Curtain Call: Max von Sydow & Kae Alexander


Bran Stark’s storyline took some unexpected turns this week, as the young greenseer’s visions led him into the clutches of the Night’s King, and some notable characters were sadly lost to us.  With the faithful Hodor already beautifully eulogised, it falls to your humble Geoffery to Curtain Call two more of Bran’s less than lucky associates.

We first learned that Max von Sydow was joining the cast in August last year and the news that the legendary actor would be appearing on the show generated a fair bit of excitement. Having appeared in over 100 films, including eleven with Ingmar Bergman, the twice Academy Award-nominated actor took over the role of the Three-Eyed Raven from Struan Rodger, who played the part briefly in season four.  Von Sydow brought a wonderful sense of gravitas, wisdom and solemnity to the role.  Despite only appearing in a handful of scenes, von Sydow always drew the eye and was endlessly watchable, thanks to his sincere, understated performance.  Isaac Hempstead Wright probably puts it better than I can:

He’s such a gentleman. He’s quite old and frail now — he’s 87. But his presence on set is astounding. A kind of hush descends upon the room and everyone is just kind of watching him create magic with his voice and his words and the character.

Sadly, Mentor Occupational Hazard is a common trope, especially on Game of Thrones and while it would have been wonderful to spend a few more episodes with von Sydow and his portentous words, it looks like Bran will have to complete his training without his calm guidance. Whether the books will follow suit (the character is naturally a little different there), we’ll have to wait and see.  At the very least, they’ll have a hard time topping that wonderful, dusty dissolution of the Three-Eyed Raven’s body that we witnessed within Bran’s vision.

Max vod SydowMax von Sydow has seemingly appeared in everything from the title role in The Exorcist to The Simpsons, and shows no signs of stopping.  Currently in post-production are Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, for which he reprises his role as Lor San Tekka, and historical-fantasy film Victrix, alongside Thrones’ Kristian Nairn.  Maybe they can set up a ‘Characters Killed Off in The Door’ support group.

He might only have appeared in three episodes, but his impact was felt and his character will be missed.  Still, if there really is a God of Death, I’d like to imagine the Three-Eyed Raven is just setting up their first chess game about now.

GOT605_102615_HS__DSC2454[1]Of course, the Three-Eyed Raven wasn’t the only one to go down during The Door.  Leaf, played by Kae Alexander, also met her demise.

Alexander took over the role from Octavia Selena Alexandru for season six, and breathed a good deal of life into the character- not easy when you’re under all those prosthetics!  Alexander brought a wonderful physicality to her role as one of the Children of the Forest, including that pivotal scene where we first learned how the White Walkers were created.

_J1BNeJII think it says a lot about her performance that I felt genuinely sad as she sacrificed herself so Bran and Meera could escape, despite only playing a small role for a few episodes.

Outside of Thrones, Alexander is best known for her roles in House of Anubis and Bad Education. She will next appear in the comedy series Fleabag due out this fall, and the short film The Bird Chapters: #1 Monday Mundane. All of us at Watchers on the Wall wish Kae luck with her future projects!

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    1. The amazing turnover of actors we are sad to see go continues…

      Fabulous to see Max von Sydow once more and a pity we couldn’t have had more of him in the show.

      Kae as we know with the other CoTF had to spend hours having the prosthetics applied each day for shooting and despite wearing that and having to put in very long days managed to put a lot of expression and energy into the part of Leaf Mk II.

      Thanks to both for their contributions and best wishes too!

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    2. We know from behind the scenes videos that Kae Alexander spent 10 HOURS being put into her prosthetics and having her makeup done. 10 HOURS! I loved her performance as Leaf.

      Max von Sydow was fantastic.

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    3. random thought. we’ve seen GOT from the POV of royalty mostly. i’d be very interested in a POV from the depths of flea bottom.

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    4. Max von Sydow is a legend for a reason. Every word he says is imbued with significance. I wish we had him for longer, but he was wonderful while we had him.

      Acting through heavy makeup is always awkward- acting through those incredibly extensive prosthetics and eerie contact lenses is a miracle. I liked Kae’s Leaf very much, from the sweetness of her voice to the touch of unexpected malice when Leaf create the Night’s King.

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    5. I recall the dialogue from the pre season teaser, where Max Von Sydow says ‘We watch, we listen, we remember’ and ‘The past is already written. The ink is dry’.

      When I watched the first 5 episodes, I recall the dialogue appearing for the latter, but not the initial dialogue, about watching, listening, and remembering. Maybe that dialogue was just for the teaser? Maybe its in a future episode now that he’s gone maybe Bran speaks to him through the Weirwood network?

      Or did I miss this somewhere? Did anyone else see that dialogue go down? Makes me curious.

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    6. legendary actor ….. saw him first in minority report and then in many other movies…he is of course nominated for oscars twice so thats pretty cool…and when i learned he was being cast as three eyed raven i was pretty excited. thought he would be around for long …but still he had an impact …. he was wonderful …and he shall be missed..

      Kae Alexander not much to say about her..had never seen her before…her character made an impact though. …and she shall be missed too……..

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    7. Max von Sydow is a great actor. I remember him from Shutter Island (dr. Jeremiah Naehring) and Minority Report (Lamar Burgess) and also from The Tudors (Cardinal von Waldburg).

      Honestly, I did not expect to see him go that soon but considering that he only appeared in three episodes and that I was sad, when he died, he played his part really well. And no, I was not bothered by his clean apperiance (as opposed to his book counterpart).

      As for Kae Alexander, her character was really mysterious and she had that special face expression that you couldn’t know if she is a good or a bad person. And at the end, she selflessly sacrificed herself…

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    8. Sue the Fury:
      Max von Sydow is a legend for a reason. Every word he says is imbued with significance. I wish we had him for longer, but he was wonderful while we had him.

      Acting through heavy makeup is always awkward- acting through those incredibly extensive prosthetics and eerie contact lenses is a miracle. I liked Kae’s Leaf very much, from the sweetness of her voice to the touch of unexpected malice when Leaf create theNight’s King.

      I agree that Kae Alexander has a beautiful voice. I’d love to see her in more stuff.

      I didn’t mind Max von Sydow forgoing hours of prosthetics and makeup. The man’s what, 87?

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    9. Max von Sydow was great. Are we sure he’s actually gone from the show though? His character is “dead,” but for someone with his powers I’m not sure that actually means too much. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he showed up in future episodes as the weirwood version of a Star Wars force ghost.

      Maybe that’s just me trying to justify how I could see more of such a legendary actor, but I do think there’s a chance.

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    10. I really wish Leaf would have survived a bit longer, it would have been nice to have a couple more interractions between her, Meera and Bran before she departed.

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    11. Loved them both, they were great.

      And now let me derail this thread with a theory. Bran = Bran the builder. He made the First Men build the Wall with his timebending warg powers. That would be one event among many Bran will have done to prepare humanity for the final fight against the White Walkers.


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    12. Amazing to have Max Von Sydow in the show … another great casting. I hope he wins the guest actor award. I remember him most from the Exorcist. So much respect for him to keep acting at his age … a gift for us. Bran’s storyline has been great so far … and the Cave Battle was the best scene so far, so sad with so many deaths. The 3ER and Leaf had an impact for sure because of the good acting.

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    13. Definitely check out Von Sydow’s work with Ingmar Bergman. They’re his best roles as an actor. In particular, watch The Seventh Seal, The Magician, The Virgin Spring, Through a Glass Darkly and Shame. Wild Strawberries and Winter Light are also great, but he really only has a cameo in those.

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    14. Max von Sydow. The consummate actors actor. He first chilled me playing Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon. From that moment, I saw anything that had his name in the credits. The strong performances are too many to list, but remembering a few that most forgot, how about from Awakenings to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I will miss our Three Eyed Raven, but still very happy that Mr. von Sydow is still with us and still going strong. You rock, Sir. *bows*

      The lovely Kae Alexander. While I didn’t know you before, I sure hope to know more of you in your future acting endeavors. What a process becoming Leaf and you were in probably the most “what the hell just happened” scene in Game of Thrones. This is where we learn that the CotF created the WW. *mind blown* I will always remember you for that if not for your sweet face and giving your character death to help save others.

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    15. I wish we had seen more of von Sydow’s character, especially his origins and motivation. Such a great actor! I’ve loved so many of his movies.

      Kae did a good job with her character too. It must have been difficult to spend so much time in those prosthetics.

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    16. JCDavis:
      Max von Sydow. …but remembering a few that most forgot….

      “The Quiller Memorandum” – a spy thriller for intellectuals, completely unlike the James Bond films, one of which he also went on to star in…

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    17. Both actors perfectly encapsulated their respective roles, and will be dearly missed.

      I knew Max von Sydow wouldn’t last long in the series, but I’m glad he signed up for the role anyway because he added a sense of gravitas to the role.

      Alexander was also great in the role, and I have massive respect to her (10 hours of prosthetics/make up).

      Would have loved to see more of both.

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    18. How wonderful to have Max von Sydow in the show! A true legend! I thank him for lending his talent to the TER. Like others, I am hoping we still have his strong voice guiding Bran in the future.

      I really enjoyed Kae as the lead CoF. I thought she added a depth and mystery to the role, with maybe a tinge of evil. All the best to her in future performances.

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    19. Still, if there really is a God of Death, I’d like to imagine the Three-Eyed Raven is just setting up their first chess game about now.

      Hee, love this image. Well done Geoffrey. I was really hoping we’d see more of Max, I felt like his presence was cut way too short But now Bran must find his own way. Hopefully his mentor taught him well last off season, and will be a spirit by his side in the way of Obi Wan,

      I was so pleased by how the Children of the Forest look changed, much closer to the image I had in my head when I was reading. I did not realize that excellent image required so much make up! Hope your future roles have easier prep; thankd for bringing this character to life for us, ; good luck to you in your acting career.

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    20. Kae Alexander was a really cool looking CotF.

      Her exotic features and that makeup really complimented each other to give us an amazing looking CotF.

      Watching her get brutally stabbed to death by those white walkers was very disturbing.

      Wish she would have stayed around much longer, she looked so cool on the screen.

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    21. I wonder if Max is actually done with the show.

      Bran did say we would be learning of the connection between the 3ER and the Night’s King, so… maybe we will see him in some flashbacks? There are some lines he says that haven’t aired yet (tho cud b a deleted scene).

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    22. More later but great stuff by Von Sydow

      Can tell when they’ve left an impression when a line sticks in your head and in this case it’s

      “The past is written, the ink is dry” which actually may actually prove to be a prominent talking point ahead

      Well done to the new Leaf Mk2 actress as well. Has spent a bit of time observing Bran and Bloodravens conversations but one thing that stands out is right after Bran realises they created the CoTF there’s the sense of anger and bad-blood directed at “uou” (aka Mankind) which was well done

      I’m curious as to whether there’s more to come, as it opens up the question as to whether they aren’t just benevolent fairy helpers but a thrird force aligned to man in order to stave off the bigger threat of the WW’s but they could turn on mankind under certain conditions, eg certain Red Priests begin burning Weir Tree or even Dany, eg can’t see them making much distinction between the Dothraki or even the Ironborn and the WW’s

      Seemed to expend a lot of effort in preserving Bran, does make me curious as to whether the Stark bloodline plays an important role in creating and perhaps undoing the WW’s

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    23. Sydow was fantastic! Such a great actor, he made me feel really sad when he died… The acting was brilliant!

      Kae was amazing as well! Her death/sacrifice was really touching.

      Great actors both of them, few scenes but they truly brought the characters to life.

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    24. A Thousand Eyes and One, Master of Spies. Max Von Sydow, Master of Elocution. I salute you both.

      In Sunday’s episode, we discover that Leaf was a Child for ten thousand years, long enough to have created the very first Other. She survived feuds and wars. Leaf came through the Long Night and made it until Dawn. And then ten minutes after her story of survival is uncloaked, Leaf leaves us forever.

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    25. BR and the CotF (Leaf) were some of the most intriguing supportive aspects of ADwD. Can’t wait to read more about them and their intents and purposes in the pages to come. Max von Sydow and Kae Alexander were impressive during their short run and were given some excellent lines to bring their very grey characters to life. Sydow’s voice alone brought major gravitas to Bran’s storyline. I’m glad we got a bit more of the great bastard.

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    26. It is amazing how much this great actor can convey to the audience by his facial expression only. The moment right before his death was so emotional when he told Bran to leave him. His face filled me with sadness.

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    27. Some years ago the Beeb showed “Virgin Spring” with English subtitles which of course featured Max von Sydow in his younger days. There have been some scenes (not all of course) in GoT when I’ve had a bit of an Ingmar Bergman vibe (when show Arya walks away from show Hound for example). MvS is of course a legend.

      Kae Alexander was unknown to me before but although she did not have many scenes I liked her work.

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    28. Flayed Potatoes:
      I wish we had seen more of von Sydow’s character, especially his origins and motivation. Such a great actor!

      This! This! This! Although, I will hold out hope that we still may (like another poster already said).

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    29. They’ll both be missed. <3

      Growing up with the Star Trek franchise, I'm accustomed to seeing hard-working actors spend countless hours donning prosthetics, but I will always have tremendous respect for it. Folks just don't know the effort that goes into that sort of thing.

      TEN. HOURS.

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    30. I remember binge watching Bergman films when I was 21-22, and being genuinely surprised several times over the last ten years that the man is still alive! Being Swedish, to me was always part of that old group of actors who were veterans already in the 1960s. And I know of course that his international career and reputation has by far overshadowed all that came before to most people, but part of me still couldn’t see him as the wise sage in the tree, and almost expected him to break out in a petty family argument with Bran (in Swedish).

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    31. Laurentius:
      and almost expected him to break out in a petty family argument with Bran (in Swedish).

      Vad fan?!

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    32. It was a great choice to have Mr von Sydow (or Antonius Block, if you will) as the 3 eyed Raven. He certainly has mentor quality. I really thought he would be around for at least 1-2 episodes.
      Warmest congratulations to Ms Alexander, she’s a real hero. Although I would not have minded if she had only had 5 hours of prosthetics and stuff. To be honest, I found the CotF really … I mean too much… I don’t know. Weird. I know this is book cannon, but I would have prefered them to be more elf-like.

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    33. They were outstanding. I was sad to see them go as I felt they could have used more screen time! I wanted to learn more about both of the characters! Hopefully we’ll get more Leaf flashbacks.

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    34. I was thrilled when it was announced that Max von Sydow would be joining Game of Thrones as the Three-Eyed Raven. I knew that the role was likely to be small, and indeed it was. But that brevity just made von Sydow’s presence all the more welcome. With roles that have minimal screentime but possess great significance to the narrative, it’s important to secure the best actor possible to inhabit the part. Few people alive could have more appropriately fit that designation than von Sydow, who is probably the most decorated and widely revered thespian that the show has been fortunate enough to employ (which is no small claim on a show that has employed Dame Diana Rigg, Charles Dance, Ian McShane, just to name a distinguished few). In von Sydow’s case, using the term “living legend” isn’t hyperbole – it’s just a fact.

      The Three-Eyed Raven was, by nature, a very mysterious and magical character, and it would have been easy for him to feel removed from a show that has attained much of its massive appeal by keeping things relatively grounded for a fantasy story. But von Sydow diffused that risk entirely. He was able to make his solemn gravitas felt every time he appeared on screen, and to inject incredible weight into every line he spoke. Furthermore, despite his commanding screen presence, he never overshadowed his younger, less-experienced costars, but instead invited them to stand on his level. What an incredible opportunity it must have been for a young, up-and-coming actor like Isaac Hempstead-Wright to work with someone like von Sydow! I’m sure that he was immensely grateful for the chance to learn from the best.

      By walking that delicate line, von Sydow elegantly united the two sides of the Raven’s character – the powerful and mysterious entity who transcended mortal limits by existing across time and space, and the “old man in the tree”, who was very much human and had to know that his long and remarkable life was drawing near its end. For all his power, the Raven knew that the ink was dry, and that certain things could not be changed. That gave him a tragic edge, one that von Sydow subtly played to every time the camera focused on his striking eyes and weathered face.

      (Speaking of those eyes and that face, I do not feel a single shred of regret that the show didn’t cover them up with a prosthetic root. In fact, I’m very glad that they didn’t. When you hire an actor of Von Sydow’s caliber, you allow him to do his work unencumbered).

      Max Von Sydow’s career speaks for itself, but I think it’s amazing that not only has he continued to work into his late eighties, but he’s made appearances in Star Wars – the world’s biggest film franchise – and Game of Thrones – the world’s biggest TV show – within the span of a year (incidentally, those also happen to be my two favorite ongoing stories). For many actors, that would be a career highlight. For Max von Sydow, it will be more of a fun footnote to a legacy that was etched in gold a long time ago. But I hope that legacy is far from finished, and that we’ll continue to see Max von Sydow grace our screens for years to come!

      (I’d like to acknowledge Struan Rodger here as well. I’m glad that von Sydow took over the role, but I thought Rodger did a good job during Season 4. He will always be the one who got to say that wonderful line “You will never walk again. But you will fly.”).

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    35. As several people have already noted, the actresses playing the Children of the Forest had to spend nearly ten hours in the makeup chair to prepare for their roles (and it was worth it – their new design was amazing). All of them deserve to be commended for making such a commitment, but as the actress portraying Leaf, Kae Alexander stands apart. She not only had to convincingly present herself as an ancient and mysterious creature, she had to serve as the face and the voice of her people. To go through that extensive and exhausting process and then arrive on set with the energy to face an even longer day of shooting is impressive. And this was no easy role – Alexander had to deliver convincing dialogue, exhibit believable emotions and engage in intense action scenes – all without breaking the illusion. Meeting those demands required a very skilled actor, and Kae rose to that unique challenge wonderfully.

      While I liked Octavia Alexandru’s work in Season 4, those demands are a lot to ask of a child performer – probably too much when you factor in labor laws. As such, I’m glad that Alexander, as an older and more experienced actress, was invited to take over the role when it was expanded this year.

      Leaf’s death is getting somewhat overlooked after Hodor’s incredibly heartbreaking and tragic end/beginning, as well as the loss of Summer and the Three-Eyed Raven. While that’s totally understandable, it’s a bit of a shame, because the Children of the Forest have taken on an even greater significance for me in light of the revelation that they created the White Walkers. Leaf may very well have been the last of her people, which lends an additional element of tragedy to her sacrifice (also, I’ve seen several people draw parallels between her death and the death of Vasquez in Aliens. Since that’s one of my favorite films ever, I very much appreciate that particular connection). That she gave up her life to save a human – a member of a race that she and her people once went to such desperate and terrible lengths to destroy – is a fitting end to her story, and her last stand against the creatures that she played such a pivotal role in creating deserved to be commemorated.

      I haven’t seen Kae Alexander in anything else, but I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for her in the future. Hopefully, her next job will allow her to spend less time in the makeup chair so that more people can match her face to her talent. I wish her all the best as she continues her career!

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    36. Always thought there was only one curtain call per week? Or is that just the beautiful death posters? Also, if youre going to do 2 then why not do 3? Doubling up a curtain call and treating it like a funeral seems rude. Boomer sooner.

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    37. Lord Allen Conway,

      No, we do what we like. We’re not bound by any rules but our own preferences. And frankly, given people’s screentime, some actors would not get a CC at all if they were not doubled up. Not everyone is Kristian, with five years of screentime and fandom interaction. Sometimes it’s a smaller tribute.

      We could do 3 in a post. I once had 5 people in a post, after the season 2 finale. Every curtain call is different.

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    38. Dan:
      Definitely check out Von Sydow’s work with Ingmar Bergman. They’re his best roles as an actor. In particular, watch The Seventh Seal, The Magician, The Virgin Spring, Through a Glass Darkly and Shame. Wild Strawberries and Winter Light are also great, but he really only has a cameo in those.

      This. It would be an awesome thing if a show like GoT tempted a whole lot of people to check out Ingmar Bergman films who might otherwise never know of them.

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    39. Max von Sydow was Max von Sydow; they needed a guy who brings the weight required of a character of the importance of Bloodraven. They needed an ancient mentor; the kind that know just how important the child of destiny (that’s a trope, right?) is in the grand scheme of things, but, most importantly, they needed a guy who could pull it all off without seeming like a cliche.

      So they called Max von Sydow, he said yes, and they got exactly what they needed.

      The only disappointment was that his run didn’t last a bit longer, as it still feels like there was something more he needed to teach Bran, but, I’ll take it.

      Bravo, Mr. von Sydow.

      Kae Alexander: The only disappointment was how small this talented woman’s role ended up being. It felt like both the actress and character still had more to give to the story, but, again, I’ll take what I can get when it’s done this well.

      Bravo, Kae, and may your career be a long, prosperous and satisfying one.

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    40. Kae was wonderfully expressive for having 9 hours worth of makeup done! Good job!

      Oh Max. Disintegrating into a cloud of charcoal, for all looking like a flock of tiny ravens – that was quite beautiful. That voice, that knowledge – Sir Raven will be missed.

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    41. Pigeon: Oh Max. Disintegrating into a cloud of charcoal, for all looking like a flock of tiny ravens – that was quite beautiful.

      Was anybody else reminded of the death of Voldemort, where he sort of turned into nuclear fallout?

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    42. Sue the Fury: We could do 3 in a post. I once had 5 people in a post, after the season 2 finale. Every curtain call is different.

      heh, that really says something about this show!

      It is a shame that we got so little of von Sydow. Still, his part was used very well: and it says a lot about this show that they’ve been able to get such names for such relatively small parts.

      The Children were well-done, too. It has to be tough as hell to act in those prosthetics and costumes. They did a good job of communicating the tragedy of the Children succinctly, too.

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    43. The new Leaf was good and it’s nice to get an Asian actress on the show, though I wish they had stuck with the concept of season 4. That was so subtle and awesome – I remember thinking to myself, is that a young child playing that part or a grown woman? I remember watching the behind the scenes stuff and recalling that they had to use a good amount of CGI for Leaf’s face in season 4. I wonder if they switched to make up to save money? The new concept was really meh to me, just like anything else I’ve seen on TV before.

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    44. Laurentius,


      This is where I find watching Wallander, “Bron”and “Blå Ögon” only goes so far in learning Swedish 😉

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    45. Ser Not Appearing in this Series: Dame

      Your Swedish must be better than mine Ser Not – I’ve liked some of the Scandinavian thrillers shown on BBC4 (including the Arne Dahl [Mysterioso] ones) but the only word I have picked up is Hej (hi). So I’m grateful for sub-titles. Although having said that, while I’m by no stretch of the imagination bilingual I can sort of get by in French (well it is the language most usually taught as a second language in the UK education system) but I have to rely on sub-titles when watching “Engrenages” (Spiral) for the French slang!

      I also liked original Leaf (though I liked new Leaf too) though it’s possible this was an important year for original Leaf in school [no proof of that just me surmising].

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    46. Wait, Leaf was Kae Alexander aka Jing from Bad Education? I loved her in that. I’d like to tell my mother this but she barely even remembers what happened to Hodor last episode, let alone Leaf or even who Leaf is… Sometimes I do her simplified family trees to help her understand!

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