I felt worse than usual. The whole day my dad was asking me if I wanted to go to the hospital and I said, “No, I’m fine.” I woke up at like 2 a.m. to go to the bathroom. I’m on the toilet and my dad asked me again if I wanted to go to the hospital. I don’t know why but I said yes, and if I’d said no I would’ve gotten back in bed and I would’ve been dead.

So we’re on the way to the hospital. I stopped breathing two minutes out. They get me on life support. I weighed under 40 pounds because I didn’t eat anything, and the surgery gave me pneumonia. My right lung was filled with fluid, but I was so weak I didn’t realize it. They sucked it all out, and then they accidentally overdosed me on Ativan and I was in a coma for a day and a half. I ended up being on life support for two weeks. I was in the hospital for a month, and I really didn’t know what was going to happen. That was really the moment that made me realize life really is too short.

Ramy saw me and helped me get through it all.

I also wanted to ask you about that episode where you’re trying to hook up, knowingly, with a drunk 16-year-old girl.
It never happened! I’ve never been with an underage girl! I have to say that every interview.

[Laughs.] I didn’t think so, but how did that episode come about? Are you proud of it, and what do you enjoy about it?
I think Ramy really wanted to have my character in a situation that would challenge people’s morals.

You’re just like everybody else — you can kind of be an asshole, too.
Yes. [But in the episode] I’m still in a situation that nobody else is in. I have different circumstances. In that episode I’ve gotta be flexible. So when I’m doing that, it’s morally wrong, but, you know, Ramy, I think, drafted it in a way where he wanted the viewer to be like, “It’s kind of okay for him. It doesn’t feel right, but I get it.”

How is your health, overall?
Thankfully my health is pretty strong right now. I’m at the point where if I don’t have any major setbacks, I’m really not going to lose any strength. The bad thing is, if I were to have a setback, such as a long illness or an injury, I would lose strength and I would not get it back. So barring anything like that, I just take it one day at a time.

How frequent are your public-speaking engagements, and what’s your message?
They’re starting to pick up more now because people are aware of me. I mostly do it at schools, all different grades. I talk to the students about tolerance, overcoming adversity. I think hearing it from someone like me kind of hits a little differently, and it gives them a bit of a different perspective on the world around them. But I love doing it because it gives me the opportunity to meet new people and to share my story and to hear theirs.

What’s next for you in showbiz? Are you hoping for other parts in other shows or movies? More stand-up?
Honestly, I’m up for anything. I love acting. I love being able to tell my story to a live audience. So now if more studios and networks can see me and say, “Oh, okay, he can do it,” hopefully they’ll take a chance on me and others like me. But I am a straight white guy, so it’s going to be easier for me. That’s a fact. I don’t know what it’s like to be disabled and black, disabled and gay, disabled and trans, and those people deserve to have their story told, too. It’s just as important, if not more important than mine. They’re more marginalized people than I am. It’s weird to say that because I am disabled, but there are more marginalized people out there that have less of an opportunity than I do.

So here you are saying you’re one of the lucky ones, in a way, right?
Absolutely! On the surface, again, it’s so weird to say that, but it’s true.”

This guy is a true inspiration.

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From Uproxx: “Back in March, several months after Andrew Lincoln left The Walking Dead television series to make The Walking Dead movies, Norman Reedus recounted a conversation he’d recently had with Lincoln. Lincoln had said to him, ‘Man, I picked the wrong time to leave the show because it’s so f**king good right now,’ to which Reedus replied, ‘Yeah, you did, dude. You picked the wrong time.’

“What’s interesting about that exchange, however, is that The Walking Dead is ‘so f**king good right now’ because Andrew Lincoln left the series. That’s not a knock against Lincoln, who successfully steered the ship for eight and a half seasons as the nominal lead and the face of the AMC’s all-time most popular series. Much of the show’s popularity, in fact, can be attributed to Lincoln, the character around whom the show revolved. There are so many iconic moments and pivotal scenes from The Walking Dead for which Grimes is known, and it’s unlikely that another actor could have successfully evolved from naive police officer to weathered, veteran leader of essentially several communities. By the time Lincoln left the series, we could almost see in the lines on his face and the shape of his beard what eight years of the zombie apocalypse had done to him. As viewers, we all miss him, and no one else could have done that job as capably (not even Tom Jane, the first choice to play the role).

“But the show has gotten much better without him, and that’s not just me saying that: It’s viewers and critics alike, who have given some of the best scores since season five on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, respectively. In fact, season 9 of The Walking Dead is the best reviewed season ever for the series.

“Granted, it’s not because the rest of the show’s characters are better than Rick Grimes; it’s that his absence has allowed the series to become a true ensemble for the first time. With Lincoln off the series, Angela Kang has been able to distribute screentime to other characters. While a lot of it has been apportioned to Daryl, Michonne, and Carol, the series has also been able to give several new characters — like Yumiko, Lydia, Magna, Luke, and Connie — more story and better development.

“Moreover, while Rick Grimes was a terrific character, after eight and a half seasons, his arc on the television show has run its course several times: He starts out as a good leader, the stress and loss gets to him, he begins to crack, he loses control, and then he has to rebuild himself again. After the death of Carl, there just wasn’t anywhere left for Rick to go, except to repeat his character arc all over again and, in the process, take the show’s narrative along on that trip.

“Rick was such an integral part of the show that, as long as he was on it, the writers were forced to feed the ball to him, so to speak. Without him taking all the shots, the rest of the team has had to step up and fill the hole he left. It turns out, the team can score more points when they’re all working together to win instead of in support of one player.

“Rick’s absence in the series has also allowed The Walking Dead to become more unpredictable. While he’s still in the comics, showrunner Angela Kang has had to be more creative about how she assigns Rick’s comics storylines (that’s also been true of Carl and Maggie’s storylines, as well). That, plus a new mix of original storylines — some of which have grown out of Rick’s departure — has allowed The Walking Dead to be truly surprising again.

“Ultimately, though it is set in the zombie apocalypse, The Walking Dead is a character drama, and the show is best when it has new and different ways to develop these characters. Rick had long ago exhausted his character in the television setting, and the only truly exciting thing left for Rick Grimes in season 9 was in how he’d be written out of the series. That will probably hold true, to some extent, for Michonne in season 10. It feels like we know as much as we can possibly know about Rick and Michonne, and the great thing about The Walking Dead is its ability to move new characters in and out of the series, which constantly allows the writers to come up with new ways to develop them along with new story arcs.

“In other words, Andrew Lincoln is the best thing to ever happen to The Walking Dead. But the second best thing to ever happen to The Walking Dead was Andrew Lincoln’s decision to leave.”

Not sure I agree entirely, but an interesting take nonetheless.

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Per Deadline, “Bravo Media is expanding its originals slate with Spy Games, an espionage-inspired reality competition series from Kinetic Content, a Red Arrow Studios company. The series will air later this year.

“Hosted by model and martial artist Mia Kang, Spy Games follows 10 contestants as they battle it out in the ultimate game of espionage for a $100,000 prize.

“Inspired by a once secret World War II government program called ‘Station S,’ the show will follow the ten competitors living together on a compound as they are challenged to figure out the secrets their fellow players are keeping. Training and judging them in the art of espionage are ‘The Assessors’ — Douglas Laux, Evy Poumpouras and Erroll Southers – three former intelligence professionals from the CIA, Secret Service and FBI, respectively, who will create missions and tests designed to push contestants to their breaking points as well as determine who stays and who goes home.

“As contestants are eliminated one-by-one, they quickly realize this game may be more mentally and physically challenging than they bargained for. However, they all must keep their eyes on the prize since only one contestant can come out on top and walk away with $100,000.

Spy Games is produced by Kinetic Content (part of Red Arrow Studios) with Chris Coelen, Karrie Wolfe, Eric Detwiler, John Saade, David Burris and Andrew Wallace serving as executive producers.”