Warning: This post is going to completely spoil Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 3. You might want to wait to read it if you haven’t already watched.
The third episode of Game of Thrones Season 8, The Long Night, upended a lot of expectations. The Night King‘s attack on Winterfell was met by the combined forces of the living, including Daenerys and her dragons, the North, the Dothraki, and the Unsullied. Prophecies and plot lines were drawn to their conclusions, and things we’ve been expecting to happen finally did–but not always in the ways the show has hinted they might.
The big twist was that it wasn’t Jon Snow or Daenerys who wound up killing the Night King in the final battle. The pair have been the subject of all kinds of speculation about which of them (among several other characters) might be the reborn Azor Ahai, the Prince That Was Promised, destined to defeat the Night King and the White Walkers. Melisandre resurrected Jon in Season 6 because she believed he was Azor Ahai; in Season 7, Missandei corrected a gender-related mistranslation from the prophecy, suggesting it could be Daenerys. And then, at the end of The Long Night, Arya Stark stepped up without a shred of prophecy behind her and offed the Night King in one killer move.
Arya leaping through the air to bring down the scariest baddie in all of Westeros seems like a clear choice in retrospect–after all, she’s been training in the art of being an underestimated small-fry killing machine for literally years at this point–but that didn’t stop some people on the internet from taking issue. In the aftermath of The Long Night, a discussion popped up in which some complained about Arya’s victory (which is probably the smartest thing about an otherwise messy episode, as GameSpot’s Mike Rougeau noted in his review). Some derided Arya as a “Mary Sue,” implying that her victory against the Night King was unearned.
If you’re unfamiliar with “Mary Sue,” it’s a term coined way back in the 1970s from the world of Star Trek fanfiction. In 1973, Paula Smith used the name in a parody story satirizing some of the stories submitted to her Star Trek fanzine. Mary Sue came to refer to a protagonist character who would show up in the story with no flaws and who was instantly great at anything they tried to do, and mainly served as an insert for the author to live out fantasies of joining the Star Trek crew and hanging out with (and/or romancing) the series’ stars.
Lately, the wider usage of Mary Sue has evolved to be any character who’s always just good at everything and who seemingly has no flaws. The author insert idea doesn’t really fit the current usage since the term is usually applied to TV shows and movies; it’s more akin to deus ex machina, where someone or something appears to magically or easily solve the problem of a plot, rather than the characters in the story doing so through conflict and growth. And since the term Mary Sue was tossed around in relationship to protagonist Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it has popped up in online discussions with a decidedly sexist tinge–men don’t generally get called Mary Sues, only women (even though a lot of male heroes ought to fall into that category).
So calling Arya a Mary Sue is saying that she’s more of a plot tool than a character in the battle against the Night King, while implying that she’s the sort of character who is “good at everything” without having “earned” those capabilities, partially (or wholly) because she’s a woman. It’s an incredibly stupid argument if you think about Arya Stark’s journey through all of Game of Thrones for even a second.
Nobody has earned their skills in Game of Thrones the way Arya has. She has literally been training to be a fighter and assassin since the very first season, as a child. Arya was a talented archer at a young age, but she trained in swordplay with Syrio Forel, the former First Sword of Braavos, way back in Season 1. She learned more about fighting while traveling with the Hound, one of the toughest warriors in Westeros, in Season 4. And then she studied abroad at Getting-Awesome-At-Killing-People School, the House of Black and White, in Braavos.
Arya earned her killer skills through observation, hard-won victories, and brutal training. She practiced her “water dancing” combat style every single day while on the road with the Hound. She learned to fight the waif while blind. She escaped assassination after getting stabbed–repeatedly. It took seven full seasons for Arya to become the warrior she is, and we’ve watched every step. That’s more than can be said for any other character in Game of Thrones, and in many other shows and movies besides.
Obviously, Arya isn’t a Mary Sue, and to throw the term around in relation to this week’s episode is a complete misunderstanding of her character and the work that has gone into her story, the events that happened in The Long Night, and the term itself. There isn’t a character who has come further or earned her position and skills more than Arya Stark. That she was the one to kill the Night King is, in hindsight, a great culmination of her arc, and maybe the smartest decision made for this episode. If you watched the last seven seasons of Game of Thrones, it should be clear to you that there’s no reason to label Arya Stark a Mary Sue. So if you’re really still upset that the toughest woman in Westeros took down the show’s biggest bad guy, you should take a long, hard look at your own biases and seriously rethink that position.
When it came to telling the life story of WWE Superstar Paige on the big screen, it would have been nearly impossible to complete the movie Fighting with My Family without recreating one of the most memorable moments in WWE Raw history. It was April 7, the night after Wrestlemania XXX, when Paige made her main roster debut and–shockingly–captured the WWE Divas Championship in her first match, dethroning reigning champion AJ Lee.
To capture that moment on film, Fighting with My Family director Stephen Merchant worked with producer–and former WWE superstar–Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to actually film the scene live in front of a rowdy WWE crowd in Los Angeles, which is detailed in the exclusive clip above from the movie’s digital release. “When I got the job, Stephen met me for breakfast just to basically sit me down and say, ‘You will be wrestling in the Staples Center pretty soon, in front of a live audience,'” the movie’s star Florence Pugh remembers.
To pull off the visually impressive moment, Merchant and the film’s production team was given one hour with the Raw audience, following the conclusion of an episode. While wrangling a massive group of WWE fans after a three-hour TV taping would normally be an uphill battle, the movie had an ace up its sleeve in The Rock.
“Dwayne came down, he was going to emcee the event,” Merchant recalls. “I said to him, ‘Please don’t get carried away when you get in the ring because we’ve only got an hour.’ Then he goes out there, and he does 20 minutes on the mic. He’s talking to the fans, doing his catchphrases. ‘Can you smell…'” Finally, though, Johnson took his leave from the ring and let Pugh and her co-star Thea Trinidad–otherwise known as WWE’s Zelina Vega–film their championship match.
For Pugh, it was a truly memorable moment. “Before I went on, I remember just putting my hand on the wall and the wall [was] just throbbing, honest to God,” the actress said. “I had never heard that many people before in one space.”
Now the moment will live forever in Fighting with My Family, which is available digitally now and hits Blu-ray on May 14.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is barely a month old, but as usual your patience has already been rewarded if you waited for a deal. It’s already down to $45 on Amazon in the US, for the PS4 and Xbox One versions. Amazon’s sale prices come and go rather quickly, so if you want in on the deal you should probably grab it to be on the safe side.
This marks the lowest price we’ve seen on consoles so far, and even cheaper than a recent Newegg sale price. Some brick-and-mortar retailers have also been known to price-match Amazon, if you’d rather pick it up yourself, but call ahead first.
Sekiro is the latest From Software title, following up on hits like Dark Souls and Bloodborne. The studio has gained a reputation for the genre it helped shape–nicknamed “Soulsbornes.” Their games (and now, many imitators) make a point of tough combat and resource scarcity to instill a feeling of accomplishment. Sekiro is in the same vein as its predecessors, so be ready to die a lot if you take the plunge.
The game had a strong start in sales, hitting 2 million copies in just its first ten days. That’s a big accomplishment for a new franchise in a genre that is known for being niche and putting off some players. While From is committed to maintaining its challenge, it did recently issue a balance patch aimed at encouraging use of the full suite of tools.
“The orchestration of intense one-on-one boss encounters that truly test your mettle, and slower-paced stealth sections that let you take on battles at your own pace, is masterful,” Tamoor Hussain said in GameSpot’s review. “More so than in previous games, From Software has honed in on the inherent tension found in the challenging nature of its games, and uses it to incredible effect. Sekiro marries the developer’s unique brand of gameplay with stealth action to deliver an experience that is as challenging as it is gratifying.”
Warning: This post is full of spoilers for Avengers: Endgame. If you haven’t seen the movie, you’re probably going to want to stop reading before it’s too late. How about reading our spoiler-free review instead?
So the theories were right: Avengers: Endgame is a time travel story, in which the superheroes work to undo Thanos’s devastating snap by revisiting a bunch of the events from their past. The plan is to acquire the Infinity Stones from times before Thanos collected them all, then use them back in the present (five years after Avengers: Infinity War) to undo Thanos eliminating half of all life in the universe. That means the characters had to split up to pull off multiple “time heists” in what amounts to the most fun sequence of the film.
With time travel operating at the center of the movie, Endgame’s characters spend a lot of time explaining what the deal is. They make a point to note that they’re not going back to prevent Thanos from accomplishing the snap–they’re going to gather the Stones and use them to undo it in the present. The movie establishes rules of time travel to keep the logic straight.
Unfortunately, Endgame is rather bad about sticking to its own parameters, and in the end, its time travel doesn’t really make sense. For all the effort spent on running down what you can and can’t do in the past, Endgame abandons any effort to stay in the lines whenever it becomes inconvenient. As a result, the plot–while a lot of fun–doesn’t make much sense if you apply any scrutiny. Of course, that’s what we’re about to do.
Now, as a side note: Saying that Endgame’s time travel (and by extension, a lot of its plot) doesn’t make logical sense is not saying that you can’t enjoy it. But the movie sets some rules to navigate a notoriously confusing idea, so clearly it cares about them–and we’re here to break down how they’re handled. Caution: Get ready for full-on Avengers: Endgame spoilers from here on out.
“Back To The Future Is Bull****”
First, let’s look at how Endgame explains its time travel. In a fun scene, Banner lays down the essentials of venturing to and potentially altering the past, noting that most of the movies made about time travel are more Hollywood than theoretical physics. Banner is the one who notes that the Avengers can’t go back in time and prevent Thanos from doing the snap by stealing the stones from him–the past is the past and cannot be changed.
Banner says, “Think about it: If you travel to the past, that past becomes your future, and your former present becomes the past! Which can’t now be changed by your new future!” Not exactly helpful, really.
Though he does a really bad job of explaining it, what we’re actually seeing in practice in Endgame is a version of multiverse theory. You can’t change the past to affect your present, because once you’re in the past, your former present is no longer accessible to you. It exists separately from the timeline you’ve just created by entering the past and changing it. The very act of time travel creates a split in the timeline, because the time traveler interacting with the timeline changes how events play out. Everything from the time traveler’s arrival is different by virtue of their arrival.
So if time travel splits the timeline, how do the Avengers get back to their original present? Shouldn’t their presence in the past place them in a new timeline branch, with history playing out differently thanks to their influence? Answering this is where the Quantum Realm comes in, along with the idea of a multiverse, or multiple universes. As Banner puts it, you can’t alter your past through time travel–it happened and it’s set, and it’s the series of events that led you to time travel in the first place. Time travel doesn’t overwrite your original timeline, as Banner assures us; it creates a new timeline (or, as in multiverse theory, a whole new universe), separate and distinct from the original.
The Quantum Realm connects these distinct universes together, which we see when the Avengers travel through it. That’s how they can travel both through time and through space at the same time; just as they’re moving through the Quantum Realm, they’re leaving it at distinct exists that are in both the place they want to be, and the time they want to be. Meanwhile, the Quantum Tunnel machine that Banner creates gives them an exit point back in their original present in Avengers HQ, so they can always find their way back to their original universe.
So that’s how it works: The Avengers go into the past, creating alternate universes (or “branch realities,” as the Ancient One puts it), where they can grab the Infinity Stones. This means that changes to the past won’t mess up the Avengers’ present–essentially, as soon as they arrive, it’s not their past anymore.
Good thing, because they mess up a lot of stuff.
All Kinds Of Altered Timelines
When the Avengers head back in time, their goal is to snag the various Infinity Stones from key moments without being detected. They also observe Back to the Future II rules: They try not to interact with their past selves. But as we see throughout the time heist, the Avengers’ presence in their own past is fundamentally changing things. Since they’re in alternate universes, or branch realities, that doesn’t actually matter (for now).
We see a bunch of alterations to the timeline as we know it during the time heist, but since the Avengers return to their own, unaltered present, it reaffirms that what we’re seeing are new, alternate universes. And they have some new and pretty big differences to the original, as we see throughout Endgame.
One big change, obviously, is Loki. When Ant-Man and Tony Stark attempt to get the Tesseract (which houses the Space Stone) away from the past version of the heroes in the aftermath of the Battle of New York in 2012, they mess it up. The Tesseract falls out of the case in which Past Tony was transporting it. Loki, the villain of The Avengers who the heroes have just defeated and taken prisoner, grabs the cube, uses it to open a portal in space, and disappears.
At this point, this alternate universe is going to be completely different from the one the Avengers started in. In the original version of events, Loki was captured, taken to Asgard, and imprisoned there until the events of Thor: The Dark World. The Tesseract was locked in Asgard’s vault, where it waited until the events of Thor: Ragnarok. Now Loki is out in the universe with the Tesseract–essentially a weapon of mass destruction–after having just failed his megalomaniacal mission of taking over and ruling Earth. Whatever he does out in the universe is going to have serious consequences in that timeline. But Loki in the original timeline is still dead; this is a different Loki, in a different universe, presumably wreaking new and different havoc.
We see a number of other differences the Avengers create in their new alternate universes. Captain America’s “Hail HYDRA” may well change a bunch of later events in that universe, as will his fight with the past version of himself, who he distracts with the revelation, “Bucky is alive.” War Machine punches out Star-Lord on Morag, which would alter that universe’s version of Guardians of the Galaxy, since Korath the Accuser is about to show up to try to nab the Power Stone from Star-Lord. Tony’s interaction with Howard Stark in 1970 could change how that universe’s version of Tony grows up, which might fundamentally alter his path to becoming Iron Man.
Then there’s the question of Past Gamora, Past Nebula, and Past Thanos and his forces following the Avengers back to their original present. Since we’ve established those folks are from an alternate universe–the one in which Nebula and War Machine went to Morag to get the Power Stone–their presence in the Avengers’ present doesn’t alter the events of Avengers: Infinity War or anything else. Thanos still gathered the Infinity Stones, killed Vision, and did his snap; Gamora was still killed for the Soul Stone; Nebula still joined the Avengers. What we’re seeing are other versions of them from a different universe. The alternate universe Gamora and Nebula are from before the events of Guardians of the Galaxy, which means they don’t know any of the Guardians (hence Gamora kneeing Peter in the nuts). When Tony wipes out Thanos with his snap, it’s an alternate universe’s Thanos, not the one that Thor beheaded. So that other universe is probably in a lot better shape now.
But if the Avengers are just getting Infinity Stones from alternate universes, why do they need to return them? The Ancient One has the answer to that question.
The Infinity Stones And The Flow Of Time
The Avengers make a big deal about discussing how they’ll take the Infinity Stones from the past, use them in the present, and then return them to their spots in the past. Because of Banner’s explanation, we know that removing the stones from their moments in time won’t alter the Avengers’ present; they can’t go back in time and prevent Thanos. There’s no possibility of removing the Infinity Stones from alternate realities messing up the Avengers’ universe.
But as the Ancient One points out, taking the Infinity Stones from the alternate universes in which they belong could seriously mess up those timelines.
“The Infinity Stones create what you experience as the flow of time,” she explains. “Remove one of the stones and that flow splits. Now this may benefit your reality, but my new one, not so much. In this new branch reality, without our chief weapon against the forces of darkness, our world would be overrun, and millions would suffer.”
Basically, the Ancient One is describing the alternate universes we’ve been talking about all along: Travel back and remove a Stone, and you’re creating a new universe that is missing a Stone. And we know from the events of Doctor Strange that without the Time Stone, the Ancient One’s universe would be overrun by Dormmamu, who Strange defeated by using the stone.
The Avengers aren’t looking to save their universe from Thanos’s snap by wrecking a bunch of other universes by removing their Infinity Stones, which is why Banner explains they’re going to return those Stones to the moments they were taken. That would “erase” the alternate universes in which the Stones are missing–in the timelines of those universes, since they’re returned at the moment they were taken, they effectively never left. For the Ancient One, even though Banner takes the Time Stone with him, he’ll bring it back to the second he left, and the Time Stone will be there for Doctor Strange to use against Dormmamu later.
As for what the Ancient Ones means when she says the stones create “the flow of time,” uh…who knows. It doesn’t seem strictly necessary to understand what kind of space magic she’s talking about. What is worth acknowledging is that, according to this movie’s surprisingly lax rules of time travel, while all time travel creates alternate universes, only the ones created by removing Infinity Stones are so messed up that they require fixing (or erasing, as Banner puts it).
Captain America’s Ending Breaks All The Rules
Endgame ends with Captain America heading back through time to drop off the Infinity Stones in their various locations (which seems like a job for more than one guy, and especially not one guy who’s never been to Asgard or Morag, but whatever). When Banner goes to bring Cap back to the Avengers’ universe, though, he doesn’t show up. Instead, Sam and Bucky find an old man version of Cap sitting on a nearby bench.
The idea here is that, rather than come back with the time machine, Cap just decided to hang out in the past and live the several decades he’d originally missed while frozen in ice after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger. The movie also implies that Cap went back to the past and married Peggy Carter.
Of course, this doesn’t track with the rest of the movie’s conception of time travel: Steve should have been living in a new, alternate universe created by his presence and influence on the past. Just waiting for years for his time to catch up to the Avengers’ wouldn’t allow him to meet Bucky and Sam as an old man–under the rest of the movie’s rules, he should need Banner’s time machine to return to his original universe.
There are a bunch of ways Cap’s presence in the past should alter things so that he can’t return to his original universe’s present. We know from past movies like The Winter Soldier that Peggy had a whole non-Cap life, marrying and having a family, serving as a founder of SHIELD and a secret agent. We can’t help but assume Steve showing up and marrying her would have fundamentally altered all of that–which would mean the present that Steve left in the time machine wouldn’t be the same as the one he wound up in as he aged. (There are a lot of other issues with Steve’s ending as well.) There simply is no way to slice it that makes sense.
All of this is to say that while Endgame is relatively consistent with its use of time travel (even though it is confusingly explained, sometimes in contradictory terms), it doesn’t actually always adhere to the guidelines it sets down. In the case of Captain America, the time travel logic doesn’t follow. But at least the reason that the Avengers can undo the snap while all the other character deaths remain constant makes sense.
And it seems some of the time travel-slash-alternate universe confusion Endgame creates may be fodder for other stories, like the Loki-focused show confirmed for the Disney+ streaming service. Loki escaping with the Space Stone might be the entire basis for that upcoming show, and we just don’t know it yet.
Endgame’s time travel might be tough to follow, but its various jaunts into the past do a good job of creating fun situations. Endgame is still a pretty good time–just don’t think too hard about it.
Mortal Kombat 11 received some criticism for its in-game economy and grind, but NetherRealm has started to address those progression issues with a series of patches. As part of the make-good effort, the studio has also bundled the latest patch with a thank you gift, awarding a big dose of currency to players.
The bundle includes 500,000 Koins, 500 Hearts, 1,000 Souls, and 1,000 Time Crystals. Time Crystals are the premium currency, and so the amount here equals about $10–enough for two of the premium skins. The rest of the currency types are used in the Krypt, to unlock various rewards. It’s only available on PC and PS4 so far, with Xbox One and Switch incoming.
You’ll have to claim the reward through your notifications area. Make sure you claim it by May 6, 2019 at 6 AM PT.
That injection of kash came alongside a big update for MK11. It fixes several exploits and makes changes to matchmaking, but the bigger adjustment for the player grind will be that it’s softened the edges for the Towers of Time. The patch notes say it adjusts the AI difficulty curve for the Towers, tweaked elements like health reductions in high-level Towers or Koin rewards, and adjusted some daily modifiers. All of that seems aimed at making a smoother ramp for players to enjoy the Towers, which were a common criticism among reviews and early player impressions.
“Streamlined mechanics keep the act of fighting furiously exciting no matter what your skill level, and comprehensive tutorials encourage you to dig into the nitty-gritty,” Edmond Tran said in GameSpot’s review-in-progress. “There’s a diverse roster of interesting characters and playstyles, and the story mode is an entertaining romp. The unfulfilling approaches to the game’s dynamic single-player content and progression may feel like they’ve totally whiffed (at least at this early stage), but Mortal Kombat 11 hits where it matters.”
VGChartz’s Patrick Day-Childs: “Another year another excellent show from the guys at EGX Rezzed. There were some brilliant games on show this year and Ive squeezed five of them into a top five, chosen for their uniqueness and the levels of fun and intrigue.”