According 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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.”
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.
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.
Lots of the early reviews of the first episode of season 6 of Game of Thrones” thought it was shocking. Was it?
I’m sure some of you would point to the end, where the beautiful, in-her-prime Melisandre turns into an old hag before crawling under her blankies.
But let’s examine that. If we know nothing about a character except that she has magical powers, nothing about her back story, would any revelation about her really a surprise?
Okay, maybe if she turned to the camera and told us she loved the Grateful Dead.
But that would be, well, it would be awesome for a Deadhead like me, but it would also not make any sense in the context of the universe that is “Game of Thrones” (wherever and whenver it is. Personally, I hope they never answer that question. I heard on a podcast some theory that it’s some thousands-of-years-in-the-future post-apocalyptic Earth, but to me, such an idea just takes away from the show. I just accept it’s a well-crafted, fully lived in world that has some different rules than ours. Digressions…)
Anyway, so she’s an old hag. Honestly, I hope that there is a reason this is important to the story going forward and a reason it hasn’t been presented to us until now. I trust those reasons exist, so won’t be tossing and turning in my sleep tonight worrying about them.
So, besides that, what were the other surprises?
Now, a disclaimer here. I did read the books. I also follow podcasts and am pretty immersed in this story. So I tend to, well, umm, know things. Things the average viewer may not, or quite simply has just forgotten. This is such a massive show and the books are even more massive, so it’s natural for us to forget things. I’m going to prove to you in a bit that I forget basic stuff, too!
So when Dany was surrounded by the Dothraki last year, I figured that she’d likely reveal pretty quickly that she is the widow of Khal Drogo. Or that they would know. Which means they’ll take her to that city where all Khal widows go to (we saw that city in season one. It was where Dany ate the heart … gross! … and where her idiot brother, Viserys, got the helmet of gold…also gross, but justice!!).
So, for me, that story went as expected. I will say that I thought the Dothraki really showed a lack of knowing their world. I mean, everyone, even on the other continent of Westeros seems to know Dany has taken over the cities of Slaver’s Bay. Don’t the Dothraki know, too?
As did the search by Jorah and …. shit, forget his name, her lover. Daario Naharis! Yeah, that’s it! Jorah found the ring, they talked about how they both support her, even though they are in a different relationship with her. Okay…some nice character development, I suppose, but surprising? I mean, we all figured they’d find the ring, somehow. So they did. So they keep walking.
Back in Meereen, I suppose seeing the ships burn in the harbor was a bit of a shock. But I’ve also long felt that Dany’s going to get to Westeros (if she does) in non-traditional ways, so to see the boats go up just seemed like par for the course. Not to mention this story has long been stalling Dany so what else is new?
Arya is blind and being given jedi training by the Waif. Honestly, I remember the Arya chapters from books 4 and 5 very little, so it’s not book knowledge here I am going on. It’s more just knowledge of story structure. Why would the show creators spend all that time in the very dull House of Black and White last year only to have her kicked out at the end? And remember, she was told that she had another chance by Ja’qen Hagar. Her last chance, mind you. So it goes.
Across the Narrow Sea at Castle Black. Did any of that come as a surprise? Duty-bound Davos finds Jon Snow’s body and finds his allies and they protect it from the traitors and plot a plan. Cool. I’m down with the wildlings coming up and kicking ass against those idiots of the Night’s Watch who don’t realize that Jon Snow was the one who made the hard decision, not Alliser Thorne.
Before I go on, I hope I am not sounding like I felt the show made bad decisions. By contrast, I think they made the right, logical decisions for the story. But I feel like anybody who was really shocked is either lying (likely in an attempt to hype the show) or not paying attention.
Next, down at Winterfell, Sansa and Theon being saved by Brienne was the only way I felt that story could go. I mean, why have her escape only to be captured again? Sure, we could say this show defies expectations but that would be a case of the show just spinning its wheels, wouldn’t it? In the past, when it defied expectations, such as with the Red Wedding or the beheading of Ned (love those rhymes!), it did so in service of the story moving forward into uncharted territory.
Keep that in mind. No writer worth his salt is going to make a surprise move only to move back to where he was two moves again. Unless he or she is playing the ultimate mindfuck, I suppose.
So, yeah, great, I was VERY happy to see Brienne come in with my boy Podrick and take out the asshole Boltons (but what did happen to the dogs? I know the show can’t show them slaughtering dogs …then again, it showed a horse getting hacked in half in season one! … but seriously, where did they go?). And I loved the scene of Brienne and Sansa swearing themselves to each other. Very cool. But also, expected.
Move further south to King’s Landing. Cersei’s reaction to Jamie makes sense, too. Admittedly, I did wonder if she might turn on him for failing to bring back her daughter. But it makes sense that she would say it is fate and not Jamie’s fault since the show did open season five with the flashback of her receiving the prophecy and then a scene of her pondering it. So we know it weighs heavily on her mind. Still, I did like this scene and, amazingly, found myself rooting for both of them. Yes, Cersei is still a bad person, but she’s been through some pretty crappy shit and one of her few redeeming qualities has been her love for her kids. Plus, as she said Myrcella was a sweet girl, just more collateral damage in a show that seems to reveal in the concept. Anyway, to see how heartbroken Cersei was when Jaime pulled into the harbor with her little girl under that shroud of gold, well, that moved me. And it’s quite a tribute to actress Lena Headey…all that with facial expressions. She’s a true standout on a show full of great actors.
Not sure what to make of Margaery’s brief scene with that nasty, pious Sparrow chick (bad cop) and the High Sparrow (good cop). Nothing really happened there, in my opinion.
And last, the most confusing segment of the show goes to the Dorne-related stuff. This, however, is also expected as season five’s most confusing segments were most often about the plot in Dorne.
Was it shocking to see the Sand Snakes and their mother kill the Prince? Not so much. And because his character was so undeveloped, it didn’t move me in any way (it did make the book fan in me sad that a rich character from the books was so undeveloped, and made the TV fan in me sad that they wasted such a good actor on such a minor part!).
Perhaps the most confusing scene was the scene where two of the Sand Snakes somehow snuck aboard the boat where the Dornish boy Prince Trystane was stowed and killed him. The boat was shown to be in the harbor at King’s Landing, so I do wonder how they managed to stealthily get aboard. But then again, these shortcuts-for-the-sake-of-action scenes are just normal for the Danish plotline on the TV show. It’s been shown rather quickly and without much development and seems to be done mostly in service of plot, while ignoring characters and leaving us viewers guessing just how it all happened.
I do hope it means they are setting it up for some cool stuff between Dorne and the Lannisters, but don’t feel real confident about that aspect of the show.
Anyway, I think that covers it. So, did anything shocking happen? Anything you couldn’t have foreseen? You tell me. Please comment below and thanks for reading.
On FX’s “American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson” and Living in Racially Charged Los Angeles During That Media Circus
I was a print journalism/political science student heading into my senior year at the University of Southern California (USC) when OJ was first apprehended and that famous Bronco chase ensued and had graduated and was working in the sports department of the Los Angeles Daily News by the time the trial came to an end in the fall of 1995.
So watching FX’s fascinating portrayal of that historic trial on “American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson” has brought back a lot of memories for me, and I’d like to comment on both how the show is depicting that time and my experiences of living through it.
For the most part, I think the show has nailed the zeitgeist of 1990s Los Angeles. At the end of my freshman year at USC, the Los Angeles riots broke out in response to the not-guilty verdict for the police officers caught on videotape beating motorist Rodney King.
When I came to USC as a young man from a predominately white, middle-class-to-upper-middle-class suburb of Tacoma, Washington, one of the reasons I wanted to go to Los Angeles was because the city was much more of a cultural melting pot than my home town was. However, I think I believed that LA was a rather forward-thinking place and racism there was mostly a thing of the past. Yes, I was aware of the Watts riots in the mid 1960s but for a guy born in 1973, the 1960s were always history (a fascinating history, to be sure. In fact my favorite period of history!). So I figured that those racial wounds had long been healed.
What can I say? When you are young, you think 25 years ago, or any time before your own birth, is “a long time ago.” Only with age (I am now 43) does one realize that 25 years is a very short blip on the historical radar screen. I mean, as I write this, 25 years ago we were about one month away from those Los Angeles riots happening and while it does seem like a fairly long time ago, I have by no means forgotten that experience and expect that for people who were more impacted by those events, those memories remain relatively fresh.
So it’s fascinating to me to read some of the millenial reaction to this show, because for them, it is the same as my take on the 1960s was as a young person. History. Something in the past. I suppose, then, for them it all seems rather surreal, like it may not have so much connection to events in present time.
However, I would beg to differ. One of the reasons I think this show is actually one everyone should be watching is because racial tensions have by no means dropped over the years. In fact, I read on Salon.com today that enlistment into the KKK increased from 2014 to 2015 and just a month or so ago, the KKK’s David Duke endorsed the leading Republican candidate, Donald Trump, for president, and Trump was pretty slow and impotent in disavowing Duke’s endorsement. Furthermore, we’ve not only had racially charged incidents at Trump’s rallies, but over the past few years we’ve had what seems like a large amount of police brutality and even killings of poor blacks, and grand juries then somehow dismissing any charges against the police for their behavior, which has led to uprisings in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland. And last, this has all taken place after the first black president was elected in 2008 and then again in 2012, which has seemed to cause the racists amongst us to become more out in the open with their beliefs and behavior.
So, yes, the OJ Trial happened over 20 years ago, but it is NOT history, but very much connected to current events.
Now, to get to the show and my life in Los Angeles.
In spite of the fact I was a journalism and political science student and thus interested in social issues and the law (I briefly flirted with the idea of becoming a lawyer), I was one of those people who couldn’t stand the around-the-clock coverage of the OJ Trial. I felt like it was just another example of how the media tends to focus on one story while ignoring issues that I felt were more impactful to people’s lives. After all, in 1994 both a newer version of GATT (the General Agreement of Tarriffs and Trade) and NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) were signed, which in effect created the WTO (World Trade Organization) in early 1995. I had a political science professor from eastern Europe who gave a lecture on these agreements in spring of 1994 and he argued that they would have a huge impact on our lives, yet we were getting almost no media coverage of them. So when the OJ Trial came along, I was quick to dismiss its significance and to this day, resent just how much the media went crazy in covering it. (Side story: At that time, I was involved with the medical marijuana legalization movement and one day, a man who suffered from glaucoma and was in a wheelchair for reasons I’ve forgotten, had a trial at the same courthouse as the OJ Trial, so we decided to use all those journalists milling around outside the courthouse to our advantage by staging an impromptu pro-pot rally, where the sick members of our group even toked up on camera! It made a few local news stations, if I recall. But mostly it was just fun for me to see how insane that coverage was first hand (there had to be 100 journalists and 20 TV vans and crews there!). Somewhere a friend of mine who attended that day has video footage he took on a Super 8 camera of that event!).
I had a good friend who lived next door to me in the summer of 1994 to the winter of 1995 and once the trial started, when I went over to his house (which was just about every day) he had it on and wanted to discuss it. He was studying to become a lawyer so this made sense, but at that time, I just wanted to go over there and relax by smoking some of the cheap Mexican weed that we used to buy on the streets around USC. I’d sometimes get upset with him for being so obsessed with the case.
However, over the years, I’ve come to soften my position. I still stand by my feeling the media coverage was too much, but now realize just how significant the trial was in regards to racial, social and economic issues, not to mention issues surrounding the American obsession with celebrity (after all, this trial gave birth to the Kardashians! I honestly did not know that until I watched this show!).
And the show has done a brilliant job in showing the angst of the racial divide that consumed Los Angeles in those years. From looking at how the defense used racism as its narrative to acquit OJ to how the jurors were selected based on their race and gender and how, once selected, those jurors dealt with those same racial tensions for something as trivial as what they’d get to watch on TV, racial tensions were at the forefront of this trial and are justifiably the main thread running through this show.
From a personal perspective, in the winter of 1995, I started dating and soon living with a black gal and during the next few years together, we, or she alone, were stopped numerous times by the LAPD and harassed, though never given any tickets or anything because whenever I challenged why they were stopping us, whether it was racially motivated, they’d back off but not without giving us a warning for some made-up reason or another (“Watch how you exit onto the street next time!” and other nonsense). These experiences contributed to my own awareness of how the racism narrative presented by the defense was likely going to be a winner.
In fact, I can still remember the day I heard Johnnie Cochran give his closing arguments. On that day, I violated my usual disdain for tuning in and was listening on the radio as I drove to my job in the Los Angeles Daily News Sports Department. I remember saying to myself repeatedly, “it’s brilliant, he’s gonna get off. No way he gets convicted.” This had nothing to do with my own desires for the outcome of the case. To be honest, I really didn’t care. I had no dog in the race. Intuitively, I felt OJ likely did it. However, I also felt the LAPD was racist and that the prosecution had made mistake after mistake and, if asked by friends if I was on the jury whether I would convict him, I’d say, “No because if you are going to convict a person, you have to be convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that he or she did it, and there are too many questions I have to make me able to say that I am so convinced.” This PISSED off my white friends to no end.
Why did it piss them off? Well, because in the end, no matter which side you were on, this was an emotional case that relied on one’s personal experiences in large part to determine where you stood. I openly admit that my own experiences with the police made me susceptible to the defense’s narrative (as well as my general favouring of defendants against the powers of the state). I’m sure I’ll still get arguments from those convinced he was guilty that it was not about emotion for them, but the facts, but they ignore that, for them, they likely never had any sort of racially motivated interaction with the LAPD so that argument from the defense didn’t make sense to them on a factual or emotional level. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The white friends I had who were less emotionally charged could understand this, they could look at the Rodney King case alone and see that the LAPD did have an issue with racism.
But for me, a person who had experience with racist LAPD cops, it was easy to see that this argument would be a hard one for the prosecution to overcome.
That said, it wasn’t strictly for those reasons that I think (spoiler alert!) OJ was eventually acquitted. Like I mentioned before, the prosecution blew the case. The show has done a good job in showing how lead prosecutor Marcia Clark, in spite of being a very good prosecutor, just didn’t understand how racially divided the city was, especially in some of her interactions with co-prosecutor Christopher Darden. She was overconfident. She did have a winning record as a prosecutor, which was why she was chosen. But perhaps that decision backfired on the prosecution, because she was both so personally confident and so confident in the case she was unable to see that the presentation of this being a part of the LAPDs racist prosecution of the black community would score some serious points, even when Darden tried to point that out to her. By the time it started to sink in for her that it was working, it was likely too late.
In addition, they made several basic mistakes, in particular Darden’s insistence that OJ try on the glove. Watching that scene in episode 7 caused me to do an Internet search to find out “how can OJ be guilty if the gloves didn’t fit?” I found some answers about how they gloves had been frozen and unfrozen several times. Also, Simpson was wearing latez gloves underneath (I still don’t understand why the prosecution didn’t insist he take those off!). There was also an argument that Darden made that Simpson had arthritis and didn’t take anti-inflammatory medicine the day before putting on the gloves, so his hands had swollen up. Those all seem like reasonable answers, especially now, but when presented with the evidence of him trying to put them on (you can watch the real clips on YouTube: OJ Tries on Gloves), it’s hard for a jury, especially members already thinking he has been set up, to ignore their own eyes. So, yes, that was a huge fuck up and I’m sure the scene in the show where District Attorney Gil Garcetti was so pissed at Clarke and Darden was probably pretty accurate (and may have even been underplayed). (NOTE: I listen to a podcast called “Dragon Brag” that is covering the show and at the end, they do a fact check of the episode and apparently nothing like this scene did happen. Consider me wrong. Still, the scene made sense within the context of the show!)
Again, another thing I argued strongly to friends at the time, is that our legal system is based on the idea of “innocent until proven guilty.” Just as in my previous post on this blog about NetFlix’s “Making a Murderer” I sometimes feel like modern Americans, especially those who have retained trust in our legal system, forget this VERY important aspect of our legal system, and get it backwards, “Guilty until proven innocent.” No, it’s not the job of the defense to prove a client innocent. It’s the job of the prosecution to prove him guilty. And in this regard, I don’t think too many people nowadays will argue that the Simpson prosecution team did a good job of that.
Interestingly, though, one of the reasons the show has also been so fascinating for me to watch is how it has explored the characters of the main players. I’ve become a lot more sympathetic to Marcia Clark. Episode six, which focused on her, showed how hard it was for her to suddenly become a public figure. The scene in which she broke down with Darden and told him that, unlike the defense team, she was just not a public person, was especially moving. Actress Sarah Paulson has done a great job of humanizing Clark for me.
On the other hand, I’ve become even less impressed of lead defense attorney Robert Shapiro than I was at the time (and even then I thought he seemed like a stuck-up schmuck). This is not to knock John Travolta’s performance—it’s a bit over-the-top, but I sense that so was Shapiro. But just as I felt then, the show has gone to great lengths to show that it was adding Johnnie Cochran to the team that really gave the defense its big advantage. He was an incredibly sharp thinker and exceptional at manipulating the media and creating the narrative that got OJ acquitted (and Courtney B. Vance is awesome!).
Last, Christopher Darden, as played by Sterling K. Brown, may be the most fascinating character of all to watch. A guy who was put in that tough role of prosecuting along with a friend and co-worker in Clark, but who also was seen as the “token black working for the Man” and also could empathize with the defense’s argument. It’s compelling to watch him work through all of that.
Much more could be said about this, and I may write a follow-up post when the series ends in a few weeks. Ultimately, it’s a show that I think deserves our attention and, for the most part, I applaud the creators for pulling it off. Thanks for reading.
I binge-watched Netflix’s crime documentary “Making a Murderer” this week and, besides developing a pretty good impersonation of Steven Avery, I came out of it with a few strong impressions that I feel compelled to share.
1) If you are ever in a situation where the police are talking to you about a crime that they beleive you may be involved in, just shut the fuck up. Be polite, but firm in your insistence that you have a lawyer present. In other words, use your Miranda rights.
Because if there is one thing this show hammered home, it’s that the police lie and cajole people into incriminating themselves, even people who are almost functionally retarded and not even adults.
The police do this for a variety of reasons but the number one, I think, is because they are expected by the public to get convictions, to put away “bad guys” so the public can remain safe.
2) This leads to number 2, which is that neither the police or the State are interested necessarily in the Truth. Again, they want to be able to convince the public they got the right guy or gal. But the problem is, when they narrowly focus in one someone, they develop a tunnel vision that makes it impossible for them to retain the necessary humility to accept that their conclusion may be wrong. As a result, countless innocent people have been locked away for a long time and, even worse, many innocent people have been put to death.
3) American culture has a REAL problem understanding one of our legal foundations which is “innocent until proven guilty.” It is NOT the job of the defense to prove defendents innocent. Rather, it is the job of the State to prove the defense guilty. Beyond a shadow of a doubt. If you ever sit on a jury (as I did way back in the 1990s in LA), please keep this in mind. But even if you don’t sit on a jury, keep it in mind the next time you watch the news about the latest horrific crime and you see confident district attorneys and law enforcement officials telling you the juicy details of a crime. Remember, this is NOT a court of law and they can say whatever they want, and often do, and what the State often says is, well…let’s get to that next.
4) The State lies. I think it may be a good sign that the American people retain so much faith in their public institutions, but it has its downside when it comes to occasions when the State acts against our best interests, or when it singularly goes after someone for a crime at the exclusion of investigating anybody else. I read a fair amount of John Grisham books and one thing that comes through loud and clear in his writing about the US justice system is how unjust it is, and how it is often so slanted in favor of the State. After all, the State has tremendous resources at its disposal–not only in terms of finances to pay for lawyers and experts, but in terms of having expert witnesses who work for the State.
5) And on this point of how slanted the system is for the State, this is, I think quite obviously, one of the real blowbacks of the decades long War on Drugs, and now the War on Terror. We are seeing just how militarized our local police forces have become in the past decade or so, in terms of police equipment and such, but the militarization of the mentality of our judicial system has been going on a lot longer than that. What this means is the State looks through the lens of dichotomy, Us vs. Them, where they see the public as the “Them,” the enemy. And when they are charging a person with a crime, they lose the ability to see, or even consider, that that person may not be the right “bad guy.” While they will pay lip service to how they are protecting the common good, do their actions really back up these words?
6) I don’t want to go into specifics of the show, at risk of spoiling it, but I do want to say that, if nothing else, I hope the show spurs a conversation on how we treat both children and the mentally disabled when it comes to police interrogations. In no circumstance should a 16-year-old, mentally challenged kid be allowed to be interrogated for several hours without the presence of a lawyer. I don’t care if a parent gives the police permission or not, because just as often those parents don’t know what they are doing. Give the kid a lawyer BY LAW and be done with it.
7) When a judgment is appealed, why in hell would it be appealed to the same judge who sat on the original trial?
8) Speaking of Appeals Courts, considering that they are functions of the State and an appeal by its nature is arguing that the State failed a person, I think it’s prety clear to conclude that Appeals Courts have an unspoken bias to rule to deny the appeal. I’d be interested to know what percentage of appealed cases are heard and not flat-out denied. I’d guess it would be rather low.
9) On that point, I think when an appeal is suggesting nefarious behavior by the State, why can’t we allow the appeal to be heard in a different jurisdiction, one with no ties? This may be imposible, but in this case, they were arguing that a county in Wisconsin had fudged evidence, so why not have the appeals process go to another state? It’s not a perfect solution because it is still the State, and thus likely that states would have each other’s backs, but seems better than what we do now.
10) The media needs to be A LOT more skeptical of the State. As a former media guy, this one has been a founding position of my political and social outlook for a while now. In fact, while I hold the Bush Adminstration accountable for the Iraq War fiasco, I hold the mass media equally accountable, and maybe more, for not being more skeptical and for basically cheerleading the nation into war. I say maybe more, because I expect governments to lie in pursuing their agenda. The great journalist I.F. Stone said as much. But what I don’t expect is the media to swallow those lies without looking into them, or worse yet, to perpetuate the lies by reporting them as truth.
That’s all that I have, though I may think of more. “Making a Murderer” is over 10 hours long, but I think well worth the time because it’s high time Americans start having a serious conversation about our broken justice system. I want to close this by reminding readers that, per capita, America locks up more of its citizens than any nation on Earth. Is that really a stat we want to be number one in? Doesn’t that disprove our talk of being the “Land of the Free”? The good news is, if enough of us care and take some action, we have the power to remedy this situation.
Thanks for reading.
From the very opening scene where the camera starts on icicles melting and a smiling Melisandre, who tells a berieved Stannis that the Lord of Light has made good on his promise, the season 5 finale of “Game of Thrones” was all about the fake-out. Misdirections abounded, and in most cases they were misdirections that seemed like they were going to show things were finally turning for the better for our characters, but had they forgotten what show this was?
This is “Game of Thrones” (baby!) and it’s a show that revels in taking a gloomy world and making it even gloomier. Just when you think it can sink no lower, it does, and boy did it ever in this season finale, a season finale that for my money had more negative consequences than any season finale so far.
But is that a good thing?
Before I go any further, let me say that I was captivated throughout on my first watch of this episode and I thought it was very well-constructed. It had to be, considering they had so many plots to wrap up in only 60 minutes.
That said, while the breakneck pace was enjoyable it was also, at times, a bit jolting, and I think this may be one of the rare “Game of Thrones” episodes that on further watches, will start to show its weaknesses.
Some of them, such as the conclusion in Dorne, seemed rather obvious after giving them even the smallest bit of thought. Some of them, such as that abrupt entry into the Arya storyline, seemed off-putting from the get-go. Am I the only viewer who pretty much hated that scene from start to finish?
Okay, I’m clearly getting ahead of myself here, but in such an action-packed episode, I think you can forgive the impulse. Let’s change things up, and rather than split things up into a breakdown by location as I’ve done all season, let’s just follow the narrative of the show. Thus, please watch your step and let’s enter my Fictional Teleportation Device and whisk ourselves to the aforementioned Stannis camp, north of Winterfell.
As a person who’s never cared for Stannis, a person who actively rooted against him in the Battle of the Blackwater, and as a person who has especially hated him since the first episode of this season when he burned one of my favorite characters, Mance Raydar, for no good reason, I had to take a small bit of pleasure at watching all his “best-laid” plans go to waste.
And it seems that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who wrote this episode, took particular glee in piling it on here as after that opening shot of the icicles melting, things went downhill very fast.
One has to wonder, didn’t Stannis have any inclination that many of his men might desert him, especially since they were sellswords? After all, who wants to work for a guy who burns his daughter alive and watches it coldly? How could you trust such a man? How could you find such a man righteous?
And while there was a lot of chatter in the past week over whether his burning of his daughter was out of character, let’s remember that the very first scene we ever saw of Stannis from episode 1 of season two showed him burning people alive who didn’t forsake the Seven for the Lord of Light. We also know he burned his brother in law (in season 3), and created a shadow baby that killed his younger brother. And all along it has been the Red Witch, Melisandre, who has been urging him to do so, guided by her (important word here) interpretations of what she claimed to have seen in the flames.
Before I totally blame her, though, do remember that Stannis looked into the flames and saw something, too. One wonders if the show will ever answer what exactly he saw or not. The point is, the man always seemed to me to be a rather schizophrenic character, a deeply flawed man, who on one hand wants to be seen as being righteous and honorable, but on the other has lived by an ends-justify-the-means mentality from the get-go. And eventually, such an outlook catches up to a person. People don’t want to follow such an inconsistent, scary, harsh leader.
So I found the way his downfall occurred here to be very consistent and satisfying. And even more satisfying was the look on Melisandre’s face when she and Stannis were informed that half the men had deserted with all the horses before dawn. At last, she showed some doubt! It was then that I knew we were going to watch the tragic unraveling on Stannis, and personally, I couldn’t get enough.
I think when Stannis saw his wife hanging and heard that Melisandre was just seen riding out of camp (on the horse she must have hidden away!), he knew it was over for him.
We then went to a scene with another guy who seemed fatalistic throughout this episode, and that was Jon Snow, having the first bro-talk moment in an episode that had some pretty good bro-banter moments.
A few things about this scene stood out to me. First, Jon made a comment about hoping the White Walkers don’t learn how to climb the Wall. Is that foreshadowing? I think back to episode 8 in the meeting of the elders at Hardhome where they mentioned giant ice spiders. Are those things real? Are they coming? And if so, can the wights, or worse, the White Walkers, ride them up and over the Wall? One wonders…
Second, they briefly discussed Longclaw and how the Valyrian steel must be able to kill the White Walkers. Sam is still alive, but Jon died, so did he tell anybody else about that at the Wall? Will we get another tragic moment down the road where someone, perhaps little Olly, could use Longclaw against a White Walker but doesn’t know it will work and thus loses their life because of it? It certainly would be in line with how this show likes to dish things out, wouldn’t it?
Sam appealed to Jon to go to Oldtown but his initial argument was rather flawed, wasn’t it? He said he’d be able to go all the way there (its located on the southwestern coast of Westeros), take the time to become a Maester, and return…all before the White Walkers arrived. Jon wasn’t real convinced by this, so Sam appealed to Jon’s emotions, and I was glad the show went this way. Not only did it make more logical sense, but it was more consistent with both their characters. If nothing else, Sam is one of the show’s deepest feelers, a guy who is often too sensitive for this world and he was lucky enough to have found a tough guy with a heart in Jon Snow. So I appreciated that that was what convinced Jon to send him on the way.
I will be writing a season in review with some comments about what I am looking forward to in season six, but I’ll briefly say I am very eager to see Sam in the new location of Oldtown. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of the Maesters. More on that later.
I’ll finish this by saying in the midst of all the bleakness of this episode there were some great, funny lines and my favorite may have been when Jon was asking Sam how he managed to do the deed after being beaten half to death and Sam responded with a laugh and said, “Very carefully.”
Last thought on Sam and Gilly: Will that baby ever grow up?
We then head back to the Stannis camp, a ragtag bunch of dudes marching toward their doom. One of the shots showed forest on both sides, yet they were marching right down the middle of an open field. When you are down so many men and don’t have horses, wouldn’t a more stealthy approach be wise? Perhaps something at night? So much for the master strategist Stannis Baratheon, right?
In fact, I think this showed that Stannis had already given up, that he was marching toward his suicide, not only because he knew the fight was futile but because he could not bear living with himself after he burned his daughter alive. Perhaps this will bolster the confidence of the Boltons and give them a false sense of their power so when either the wildlings, the White Walkers or Littlefinger’s forces from the Eyrie come, they’ll be overconfident and make some costly mistakes. One can still hope, even on this show, right?
And now, I’m going to say something that is likely very unpopular: I wanted the Boltons to win. No, not because I like them. But because, unlike Stannis, I feel like they are a lot more interesting to watch at this point. And the show needs some good villians and, if we can say nothing else about them, the Boltons are great villians! Stannis, on the other hand, was just a sad case. About the only reason I’ll miss him is because actor Stephan Dillane was such a stellar performer.
The next several minutes the show did a wonderful job of seamlessly cutting between inside Winterfell, with Sansa, Theon and Miranda, shots of the battle, and Podrick and Brienne outside. It felt as though not a second was wasted.
Speaking of Sansa, is she stupid or what? I mean, if you are able to open the door, put the gadget that helped you get out back in your pocket and shut the damn door behind you. After all, if you don’t want someone seeing you out and about, the worst thing to do is to leave the door wide open. Anybody passing by can check in and see you aren’t there. And having that gadget may come in handy again in case you need to make an escape again.
Perhaps this is just the result of Sansa being in an emotionally damaged state and not thinking clearly. Not sure, but it definitely made me frustrated with her! And it made me, again, question the consistency of the writers. Since the finale last year when she brilliantly lied to cover for Littlefinger’s murder of Lysa, weren’t we watching Sansa grow into more of a smooth operator under the tutelage of Littlefinger? Again, maybe this is just the result of Ramsey’s psychological torture of her, but I’d like to think that when she was locked in her room, she had plenty of time to think how she could make her escape without getting caught. I also thought her dropping that gadget and leaving the door open was going to led to her getting caught, but it never came up again. Strange, indeed.
I’ve heard some people complain that the timing was too convenient about Brienne leaving and then Sansa lighting the candle, but I didn’t mind it. Personally, I think life has a lot more of these sort of strange coincidences of timing than we give it credit for, so I’m not one to worry when a work of fiction plays with the idea, so long as it doesn’t overdo it.
That said, one thing that I think could have made the scene more poignant is if Brienne had seen the candle being lit, and then walked off camera. It would have given the Sansa storyline AND the Stannis storyline more tension as we wouldn’t have known which choice Brienne made and we would have been wondering where Brienne was going to show up. I suppose the writers want to keep Brienne’s intentions pure and are saying that she’s been waiting for a signal for who knows how long, so going after Stannis was not really a dereliction of her duty. But it’s precisely because it seemed like no choice at all that it didn’t really do that much for me when she showed up to kill Stannis.
I also wonder about the choice not to show Stannis dead. I am reasonably sure he’s done for, but when I first watched the scene, I thought Stannis was looking to her left a few times as she chatted with him and wondered if someone was coming up behind her. I thought it might be Ramsey but when the scene cut away, it was to Ramsey in a different spot so that’s not what happened. Anyway, Stannis, you were an interesting character but I definitely won’t miss you.
Back to Sansa and back to another probably unpopular opinion from yours truly. Here it goes: I liked that it was Theon that threw Myranda to her death. Why? Because much as Sansa sometimes frustrates me, I like that she has yet to shed any blood. And while I’ve never been a Theon fan, I have been hoping for him to snap out of it this season and this does seem to make the decision to focus on his face at the end of that awful rape scene in episode six make at least a little bit more sense (not saying I like that decision, just saying it is logical now). I don’t see it as a man saving a helpless woman, thus contributing to perceptions of misogyny from the show. Rather I see it as a family member helping another family member. The Starks have all been through so much, so it was nice to see someone do something nice for them for once. Plus, I think it is consistent with Sansa’s character. Unlike Arya, she is not a killer.
The last thing I’ll say about that scene is I felt like the wall they jumped from was too high for me to believe that they would survive the fall. Well, maybe they’d survive the fall, but not without breaking some body parts to the point where escape would be impossible. Because Ramsey already said at the end of his forgettable scene that he had plans to go see his wife, so how long will it be before he sounds the alarm to look for them?
My prediction, though, is that they will survive and will team up with Brienne and Podrick. It only makes sense.
Now, we go to probably my least favorite scene of the episode, and that was Arya’s brutal slaying of Meryn Trant. It was gory in the extreme and I’ve got something against seeing eyes getting gouged out, even if the dude is a jerk.
Arya was just too darned proud of herself in that scene and when she said “I’m Arya Stark,” I knew she was very much violating the code of the Faceless Men. I’m also in the minority that Arya has never been a favorite character of mine and on both the show and in the books, I’ve never found her story all that compelling.
And when she got back to the House of Black and White, I have to admit I was very confused about the way things went down. It seemed like a hallucinatory nightmare and I don’t think we can explain the mechanics of it, no matter how many times we watch it. I suppose because the last face she revealed was her own we are supposed to then understand that she was the one who drank the poison, but again, I’m at a loss to explain it so I won’t try.
I also wonder if the fact that she blinded Meryn Trant was the reason her punishment was losing her own sight. This is an area where I remember almost nothing from the books, except that she went blind. By the time I’d reached books four and five, there were some storylines, such as Arya’s, that I read very quickly and have all but forgotten.
Thankfully that was the end of this storyline, because for me, it was second only to Dorne for weakest storyline of the season.
And speaking of which, the show just had to torture us with one more sloopily constructed Dorne scene, didn’t it? First,why the heck did Prince Doran allow Elaria Sand to get even close to Myrcella considering her plot? A lot of people are wondering just whether he is really naïve or not, and this scene seems to suggest he is. Perhaps he assumed that Elaria wouldn’t try anything, but why take the chance?
This makes me want to throw out a wild theory. That is, I believe Doran gave her the go-ahead to assassinate Myrcella. He gave her a nod, which was her sign that she could give Myrcella a farewell kiss. So is it possible that Doran is playing both sides here? I can’t figure out why he would do that, but think there is more going on here than meets the eye and I like this idea more than just thinking he’s a total idiot.
Now, I rather liked the scene on the boat between Myrcella and Jaime, if for no other reason than I like Jaime and enjoyed seeing his awkward attempt to tell her he was her father. It was also fun to see how he mirrored Elaria’s words, “We don’t choose whom we love.” So that was all fine. And then the show gives us another misdirection, a moment of happiness for Jaime as he gets to hug his child for the first time with her knowing he is her father and being happy about it, only to have her nose start bleeding.
Again, we don’t see her die so perhaps she survives, perhaps Bronn has some antidote that his little love interest gave him. Gotta wait 10 months to find out!
And then, to the last crappy part of the scene. Why are Elaria and the Sand Snakes still standing there? And why would she allow the poison to work long enough in her to cause her nose to bleed? Why not just go home and take the antidote on the way? Wouldn’t them sticking around raise the suspicions of Prince Doran? Again, so much about this Dorne plot line falls apart when you peel beneath the beautiful, sunny exteriors. Which is why I’m sticking to my crazy theory until proven otherwise…
Next we go to Meereen for a rather acrimonious conversation between Dany’s inner circle. A question: Did Jorah forget that Tyrion saved his life from those slavers? Or that Tyrion also perhaps saved his life from Dany? I mean, I get it, they aren’t best friends, but I still thought Jorah was a dick to Tyrion. He talks to him as though Dany did not already accept Tyrion to sit by her side, as though Tyrion didn’t fight alongside him against the Sons of the Harpy.
Did anybody else find it interesting that Daario basically made all the decisions about who would do what? I mean, I think he was right and he was diplomatic with everyone, so it’s fine, but a part of me still has this tiny bit of doubt about trusting him. Maybe that’s not fair, I don’t know.
What I do know is I was super psyched to see Varys come back into the picture and to find out that he and Tyrion will be ruling Meereen together. One of the few things I was disappointed by this season was seeing their road show broken up so early on.
Before I move on to Dany, I want to address Varys. How is that some people still think he is malevolent like Littlefinger? I thought he’d put all that to rest at the start of this season when he admitted his intentions all along were to help Dany get back on the throne. And now that Tyrion, a fan favorite whom we all trust, sees the potential in Dany, can we finally admit that Varys is one of the show’s few good guys and cheer for him and Tyrion to triumph in their own, witty way? In the end, like you Tyrion, I did miss Varys.
I don’t have much to say about the Dany scene. It played out somewhat like the books. Her dropping the ring, though, is something the show runners admitted in their Inside the Episode feature is an attempt to leave a clue for Daario. But unless it has some sort of tracking signal, how is he really expected to find it? If he does, I will call bullshit, unless the writers really pull a rabbit out of their hat.
The last thing I’ll say about this scene is all the Dothraki horses circling around Dany was very impressive, though scary. One podcast I listen to said they thought they were celebrating her, but I didn’t get that vibe at all. To me, it looked like they were just trying to prevent her escape. Maybe it was a bit of both?
And now on to Cersei. So she admits to sleeping with Lancel and is punished for it with that awful walk of atonement. One wonders: what was Lancel’s punishment? I don’t think we’ll ever find out, but it does seem like a double standard.
It’s also interesting that we’ve seen Cersei do many bad things and sleeping with Lancel probably barely crossed our radar screen. It’s really hard to get behind these religious extremists, because not only do they enforce a strict version of morality, but they do it with such glee.
That said, the philosophy behind the Cersei punishment has a certain logic, which was spelled out by the High Sparrow a few episodes ago and again now before her walk of atonement, where she must “cast aside all pride, all artifice and present herself as the god’s made her to the good people of” King’s Landing.
I just re-watched it now and it wasn’t as long as I remembered it the first time around, but the brutality of it just got worse and worse so it seemed longer than it was. Very effective. Lena Headey has been great from the get-go on this show but has yet to win an Emmy, and I’d like to think that will change after this season. She had no lines on the walk but one could clearly read her emotions from start to finish. Unfortunately, when she got inside and was carried off by the resurrected The Mountain, it looked like vengeful Cersei had re-emerged so it doesn’t appear she learned one thing about humility from that walk. Look out High Sparrow in season six!
That said, I do hope we get to see that awfully smug “Shame, shame, shame” bell-ringing behemoth get hers.
And while I felt for Cersei in that scene, if only because it was such an awful thing to witness, I do have to remind myself that it was her pride and drive for power that caused her to empower those people in the first place. We reap what we sow!
Still, one of the things this show has done well from the get-go is when bad people get their just desserts, it usually makes it uncomfortable and hard for us to reveal in. Is that just me?
In that way, I think it’s a show that is arguing against revenge, even as many of its characters are driven by it. And maybe that is one of the reasons I appreciate it. So many of our fictions, whether movies, TV shows or books, seem to reveal in revenge and our society as a whole seems to confuse vengeance with justice. Just the fact that this show is raising these questions in me makes me appreciate it.
Okay, back to the Wall to finish off the season. I do love Davos, if for no other reason than I love his accent, especially the way he says “Stannis.” That may be the worst aspect of Stannis no longer being around, we may never get to hear Davos say his name again. Oh well, you can always hear a great one at the start of this last scene!
Real quick: what is Melisandre’s business at Castle Black? Was she just running to the only safe place around? Or does she have something else in mind?
Okay, I’m going to say one more unpopular thing: I don’t buy that Ser Alliser Thorne would participate in the killing of Jon Snow. I mean, why let Jon and the wildlings through the gate if he was just going to kill Jon? Isn’t the damage already done? And hasn’t the season set up, from the moment he let Jon’s order to kill Janos Slynt stand, the idea that Thorne is all about the order of command above any personal differences? Besides, considering how few good men they have, why kill one of their best fighters?
Okay, maybe I’m just looking at this emotionally, but I feel like this is one case where both Martin and the show runners let their desire to give readers/watchers a twist get away from them. Maybe Jon was too naïve to see that the people around him were growing more and more frustrated with him, as the show runners suggested in Inside the Episode, but it seems like most of Jon’s dialogue this season has been about the necessity of bringing the wildlings south of the Wall and how he knows that this is not a popular decision. If he really knows that, wouldn’t he convene a meeting as soon as he came back to tell the Night’s Watch what happened at Hard Home?
I guess I feel if the show had given us that moment, and reactions from the Night’s Watch that suggested they didn’t believe him, I’d be more forgiving of the way this ended up. Instead, it seemed like an unearned twist and just left me feeling confused.
And that’s pretty much where this episode and season five has left me: feeling bleak and confused. Yes, there have been many great moments, some awesome scenes, stellar acting, all the usual from the most well-done show on TV, but I think perhaps both the weakness of books four and five and the fact that the show has gone beyond the books has caused it to be the weakest season yet.
Having said all that, the fact that the show is mostly caught up with the books and that season six has already been written, before “The Winds of Winter” is finished causes me to be both extremely nervous and very interested to see if the show runners can pull off season six.
This has been an epically long post, so I’m going to close it here. I may (or may not) come back with some final season five thoughts and some season six speculations in another week or so. For now, though, thanks again for reading!
(If you are interested, please check out my new novel, which I finally published after 15 years of work! It is called “The Teacher and the Tree Man” and is a modern tale of magical realism set on the West Coast of the US from fall 2001 to spring 2003. I am very proud of it and think people who like entertaining books that are both funny and deep will enjoy it. Here are the links for Smashwords and US Amazon (though it is available on other Amazon country sites, too).
I’ve already heard it said on a few of the many “Game of Thrones” podcasts that I listen to that this year’s episode 9 was the worst episode 9 of all five seasons and I have to agree. Now, that being said, there was still a lot to like about this episode and overall, I’d say it was an above-average episode of the show. I tend to think the reason I felt it was weaker was there were lots of elements of sloppy writing, which I will get into below.
For me, there were two main things that dragged it down. The first, the burning of Shireen, was intentional and so I won’t say the show failed there, but it left me in such a wrecked state emotionally that I wasn’t able to really re-immerse in the final scene in Meereen.
And that last scene also came across as clumsy to me in some ways. Let’s get into it.
First, let me say up until the final scene of Dany riding off on the dragon, which looked sort of like a 1990s fantasy flick at times, the spectacle of this looked awesome. It’s still hard to remember from week to week that we are watching a TV show and not a big-budget movie. We are a long way from ChiPs folks (how’s that for showing my age!).
I don’t know how many extras they hired, but it sure looked like it was in the hundreds and, in that sense, the scene was every bit as spectacular as last week’s battle at Hardhome.
However, there were many downsides. Start with the fighting itself. While some of it seemed reasonably well choreagraphed, there were a few moments when if Jorah had not been our hero, he would have been killed. First, when the one guy had him down, instead of quickly finishing off the job or checking to see where the other fighter was, he did neither and was killed for it. There was another, as well, if we are to believe that he is as old as the show makes him out to be.
And then, in the battle with the Sons of the Harpies, the creators of the scene made the same mistake that is often made in big, dramatic fighting sequences: they stacked the odds so ridiculously against our heroes that, unless they were killed, the outcome would seem unrealistic. Why not have more Unsullied in the crowd? It seemed like there were hardly any of them there. And then when Dany and crew were surrounded by Harpies, instead of them all attacking at once, they took on Daario and friends one at a time. Again, hard to believe and it thus took me out of the scene.
Now, having read the books, I was eagerly anticipating Drogon’s arrival so when I heard that screech I knew we were in for some good shit and it did not disappoint. It was fun to see him chomp on some raw Harpy and fry some others, and the scene where he roared into Dany’s face and we could see inside his mouth was incredibly well-done visually.
Again, about the only thing that failed for me here were the effects when she rode off, but I didn’t mind it that much. For the most part, it left the episode on a high note.
The only bad thing about the ending was: are we supposed to be fearing for the fate of the four characters left behind? I think the final shot showed that the Harpies had fleed and they were safe, but wasn’t entirely sure. Still, considering Tyrion is amongst them and Dany and Jorah seemed to reunite, I don’t think they will be dead to start the finale! And speaking of Dany and Jorah, didn’t Jorah touch Dany repeatedly and didn’t she hold hands with Missandei? Does this mean they may get greyscale?
Now, I’ve heard it suggested by some podcasters I usually agree with that they should have ended the episode on Shireen’s sacrifice. I have to disagree strongly! While I agree that the Shireen scene had more of a WTF emotional impact, as a father of a sweet little girl who was totally torn apart by that scene, had they done that, I would have been pissed! And considering they left me feeling like crap a few weeks back with the Ramsey-Sansa rape scene, I don’t think I could have dealt with that as the last feeling again. So I was glad they put it where they did, even if it made the Dany stuff a bit harder to get into.
Last week when Ramsey made his suggestion to take 20 of their best men and reak havoc on the Stannis camp, I had this sinking feeling that whatever they did would cause Stannis to change his mind about sacrificing Shireen. It was fairly obvious when that opening scene ended with a shot of Melisandre and Lady Baratheon talking.
Davos also realized this. Some podcasters suggested he didn’t know, but I think he knew, but was hoping Stannis would change his mind. I think he also realized that unlike Gendry, if he were to disobey Stannis and set her free, if both he and Stannis survived, Stannis would have him killed and that it likely would mean the end of Stannis’ campaign as well. What kind of future would have been left for Davos?
Well, if Stannis didn’t kill him, it would be a future where he could live with himself. I think we’ll have to wait until season six to find out Davos’ reaction to this, but I tend to think he’s going to tell Stannis to jump off a cliff when he does and be totally heartbroken about his decision to follow Stannis’ orders in this case.
The scene between him and Shireen was, as usual, extremely touching. I do wonder how a guy with his fingers cut off on the knuckle on one hand could carve such a beautiful sculpture? Oh well. He’s a talented Renaissance Man, that Onion Knight.
The show had to make things worse by having Stannis basically ask for backdoor permission from his daughter, even though he admitted she had no idea what he was asking her to do.
And personally, I thought the scene of her burning went on about 15 seconds too long. For me, it was A LOT harder to watch and listen to than Sansa’s rape. Again, this is strictly a personal reaction, but I have a daughter so to imagine myself burning her at the stake and screaming for me and her mother to stop it, yet not doing so, was an absolute torture to experience. I’ve always said I will never watch the gory killing of Oberyn again and now I can add this scene to my list of scenes I won’t ever watch again. Just devastating.
And my last comment about it is this: Many viewers were starting to warm to Stannis this season, especially after he gave the back story to Shireen’s catching greyscale. Yet in the very first episode of this season, he also did a very dickish thing when he burned Mance Raydar at the stake. In that scene, I had no idea what he was burning Mance for. Mance never agreed to follow Stannis’ order and Stannis, whether he likes it or not, is NOT the King of Westeros so he has no authority to order somewhere burned at the stake for not bending the knee. Mance also never fought Stannis’ men. He surrendered peacefully. The only person who had the right to kill him would have been the acting commander of the Knight’s Watch for abandoning his post. And even if they had made that order, they would have done it with a beheading, not burning him at the stake.
If you go back and read my review of episode one, you’ll see I was really hard on Stannis for this move and in spite of what he may have done or said since then, I’ve never once felt compelled to join Team Stannis.
So for all of you that did join him, I have to wonder: were you watching episode one? Don’t you realize this is a man who has been burning people at the stake for four seasons now? Including his brother-in-law and now his daughter? Oh, and not to mention spawning a shadow baby that killed his baby brother. What a dick! I’d put him up there with any of the villains of this show. He’s a total example of the destructive mentality of “the ends justify the means.”
Anyway, I am praying next week Brienne sees him and takes him out and that will be that.
I may be one of the rare fans of the show and the books that doesn’t really think the Arya story is all that interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I like the character, but I’ve always felt like it was so loosely connected to the main events of the show that I wonder why we spend so much time with her. Just because she is a Stark? Ultimately, until we get to the end of the series, I won’t be able to say whether the time was well invested or not.
That said, I often can enjoy her scenes, especially on the show because the actress, Maisie Williams, is such a joy to watch perform. Yet on this week’s episode, while I found myself feeling very tense throughout her scenes, in the back of my mind I kept asking questions such as: How in the heck was she able to get out of that main room in the whorehouse to the back where she was spying on Ser Meryn Trant? Especially with a bunch of smelly seafood on her? Especially considering as she entered, she was told to get out? And then, when she was caught, why wasn’t she watched until she left? Lots of convenient shortcuts in the writing here. I also thought the scene dragged on too long. Did we really need to see Trant reject three girls? Wouldn’t two have sufficed?
Now, I do think they are setting things up nicely for next week, but that doesn’t excuse some of the sloppy shortcuts, and that seems to have become more and more of a problem for “Game of Thrones” in season five. It’s seeming more and more like a TV show and as I watch, I am finding it harder to be totally immersed in the story.
Last, I don’t buy for a second that Ja’qen Hagar believed her. I just think he sees this as perhaps her final test. If she kills Trant, as I suspect she will (or at least try), I think he’s likely to boot her out. And don’t forget, Needle is still hiding behind a rock and I’ve felt from the moment she put it there that Ja’qen knows it is there. I bet she goes back for it next week, don’t you?
All in all, I’ve found the Arya stuff probably the least engaging story line this season with the obvious exception of …
Well, we finally get some forward movement on this story, but as I watched, I realized that Dorne was supposed to be our comic relief for this season. I think one of the reasons we’ve felt let down by that is because we’ve seen Jaime Lannister turn into one of the show’s most emotionally complex characters so to just waste him on a buddy action-adventure flick in the sunny South seems like a missed opportunity.
I found the way Elaryia Sand talked to Jaime about not judging him for his relationship with Cersei and not holding him responsible for the killing of Oberyn to be a bit rushed, as far as her character development, so that makes me think she has something else up her sleeve. Reading between the lines, I think she has it out for Cersei since she is the last Lannister alive that had any power with regard to what happened to Oberyn. So perhaps her speech to Jaime was meant as more of a warning about the dangers of loving someone too much in such a tragic world? Not sure, I’m going to have to re-watch this scene to figure out.
Last, are we done with the Sand Snakes? I mean, is that really it? If so, why did they do some more (weak) character development by showing the two of them playing that slap the hand game? I tend to think the show has some role for them…maybe Elryia will command them to go to King’s Landing and take out Cersei?
But speaking of Cersei, we didn’t see her story at all this episode, which makes me think it will be the focus of the finale. And perhaps by the time the finale is done, the Sand Snakes won’t need to take her out. Who knows what’s in store for her?
In addition to that, we’ve got some serious Stannis/Brienne/Winterfell stuff to conclude, Bravos, Meereen and … is that it? It does seem like the show has done one good thing this year and that is manuevering characters into similar locations so there are less locations to visit. Of course…the Wall…the show has been building up the resentment from little Olly all year…will something come from that? Tune in next week and come back here for my final episode round up (and perhaps I will write one more “season in review” after that).
Thanks for reading.
(If you are interested, please check out my new novel, which I finally published after 15 years of work! It is called “The Teacher and the Tree Man” and is a modern tale of magical realism set on the West Coast of the US from fall 2001 to spring 2003. I am very proud of it and think people who like entertaining books that are both funny and deep will enjoy it. Here are the links for Smashwords and US Amazon (though it is available on other Amazon country sites, too).
Let’s get straight into this, as it got a bit delayed this week and I’m sure you want to hear my thoughts, especially on those final spectacular 20 minutes.
Is it possible that for season 5 episode 8 is going to be the episode we all remember, instead of episode 9? Because I really don’t see how they are going to top that final twenty-five minutes at Hardhome. From the moment Jon Snow and Tormund Giantsbane sailed to the shore with a grim yet determined look in their eye, the tension was palpable.
And as soon as Tormund brutally beat that idiot Lord of Bones to death, it was clear the stakes were very high.
It’s interesting to me that Jon Snow’s arguments were better received by the Free Folk than they were by his Brother’s of the Night’s Watch. I suppose for the Brothers, they don’t see it as a matter of their survival, but Jon made it pretty clear (I thought) to them that without the Free Folks/Wildlings, they stood no chance against the White Walkers. That said, there is still a very large Wall protecting the south from the north and while the White Walker zombie hoards showed an ability to jump off cliffs, does that mean they are equally adept at climbing them?
Still, the other side of Jon’s argument that the Night’s Watchmen didn’t pay attention to and which came true at the end of this episode is every Free Folk that stays behind becomes one more member of the Army of the Dead. And the look Jon gives at the end of the episode as he watches the King of Winter raise the dead merely by raising his arms suggests it may be even worse than Jon had imagined.
As a result, much as I absolutely loved this action sequence—from the awesome giant effects to Jon’s battle with the White Walker where we learned that Valyrian steel works like dragonglass against the Walkers, to those freaky little scarecrow kid zombies—I worry that it’s going to take away from the rest of the show. After all, does all the political scheming really matter with this threat now so real?
I suppose for me it does matter for the simple reason that I enjoy that side of the show as much as I enjoy the action. It might not matter in the grand scheme of things–who wins the Iron Throne seems rather irrelevant—but it will still be fun to see how it all works out.
I am also curious to find out if the people in King’s Landing are going to start taking the ravens from the Wall seriously. They are so self-absorbed that it’s likely they won’t care.
And this all just raised a real-world connection in my mind that may or may not be there. Could the whole “winter is coming” idea be a metaphor for our very real world issue of our rapidly changing climate and ecological issues facing us? Meanwhile, we’ve got politicians in all corners of the world fighting over who controls things. It’d sure be fun to ask George Martin if that was something he’s ever considered.
As someone who has written a novel, I can say that sometimes we writers tap into these themes unintentionally and it is only upon reflection after we’ve finished our work that we realize some of the layers that may exist in our fiction.
Without going too much further out on this tangent, I will say that this is one of the reasons I enjoy the arts—we often can learn things about our world and how to perceive it that we may not be aware of in more direct ways.
Last comment about Hardhome–one of the few drawbacks of this episode was, while I felt tense throughout and thought for sure we were going to lose Tormund and maybe even Jon Snow, the fact that the only characters we lost that seemed to matter were two characters that we’d just met this episode, the Wildling Woman, Karsi (who’s name I read on-line but I don’t think was ever mentioned) and the Thenn, made it lack consequence, just as the Battle of the Blackwater did. Still, I have a feeling Karsi may show up again later in the show…otherwise, why focus on her at the very end? And we know her kids made it out to the boats, so could she attack her kids? Boy, that would be brutal.
There’s so much more to say about this sequence, but for my money it was the most efffective big set piece they’ve ever done and really sets the tone for the rest of the series. Winter is here!
Little Olyvar is gearing up for some sort of revenge plot, isn’t he? The question is, will it be directed at Jon Snow or the Free Folk? Considering he brought up Tormund as the guy who led the raid that killed his family and villagers, I have a feeling he’s going to go after Tormund. That would suck because Tormund is one of my favorite side characters. That said, I can’t really blame the kid. I just hope he doesn’t go after Jon Snow because without him, I see absolutely no hope for the North against the White Walkers.
In an episode of dwindling hope, it was great to see Sansa Stark, a character who seems to have had nothing but bad news since this show began, receive some good news when Theon Reekjoy admitted that he didn’t kill Bran or Rickon. At this point, there’s not much she can do with the information, but it gives her a sense that perhaps she still has something to live for, that she is not totally alone as the last surviving Stark (not counting Jon Snow). That said, one wonders if Rickon will ever be back in the story and when Bran does come back, will he even be recognizable to Sansa?
Meanwhile, Ramsey Snow continues to show how bloodthirsty he is with his desire to take 20 men against Stannis. But one wonders if this is going to be the end of Ramsey? And what exactly is his plan? I also wonder if Roose sees Ramsey as a growing thorn in his side and thus is expendable. Let the kid go out and do his best, but if he dies, good riddance! I’m sure Roose has some affection for the psycho, considering he himself is a nutcase, but he also knows that Ramsey is a loose cannon and it may be better to have him out of the picture. Still, what is Ramsey’s plan?
Oh, and Roose talking about the strength of walls seems rather humorous considering what we saw up in Hardhome with the army of the dead. I am not sure how those zombies were able to break that wall so easily, but they did. I think there’s little we’d like to see more than a zombie hoard descending on the Boltons!
Cersei is such a poser. I mean, she is consistent with her constant threats, but I think we saw the difference between her and Margaery. Last week when Cersei came to taunt Margaery, Margaery mostly stayed silent, whereas Cersei continued to act like she had the upper hand by telling that giant septon that hers was the last face she would ever see. Yet as soon as the septon closed the door, she screamed the first time and drank water off the floor the second time. Just like with young Cersei in the opening scene of season five when she tried to threaten the fortune teller with the power of her father, Cersei never seems to understand that sometimes making idle threats just makes you appear weaker.
Speaking of weaker, her only advisor is the crazy Qyburn, and he’s come to tell her that her uncle Kevan, who doesn’t care for her, is now Hand of the King at the bequest of Maester Pycelle, who also doesn’t like Cersei. She may have one ally, though, and that is an undead (?) The Mountain. How much longer until he is fully operational?
At least we learned what the charges are against her and they don’t seem to include any knowledge that Tommen is a product of incest. She was charged with incest, but that seems to be with Lancel. That said, she was also charged with killing King Robert and one would think if she confessed to that, she’d be put to death, so what would the point of that be?
A question about Arya’s Lanna the Oyster Orphan story. Does Ja’qen expect her to find something in Ragman Harbor? Is that why he sent her there? Arya tries to ask this perceptive question but he says just to keep her eyes open. Still, it seems he suspects there are injustices happening down there and considering the wisdom he seems to possess, one wonders how much he knows about the place.
And then after Arya goes to the waterfront and sells her oysters to the Thin Man, Ja’qen seems to prove my point that he knew what she was going to see, and that he was merely testing her ability to see it. Otherwise, how did he know that this man is cheating on his payments to dead sea captains’ widows and families? All Arya saw was a guy who wouldn’t take the money from a captain.
And personally, I still don’t get how the racket works. Captain is basically buying life insurance, right? So why would the guy refuse the money from that dude? If the captain survives, the salesman keeps the money. And if he dies, the salesman refuses to pay, thus keeping the money. Maybe I’m a bit dense on this one but if anybody can enlighten me, I’m all ears. (Note: After listening to a few podcasts, apparently this scene confused a lot of people so perhaps I am not so dense. The show should have shown a widow coming to collect and the man refusing, I think. That would have been much clearer!)
Anyway, the best aspect of all of this was not merely seeing Arya having something to do besides washing dead bodies, but seeing her out and about in the sunlight of Bravos. The show has done an admirable job of showing the inside of the House of Black and White, but considering how much time we’ve spent in the dark greys of the North this season, any scene that is out in the sunshine is a relief for the eyes.
Tyrion’s quip that “killing and politics aren’t always the same thing” seems to be a theme of season 5, from Jon Snow’s decision at the Wall to unite the Night’s Watch with the Free Folk, to Ramsey Snow’s repeated insistence on using brutality and murder and his father trying to teach him there are other ways to win wars, such as marriages or staying behind walls and surviving a siege longer than one’s enemies, to Dany’s struggles in Meereen to quell the Sons of the Harpy by re-opening the fighting pits, to Cersei’s missteps in empowering the Faith Militant in order to take down the Tyrells to the lust for revenge of the Sand Snakes and Elaria Sand in Dorne. In all instances, it seems the people who are choosing the emotionally satisfying response of killing instead of the more difficult choice of playing a longer game are facing some serious unintended consequences.
Without getting too far afield into the real world, I do sense that this message is a rather poignant one for our American leaders to consider, no matter which political party they represent.
Anyway, the two conversations between Tyrion and Dany were a treat to behold. Tyrion more than holds his own, but what surprised me was Dany. She really has come a long way and is starting to understand how to play the game. This gives me hope for her. That said, I still think she is naïve and often makes decisions without following through (not to mention making comments like “I’m going to break the wheel” that sound good but may not make much sense). Case in point was her re-opening the fighting pits on the condition that only free men fight, and yet last week the one arena she visited the fighters were slaves. How could she not know?
And speaking of this, is Jorah’s plan going to be to somehow reveal this to her? I’m still confused about his intentions. I get that he is dying of grey scale and has little left to live for, but what good is fighting in front of Dany going to do?
I think Tyrion was deft in how he found the middle ground for Ser Jorah and Dany realized that. It was sad to see the dude go, but I think realistic. Tyrion’s question about whether he had a chance to confess his betrayal hit the nail on the head. But in that conversation, he pointed out that Dany may have played a role in that Ser Jorah did not trust her to not kill him if he told her that. Again, Tyrion seems to be cautioning her about her impulsiveness and considering her father’s history, this may be the best aspect of Tyrion being her new advisor.
Okay, folks, that’s all for this week. Just two episodes left and LOTS to wrap up. I figure next week, we’ll get some serious progress in Dorne, though I think that plot line is a lost cause. Jon will probably get back to the Wall relatively quickly, and the King’s Landing stuff will likely take center stage. Oh and I suspect some fireworks in Meereen! Looking forward to it!
Okay, I really enjoyed this week’s episode so am going to keep on blogging about season five. We shall see how the season finishes, but after this there are only three to go so I figure I may as well stick to my plan to do the whole season and then re-assess at the end. One of my main motivations for doing this was to attract new readers and hopefully get them interested to check out my book, but I’ve done a poor job linking that information every week, so I figured I’d mention it now and implore you to look at the link at the bottom of this post if you are at all interested. Okay, on to the show.
Let’s ask some questions again, and split things by geography. And let’s start with the worst and work up from there.
I thought Dorne was, again, something of a mess. I mean, yes, the scene with Bronn and the Sand Snakes was somewhat entertaining but when you peel away the, um, clothing, does it really make sense? I don’t think we’ll have an answer for this until at least next week, but the way it was shown this week was silly.
So this girl in one week poisons her weapon and stabs a guy with it, and then in the next week, she just happens to be in the adjacent jail cell to him, just happens to be wearing the antidote around her neck because, hey, she knew the dude was going to be cute and thus knew she’d want to save him? Doesn’t it seem like she would have been brought straight to jail so why did she wear the antidote to the fight? None of it jives. As such, I think there’s more to this than meets the eye. I have a feeling that antidote may have helped with the poison’s symptoms for the time being, but will still end up working with the poison to cause Bronn to suffer a rough death. If that happens, this scene will still not make much sense due to the logistical questions I raised. And it will suck because Bronn rules! However, if it does save him, that just won’t make any sense to me. Then again, we know next to nothing about these Sand Snakes so the show could pretty much make up anything at this point and we’d have to believe it. Time will tell, but once again, I found myself totally lost in these sorts of questions as I watched, so I have to wonder if these scenes were just as much to tantalize us as they were to tantalize Bronn.
And the brief scene with Jaime and Myrcella made me think either the writing for the Myrcella part wasn’t that good or the actress wasn’t that good. Was that just me? On re-watch right now, it didn’t seem too bad, but still didn’t have much of an impact on me. To be fair, I felt the same thing about the first scene between Prince Doran and Elaria Sand in episode 2. Doran was fine, but the gal that plays Elaria seemed melodramatic to me. Maybe it’s just a result of the Spanish sun, because so far the only scene in Dorne that has made sense to me and been enjoyable to watch was the fight on the sand dunes and I heard that was filmed in Ireland. (And no, that makes no sense, either, but why break a theme when it’s working?)
Wow, Jorah and Tyrion sure got to Meereen fast, didn’t that? While I appreciated that we got to see this much-awaited meeting, I felt it was also very rushed. Here’s why:
Dany made a huge deal about NO SLAVERY. And she didn’t want to open the fighting pits because slaves had traditionally been forced to fight there. Then, in episode 5, she finally agrees to open them, but on the condition of NO SLAVES. Yet in the first fighting pit scene, Dany is there and a slave master comes out with his men and basically presents them to her in a way that seemed pretty obvious they were slaves. Didn’t it to you? Even if it didn’t to Dany, where were the checks and balances? Why didn’t somebody working for her go see the fighters before the fight and ask, “Are you a free man or a slave?” (Outside of the presence of their leader, of course!) Also, Tyrion comes out with his broken chain still around his wrists? Shouldn’t that have given her a clue about what was up?
Granted, the scene ended right after Tyrion told her his name and perhaps she’ll ask those questions next week. All of these questions really took me out of a scene that I had really been looking forward to. Just like last week in Dorne with that silly Power Rangers-esque fight between the Sand Snakes and Jaime and Bronn, it felt like this week’s scene was merely a fun action sequence that was setting up the more fascinating character interactions to come. Again, time will tell, but for now, this scene made Dany’s decision to re-open the fighting pits seem like a very stupid thing to do, if she really does want Meereen to be slave free.
All that said about Dorne, I did find Tyrion’s beatdown of that guard on the slaver’s block rather amusing, even if it also seemed unrealistic.
Okay, those were the two segments that seemed off to me, so now let’s get to the good stuff.
Poor, poor Sansa and lame, lame Reek! No, I will NEVER call you Theon again. Yes, I know you’ve been tortured like a pig in a factory farm. And perhaps he realized that with the snow falling, a candle in the top tower was not going to be much of a signal. If the latter is the case, why doesn’t he just keep his dealings with Sansa a secret? Because it’s not the case and I am grasping at straws.
Perhaps the horrible ending of episode 6 was meant to show that Theon was still absolutely terrified of Ramsey, rather than him showing any sort of emotion for Sansa. It does make sense that he’d fail to come through for her because if there’s been one consistent theme to Theon’s character, it’s that he’s a coward. Thus, I don’t think it’s bad writing, I’m just disappointed in Theon. I’ve never liked him, but I love Alfie Allen’s portrayal of him, so am cheering for Allen to be able to act out some redemption for the creep.
And one thing this show does really well is echo its past moments. In this case, when Ramsey took Sansa around the yard of Winterfell and then showed her that flayed Northern woman, it was a clear call back to when Joffrey made her look at her father’s head on a spike in King’s Landing. Poor, poor girl!
I did like it when she talked back to Ramsey, though fear the consequences of that. If nothing else, it makes me more concerned for sweet Walda Frey, who is also an innocent victim in the middle of all this madness. How long will it be before she has an accident?That said, perhaps that would be a good thing as it would very much tick of Lord Bolton and he might disown Ramsey again. Oh, how the dominoes can fall!
And speaking of the dominoes, outside of Winterfell, we finally got to see the Red Woman suggesting to Stannis that she wants to sacrifice another innocent person, little Shireen, in order to create another shadow baby. Good on Stannis for saying no, but will he stick to that? If nothing else, Stannis has been driven by his belief that he’s the “one true king” of Westeros. Will his powerlust cause him to lose his humanity? And speaking of Stannis, this may be the first time ever that I agreed with him in an argument he was having with Davos. They can’t go back. After all, Jon Snow already told them that Castle Black doesn’t have the provisions to feed them “much longer” so how would they survive the winter? They may as well just go ahead and do the best they can. Here’s hoping they can still beat the Bolton’s, but this episode made that seem less likely.
Last, we got a brief shot of Brienne hopelessly watching the tower. What will she do now? Clearly, she’s going to see Stannis at some point, right? Will she kill him and fuck all of this up? Questions abound!
Oh, man, when Sam was getting his ass kicked, I thought he may not survive it. And then Gilly was going to get raped and I was going to have trouble finishing this episode. I can only take so much losing for the good guys on this show. Fortunately, Ghost saved the day! I’m surprised Ghost didn’t go with Jon Snow, but knowing Jon, he told the dog to keep an eye on Sam and he did his duty. Boy, did he ever!
And what’s up with Alliser Thorne? I thought the dude was changing some, but as soon as Jon leaves and Aemon dies, he resorts to his role as schoolyard bully and has to threaten Sam. What kind of Lord Commander is that? Doesn’t he realize that Sam is a valuable person? He may not be a fighter, but he’s a survivor and he’s smart. And they need all the help they can get. Should Jon Snow die in his mission, we may as well consider the Night’s Watch done for with him at the helm. Hurry up and return, Jon!
Sad to see Aemon go. Not only did he provide wisdom and a moral compass to Sam and Jon, he had some of the best one-liners. Oh, well, the show’s been telling us since season one how old he was so this was probably the least surprising death of the series.
At least there was a good moment at the Wall. No, make that a great moment! Sam became a man. Or as I heard on a podcast, Sam the Slayer became Sam the Layer. Oh, my, indeed! Well done, sir, well done.
Saving the best for last. Another thing the show has excelled at is realizing that when it has a character and actor that the fans love, it’s best to give them scenes, especially with other great actors. And on this episode, the Queen of Thorns got paired up with Littlefinger and the High Septon.
Let’s go out of order and start with Littlefinger first.
What a mess his brothel is, eh? Not that I feel much for the guy after he turned on Sansa last week. It was fun to see Lady Tyrell being so direct with him. She actually put him in his place by pointing out that if House Tyrell falls, she’s got nothing to hide about their teaming up to murder Joffrey. And nice to see they did what I thought would happen, and that is using Lancel against Cersei. (I admit, I knew this from the book’s so I’m not showing any great genius here. But it worked out differently than in the books and Littlefinger wasn’t involved if memory serves).
Lady Oleanna’s second conversations with the High Sparrow would have been the highlight of the episode if it hadn’t been for the Cersei imprisonment scene.
I love how the High Sparrow pointed out that none of these power players knows how to handle a dude like himself, someone who has no ulterior motives but is motivated by his own sense of righteousness. And while I can’t really get behind many of his beliefs and the violence he uses to promote them, I do appreciate the aspect of him that has him scrubbing the floors and that has him giving that speech to Cersei about how the room he was in has that table with no name, unlike Baelor who had to build a grand sept and name it after him. But how humble is this guy? I ask because what may be his ulterior motive seems pretty clear. He wants power. He wants to be the guy to determine the way people MUST live their lives in King’s Landing and Westeros as a whole.
That said, I do like how he’s using the idea of the many versus the few and have to wonder how much of this dialogue has been motivated by our very real-world political happenings with the 1 percent versus the rest of us. Again, I dislike the religious zealotry and the violence, but I dig the populism.
Especially when it is used against the evil witch Cersei. Up until this episode, I had always given her one point in her favor: she loves her children. But when I saw how pissed Tommen was about losing Margeary, I realized that Cersei loves herself and her power above all else. So even though her son wants Margaery back more than anything, Cersei feels no remorse for her part in putting her away. Not that she can do anything about it now.
However, Tommen seemed to channel his dead big brother when he talked about burning all the cities to the ground. It would be fun to see this nice kid lose his queen and sent into a rage where he just unleashed all of his power on the world. Could that happen? I say it would be fun, but in reality it’d be tragic. Because this show has so many bad, tragic characters, I cheer for the good ones, even if their last name is Lannister (er, Baratheon?). Tommen will likely go down because of his family ties, but I’d hate for him to turn evil in the process.
That makes me wonder: will he be pissed when he finds out his mother has been imprisoned? Or happy? Oh Cersei, what a joy it was to see you go from smug “hmms” to your ridiculous screaming of “I am the queen!” Umm, not true. That’s Margaery. I really wanted someone to point it out to her, but perhaps they didn’t need to. Still, it showed how delusional she was when she said that.
Now, I am a book reader so I figured her imprisonment would happen this season, but am surprised it happened already. Still, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts and over the past few weeks, most non-book readers have, to their credit, been seeing the writing on the wall for her.
Well, folks, I think that wraps things up for now. Thanks for reading.
(If you are interested, please check out my new novel, which I finally published after 15 years of work! It is called “The Teacher and the Tree Man” and is a modern tale of magical realism set on the West Coast of the US from fall 2001 to spring 2003. I am very proud of it and think people who like entertaining books that are both funny and deep will enjoy it. Here are the links for Smashwords and US Amazon (though it is available on other Amazon country sites, too).