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Macall B. Polay/HBO via Facebook
Macall B. Polay/HBO via Facebook

5 Game of Thrones Podcasts For Every Type of Fan

Macall B. Polay/HBO via Facebook
Macall B. Polay/HBO via Facebook

Last weekend, Game of Thrones stormed back into our lives, delivering more head-scratchers than answers (which is how we like it, right?).

Fortunately, dozens of podcasts aim to help us unpack every detail. This week on iTunes, several Thrones-themed shows popped up in the top 25. HBO even launched its own post-show, After the Thrones, hosted by Grantland’s former Game of Thrones podcasters, Andy Greenwald and Chris Ryan. (And hey, mental_floss has partnered with Den of Geek for a GoT podcast now, too, featuring mental_floss magazine's executive editor Foster Kamer and art director Lucy Quintanilla. Stream the first ep of You Still Know Nothing over at DenofGeek.com.)

So, in a sea of shows, which might suit you best? Some ideas:

1. OR FANS OF THE HBO SHOW AND/OR THE BOOKS: A CAST OF KINGS

The lowdown: Hosted by Dave Chen and Vanity Fair writer Joanna Robinson, this podcast offers the perspective of someone who has read the books (Robinson) and someone who has only seen the TV show (Chen). A spoiler-free policy keeps it kosher for all listeners, and while the hosts do love the series, they aren’t afraid to criticize it.

The hosts say: “What fascinates me about Game of Thrones the most is this question of adaptation: What kind of storytelling works really well in the books but not so much onscreen, and vice versa,” Robinson says. She adds, “While I do love the show, I love the community around it even more. … Everyone, from the president down to your barista, is probably watching Game of Thrones. That makes it so fun to debate, theorize, and rehash.”

Chen, who also hosts The /Filmcast, notes the podcast’s audience has grown exponentially. “I couldn't be more psyched to go through this journey with our listeners for yet another season of one of the best shows on TV,” he says.

Already love it? Try A Storm of Spoilers, a Game of Thrones podcast hosted by Geek.com’s Da7e Gonzales, Film School Rejects’s Neil Miller and … Joanna Robinson. Yep, Robinson hosts two Thrones podcasts; the difference here is that Storm is chock full o’ book spoilers and gleeful “crackpot theories.”

2. FOR LOVERS OF DRAGONS AND PUBLIC RADIO: NERDETTE RECAPS GAME OF THRONES WITH PETER SAGAL

The lowdown: The title pretty much says it all. Here, the hosts of WBEZ’s gloriously geeky Nerdette, Greta Johnsen and Tricia Bobeda, team with Sagal from NPR’s popular weekly quiz show, Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!. While Sagal and Bobeda are gaga for the GoT, Johnsen is completely over it, which adds to the fun. (“They are the fire, I’m the ice,” she says.)

The hosts say: “We take making a fun show seriously,” Johnsen says. “We want our recaps to be satisfying for the somewhat casual watchers and superfans in the audience. And we want it to feel like they get to commute or cook dinner—or whatever it is they're doing while they're listening—with nerdy friends.”

Already love it? Try the Boing Boing-approved Boars, Gore, and Swords from comedians Ivan Hernandez and Red Scott or Sistah Speak: Game of Thrones, which offers lengthy recaps and reactions from its enthusiastic female hosts.

3. FOR FANS WHO LOVE FANS: GAME OF OWNS

The lowdown: It can be difficult to distinguish fan-created Game of Thrones podcasts from each other, particularly since most have pretty similar names. This long-running show mixes excitement with information and the occasional Thrones-y guest, like Kristian Nairn (Hodor) or GoT writer Bryan Cogman.

The host says: “I think that definitely this first episode is starting to confirm the suspicions that this is gonna be the best season yet,” co-host Hannah Panek noted in the April 25 episode, posted hours after the HBO credits rolled.

Already love it? Try Game of Thrones: The Podcast, a popular and detailed offering from the folks at Bald Move. (It often ranks as the most popular GoT podcast on iTunes.)

4. FOR FRESH TAKES FROM SEASONED JOURNALISTS:THE CITADEL

The lowdown: After talking about starting a podcast for years, Guardian national security editor Spencer Ackerman and pop culture writer Laura Hudson finally made it happen. Launched this week, The Citadel approaches Thrones from the perspectives of two journalists who have loads of expertise in very different arenas. In each episode, they discuss the show as it relates to politics, human behavior, and other issues.

The hosts say: “We decided we'd sacrifice recapping—there are already a lot of great Game of Thrones recap podcasts—for picking apart the themes, implications, and deeper meanings of what the show presents and examining its resonance in the real world,” Ackerman says. Adds Hudson: “Spencer is particularly adept at analyzing the politics—and the military strategy—of the Seven Kingdoms, while I tend to focus on issues of culture and gender, much as we both do in our real-life writing and reporting. I think it's a pretty strong combination.”

Already love it? Try EW’s new podcast devoted to the show, Game of Thrones Weekly. Hosted by James Hibberd and Darren Franich, it also offers analysis from fans who have almighty press access to the show’s inner-workings.

5. FOR SLEEPY AMUSEMENT:GAME OF DRONES

The lowdown: Hosted by Sleep with Me’s Drew “Scooter” Ackerman, this podcast has the same concept as his other show—to help listeners fall asleep—only he does it through rambling, droning Game of Thrones recaps. He’ll post a recap of the first episode May 1; until then, you can stream compilations of previous seasons that run 10+ hours each.

The host says: “There’s just so much rich detail [on Thrones] for me to go on meanders about or trigger my curiosity,” says Ackerman, who stopped reading the series after the second book in order to avoid spoilers. Listeners can expect weekly “tangents based on what happened in the episode [and] what I was curious about.” (He told me he’ll probably do some research on “hounds, mood rings, mirrors, and doppelgangers” before recording the next ep.)

Already love it? Try Earwolf’s Hardcore Game of Thrones, a Westeros-themed parody of Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History hosted by Alex Berg and Jason Greene. While the gruff vocals certainly won’t put you to sleep, it will make you laugh.

For more podcast recommendations and interviews, head to the archive.

Banner image courtesy HBO via Facebook.

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10 Things We Know About The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2
Hulu
Hulu

Though Hulu has been producing original content for more than five years now, 2017 turned out to be a banner year for the streaming network with the debut of The Handmaid’s Tale on April 26, 2017. The dystopian drama, based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book, imagines a future in which a theocratic regime known as Gilead has taken over the United States and enslaved fertile women so that the group’s most powerful couples can procreate.

If it all sounds rather bleak, that’s because it is—but it’s also one of the most impressive new series to arrive in years (as evidenced by the slew of awards it has won, including eight Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards). Fortunately, fans left wanting more don’t have that much longer to wait, as season two will premiere on Hulu in April. In the meantime, here’s everything we know about The Handmaid’s Tale’s second season.

1. IT WILL PREMIERE WITH TWO EPISODES.

When The Handmaid’s Tale returns on April 25, 2018, Hulu will release the first two of its 13 new episodes on premiere night, then drop another new episode every Wednesday.

2. MARGARET ATWOOD WILL CONTINUE TO HELP SHAPE THE NARRATIVE.

Fans of Atwood’s novel who didn’t like that season one went beyond the original source material are in for some more disappointment in season two, as the narrative will again go beyond the scope of what Atwood covered. But creator/showrunner Bruce Miller doesn’t necessarily agree with the criticism they received in season one.

“People talk about how we're beyond the book, but we're not really," Miller told Newsweek. "The book starts, then jumps 200 years with an academic discussion at the end of it, about what's happened in those intervening 200 years. We're not going beyond the novel. We're just covering territory [Atwood] covered quickly, a bit more slowly.”

Even more importantly, Miller's got Atwood on his side. The author serves as a consulting producer on the show, and the title isn’t an honorary one. For Miller, Atwood’s input is essential to shaping the show, particularly as it veers off into new territories. And they were already thinking about season two while shooting season one. “Margaret and I had started to talk about the shape of season two halfway through the first [season],” he told Entertainment Weekly.

In fact, Miller said that when he first began working on the show, he sketched out a full 10 seasons worth of storylines. “That’s what you have to do when you’re taking on a project like this,” he said.

3. MOTHERHOOD WILL BE A CENTRAL THEME.

As with season one, motherhood is a key theme in the series. And June/Offred’s pregnancy will be one of the main plotlines. “So much of [Season 2] is about motherhood,” Elisabeth Moss said during the Television Critics Association press tour. “Bruce and I always talked about the impending birth of this child that’s growing inside her as a bit of a ticking time bomb, and the complications of that are really wonderful to explore. It’s a wonderful thing to have a baby, but she’s having it potentially in this world that she may not want to bring it into. And then, you know, if she does have the baby, the baby gets taken away from her and she can’t be its mother. So, obviously, it’s very complicated and makes for good drama. But, it’s a very big part of this season, and it gets bigger and bigger as the show goes on.”

4. THE RESISTANCE IS COMING.

Just because June is pregnant, don’t expect her to sit on the sidelines as the resistance to Gilead continues. “There is more than one way to resist," Moss said. “There is resistance within [June], and that is a big part of this season.”

5. WE’LL GET TO SEE THE COLONIES.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

Miller, understandably, isn’t eager to share too many details about the new season. “I’m not being cagey!” he swore to Entertainment Weekly. “I just want the viewers to experience it for themselves!” What he did confirm is that the new season will bring us to the colonies—reportedly in episode two—and show what life is like for those who have been sent there.

It will also delve further into what life is like for the refugees who managed to escape Gilead, like Luke and Moira.

6. MARISA TOMEI WILL APPEAR IN AN EPISODE.

Though she won’t be a regular cast member, Miller recently announced that Oscar winner Marisa Tomei will make a guest appearance in the new season’s second episode. Yes, the one that will show us the Colonies. In fact, that’s where we’ll meet her; Tomei is playing the wife of a Commander.

7. WE’LL LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF GILEAD.

As a group shrouded in secrecy, we still don’t know much about how and where Gilead began. That will change a bit in season two. When discussing some of the questions viewers will have answered, executive producer Warren Littlefield promised that, "How did Gilead come about? How did this happen?” would be two of them. “We get to follow the historical creation of this world,” he said.

8. THERE WILL BE AT LEAST ONE HANDMAID FUNERAL.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

While Miller wouldn’t talk about who the handmaids are mourning in a teaser shot from season two that shows a handmaid’s funeral, he was excited to talk about creating the look for the scene. “Everything from the design of their costumes to the way they look is so chilling,” Miller told Entertainment Weekly. “These scenes that are so beautiful, while set in such a terrible place, provide the kind of contrast that makes me happy.”

9. ELISABETH MOSS SAYS THE TONE WILL BE DARKER.

Like season one, Miller says that The Handmaid’s Tale's second season will again balance its darker, dystopian themes with glimpses of hopefulness. “I think the first season had very difficult things, and very hopeful things, and I think this season is exactly the same way,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “There come some surprising moments of real hope and victory, and strength, that come from surprising places.”

Moss, however, has a different opinion. “It's a dark season,” she told reporters at TCA. “I would say arguably it's darker than Season 1—if that's possible.”

10. IT WILL ALSO BE BLOODIER.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

When pressed about how the teaser images for the new season seemed to feature a lot of blood, Miller conceded: “Oh gosh, yeah. There may be a little more blood this season.”

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6 Surprising Facts About Nintendo's Animal Crossing

by Ryan Lambie

Animal Crossing is one of the most unusual series of games Nintendo has ever produced. Casting you as a newcomer in a woodland town populated by garrulous and sometimes eccentric creatures, Animal Crossing is about conversation, friendship, and collecting things rather than competition or shooting enemies. It’s a formula that has grown over successive generations, with the 3DS version now one of the most popular games available for that system—which is all the more impressive, given the game’s obscure origins almost 15 years ago. Here are a few things you might not have known about the video game.

1. ITS INSPIRATION CAME FROM AN UNLIKELY PLACE.

By the late 1990s, Katsuya Eguchi had already worked on some of Nintendo’s greatest games. He’d designed the levels for the classic Super Mario Bros 3. He was the director of Star Fox (or Star Wing, as it was known in the UK), and the designer behind the adorable Yoshi’s Story. But Animal Crossing was inspired by Eguchi’s experiences from his earlier days, when he was a 21-year-old graduate who’d taken the decisive step of moving from Chiba Prefecture, Japan, where he’d grown up and studied, to Nintendo’s headquarters in Kyoto.

Eguchi wanted to recreate the feeling of being alone in a new town, away from friends and family. “I wondered for a long time if there would be a way to recreate that feeling, and that was the impetus behind Animal Crossing,” Eguchi told Edge magazine in 2008. Receiving letters from your mother, getting a job (from the game’s resident raccoon capitalist, Tom Nook), and gradually filling your empty house with furniture and collectibles all sprang from Eguchi’s memories of first moving to Kyoto.

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY DEVELOPED FOR THE N64.

Although Animal Crossing would eventually become best known as a GameCube title—to the point where many assume that this is where the series began—the game actually appeared first on the N64. First developed for the ill-fated 64DD add-on, Animal Crossing (or Doubutsu no Mori, which translates to Animal Forest) was ultimately released as a standard cartridge. But by the time Animal Crossing emerged in Japan in 2001, the N64 was already nearing the end of its lifespan, and was never localized for a worldwide release.

3. TRANSLATING THE GAME FOR AN INTERNATIONAL AUDIENCE WAS A DIFFICULT TASK.

The GameCube version of Animal Crossing was released in Japan in December 2001, about eight months after the N64 edition. Thanks to the added capacity of the console’s discs, they could include characters like Tortimer or Blathers that weren’t in the N64 iteration, and Animal Crossing soon became a hit with Japanese critics and players alike.

Porting Animal Crossing for an international audience would prove to be a considerable task, however, with the game’s reams of dialogue and cultural references all requiring careful translation. But the effort that writers Nate Bihldorff and Rich Amtower put into the English-language version would soon pay off; Nintendo’s bosses in Japan were so impressed with the additional festivals and sheer personality present in the western version of Animal Crossing that they decided to have that version of the game translated back into Japanese. This new version of the game, called Doubutsu no Mori e+, was released in 2003.

4. K.K. SLIDER IS BASED ON ON THE GAME'S COMPOSER.

One of Animal Crossing’s most recognizable and popular characters is K.K. Slider, the laidback canine musician. He’s said to be based, both in looks and name, on Kazumi Totaka, the prolific composer and voice actor who co-wrote Animal Crossing’s music. In the Japanese version of Animal Crossing, K.K. Slider is called Totakeke—a play on the real musician’s name. K.K. Slider’s almost as prolific as Totaka, too: Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the Nintendo 3DS contains a total of 91 tracks performed by the character.

5. ONE CHARACTER HAS BEEN KNOWN TO MAKE PLAYERS CRY.

A more controversial character than K.K. Slider, Mr. Resetti is an angry mole created to remind players to save the game before switching off their console. And the more often players forget to save their game, the angrier Mr. Resetti gets. Mr. Resetti’s anger apparently disturbed some younger players, though, as Animal Crossing: New Leaf’s project leader Aya Kyogoku revealed in an interview with Nintendo's former president, the late Satoru Iwata.

“We really weren't sure about Mr. Resetti, as he really divides people," Kyogoku said. “Some people love him, of course, but there are others who don't like being shouted at in his rough accent.”

“It seems like younger female players, in particular, are scared,” Iwata agreed. “I've heard that some of them have even cried.”

To avoid the tears, Mr. Resetti plays a less prominent role in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and only appears if the player first builds a Reset Surveillance Centre. Divisive though he is, Mr. Resetti’s been designed and written with as much care as any of the other characters in Animal Crossing; his first name’s Sonny, he has a brother called Don and a cousin called Vinnie, and he prefers his coffee black with no sugar.

6. THE SERIES IS STILL EVOLVING.

Since its first appearance in 2001, the quirky and disarming Animal Crossing has grown to encompass toys, a movie, and no fewer than four main games (or five if you count the version released for the N64 as a separate entry). All told, the Animal Crossing games have sold more than 30 million copies, and the series is still growing. In late 2017, the mobile title Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp was released for iOS and Android. It's a big step for the franchise, as Nintendo is famously selective about which of its series get a mobile makeover. A game once inspired by the loneliness of moving to a new town has now become one of Nintendo’s most successful and beloved franchises.

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