TIME Television

Game of Thrones Watch: The Game of Faces

Sansa Stark and Ramsay Bolton prepare for marriage.
HELEN SLOAN/HBO

Arya comes face-to-face with death, Tyrion and Jorah hit a small roadblock and Margaery Tyrell discovers the consequences of truths and lies

Spoilers for Game of Thrones, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” follow:

“I’m not playing this stupid game anymore!”

“We never stop playing.”

If you think about it even just a little, Jaqen H’ghar is right: No one in Game of Thrones ever really stops playing the game of faces. And those who do certainly don’t survive very long. It’s strange that it’s a lesson Arya has struggled to learn ever since entering the House of Black and White. On at least a basic level, it’s a game that the youngest Stark daughter has been forced to play ever since Joffrey took her father’s head. But, as Jaqen H’ghar and The Waif are all eager to prove, simply cutting your hair and pretending to be a boy does not make you worthy of joining the Faceless Men.

It’s hard to know precisely how long Arya has been scrubbing corpses by the time she confronts The Waif in the episode’s opening minutes, but Maisie Williams’ hair is certainly a bit longer and she seems to have grown at ease with the process. We get a great shot of her rapping her thumbs along the scrubbing table as her most recent patient is taken away, but learning what happens to the bodies clearly isn’t knowledge acquired simply through impatience. Demanding of The Waif that she get play the game of faces doesn’t appear much more effective. The Waif spins Ayra an entire tale about her own troubled childhood in Westeros that ended with the murder of her evil step-mother. As The Waif concludes her tale, a faint grin appears along Arya’s lips — one that rather resembled her initial reaction to meeting Brienne in last season’s finale. Just as quickly as that inspiration was given and taken away, however, this one was was as well when The Waif asks if Arya believed her story.

When Jaqen H’ghar later tests Arya’s readiness, it’s clear she’s still ill-prepared to join his ranks (and revealingly was struck several times for claiming that she hated The Hound). But Arya Stark is not one to be easily deterred, and sees the opportunity to simultaneously practice her lies and impress Jaqen when she convinces a terminally ill girl that drinking the water from the enchanted pool will heal her rather than kill her. It’s a cold, calculated moment from Arya, but certainly not one particularly out of line with what we’ve come to expect. Whatever Arya has always lacked in skill, she’s more than made up for in sheer determination. It’s that determination that convinces Jaqen to lead her down to a dungeon filled with enough dead faces to last another dozen seasons of The Walking Dead. “A girl is not ready to become no one,” Jaqen tells her as she gazes at the faces. “But she is ready to become someone else.”

Sansa Stark has spent much of the last season-and-a-half attempting to become someone else as well. She pretended to no longer be a Stark, dyed her hair black, and hitched her wagon to Lord Baelish. And for as long as Littlefinger was around to protect her, it was a rather successful endeavor (manipulations and tenuously-accepted advances aside). But with her true identity revealed, her dyed hair stripped from her head by her betrothed’s psychotic mistress and Baelish back in King’s Landing, Sansa was left an ultimately powerless teenage girl — certainly no match for the savagery of Ramsay Bolton. Their wedding ceremony was every bit as ominous as expected, though compared with previous weddings attended by the Starks and Bolton’s, it was a rather tame affair (and the band likely asked to skip its rendition of “The Rains of Castamere.”)

What followed, however, was an entirely different story. With Reek forced to watch, Ramsay stripped Sansa and raped her. It was a brutal, uncomfortable scene that almost certainly had viewers pleading with their screens and cursing them after. It’s hard to imagine anyone making Joffrey seem like a superior mate, but David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have spent a great deal of effort making that possible for Ramsay. Let’s hope his demise is equally horrible.

Things certainly seem headed in perilous direction for Margaery and Loras Tyrell. For as long as we’ve known him, Loras Tyrell has been tasked with keeping his sexuality a secret, but he has grown increasingly careless as the seasons have dragged on, as though playing this particular game of deception was no longer of any concern to him. It certainly will be now. The subject of an inquest into his alleged crimes, Loras categorically denies all the charges against him, and Margaery gamely backs him up. Their claims are rendered moot once Olyvar enters the High Sparrow’s interrogation room, revealing to the assembled everything he knew about Chekov’s Dorne-shapped tattoo. Loras and Margaery are summarily dragged off by the Sparrows as the latter cries out for Tommen to stop them. The boy king proves just as useless as he’s shown himself to be since ascending to the throne, sitting there dumbfounded as his wife is dragged off.

To a certain extent, it’s a rather stunning development. It would have been a good bet that Olenna Tyrell’s arrival in King’s Landing would have turned the tides back in Highgarden’s favor. Her meeting with Cersei was going just about as expected (the “Famous tart” quip was one of her finest) until Olenna allowed the Queen Regent to have the final word. You could easily be forgiven for expecting that the Tyrell matriarch had something up her sleeve for the inquest, but all she could do as her grandchildren were dragged away was shout objections. Now it’s possible that Olenna underestimated Cersei, but it’s a better bet that she overestimated her. Tywin never would have attempted (or allowed) such a bold ploy. Not only do the Lannisters need the Tyrell’s men, gold and wheat, but it’s not as though Cersei isn’t hiding a few secrets that the Sparrows wouldn’t approve of as — and Olenna Tyrell seems like just the sort of woman who’d know how to handle an overplayed hand.

Perhaps at some point, Cersei can compare notes with Ellaria Sand on just that topic. Prince Oberyn’s former mistress unleashed her Sand Snakes on Myrcella Baratheon at the worst possible moment. The trio arrived on scene right as Jaime and Bronn were attempting to exfiltrate Myrcella from the Water Gardens. The brief tussle was interrupted by Areo Hotah and his men, who had been sent by Prince Doran to protect Myrcella and Trystane. Moments later, Ellaria found herself surrounded by a dozen unfriendly spears. Making her intentions known so plainly might have been a bad move.

The lesson that Arya is attempting to learn (and the one that Game of Thrones’ most successful characters already have) is that you don’t necessarily need to become no one, you just need to become anyone who isn’t truly you. That can mean changing your face or your name or your allegiances or your intentions, just so long as no one quite understands what you’re doing. After more than four-and-a-half seasons in Westeros and Essos, we’ve learned that the game of thrones isn’t the only one where the two options are winning and dying.

And now for the hail of arrows:

  • No Daenerys in this episode. Or Jon Snow. Not sure that’s happened since the Battle of the Blackwater episode way back in Season 2. Something tells me we’ll see both next week.
  • No Brienne either. With all those candles in Ramsay’s chamber, it’s a shame she didn’t mistake his room for Sansa’s and gallop to the rescue.
  • Tyrion and Jorah hit a bit of a hiccup on their road to Meereen, getting captured by Lost’s Mr. Eko and his fellow slavers.
  • The slavers want to cut off Tyrion’s penis and sell it, explaining: “A dwarf’s cock has magic powers.” I would be shocked to learn if Tyrion hasn’t used that particular line on more than one occasion.
  • Tyrion convinces the slavers to keep him and Jaime alive and bring them to the Fighting Pits by claiming Jorah is a legendary fighter. Tellingly, it’s Jorah’s declaration that he killed a Dothraki bloodrider in single combat (not Tyrion’s lie that he once unseated Jaime) that changes their captors’ minds.
  • Jorah just before the pair was captured: “We better keep moving.” Personally think that would be a far more fitting tagline for the show than “Winter is Coming” or “All Men Must Die.”
  • Aidan Gillen continues to be delightful as Littlefinger: “We both peddle fantasies Brother Lancel, mine just happen to be entertaining.”
  • Baelish’s scene with Cersei was also rather informative — looks as though he’s angling to become Warden of the North after Stannis’ troops and Roose’s troops pick one another apart. Then again, it’s Littlefinger so there’s obviously something else at play here.
  • Doran Martell seems like a wise, just and kind ruler. I expect him dead any day now.
  • Yes, I would have very much liked to have seen a fight between Areo Hotah with his axe and a two-handed Jaime Lannister.
  • Asking all of you to cross your fingers that the Sand Snakes didn’t pick up any poisoning tips from their father, or Bronn isn’t going to be long for this world.
  • More from The Delightful Quips of Bronn and Jaime: “I like to improvise.” “That explains the golden hand.”
TIME Television

Game of Thrones Watch: Fear and Mistakes

Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) in "Kill the Boy"
Helen Sloan

The Daenerys of old returns, Stannis marches on and Jon Snow gambles yet again

Spoilers for Game of Thrones, “Kill the Boy,” follow:

“… And then they weren’t.”

After the bloody events of last week, “Kill the Boy” was bound to be a more measured hour of Game of Thrones — well, so long as you weren’t the unfortunate Meereenese leader who was burned alive, ripped clean in half and devoured by a pair of ornery teenage dragons. Instead, the episode began by dealing with the aftermath of “Sons of the Harpy,” revealing the fate of Grey Worm (alive) and Ser Barristan the Bold (dead). Though it was a shame the audience never got an extensive look at the finer works of an artist who was said to have only used red, the outcome makes sense. Barristan was old and had little that connected him to anyone else on the entire continent other than Daenerys. Grey Worm, on the other hand, still has an army of Unsullied to captain and a budding romance with Missandei to pursue. Jacob Anderson’s scenes with Nathalie Emmanuel are always a rare showcase for both, but seeing the two former slaves finally admit their feelings for each other was a happy moment in an episode otherwise largely devoid of them.

The ambush may also prove a turning point for Daenerys, who has spent most of the last season-and-a-half proving herself a wanting leader. Much of that could be attributed to her lack of experience, manifesting itself in her tendency to be reactive rather than proactive — a major departure from her approach while conquering the cities of Slaver’s Bay. Of course, taking the leaders of the great families of Meereen to meet her children is a reaction to the ambush, but it feels like the sort of bold gesture the Dany of old would have made. She doesn’t cower in fear, she doesn’t overreact. All she has to do (as Daario pointed out in the season’s first episode) is remind those who would challenge her that she is the mother of dragons. After seeing what Viserion and Rhaegal were capable of, Hizdahr zo Loraq’s life-saving declaration of “Valar morghulis” is as much an obvious statement of fact as it is an attempt to show bravery in the face of death.

Daenerys’ next series of decisions are even bolder. First, she grants the city’s wish to re-open the Fighting Pits and then she declares that she intends to consolidate her power by marrying Loraq who must be a little shocked to have gone from dragon feed to dragon father-in-law in under 90 seconds. It’s not clear yet what impact these fairly momentous decisions will have on her rule in Meereen or her budding relationship with Daario, but it’s clear that Dany is back to relying almost entirely on her own counsel, finding solutions no others could even imagine. The return of Khaleesi the Conquerer is certainly a triumphant moment, but her decisions — particularly the choice of spouse — strongly indicate that conquering Westeros is not high on her to-do list.

For Stannis, conquering Westeros is all there is. After spending the first half of the season giving Castle Black a thorough once-over, the last of the Five Kings decides it’s finally time to head down to Winterfell. Despite his stated advantages (“more men, more horses, all fed and rested”) and desire to avoid the coming winter, Stannis’ decision somehow feels wrong here. From Ser Davos cautioning his king against bringing Selyse and Shireen along to Jon Snow promising to return the borrowed ships, it certainly has all the makings of another vintage Game of Thrones tragedy. Plus, the moment anyone is presented as a suitable candidate for the Iron Throne (Stannis’ moments of compassion these last few episodes have likely made him appear at least a bit more worthy of the honor), that’s when you know they’re doomed. Oh, and it doesn’t help that Stannis will have to square off against what can best be described as evil incarnate — always a formidable opponent in Westeros.

It has been absolutely no secret these last few seasons that evil incarnate is exactly what Roose and Ramsey Bolton are, but in case you needed a reminder, Bryan Cogman (credited with scripting the episode) was more than happy to oblige. First there’s Ramsey, who quickly dispels the highly unlikely possibility that the mere sight of Sansa Stark turned him into a new man. Instead, he’s still sleeping with and abusing fellow sadomasochist-in-crime Miranda. Miranda, in turn, does her best to — for lack of a better description — completely creep out Sansa while the latter is staring up at the tower from which her brother was pushed way back in the show’s first episode. Then Miranda sends Sansa into the nearby kennel, complete with a pack of dogs barking and scratching at their cages. That’s unsettling enough as it is, but it would be even more so were Sansa aware of Miranda’s disturbing canine exploits. At the very end of the structure, Theon — pardon me, Reek — is housed in the final cage. He’s so fully house-broken the door on his cage doesn’t even need to be closed, let alone locked.

Then it’s back to Ramsey, who instructs Theon — sorry, sorry, Reek — to apologize to Sansa for killing the younger Stark brothers and follows up that delightful bit of compelled contrition with the declaration that Reek will be the one to give Sansa away on their wedding day. “Yes, we are strange,” he admits. But just when you think it can’t get any worse in that family, there’s Roose Bolton. Having just announced that he has impregnated his wife, Bolton attempts to comfort Ramsey by telling his bastard-turned-rightful-heir what could most accurately be described as the bizarro version of Stannis’ heartfelt chat with Shireen a week ago. It sounds pretty much like your usual Bolton father-son talk: Roose wanted the wife of the miller (Ramsey’s mother), so he hanged the miller, then raped the wife underneath her husband’s corpse. It very nearly sounded like he wanted to be commended for not hanging her too. Anyhow, since he didn’t, Ramsey’s here now and Roose would very much like him to help defeat Stannis when he arrives at Winterfell. They’re so evil it’s hard to imagine they could ever lose.

Losing a war that — though far less imminent — appears far more dangerous, is what inspires Jon Snow to buck roughly 8,000 years of Night’s Watch tradition. The new Lord Commander would like to invite the Wildlings below the Wall, to take the lands of the people they once slaughtered without mercy. Of course, it’s all for the greater good. After all, those left above the Wall would at best be slaughtered by the White Walkers, and at worst, join their ranks. Tens of thousands of Wildlings would offer much needed reinforcements (or at least backup) for the dwindling forces at Castle Black. Though Jon Snow professed his concern to Master Aemon that “half the men will hate me the moment I gives the order,” he may have been a little too optimistic. To a man — including his own squire Olly and de-facto Wildling leader Tormund — everyone hates the idea. It’s so universally reviled, that it’s hard to believe no one dropped in a “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” but perhaps Melisandre already used up this season’s quota with last week’s quip. Despite the doubts of his comrades and enemies, Jon will sail north with Tormund on Stannis’ ships to retrieve the Wildlings and bring them back below the Wall. What could possibly go wrong?

At the very least, Jon and company won’t have to deal with the Stone Men that Tyrion and Jorah Mormont encountered while passing through Old Valyria. Perhaps best described as a less isolated, more scorched, less submerged version of Atlantis, Old Valyria is the ancestral home of the Targaryens and the current home of the Stone Men. For the second week in a row, Game of Thrones concludes with an ambush. This time around, however, neither of our protagonists die, but if Tyrion’s words in the wake of the attack are try, perhaps Jorah would have been better off with “a dagger to the heart” than his likely fate after being touched by one of the men. Shireen had an entire continent’s worth of healers to save her — Jorah likely won’t be so lucky, whether he reaches his Queen or not.

And now for the hail of arrows:

  • We very briefly see Brienne and Podrick. Naturally, the former is still trying to save Sansa (and would likely be in a bit more of a rush if she knew the full extent of the Boltons’ depravity). One other thing to keep an eye on here: Brienne has sworn to avenge Renly by killing Stannis, who is headed straight for her.
  • A rare King’s Landing-less episode! Something tells me the Sparrows are still causing some problems there.
  • No update on the adventures of Jaime and Bronn, but whatever they’re up to, it’s a good bet Bronn is still doing much of the heavy lifting.
  • No appearance from Arya either. Or Littlefinger. Or Varys. They’re all still alive though, which is nice for them.
  • This week, in Professor Stannis’ Grammar 101 course: “Less enemies for us.” “Fewer.”
  • Jon Snow: “Winter is coming. We know what’s coming with it. We can’t face it alone.” Stannis may not have overheard that declaration, but his instructions to Sam about researching killing methods for the White Walkers clearly indicates that he takes the threat seriously.
  • Tyrion: “Long, sullen silences and an occasion punch in the face: The Mormont Way.”
TIME Television

Walton Goggins on the Series Finale of Justified and the Fate of Boyd Crowder

Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder in the series finale of 'Justified.'
FX Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder in the series finale of 'Justified.'

The actor discusses the show's final episode, Boyd's relationship with Raylan Givens and his upcoming projects with Quentin Tarantino and Danny McBride

Spoilers for last night’s season finale of Justified follow below.

Boyd Crowder was a great many things—criminal, villain, outlaw, preacher, lover, enemy, friend. But perhaps more than anything else, he was Harlan County’s great survivor. If the gospel according to Elmore Leonard had followed to the letter, Boyd (Walton Goggins) would have died in Justified‘s very first episode. Instead, Boyd made it to the show’s very last. He survived two bullets to the chest, one from each of his soulmates: Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter). He also endured countless attempts on his life, innumerable betrayals and a litany of would-be Harlan County kings. Those imposters all ended up dead, and even though Boyd didn’t fulfill his dream of opening up a Dairy Queen, he did escape Harlan with his life.

Much of the credit for Boyd and his legacy goes to Justified‘s creator, Graham Yost, but it was Walton Goggins’ portrayal of the Kentucky crime lord that compelled Yost to keep Goggins around beyond the pilot and straight through to the show’s very last scene.TIME spoke with Goggins about the show coming to an end, the possibility of a Boyd-centric spinoff and the actor’s upcoming projects.

TIME: How does it feel now that the show is finally ending—or, how did it feel when it ended for you?

Walton Goggins: You know, it was much harder than I anticipated. I’ve been through this once with The Shield and I knew relatively what I was in store for, and then the day came, the last week came, and I was actually going back and forth between “The Hateful Eight,” and the movie, and the show. And I thought, “Well, I’m going to be fine,” and then the moment came—the realization came that morning, on my last morning—that this was it. It was the last time I’m going to be buttoning my shirt all the way to the top and speaking the way the Boyd Crowder speaks.

Needless to say, we saved the last scene that Raylan and Boyd have together—that Tim [Olyphant] and I had together for the last day—and I just almost couldn’t get through it.

It was very, very difficult and we tried to stay in this very Zen place, and when it was over, I just broke down. And there happened to be a 100 people from both networks—Sony and FX—and a lot of good people who worked very, very hard behind the monitor, on hand to watch this scene happen, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. It was a real cathartic experience I think for everyone. But it was sad, and then thankfully, right after that, they did them out of order. I got to do Boyd Crowder on a high note, which was him and the prison sanctuary.

I got to go out on Boyd Crowder and preach it. I think literally the last words I said as Boyd Crowder were, “I got the wind in my face!” [Laughs]

Very fitting.

Yeah, so it was. As it turned out, it was a great high to end on and then it was—you know… But I’m doing better today and getting some proper perspective on the experience and I suppose it’s kind of a delayed grieving process because I’m working on something else right now, and it’ll catch up with me sometime later on this summer.

At this point, every fan of the show is more or less aware that Boyd was initially supposed to die in that very first episode. But instead he made it all the way to the very last scene of the final episode and didn’t die at all. Was that something that you had hoped for, or had you thought at all about that, as you were going through the process of the final season?

You know I have had my designs on the ending that I wanted for Boyd, for a number of years. And I pitched it to Graham [Yost] for the end of Season 3. I saw it and it was this beautiful trajectory, and I thought it was a fitting way to end this journey that I had hoped to continue on. And it ended with a bullet for Boyd. I think in some ways it would have been easier for me, as an actor, to let him go knowing that he was dead and gone, and I wouldn’t have to think about what he’s doing every day.

But circumstances dictated the ending that we have, and at the beginning of the season, Graham set me down with the other producers on the show, and we talked about it and we said, “Well, you know, what if nobody dies? It would be very, very painful for people to see Boyd actually die.” I agreed with that and I think that Graham made the right decision, although he put Boyd through hell over the last five episodes, and Boyd crossed lines that were so far outside of his own moral compass that it was very difficult.

The penultimate episode when they asked me to kill Shea Whigham’s character, a working class hero—I had a real hard time with it, because that is who Boyd represents, that’s who he speaks up for when he speaks publicly and that man’s issues are the issues that he fights for. I can’t just arbitrarily commit that act, because that’s a psychopath, and Boyd Crowder is not a psychopath. He’s an outlaw, he’s a villain. I get that. But he also has a moral code, and the people that he’s killed in this show up until this point—aside from the pilot [episode]—were people that were trying to kill him.

And in the outlaw world, you’re given permission to do that. So they agreed, and we wrote that stuff for Boyd to say, and I really believe that that’s what he believed at that time. He’s so angry and bitter and hurt that it allowed for us to reach his absolute bottom, and it didn’t even happen with that. It really happened with what Ava says to him when he asks the only question that he wants to know the answer to before he died, which is, “Why?” And she says, “I just did what I thought that you would do.” There is no greater recipe for sobriety than the only person you trust and love in the world telling you that.

And there was such a start contrast between that final scene between Boyd and Raylan in the Bennett barn and how angry Boyd was, and then the scene in the prison four where the Boyd who obviously has a lot of affection for Raylan comes through.

Yeah, and you know he’s always loved Raylan. He loves him. Deeply. Sometimes I think more than probably Raylan loves him, or Raylan would ever admit.

Right.

Boyd’s the dude who wears his emotions on his sleeve for the most part. He’s a buttoned-down guy but he will tell you how he feels and where you stand: “If you cross me I’m going to kill you.” That’s it. But if you are an intellectual equal and we have dug coal together and we’ve had all these life experiences—then there’s a real affection there. There’s a levity, a lightness to Boyd that I did not anticipate when we sat down to do that last day in the chapel and then our last scene together. I realized that morning when I was getting my stuff on and I was walking in to rehearse, that it is through incarceration, through being at the whims of another person’s schedule and another person dictating the rhythms of Boyd’s day that he had probably more freedom than he’s had in a very long time. I would imagine he slept for the first two years and then finally kind of came out of this dark, morose hole and only to really be able to look at what he did, and to atone for it.

Even with the revelation of Ava’s death—at least to him— and the sadness that came from that news, he didn’t want Raylan to leave, and when he asks, “You have to go?” we know Boyd didn’t want him to go. And Raylan gives Boyd the only things things that he ever really wanted from Raylan, which is that an acknowledgment that Boyd loved Ava and that our friendship wasn’t just adversarial, but that it was rooted in the life experiences that we had growing up, all going back to working in the mines. Then Raylan says, “Because we dug coal together.” That is a metaphor for the life that they had led.

I always really enjoyed the end of Season 1, which had a similar tone.

Me too!

There’s that scene where Raylan has every reason in the world to stop Boyd or to shoot him or prevent him from driving away. But I thought it was really gratifying to see it come full circle and end on a scene like that after so many seasons of the two of them ending a year on different sides of the spectrum.

Yeah, it was a very, very small needle to thread, and I was so grateful that Graham decided to keep Boyd alive to have that scene. I think I can speak for Tim and fans of the show when I say this that the scenes between these two men, between Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder and the actors playing them mind you, were so rich and they were so nuanced and they were so many things over these years that to have it end with a six-page conversation, maybe it was always supposed to be that.

Obviously you spent a lot of your time over the course of the last six seasons with the two of them, Tim and Joelle [Carter]. Is there anyone you didn’t have a chance to work with as much as you might have liked?

Jeremy [Davies], you know, Dickie Bennett? He’s such a wonderful actor. Neil McDonough, who played Quarles. That was so, so much fun. I enjoyed obviously Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale) so much. I enjoyed Sam [Ellliott] from the season. But the one actor that I wish to God I had had more scenes with, and I’m damn happy with the one scene that we did have together is Garret Dillahunt. I have been a fan of Garrett’s for such a long time. I think he’s just one of the best in my generation and I wish that there was reason to have had more of an exchange with him because he just brings it, and so that’s one big one.

Is it sad for you that you won’t have a chance to play Boyd again? Where does he rank for you amongst the characters that you’ve played over the course of your career?

I am sad, yeah. I think that’s an appropriate word. Sad. I don’t have any regrets. There’s nothing that I would have done differently. I feel like I did it on my terms and he’s someone that I’m very, very close to and I’m very proud of. But I felt like it was time to go, that we had left no stone unturned in his evolution as a fictional character from the imagination of Elmore Leonard.

So while I’m sad, I am simultaneously relieved because it was a lot of weight to carry around for the last three years. You know that’s the thing about television in the 21st century, man, this era of TV. If you are one of the lucky few who get an opportunity to tell a 78 or 84 or 96-hour movie, after Season 3, it’s all going to be difficult from there. That’s just how it happens. Insert drama here. There’s still fun and games to be had, but if you’re telling a drama for today’s audience, you can bet some shit’s going to hit the fan. Those are long days, and I enjoy them immensely, but it’s time to lay them down. I’m still going to button shirt up to the top from time to time, and I’m still going to slip in his accent whenever I want to piss my wife off or drive her crazy. But yeah, I’m coming to terms with this being over.

And so I guess this means that we’re not going to get the spinoff that I’m sure I’m not the only one hoping for, where Boyd breaks out and finally gets to open that Dairy Queen that he’s been talking about?

Well, never say never. [Laughs] I mean it is Elmore Leonard after all, and his characters live on. So you know, I don’t know. That’s in the hands of the people that make that decision. But it’d be hard to say no sometime in the future. Just not tomorrow.

On a slightly more small-scale note, I feel compelled to ask whether you’re a bourbon fan in real life and whether you’ve ever actually ordered Boyd’s usual [four fingers of Elmer T. Lee], which I think would be pretty much an entire glass.

Yeah, absolutely. That’s when he’s feeling particularly frisky. I actually have a few bottles at the house, but I won’t drink it with everybody. I like whiskey, I like scotch, I like bourbon—and I’ve got more than a few bottles at the house. But I’ll only drink Elmer T, I’ll only pull that out with someone very, very special because it’s not top-top shelf but it’s my top-top shelf.

It’s good stuff.

So, uh, so yeah. I have done that both outside of and inside my house. [Laughs]

You’re working on The Hateful Eight right now. Is your character like anything you’ve played before? It seems like given his title he might be on the other side of the law a bit.

Well it’s hard to say in a Quentin Tarantino movie on which side of the law you’re on, you know? Everything is up for grabs. It’s anyone’s guess, really. And what’s been so nice about this opportunity other than the obvious and getting to work with QT again and all of these unbelievable actors—these f—ing icons—is that it’s in the same vein [as Justified].

Elmore was a hero of Quentin’s, and Quentin may be the only other person on the planet that can write in a similar tone when he wants to. Quentin is the master of a scene, and Elmore was the master of a scene, and so I’m just giddy every single day I go to work.

And then from this I’ll go do this [HBO] comedy series, called Vice Principals with Danny McBride and Jody Hill and David Gordon Green, and I’m just beside myself with anticipation about this experience because I think they’re just some of the smartest and best guys working in comedy today. And I’m just happy to throw my hat in their ring and to be invited on their boat.

So here we go man! It’s as politically incorrect as they come, and it’s f—ing good!

Between Tarantino and then McBride and Jody Hill on the other end of the spectrum, it definitely seems like everything is going really well at the moment.

A day at a time, my man! A day at a time.

TIME Television

Game of Thrones Watch: Dead Lords and Monsters

Helen Sloan—HBO Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen.

Tywin Lannister's death has left a power vacuum in Westeros, but few seem ready—or qualified—to fill the void

Spoilers for last night’s Game of Thrones follow:

“The good lords are dead, and the rest are monsters.”

If the opening episode of the fifth season of Game of Thrones is any indication, we’re likely to spend the next nine weeks finding out whether Brienne of Tarth is right. It’s certainly not difficult to appreciate her point of view. She’s seen Renly Baratheon killed by a rather literal demon spawn right in front of her eyes and heard tell of the atrocities visited upon her next liege, Catelyn Stark, and Catelyn’s son Robb at the Red Wedding. Brienne is also no doubt aware of the execution of the honorable Ned Stark, and may have even received word that the righteous Oberyn Martell had his head crushed, Gallagher-style, by Gregor Clegane. So yeah, you could probably forgive her if her opinion of the world is as bleak as the new True Detective teaser at the moment.

Unfortunately, the outlook elsewhere throughout Westeros and across the Narrow Sea isn’t much sunnier. Only a few days have passed since the conclusion of Season 4, but anyone expecting Tywin Lannister’s demise to bring newfound hope and optimism to the Game of Thrones universe will be as disappointed as those forced to watch Robin Arryn engage in swordplay.

Cersei is still in King’s Landing, having added a dead father to her ever-growing tally of deceased family members, which already included a son she loved and a husband she loathed. Though now freed (presumably) from her obligation to mary Loras Tyrell, Cersei remains committed to coping with her father’s death in the only way she knows how: trying to drink her way through the capital’s plentiful stock of Dornish wine, berating her brother Jaime and doing her level best to ignore everyone else while keeping a disapproving eye on the budding romance between her last remaining son, King Tommen, and unlucky-in-love Margaery Tyrell. Even the return of a chiseled and short-haired Lancel Lannister, who rededicated his life to a religious fundamentalist order known as the “Sparrows” in the wake of the Battle of Blackwater, does little to sway Cersei from her path toward total and utter spite-filled misery.

It’s a path that her younger brother and avowed arch-enemy Tyrion knows all too well. Whereas the journey of Arya Stark (absent from the premiere) to Essos at the end of Season 4 appeared to suggest a new beginning, Tyrion seems determined to make his own crossing the start of a bitter, wine-drenched end. (His is another bleak outlook difficult to find fault with, given that he traveled days in a tiny crate, pushing his own feces through the crate’s little holes after killing his father and the woman he loved in cold blood.) “The future is shit,” Tyrion declares, “just like the past.”

Tyrion’s travel companion, Varys, isn’t particularly inclined to agree with that assessment. In fact, if anyone (other than Littlefinger—currently in transit with Sansa Stark to somewhere that certainly isn’t The Fingers) has reason to celebrate the way things have turned out since the death of John Arryn, it’s the Master of Whispers. It’s possible to forget this far down the road, but Varys was more or less serving as a spy in Robert Baratheon’s small council, feeding information back to supporters of House Targaryen. Since then, much of the potpourri of power-players throughout Westeros have met their demise: Robert, Ned Stark, Robb Stark, Renly Baratheon, King Joffrey, Tywin Lannister—all dead. Stannis Baratheon is still trying to consolidate the power in the North and Tommen isn’t nearly the force he would have been with Tywin pulling his strings. Varys may have once decried chaos as a pit, but pits can be rather welcome when it’s your enemies who are falling into them.

Varys has never made any secret of his affection for Tyrion, but his decision to smuggle Tyrion away from King’s Landing was as much strategic as altruistic. During his brief reign as the King’s Hand, Tyrion proved himself a far more skilled political operator than his predecessor or his siblings. And, of course, it wouldn’t hurt Daenerys’ chances of claiming the Iron Throne if she had the support of a Lannister upon her return to Westeros.

At the moment, however, that doomed throne is the least of Daenerys’ concerns. There was something odd about watching a member of the Unsullied wind his way through the alleys of a brothel, seemingly enchanted by the women offering their services. Up to this point, we’ve seen Grey Worm’s troops care about nothing other than serving and killing, not necessarily in that order. And even though it turned out there was nothing particularly untoward about White Rat’s intentions—refusing the unrealistic offer of sex in favor of a comforting song—Game of Thrones followed its usual pattern of quickly replacing fulfillment with death, and White Rat got his throat slit all the same.

That it is far easier to conquer than rule is a lesson Daenyerys has been forced to learn since last season, and the murder of an Unsullied only reinforces it. Daeny’s words still sound good (“Angry snakes lash out. Makes chopping off their heads that much easier”), but her ability to back them up appears severely diminished. The power granted by her army of Unsullied is tossed off with the explanation that anyone with gold can buy them (though I was under the impression that Dany had basically cleaned out Astapor when she swept through the town back in Season 3). As Daario Naharis says in a moment of post-coital frankness, the Dragon Queen cannot be Queen without dragons. Rhetorical redundancy aside, Daario has a point: an inexperienced ruler in a foreign land—no matter how gifted—ain’t as intimidating without dragons at her side. Daenerys knows that, which is why she enters the dungeon where she had Rhaegal and Viserion chained up, but her excursion seemed as short-sighted as her refusal to even consider acquiescing to Yunkai’s sole request that it be allowed to keep its Fighting Pits. The dragons breathe their fire and Daeny scurries out of the cavernous room, looking much more like fearful girl of the show’s first season rather than the confident woman of its later years.

If you believe in the totally made-up law of conservation of confidence, you’ll find pretty much all of it concentrated at Castle Black. Stannis has renewed purpose after his relatively bloodless defeat of the Wildlings north of The Wall, Melisandre is showing off her impressive ability to maintain homeostasis in Boston-like conditions and Jon Snow is doing what he does best: parrying with inferior competition and delivering impassioned speeches to important people who have absolutely no interest in what he has to say. In this particular instance, the important person on the receiving end of Snow’s impassioned pleas is Mance Rayder. Rayder, captured by Stannis at the conclusion of Season 4, is being asked to bend the knee to the Baratheon would-be-king and to help Stannis lead the Wildlings into battle at Winterfell. The King Beyond the Wall doesn’t have to bend the knee, but the alternative is being burned alive, so Snow is predictably keen to convince Mance to throw his support behind Stannis rather than meet a crispy demise.

Their exchange is one of the episode’s best, with Snow proving him every bit Mance’s equal—something that was certainly not the case during their first meeting in Season 3. The respect Snow has for Mance is mutual, and the crow’s argument in favor of Mance joining forces with Stannis is sound (not dying, getting further away from the Whitewalkers, saving countless innocent women and children, maintaining the tenuous alliance between Wildling tribes). It doesn’t matter. Mance says it’s not pride that drives him, but it’s a difficult claim to fully believe. Perhaps Snow’s assessment that Mance is “afraid to be afraid” is more accurate, but the end result remains the same: Mance would rather die than take any action that could be seen as a betrayal of his Wildling brethren.

And so, for the first time since the first episode of Season 2, we watch Melisandre set a man ablaze while Stannis looks on approvingly. Jon Snow, having seen and heard quite enough by the time the flames reach Mance’s boots, ducks out of the crowd and fires an arrow into Mance’s heart, sparing him a slow and excruciating death. It’s a small triumph, but it does little change the reality of what Stannis has effected: another good lord killed by a monster. Brienne may have been right after all.

And now for the hail of arrows:

  • As mentioned above, no Arya in this episode, but it’s a safe bet that she’ll surface before long. Ditto Theon and the murderous father-son duo of Roose Bolton and Ramsey.
  • We’d been told there would be flashbacks in this season for the first time, but you’d be forgiven if you didn’t know that’s what you were seeing in the episode’s opening scene (even though the girl’s tone, sense of entitlement and threats of violence were pure Cersei).
  • Tough run of luck for Jaime Lannister, huh? He loses a hand, his sister breaks up with him when he finally makes it home, he’s compelled to send his best friend on a Quixotic journey to ensure the safety of the daughters of his dead rival, and he frees his brother from prison, only to see him turn around and murder his father.
  • No word yet on the Clegane clan. Last we saw them, the Mountain was in better shape than his little brother, if only slightly.
TIME Sports

The ‘Death Penalty’ and How the College Sports Conversation Has Changed

Mustangs Texas A&M Football
Bill Jansch—AP Photo Southern Methodist University tailback Erick Dickerson is all smiles on Nov. 2, 1982, in Texas Stadium.

On Feb. 25, 1987, the Southern Methodist University football team was suspended for an entire season. Nearly two decades later, the program has yet to recover

“It’s like what happened after we dropped the [atom] bomb in World War II. The results were so catastrophic that now we’ll do anything to avoid dropping another one.”

That’s how John Lombardi, former president of the University of Florida, described the so-called “death penalty” levied upon Southern Methodist University in 1987 after the NCAA determined that the school had been paying several of its football players.

Until the punishment came down—on this day, Feb. 25, in 1987—SMU had seemed like the opposite of a cautionary tale. The tiny Dallas university, with just 6,000 students, had finished its 1982 season undefeated, ranking No. 2 in the nation and winning the Cotton Bowl, and added a second Southwest Conference championship to its résumé two years later. The SMU of the early 1980s stood toe-to-toe with conference powers Texas, Texas A&M and Arkansas—and proved itself their equal.

Trouble was, SMU needed help standing with those giants. There aren’t many ways to build a dominant football program on the fly, but if you’re going to try, you need a coach who can convince a bunch of teenagers that they’re better off coming to your unheralded program than they are heading down the road to Austin or College Station or hopping a plane to Los Angeles or South Bend. That’s no easy task, even for a recruiter as gifted as Ron Meyer, who became SMU’s head coach in 1976. Sometimes promises of playing time or TV exposure aren’t enough—especially when your competitors are offering the same things, only more and better. Though the Mustangs weren’t caught till a decade after Meyer arrived in Dallas, there’s every reason to suspect SMU and its boosters had been bending the rules for years.

When the other cleat dropped, it dropped hard. The death penalty—part of the “repeat violators” rule in official NCAA parlance—wiped out SMU’s entire 1987 season and forced the Mustangs to cancel their 1988 campaign as well. So, when Lombardi compared the punishment to the nuclear option, in 2002, the analogy seemed like an apt one. For years, scorched earth was all that remained of the SMU football program, and of the idea of paying players.

Now, however, the conversation has changed.

Dallas itself played a major role in the rapid rise and ferocious fall of the Mustangs. By the 1970s, the northern Texas city was a growing metropolis, a hub for businessmen who had recently acquired their fortunes thanks to oil and real estate. Virtually to a man, each had a college football team he supported, and with that support came an intense sense of pride, not to mention competition. Combine that environment with the enormous success of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys during the 1970s as they assumed the title of “America’s team,” and it’s easy to see how so much pressure was placed on SMU.

With Ron Meyer’s arrival at the university, the goal became to dovetail the success of the Cowboys with the Mustangs’ performance—and he fit right in with the image that Dallas had begun to embody. He was brash, he was charming, he was dapper; the comparisons with Dallas’ J.R. Ewing came all too easily. And like Ewing, Meyer could be ruthless, pursuing recruits throughout eastern Texas with near-mythic fervor.

And the best myths have a dragon to slay. For Meyer, that dragon was Eric Dickerson. Dickerson was one of the nation’s top prospects—a high school running back so gifted he could have chosen any school in the country to play for in 1979. By all accounts, SMU wasn’t even in the running. They’d come a long way toward respectability since Meyer had arrived, but still weren’t on a level with Oklahoma or USC or Notre Dame. Plus, Dickerson had already committed to Texas A&M (and famously received a Pontiac Trans-Am that SMU supporters had dubbed the ‘Trans A&M’ right around the same time). But then, suddenly, miraculously, Dickerson had a change of heart. He decommitted from A&M and picked SMU shortly thereafter.

To this day, that decision remains a mystery wrapped in an enigma. There’s a section of ESPN 30 for 30’s excellent documentary about the SMU scandal, The Pony Exce$$—a riff on the SMU backfield, Dickerson and classmate Craig James, which was dubbed ‘The Pony Express’—about Dickerson’s recruiting process. No one involved, from Meyer to the boosters to Dickerson himself, would say how he really ended up at SMU. But none of them were able to contain the smirks that crept across their faces when they talked about the coup. There’s a reason that a popular sports joke in the early ’80s was that Dickerson took a pay-cut when he graduated and went to the NFL.

Dickerson changed everything for the Mustangs. With him powering SMU’s vaunted offense, the team became a force to be reckoned with in the Southwest Conference. Greater success, however, brought with it greater scrutiny. SMU was in a difficult position because Dallas had such a vibrant and competitive sports media scene (led by the Dallas Morning News and the Dallas Times Herald) at the time—one increasingly focused on investigative journalism in the wake of Watergate. The school’s status as a relative neophyte in the world of big-time college football and lack of rapport with the NCAA also did them no favors. There’s little question that other programs in the Southwest Conference were engaged in recruiting practices that bent the rules when it was possible, but none had quite as many eyes on them as the Mustangs.

Bobby Collins took over in 1982 and led SMU to its undefeated season, after Meyer left to be head coach of the hapless New England Patriots, but the Mustangs would never again reach those dizzying heights. Despite a growing recruiting reach, Collins failed to lure top-caliber prospects to Dallas, even with the help of the program’s increasingly notorious group of boosters. Instead, SMU became better known for its damning misfires, the first of which was Sean Stopperich, a prep star from Pittsburgh. Stopperich was paid $5,000 to commit and moved his family to Texas, but SMU had failed to realize that Stopperich’s career as a useful football player was already over. The offensive lineman had blown out his knee in high school, spent little time on the field for the Mustangs and left the university after just one year. Upon his departure from SMU, Stopperich became the first key witness for the NCAA in its pursuit of SMU.

The first round of penalties came down in 1985, banning SMU from bowl games for two seasons and stripping the program of 45 scholarships over a two-year period. At the time, those were considered some of the harshest sanctions in NCAA history. In response, Bill Clements, chairman of the board of governors for SMU, hung a group of the school’s boosters—dubbed the “Naughty Nine” by the media—out to dry, blaming them for the program’s infractions and the university’s sullied reputations.

Shortly thereafter, the NCAA convened a special meeting to discuss new, harsher rules for cheating, the most severe of which was the death penalty. (Despite Texas’ reputation as a pro-death penalty state for felons, its universities were some of the new rules’ staunchest opponents.) Still, due to the sanction’s power, few believed it would ever be used.

If SMU had cut off its payments to players immediately, it might not have been. Instead, the school and its boosters implemented a “phase-out” plan, which meant they would continue paying the dozen or so athletes to whom they had promised money until their graduation. One of those students-athletes, David Stanley, came forward after being kicked off the team and gave a televised interview outlining the improper benefits he had received from SMU. His words alone may not have been enough to damn the university, but an appearance on Dallas’ ABC affiliate, WFAA, by Coach Collins, athletic director Bob Hitch and recruiting coordinator Henry Lee Parker sealed the program’s fate.

Their interview with WFAA’s sports director Dale Hansen is a mesmerizing watch. Hansen sets a beautiful trap for Parker involving a letter that the recruiting director had initialed, and the recruiting coordinator walks right into it, all but proving that payments to players came directly from the recruiting office. The fact that Parker, Collins and Hitch looked uncomfortably guilty the entire time didn’t help their case.

The NCAA continued gathering evidence, and on Feb. 25, 1987—a gray, drizzly day in Dallas—it announced it would be giving SMU the death penalty. The man who made the announcement, the NCAA Director of Enforcement David Berst, fainted moments after handing down the sentence, in full view of the assembled media. SMU football, for all intents and purposes, was dead. The team managed just one winning season from 1989 to 2008, in no small part because the rest of the university community had decided it wanted nothing to do with a program that had brought so much infamy to the school.

The initial reaction to the penalty—both in Dallas and throughout the country—was one of shock. The Mustangs had gone from undefeated to non-existent in just five years. Few, however, could deny that if the NCAA were going to have a death penalty, then SMU was certainly deserving of it. But the fallout from the penalty was worse than anticipated; perhaps not coincidentally, in the decades since 1987, the penalty has never once been used against a Division I school.

Over the last two decades, the conversation that surrounded SMU’s fall from grace has changed even more. These days, those in and around the world of college sports don’t talk much about what the penalties for paying players should be; instead, many are wondering whether there should be any penalty at all for paying college athletes. The arguments in favor of paying college athletes are manifold, especially considering they often generate millions on behalf of their universities. Few, however, would argue that players should be paid in secret (or while still in high school). Any sort of pecuniary compensation that student-athletes receive would, as in pro sports, require some sort of regulation.

Despite the recent groundswell of support, the NCAA appears reluctant to change its rules. At some point, the governing body of college sports may not have a choice, especially if wants to avoid further legal trouble.

Ron Meyer, the SMU coach who nabbed Eric Dickerson more than 25 years ago, would famously walk into high schools throughout Texas and pin his business card to the biggest bulletin board he could find. Stuck behind it would be a $100 bill. That sort of shenanigan may not be the future of college sports, but we may be getting closer to the day when money isn’t a four-letter word for student-athletes.

Read TIME’s 2013 cover story about the ongoing debate over paying college athletes, here in the TIME Vault: It’s Time to Pay College Athletes

TIME movies

There Are So Many Reasons Why Donald Glover Should Be the Next Spider-Man

Donald Glover AKA Childish Gambino at he 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards.
Lester Cohen—WireImage Could this be the face of the next Peter Parker?

The dream has lived only as a hashtag for long enough

On Monday night, Marvel announced that it would bring “the amazing world of Spider-Man” into its Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The particulars of the deal between Marvel and Sony Pictures — which owns the rights to Spider-Man — are a little complicated, but the upshot is this: Spider-Man will be an Avenger while also continuing to appear in standalone films. Also of note: Andrew Garfield is not expected to reprise the role.

The deal makes sense for all sorts of reasons, most notably because it returns a huge, blockbuster character to Marvel, and also because it will provide a jolt of life to a character that has grown stale over the last few years. It’s hard to blame Garfield for the stagnancy of the franchise, but he and the writers of the last two Spider-Man films struggled to differentiate the Spidey of the reboot from Tobey Maguire’s wildly successful version from the early 2000s. It’s an issue Sony and the producers might have avoided had they thought a little more outside the box when casting their new lead prior to 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man. Now, Marvel and Sony have a chance to avoid making that same mistake twice. All they have to do is make the decision that Sony should have made the first time around.

In some ways, Donald Glover is almost too obvious a choice to play Peter Parker. Glover’s public persona of the sorta-nerdy-sorta-shy-often-misunderstood-and-under-appreciated-but-totally-brilliant guy is just about as Parker-esque as it gets in the acting world. It probably helps that Glover isn’t really an actor per se, but an artist, in the most 21st-century sense of the word — someone whose goal is to make cool, thoughtful art, regardless of the medium. It could be acting, it could be rapping, it could be writing, it could be graphic design; sometimes it’s a combination of all those things. Glover has never aspired to be just one thing — he wants to be as many things as he can be.

That’s a quintessentially millennial impulse. Members of this generation aren’t picking one profession and staying there for life, or specializing in one subject. And in different ways than their predecessors, millennials are addressing social issues: bullying, racism, sexism, homophobia and a host of others. The world doesn’t need another white male superhero to send the message that nothing has changed; Sony tried that once and wasn’t rewarded for it. The world has changed — is changing — and our superheroes should change with it.

The #DonaldForSpiderman movement took off after Glover — in a long-since deleted tweet — suggested he’d like the opportunity to audition for the role in Marc Webb’s 2012 reboot. At the time, Glover was wrapping up his first season as Troy Barnes on NBC’s Community. Though the Community gig was his first major acting role, Glover’s notoriety far outpaced his mainstream resume. The now-31-year-old Georgia native was big on the Internet, just as being big on the Internet started becoming an actual thing. His Derrick Comedy sketch group had released a handful of shorts, along with the feature length Mystery Team in 2009. Glover also had a burgeoning rap career under the pseudonym Childish Gambino, with a pair of mixtapes to his name. Pair all that together with his Writers Guild awards for 30 Rock (he was hired straight out of NYU), and it was obvious that Glover was headed for bigger and better things, sooner rather than later.

Still, Glover probably would have been the first to admit that he wasn’t the safest bet for a multi-billion dollar franchise at that point of his career. What he understood less were the objections to his candidacy because of his race:

The objections were ridiculous then, but they’d seem even more out of place now. The new Captain America is black; the new Thor is a woman. Even though neither of those changes have crossed over to the big screen yet, the changes in the comics mean it’s all but inevitable that there will be corresponding ones in the MCU somewhere down the road. The world is ready for a black Spider-Man on the big screen.

The bigger question might be whether Glover is still willing to take on the role. He’s now a Grammy-nominated rapper with a few more seasons of Community under his belt (he left the show in early 2014), as well as various film credits. Last December, FX ordered a pilot for Glover’s Atlanta-based comedy series that he’ll star in, write and executive produce. If he wasn’t established enough before, he’s certainly much closer now — and debuting in a Marvel film would give audiences a chance to familiarize themselves with their new Peter Parker a bit before he stars in a standalone Spider-Man film in 2017. Plus, in the standup clip above, he says frankly, “Who doesn’t want to be Spider-Man? That would be cool.”

On the other hand, Glover has demonstrated an aversion to being tied down throughout his career. He left his writing gig at 30 Rock before the end of the show’s run to star in Community. Then, he left Community before the end of its run, primarily to focus more on his rap career. He also dropped off the radar for nearly a year back in 2012, deleted his popular blog and Twitter account (now somewhat resurrected) and has dramatically scaled back his once-prominent social media presence. He’s an entertainer with a lot of interests beyond acting, and becoming Spider-Man would require that those other interests take a backseat.

It’s a stretch to say that the power of Glover’s undeniable Internet popularity gives him the responsibility to pursue the Spider-Man role, but Marvel and Sony — not to mention audiences — would be lucky to have him. At this point, the “Donald for Spider-Man” campaign might be more necessary to convince Childish Gambino himself rather than producers. Fans would be lucky to have it prove more successful than the last one.

Read next: This 1 Chart Shows Why Sony Spun a Spider-Man Deal

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Chris Pratt Almost Wasn’t the Lead in Guardians of the Galaxy

Glenn Howerton at the 2014 Emmy Awards
Kevork Djansezian/NBC—NBC via Getty Images This was almost the face of Starlord.

The role was nearly awarded to another member of one of TV's most-acclaimed comedies

There were lots of interesting bits from Drew Magary’s profile of Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt in the December issue of GQ, but perhaps the most revelatory was one that didn’t quite make the cut. According to outtakes from the piece, posted on The Concourse, Pratt’s character Star-Lord was nearly played by Glenn Howerton, best known as Dennis on It’s Always Sunny on Philadelphia.

According to Magary, here’s what director James Gunn had to say: “Glenn came along a little bit later, but there was a good chance that, if I didn’t cast Chris, that I would’ve cast Glenn Howerton in the role.” (That sound you hear is the breaking hearts of die-hard Always Sunny fans.)

As crazy as that is, maybe even crazier is the fact that Howerton himself had no idea how close he came to landing the life-changing role:

Gunn confirmed the report earlier this afternoon:

There’s little question that Pratt proved a runaway success in the role (you don’t have an entire summer named after you without having a pretty good one), but that won’t stop fans from imagining what might have been if Howerton had inhabited the role.

On their respective critically-acclaimed TV comedies—Parks and Recreation for Pratt, Always Sunny for Howerton—their roles are drastically different, with Pratt playing a kind-hearted simpleton and Howerton a narcissistic sociopath. Starlord clearly resides in the vast space between the two, but it’s imaginable that Howerton might have had an even more biting take on the role, even if he didn’t go full Dennis.

Even if coming so close might sting for Howerton, he’s got the fact that he’s a golden god to fall back on. Oh, and Always Sunny returns for its 10th season in January.

[via The Concourse]

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