Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 7 “The Dragon and the Wolf” Analysis

I’m feeling relieved.

The season 7 finale of “Game of Thrones” didn’t completely erase the bad taste left by the previous two episodes, but it did enough to cover up some of those problems, was a very entertaining 80-minutes and provided enough juicy storylines heading into season eight that I’m going into what sounds like it might be a long offseason with my hopes renewed.

I may just decide to blog about the final season, after all! But we’ll cross that, umm, wall, when we blow it away with our zombie ice dragon.

For now, this was a very dense episode, so let’s get into it. This week, I’m going to break down my analysis into four sections: the main plot, the Winterfell plot, the Greyjoy plot and then a section on various character interactions.

Main Plot

I’ve already heard a few complaints about how long the opening scene was, but I really enjoyed seeing the various pairings like the Hound and Brienne catch up and banter, as well as hearing a short history lesson about the Dragonpit. Such scenes flesh out the characters and build the world they inhabit.

Dany’s entrance on Drogon was a grand one.

The main plot really began in earnest when Daenerys Targaryen rode in on Drogon’s back and then, after sitting, Cersei Lannister’s first words are a complaint they’ve been there “for some time” even though she herself had tried to pull the same move by arriving after the entourage from Dragonstone. Obviously, the self-appointed Queen of Westeros just doesn’t like being one-upped.

Of course, as this plot would play out, Cersei seems to have the last laugh. On first viewing, I didn’t recognize that Euron Greyjoy’s interrupting Tyrion Lannister and taunting Theon Greyjoy, only to be told to sit down by Jaime Lannister and Cersei, was part of Cersei’s grand put-on, but it seems pretty obvious in retrospect. And even though I’m by no means on Team Cersei, I must say, “well played, Cersei, well played.”

I’ll also give credit to Euron for playing his role so well; both sold it as though there was actual dissension between them, which made his running off after seeing the wight more believable.

It seems like Cersei gave some hints about her character that should have been reminders to Tyrion and the rest that she’s never going to fight a battle for the benefit of humanity. The first one was when Jon referred to the million people of King’s Landings becoming members of the Army of the Dead and Cersei said, “I imagine for most of them it would be an improvement.”

Jon Snow took it as just her not taking the situation seriously, but I think the comment shows how much Cersei looks down on the people of King’s Landing.

She certainly began to take it seriously a moment later, when The Hound rather comedically took his time to release the wight to charge right at her. That thing was very frightening. I wonder if the reason The Mountain/Ser Gregor Strong didn’t stand up to protect Cersei is because he felt some kinship with the thing.

That scene had a lot to chew on, but I think one of the most important may have been the reaction of good ole creepy Qyburn. We know he’s found a way to raise a person from the dead, so his examining that hand seems like it might be very important, doesn’t it? Perhaps he’s going to find a way to make more zombies?

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Maybe I can supply the zombies for “The Walking Dead of Westeros.”

Let’s have some fun and speculate. Our heroic group gets wiped out by the White Walkers and the Army of the Dead, only to end the series with a battle between them and the King’s Landing Army of the Dead, and thus the first “Game of Thrones” spin off will be “The Walking Dead of Westeros.”

Okay, forgive me. I just couldn’t help myself.

Whatever it means, I do think we are to take note of Qyburn’s action here.

Even during my first watch, when Euron turned tail I thought something seemed off, like Cersei was letting him go too easily. And her speech right after rang really hollow. I even became concerned this might be another case of bad writing, but it turned out to have been off key for a reason. Phew.

It all makes sense in the end; she was playing them all along. But it does make me wonder: doesn’t Tyrion know this? Or won’t he figure it out?

Here’s a conspiracy theory for ya: Perhaps Tyrion made an agreement with Cersei. Perhaps he let her sell the lie that she’ll send the armies to the north in exchange for his life should Dany’s army be defeated by Cersei. I don’t know, and don’t think this is true, but I just find Tyrion’s supposed trust in Cersei to be at odds with both his character and what he knows about his sister. After all, he gave that speech to Dany in episode six about thinking like Cersei in order to defeat her. So, again, something seems off here.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to the initial meeting in the Dragonpit, I did think Cersei was brilliant in how she accepted the truce by playing Jon’s honor against him. That said, I know the characters and probably many show watchers are upset with Jon for saying he had already pledged to Dany, but his strict sense of honor and being a man of his word is one of the things we love about him and the Starks, isn’t it? Will it be his downfall, though?

I read a fascinating interview with Liam Cunningham, who plays Davos, that sheds some meta-light onto Jon’s speech.

He said, “That speech that Jon Snow gave about the nature of lies and what’s been said, and what happens if we don’t stick to our word—we filmed that on exactly the day that a certain POTUS was elected and it had incredible resonance while we were filming it.”

While Jon was being true to character in that moment, in the immediate aftermath of Cersei’s decision to walk out on the meeting, Brienne of Tarth had a rather shocking scene with Jaime when she said “fuck loyalty” in her attempt to get him to convince Cersei to join them in their fight against “that … thing.” But Jaime’s question to Brienne, “tell (Cersei) what?” is the question we’ve all had since this plan was hatched. Again, no words are going to change Cersei Lannister. So why are they trying?

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It was funny to hear Brienne passionately swear, right?

I think the answer the characters tried to give us is they’re fucked if Cersei doesn’t join them because they are caught in the middle of the two wars. So they had to try. Still, I think the show could have handled how this plan was hatched a lot better by simply having Cersei come up with the plan, like they have this meeting a few episodes ago and she says she doesn’t believe them, so bring her proof. Too late to change it now!

I suppose that’s why they all let Tyrion risk himself by going to talk to Cersei. They have no better plans. I think even Tyrion viewed it as a Hail Mary. I think we can see that by how he seemed like he was baiting her into killing him. In that moment, he didn’t even have a plan as to how he was going to sway her.

Overall, that scene between Cersei and Tyrion was probably my favorite of the season and one of my favorite of the series, because it showcased two great characters and two incredible actors at the top of their game, dealing with some very heavy shit, shit that we’ve watched unfold over several years. How could you not be emotionally invested in that scene? For as much as we all dislike Cersei, I think the show and Lena Headey’s acting have done a great job of showing that her love for her children was true and that she feels deep pain over their loss.

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Lena Headey deserves her long-awaited Emmy for this episode.

And the same goes for Tyrion. I don’t know if you remember but way back in the first episode of the series we see Tyrion joking around with little Tommen and Myrcella in Winterfell and it was clear that he cared deeply for them and they for him. So it was yet another great season one callback (a strength of season seven) for that to come up in their conversation, even if it is too painful a topic for Cersei to talk about.

Now, did you feel at all cheated that we don’t find out what Tyrion said to convince Cersei to “change her mind”? I mean, we know she didn’t really change her mind, but what did she say to him to convince him that she had?

Here’s my theory: Cersei sold Tyrion on the idea that because she is pregnant, she wants to survive, no matter if she remains queen or not. So she told him that if she helps them defeat the Army of the Dead, but Dany defeats her, perhaps Tyrion will then be able to convince Dany to let Cersei go back to Casterly Rock to raise her child. And Tyrion knows Cersei loves her children and her family so he believes this motivation. Does that make sense?

I may be grasping at straws here, but there has to be some explanation for why Tyrion believes Cersei, doesn’t there? Unless he doesn’t, of course.

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Tyrion’s motivations are rather murky heading into season eight.

We move back to the Dragonpit, where Jon somehow has found a miniature dragon skull (wouldn’t they all have been scavenged by then?). Their conversation had some important moments. Dany’s comment about how the dragons went to waste and that was the beginning of the end of her family made me wonder something: What does she plan to do with her dragons should she emerge victorious? That is obviously a problem for well down the road, but I think Jon was trying to tell her that she is not who she is merely because she has dragons. I wonder if Dany will ever believe that?

There was a short scene at Dragonstone that I believe is setting up some of the conflict of season eight. Jorah suggests that Dany should fly to Winterfell by herself, but Jon says it sends a better message of unity if they sail together so Dany agrees. Both men had solid reasons for why they had their positions, but could it be that Jorah was trying to keep Jon from getting too close to Dany and Jon was mostly interested in getting closer?

Later in the episode when Jon and Dany get it on, we see Tyrion outside their chambers looking very displeased. This has caused quite a bit of discussion about Tyrion possibly being jealous of Jon maybe to the point of undermining Dany in season eight.

Has the show done enough to suggest Tyrion himself may have fallen for Dany? There was that scene in the last episode where he talked about how every man falls for her and then when she was getting ready to fly off to rescue the Magnificent Seven, Tyrion’s pleas for her to stay were very emotional, suggesting he may be speaking more from his fear of losing her, than the strategic loss it might entail. Or it’s probably some of both.

I think the show wants us to ask these questions and will likely set up more scenes like this in season eight to suggest dissension between Jon, Dany and Tyrion. That said, I think his concerns will ultimately be more about strategy, fearing Jon may be going the way of his brother, Robb Stark, and letting his love life cloud his decision-making in the Great War. What do you think?

Oh, and I should add Jorah will likely team up with Tyrion, and they’ll call it Team Friend Zone and perhaps make a play.

Speaking of making a play, the next scene in the main plot is between Cersei and Jaime. Jaime is preparing an expedition North when Cersei interrupts the “stupidest Lannister” to tell him that the Lannisters will be staying put.

(A quick aside: I was super happy to hear Cersei refer to the “Dothraki screamers,” which, if I ever own a professional sports franchise, shall be the name of my team!).

Cersei’s explanation about how she sent Euron to pick up the Golden Company, with its 20,000 men, horses and elephants (!), from Essos makes sense, but she does it in such an insulting way. I think that combined with Jaime realizing she doesn’t trust him, so there really is no them, was the last straw for Jaime. For Cersei it’s all about Cersei and her offspring, Jaime is just a means to an end. And now that he’s given her another child, he’s just the general of her army, nothing more.

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Jaime has had enough of Cersei’s manipulations.

However, I was and am still confused by how this scene ended. Cersei says “no one walks away from me” and seems to give the Mountain the command to kill Cersei, the Mountain draws his sword but then he doesn’t do it. Did I miss something? What was the Mountain waiting for? Was Cersei’s command half-assed?

Sure, Cersei could have yelled at him to stop Jaime. But this seemed like some bad directing or something. Like maybe they should have had the Mountain start to draw his sword and Cersei hesitates. I don’t know. It just confused me.

That said, I’m very happy Jaime appears to be headed to join the Northern expedition, and the shots of him heading out as snow begins to fall on King’s Landing with the haunting music playing were gorgeous.

Our final aspect of the main plot was, of course, the final scene of this season, where the Night King rides Ice Zombie Viserion and breaths blue fire onto the Wall near Eastwatch, bringing it down so the Army of the Dead can march south.

I think most of us figured the Wall falling would end this season, so it wasn’t a shocking twist. That said, I did generally enjoy the spectacle of it and found myself cheering for the White Walkers because of, if nothing else, the arrogance of all the humans over seven seasons who have stated that “the Wall is indestructible.”

Zombie Ice Dragons breathing blue fire, need I say more?

It does bring into question the issue around whether the Wall ever was more than just a physical obstacle, whether it was also protected by magic as Benjen Stark suggested in season six. And if it didn’t have magic, why didn’t the Army of the Dead just climb over it at some point?

I feel like this was a small failing of the show. After all, they did have Benjen bring it up so why not explain what happened to the magic charm? Are we to assume that the magic of the dragon was enough to overcome it? Or was it really Bran, who was branded by the Night King, who somehow destroyed the magic?

We can come up with whatever answer we want, because the show didn’t.

Okay, let’s move on to Winterfell.

Winterfell Plot

Our first scene from Winterfell is a private meeting between Sansa Stark and Littlefinger (RIP, we’ll get there!). Littlefinger may not have survived the season in physical form, but even until the end he was planting seeds that very well could sprout into ugly ramifications in season eight.

For example, he tells Sansa of the rumors he’s heard that Daenerys is quite beautiful so perhaps Jon is thinking of marrying her to make an alliance, and thus seal his position as King in the North. When he arrives in Winterfell, clearly ga ga over the dragon woman, will Sansa remember this conversation? How much, we have to wonder, are her doubts about Jon’s intentions meant to draw Littlefinger out, and how much are they her honest feelings about Jon? Maybe none of this matters once Jon learns of his true parentage.

And when Littlefinger has her play his game of “assume the worst” and draws Sansa down the road of assuming Arya wants to kill her to become the lady of Winterfell, does Sansa believe all that in that moment? I’m pretty sure Sansa doesn’t and that is what eventually leads her to Arya and Bran and then to turn Littlefinger’s game onto himself.

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Sansa had much to consider in negotiating season 7.

So now we get to the heart of my problem with the season 7 Winterfell plot. I don’t mind deception; it’s always been a key part of this show and always will be. But I feel like the writers played a little too coy with the viewers this season in this storyline.

Axel Foley and Heath Solo of the great Podcast Winterfell broke this scene down so well in their Initial Reaction podcast that I want to highlight some of what they said because it lines up completely with where I’m at.

They brought up two critical points. The first is that Bran was the key to this all because he was the only one who could see all that Littlefinger had done and thus truly trip him up.

The second is the show could have done a better job giving viewers some sort of clue that allowed perceptive viewers to be able to guess at this plot being hatched and how it was being done. Heath suggested just one shot of Littlefinger eavesdropping on the two Stark girls bickering. That would have solved the problem, right?

Perhaps you felt that this plot was well done and that such a clue did exist. If so, please let me know. But for me, the season seven plot at Winterfell just felt contrived and it didn’t hit the mark, even if it did have a great ending.

I mean, many of us have been wanting Littlefinger to die for a while now, right? And it was very satisfying that the surviving character probably most betrayed by Littlefinger, Sansa, was the person who gave the order for his execution.

Littlefinger, the master of betrayals begs for his life to no avail. RIP, scum!

However, I know one of the popular theories that went around this season was that Arya could take Littlefinger’s face and use it against Cersei, maybe even to kill her, and that seems like it’s off the table now. Personally, I never thought that made too much sense, since Littlefinger betrayed Cersei by giving Sansa to the Boltons. But it does kind of suck that it seems the great Aiden Gillen, who played Littlefinger (and the mayor of Baltimore!) will not be back in season eight. RIP, Littlefinger, you were one of the great characters of this show.

And last, it was heartwarming to watch Arya and Sansa make up. Here’s hoping these two young women are fully in each other’s corner in season eight because the two of them make quite the formidable team!

Theon Plot

Throughout this show’s run, I’ve been up and down on my interest in the Theon plotline. In the books, I could really care less, but I’ve always found the portrayal of Theon by actor Alfie Allen so strong that I’ve generally enjoyed his storyline.

And, considering all the shit he’s gone through, even though he brought much of it onto himself, I really do want to see Theon redeemed.

So his two main scenes in this episode were, for the most part, very satisfying.

I especially loved the scene with Jon in the Dragonstone throne room. Jon made me cheer for him even more the way he handled this situation, how he was honest and compassionate with Theon, and how he explained to Theon that “you don’t need to chose. You’re a Greyjoy. And you’re a Stark.”

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Theon “Greystark” is ready for redemption in season 8.

If Theon can combine the positive qualities of both of these families—the honor of the Starks with the courage of the Greyjoys—I think he’ll be successful in his rescue mission of Yara. And that, my friends, will be a very satisfying conclusion to his arc.

That all said, the fight on the beach, while well-choreographed and brutal, was kind of stupid. I mean, Theon’s Kryptonite is he can take a kick to the (no) balls? I suppose it was a somewhat humorous way for the fight to turn, but it seemed a bit cheap to me.

And I knew from the start that he was going to come back and win, so the fight didn’t have any tension.

Anyway, I’m happy Theon found his courage and will go after Yara. I do wonder how it will connect to the overall plot? I mean, where is Yara? Is she on the Iron Islands? Or still with Euron? That aspect of this storyline still interests me greatly, so I hope they are able to draw it to a satisfactory conclusion.

On Various Character Interactions

Jaime and Bronn: Bronn sure does have an obsession with cocks, doesn’t he? I sure hope it’s not foreshadowing when he talks about not wanting to fight if he loses his. But speaking of him fighting, is he really going to stick around King’s Landing and fight for Cersei now that Jaime has split town? He’s already seen that the Lannisters days are likely numbered and it’s doubtful Cersei’s going to pay the debt of his castle, so what’s the point in him staying?

Tyrion and PodrickPayne: Not much to say about this, except it was nice to see them together for a minute, even if it did have to end with another Bron cock joke.

The Hound and Brienne: I liked seeing the Hound showing concern for Arya and how he made it clear to Brienne he won’t be getting in her way. Someone said this was like divorcees discussing their offspring.

Tyrion and Bronn: Tyrion is still offering double the gold for Bronn to switch sides. I still think he will. Bronn doesn’t sound all that convinced by his own bullshit about bringing the two traitors to Cersei.

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The Hound was the boastful one at the Clegane Bowl weigh-in.

The Hound and the Zombie Mountain: “You know who’s coming for you. You’ve always known.” If this wasn’t an announcement that Clegane Bowl will happen in season eight, I don’t know what it was!

Samwell Tarly and Bran: Probably my biggest belly laugh of the episode was when Bran said, “I became the Three-Eyed Raven” and Sam said, “Oh? I’m not sure what that means.” The way actor John Bradley said the “oh” was delicious.

This scene was rather convenient insofar as explaining the Jon Snow is not Jon Sand, nor Aegon Sand, but is actually Aegon Targaryen storyline. Still, I didn’t have a big problem with it and sort of enjoyed the black humor of the scene blending into the first sex scene between Dany and Jon.

Sam’s sense of humor is an underrated aspect of this show.

One more comment about this scene: This season has done a good job of showing how historical events tend to reflect each other as mirrors, and we get confirmation in this episode that both Robert’s Rebellion was built on a lie (that Rhaegar Targaryen kidnapped Lyanna Star) and the War of the Five Kings was started by Littlefinger’s lie. It seems another of those situations where Martin is commenting on our real world, doesn’t it?

Okay, another long one. Thanks for reading and for sticking with me over the season. And now, we wait for season eight!

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Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 6 “Beyond the Wall” Analysis

No beating around the bush this week, folks: This, the penultimate episode of the penultimate season, left me feeling flat.

I realized this about an hour after the show was over. In previous years, when there was a big episode—think Red Wedding, Viper vs. Mountain, Battle of the Bastards, Hard Home—I was left with many strong feelings, images and thoughts that lasted well into the next day.

But after tonight’s episode, well, I just didn’t feel that way. In fact, it felt like I hadn’t watched the show at all, or worse, like I was trying to deny that I had.

Before I get into why, there was much I did enjoy about this episode; it was visually stunning as it has been all season and I had a blast with most of the banter between the various members of the “Magnificent Seven.” For the most part, I enjoyed the experience of watching this show.

One of the podcasts I enjoy is called A Cast of Kings and there was a great fan email that had an awesome analogy to describe how I feel. The writer said that “Game of Thrones” used to be like steak, delicious and worth savoring long after it was over, but now it had become more like popcorn, delicious in the moment, but leaving you feeling empty inside (or with a bellyache!).

In years past, I’ve watched the show on Monday and then spent the next week listening to podcasts, watching videos and reading articles about the show and before I know it, it’s time for the next episode.

Now it’s Wednesday night, I’ve listened to a few podcasts, watched a few videos and after I put this blog on-line, I’ll likely be done with the show until Monday, spending my next few days watching preseason football games or something. And that’s saying something about where I’m at.

So this week, if you’ll allow it, I’d like to just get into some of my complaints and then, time permitting, I’ll do a bit of analysis of the various scenes from the show.

My main complaint: Like episode five, this episode felt too much like a predictable, unrealistic TV show or movie.

I think many of us were hoping that the Magnificent Seven mission would seem less stupid to us this week, like something would explain why they all were so quick to think this was a good idea.

But in the first scene when Tormund Giantsbane said “smart people don’t come up here looking for the dead” it was almost as if the writers were acknowledging that they know how stupid this plan is and that the only explanation they were going to give is that these seven characters are stupid. (And, by extension, Tyrion was stupid for coming up with it and Dany and Davos were stupid for agreeing to it).

Which leads me to complaint number two: Don’t stupid people in this world usually die or suffer serious consequences as a result of their stupidity? So, how come they lost only one member of the Seven, Thoros of Myr? (Don’t worry, Viserion fans, I haven’t forgotten that they lost the dragon. I’ll get to it).

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Thoros of Myr, we hardly knew ya. But we hope there’s good booze in Heaven!

 

In short, this episode lacked the stakes we’ve come to expect from this show. One of the reasons I’ve never been a big fan of action movies is because we know the good guys are going to survive and win in the fight scenes I rarely feel any tension.

I won’t say that was this case with the fight scenes of this episode; when Tormund went down, I was on the edge of my seat but then, somehow, miraculously he came back. Much as I love the guy, I was disappointed.

And another problem with the action sequences in this episode was they were not clear. Several times we lost one of the non-Seven “red shirts,” those cannon fodder characters whose faces we never even saw, and in some of those occasions, I wondered: was that Thoros? Tormund? Jorah? Davos? Oh wait, Davos isn’t here! I’m confused! (Yes, I wrote that three times in my notes!)

But the real blow to me was when Jon Snow came back. When he was dragged under water and we saw the party flying off on the back of Drogon, for the first time in years, I became really excited by the show: Wow, they are going to kill Jon Snow?

I’ve heard several podcasters say they never thought he was going to die, but I had a brief moment there—this is “Game of Thrones” and they did kill Ned Stark so, maybe?—where I thought it was going to be game over for the King in the North. And how exciting that would be!

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Jon, your resurrection broke my heart.

But then, Jon comes up from the water and, well, I was pissed. Another character in two episodes to miraculously survive under water, and this time under icy water, for quite a long time? 

And while it was cool to see Benjen Stark make a final appearance (even though it seemed like he did have time to get on that horse), it was the second time in the span of about 10 minutes that the writers had resorted to deus ex machina, and, well, this just didn’t feel like “Game of Thrones.”

I like to think I’m a pretty forgiving fan, but I have my limits.

As soon as Jon was rescued, it became easy to predict the rest of the episode: he’s gonna show up almost dead just as Dany is about to leave, she’ll be happy he’s back, they’ll have a scene when he’s recuperating where they come together, and…spare me.

Even though I thought the scene between them was fine, it felt unearned and I just didn’t care that much that she vowed to help him now that she’s seen the Night King and that he figuratively bent the knee and they may be falling in love.

And this was after, as soon as they sent Gendry running back to Eastwatch, I wrote in my notes: “I don’t understand sending Gendry back. Does Dany come with a dragon to save them?” I couldn’t figure out the timing of it, how he’d be able to run all that way, have a raven fly to Dragonstone and Dany ride a dragon up there in time. Again, too predictable.

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Gendry’s not only great at the hammer throw, but the marathon.

From that note, I think you can see I’d be letdown by that dragon scene and I was. Because I can’t wrap my head around how quickly she was able to come. 

Here’s another problem: Haven’t we seen that when the Night King and the army of the dead approach, the landscape turns to winter? Or at least gets colder? So why didn’t that ice freeze over faster? Or why didn’t they try a few things to attack them? Send a wight a few steps onto the ice every once in a while?

Now, one theory I heard, which may explain this, is that the Night King, like Bran, has visions and he saw this happening so this was a trap he set in order to capture a dragon. That may be a way to explain their strategy in later episodes and I’d like that, but it wasn’t even hinted at in this episode so it doesn’t take away this critique.

And folks, that’s just one nitpick of many that shows how easily the plot of the story beyond the Wall falls apart, or at least raise significant questions that, under their collective weight, causes it to break apart like a frozen lake crackling under the weight of…

Anyway, if they had killed off Jon Snow it would have reaffirmed the truth of this world: stupid decisions have tragic consequences. And thus, I think it would have justified the decision by the writers to come up with this crazy plot. Or killed Tormund. Or had Jorah fall off the dragon and die. Or, or…

Now, I can hear defenders of the scene right now saying: Well, we did have a tragic outcome, we not only lost Viserion, he was turned into an ice-zombie dragon.

Please don’t get me wrong, even though I thought it likely one of the dragons would die as soon as I realized Dany was coming with all three dragons, I still wrote “FUCK YEAH, ice dragon!” as the last note in my initial watch notebook.

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Will it breathe fire? Ice? Icy fire? Fiery Ice?

 

But that leads to another problem: do we care about Viserion? Has he even been on the show this season?

Yes, I get it, we are supposed to care about him because Dany cares about him and we care about Dany. (Sorry, Daenerys. Or Breaker of Chains.)

Even though it was a great scene when Viserion crashed from the sky onto the ice and sunk into the water, not only didn’t I feel emotionally broken up about him being gone, I was super excited that he’d now be an ice-zombie dragon. I have a feeling the intent of this scene is not to make a viewer like me feel some urge to now cheer for the White Walkers!

No, I’m not going to cheer for them, because they suffer the same problem Viserion had: who are they? Maybe we’ll get more of the back story and motivations of the White Walkers and the Night King in later episodes but that seems too late to make them truly compelling villains. Considering we’ve had small bits of their back story explained going back to the very first scene of the show, don’t you think it’d be nice to understand their motivations by now?

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The Night King is our entrant for the javelin event.

There was one moment in the battle scene where I actually sort of felt some empathy for the Night King. Maybe that was just me trying too hard, but that feeling led me to think the show could have done some more with explaining who the Night King was—maybe have Bran see in one of his visions that he used to be a Stark?—to make us feel some sort of understanding about him. 

And all we know right now about the White Walkers’ motivations is from our character’s perspective, that is simply that they are this evil force that must be killed.

One of the reasons I found this story so much more compelling than fantasies like The Lord of the Rings is because there have always been grey villians like Cersei who, while we’ve been rooting against her from the start, we can somewhat understand her perspective and see that she is driven by human emotions.

Okay, I think that’s enough for my major complaints. Let’s look at some of the other things about the episode I haven’t covered.

For this episode, because we only had three locations—North of the Wall for the main action, Winterfell for plot #2 and a few scenes at Dragonstone—I’m going to combine all the scenes of each location into one section.

Dragonstone

So Dany likes how Tyrion is not a hero because “heroes do stupid things and then they die” and they “all try to outdo each other, who can do the stupidest, bravest thing.”

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Tyrion Lannister: sometimes wise, sometimes stupid.

This was some nice foreshadowing of Jon’s idiotic moment when he didn’t get on the dragon to escape with the others. Also, something I didn’t notice until my re-watch was how Tyrion commented about how they’d go to King’s Landing with “three dragons.” Oops. Will not having Viserion somehow make them more vulnerable in their meeting with Cersei? 

Tyrion, if “nobody trusts (your) sister less than (you) do” why did you come up with this cockamamie plan to sway her to join your fight against the White Walkers?

I do like how Tyrion tells Dany that fear is all people like his father, Joffrey and Cersei have, and that it “makes their power brittle because everyone beneath them longs to see them dead.”

But even more interesting is how Dany tries to fall back on her family’s heritage, saying Aegon Targaryen got quite a long way on fear but Tyrion points out that she says she wants to break the wheel but Aegon helped build the wheel. In other words, she’s going to have to choose between acting as her relatives did and finding this new way.

“How do we ensure your vision endures?” Tyrion asks her. “After we break the wheel, how do we ensure it stays broken?”

Unfortunately, Dany seems to talk a good game about breaking the wheel, but her thinking is still too traditional and inside-the-box to realize what that means and as Tyrion is trying to help her in thinking it out, she becomes defensive and takes his comment personally, assuming he is thinking about replacing her, instead of realizing he’s talking about the kind of system they want to create, perhaps one not based on bloodlines. Democracy, anyone?

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Dany talks a good game, but her thinking is old school.

So, scene one, I score for Tyrion. 

But then scene two, with Tyrion trying to convince Dany to do nothing and not go rescue the party, the party that he sent up there with his stupid plan, well, what the fuck, Tyrion? Really?

I don’t have a problem with the writing here because I think we are supposed to see how insecure Tyrion feels, how much he is relying on Dany. And he is right that if she dies all this goes to shit without a plan in place for how to carry on. I also think the show may be foreshadowing that Dany will not live to the end of this tale. Could I be wrong there?

Still, I was glad Dany ignored him here and it makes me wonder how much she should trust his counsel when he gets some of this stuff so wrong. How is she to know when she can trust him and when not?

Winterfell

Arya’s monologue about shooting the arrow and hearing her father clapping when she finally hit the bullseye was well-done and I felt did a good job of honoring her character.

“I knew what I was doing was against the rules, but (father) was smiling so I knew what I was doing wasn’t wrong,” Arya told Sansa. “The rules were wrong.”

Throughout the episode Arya seems to be challenging Sansa for following the rules instead of fighting back and betraying not only her family but what is right, and that makes her very un-Stark-like in Arya’s eyes.

I did like how this scene fleshed out how Sansa responds with fear and Arya with anger and how both are right in that these emotions can make people do stupid things.

That said, Sansa missed a key chance to tell Arya that Joffrey was a “monster” (her exact words!) and how terribly he treated her, and how wrong she had been for liking him.

And then, how the scenes at Winterfell deteriorated!

The two middle scenes with Sansa again confiding in Littlefinger (will she ever learn?) and then sending Brienne of Tarth to King’s Landing didn’t make much sense to me. I will wait until the end of the finale before unleashing more criticism of them, though.

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Arya Stark: a hot mess psycho!

And then the final scene where Sansa discovers the bag of faces and Arya intimidates her, well, I’m just not sure why Arya is acting this way, except that it seems the writers needed some drama at Winterfell and this was the best they could come up with. Whatever the reason, it seems to suggest Arya is unhinged and her ability to see the truth and lies is really undeveloped in spite of what she thinks. I think she needs a T-shirt: “I spent two boring years at the House of Black and White and this is all I learned.” 

The North

First, I gave the MVP of banter to Tormund for having so many funny lines.

That all started quickly from the way he “pfft” away Jon’s comment that Winterfell was the North to his advice to Gendry about surviving in the north: “walking is good, fighting’s better, fucking’s best.”

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I love ya, Tormund, but you should have died for betraying Mance Raydar!

 

That said, the first time this episode made me feel like the show was betraying its characters was when Tormund brought up how the “great” Mance Raydar never bent the knee and asked “How many of his people died for his pride?”

Does Tormund believe that it was simply Mance’s pride that caused him not to bend the knee? In my opinion, absolutely not. No, it’s a deeply held philosophy of the “Free Folk” that people don’t need to bend in submission to others. Not unless they want to.

Maybe we are supposed to understand that Tormund is changing but I don’t remember seeing those changes taking place. Please comment if you think I am wrong on this. I could just have a blind spot here because of my own discomfort with this “bend the knee” nonsense and my own love of Mance’s character.

Sandor “The Hound” Clegane probably is the runner-up for MVP, as just about everything he says is funny even if he doesn’t mean it to be, including apparently educating Gendry and some American viewers the meaning of “whinging”: “You’re lips are moving and you’re complaining, that’s whinging.”

For Americans, simply add “g” to “whining” and there ya go.

I will say, though, that The Hound was a moron when he started hurling the rocks at the wights. Leave ‘em be, man!

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The Hound hopes to teach English if he survives the show.

The first emotional moment of the episode was Jon and Jorah Mormont’s conversation about Iron Claw, Jon’s Valeryian steel sword that Lord Commander Mormont gave him. I was very happy to see Jorah refusing Jon’s offer to take the sword back. And there was another thing Jorah brought up in that scene that I think was important: He mentioned that Jon could give it to his children someday. When Jon joined the Night’s Watch, he gave up any hopes he’d ever had of having children, and from the way he looked sort of stunned by this comment this may have been the first time he’d considered that there was nothing stopping him now. 

From the way this episode played out, it seemed as though Jon may have a deathwish, but like Cersei, the idea that maybe he could have children may have given him a new reason to fight to remain alive.

After listening to Tormund and The Hound’s very humorous conversation, it seems as though Tormund’s reason to stay alive may be similar to Jon’s as he tells The Hound that he “wants to make babies” with Brienne of Tarth, “great big monsters” that would “conquer the world.”

Jon certainly questions Berric Dondarrion’s reasons for fighting and I like how his answer—that he is fighting for life and he and Jon can keep others alive and defend those that can’t defend themselves—causes Jon to recall his vow for the Night’s Watch (“I am the shield that guards the realms of men.”) and the two men to reach a mutual understanding.

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Berric Dondarrion: Noble, if hopeless.

One creature that nobody is going to reach an understanding with is a freaking giant ice-zombie bear! I can’t recall the last time “Game of Thrones” made me jump out of my seat, but when that dude came wandering out of the snow and the bear jumped him from the side of the screen, wow, I got some air! 

This was a great action scene, very heart-pounding and scary. That said, I wish Thoros of Myr had died at the end of the scene. I didn’t mind that the show kept him alive to have some last words with everybody but when Berric cauterized his wounds and he lived on, I wrote: “I don’t understand how he lived!” And then they made it worse when he died shortly thereafter, so what was the point in him living? Maybe I missed something there.

I don’t want to end this post without commenting on how spectacular the visuals were in this episode. I’ve always loved the locations they shoot at and season seven has been a masterwork in location scouting. Add to that the special effects, from the way the zombies sunk into the icy lake, to the spectacular appearance of the dragons raining fire down onto the army of the dead, well, it’s almost enough to make me stop all the moaning I did in this post.

No, not really. Because the reason I got into this show had little to do with special effects or big battles and mostly to do with intrigue and great character and world-building.

So I pray that the finale will return to more of that side of “Game of Thrones” and make our character behavior follow some internal logic, while giving us many fun things to speculate on as we wait for season eight, whenever it will come out.

But for now, we have to be honest about where we are at with the show and I hope I’ve done that here without making you hate me! Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 5 “Eastwatch” Analysis

This week I want to start with my overall comments about this episode, the season and the show in general before I get into reviewing the episode, because if I don’t, I fear my usual fun-filled review will be dragged down by my negative comments.

In short, I think episode five was entertaining but stupid.

It was entertaining because, like the rest of season five, it continued to re-unite some of our favorite characters (Dany and Jorah, Jorah and Tyrion; Gendry and Davos, Gendry and the Brotherhood; and, of course, Tyrion and Jaime), it had more humorous dialogue and scenes, as well as meta-dialogue “fan service” (Davos’ line about Gendry still rowing, for example) and set up a “Magnificent Seven” adventure into the snows of the North with most of our favorite badasses. So the hour went by quickly, and, in the moment, I found myself really enjoying it.

But…

(What was it Ned Stark told Jon about ignoring all things preceding but?)

But…

For the life of me, I cannot begin to make sense of the plot to bring the wight to Cersei. And, after reading several reviews and listening to some podcasts, it seems neither can anyone else. And, well, that is a rather big problem.

Why?

Because, at its core, “Game of Thrones” has always been a smart show. The kind of show that we fans can really dig into and analyze, discuss character motivations and why things happen, but, for the most part (Sand Snakes/Dorne, cough, cough), we could trust that, even if we don’t understand it in the moment, the writers had a clear vision that would make sense of things and character behavior in the end.

Now? Well, for the first time since the middle of season five, I am not so sure.

Before I describe what I think is happening, let me state the obvious disclaimer that I don’t personally know the show runners, Dan and Dave, so I have no proof of this theory. It is pure intuitive speculation.

Here it is: I think Dan and Dave feel let down by George R R Martin not finishing the books. He gave them a rough outline for how the story would end, but not really enough to fully bring the whole story to a satisfactory conclusion. So they decided that the best thing to do would be to speed up the story, pour the money into more effects but fewer episodes, and make it as enjoyable as possible so we could better ignore the many holes in the story.

In that sense, I think they are succeeding. And in that sense, I can’t really fault them because when they went into this, it was as adaptors of Martin’s work. I don’t think they ever thought he wouldn’t finish the story.

But once they got to season five and book six, let alone book seven, still wasn’t out, well, I think they knew they had a tough choice to make.

I’m writing it this way to say I’m not really upset at them for choosing as they have. Like I said, the show is incredibly entertaining (and I’d argue more entertaining than it was in season five, the last season based mostly on the books). It’s just that it seems more like a TV show, and less like a massive novel brought to life.

Why this is difficult is because many of us have spent a lot of time analyzing this show, and reading and listening to others do the same, so it makes one wonder if it’s really worth it to dive so deep into the show. It also means that when the show ends, it may still be rated a historic show but one that suffered in its final seasons because it violated its own rules, betrayed some of its characters in order to create fun plots, and ultimately fell into the traditional TV show rules of “plot over character.”

I’m trying to accept that. But it does make blogging about the show harder, so it might mean that once this season is over, I may decide not to blog about the final season. I don’t know enough to make that decision now, of course. What I do know, however, is it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to try to analyze things too deeply if the show is going to make decisions that don’t make sense and violate their own rules.

Speaking of which, let’s get into the episode, shall we? I promise to make it fun, but will point out the things that bothered me. And, considering the first scene, that won’t take long!

The Reach

Here lies Jaime Lannister and Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, coughing up river water on a tranquil beach about a mile away from where they went under water.

Apparently body armor allows one to breathe underwater!

Okay, there are many faults with the way this was handled, from the nonsensical “cliffhanger” of “will Jaime drown?” to just how far down river they seem to have surfaced.

But the main problem I have with it is this: Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister just saw Bronn knock Jaime into the water, saving him from being turned into ash by Drogon. So wouldn’t they be waiting to see where they came up? And once they came up, wouldn’t they capture them? After all, Jaime is the general leading the war against Dany. Hell, even Robb Stark knew to capture him way back in season 1!

So that, more than the dynamics of body armor in water (which some fans have referred to as “plot armor”), is what bothered me most about this.

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“Dragons are where our partnership ends,” Bronn tells Jaime.

But moving past that (as we must), like the writers Bronn won’t let dragons or Jaime himself kill Jaime. Hopefully Bronn’s wisdom sinks into Jaime and he’ll bail on Cersei. The question, though, as I brought up last week, remains: Will Bronn bolt Team Lannister for Team Dany? I think after this week, the question becomes: Why wouldn’t he? Also, Cersei had some nasty words for Bronn’s “betrayal” later in the episode, which leads me to think again he’d be better off bailing while he can.

Next, we see Tyrion walking through the ashen remains of the fallen on the battlefield, looking rather shell-shocked. Not much to say about this except, again, Peter Dinklage is a superb actor.

Dany’s speech to the Lannisters where she says “all I want to destroy is the wheel that has rolled over the rich and the poor to the benefit of the Cersei Lannister’s of the world” sounds good when she says it. But does she really believe it?

Because when she offered her choice—“Join me and together we will leave the world a better place than we found it, or refuse and die”—I cringed. What kind of choice is that?

Here’s the problem with it: How many people who choose to live in that moment only because death is their only other option are really together with her?

Now, I do understand this is the end of a battle and these are soldiers she has just defeated. But in the past when she conquered the slave cities, didn’t she tell people they could join her or they were free to go? One could argue that she felt because those were slaves and these are soldiers who were fighting against her, she felt that was the right decision then. But how different are soldiers from slaves in this world’s context? Soldiers are born into a specific area and must fight for the local house that their family pledges them to, through no choice of their own, or they have to break those vows and face potentially horrible consequences. Is that the choice of a free man?

That said, when Tyrion suggests t Dany that she could send Randyll Tarly to the Wall, she seems open to it but he refuses the offer so I’m not sure what else she could do with him. Tyrion has one more idea after Dickon asks to join his father: why not put him into a dark cell for a few weeks? But Dany wants to stick to her word, arguing again that she gave them a choice.

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Tyrion is rightfully troubled by the “choice” Dany offers the soldiers.

Like Tyrion, I am troubled by her decision. But like him, I am also not sure what else she can do. She’s playing the game of war, after all, and once you enter into that game, well, I’m doubtful you can avoid such horrible decisions.

King’s Landing

Jaime storms past Qyburn into Queen Cersei Lannister’s quarters to explain to her how strong the Dothraki are when they play the “sport”of war, how Qyburn’s scorpions can’t stop the dragons, how, in short, they can’t win this war.

More significant than their discussion about the war, though, was Jaime telling Cersei that it wasn’t Tyrion who killed Joffrey, but Olenna Tyrell.

Jaime convinces her by asking two obvious questions: “If you were Olenna, would you rather have seen your granddaughter married to Joffrey or Tommen? Which one would Margaery have been better able to control?”

It seems that Cersei is rather stupid if she’d never considered this question. But I think it’s more of her lack of ability to look at a situation from the perspective of anyone but herself that makes her not ever consider this. That’s a pretty big flaw for a leader, isn’t it?

At the end of the conversation, Cersei says her choice is “fight and die or submit and die” and that “a soldier,” (Jaime) should know his choice.

But I think Jaime has another choice; Tyrion may be able to convince Dany to spare him. After all, Dany admits her father was an evil man so could likely forgive Jaime for killing him. But only if he bends the freakin’ knee!

Dragonstone

Jon Snow has a face-to-face with Drogon and survives to tell the tale. And now that makes it only Dany, Jon and Tyrion who have done so. Are they are three dragon riders? Many think so!

No matter, the special effects in this scene were gorgeous. Of course the visuals of the dragon, from its movements to the details of its face, stole the show, but I’d also give a shout-out to the sound effects of the dragon’s response to Jon, which let us know it was letting its guard down and trusting him. Very cool.

You look delicious, but you smell like one of us, so…

Dany eventually hops off Drogon, who flies off to be with his brothers, and then tells him, “We can only help people from a position of strength. Sometimes strength is terrible.”

Interesting rationale which shows how Dany would answer my questions above. But I wonder: is strength only accomplished through fear?

Speaking of rationale, why won’t Jon fess up about his resurrection? Hasn’t he built up enough of a rapport with her to do so? I understood the decision when they first met, but I think she showed obvious trust in him last week when she asked him what she should do to win the war. Is he still worried that she’ll think his whole story is a lie if he tells her? And does Jon know about how she brought the dragons to life? That’s a pretty unbelievable tale, too. Anyway, will him not telling her come back to haunt him?

But not to worry, because Ser “Friend Zone” Jorah Mormont is back to stop Jon from having to fully answer Dany’s question.

It’s good to have Jorah back in the fold. I enjoyed how when Jon said Jorah’s father was a great man it caused some consternation for Jorah. Remember, Jorah was banished by the Starks from Westeros for being a slaver and he was disowned by his family, which is why Jon, not Jorah, has that Valerian steel sword that Lord Mormont gave him. I wonder if that will come up in their adventures north of the Wall?

At last, a reunion that was happy on both sides!

Regardless, Dany and Jorah’s reunion was wonderful, much better than those of the Stark girls with icy Bran, er, the Three-Eyed Raven.

Winterfell

Speaking of Bran, we get probably the most visually stunning scene of the episode when he wargs into some ravens and flies from Winterfell, past Eastwatch and over the Wall to observe the massive Army of the Dead and their horned leader, the Night King, who seems to sense Bran’s presence and causes the ravens to disperse and Bran to come out of his trance to warn Maester Wolkan that they need to send ravens.

Oldtown

In seasons past, that raven would have taken its sweet time, but in this fast-paced season, well, it’s the very next scene where we saw Archmaester Ebrose on the other end of the continent in Oldtown holding the note that raven delivered.

I actually don’t have a problem with the way this scene played out. Sam’s argument about how the Maesters are trusted so if they tell all the lords in Westeros and the Maesters in Oldtown to team up and fight the army of the dead they would do it was well-stated, but these men have yet to be convinced that this threat is real and can’t exactly follow through on his plan without more concrete evidence.

Which leads me to wonder: Perhaps it won’t be Cersei who the Magnificent Seven convince with their zombie prisoner, but the Maesters of Oldtown? If that’s where the show goes, I’d like it. After all, I can’t imagine Oldtown is too happy with Cersei choosing a disowned member of their order in Qyburn to effectively serve as both Grand Maester and Hand of the Queen. So maybe Team Dany won’t be able to convince Cersei to help them rally the Southern lords, so they’ll go to Oldtown with the wight and can enlist the Maester’s help? Just a thought.

One speculation that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense is Ebrose’s theory that “this message could be part of a ploy by the Dragon Queen to lure Southern armies away from the lands they are defending to open those lands for easy conquest.” After all, is he suggesting that the message is not authentic? That it didn’t come from Winterfell? Or that Winterfell is in league with Dany?

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Sam certainly can’t believe Ebrose’s crazy theory.

Then again, in re-watching, the scene ends with the skeptical maester asks if Sam was the one who’s father and brother were just burned alive and perhaps that lends credence to why they are skeptical about Dany’s motives. And it harkens back to the idea that her decision to use fire to kill the Tarly’s may have been unwise, especially if she is trying to distance herself from the reputation of her Mad King father.

Dragonstone Again

Always fun to see Tyrion and Varys and the scene quickly reinforces the point I just made when Tyrion asks what else could Dany do and Varys says, “Not burn him alive alongside his son.”

Varys’ experience with the Mad King will hopefully help Tyrion be a braver voice to Dany than Varys was to the Mad King. “You need to find a way to make her listen.” Good luck, Tyrion!

Perhaps my favorite line in this episode was when after Varys tries to deny that he read the “sealed scroll for the King in the North,” Tyrion sips his wine and then says, “What’s it say?”

Okay, onto the Dragonstone’s Eleven wight-heist scene in the map room. About the best thing that can be said about it is at least Jon finds out that Arya and Bran are alive.

On my first watch, I wrote that I was so excited about this plan because I didn’t see it coming but then said I wasn’t sure if it made sense.

On re-watch, it is still a fun scene, the way it bounces around from character to character, but it just doesn’t make sense. Tyrion says they ought to “prove Cersei wrong” about her disbelief in the army of the dead. To what end? This scene skips right over this question.

Winterfell

I think Arya was pretty unfair to Sansa and I’m not sure the scene between them was set up very well by the show since in the previous episode we saw them getting along just fine. Yes, we know the two sisters never saw eye-to-eye before. But they’ve been through a lot since then and wouldn’t Arya give Sansa a little leeway knowing this?

Or is this the show’s way of telling us how bleak Arya’s outlook can be? She showed a rather black-and-white perspective on things when she suggested that Sansa doesn’t need to listen to the lords of the north offending Jon, that she can just take their heads for doing so. Does she really think that’s the way to hold the North together? And if so, how different is she than Cersei? I mean, really, Arya, people aren’t allowed to gripe about leadership without losing their heads?

Again, this episode was focusing on the question of how to rule and showing different answers to it. I tend to think Sansa’s answer is the best one, because it shows the most nuance, the most opportunity for free will for the people and thus the most potential to truly bring people together because they want to follow you, not because they fear not following you. Key difference there.

Arya may be right in that Sansa wants to be a leader, but maybe it’s because she’s good at it.

The scene ended with a callback to how the folks who trained Arya at the House of Black and White were able to tell when she was lying, suggesting Arya can do this now, too. But what was she suggesting? That Sansa is secretly hoping Jon doesn’t come back so she can continue to rule? Maybe it does make sense, considering Sansa was often at odds with Jon and his decisions. So maybe Arya was correct here. I just didn’t like how she presented it to Sansa.

King’s Landing

After some great Davos lines, we get the much-awaited reunion between Tyrion and Jaime somewhere below King’s Landing.

Did this scene satisfy you?

It felt somewhat rushed to me. That said, I do think it is emotionally realistic that Jaime would shut down Tyrion’s attempts to justify why he killed Tywin. It’s probably the first time Jaime has ever considered it from Tyrion’s perspective and considering all that’s happening right now, it’s a bit much for him to take.

One more thing: Did you notice that Tyrion never explicitly says what the “request” of Cersei is? Is the show being cute here? Or do they really think we understood the request as cooked up in the Dragonstone map room? Is it simply an armistice?

Next, we get the long-awaited return of Gendry! As I mentioned in the opening to this post, it was fun when Davos said “I thought you might still be rowing” to Gendry, as this has been one of the more humorous Game of Thrones Internet memes.

And speaking of humorous, ole Davos sure had his fun in this episode, eh? “Nothing fucks you harder than time.”

Not only is it great to have Gendry back, but to have him wielding the same sort of bad-ass hammer that his father, King Robert, loved? Well, very satisfying.

After all that rowing, Gendry got a nice haircut and made a killer hammer!

But nothing was more satisfying than that comedy routine on the beach where Davos tries to buy off some Gold Cloaks not only with money but with the well-known aphrodisiac, fermented crab. “I’d hurry to your favorite establishment,” Davos advises the crab-munching soldiers. “Or you’ll put a hole in that chain mail.”

But when Tyrion shows the worst timing in the world and shows up, it is Gendry that has to put a hole in the soldiers faces, thus proving to us, Davos and the Imp that “he’ll do.”

Get ready for more hammer wielding in the wilds of the North next week!

We can’t leave King’s Landing yet, though, because we have to find out how Cersei reacts to Jaime’s meeting with Tyrion.

Considering that she feels her choice is fight and die or surrender and die, it’s not surprising that Cersei consents to an armistice, even if she doesn’t believe in the army of the dead. But what is surprising is that she is pregnant. But is she? I wonder. I wonder if she is not just manipulating Jaime. Would you put it past her?

Dragonstone

It was probably a show shortcut the way Gendry ignored Davos’ advice about how to introduce himself to Jon, but it was fun and I do like how it sets up the second generation of Ned/Robert fighting together. Sometimes fan service is a good thing, right?

And more of it on the beach with Tyrion and Mormont in a short scene. “Nobody glowers quite like you, not even Grey Worm.” Nice!

It was also nice to see Tyrion’s gesture in giving that coin to Mormont, but not nearly as nice as Dany and Jorah’s good bye. I like how he just gave up on words and kissed her hand, instead.

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Hopefully this won’t be the last time Dany sees Jon.

And last, Jon’s farwell to Dany. Is that it for their onscreen time together? It seems the fan consensus is Jon will survive in this zombie-capturing raid (and I agree), but that doesn’t mean he’ll end up back in Dragonstone. I certainly think they are done together this season. Saying that, I think their scenes together were solid and did a good job of establishing their rapport and growing friendship and trust. Sets things up nicely for the final season.

Also, did you catch how Jon said the same thing to Dany—“I wish you good fortune in the wars to come”—that Mance Raydar said to Stannis before Stannis ordered him burned at the stake? Is that foreshadowing that Jon won’t be a part of those wars? I also think this was said sometime this season, was it not? Anyone?

Oldtown

Sam’s lack of listening to Gilly led to one of the more frustrating scenes of season seven, when Gilly is going to tell Sam about the annulment between Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and “someone else” in a “secret ceremony in Dorne.”

Hopefully, Gilly packed up that book and Sam will be able to re-visit it later and inform Jon about who he really is. Or maybe it will turn out not to matter. After all, if Dany wants to break the wheel, one of the ways the wheel works is the way that kings are determined, right?

Or, if you’ll allow me to twiddle my imaginary mustache, perhaps Dany will learn this information and see that Jon stands in her way to sit on the Iron Throne and will have him taken out? I know, that seems horrible, but could it be?

Anyway, Sam decides to leave Oldtown the same way he left his parents’ house, by stealing a bunch of shit in the middle of the night and taking off. But where is he going? Dragonstone? Winterfell? The Wall? I’m not sure, but he is still technically a member of the Night’s Watch. Still, what’s the point of him going there?

Winterfell, Part II

Okay, I pretty much knew from the beginning of this intrigue between Littlefinger and Arya that Littlefinger knew Arya would steal the scroll. But the question is, does Arya know this? Or will she figure it out?

Another question that I heard on a podcast is: Are the Stark girls setting him up? Could Sansa have asked him to get that scroll, knowing that he’d know Arya would find it, and then somehow using this against him? I’m not sure, but it’s an interesting possibility.

Before I go on, let me make sure it’s clear what the note was. It’s the letter that Cersei forced Sansa to write to Bran at Winterfell back in season one, saying that their father had betrayed Joffrey and asking Bran to come to King’s Landing and swear fealty to King Joffrey.

Is the suspicion Arya showed toward Sansa earlier in the episode enough to make it so she can’t see through this? Or will Sansa be able to convince Arya that Littlefinger is playing her? After all, Arya also knows how devious Littlefinger can be.

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Littlefinger in the shadows again, working his mischief.

Personally, I hope Arya has the insight to recognize Littlefinger’s deception, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she doesn’t. She’s still somewhat hot-headed and seems overconfident in her abilities, so maybe she’s misreading Sansa and playing into Littlefinger’s hands.

Eastwatch-by-the-Sea

For an episode titled “Eastwatch,” not much happened there. I think this was the show’s way of throwing us off, leading us to think that a big battle would happen this week.

Whatever the case, the final scene there was still a lot of fun to take in, mostly because it has so many of my favorite characters in it.

Tormund had several zingers in the opening discussion, reminding us why he’s a fan favorite.

And the last scene in the cell did a nice job of showing how many people in this motley crew have reasons to distrust each other, but The Hound, as always cuts through the bullshit and asks “Are we coming with you or not?”

Jon leads the Magnificent Seven toward a Snowdown, now cue The Clash!

Of course, they are!

And with that, another post is finished and there are only two episodes to go before the season is done. Next week should be action-packed, so get your popcorn and your drink and enjoy! Thanks for reading.

 

Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 4 “The Spoils of War” Analysis

We’ve reached the halfway point of this abbreviated season, and there’s lots to discuss this week so let’s get right to it.

The Reach Pt. 1

Jaime Lannister and Ser Bron of the Blackwater are leaving Highgarden with a wagon full of loot but for some reason ole Jaime doesn’t seem very happy and Bron wants to know why. He’s pretty much got it figured when he says, “The Queen of Thorns give you one last prick in the balls before saying goodbye?” but Jaime isn’t saying anything. That said, the one comment he made that I think may give insight into his mind was his “the more you own, the more it weighs you down” and, considering the way this episode turned out, I think Bron took it to heart (and upon further reflection, it is quite clever of Dan and Dave, the writers of this episode, that Jaime literally was weighed down by his elaborate armor in the river as the episode closed.)

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Bron isn’t convinced the Lannisters always pay their debts.

Throughout the conversation Jaime is really giving the party line and Bron is questioning it. I think one of the reasons many of us have liked Bron is he questions the conventions of this world and he does his own thing. And here he receives his big bag of gold, and sees that Jaime is unhappy, so it seems he is questioning whether all the payoff he’ll get from helping the Lannisters will make him happy. Could this signal a change of heart for Bron about who and what he will be fighting for down the road? His decision in the battle to leave his gold and keep fighting suggests this may be true.

Also, isn’t it interesting that Bron was Tyrion’s sidekick for much of the series but now they are on opposite sides of the war? I have a feeling the show may explore the nature of how one’s loyalties can change and Bron’s character seems an obvious one they can use to explore that.

Last, the way the scene ended with Bron not being too happy having to go and “motivate reluctant farmers to hand over their harvest” also suggests Bron may not continue to play for Team Lannister.

King’s Landing

Only two comments about Cersei Lannister’s conversation with the Iron Banker Tycho Nestoris.

First, she says Qyburn has made overtures to the Golden Company in Essos, as she would like them to “recover some things that belong to me.” What does she speak of? Just the Seven Kingdoms? How come I feel there is something more?

Second, the Golden Company is one of the main mercenary companies in Essos and apparently are known for their prowess and, unlike other companies who may switch sides if the other pays more, for honoring their contracts. Last, Jorah Mormont was a member of the Golden Company so perhaps he’ll intervene and persuade them to fight for Dany? And could Dany’s flame, Daario Naharis who led the rival company, the Second Sons, re-enter the picture, perhaps as someone who rallies the Second Sons to fight for Dany?

Winterfell

As Littlefinger gives Bran Stark the dagger that was meant to cut his throat and begins to babble about his loyalty to Bran’s mother and to the Starks, we know that Bran knows he is lying, right? And does Bran know that Littlefinger once owned that dagger? How much has he learned? And will he tell Arya what he knows about Littlefinger? I have a feeling these two Starks are going to be the end of the cunning lord.

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Bran just put a little more chaos into Littlefinger’s life.

In any case, when Bran suddenly said “chaos is a ladder” it certainly shut the dude up, didn’t it!

Bran’s scene with Meera Reed could have been so much better had the show done a better job developing her character and giving us reason to care for her. Of course, we supported her in her efforts to help Bran but the show just never gave us enough of her back-story to make her departure, and Bran’s thankless farewell, feel like the punch to the gut that it obviously felt like to her.

But with her leaving, will we see her again? Will we finally meet her father, Howland Reed? In season six, the writers made a point of bringing him up as the man who was with young Ned Stark at the Tower of Joy where Ned met his dying sister Lyanna Stark and her baby. So I think he’s going to somehow confirm the parentage of Jon Snow, though I’m not sure if that will happen this season or next.

All of our characters have sacrificed so much just to stay alive, and it seems many will have to sacrifice more to fulfill their role in the war with the White Walkers. Bran maybe more than most, as he’s already lost touch with his humanity. Will he get it back? Or some of it? My guess is he won’t, that its loss will be one more of the bittersweet outcomes of this story. But I still think he’s going to play a huge role in how they defeat the White Walkers, so I’m cutting the kid some serious slack. I’m sure I’ll take some heat for that position!

I gave Maester Wolkan a hard time last week for not knowing how long recent winters were, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t compliment the man on his wheelchair-building skills. That thing is sweet!

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Arya’s long-awaited return to Winterfell was full of mixed emotions.

The next scene begins with that beautiful shot of Arya Stark on horseback approaching Winterfell. Her confrontation at the gate with the guards was a callback to season one when she was out chasing cats and couldn’t get back into the Red Keep. She used the same argument on these guards she did then, “If I am who I say I am, and Ned Stark/Sansa finds out you turned me away…”

Was anybody else worried when those soldiers turned around and Arya was gone that she had left Winterfell so we weren’t going to get the reunion between her and her siblings? I sure was. I wouldn’t put anything past this show, especially when it comes to delayed reunions for Arya!

The scene in the crypts was one of my favorites of the episode because it showed the two sisters, who never were very close, struggling to re-establish their connection before eventually doing so. It was funny to see how when Sansa first hugged Arya, Arya was like Bran and didn’t hug her back.

It was also cool to see how it was Arya who acted as the morale booster, saying that they weren’t dead yet and their stories, though they’d been long and unpleasant, were not over, either.

That said, Sansa was obviously taken aback that her little sister had a kill list, and in the next scene with Bran, was she expressing concern about possibly being on it when she asks Arya who is still on the list? After Arya didn’t give a straight answer and then Sansa saw how skilled Arya was as a fighter, it might behoove Sansa to just out and out ask Arya if she is on the list. We all know she isn’t, but it’d be nice for the Lady of Winterfell to have one less thing to worry about, right?

It felt really good when Arya gave Sansa a legitimate hug as the scene in the crypt ended.

In the following scene with Bran in the Godswood, Sansa says Littlefinger doesn’t give something without getting something in return. She knows him better than most so this means we need to ponder what that might be. What could Bran have that he might want? How about information? If he learns about Brans’s abilities, wouldn’t he seek to find out things from Bran? The question is, would Bran give it to him?

Also, will Bran regret not having that knife? It seems like a great weapon for a cripple. Then again, it’ll be awesome to see Arya kill a White Walker with it. And maybe Cersei, too? One can hope!

Last, Bran bringing up Arya’s list was a good way to convince Arya and Sansa of his powers, though it seemed Arya isn’t the one who needs convincing.

I liked the brief exchange between Brienne and Podrick Payne when they see the three Starks and Pod says Catelyn Stark would be proud because Brienne kept her vow. It was great to see Brienne’s character growth, that rather than correct Pod for calling her “my lady” she catches herself and says “thank you, Podrick.”

However, this scene had a slighty ominous ending, showing Littlefinger overlooking it all and a raven crowing. What message does that raven have?

Dragonstone, Pt. 1

Daenerys Targaryen and Missandei share a little girlish secret, don’t they? I have to wonder is “many things” the show’s way of saying that Grey Worm has a pillar after all? Maybe just no stones? But can a pillar stand up without stones? Oh, man, I promised myself not to pursue this question. Maybe Missandei was just hinting that like Jon Snow, Grey Worm is expert at “the lord’s kiss.”

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Two women share a sordid secret about an Unsullied stud.

Speaking of the lord’s kiss, the last time Jon disappeared into a cave with an attractive lady, well…

But Jon tells Ser Davos he has no time for that, differentiating himself from his half-brother, Robb Stark. Will he stick to that?

Inside the cave, the big reveal were those cool hieroglyphics. But I wonder: Was I the only one who had the cynical thought that Jon and his crew drew those White Walkers in a desperate attempt to convince Dany to join their fight? No, I think this was a stupid thought on my part, especially after the show didn’t give us any hint in that direction. And it’s not like Jon to do that.

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When the war is over, Jon Snow has a job lined up as a cave painter.

When that exchange ended with Dany saying , “Isn’t (your people’s) survival more important than your pride?,” I believe this was another callback, but I’m not sure to who or what. That said, I don’t think it was an appropriate one. After all, is Jon refusing to bend the knee due to his personal pride? Or is it exactly as he says it is, that he’s refusing because the will of his people don’t want him to bend the knee?

The scene on the beach with Tyrion Lannister and Varys was solid, especially how Dany ignored everyone and asked Jon for help.

Dany pointing out that even with the largest army they won’t have enough food to feed them without Highgarden as an ally is another nod from the show that the food situation is very important to how this battle plays out. And this makes me wonder: how many of those wagons Drogon scorched were full of food? Wouldn’t it be just like this show to have Dany’s victory turn out to be a bittersweet one? Tyrion had no chance for Dany to be open to his advice here but he does get in the important line that they still have enough ships to move the Dothraki to the mainland. Some fans found fault with this but I always assumed it to be the case. After all, would Dany and Tyrion be so stupid as to send all of their ships off to battle and possibly leave them stranded? That makes absolutely no sense.

Jon’s answer to Dany was very eloquent and seems to suggest that the cool compassion of the Stark heritage is a nice balance to the fiery leadership of the Targaryens. A song of ice and fire, anyone?

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Is that the way a niece is supposed to look at his aunt?

Last thing about this scene: it was clear that we are supposed to see Jon and Dany are attracted to each other. Yet as viewers we all know that she is his aunt, though we also know that in this world such incestuous relationships are not totally uncommon. So, do you want to see them get together? My bet is that they’ll become close and may even propose a marriage but will then find out Jon’s lineage, leaving them both heartbroken.

Winterfell, Pt. 2

Poor Podrick! Brienne is a tough trainer. So it was nice to see Arya come along and feed her some humble pie. I’ve seen several comments that it would be impossible for Arya to beat Brienne. I’m not sure why this is. David and Goliath anyone? That said, I know nothing (like Jon Snow!) about sword fighting so perhaps I am wrong.

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Hit her with the pointy end, Arya!

In the very last shot of this scene, Littlefinger seems pleased by Arya’s skills, but Sansa seems disturbed. What does Arya know about Littlefinger? It seems I may do a seasons 1-6 re-watch after this season to answer these questions. Even though I listen to podcasts and read blogs about the show, there is just so much to remember! Anyway, Littlefinger wasn’t on her list but does that mean she wouldn’t kill him?

And when Arya says “no one” taught her, was that her way of saying that she taught herself by going on her own journey? After all, she was “no one,” right? Still, we know that her trainer in season one, Syrio Forel, gave her basic training and then The Hound and the folks at the House of Black and White helped her polish her skills.

Dragonstone, Pt. 2

In the previous episode, Tyrion advised Jon to ask around about how others viewed Dany so it was good to see him get Missandei’s perspective on her, that she and the others from Essos who follow Dany don’t do so because she is the daughter of a king they never heard of but because they believe in her. Even Davos seemed convinced by the end of the scene.

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Theon meets another person who’d rather he be dead.

Unfortunately, Theon Greyjoy has had a way of spoiling good vibes since season one and he does so again by arriving on the shores of Dragonstone, looking for Dany so the queen can help her rescue his sister from Euron Greyjoy. But Dany is not here and this leads to a nice cut to a beautiful shot of a landscape that looks very much like the American West but is actually the Spanish countryside, somewhere just southwest of King’s Landing…ha ha.

And now, let’s dig into that final scene.

The Reach, Pt. 2

First, I’m going to steal a line from the funny guys at the Bald Move podcast when they said that when this scene ended, they had a “Game of Throner.” Absolutely! What an adrenaline-pumping scene.

Do yourself a favor and go onto HBO’s YouTube page and watch the 15-minute clip called “The Loot Train Attack.” It is basically a behind-the-scenes explanation of all that went into creating this wonderful scene.

But this scene was about more than visuals and heart-pumping action. Sure, it had those things in spades (and the special effects looked fantastic, especially the fire-breathing dragon!). What made it stand out from just about every other action scene ever was that, as an audience, we cared for all of the characters and didn’t want to see any of them die, yet they were all trying desperately to kill each other.

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Dany and Drogon ready to destroy.

I thought it was a great touch to have Tyrion there to oversee things (though I doubt he would have really done this in a real battle), because we got to see him watching his brother charge Dany and the dragon, feeling hopeless to stop him, and we felt the same way.

And Bron? What can be said about him, except once again he’s a total bad-ass? And that it was great to see him forego his spilt gold. I suppose he figured he had to survive this battle first, and if he did, he could go back and recover it. Still, it was nice to see him have his priorities in order.

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Yes, Bron really does deserve two photos in this blog post.

What else can I say about it? Oh, first, it was great to have Bron laugh at the name Dickon, but also nice how the show redeemed the young man’s character by having him save Jaime.

It was also great to see that Drogon can take one of those giant arrows and it won’t kill him outright, and now Dany has the advantage of knowing those things exist. She’d better be awfully careful because if one of those goes through her, well, ask that Dothraki dude how well a human body can withstand one of those giant arrows?

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Jaime’s charge was heroic if stupid.

Last, there’s some complaint about how Jaime was charging along the edge of a river and when he was tackled, all of the sudden he was in deep water. Yes, that’s a rather TV move, but screw it, it still is a TV show. I, for one, can forgive it such things if they can pull off such an amazing action scene as this one. I mean, how bad-ass was it to get to finally see both Dothraki screamers and a full-grown dragon in action after all that we’ve heard about both? Sure, we’ve seen the dragons at the end of season six and in season three, but this was the first time Dany truly unleashed its power and the show certainly didn’t save any money in its production of this scene. And those dudes standing on their horses and firing arrows? Incredible!

Okay, folks, much more to say but let’s call it quits for now. Until next week. Thank for reading!

 

 

 

 

Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 3: “The Queen’s Justice” Thoughts

Three episodes into this abbreviated seven-episode season and lots to get to, so buckle up and let’s jump into our own Westerosi teleporter and delve into this eventful episode.

Dragonstone Pt. 1

It was great seeing two of my favorites, Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister, together again and from their very first lines, this episode was full of wonderful dialogue. While Tyrion and Jon seemed to immediately re-establish the rapport they formed on their journey to the Wall, the reception was rather formal and a bit icy from Missandei, who sounded like a Disneyland tour guide, and brushed off Davos’ attempt at small talk. Doesn’t she serve the fire side of this equation?

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Maybe we should have stayed in the North!

Before I get into the momentous Jon and Dany meeting, I want to briefly touch on the scene between Varys and Melisandre. Is it just me or did Varys’ conversation with Melisandre send some warning signs to those of us who want to believe him and his spiel about being for the people? When he said, “Give us common folk one taste of power and we’re like the lion who tasted man. Nothing is ever so sweet again,” I wanted to kill him. Still, I am going to stick with my conviction that he really is looking out for the best interest of the common folk, though Tyrion would warn me that “you should never believe a thing simply because you want to believe it.” Did I mention this episode had great dialogue?

 

Melisandre, though, gets the last word when she tells Varys that she will return to Westeros to die there, as will he. I wonder what she meant and why, considering her history with prophecies, did she say it with such confidence? I think maybe she just wanted to shut Varys up. Anyway, she was smart to leave, considering how she left things with Davos and Jon, but it does seem like the story may not be done with her. Can she be redeemed?

Okay, onto the next scene, one we’ve all been waiting for, where Jon and Davos enter Dragonstone’s throne room and meet Daenerys Targaryen, the women with a million titles. How do you think they pulled it off?

Personally, I thought it was a very well-executed scene, living up to my expectations and playing out as I figured it would (and should). If I really dig into it, I can find some flaws, but if you’ve been reading my blog about this show, I think you know by now that I usually don’t nitpick and call out things I think the show may have botched or could do better. I tend to accept what we’re given and then try to analyze it from there.

After Missandei lists all of Dany’s ridiculous titles, I absolutely cracked up when Davos responded simply, “This is Jon Snow. He’s King in the North.”

That said, don’t we think Jon deserves a few titles of his own. Not to worry, dear readers, I’ve come up with a short list (but feel free to tell me some more if you have any!). How about: This is Jon Snow, King in the North, Killer of White Walkers, Climber of Walls, Riser From the Dead, Bearer of Bad Accents and Knower of Nothing? Impressive, yes?

And speaking of rising from the dead, why didn’t he want Dany to know about that? Did he figure that he was already asking her to buy a lot with his White Walkers, Night Kings and Army of the Dead? But why should she, of all people, the woman who emerged from a fire with three dragons on her shoulder, have trouble believing any tale? She even alludes to this later in the episode, when she talks with Jon on that crazy wall staircase and says “Perhaps we should be examining what we all think we know.”

Returning to their first meeting, did you think the writers were being too cute when they had Dany use the line “I ask you not to judge a daughter by the sins of her father” after Jon basically said the same thing in episode one? Personally, I’m fine with it, but I can see people making that case. Still, Dany’s logic remains the same and it shows that she and Jon think about things in a similar way.

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Daenerys Stormborn, Lover of Titles.

I don’t think Jon made the case for why Dany needs his help, but by the end of this episode, it becomes pretty clear that she will need it. And I think we’ll see her asking for it next week. After all, she’s lost most of her fleet and the Tyrells, and the Dornish army and the Unsullied are stranded far across the continent from King’s Landing. Lots has changed since the start of the season and none of those changes have been kind to Dany.

 

Here’s what I would advise her to do. Take the three dragons straight to the Red Keep and burn it to the ground. Wouldn’t that be the quickest way to rid the world of Cersei and her minions without killing thousands of innocent people?

Two more questions from this opening scene: First, why is Dany the rightful queen? I mean, throughout the history of Westeros, there have been conquerors of the Iron Throne, right? We know that her ancestor came from Essos and used his dragons to take the throne, so perhaps the ancestors of whoever was ruling then is the rightful heir? Point is, it seems that if someone takes the throne in this world, they are now the ruler and the family that lost the throne has lost their claim. And she admits her father was an “evil man,” so why does she think her family deserves to keep the throne?

The last question is: why did Dany have such a haugty attitude with Jon Snow? Even though I agree with some of her logic and can understand her point of view, wouldn’t it have been smarter to treat this potential ally with a bit more graciousness and less of an air of superiority?

King’s Landing

Before we move on to the capital, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that we had a brief scene showing Theon Greyjoy being dragged from the sea by Greyjoys loyal to Dany and then called on his cowardice and left to shiver on the deck of their ship. Theon’s character arc has been full of stops and starts but I have to think they have something in mind for him that will at least give him a small bit of redemption. But what?

Okay, onto King’s Landing, where the commoners seem to enjoy tossing food and insults at people that their queen has deemed an enemy. They certainly have short memories, considering they were doing the same thing to her not long ago!

Euron Greyjoy is eating up the attention as he drags Yara Greyjoy and has Elaria Sand and a Sand Snake in tow, and this gift does seem to delight Queen Cersei Lannister. But what of Jaime Lannister? How does he feel about this?

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Euron and Jaime have a heart-to-heart about how to please a woman.

Well, it’s pretty clear he and Euron are developing a rather odd rivarly for Cersei’s attention. I’m guessing Euron will just be one more reason Jaime will have to eventually turn on Cersei, which I fully expect before the show is over and perhaps before the season ends. In the meantime, though, we can certainly enjoy watching the actor who plays Euron, Pilou Asbaek, and his crazy, buggy eyes, as he taunts Jaime.

 

In the dungeons Cersei tells Elaria “if only (Oberyn) hadn’t taunted (Ser Gregor)” as she taunts everyone in the room, including Ser Gregor (“Even Ser Gregor couldn’t stop (Oberyn).”) Cersei is so full of her own power, and she is winning so it’s understandable, but, well, in this world and in the world of fiction in general, don’t such characters eventually fall due to their hubris? I know I will be very heartbroken if Cersei somehow survives this tale. But the thing about this story is, unlike just about any other story I’ve ever read or watched I am still open to the possibility that this awful, evil villain will win. I pray not, but I just can’t rule it out.

And as much as I dislike Cersei, Leana Headey is chewing up the scenery playing her. The way she enuciates her words, her facial expressions, it’s clear she’s fully embodying this nasty character and it makes it very easy to fear how powerful Cersei has become.

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Cersei is a flaunting, taunting machine.

And speaking of acting, I do think Indira Varma’s portrayal as Elaria Sand has been underappreciated and she makes the most of this scene, considering she had no lines. I have to think this is the last we’ll see of her. What a horrible way to go!

 

After a scene in which we see how powerless Jaime is to resist his sister, and how she is so full of her power that she no longer cares if people see her in bed with her brother, we witness the return of the Iron Bank of Bravos, a plot thread I was wondering if they would return to.

Now, is it just me, or does the show seem to paint an awfully bleak picture of bankers? Not that I disagree! Still, the dude refers to the destruction of the sept as a tragedy that was “necessary to restore order and rational leadership.”

In his worldview, the only thing that matters is what will make the bank money. “We don’t make bets,” he says, “we invest in endeavors we deem likely to be successful.”

He does make a good point that Euron Greyjoy is loyal to her “for now.” Foreshadowing? Did Cersei make a mistake not giving him her hand in marriage?

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Looks like the rational banker will do his part to spread Cersei disease.

Cersei points out that by stopping the slave trade, Dany likely hurt the Iron Bank’s pocketbooks and also that Dany is more of a revolutionary than a monarch and revolutionaries are not usually good allies for bankers.

 

“Give me a fortnight and return to Bravos with my debt paid in full.” And he seems to agree.

One of the things that’s been discussed on podcasts is how Bravos prides itself as being the “Free City of Bravos” because it was founded by ex-slaves, so why is the Iron Bank of Bravos funding slavery? Personally, I don’t think this is an inconsistency; it’s just a reflection on the way banks behave. It may seem at odds with the philosophy of Bravos, but I think this is just a testament to how nuanced this world is.

Dragonstone, Pt. 2

Tyrion and Jon talk on the side of a cliff overlooking the ocean. What beautiful scenery and again, great dialogue.

Now, is it just me, or does the following exchange reflect our real-world discussion about climate change?

Jon asks: “How do I convince people that don’t know me that an enemy they don’t believe in is coming to kill them all?”

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“I trust in the eyes of an honest man more than I trust what everybody knows,” Tyrion tells Jon.

“People’s minds aren’t made for problems that large,” Tyrion answers. “White walkers, the Night King, army of the dead. It’s almost a relief to confront a comfortable, familiar monster like my sister.”

 

I’ve made the case in the past that the White Walkers are a metaphor for climate change and I continue to think this is one accurate reading of them. That while we humans squabble amongst ourselves, the bigger enemy, a natural force, is gathering strength and som of our leaders flat-out deny it exists, while others propose small measures that will do little to address the issue. And meanwhile the Jon Snows of our world are pulling their hair out trying to get us to take more serious action.

Anyway, this scene established that Tyrion does believe in Jon, just as he believes in Dany, and he’s able to convince Jon to ask for something less than Dany’s help in fighting the White Walkers and Jon suddenly remembers: dragon glass. Duh!

Inside the map room at Dragonstone, I cracked up when Dany asks Tyrion “are you trying to present your own statements as ancient wisdom?” Tyrion’s response was a great call back to last season, and another example of this episode’s sense of humor. He says, “I would never do that. To you.”

Tyrion compels here to give the dragon glass to him, “give him something by giving him nothing.” But is it nothing? Will they find out that the dragon glass can also help Dany in her fight against Cersei?

Last thing of note from this scene: Dany asks about what Ser Davos said about Jon taking one in the heart for his people, but Tyrion blows it off, saying “you must allow them their flights of fancy. It’s dreary in the north.”

Why is this important to Dany? And why didn’t Jon allow Ser Davos to tell her? And was Tyrion wrong to blow it off? I fear this may make Dany have some trouble trusting Jon when she finds out he held this back from her.

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Dany and Jon come together and form a small truce.

On the steps to Dragonstone, Jon and Dany come to an arrangement. She’ll provide men and resources to help him mine the dragon glass and he tells her he never expected her to stop her quest to remove Cersei from the throne and admits that the North is part of the Seven Kingdoms.

 

I did find it interesting that she doesn’t answer if she believes or doesn’t believe him but just says he needs to get to work.

So a truce for the time being. But where does that leave them in the coming episodes? Does the loss at Highgarden change Dany’s immediate plans? And what role will Jon play in her plans?

Winterfell

Sansa Stark is being a decisive, wise leader, making sure their food supplies and weapons can handle the upcoming winter.

Maester Wolkan, on the other hand, doesn’t seem so smart. He says he doesn’t know what the longest winter was but will check Maester Luwin’s records to find out. Littlefinger seemed to be paying close attention when Wolkan said that Luwin kept a copy of every raven’s scroll. And if Littlefinger is paying attention, we should pay attention.

He advises Sansa that “every possible series of events is happening all at once” and so she must consider all possibilities so she won’t be surprised by anything.

So it’s a good thing that Bron Stark, er, the Three-Eyed Raven, shows up when he does, since he can “see everything that’s ever happened to everyone” and “everything that’s happening right now.”

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Bran’s a creepy kid, but he’s got an important role to play, so cut him some slack, will ya?

But he admits it’s all pieces and fragments and he needs to improve his skills, which is why he can never be lord or anything, let alone Winterfell.

 

Bran’s getting a fair amount of hate from us fans for his lack of explaining to Sansa and for bringing up her awful wedding night as a shortcut way to prove to her he can do what he says he can do. I get that. He showed a lack of tact and consideration of her emotions.

But if you’ll allow me to play defense attorney for young Bran for a moment. Imagine you had his ability.You can see everything that’s ever happened and everything that’s happening right now. Don’t you think that would mess up your mind pretty good? Your ability to communicate with others? The show has gone out of its way to suggest that if Bran stays plugged into the weirwood network for too long he can be lost in that world and not come back to this one. So the more he plugs into his skill, the harder it may be for him to communicate what he finds there. But clearly we need him to harnass this skill if they are going to defeat the Night King. The challenge for him, then, will be holding onto his humanity enough to help the people he loves. Anyway, cut him some slack, folks, he’s going to be a key player in how this all shakes out!

Oldtown.

Jorah is cured. Is it really that simple? I don’t think it’s meant to be. I think that the Archmaester recognizes Sam Tarly as having rare skill as a healer.

To be honest, I was somewhat disappointed that Sam didn’t get kicked out of the Citadel so he could leave with Jorah and head to Dragonstone. The fact he didn’t leads me to believe there is more knowledge for him to gain from reading those old books. Maybe more about Jon’s heritage? More about dragonglass? What else could he learn?

Last, Jorah’s “perhaps our paths will cross again” line makes me think it is all but a certainty. When, where and how?

Dragonstone Pt. 3, Casterly Rock and High Garden

In the Dragonstone Map room, a frustrated Dany wants to ride her three dragons and destroy Euron’s fleet but she is talked out of it. This sets up the battle montage, which begins at Casterly Rock and has voice-over by Tyrion. He talks about how the walls are impenetrable, but he was in charge of the sewers and built a back entrance to sneak his whores in. We see Grey Worm lead some men into that back entrance, open the gates and win the city. But it is too easy. There are not enough Lannisters here, Grey Worm says. He looks out to the bay and sees Euron’s fleet destroying their ships. And asks a dying Lannister where the remaining Lannisters are and then we cut to Highgarden and Jaime, Bron and Randyll Tarly leading the Lannisters into battle there. We are not even shown a battle, just the aftermath, including a scene where men are loading a bunch of gold into chests and making an account of how much there is. It is implied in the next scene with Lady Olenna Tyrell, aka the Queen of Thorns, that the Tyrell’s were never much good as fighters.

And this leads to one last memorable scene with the Queen of Thorns as portrayed by the great Diana Rigg.

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The Queen of Thorns bowed out, but not without delivering one last barb.

When she tells Jaime “your brother and his new queen thought you’d be defending Casterly Rock,” Jaime tells her, “the truth is Casterly Rock isn’t worth much anymore. Well, it is to me, but my fond childhood memories won’t keep Cersei on the throne.”

 

Remember when I said in a previous blog post that what people know and when they know it will be key in determing how this battle plays out? Well, in seasons past, we saw that Tywin and Cersei were privy to the fact that Casterly Rock was out of gold and they were relying on the Tyrells for not only food, but money. But Tyrion never learned this. And not knowing this led to this key tactical blunder. However, a tactician can only act upon what he knows, right?

The scene ends with Olenna riffing on Cersei, how she “has done things I was incapable of imaging. That was my prize mistake, a failure of imagination.”

But she then plays the role of prognasticator to Jaime, claiming that Cersei will be “the end of you. She’s a disease. I regret my role in spreading it. You will too.”

It was nice to see Jaime give Olenna some dignity in how she went out, but, true to character, Olenna had to twist the knife and tell Jaime that she was the one who killed Joffrey.

That said, I disagree with a lot of the commentary I’ve heard about how cold she was here. She made it pretty clear that she found the death of Joffrey horrific and that she didn’t know how the poison worked. That seemed to me to be her way of apologizing to Jaime for putting him through that and that’s why I think Jaime didn’t impale her with Widow’s Wail.

However, some believe that Jaime was just too shocked by the revelation that it wasn’t Tyrion and Sansa to do anything but walk out of the room. I don’t think so. I think Jaime always suspected Tyrion wasn’t involved and that was why he let him go. What do you think?

Now that Jaime is armed with the knowledge that Tyrion and Sansa didn’t kill Joffrey, what will he do with it? Will he tell Cersei? Or will he hold onto the knowledge and use it in some other way?

Much to look forward to as we reach the halfway point of season seven. But for now, thanks again for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Game of Thrones, Season 7, Episode 2: “Stormborn” Thoughts

Welcome back everyone. Like this fast-paced episode, let’s waste no time and get right to it!

Dragonstone Pt 1

First, I love how much time they’ve spent this season giving us a sense of Dragonstone as a place. We open on a scene that looks like the start of a horror movie with an evil vampire in his castle overlooking a stormy night. But it is not a vampire, but rather our friends from Essos: Daenerys Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister, Varys and Grey Worm.

“On a night like this you came into the world,” Tyrion tells Dany to set up a main theme of this episode: memory and how it impacts personal relationships. This theme was very rewarding for those of us who have followed this show closely over the years, for the more we, as viewers, remember, the more we can appreciate the way our characters remember.

“Conquering Westeros would be easy for you,” Tyrion tells Dany as they discuss strategy. “But you’re not here to be queen of the ashes.” The Daenerys storyline has been asking us for a long time: How should a just, compassionate person conquer and rule? What is the best strategy? And does how one conquers signal to the people how one will rule? All three of our main human players—Dany, Jon and Cersei—were shown wrestling with tough decisions around these questions. And Bryan Cogman, the writer of this episode, did a wonderful job bringing up strong arguments and counter-arguments based on who these characters are, and that makes it fun for us viewers to debate whether they made the right decisions.

But before we get into that, let’s discuss Dany confronting Varys about whether he will be loyal to her, considering he served King Robert but conspired behind his back to put Viserys on the throne.

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“Did your (spies) tell you Viserys was cruel, stupid and weak?” Dany asks Varys.

I suppose Tyrion was trying to show his loyalty and gratitude to Varys by speaking up for him, but really, Dany had to ask Varys these pointed questions and she needed to hear Varys’ answers. I did think his answer was solid: “(I’m) the kind (of servant) the realm needs. Incompetence should not be rewarded with blind loyalty.” And then he delivers that great speech, where he says he came from nothing and thus wants to serve the people and he believes Dany is the best chance for the people so he chose her.

 

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“You wish to know where my true loyalties lie?” Varys asks Dany. “Not with any king or queen, but with the people.”

And Dany’s response, making him swear to look her in the eye to tell her if he thinks she is failing the people, rather than conspiring against her, was a really mature, strong answer. As was her threat to burn him if he betrays her! The last thing I’ll say about this opening scene was something I wrote down on my first watch that would prove to be prescient: They made no mention of the Euron Greyjoy, though. They don’t know.

I tend to think what characters know and don’t know will be a key to how all this plays out. So pay close attention to that!

Scene 2: The scene with Melisandre was also one that benefitted greatly from all that has come before it. First and foremost, Melisandre could have easily told Dany what she wanted to her, that she believed Dany was the princess that was promised in the prophecy, but Melisandre has been humbled and it was nice to see her character growth and not go down that path again.

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“Prophecies are dangerous things.” As are Red Priestesses, right?

Then, for Tyrion to speak up in favor of Jon Snow due to traveling with him to the Wall was a wonderful call-back to season one. All of these moments make those earlier moments feel like they matter, and give the show a strong sense of connected-ness. Also, it was cool for Missandei’s translation skills to play a key role. It felt like something that could happen in our world, where an old language gets mistranslated due to how older languages may not have been so specific about genders. Of course, it was translated into the masculine only. (I’m all for making a language sing, Tyrion, but why does it so often have to sing in a way that promotes us men? Break those chains, Tyrion, break them!).

My last comment about this scene is about Dany’s request that Jon “bend the knee.” First, this phrase always cracks me up and will always remind me of this show. I don’t think I ever heard it before “Game of Thrones.” Second, will Jon do it? Is it even necessary? And isn’t it interesting Jon never brought it up in the scenes we saw at Winterfell. It makes me wonder if it was not included in the letter. I tend to think Tyrion left it out. But perhaps Jon read it but just felt it was better not to bring it up with the people who crowned him King of the North, especially since they were not too gung ho on him going to Dragonstone in the first place.

Winterfell Pt 1

The raven has been faxed to Winterfell. New tech in the kingdom. No, it’s just the show knowing its timetable. I dig it.

Sansa Stark, Jon Snow and Davos discuss its contents. Again, great callback to season one with Jon knowing the letter was written by Tyrion because it closed with Tyrion’s “all dwarves are bastards in their father’s eyes.” Not much to say about this scene, except when taken together with the last scene, it shows how Jon can use Dany’s help in their fight due to her having manpower and dragons who can breath fire and kill the wights, and Dany can use Jon’s help because the Starks have no love lost for Cersei. Makes them seem like natural allies. But we knew that already, right? Question is: who will they attack first? That’s going to be a very interesting discussion!

King’s Landing

So Cersei Lannister was using the age-old appeal to xenophobia and it made me wonder: Why did Dany bring the Dothraki? I mean, the Unsullied, I get it. But the Dothraki seem a whole lot more difficult to control and very much at odds with her style. Will they really follow her leadership if she orders them not to rape and pillage? Maybe she’ll have to feed a few to some dragons to keep them in line.

Cersei’s characterization of Dany had its basis in truth, but the idea that Dany is “no different” from her father, the Mad King, in the horrors she will inflict on her people? Why, because she crucified some slavers? Slavers who crucified children? And no she didn’t “grow bored of that” so then fed some to her dragons. Oh, Cersei, turn off Westerosi FOX News already!

Later in the episode, when Qyburn shows Cersei the giant bow and arrow they have built to take down the dragons, I wondered if it was really strong enough. Going through the old brittle bones of a dragon is one thing, right? But a living one with armored scales? Not so sure. Plus, those beasts aren’t going to be sitting still. However, it was nice to see they are coming up with some plans. And Cersei put her confidence in Qyburn last season and was rewarded for it, so who knows?

Scene 2: Since Jaime is trying to convince Randyll Tarly to be general of his army, wasn’t it stupid of him to be an arrogant jerk to Tarly’s son (even if we, as viewers, kind of enjoyed it considering his son was presented as a smug jerk to Sam Tarly last season).

I do like how Tarly is kind of a hard-ass like Ned Stark in terms of how seriously he takes his life code, but Jaime points out that he has two oaths here—to the Tyrells in the Reach and to the Crown—and those two are at odds, so he’s going to have to choose one of them. Jaime finally appeals to his phobias of foreigners and eunuchs and offers him the Warden of the South if they win. I tend to think Tarly will hear of Euron’s victory and that will sway him toward Cersei. Besides, the logic of the show dictates that he should side with Cersei, and thus be at odds with his son. And then Sam can cut his head off with the family sword!

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Randall Tarly: The best man in the world.

Last thing: “Game of Thrones” has long been brilliant at the way it flows from scene to scene, but this cut, where the scene ends with Jaime saying, “I can think of no better man than Randall Tarly” and then goes to Sam had a wicked dark humor to it that made me laugh.

Oldtown

I have only two things to say about the scenes between Sam, Archmaester Ebrose and Jorah Mormont. First, speaking of cut scenes, was that one between the greyscale surgery and the food at Hot Pie’s place one of the grossest cuts ever? Me no lookie! Second, I’m still totally unsure what Jorah or Sam’s endgame is, but obviously they both have reasonably important roles to play or the show wouldn’t be spending so much time with this. So I’m just going to be patient. And hope next week they’ll stop making Oldtown visits so disgusting!

Dragonstone Pt. 2

In an episode with lots to love, this may have been my favorite scene, just because it was so cool to see Yara Greyjoy, Dany, Tyrion, Ellaria Sand and the Queen of Thorns, Olenna Tyrell bickering over strategy. To have all these great characters and actors in the same scene is partly what makes sticking with a show like this so rewarding after several years.

Now, on to the strategy. With the way the episode ended, it seems like the show was trying to say Tyrion and Dany’s “soft power” approach was the wrong move and that the Queen of Thorns, Elaria and Yara were right. Maybe so.

But the idealist in me just can’t swallow the line of argument from the Queen of Thrones about how the commoners and nobles are “just children” who “won’t obey you unless they fear you.”

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The Queen of Thorns is as prickly as ever.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a question that Dany has been addressing for several seasons now: Is it possible to rule with compassion? Or must we rely on fear?

 

If you’ll allow me a little aside to answer the question, I’ll answer it with another: What is it that says we need “rulers” at all? Leaders, perhaps, but why must we have someone on top? Is that what Dany means by “breaking the wheel”? I’ve long hoped that the way this show ends is with no one on the Iron Throne, with Westeros heading toward a system without need for monarchs. Perhaps that is too forward thinking for their world. But a guy can hope! What do you think? How will the show answer this question? How do you answer it?

The second major question to emerge from this critical scene is: Why do Yara, Ellaria and Olenna agree to the strategy after hearing Tyrion’s plan to have the Unsullied take Casterly Rock? Is it because they are impressed that Tyrion would attack his own family’s house? Or that they believe his strategy is wise? Or something else? I suppose that both Olenna and Ellaria would love to get revenge on the Lannisters by taking their home city, but what about Yara? Why does she acquiesce? Any ideas? And last, what does Olenna mean to Dany when she advises her to “be a dragon”? Is Olenna so focused on vengeance that she’s enabling Dany’s Mad King side?

The Riverlands

Arya Stark re-uniting with Hot Pie was awesome, especially after the call back in episode one. I’m glad he’s still making delicious bread. And this was a great way for her to find out about Jon Snow. But it was also a bit sad in that Hot Pie was seeking to connect with her and she seemed unable to. Still, I give the show credit for seeming true to her character growth. And when she went outside, I wasn’t sure which way she was going to go but when she turned around and headed toward Winterfell … fuck yeah!!

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Hot Pie still makes great bread. “The secret is browning the butter before making the dough.” 

That said, her scene with her dire wolf, Nymeria and her wolf pack made me question if Arya will continue north. The way the scene ended, with Nymeria denying Arya’s request to join her and go home and then Arya saying “that’s not you” made me think Arya was questioning her decision to return.

But when I watched this week’s Inside the Episode, showrunner D.B. Weiss explains that Arya’s line is a direct reference to season one when her dad painted a picture of Arya marrying a lord and being the lady of a castle and Arya said, “that’s not me,” so in this way, her saying “that’s not you” to Nymeria was her way of identifying with how the wolf doesn’t want to be domesticated. This is great insight (and another example of all the call-backs!) but does it answer what Ara will do next? Not really.

 

One argument is that Arya sees Nymeria has a pack that is loyal to her, so Arya will rejoin her loyal “pack” at Winterfell. Another argument is that Arya recognizes how both she and Nymeria were abandoned, Nymeria is not ready to go home and be tamed, so Arya is not ready to return home so she’ll go to King’s Landing.

However, now that Jon is headed off to Dragonstone, I am not all that excited for Arya to return to Winterfell. I mean, it would be good for Sansa to know Arya is alive. But the main reason I wanted her to go was to see Jon.

So, I will make a prediction: What if Arya and Jon run into each other on the road in episode 3? That seems very possible, right? That’s what I’ll be cheering for.

Winterfell Pt. 2

I don’t have much to say about this, except I was not surprised that Jon decided to go south with Davos. Why? Because it makes for great drama and because Jon is, well, Ned Stark’s son (even if not by birth!). But Jon, after your problems with Sansa in her “undermining you,” couldn’t you have discussed your decision with her before you held the big meeting? You put her on the spot and she had to speak up. And that put you in a weak place.

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Jon Snow needs to take a few leadership classes. Good luck with Dany!

And it may have given Littlefinger an opportunity that he’s been desperately seeking. Still, it was funny to see Jon throw Littlefinger up against the wall and choke him, a la Ned Stark in season one. Here’s hoping Sansa can remain strong and remember that Littlefinger was the jerk who set her up with Ramsey Bolton. Never ever trust him, Sansa! Last, it’ll be interesting to see what happens when Davos runs into Melisandre in Dragonstone. It does seem like this episode was playing a lot with the idea of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and making uncomfortable alliances. Can Davos look past what Melisandre did to Shireen? Or is there more of that drama to resolve?

The High Seas

 

Poor Theon Greyjoy. I’ve been pulling for Theon for a few seasons now. He was very easy to dislike and then hate in the first two seasons. But that awful Ramsey did a real number on him. So even though Yara asked Theon to fight with her or just kill himself and he agreed to fight, well, seeing another Ramsey-esque psycho in Euron and all that violence around him was too much for the beaten man. So he jumped ship. I’m sure many people will say “Fuck Theon.” Hell, I thought it. We all want the heroic Hollywood ending. But this is “Game of Thrones.” It’s never been about giving us what we want. Still, that doesn’t make these moments any less hard to swallow.

But now I wonder: What role in the overall story will Theon play? There has to be something, right? Or will he just die out there floating in the sea? I suppose he will be the one to get back to Dragonstone and report on what happened. How else is Dany going to find out?

And now it appears Yara, Ellaria and one of the Sand Snakes are Euron’s “priceless” gift to Cersei. Cersei will likely put them in the torture chamber with The Mountain and that “shame, shame” septon from last season. And then she’ll accept Euron’s hand in marriage. Would that make him King of Westeros? Quite a rise for an exiled guy who dresses like a 1990s alt-rocker pirate! Still, the dude was shown to be a very scary, psychotic bad-ass in this scene. And we found out what that weird “clamp” thing at the front of his ship was. Not only did it lock their ships together, but made for quite a bridge and a dramatic entrance!

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Euron Greyjoy has now officially replaced Ramsey Bolton as the show’s scariest psychopath.

There was some good to come from the scene: Ding dong, the Sand Snakes are dead, the Sand Snakes are dead, the Sand Snakes are dead! At least two of them are. And that means we won’t have to suffer through any more of their awful banter. Hooray!

 

Anyway, so much for Tyrion’s clever plan? Like I said, on my first watch, I noticed that in both strategy sessions they didn’t mention Euron Greyjoy. Why didn’t Yara bring him up? Is she like us, and a bit incredulous he could have built such an impressive fleet in such a short time? Whatever the reason, it was a BIG oversight.

A Forgotten Scene

Okay, I didn’t really forget it. You know the scene, right? That’s it, Grey Worm and Missandei. It was an extremely well-acted scene and good for their characters. And I’m sure it is setting us up for an emotional moment when Grey Worm either dies fighting or returns to her. So for all those reasons, I understand its inclusion. No problems with it. Just not that important to the Big Story. So that’s all I’ll say about it.

And for now, thanks again for reading! See you next week!

Game of Thrones, Season 7, Episode 1: Dragonstone Review

(Disclaimer: For several years I’ve been listening to and gaining a lot of insight and ideas about “Game of Thrones” from podcasts, especially Podcast Winterfell, Bald Move’s Game of Thrones podcast and Cast of Kings. I highly recommend these. Some of what I present in my blog has been inspired by what I hear on these shows.)

Welcome back, “Game of Thrones!” And, thanks to an enjoyable season six and your great timing this year of coming on while my students are on summer vacation, welcome back to my weekly blog about the show!

That said, writing this first one has been like pulling teeth! Perhaps because I’m so out of practice but I watched the show twice and had 5,000 words! I started to narrow it down and realized that, well, I’m just going to be writing long as there is so much to discuss as the show nears its end. Hopefully it won’t be too much, but let me know if it is.

The Riverlands (Part I)

Let’s start with everyone’s favorite faceless assassin, Arya Stark. Apparently, this was only the show’s third cold open. I can’t recall the other two, so I’ll take that at face value (pun intended!). Anyway, I think that since they usually don’t use cold opens it added to the effectiveness of this scene, as if the show was saying, “Game on.”

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“When people ask you what happened here, tell them the North remembers,” Arya tells Frey’s frightened wife. “Tell them, winter came for House Frey.”

One of the things we should expect from season 7 is for smaller players to be knocked out of the game. It was great to see this happen to the Frey’s, probably the second most despicable house on the show (the Bolton’s still reign supreme).

Some fans are wondering how Arya could have pulled this off, infiltrating the Freys, keeping Walder’s body hidden and impersonating him for two weeks, poisoning all the drinks, etc. (Oh, and why is the “finest Arbor gold” a red wine?)

Here’s my advice: For the show to conclude in 13 episodes, it’s going to have to take a few shortcuts, especially with regard to how time passes and how quickly people move around this huge landscape, so I think you might enjoy the show more if you don’t nitpick these things too much. Or, at least not become too bothered by them.

However, in this case I believe the show has spent two seasons showing us Arya’s training so we should understand that Arya is a well-trained assassin now. I like how this makes her a wild card that none of our bigger players really know about, even her allies.

When this scene ended, an old concern popped up for me: Are these final seasons going to be filled with revenge plots? I recognize there is a visceral satisfaction in watching fictional characters get revenge, but it’s an emotion that also feels kind of gross to me and it can make me turn on characters who become obsessed with revenge.

However, I think the show suggested it won’t go in this direction in her scene with the Lannister soldiers. Not only did she laugh with them but there was that great line when she told the soldier that his wine was “really good,” which seemed like a throwback to one of the series’ most delightfully delivered lines in season three. Do you remember it? It was when her friend Hot Pie had given her a farewell gift in the form of a piece of bread made to look like a wolf. As she was departing, she bite into it and yelled back, “It’s really good!” I’ve really missed seeing this side of Arya over the past two years so it was great to see it’s not totally gone away. And really nice to see how it was Lannister soldiers who brought it out of her.

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It’s really good to have appreciative Arya back.

Having said all that, I still wonder something: Is she going to be in trouble for using the Faceless Men’s magic while violating their code that they must not use it for personal reasons? Because right now, I worry she’s going to have pay some sort of price for taking out the Freys.

But should she? I’ve been re-watching season six over the past two weeks and I was reminded that when Arya expressed concern to Jaqen that the actress she had been ordered to kill seemed like a good person, he said the god of death does not distinguish between good and bad people. And that their job as Faceless Men was to follow orders and not ask questions. If someone pays them to kill someone, they do it. What kind of moral code is that? It seems to me Arya is right for having dropped out of such a group. The question, then, is: will she really be punished for taking out the Freys? Especially considering the show made a point that it was only the Freys involved in the Red Wedding who she killed. It will be very interesting to see how the show resolves this question.

For it also came up in the Hound’s scene, when he asked Berric Dondarrion why the Lord of Light kept saving him, when he was neither a good nor bad person and there were many better people who he’d seen die and not come back. And Dondarrion said he didn’t know. At this point, neither do we.

One final thing on Arya: the fact that the soldiers took her “I’m going to kill the queen” as a joke in spite of how seriously she said it suggests that one of her secret weapons is that she is often underestimated by everyone because she’s “just a nice girl, traveling alone.” Also, her taking the chance to stop and fraternize with several soldiers shows how confident she is in her abilities. In the end, I’m just very glad to have Arya back as a character who is driving the action and playing a role in our overall story.

North of the Wall?

Wow. Here come the White Walkers and the Army of the Dead. Do three zombie giants equal three dragons? Will we get a zombie-giant vs dragon scene?

I heard some discussion that the grass at the start of the scene was green, which means this is likely a vision from the future where the army of the dead is well south of the Wall. I have re-watched it and just can’t tell if it is green or not. What do you think?

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Can you tell if this grass is green?

Second, there is a question if that giant was Wun Wun, who fought and died in the Battle of the Bastards at the end of last season. Again, if it is, that means they are well south of the Wall. But wouldn’t Jon Snow have ordered all those bodies burned? Including his? If he didn’t, well, then you know nothing, Jon Snow!

Next, is that giant a White Walker? I remembered that the White Walkers have the glowing blue eyes, but the regular zombie “wights” don’t, right? I do recall the White Walkers took one of Craster’s babies and turned it into a White Walker, so are we then to understand they did this with this giant? This seems to be the case, but if so, does that mean they can turn anything into a White Walker? That makes this army even scarier because the White Walkers can only be killed by dragon glass or Valerian steel, while the wights can be handled with regular weapons.

Bran coming to in front of the gate at the Wall was a bit of a surprise as I expected this to happen later. But then I thought about it and realized there’s nothing left for Bran and Meera Reed to do up North and the story must advance quickly now.

There’s one more huge question about Bran that’s gotten a lot of discussion. Bran was marked by the Night King and we learned from Uncle Benjen that the Wall has some magic in it that protects it from the White Walkers. So the question is: will Bran being marked have some effect on the Wall’s magic? Some have speculated that the Wall will come down. Consider me in that camp. Why? Because this episode had a few characters mention how they needn’t worry about the White Walkers because the Wall was there to protect the South from the White Walkers. The Archmaester in the autopsy scene with Sam said “the Wall has stood through it all.” Will it stand through this winter?

Last, I’m not sure how Bran’s answer to Edd proves he is Brandon Stark. It proves that he’s got some magic powers, though, and maybe that was enough for Edd. Or maybe he was just cold and wanted to get back inside.

Winterfell

Dragon glass. It’s important. This scene starts with Jon ordering “every northern maester to scour the records for any mention of dragon glass” because it kills White Walkers, and later in Old Town, Sam finds out about Dragonstone being on a “mountain of dragon glass.” I’m hoping Sam finds out more than that, since Stannis already told him that.

Tormund, oh how I love thee. First, it was great to see how much he trusts Jon Snow now when he quickly answered Jon’s call to man the castle at Eastwatch-by-the-Bay. And it was great fun watching our favorite red-bearded badass give the raised eyebrow to Brienne later in the episode. Too bad it appears that he’s going to be split up from her. Better make your move quick, Tormund!

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Tormund wants to be a lucky man like Pod, but he’ll need more than a raised eyebrow to succeed!

Lady Mormont is a bad-ass, but is she too much of a bad ass? I mean, the men in the room seem willing to question Jon Snow, who has freakin’ come back from the dead, killed a White Walker and climbed the Wall, but they quickly bow down to this tough little lady. Still, I did enjoy how the camera panned to Sansa and Brienne when she says, “I don’t plan on knitting by the fire while men fight for me,” and then to Davos when she says, “And I don’t need your permission to defend the north.” And was that shot of Davos the show’s way of stirring memories of his relationship with Shireen Baratheon? Could he build a relationship with Lady Mormont?

So, there’s some debate about how Sansa disagreed with Jon in front of the meeting. However, re-watching it, she starts by disagreeing with the man who suggests the first two castles after Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, those of the Karstarks and Umbers, be torn down. She says they need every fortress they have, that the “castles committed no crimes” and then suggests that they be given to families who were loyal to the Starks.

It is then Jon who disagrees. Considering she has a seat at the table with Jon and Davos, I think she has every right to voice her opinion. Maybe just be a bit more tactful?

“So there’s no punishment for treason, and no reward for loyalty?” Sansa asks Jon, who points out that he did execute men who committed treason or didn’t follow orders as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, but “I will not punish a son for the sins of his father. That is my decision. And my decision is final.”

I suppose it’s the right of the declared king to make such a decision, but such behavior also strikes me as not very tactful. I suppose I’ve got an issue with kings…

However, I do agree with his final point that “yesterday’s wars don’t matter any more. The North needs to ban together.”

Only time will tell if Jon made the right decision. But personally, I think he did. Not only do I agree with his logic about not punishing children for the sins of their fathers, but he understands that they need everyone together if they are to have a chance to defeat the White Walkers and their army.

The question, of course, is whether or not the people following him believe in him enough to agree. Does Sansa? Ole’ Littlefinger clearly seems pleased to see this discord, already plotting to capitalize on it. (And speaking of Littlefinger, in a short scene later in the episode Brienne asks why is he still here? And I don’t think Sansa gives a satisfactory answer. “We need his men, without the Vale, Ramsey Bolton would still hold this castle.” Yes, that’s true, but that’s over now. Why not send him on his way?)

S7E1Photo5LittlefingerConniving

Littlefinger has been cast to the shadows … for now.

Yet in the next scene, it seems as though this discord may not be as strong as it appeared as Sansa reassures Jon that he’s good at ruling. It shows her wisdom to re-inforce him and that she does have his back. But after years of having to stay silent, she wants to be heard and I’m super happy that she’s now in a position to do that. All that shit she had to go through may pay off.

These scenes at Winterfell end with a raven from Cersei, which says bend the knee or suffer the consequences and leads to Sansa warning Jon not to underestimate Cersei, adding that she “learned a great deal from her” and not denying that she admires her. A rather dark twist there. I only hope it doesn’t mean bad things for Sansa!

King’s Landing

Did you notice how Cersei used all the shitty words for women in describing her enemies? Not only Dany in the east at Dragonstone, but to the South there’s Elaria Sand and her “brood of bitches”, to the West, “Oleanna, the old cunt,” and to the North, “Ned Stark’s bastard has been named King of the North and that murdering whore, Sansa, stands beside him.”

Jaime’s comment that they can’t win a war if they can’t feed their men and horses suggests he believes the proper move is to attack the Tyrells because they have the grain and the livestock.

I noticed that Cersei was without her wine until Jaime brought up Tommen, causing her to scamper straight to the bottle. The show has long shown how she turns to drink when she is scared or distressed. I wonder if this will play a role in her demise? I think maybe it will.

The scene that showed the Greyjoy ships coming in had some nice touches, including that it looked like they literally tore down their houses and built them into the sides of the ships.

S7E1Photo6GreyjoyShip

What is that strange “jaw” at the front of Euron Greyjoy’s ship?

How are the Greyjoys different from the Freys? Jaime asks. Great question. And one wonders if Cersei’s decision, just like her father’s decision to join with the Freys, will come back to haunt her.

Considering Jaime killed the Mad King to stop him from torching the people of King’s Landing with wildfire, shouldn’t he be more upset with Cersei? Or at least question her about it? Then again, in season six, he was really pissed at the High Sparrow and his followers for converting Tommen. So maybe he felt Cersei was justified.

I did enjoy the actor who played Euron. He brought charisma with his wickedness, making him somewhat likeable, even as he says vile things. What is his “priceless gift,” though? I thought he meant Dany’s head…but I don’t see how he could do that and I don’t see the story going that way. So, it’s something else? But what?

Oldtown

Sam hard at work. And what a job it is! Personally, I thought the montage was awesome in how it showed the repetitive awfulness of Sam’s daily life with its visual, and more importantly audio, scenes of stacking books, squeaking wheels, farting, Sam’s retching, coughing, scrubing pans, dripping water, pouring awful soup, more retching and dumping diarhhea (from all that shitty soup). It was just over a minute long but was important in explaining why Sam would take the chance of stealing the keys to get into the restricted book area.

S7E1Photo7SamsRughJob

I don’t know if this was the food or the stuff the food turns into.

I think it was important that Archmaester Ebrose believes Sam’s story about seeing a White Walker because it made his explanation of how the Maester’s are “this world’s memories” and thus have a big view of history that allows them to see through any warnings about the impending end of the world a great counterargument to Sam’s insistence on getting access to the restricted area of the library.

Still, if he believes Sam, why doesn’t he tell Sam what he knows about the White Walkers if he’s read these books? Sam has been upfront with him about why he came there, why not help him? He doesn’t have to grant Sam the access to the restricted area. Just share the knowledge already!

Anyway, I was glad that the next scene we see Sam having agency and stealing the keys so he can get to the books. He knows his mission is on a tight schedule and he can’t wait to become a Maester and considering that this Maester believes him but still has a good reason why he can’t grant access, he understands he’s not going to be able to go through official channels.

And while it was great to see in the later scene with Sam that he’s going to write a letter to Jon telling him about all the dragon glass under Dragonstone, I do hope he finds out more about dragon glass. Still, this sets up Jon having communication with Dany. Will she listen to him? Or is she too focused on the Iron Throne?

Last, it was nice to see, or rather hear, Jorah Mormont in that cell in Old Town. What role he will play I am still totally unsure of. Perhaps his Greyscale will somehow be key to defeating the White Walkers? Also sort of funny in a pathetic way to see he’s still focused on “the dragon queen” and whether she has come to Westeros or not.

The Riverlands, Part II

Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, Thoros of Myr and Ser Berric Dondarion are traveling through a snowy afternoon and we see the Hound in all of his grouchy glory!

My favorite line of the episode was when Thoros called Clegane over to the fire and Clegane says, “It’s my fucking luck I end up with a band of fucking fire worshippers.”

On my first watch when The Hound was able to look into the flames and see the army of the dead at the Wall and the castle by the sea, I wasn’t sure I liked it. Did this make sense for his character? Or was it just narrative convenience?

The reason I wondered is because it seemed like The Hound was such a cynic that he would never be able to see anything besides “logs burning” when he looked into the flames. However, on re-watch, I believe the show has shown that The Hound is seeking answers now. That’s why he joined that religious group. He wants to understand “Why is this world such a shit show?” The only answer he’s come up with so far is cynicism, but he still keeps asking. He wants an answer. When Thoros asks, “You saw me bring him back from the dead after you cut him down, don’t you want to know what gave me the power?” he answers, “I keep asking and no one wants to tell me.” “We can’t tell you, only the fire can tell you.”

So it makes sense that he finally sees something. He’s waiting for an answer.

S7E1Photo8CleganeLooksIntoFire

Will The Hound’s vision in the flames lead the Brotherhood to helping the wildlings at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea?

Now, of course, this raises the question about the Lord of Light. We’ve seen Melisandre sacrifice a small, innocent child for this Lord of Light. How good can he be? Or was that just Melisandre mis-reading things? Of course, we know there is power in this system, we’ve seen it repeatedly. But whose purpose is it serving?

In an episode with many great scenes, perhaps my favorite was when the Hound and Thoros dug the grave for the farmer and his daughter. It was the most touching scene of this entire episode and I think showed Thoros and Clegane forming a bond. Thoros shows his intuition when he says, “You knew these people.” Clegane can’t tell the story, but Thoros knows so he helps out.

“I’m sorry you’re dead,” Clegane says as a eulogy. “You deserved better. Both of you.”

Love seeing this character growth in The Hound.

Dragonstone

An impressive final scene, visually and musically. Almost five minutes without dialogue. Just Dany and her crew (Tyrion, Varys, Grey Worm and Missandei, among others) landing on the beaches of Westeros, her touching the sand, going through a gate with dragon heads carved out of stone on the side, up a long walk, into the hall, tearing down a Baratheon banner, entering the throne room, walking right past it, into the map room and, finally, asking “Shall we begin?”

S7E1Photo8DanyFinallyinWesteros

We’ve waited several seasons for this moment.

Having this as the last line of the episode suggests that this first episode was basically a table-setter for the final six episodes of this season and the six we’ll get next year. And in that sense, I think the episode was brilliant in how it moved around the map, re-introduced the characters and told us where things stand before “the wars to come.”

I’m certainly glad you’re back “Game of Thrones” and grateful to any of you who read this long entry! See you next week.

 

 

 

Publicly Financing Campaigns Would Change our Media, and We Need That More than Ever

CampaignFinanceReformAccording to a report in The Economist magazine, “political candidates, parties, and outside groups will spend at least $5 billion on the 2016 election, more than double the cost of the 2012 campaign.”

Much of that money will be spent on advertising on media outlets, especially TV stations. In fact, according to a report from the website statista.com, the money spent on advertising will be higher than that projected $5 billion. It projects $5.8 billion on broadcast TV ads, $1.1 billion on cable TV, $1 billion on digital outlets, $0.8 billion in newspapers, $0.8 on radio and $1.8 on “other.”

Why am I bringing this up? Because when we talk about the need for campaign finance reform, we are not merely talking about reforming the fact that most politicians have to sell themselves out to various corporate interests in order to even have a shot at election, we are talking about media reform.

When it comes to the media and politics, the dirty truth is that most of the media will rarely talk about this because they do NOT want campaign finance reform because it would mean a HUGE loss in profits for them.

So along comes a rare candidate like Bernie Sanders who argues for getting money out politics. Not only does he want to overturn the Supreme Court’s “disastrous” Citizens United decision, he wants to go to a system of publicly financed campaigns.

Well, that would mean all those billions of dollars pouring into media companies for advertisers would be gone, just like that. And unfortunately, we no longer live in an era where media companies feel that their first mission is to deliver news even if that means hurting profits. In fact, many will say that profits are the point, the country be damned.

And just like any other industry in capitalist America, owners find workers who will do what they want them to do, so most journalists working for major media organizations will defend this system. Or at least not question it too loudly. Or, better yet, flat out ignore it.

Ignoring Sanders was what the media did throughout the fall of 2015. In his book “Manufacturing Consent,” Noam Chomsky called this “omission” and it is one of the main ways our US media controls how we see our world.

So while this candidate may be drawing tens of thousands of people to hear him speak, while he may be raising millions of dollars in campaign contributions from small donations, the media will look the other way, hoping that by doing so, the momentum for this candidate will be denied and he will fall by the wayside.

But if that doesn’t work, there are other methods, too: Ridicule is a good one. And if that is not working, what about flat-out lies?

It appears like we are well into the flat-out lies stage of media coverage against the Sanders campaign, as evidenced by much of the coverage of the Nevada Democratic Convention two weeks ago, claiming how violent Sanders supporters were while ignorning the gist of what happened. Here is an article setting the record straight.

Again, this should not be surprising. Nor is it in any way some sort of conspiracy theory. It’s just the way the media works in our system. So what we need to do is both understand this and then start supporting candidates and causes that can help create publicly financed elections at all levels. It’s a big task, to be sure, but one worth fighting for. Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can’t We All Get Along?: On “Game of Thrones” and Hillary versus Bernie

“Can’t we all get along?”

Those words were uttered by a black Los Angeles taxi driver named Rodney King back in the spring of 1992. King had been brutally beaten by the Los Angeles Police and it was caught on videotape, perhaps the first instance of such police-on-citizen violence to be shown to the nation. Yet an all-white jury acquitted the police of all charges, triggering the 1992 Los Angeles Riots and eventually leading King to plea for peace. (Full news clip)

King died in 2012 but if he were alive and witnessing all the cracks forming around the United States populace, I think he might wish to have another chance to stand in front of the cameras and utter those words.

In this week’s post, I am going to use episode 4 of season 6 of “Game of Thrones,” in particular the scenes in Mereen, to look at the growing division between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and ask: Is there any way we can hash out our differences without resorting to violence? Is compromise possible? Are we letting forces outside of us rile us into a frenzy over nothing? Is there even a frenzy in the first place?

It’s a bit headier than I usually make these “Game of Thrones”-based posts, but hey, I was a political science/print journalism major and sometimes I just have to use my love of drama to analyze our so-called real world and see if there is any sense to be made of it. I make no promises to deliver answers, but perhaps in raising some questions that have been bothering me, I will help to add to the dialogue, and more importantly, perhaps show that we can ask these questions without further dividing those who may disagree with our answers.

GoTS6E4WaitingforSlaversforNegotiations

“We make peace with our enemies, not our friends.” Tyrion Lannister

So let’s go to Mereen, where we find our favorite dwarf, Tyrion Lannister, locking horns with the bad-ass eunuch-soldier Grey “Obama” Worm and former slave and awesome translator Missandei over how to handle the growing unrest in the city.

They are watching a ship that is carrying some of the slave masters from Astapor and Yunkai sail into the harbor.

Much to Grey Worm and Missandei’s chagrin, they have been invited to Mereen by Tyrion to negotiate a peace.

What follows, then, is a battle between pragmatism (Tyrion) and idealism (Grey Worm/Missandei). In this way, it somewhat mirrors pragmatic Hillary versus idealistic Bernie.

Tyrion tells Grey Worm that “we make peace with our enemies, not our friends.” This was a great line, and one that was discussed on What the Flick?’s YouTube Channel, where Cenk Uygur pointed out that this was a point he’d been pounding home for years when talking about the Republicans who refuse to compromise and who condemn President Obama for things like making deals with Iran.

Of course, these slaveowners are a pretty reprehensible lot and Grey Worm and Missandei are quick to remind Tyrion of that.

One of my favorite exchanges was at the end of this opening scene, when Missandei asks Tyrion, “How many days were you a slave?” His answer, “Long enough to know” was met with a “Not long enough to understand” and I think this goes to the heart (and head) of this debate.

Tyrion still has an intellectual understanding of the horrors of slavery, but he has not truly lived it from the inside, has not felt it deep within his bones. Sure, he was a slave for a short time and that was likely a horrifying experience for him, but was he slave for many years? Was he taken from his family?

GoTS6E4 Missandei Tells Tyrion He Doesn't Know What Being a Slave Is Like

Missandei wants to slap Tyrion, Grey Worm to slice him in half.

This is why Missandei and Grey Worm are so upset when they hear of the peace plan Tyrion has in mind. Here are his terms: Mereen remains a free city and the slavers of Astapor and Yunkai will stop supporting the Sons of the Harpy insurrection, and in exchange Astapor and Yunkai have seven years before slavery must end, at which time slaveowners “will be compenstaed for their losses for fair prices.”

One of my favorite “Game of Thrones” podcasts is from the Bald Move network  and co-host A. Ron said that this was basically “blood money” and obviously very distasteful to both Grey Worm and Missandei.

Even more distasteful to Missandei seemed to be when Tyrion rang that little bell to call for three prostitutes to come in and be with the slave masters. It must have been very hard to observe that without pitching a fit.

GoTSE4 Missandei Is Not Happy With Tyrion About Giving Whores to Slavemasters

Missandei was not pleased with Tyrion for giving whores to the slave masters.

Yet not only did she maintain her composure in the next scene when Tyrion entertains some former slaves in the throne room, slaves who are NOT happy with his decision to host the slavemasters, she offered tentative support for Tyrion. As did Grey Worm. It’s clear by their expressions that it is not easy and their words are, indeed, very measured, but still they manage to walk a political tight rope.

 

Why, one wonders, if they are so passionate about their beliefs did they do this? I think this is the central question here, and the central question for the Sanders-Clinton division. How can we have each other’s back in the face of the Republicans, in the face of a scumbag like Donald Trump, while remaining true to our values?

Now, I am an unabashed Bernie Sanders supporter. I have admired him since my college days in the early 1990s. Meanwhile, I’ve never been a big fan of Hillary and my distrust for her has only grown throughout the years. I admit that I am an idealist at heart, though I think I can make a strong case for why a vote for Sanders is also a pragmatic one (and meanwhile, Hillary’s been doing her damndest to convince us idealists that she is also a progressive, so as we can see, this is not so black-and-white when we look at it more deeply).

Anyway, the analogy to the show is, in a lot of ways, not so strong. Especially on the personality level as I think most people tend to prefer the pragmatist on the show (who doesn’t love Tyrion?) while most seem to like Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. (Speaking in generalities here, folks).

So let’s leave the show behind for a bit and start looking at what’s going on in the real world.

Now, when I started this blog, my intention was to look at how the arguments on the show were held versus how they are being held in the real world. To make the case that Grey Worm/Missandei versus Tyrion are offering us a fine example of how to hash out our differences. And to even argue to my fellow Sanders supporters to follow their leads, at least in terms of calmly making their case. Yet the more I consider that, the more it seems too pat.

Because the more I look into what did and, maybe more important, what didn’t happen at the Nevada Democratic convention last weekend, the more I am convinced that the whole brohauha is much adieu about nothing. Or at least the claims of thrown chairs (with no video evidence), Barbara Boxer “fearing for her life” (while standing behind a phalanx of security guards) and, in general, this whole narrative of the “angry” Bernie supporters, well, all of that seems to be a narrative fiction to distract from what really went down and from why Bernie supporters were actually upset in the first place.

In short, we don’t trust Hillary or the Democratic Party. So they are going to have to do a lot better job in being above board in their behavior. No more people mysteriously being thrown off roles, no ignoring the obvious decision of a “voice vote,” no changing of the rules at the last minute, basically, no more shenanigans. One has to wonder why even do such things at this point? Hillary has all but won the primary, so why not take the high road from here on out and play fair? Why not just let the votes be cast as they may, compliment your opponent and his supporters for a strong fight and invite them into the party to defeat Trump?

 

HillaryPointsatBernie

The Hillary-Bernie divide needs less finger pointing and more listening.

 

 

Of course, I know the Hillary perspective is that there is a lot of sour grapes from Bernie supporters. And I know there are those awful phone calls apparently made by Bernie supporters (but we don’t know that for sure) to the Nevada Democratic convention chairwoman. Much as I found her behavior bizarre, hilarious, absurd, reprehensible and a lot of other adjectives, I see no reason to stoop to calling her a female dog or other such slanders. Sure, call her, email her, whatever and tell her you passionately disagree with how she handled the convention. But leave the personal attacks, the name-calling, all of that at home.

And sadly, while we bicker over all this nonsense, we are forgetting what we really need to be discussing. Real issues, such as climate change, how to reign in the banks and, on a collective psychological level, how to restore a sense of national “we” to a country that has gone wild focusing on “me” in the past several decades.

In another way to link reality with “Game of Thrones” I have raised this idea in a blog post last year (season 5, episode 8), but I’ve wondered if George R R Martin’s mega theme is a commentary on how, with the threat of the White Walkers (climate change) coming…and soon!…our elites are caught up bickering over their fickle games and that may be the death of us all.

But when it comes to Mereen, it’s pretty obvious that the issue they are haggling over—how to abolish slavery—is a very important one. And much as everyone, including Dany, wanted to rid Slaver’s Bay of the practice overnight, that was never realistic without some sort of new system to replace it right?

Again with the real world connections. Some have suggested that this is Martin commenting on the US invasion of Iraq and our lack of a post-war plan. Perhaps some of that informed his writing.

I will say, though, that as a fiction writer myself sometimes these themes that people interpret into our work are themes that are not intentional. That is not to say they are not there. One of the beautiful things about art is that it can be interpreted in so many different ways. And honestly, I really do see that connection and love the idea.

So would that make Tyrion like President Obama? And his “seven years a slave” plan akin to Obama’s drone wars? Or am I stretching a bit?

 

GoTS6E4WaitingforSlaversforNegotiations

Is Tyrion enjoying getting his Obama on?

 

 

Yet isn’t this fun? Isn’t a lot more fun than talking about all the stupid shit that is driving us apart?

Before I finish, I want to make a more serious point. And that is: I also wonder, is it possible that the flames of these divisions are being purposely fanned as a way to put out the potential fires of revolution? Look at it this way. There is clearly a lot of public unrest in the US right now. Both Trump and Sanders have ridden that unrest to within reach of the White House. The Establishment is not very happy about this. And what is one method that has been used by the powerful when the masses start getting uppity throughout history? That’s right, divide and conquer. It doesn’t really matter how you divide, just as long as you divide. Even better is to divide over issues that mean very little. Thus, will we see more attempts in the weeks to come to cause us to turn against each other? Dark thought there, but consider it fair warning.

Perhaps I can end this by appealing to the better natures inside of everyone (well, everyone except for Ramsey Bolton). No matter what “side” you are on, perhaps the goal for the rest of the election cycle for each of us should be to learn how to passionately discuss our opinions while remaining respectful and open to the idea that others have different opinions and often not for the reasons we imagine. And to maybe hold in our hearts the idea that, while this person may not agree with me, they may not be a bad person. Maybe they have good intentions like we do. Maybe they are only hoping for the best for the country. They just have a different perspective about how to get there. Maybe they think we need incremental change, but you think it’s time for a political revolution. Okay, talk about it. Explain your reasons with passion, but do so with respect. And then, be sure to listen. Perhaps by doing that, we can all reach some sort of new understanding that will help us take the next step forward. If nothing else, it beats the alternative of fracturing our society even further. We really don’t want a War of the Five Kings in the USA, do we?

Okay, folks, here’s hoping next week I’ll just write about the damn show! Ha ha. Thanks for reading.

“Game of Thrones” Season 6, Episode 3: Why I’m Not Cheering For Cersei Lannister

In listening to various discussions of episode 3 of season 6 of “Game of Thrones,” I’ve come across an opinion that I just can’t get behind: Rooting for Cersei Lannister’s vengeance quest against the High Sparrow and his religious zealots.

Before I go on, let me be clear: I have no love lost for anybody that abuses their authority. That’s a fundamental aspect of my character; to side with the underdog, to distrust hierarchies and to strongly dislike nefarious, powerful people.

Which, I suppose, is precisely why I can never cheer for Cersei Lannister. Yes, the High Sparrow is flawed and has let his Faith Miltant run rampant over the city, often for things I could care less about (mostly one’s personal sexual choices or vices), but is he  anywhere near as bad about abusing his power as Cersei Lannister has been?

GoTS6E3 Zombie Mountain Awaits His Commands

Cersei’s instrument of revenge, an asshole in life and death.

 

Let’s review some of Cersei’s crimes (I’d bet I’m forgetting some). She: had Lancel aid in killing King Robert on the hunting trip; knew that Ned was telling the truth, but had him arrested, which led to his beheading; ordered Robert’s bastards killed (there were like 20 of them, some still babies!); ordered Mandon Moore of the Kingsguard to kill Tyrion at the Battle of the Blackwater; gave false testimony against Tyrion at his trial; had a number of dwarves killed in her effort to hunt down Tyrion, and now, has ordered zombie The Mountain to smash people’s heads against walls if they so much as speak up against her.  Let’s also not forget just how often she has, in a very petty way, thrown her power around against people like Littlefinger, Sansa, Maester Pycelle and, of course, Tyrion. (In season four, Prince Oberyn Martell told the story about coming to Casterly Rock and seeing Tyrion as a baby, and Cersei said Tyrion killed her mother and pinched his “little cock so hard I thought she might pull it off”). Last, let’s not forget that it was Cersei who empowered the High Sparrow, giving him the right to arm the Faith Militant because she wanted a way to get back at Queen Margaery.

Then, there is just her general crime of being arrogant and completely uncaring for the Small Folk, which is probably why so many willingly joined the High Sparrow’s movement and why so many took such glee in demeaning her on her Walk of Shame.

And why does Cersei do all of this? Mostly, it is because she’s an insecure, rash person who lusts for power and considers it her right to do so. She also feels that as a woman, she is denied autonomy in this very patriarchial society so lashes out at the world in vengeance. While I can totally understand her on this last point, I still don’t think we can so easily excuse her behavior. Perhaps it is a tribute to the writers of this character that we can empathize with her feelings enough that we forget how she has acted on those feelings.

In the end, the world according to Cersei is all about Cersei. Just about her whole reason for existing is about herself.

She does have one redeeming quality and that is her love for her children. But that has nothing to do with her quest for vengeance against the High Sparrow, does it? Did he have any role in the death of Joffrey or Myrcella? Nope.

So why, oh why, do people want to support her against the High Sparrow? In this world where people do things like slaughter babies, chop off men’s privates and slice horses in half, have we seen him do anything so horrible as any of that?

I can agree that making a woman walk through the streets naked while a nun rings an annoying bell and chants “shame” repeatedly is some nasty business, but compared to the punishments others have suffered in this world, and when one looks at that list of crimes Cersei has committed, why do we feel so sorry for her?

GoTS6E1CerseiLooksSoSad

Lena Headey was amazing in this sad scene of her daughter’s homecoming in a box.

I think there are a few answers. First, I think it’s a tribute to the acting of the great Lena Headey. She’s managed to find the humanity in Cersei through her performance in a way that I never felt came across in the books. The way she acted her Walk of Shame, her facial expressions, and the way she acted when she went to meet Myrcella but saw that she was dead couldn’t help but make us feel for her.

Second, the writers of the show have made more of an effort to humanize her than George Martin did in the books. Just look at the scene in episode one of this season  where she was talking to Jaime about Myrcella and said she “was so sweet, I don’t know where she came from, she was nothing like me, no meanness, no jealousy, just good.”

CerseiTalkstoJaime

Cersei shows self-awareness of her meanness in this scene with her brother/lover from episode 1.

Part of me feels like the writers are not being true to her character in scenes like this because I’ve never seen Cersei as being aware of her own flaws. I feel like she’s always justified her actions as being things she has to do, whether for family, or just to survive in this world. Has she ever revealed to us that she feels guilt for any of it? Please respond in the comments below if there are times where she has. I can’t remember any.

But I think the main reason people want Cersei to let loose her zombie giant Ser Gregor on the High Sparrow and his followers may have to do with viewers’ particular feelings toward religion. Let me turn to the discussion on this epsiode on the YouTube channel What the Flick.

If you don’t know this channel, it is the entertainment arm of the Young Turks channel, which is a political channel on YouTube that I love and generally agree with. And I generally like their discussions about “Game of Thrones.”

Here’s what was said regarding this topic.

Cenk Uygur said, “With the religious guy (the High Septon), all the God talk, it drives me crazy, right, and it’s supposed to drive you crazy. Like how do you know what the gods want, which is what has happened for time immemorial in human history, some jerk comes down and says ‘Oh, I talked to the gods and the gods say this.’ Yeah, right. Spare me!”

And Matt Atchity replied, “Now the gods say you all have to drop your pants.”

I get it, you guys. What the Roman Catholic priests have been doing to kids for a long time is sick, sick, sick. What a lot of religious institutions have been doing to people who don’t believe as they do has been, in my opinion, a real detriment to humankind. So I’m not  without sympathy for what they are saying here. However, I think they are making the mistake of applying too much of our world onto their reading of this situation in “Game of Thrones” and forgetting about all these details I’ve been going over with regard to Cersei versus the High Sparrow.

After all, have we seen any evidence that the Sparrows are sexually abusing kids? Maybe they are, but on a show that has no trouble showing us the worst of humanity, the fact that this has never even been hinted at suggests to me they are not. All we’ve seen is them acting out against those they consider sexual deviants, those who offend the gods.

I am thinking of that gross scene in season five where some of the Sparrow thugs burst into the brothel and found the High Septon with some prostitutes and then marched him through the streets naked while whipping him. I am also thinking of how they are punishing Loras Tyrell for being gay.

GoTS6E1SeptaUnella

Septa Unella is one zealot I will be happy to see go.

So yes, they are zealots in their attack on people for their sexual proclivities and, personally, my spirituality informs me that a person’s sex life is of no matter to “the gods,” so long as you aren’t harming others in your practice of it.

Uygur goes on, “I probably despise Cersei more than anyone else…but I am so rooting for her to kill all those religious zealots. Only ‘Game of Thrones’ can get me to root for Cersei Lannister, but Cersei, off with their heads already!”

Kill them all? Really?

Let’s remember who these people are. Most are small folk and thus have had to live in poverty and under the reign of this selfish, arrogant, evil woman for much of their lives. For them to band together and take back power from her seems to me be something worth cheering for, right?

Or maybe not. Maybe the point is we should be cheering for both the Sparrows and Cersei to wipe each other out. Or for them to all die in the coming war of the White Walkers.

All I know is there is no reason we should be cheering for Cersei. Well, there is one  more reason and it’s this last reason that bothers me sometimes about fan reaction to this show. That is, sometimes it seems like the show is revenge porn for people. People have things in their life they want to see brutally destroyed, often for very justifiable reasons, and they use this show as a vehicle to vicariously experience seeing that happen.

Thus, people with personal vendettas against religious zealots may find it easy to cheer for Cersei and the zombie Mountain to kill the Sparrow and the Faith Militant.

And perhaps my personal story is more invested in seeing a powerful, rich person like Cersei taken off the chessboard of this crazy world.

Ultimately, maybe we can use this show to examine our desire for revenge, what drives it, how far we really would be willing to take it, and, perhaps, how can we transform the feelings that drive it into actions that don’t perpetuate the cycle of violence in our world. Thanks for reading.

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