My least favourite part of Peter Jackson’s magisterial Lord of the Rings trilogy is the half hour of toecurling mawkishness at the end where you have to endure all the surviving characters getting married and living happily ever after. Game of Thrones was inevitably going to have a similar problem. After 70 episodes of intrigue, rape, incest, massacres, betrayal, quests, duels, epic battles, existential struggles with the forces of the undead, the healing – and sometimes clunky and twee – resolutions in the 71st were always going to be a bit of an anticlimax.
But how could it be otherwise?
That’s why I’m going to disagree quite strongly with all those critics who are dissing the series finale as the most embarrassingly lame thing ever.
‘Repeat after me, gentlemen: “Thank you for not letting me into your Oxbridge college because I belong to the wrong social class and I have been too well taught.’’’
I do hope they include this catechism in the new ‘gratitude’ lessons that they’re about to introduce at Eton. They should do because it’s true. Across the country, private school parents who have scrimped and saved about £40,000 a year for fees are increasingly finding that their sacrifice is being rewarded by near-automatic Oxbridge rejection for their blameless offspring.
And who is speaking out against this class war-driven injustice? Almost no one.
‘Unfunny, boring and utterly unrelenting,’ says the Guardian’s one-star review of Chris Lilley’s new sketch series Lunatics (Netflix). And if that’s not incentive enough, our woke critical chum goes on to declare the series ‘problematic’. That’s a weaselly way of saying ‘this triggered all my snowflake sensitivities’ but in such a way as to make it sound like a loftily objective judgment.
In truth, Lunatics is only problematic if a) you have no sense of humour and b) you’d prefer all comedy to be politically correct, inoffensive and utterly devoid of satirical edge.
This is the time of year when the English countryside reaches peak incredible: when we rural folk mentally pinch ourselves in disbelief at our extraordinary good fortune in inhabiting the most beautiful landscape on earth.On every walk you see something to delight the eye and lift the spirits. First the blackthorn exploding in the hedgerows like cascading white fireworks; then the ramsons pushing their lance-shaped leaves through the floor of the dingle, pleading with you to turn them into wild garlic pesto; then the lambs — so wobbly, white and cute when newborn — which turn surprisingly quickly into boisterous adolescents gambolling and head-butting and racing one another in circles; then the bluebells, a strange and precious wonder because where else anywhere in nature do you encounter that amazing anomalous blue in such profligate quantities?
James Delingpole unpacks the battle we’ve all been waiting for.
Something truly remarkable happened in Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 3: the massed armies of the undead besieged Winterfell, destroyed the most diverse, brave and fearsome fighting force ever assembled in the history of the Seven Kingdoms, swarmed over the castle walls, wiped out the garrison, then were joined by even more undead risen from the bodies of all the goodies they’d recently killed and began slaughtering whoever was left…Yet, when the mist and smoke cleared, you’ll never guess what: every single major character was still alive.
What are the chances, eh? Just to be sure I made some rough calculations of the various groups’ survival outcomes. Dothraki horde: 0 per cent; Unsullied: 0.01 per cent (assuming Grey Worm is still with us; it was hard to tell for reasons I’ll shortly explain); Armies of the North 0.02 per cent; likeable, long-running but expendable characters 50 per cent; womenfolk and kids trapped in crypt: 75 per cent. Starks, Lanisters, Targaryens: 100 per cent. A miracle, I tell you, a miracle!
The Glaswegian faux-thug now makes his living not by pushing boundaries but by enforcing their limits.
‘I spend a lot of time helping teenagers who’ve been sexually abused…’ — beat — ‘…find their way out of my house.’
You’d scarcely imagine, listening to Frankie Boyle now, that this was the kind of joke he was telling on TV as recently as this decade. I wouldn’t believe it myself if I didn’t have written evidence of it, in the form of a 2011 TV review of his now-forgotten shocker of a Channel 4 show, Tramadol Nights.
1. Lucy Noble, artistic director of the Royal Albert Hall, thinks ‘white male titans’ such as Mozart, Beethoven and Bach are putting the young off classical music. Is she:
a) Quite right! My kids would be gagging to go to the Royal Albert Hall if only its programmes included more black female/transgender composers they’d never heard of.
b) Strangling yet another great institution. Audiences are drawn by artistic excellence, not diversity box-ticking.
2. Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service says: ‘There is a historical need to diversify our workforce. The number of women operational staff has been under 5 per cent and black and ethnic minority people are under-represented in all parts of the service. The proportion of staff who identify as gay is also negligible.’ Is your response:
a) Any organisation that serves the community must represent that community on proportionate gender/race/sexuality lines.
b) I don’t care who drags me out of a burning building so long as he’s strong, fit and brave.
If your answers are both As, many congrats! You are fully culture-compliant.
If your answers are both Bs — basically you’re stuffed. But it might help you to understand what’s going on if you read Ben Cobley’s The Tribe.
Plus: was Fleabag really profound and true? Or sententious, hormonal, millennial drivel?
If you liked Triumph of the Will, you’ll love this latest masterpiece of the genre: Our Planet. The Netflix nature series exploits the prestige, popularity and swansinging poignancy of Sir David Attenborough to promote an environmental message so relentlessly dishonest and alarmist it might have been scripted by the WWF.
‘Walruses committing suicide because of global warming.’ That was the nonsense from episode two repeated uncritically by all the newspapers, none of which seems to have been much interested in questioning the veracity of the claim. You’ll never guess what it was that really drove those walruses over the edge of the cliff… Ironically, the likely culprits were polar bears — that supposedly threatened species whose population has grown exponentially in the past 50 years to the point where they are now beginning to become something of a pest.
Gosh, it’s depressing watching the natural party of government committing slow-motion suicide. It’s depressing even if you’re not, as I am, an instinctive and more or less lifelong Conservative. What it means is that Britain is on the verge of losing its most effective, tried-and-tested prophylactic against the misery of socialism. Sure, there are lots of other parties competing to perform this function: Ukip; the Brexit party; the SDP; For Britain. But will any of them be able to do enough to avert the dread possibility of a regime led by Jeremy Corbyn?
Let me first explain why I know that the Conservatives are doomed. It’s not so much to do with their sabotage of Brexit, appalling though that has been, as it is with what they’re promising to do if and when Theresa May ever goes.
Anyway, it’s a trick question. The correct answer, at least it is for me after watching The Beatles: Made on Merseyside (BBC4, Friday), is Pete Best — the drummer who got ousted just before the band got big because he was too good-looking, too quiet and, some say, because Brian Epstein couldn’t handle his mum’s pushiness.