Here at The Fandomentals, we are rather staunch Game of Thrones (GoT)…er…detractors. We know this might come as a shock.
However, this isn’t because we’re disinterested in the genre or have forgotten our inner child. That’s pretty much all we remember. We also are not the types of people who object to the depiction of upsetting material on principle, because there’s times that such things can be done well and have a valuable takeaway for the reader/watcher. Case in point, we are huge, huge fans of A Song of Ice and Fire (aSoIaF), the books this show is supposedly “based on.”
Sadly for us, the showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D) seem to be bigger fans of their own, Bold™ ideas than the ones George R.R. Martin put on paper, to the point where we came to realize how the show has absolutely nothing to do with the books, so #StopTheConflation.
There’s many ways you can join in on this totally official campaign, such as yelling incoherently at social gatherings when GoT inevitably comes up, or wearing a t-shirt with the text of Septon Meribald’s “broken man speech” printed on the front in size 6 font (or try this one on for size). But we have another way to set the right tone for fandom dialogue—that is, a tone where aSoIaF could absolutely never be confused with its farblunget adaptation—and that’s by creating a new system of terms and character names.
“Jaime Lannister isn’t on the show,” you’ll tell your third cousins at your grandmother’s birthday party. “Jaime Lannister is a nuanced character whose plotline revolves around his struggle with identity and conception of internal vs. external honor as he adjusts to his new disability while subsequently realizing just how damaging his relationship with his sister has been.” (You speak very fast, of course.) “It’s Larry Lannister who’s on the show: the charmingly befuddled knight who doesn’t blink twice at the demolition of an entire religious organization, but a simple lie to a political enemy is just too far!”
See? It’s fool-proof. Or at least it will prevent us from crying onto our copies of A Dance with Dragons as we’re forced to call that creature Indira Varma played, “Ellaria Sand.” So without further ado, Julia and Kylie give you the Book Snob Glossary and all the ironic trademarks money can buy.
D&D Logic: There are just so many twists and turns in GoT. And don’t forget the shocks! However, where many a viewer may spend time actually, you know, trying to “figure everything out,” we’re here to explain to you that D&D Logic doesn’t exactly conform to Earth Logic. Suggest a truce to your political adversaries when they pose no threat to you and you have nothing to offer them! Appease your murderous sister with judicial murder! Command your army of the dead to forge giants chains! All D&D Logic requires is the opening thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if…” It’s best just to embrace this.
Dramatic Satisfaction: Dramatic Satisfaction is the feeling we get when we
look to the west watch GoT. Our spirits are certainly crying. D&D and their writers Bryan Cogman and Dave Hill work overtime to make sure of it, and boy do they know what the audience loves: gothic horrors! And memes. Thanks!
Plausible Impossibilities: It’s what you, as a storyteller, try to achieve once you realize that you are working on a show that’s doing pretty well, so therefore there’s no incentive to actually put effort into it. People only hate it because they care, and it’s totally better than the horrid impossible plausibilities.
The Off-Screen Zone: A magical plane of existence where everything necessary to drive the plot and/or character development occurs. We promise you it happened, it totally made sense for it to happen, and we don’t understand why you have to be spoon fed everything and insist on seeing it. The Off-Screen Zone is where Sansa, Bran, and Arya bonded and plotted together, and where Deadpan and Jonny fell in love. Cheryl and Eur-off also hang out here a lot as they lay their intense political strategy.
Honeypotting/The Honeypot Phenomenon: As we noted, D&D Logic doesn’t adhere to normal logic, and the Off-Screen Zone is a happening place. That can make watching the show itself quite confusing. Luckily for D&D, their fans are far more intelligent and creative than they are, and willing to think up well thought-out theories in an attempt to make sense of everything. In other words…they’re doing the writers’ jobs.
The most famous example of this, and the titular example for that reason, was that of the “Lannister Honeypot Theory,” where everyone figured that Talisa was such a stupid invention on the part of D&D that there had to be more to her than met the eye. Once she began writing letters in Volantine to her mommy, the theory was that she was really a Lannister spy sent to seduce Robb into breaking his vows; a honeypot trap set by Tywin to enable the Red Wedding to occur.
But no. Like Talisa, the Lannister Honeypot Theory was stabbed repeatedly in 03×09. She was exactly what she appeared: a noblewoman from Volantis who was such an awesome feminist that she would walk around battlefields without a chaperone, sass-talking a king.
It may be tempting to honeypot things along the way such as, “Sansa and Arya are totally playing Littlefinger with this animosity.” Nope. Arya wanted to cut her face off and wear it. “It would make way more sense if a week had passed North of the Wall for the raven to fly to Dragonstone.” Yes, it would makes more sense. And yet it was totally just one night. Would that we had honeypotters actually writing the scripts instead, because then we’d probably have a coherent show.
Weisseroff’s Razor: Weisseroff’s razor is how we know that honeypots are never accurate — they’re far too clever by a half. On GoT, it’s always the most idiotic and straight-forward answer possible. Trust us. Weisseroff’s Razor demands it.
Reverse Honeypotting: Honeypots can sort of be thought of as very intelligent stories or plot-points that D&D didn’t tell. However, a reverse honeypot is when there’s a story that is told, usually due to Unfortunate Implications, that D&D had no effing clue was on our screens (else maybe some of these implications would have actually had follow-ups). Our favorite example of a Reverse Honeypot is the noble tale of Hizdahr zo Sansa (may he rest in peace), and his completely awesome, Sansa-in-A Clash of Kings-esque, resistance narrative. Our least favorite example of a Reverse Honeypot is where Tommen was a rape victim of Margaery Tyrell, and his suicide was a horrific exploration of why we have statutory laws. There’s many stories in between, too.
The Checklist Effect: Who cares about context, themes, or characterizations? The stuff that happens in a story can be viewed as a discrete set of plot-points to tick off. And those who do successfully tick them off are therefore great adaptors living at the spirit of the original author! We can point to things in the past like Jon’s death or the existence of Arthur Dayne, but now that we’re beyond the books (in many ways) it becomes hard to to parse out what is a checkbox in the first place. Jonny’s parents are Rhaegar and Lyanna? Well let’s tick that one off by having an expo-dump over a sex scene. We can’t wait to get our copies of The Winds of Winter and see just how well these masters of drama adapted some discrete plot points.
Plot Theory of Relativity: In any frame of reference, time will progress exactly as fast as plot demands. No more, no less. This includes the flying speed of ravens and the running speed of Gendrys.
Empowered™ Women: In Weisseroff, women are strong in the D&D way. They can, for example, become a Total Badass™, who is either an awesome warrior or just a chick getting high off of violence. There’s nothing more empowering, and reasonable, than slaying all those awful dudes. That’s what feminism is. Bonus points for mocking the “feminine” traits of others. Who needs to knit socks? The other way is to be a super sexy manipulator. Even more bonus points if you use your wiles to manipulate a child. There are no other options, unless you are a very rare-breed of time-traveling feminist field nurse.
Real Men™: In Weisseroff, men are Strong™. They kill men. They have sex. They win over a boat-full of their countrymen for stupid missions by beating people to death. They never show weakness, or fear. It’s almost as though all they do is fuck and fight, fight and fuck. Oh wait…
Hot Potato: D&D’s favorite game! Let’s set up plotlines and forget about them! Or at least for a few seasons, until they run out of things to do and want to pick them back up again! What happened to half of Stannis’s army that just pissed off at the end of autumn in the heart of the North? Wait, what’s Gendry doing here? Who’s ruling Porne now? Where do Edmures go?
Subtle Pie: D&D don’t care much for humble pie, but boy are they skilled at the art of subtlety. Could there possibly be DRAGONGLASS on DRAGONSTONE? However can we gently clue the audience in on Jonny’s parentage? However can we gently clue the audience in on Jonny’s parentage…AGAIN? Where are Walder Frey’s missing sons? *wink*
Shocking™ Moments: Even though subtlety is great, sometimes D&D don’t want the sneaky audience to see their big moments coming. Therefore, they keep everyone guessing by having characters pull random 180°’s that make us gasp. We did not see that coming! Because we could not see that coming. Because you literally presented the opposite situation to us and then just randomly flipped it. Wow. Give them all the Emmys.
The Key Jingling Effect: Hey guys, wouldn’t it be awesome if we had an ICE DRAGON made of CGI? What a stunning shot of Larry charging towards a dragon? A bonus to all this SUPER AWESOMENESS is that just like jingling keys in front of a baby, it will make the audience forget about all of the offensive or illogical bull you’ve pulled on them, and they will decide that you are the best writers ever. Well…usually, at least.
The 600 Masks Effect/Shiny Shiny: News flash, GoT has a ginormous budget. Great things can be done with the amount of money they have at their disposal. Like the famous 600 unique masks in the Hall of Faces in Season 5. Unfortunately, some of the budget allocation decisions made are… questionable. For instance, as awe-inspiring as that Beauty and the Beast library was for Sam, why did it even exist when his plotline was somehow less significant than a beer fart? We can question the value of an ice dragon at the cost of all logic as well, but hey. That might just be D&D Logic at its fullest effect.
Outside the Episodes: Because of all the characters who “earned it off-screen,” there are times that D&D must provide interviews that help explain what they just wrote. These “Outside the Episode” specials are particularly insightful. Did you know Arya saying “that’s not you” to Nymeria (and making half the fandom think it, in fact, wasn’t her) was just a fun season 1 callback? Or that the Plot Convenience Pond during the wight trip was a result of them writing the plotline backwards? Or that Deadpan burning people alive is her being a rational actor? Neither did we, but thank the Seven we have the Outside the Episodes to tell us.
Steve the Intern: Poor Steve. After finding out that his doctorate in Comparative Literature with an emphasis on Folklore and Mythology was worth little to employers, he was thrilled to get an unpaid internship in the Game of Thrones writers’ room, because such is the state of our world. But things quickly went south for poor Steve. He was told to produce a three page summary of A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, which he managed by using size 8 font, but he’s quite sure D&D didn’t even read that. He spends most of this time trying to explain to Dave Hill what a literary theme is, but he just gets blank looks in return.
Weisseroff: A magical place with size and population fluctuations according to the needs of the episode. Patriarchy doesn’t exist in Weisseroff, except when it does for a woman to be raped, or when Walder Frey needs a new child bride. Sometimes Weisseroff is a loose collection of feudal holdings, and sometimes it’s a Nation State that people can be citizens of and feel loyalty towards. There’s also a bullet train system or something that runs off the power of the Plot Relatively Field. Also everyone is terrible to each other and everything sucks.
Winterhell: Winterhell is a castle that once resembled Winterfell, the castle where the Stark family happily lived and ruled. However in Winterhell, all the Starks randomly hate each other (except when they don’t) and will gleefully bring up each other’s traumas to freak their siblings out (except if they’ve worked through everything off-screen). The Northern Lords get incredibly confused at Winterhell from all the Stark fighting and agree with whoever speaks last and loudest. But hey, at least they got the castle back from those jerk Boltons!
The Riverblands: Oh look, these exist again. Wait…no. No they don’t. The riverblands are in a pocket dimension of Weisseroff that can be warped in and out of from anywhere at will. Apparently, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Shire was situated in one small area of the riverblands, where winter is far away, and Hot Pie and Ed Sheeran were quite content. But now that every single Frey has been murdered, this geographical region may as well not exist. Again.
Riverroundabout: The ancestral home of the Tullys where Edmure may or may not be hanging out alive in, and which may or may not ever be mentioned again.
Carol’s Landing: Carol’s Landing is where Carol lives.
Cheryl’s Landing: Cheryl’s Landing is where Cheryl lives. And rules.
Casterly Castle: Casterly Castle is the ancestral home of the Lannisters, which didn’t have a sewage system until Tyrion created one fifteen years ago. Tywin built this stronghold from the ground up, probably from a Build A Generic Castle Lego set 6085-1. Though that silly forgot to put a moat in! What an impregnable fortress.
The Abandoned Isle of Sexual Tension: This island, just east of Cheryl’s Landing, is so unimportant that no one bothered to guard it. Or live there. However, when Deadpan returned to claim this ancestral seat of her house, the doors had luckily been left unlocked. Now she’s able to have her boyfriend over for some sexy eye-schtupping as she sits atop her geologically significant throne. At some point, Children of the Forest doodled some stick figures in the mines full of DRAGONGLASS. These are very scary stick figures that can convince political rulers to shift their entire plans, so proceed with caution.
The Plot Convenience Pond: North of the Wall strange things can happen. Like little dinky islands willing themselves into existence in the middle of little dinky ponds. At the Plot Convenience Pond, time passes based on emotion experience, so that a group can experience just one night, while the rest of the continent experiences what must be weeks. The Plot Convenience Pond also has a very specific freezing temperature based entirely on narrative requirements. When main characters fall in, it conveniently heats up to prevent hypothermia. We suppose.
Olenna’s Cottage: Our Dowager Sasstress has the finest house in all of Weisseroff, but an army who can’t fight because they like flowers, making it the worst defensive stronghold. If only they grew grapes instead maybe those Lannister forces would have slipped on the steps. At least the cottage has the right ambiance for heart-to-hearts.
Oldtown State: Give us a C! Give us an I! Give us a T! Give us ADEL! The fightin’ white ravens offer the best in higher education. Their Maester College is particularly renowned, with its aspiring scholars sharpening their most important skills: emptying chamber pots, slopping soup, and cleaning up after other people’s science experiments. The professors at Oldtown State are second-to-none. These old skeptics are so genre-savvy that they know exactly what plot-relevant books to hide in the restricted section of the library, right next to their copy of Moste Potente Potions.
Horn Faire: The Horn Faire is such fun to attend! It’s where empowered women assert their Empowerment™. Like Tiffany Tarly, who is probably now ruling The Reach with her imaginary sisters and extra bedrooms.
Porne: Porne is a small area shaped like the birthmark on a man’s ass that consists of the Water Gardens and some desert. It was conceived when someone involved in the production asked their racist grandmother from 1880 what “the orient” was like. There are three things the Pornish do: have sex, kill and/or mutilate people with little or no reason (bonus points for family members), and talk with a goofy accent. We’re actually not sure who’s running Porne right now, since their maybe-Princess Faullaria…Sand? Uller? is mostly dead. But she had ten thousand brothers and sisters, so we shouldn’t be too worried.
Simplified Bay of Dragons: Remember that entire region that Deadpan Cardborn invaded and ruled, and then pissed off from, leaving it in the hands of her unqualified sellsword boyfriend? We’re sure Faabio Naharis is keeping things running well! Also, somewhere in the area are the now-super empowered Dosh Khaleen, who had their patriarchy burned to the ground. Wait…why are they still stuck in Vaes Dothrak?
GoT is rather known for its sprawling cast, so as a result, we have subdivided this section by character locations in Season 7. More or less. There was a lot of teleporting, but we did what we could.
Very Northern Theater
Shogun: The Lord of the White Walkers. This guy can raise the dead, is great with babies, and looks damn stylin’ in his samurai armor. He’s also able to train wights how to swim and forge metal. He got himself a sweet Icebound Frostbrood Vanquisher to ride, so take his loot seriously, please.
Skyr: Skyr is an industrious troop leader who even lets lost boy scouts follow him. He’s a father of about fifteen.
Benjen Coldhands: OMG it’s Benjen! We’ve seen him before, you guys! He can kill skeletons and tell stories about himself! Why D&D opted to adapt the one fan-theory that Martin has staunchly rejected is beyond us, but I guess they just know about Dramatically Satisfying media more. Aaaand he’s gone.
Beardy: We don’t know who this Icelandic fellow with an impressive beard is, or why people are calling him “Tormund.” As far as we can tell, he has no personality traits whatsoever, with the exception of intense homophobia. It’s okay Beardy, we get it. You’re not gay. You don’t have to beat anyone to death or creep on any women that are clearly disinterested in you to prove it. Calm it down. It’s pussy for you.
The Brotherhood with Vague Continuity: Formerly the “Brotherhood Without Continuity,” these merry men finally managed to be in two seasons in a row, and with same motivation: going north. Horray! They’re great for rounding out any RPG group with their priest and paladin.
The Canine: This jolly companion of the Brotherhood without Continuity is good at digging graves and seeing incredibly detailed preview footage of Episode 6 in a fire. We’re sure there’s significance to this because of his scar, and because we were told there was. Unfortunately, whatever this significance is hasn’t manifested in any sort of character development, since he still fixates on killing his brother, just like in Season 1. Bad doggie!
Vincent Expendable: Poor guy, you barely beamed up North before you were cruelly taken from this world. If only you had been given one line of dialogue.
BranBot 1000: This cyborg is basically a sitting CCTV department who will let anyone watch his screens if they ask nicely. However, robots cannot love, and it’s very sad for all of us, especially Meera. Robots also cannot understand human trauma and will accidentally freak out their siblings by recounting their histories at inappropriate times.
The Three Eyed Raven: It’s difficult to explain.
Brittany Stark: Sansa fans rejoice! D&D have finally settled on a character for Sophie Turner to play, and it’s Brittany, bitch! She is awesome and the only one who knows how to do literally anything. From making breastplates to screening visitors to making all the socks that Lyanna Mormont is too empowered to sew, Brittany proves herself as the only person who should be trusted to make the slightest decision. That includes her dumbass half-brother, who was such a present King in the North that he’s not even in this section of the glossary.
Sadly, the world isn’t ready for Brittany’s empowerment, and she still gets blamed for stuff she did years ago while under duress. This also makes her disloyal and exactly like Cheryl.
Arya Todd: Attend the tale of Arya Todd. She learned to assail from abroad. She stole the faces of noblemen, who never thereafter were heard from again. She trod a path that few have trod…did Arya Todd. The Empowered™ assassin of the Starks.
She made her home in Winterhell. She kept skins in bags to hide their smell. And what if Sansa displayed competency? She’d expose her “crimes” for all Lords to see. For family warmth she deserves a nod…does Arya Todd. The Empowered™ assassin of the Starks.
Swing your Needle wide, Arya! Swing it to the skies! Freely flows the blood of foes, except Ed Sheeran!
Lyanna, the Littlest Feminist: Lyanna Mormont knows what’s dumb! Sewing! Also anything vaguely feminine and/or pragmatic. This awesome training-bra-burner understands how everyone should be soldiers consuming resources, and nobody should produce anything because that’s for stupid girls. This makes her very feminist. Every time she speaks, everyone agrees with her right away, because of the girth of her empowerment.
The Wind-Vane Lords: You might think the Northern Lords have convictions, since the Northern Lords are super duper loyal, and at one point we were told “the North Remembers.” But nope. These wind-vane lords just agree with whoever spoke last. When their king has left for more than 24 hours, they want to support whoever is there instead.
Batfinger: Batfinger is a mysterious man. He has a voice like the Marlboro Man and an accent that…morphs on a sliding scale between Lucky the Leprechaun and Captain Barbosa. As of Season 7, his teleporter was stolen, which means that he gets stuck against his Wall Spot of Sneaking. He creates chaos because chaos is a ladder, but he also has a vision board of marrying Brittany and sitting the Iron Throne. The best way to do this is to make her not like her sister, for reasons. In the end though, Batfinger felt what it was to be a GoT viewer, when a random bait-and-switch was his undoing. Let’s hope he found that shock dramatically satisfying.
Brienne the Brute: She added so much. Also she’s not overly concerned with honor. That sounds right!
Pod the Rod: It’s very important that all viewers of GoT understand that Pod has a magical cock. Everyone wants to suck it, and we need to have this crucial point come up at least once a season. Do your part and spread awareness of Pod. And his penis. Which is magical.
Jonny, King in the North: See entry in Abandoned Isle of Sexual Tension section, as he only spent a weekend here.
Abandoned Isle of Sexual Tension
Deadpan Card-born: Technically, her full name is “Deadpan Card-born, the Unemotional, Queen of Simplified Bay, Queen of the Anachronisms and the Clichéd, Khaleesi of Faux-Empowerment, Breaker of Suspended Disbelief, and part-time Mother of Dragons.” And boy is she Empowered™! Look how dignified and confident she is! Watch as she talks about breaking the wheel for the umpteenth time without once changing her expression! Watch her stand in the background and nod as men explain her plans to her! Now, Deadpan might be a bit crazy—those darn women, amirite?—but she’s not like, Cheryl crazy. You see, she has the redeeming quality of listening to Saint Tyrion. Now that’s what we call empowerment!
Jonny Cardboard: Jonny Cardboard is a king now! And only kings can talk to Khaleesis. Except everyone else who does. So that totally justifies why this unproblematic action hero abandoned his kingdom two days after getting the gig, so he could march his face into yet another trap that he was warned about by his much smarter sister. Don’t worry though: this mouth-breather extraordinaire never tells lies ever. He’s like George Washington! Or maybe the cherry tree with that wooden acting. Either way, his staunch commitment to idiocy and always revealing his hand (apparently) makes us totally understand why people follow him, and why we should be excited that he’s secretly the RIGHTFUL HEIR OF WEISSEROFF. Here’s hoping no one’s trying to break the wheel or claiming that throne could get awkward.
Oh yeah, he was also dead for half a second, though since he doesn’t seem to care about it, we’re not sure why we should either.
#BoatSex: The official shipname of Jonny and Deadpan. When has your auntie/nephew combo ever? These two have such crackling sexual chemistry that everyone around them ships this, just in case the audience missed it. We have a sneaking suspicion that it’s so well-written, D&D actually got help from their buddy George Lucas.
Saint Tyrion: Saint Tyrion is the unproblematic fave who can do no wrong, even when he does wrong and it’s there for all to see on the screen. He totally respects the personhood of sex workers and the contribution they make to the economy! Because #notallmen! He’s also mad sorry that he killed his father. He had no choice! However, Saint Tyrion lately has been in a bind. You see, there’s an out-of-control woman, and only he can save the day by explaining how to use her dragons more. It’s so stressful for him to be the emotional core of this administration. Let’s not even touch his unrequited love for her, that was 100% in evidence.
Varys Marx: Smallfolk of the World Unite! Varys Marx is some random eunuch from Lys who is REALLY into fiscal responsibility and kissing Saint Tyrion’s ass. He’s so committed to good governance that, after meeting Illyrio Mopatis in a “Robert Totes Sucks Club” meeting, he and his “colleague” decided that Viserys Targaryen was the way to go and that a plan to invade Westeros with an army of rapists who are afraid of water would totally work. And now Deadpan is the way to go, because she’s so good at listening to Saint Tyrion. You see, it’s always been about the good of realm for him, and she can respect that, just like we’re sure Viserys would have. Varys Marx is really glad he doesn’t have “debts of affection,” or a backstory or anything like that to complicate matters.
MissWorm: The ship name for Missandei and Grey Worm, a touching and genuine romance that we suspect was written by Ronald D. Moore.
Meli-sans-bra: This red priestess once had a great time flashing the camera every chance she got, but ever since the reveal that she’s OLD, they’re staying firmly in her robes. Instead, her hobbies now include shipping Deadpan, staring sadly off into the middle-distance, and pissing off when the writers can’t come up with anything for her to do. Fear not though: she will die in Weisseroff, so we’re sure to see her again. That’s some pretty deft foreshadowing.
Ironboor: The inhabitants of the Iron Islands have a deep and rich culture, which includes tending their lush forests and following the men who speak about their genitals. In fact, genitalia figures very prominently into their leadership selection process, so long as what’s between their legs can be turned into a fighting strength.
Yara, the Swashbuckling
Lesibian Bisexual: Finally, the positive representation we’ve been waiting for.
Princess Faullaria Sand (or maybe Uller?): Showberyn’s beloved paramour, Faullaria Sand hates timid sex and loves the torturing of small children in the name of revenge. In fact, her defining feature may be her love of revenge. She loves it so much that she will murder Showberyn’s whole family and name herself the Princess of Porne (maybe?), because that’s what he would have wanted. It worked out so well for her. We’d say that this was intricate commentary on the futility of revenge, except her downfall was someone else’s revenge. It’s clearly too deep for us to comprehend.
The Sand Fakes: Who are these three women? And which one is which? Whatever, they’ve been meditating about it a lot and decided that for a change of pace, they want revenge. FOR SHOWBERYN! The Fakes have quirky, individualized weapons and the inability to be nice to one another. They’re very useful at being an object lesson of “hoisted by your own petard.” So significant.
Snake-Fu: A unique style of fighting practiced only in Porne that includes futile spinning, futile spinning of weapons, and futile mincing steps. All weapons must be dipped with boner-activated poisons. Snake-Fu is dizzying, yet deadly, and can drop a dude twice your size with a single small blade to the back. If you reach an especially high level, then you get to learn the ultimate skill: double sword spinning! However, it is a Snake-Fu rule that eventually, you will fall to your own weapon. #poetry
Carol Lannister: Carol is a relatable, struggling super-mom. She is a devoted mother to her kids Chase, Madison, and TomTom. And a victim. She lost a baby and sympathizes with Cat Stark about it. But then she also lives her life believing a prophecy that her first baby should have negated. She almost had to poison her son to prevent him from being harmed more. And now… she tried to protect her kids and rule wisely and well, but the patriarchy was just too much for her. But being slut-shamed by fanatics won’t stop our Unproblematic Fave from trying her best to do her job. Even if the cool kids all leave the table when she sits down, or her uncle banishes her to the gallery, or her son changes the law to screw her over. Poor Carol!
Cheryl Lannister: When you push a super-mom too far… She randomly morphs into a mass murderer in metal shoulder pads. Cheryl likes wine, blowing things up, torturing enemies, and she knows a cardigan is a great alternative to a blazer in a business casual environment. She’s an entirely reasonable actor given the political nightmare she’s found herself in, but everyone around her believes that she’s horrible and insane, which we’re sure has nothing to do with that thing that starts with “s” and ends in “exism.” Luckily for Cheryl, the smallfolk are okay with her, since she’s freed them from superstition. What a classic!
Larry Lannister: Larry Lannister is a charmingly befuddled knight. The second-oldest Lannister deserves our pity, because he seems to operate in a continual state of confusion. He’s lucky that he has his long-term girlfriend, Cheryl, to patiently explain everything for him. Larry loves Cheryl, but he’s beginning to think she’s a little bit problematic. Not because she blew up the entire religious institution of Cheryl’s Landing, or that she gets sexually turned on by violence…those are normal bumps in the road. But one time Cheryl lied to Jonny Cardboard, her political adversary. Unforgivable.
The Cherry Bomb: This fetus from the OTP (Cheryl+Larry=Cherry) added so much to the show! Such as…granting its mother anachronistic knowledge of fetal alcohol syndrome. We await the Cherry Bomb with baited breath, and hope for a future where they can marry the #BoatSex spawn.
The Bro-nns: Larry goes nowhere without his best bud, Bronn, and together, they bro it up all over Weisseroff. Bronn, however, is hopelessly in love with Larry. He tries to put on the face of a hardened mercenary, but he just can’t seem to quit him! Maybe genital jokes will throw Larry off the scent.
Dickon Tarly Redux: Dickon? Dick-on. Hee hee hee.
Dowager Sasstress: Poor Carol may have to deal with the patriarchy, but if you’re sassy, like our beloved Dowager Sasstress, then you get to suddenly be the head of the House you married into, as well as the Lord Paramount of the Reach. (Or something.) The Dowager Sasstress is dead now, but her sassy ways will live on and empower us all. #BeADragon
Eurovision: This big bad, who totally makes Ramsay Sue look like a little kid, is running late for a My Chemical Romance concert. However, he has the power of ~illusions~ on his side, and an armada that can magically teleport wherever the plot needs it to. He may have a different personality every episode, but that’s because “All of the psychopaths I’ve met in my lifetime have multiple personalities”. We’re not sure why he does anything at all, but that’s just part of the ~mystery~. Except for potentially having butt sex with Cheryl, which would totally compel anyone to attack Unsullied at Casterly Castle. We’d go on, but he spent the night dancing and is drunk, we suppose. If it looks like he’s laughing, he’s really just asking to leave.
Showboating Sam: Showboating Sam was so happy to finally achieve his dream of arriving at the improbably giant library in Oldtown State, but college life isn’t all that he expected it to be. First he has to clean up poop, then those stodgy old maesters won’t let him into the restricted section! But after curing Greyscale Jorah of an incurable disease, (re)discovering how to save the world from Ice Demons, and having his girlfriend stumble upon a political bombshell about his best bud, he decides that this is lame and he should take his father’s advice, drop out, and go be the Real Man™ we all know he is.
Gilly in a Corner: Gilly’s still here, we guess. This once-assertive dame still likes to read. We guess that’s what she does all day while her boyfriend is in class. They belong together, after all, so there’s no way she only exists for him to vent his own frustrations at.
The Amazing Expandable Baby: While originally it seemed like good ol’ Sam-Sam Parr had been shrinking given his perpetual infanthood while Madison Lannister wasted away for years in Porne, it’s now clear that there was no problem at all! Gilly’s son simply has the magical ability to grow and shrink at will. Watch him be suddenly big enough to laugh at Sam’s emotional breakdown. Don’t worry though, he’ll never get too old to actually need characterization or lines. That’d be really inconvenient.
Ser Hilariously Friend-zoned/Greyscale Jorah: We had concerns that Jorah would no longer be hilariously friend-zoned ever since he became infected with the plague. However, as everyone who reads secret Maester books knows, the key to curing yourself of a disease so deadly that the nobility sent their infected family members off to a colony to die is simply proper exfoliation. Once Showboating Sam had him all sparkling new, Jorah was ready to once again be hilariously friend-zoned. Though he seems oddly fine with it now. Yes. It is his lot in life and this is very romantic.
Maester Slughorn: Maester Slughorn doesn’t know anything about White Walkers, and he wouldn’t tell you even if he did! His pedagogical practices could use a bit of honing, but damn if he can’t spot an alcoholic’s liver.
Prince Ragger: Ragger’s favorite A Song of Ice and Fire character is Viserys Targaryen, and he makes sure to always cosplay as Harry Lloyd’s interpretation of him, even during his wedding. Ragger is very by-the-book, making sure to legally annul his marriage to the mother of two of his children/future heirs to the Iron Throne in a procedure that only one person knew about. That totally covers his ass so that he can marry Liability Stark for love in the middle of a civil war while his family slaughters hers. It’s LOVE.
Lady Liability Stark: We know oh-so-much about Lady Liability. She rides horses and was nice to a young Hodor. She’s totally developed and not at all just a pretty vehicle for Jonny’s Pop Secret Audience Surprise! Who wouldn’t screw over their wife and the entire line of succession for her?
A Jon: Ragger’s favorite name in the whole wide world is Jon, so much so that he’s tried to have not one, but two sons named this. However, every time he suggests it to his baby mama(s), he phrases it as, “he’s a Jon to me!”, which hilariously keeps being misheard as “Aegon.” Why else would this name be repeated? In a twist of dramatic irony, Ned, by trying to distance Liability’s baby from his ~secret Targaryen identity~, ended up giving Jon the name Ragger always intended.
There you have it, the official Book Snob Glossary. May you be strong like our patron saint Book Snob Shireen, and never cease to evoke these terms in your quest to stop the conflation of A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones. If you’re lucky, you might even get to explain to someone what a literary theme is.
Images courtesy of HBO
Image Comics “DIE” is an Instant Dark Fantasy Masterpiece
There are so many factors that have come into play when I first heard about Image comics newest release, DIE, that it is hard to pinpoint the real reason it intrigued me so heavily. Who am I kidding, it was all the reasons. Most importantly the staff on it.
For one, it features two of my favorite Image Comics alum. The first being Kieron Gillen, the mastermind that gave us the brilliant comic The Wicked And The Divine,which is one of the best ongoing comics at the moment. On the art work is the incredibly talented Stephanie Hans whose realistic and beautifully shaded and colored panels were also featured in The Wicked And The Divine‘s 1831 one shot as well across other comic distributors such as DC with Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love. The two coming together again like in 1831 is a match that builds this comic up to be really something special.
Image, in the last few years has really been producing some special and important books in the past few years, among them being The Wicked and the Divine, some of the more acclaimed include Saga, Blackbird, Paper Girls,and Infidel, the company takes a proud departure from Superheroes that dominate the comic industry and opt for more fantasy or science fiction stories with adult and political themes.
Lastly, the plot was incredibly unique and original. When it was advertised as Jumanji meets It, I was instantly interested. While not being a player of table top games myself, I can certainly see the crowd this book is trying to reach while also showing the fun about these games with an added horror twist that is sure to be remembered after the first issue.
The story really does follow a similar timeline to the mentioned Stephen King novel since it follows a group of friends during two periods of their lives: as teenagers and as adults. As we are introduced to each member of the group, we notice nothing in particularly strange about their characters, other than a shared love for table top games and science fiction and fantasy themes. The group has gathered together to celebrate the birthday of their friend Dominic by playing an apparently hard to find game called Gormenghast.
We learn a little about each character based on their choice of created characters. Dominic himself creates a diplomat woman that’s apparently a cross between Cleopatra and Machiavelli, the Dictator. Matthew, a magical warrior of empathy, the Grief Knight. Angela, a cyber punk, Neo. Isabelle, an atheist with gods as pets, Godbinder. Chuck, a lazily created every-man. And Sol the dungeon master with D20 die.
As the game begins the comic cuts to two hours later as Sol’s mum comes to check on them and they have disappeared. Fast forward again and it’s two years later and the group suddenly appears on a random road nearly getting hit by a car. Angela is missing her arm and we can’t really make out what happened, they are now only known as the Stafford six a group of teenagers who went missing two years ago. Sol is the only one missing from the group.
The comic again goes in time to 25 years later where we get to see how this tragedy has affected the rest of their lives. Apparently they had all made a promise never to speak about what happened, not even to one another. Sol’s mother even after so many years pesters Dominic about the fate of her son, to which he avoids. Using brilliant dialogue we see just how dark this has made their lives. Dom seems not to keep in touch with all the others except his sister who has gone through a string of divorces. They have made the best of living with their memories but it is all destroyed when Dom receives a package at a bar, a bloodied D20 die.
It’s at this moment that he decides to reunite the group. After so much time, some have changed completely while others not at all…I’m looking at you Chuck. While some have new companions and some less. They decide as a group to finally discuss what happened that night and where they were for two years until the die calls out to them. The Grandmaster threatens the realm and a hero is needed it calls as they are all sucked into the die and land into a desert ruin. It’s apparent that they have all become their characters…why does Chuck look like Varric.
With the end of the issue the group bickers among themselves about being back in the game, something they’ve repressed for nearly half their lives until Sol appears as the new Grandmaster. What I took from his dialogue is that he was trapped by the previous one and during these long years he’s fought a war to survive or escape and eventually defeated him and became the Grandmaster himself. It’s not clear whether he’s sane or not at this point but it points to the latter as he tells his friends that they are not leaving until the game is over.
This first issue was great at establishing its main cast. While I kept most of those details out of this review, the book really fleshes them out individually and gives life to each of their personalities. Anyone who has read The Wicked and the Divine will know just how well Gillen handles diversity among characters as well as conflicting attitudes. They actually feel like a group of friends you might have been a part of in high school. I really loved this book and I can’t wait to see what adventures await us.
Images Courtesy of Image Comics
Conclusion to Stumbling Beginnings in Summer Knight
It had to happen sometime. I talked last book about how much Butcher had improved on his shaky start. Published in 2002, Summer Knight brings the shaky opening to a conclusion. It also opens up a new phase of storytelling for the series as a whole. In case you couldn’t tell, I really like this book. It brings so much to the series, and features one of the more iconic moments of the series for Murphy. Let’s get into it.
Spoilers for Summer Knight and all previous books in the series.
So, What Happened?
Summer Knight opens with Harry and Billy investigating a rain of toads. Harry grumps around and alienates all his friends because of his grief over Susan. Afterwards, he goes to a meeting Billy orchestrated, which turns out to be with Mab, Queen of the Winter Fae. She bought his debt from the Leanansidhe, and wants him to clear her name for a murder. Harry refuses and goes to the White Council meeting. We meet several other wizards, and a vampire offers peace between the White Council and Red Court if they turn over Harry. At the conclusion of the meeting, the wizards agree not to sacrifice Harry if he makes Mab cooperate with the Wizards.
Harry discovers that the murdered man, Ronald Reuel, was the Summer Knight, the human intermediary for the Summer Court. The power he wielded disappeared, destroying the balance. Which, eventually, leads to war between the Courts. Elaine, shows up as the Summer Emissary. Harry attends Reuels funeral, and runs into several teenage, changeling acquaintances of the knight who are concerned over the disappearance of Lily. He visits the Winter Lady, then contacts Murphy. They fight several monsters in a Wal-Mart. He goes to the Summer Lady after finding Elaine beaten by his car.
Harry visits the Summer and Winter Mothers in the Nevernever. The Winter Mother gives him an Unraveling. Aurora, the Summer Lady steals it from him and reveals she orchestrated everything to remake the seasons in her own image. She trapped the power inside Lily. Harry objects to this. Harry, the Alphas, and two of the teenage changelings go to the Stone Table. They interrupt the fight between seasons, steal back the Unraveling, and kill Aurora, saving Lily, the one holding the mantle. In the conclusion, Lily becomes the new Summer Lady.
Best Moment – The Wal-Mart Fight, Organization to Conclusion
There are so many good things about this scene. There’s finally communication, Murphy’s first moment of awesome, and plot hooks perfectly combined with character catharsis. Over the course of this unlikely placed scene, Butcher manages to bring several elements of the early series to a conclusion.
The first, of course, is that Harry finally tells Murphy everything about the supernatural. She even gets in one last one-liner about being kept out, a start to their banter for the rest of the series. “‘I know I’ve kept things from you.’ … ‘Yeah’, she said, ‘I know. It’s annoying as hell.’”(299). He tells her everything. About the Red Court, the White Council, the Fae, and Chicago Supernatural Politics. Now, we won’t have the cheap conflict from Storm Front where they work at cross-purposes again.
Immediately afterwards, we have the fight with the chlorofiend, the Tigress, and the mind fog. At the conclusion of that fight, we also have Murphy’s first major impact since the Loup-Garou. “Murphy tore through them with the chain saw, … then drove the blade directly between the chlorofiend’s glowing green eyes.” (345). Chainsaw with cold iron, vs Fae Creature. Murphy wins.
The way that the plot interacts shows improvement from the previous book. There, Butcher attempted to tie together the antagonists with the chain spells. Here, we see the ghoul, the summoned monster, and the mind fog from two different people. The Tigress also capitalizes on Murphy’s trauma from the previous book. But everything makes sense, and the conclusion of the fight ties together various plot threads, since Ace sent the Tigress, Aurora the fog and fiend, and Murphy starts to recover from Kravos’s attack.
Most Improved – Harry’s Attitude
While some of the previous books focused more on the change to other people, here we have Harry change. He has a character arc that comes to a satisfying conclusion by the end. Harry starts the book depressed over Susan, and he alienates everyone. Billy points it out. “I don’t need to be a wizard to see when someone’s in a downward spiral. You’re hurting. You need help.” (25). Given that Billy previously espoused the theme of the series, his reintroduction here is significant. Eventually, Harry accepts the help Billy offers, both in scheduling meetings, and with the fight at the end. After the fight, Harry even goes over to hang out with the Alphas, and plays a barbarian in a Dungeons & Dragons spin-off game. He quotes William Shakespeare jokingly, and says, “Meep, Meep” to a deranged Faerie Queen. (489).
It is not only the Alphas that help change Harry’s mood. His reunion with Eileen, his teenage flame, who he thought he killed alongside Justin also helps. Finding out he didn’t kill her brings him closure. But through the book, when she nominally serves as an opponent, the Summer Emissary to his Winter, her presence reassures him. Even when she ‘betrays’ him to Aurora, and binds him, she still helps him. “I’d been right. It was the same binding she’d used when we were kids.” (433). Her meddling enables him to escape Aurora’s death trap, by using their childhood bond.
At the conclusion of the book, she gives him advice regarding Susan that builds to the catharsis detailed above. “Stop thinking about how bad you feel—because if she cares about you at all, it would tear her up to see you like I saw you a few days ago.” (510). That help sends him in a new direction.
Best Worldbuilding – The Fae Courts
While the information on the White Council is delightful, the Fae Court proves more valuable to the main plot. And we learn a lot about the Courts here. Lea makes an appearance, where she ‘helps’ Harry by distracting him and a Fae from fighting and guiding him to the Stone Table. She mentions again how she believes her actions last book only helped him as well. It gives insight to the alien nature of Fae morals.
We also can draw conclusions about the structure of the Courts given all the information on how they organize themselves. Through the book, we learn about the Winter and Summer Courts, each with three Queens. The Mothers, the retired queens. The Queens, the current ruler. And the Ladies, the heir for the future. Their Knights that do their will in the mortal world, and the Emissaries chosen on special occasions.
Also informative is the phrase, “If Winter came here, Summer had to come too, didn’t it?” (219). It implies certain checks and balances on each other’s behavior. That only highlights how serious a problem it is that the Summer Knight is dead, and the mantle gone. Lea’s information about the Stone Table reinforces that. Beyond being a reference to Narnia, it also guarantees great power to whoever holds the table, and whoever sheds blood on it. So, the peaceful transfer of the table from Summer to Winter and back with the seasons preserves their equality. Aurora’s plan only serves to show how important it is to keep that balance, less there be another Ice Age, or worse.
In showing us all this, Butcher expands his universe so much further, and sets the ‘table’ for future stories. Ones that will lead to the eventual conclusion of the series, yet to come.
Worst Worldbuilding – The Conclusion of Meryl’s Story
Given all that we know now about the Fae, it comes as no surprise that the worst worldbuilding also comes from that section of the story. Butcher’s take on Changelings is innovative, being half-human, half-Fae rather than the traditional version. The problems arise from how the narrative treats her, and the results of her half-Fae heritage.
The problem with Meryl is that Meryl dies at the end of the story. She is the first person explicitly allied with Harry to die. The only previous person that was not an antagonist that died was MacFinn, and he attempted to murder them all because of an uncontrollable curse. Meryl dying in and of itself is not the entire problem. Butcher directs the series in a darker direction, so deaths will come eventually. The issue that I have with the conclusion of Meryl’s story is that Butcher could have done so many things with her. As a Changeling aligned with Winter, dearest friend of the new Summer Lady and Knight, the possibility of an inter-Fae alliance or Court would develop.
She even said, “[Winter] Calls,’ Meryl said. ‘ But I’m not answering.’” (459). The Changelings provide a glimpse of the Fae outside of the manipulation, outside of Court politics. Meryl could have been symbolic of that. But no. Meryl Chooses to save Lily. She Chooses and she dies and all that hope with her. It’s a story brought too soon to a conclusion, one that broke off threads that could have continued.
Moment of Regression – Ye Old Wandering Eyes
I will admit, this is a sticking point for me. I talked about my dislike of Harry’s voyeurism in Storm Front. I brought it up again in Fool Moon. Thankfully, it didn’t appear too often in the following books, but here we see this again with a vengeance. And it doesn’t even make sense in character this time.
After a Susan-vampire nightmare, Harry thinks.
“But I had been used to a certain amount of friendly tension relieving with Susan. Her absence had killed that for me, completely—except for rare moments during the damned dreams when my hormones came raging back up to the front of my thoughts again as though making up for lost time.” (176).
So, theoretically at least Harry’s libido takes a break. I understand that part of this nightmare and Harry’s symptoms comes from the dangerous way he’s punishing himself for Susan’s condition. But, still. Even before this dream we have moments where he stares at Mab’s ass. He knows she’s the Winter Queen, and he still ogles her when she leaves. At Maeve’s court, Butcher spends a good deal of time describing Jenny Greenteeth, a Fae seductress. He could have emphasized the alien way she moves, the details that make her decidedly not human, and dropped a one-liner about her being naked at the end. It would have been in character for Harry’s blasé kind of humor. Instead, Butcher flips that script, focusing on the nakedness, with the inhumanity coming as an aside.
Call it my own personal soapbox, if you will, but that doesn’t sit well with me, especially when the last book did so much better with Harry’s gaze. (Not perfect, of course, but better. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to keep improving.)
Overall, Summer Knight showcases the best of Butcher’s work so far. While the choices were somewhat limited compared to last book, the plot hangs together much better. That cohesive plot lent its voice to each category, and the worst moments were nitpicks and could-have-beens.
The way that Butcher brought this story arc, and Harry’s character arc to a conclusion proved satisfying. His mastery of plot improved, with the motivations of the antagonists and the number being reasonable, instead of overwhelming. The knowledge about the Fae, about the Council, and about Elaine all help set up this next phase of the series. I’m looking forward to the next book.
Am I being too nit-picky in the ‘bad’ categories, or is it just proof of concept that the problems can be reduced to nitpicks? Was the White Council more fascinating than the Fae, or was Harry’s arc disjointed? Let me know if I’m being too harsh on the series, if you had a different idea for a category, or if you have any comments about the arc of the series as a whole. I look forward to hearing from you.
Game of Thrones 3×10 Rewatch: Mediocre
We’ve done it! We’ve made it through three seasons of Game of Thrones here with our rewatch project The Wars to Come. And with that, we’ve also made it through the most bearable parts of this series by showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D). While last week brought some mixed reviews, it seems that this week, Kylie, Julia, and Katie are leaning more towards jeers and boos in “Myhsa.”
Picking up from last week’s morbid end, it’s a slaughter outside the Twins as the Frey troops finish off Robb’s forces. Arya, escaping with Sandor, oversees her brother’s body being paraded about—now with Grey Wind’s head on his shoulders. The next morning, Walder Frey chats with Roose Bolton about their improved stations, now that Roose has become the Warden of the North. Roose reveals that his bastard Ramsay was the one who got the Ironborn to surrender Winterfell, and the one keeping Theon hostage now. Arya and the Hound, meanwhile, pass a group of Frey soldiers who brag about aiding in sewing Grey Wind’s head onto Robb’s body. Arya slips off Sandor’s horse and kills one of them, with Sandor killing the other two to protect her.
We check in with Theon and Ramsay, the latter of whom is still torturing the former. Theon asks to be killed, but Ramsay points out he’s not useful to him that way. He decides that Theon’s new name is ‘Reek’.
At some point, Ramsay had sent a box containing Theon’s castrated penis to the Iron Islands, with a letter telling the Ironborn to withdraw from the North. Balon and Yara receive it, and though Balon seems completely indifferent to Theon’s suffering, Yara decides that she will take her best fighters and rescue her brother.
Despite the massacre at The Twins, things seem rather peaceful in King’s Landing for a moment as Sansa jokes around with Tyrion about ways they can prank those who speak poorly of him. However, that is soon dashed when he attends a Small Council meeting where it’s revealed what happened to the Stark forces. Joffrey is gleeful and says he wants to show the corpse of Robb to Sansa, but Tyrion tells him he can’t torment her any more. This leads to an unpleasant confrontation, which Tywin puts an end to by sending Joffrey to bed. As everyone else clears out, he reminds Tyrion that he must impregnate Sansa now that she’s officially the heir to Winterfell. That might prove difficult, since when Tyrion sees her next, it’s clear she heard about her family and is incredibly sad.
Later, Varys tries to bribe Shae to leave Westeros, since he believes Tyrion can help the land and Shae is a distraction to that end. She refuses. Tyrion, for his own part, passes his time by drinking with Pod, until Cersei comes in and tells him that he really should impregnate Sansa, so that she can have some joy in her life, just like Cersei’s children brought her. Much later, Jaime arrives back in the city, and meets a stunned Cersei.
Up at The Wall, Bran and the Reeds take shelter in one of the abandoned Night’s Watch castles. Bran tells them it’s haunted because of the ‘rat cook,’ a man who killed his guests under his own roof and was cursed into the form of a rat. Gilly and Sam turn up at the same castle, and Sam recognizes Bran as Jon’s brother. He gives Bran and the Reeds his dragonglass to help protect them as they set out north of the Wall.
Sam and Gilly make their way back to Castle Black, where Sam makes the case to Maester Aemon that Gilly is worthy of their protection given their vows extend to the “realms of men.” Gilly names her baby after Sam, and Aemon, after learning what they had seen, commands Sam to send out all the ravens with this news.
They’re not the only ones to make it back to Castle Black; Ygritte finds Jon washing his wounds. He tells her he loves her, but he has to go home, and says he knows she won’t hurt him. That bit turns out to be wrong since she shoots him with arrows three times, though Jon still manages to ride back to the castle where he is greeted by Sam and Pyp.
Down at Dragonstone, Davos struggles with Gendry as a prisoner. The two talk, and Davos reveals that he too was lowborn and from Flea Bottom. Later, Davos reads through Stannis’s mail having made great strides in his literacy. He comes across Maester Aemon’s letter and is shocked. However, the news arrives that Robb has died, which means Stannis wants to sacrifice Gendry, since they now have a sign that the leech magic worked. Davos tries to argue against it, but it’s hopeless.
Davos instead breaks Gendry out and sneaks him into a rowboat, giving him guidance on how to get back to King’s Landing. When it’s discovered that Gendry is missing, Davos is correctly accused by Stannis and Melisandre. He’s sentenced to die, but Davos quickly pulls out Aemon’s letter and tells Stannis the real fight is to the north. Melisandre agrees with him, and tells Stannis that Davos has a part to play still.
Finally, in Yunkai, the now freed slaves come outside their gates to meet Danaerys. Her Unsullied guards are wary, but when the freedmen begin calling out “Mhysa” to her (meaning “Mother”), she realizes that no one will hurt her. She leaves the protection of her Unsullied to walk among the Yunkish.
Initial, quick reaction
Kylie: I’m really not able to type well, because I am still cringing from the crowd surfing scene. And especially knowing the script fully intended for Dany’s whiteness to be the focal point…ugh.
Trying to think about this episode as a whole, there was so much that just straight up annoyed me, but then the numerous Davos and Bran scenes somehow were well-placed enough that I’d calm down. It’s not that they were even that amazingly done (seriously, how would any show-only like Stannis at this point?), but the rest was just…very clearly not the show we began with in Season 1.
Katie: I was happy to get to jump on this rewatch because I always am interested in tenth episodes of Game of Thrones’s seasons. The big climax has just occurred and then there’s so much wrapping up and scene-setting to establish what comes next. They’re so often good barometers of how the show is doing. This one was a roller coaster for me. It reminded me of a lot of the things I genuinely enjoyed about the earlier seasons of the show, but then Sansa would be sidelined, Ramsey would monologue, or oof, that whole last scene.
Julia: All of this episode was mostly a need to set things up for the coming seasons. Sometimes this makes perfect sense, like setting up Stannis going north, but sometimes I was just scratching my head going, “Why are they digging this whole even deeper?”
Okay, that was mostly the scene where Shae rejected those diamonds. Like, did they have a different plan for her at that point? Why?
Kylie: I actually think my highlight was Walder and Roose talking, since you can clearly see just how odious they are, and also how that chip on Walder’s shoulder came to define a war. Roose was a bit hypocritical with his, “Robb didn’t listen to me ever” and also, “here’s how the situation with my bastard unfolded that Robb sanctioned,” but that’s not exactly an issue since we’re not meant to be convinced by these two. At least I don’t think so.
My lowlight is a very personal annoyance, I know, but Sansa laughing and joking with Tyrion and not knowing the word “shit” was pure sheep shit in and of itself. Also how many times did Arya possibly stick poo in the mattress that Sansa was no doubt sharing with like, Jeyne Poole?
It’s just, come on. I get that the sun rises and sets out of Tyrion’s ass on this show, but can’t his prisoner wife at least be a bit distant to him? You know, her whole thing in the books with her armor of courtesy. The way the show makes it seem, she was well on her way to liking this marriage, and then the death of her family made her sad for a few days (during which will be her escape, since that’s coming in two episodes). So frustrated.
Katie: That’s a good highlight, it’s always nice to see David Bradley cackle his way through his lines. And you know, I actually really considered Sansa laughing and joking with Tyrion as a lowlight too? Not because the scene itself is particularly bad (I’d forgotten how nice it is to see Sansa look happy about something, anything!). But because her emotions in all her scenes this episode are 110% about Tyrion. First to make him look like a great guy, which is par for the course. But it gets even worse later when it turns out that Sansa heard the news of the Red Wedding off screen, and her sadness is not her own, instead is simply given the narrative function of bumming out Tyrion a bit more. It’s a good pick for highlighting all of the generally… bad writings tendencies of the later seasons.
That said, I have to pick the closing Mhysa scene. It’s probably the point when I turned hardest on this show when I originally watched it? It’s such a thematic, narrative, and directorial failure, bad for the story and gross in all its racial implications. There were a lot of bad scenes in this episode, but this was the one that made me most actively angry.
Kylie: Yeah, it’s completely tasteless and the last taste you get of the show for the season. It may actually have been the worst closing shot of any season, now that I think about it.
Katie: My highlight is probably the Small Council scene, before it’s whittled down to Tyrion and Tywin? I’ve always liked the dynamic of more competent people having to deal with Joffrey’s kingship and deciding whether to be deferential or confrontational. It’s also a scene that’s not overly talky, and lets the (good) acting speak for itself. Honestly, though, I probably just enjoy seeing Charles Dance belittle Jack Gleeson. Honorable mention to Davos and Shireen hanging out and reading together, because it was very sweet.
Julia: Jack Gleeson is such an easy highlight to pick. He was just so happy and bouncy. And it helped that it was more or less just a book scene acted excellently. But I’m going to take your honorable mention and turn it into my highlight. Remember when Davos actually did stuff? Remember Shireen’s School for Conveniently Placed Illiterates? I used to love both these characters so much, and they have such great chemistry together. So even though this scene triggered a spiral where I was thinking what the Westerosi equivalent of Dutch speaking printers that would result in there being a “g” in “night” would be, or if they even have standardized orthography in Westeros, and what a trick that would be without printing, and if the maesters as an institution would be enough of a centralizing force to have standard orthography make sense…. I still really liked it.
I honestly think the “pork sausage” scene is not only a lowlight of the episode, it might be a lowlight for the whole series, even given all the stuff they’re going to do later. It was just so long and so… Am I going insane, or did they play it for laughs? Maybe they were going for some kind of Deadpool-esque black humor, but whatever Ramsay dangling a sausage was supposed to be, it wasn’t funny.
Katie: It’s so bad! I think they are playing it for laughs, at least kind of? Ramsay’s whole shtick seems to be “he’s so evil and so wacky! Isn’t it crazy?!” The cavernous abyss between the obvious delight D&D have in writing Ramsay and the terrible way it plays out on the screen and drags down the story is a… not great sign of things to come.
Kylie: Also speaking of what’s to come, Ramsay and eating becomes like, a thing, sort of similar to Brad Pitt’s character in Ocean’s 11. I guess it’s because they found this sausage scene suitably off-putting or something? But it leads to a full-on dramatic moment of Roose telling him to stop eating in Season 5.
Quality of writing
Katie: It is the lowest of low-hanging fruit, but can we talk about the Ramsay-Theon scene for a sec? The first shot of Theon in this episode is just a lingering shot on his crotch. We have an endless Ramsey monologue as he eats a pork sausage (get it?), and then Theon gets punched in the face a lot and cries. This show, guys. “Do eunuchs have a phantom cock?”
Julia: Yeah, the dialogue is cringy, but in terms of writing, the bigger question is why this scene, or this plotline even exists. GRRM puts a lot of disturbing stuff on the page (far too much according to many people) and even he chose to leave most of this stuff as implication. Perhaps they should have asked themselves why that was.
Kylie: I guess just so we could see the “transformation” into Reek more clearly? Like, they wanted him to be called ‘Reek’, but didn’t think that would track. Why they left the nickname in is beyond me, since they cut out Ramsay posing as Reek, and all that rather confusing backstory that came with it.
Even if they felt like we couldn’t have understood how broken Theon was without showing at least some torture, we certainly could have gotten by with half as many scenes, and none needed to be quite so explicit or drawn out. This one in particular was endless.
While we’re talking about the sausage though, I actually liked the dialogue given to Balon when he reacts to all of this. It was very on-point for the Iron Islands attitudes.
Katie: It was also undercut a bit by the fact that it makes the adoption of Reek seem kind of arbitrary rather than an eventual outcome of Theon’s torture. Theon’s obviously not in a great place at the start of this scene, but there’s not much of an indication that he’s really lost his sense of self. He seems eager to hold onto his name when he first gets hit in the face. Because of that, the fact that he takes up the name at the end seems less like a culmination of a character arc than an admission that he’ll do what Ramsey says if he gets punched sufficiently.
Agreed about the Balon dialogue. I also didn’t mind Cersei’s mom monologue (momologue! oh, gross, I’m sorry).
Julia: Like Walder Frey’s obnoxious misogyny last week, Balon’s horribleness felt like it was actual there to serve the world and the characters. I’m not sure why Ramsay’s antics feel so different, especially from Frey’s stuff. Maybe it’s just the absurdity of the sausage wagging.
Kylie: They just feel very out of place. The dialogue doesn’t sound like anything that’d be in ASOIAF, and I don’t just mean because of some strange anachronisms, like talking about “phantom limbs.” No way Westerosi would have coined that term.
Our 8th grade book report (on themes)
Katie: Tough to pick a theme in an episode that had roughly 36,000 plot lines happening at the same time. The closest I could come to was the emphasis on tension between valuing the Family Name and valuing family members themselves. The clearest example is Tywin’s long speech to Tyrion about how he wanted to kill him as a baby but HE WAS A LANNISTER so he kept him around, but it’s also evident in Balon’s indifference to Theon once he’s a family liability (and Yara’s pushback). I suppose it works with Stannis and Gendry as well, with Davos playing the Yara figure. If we want to be kind and stretch this theme to its breaking point, we could also include the Davos/Gendry scene about Flea Bottom, and the Shae/Varys scene, both of which demonstrate how those without a family name often have to play by different rules. That still leaves out most of the episode?
Julia: That’s an excellent effort. There’s something there maybe about obligations. Like, Jon has one to the Night’s Watch, and Tywin had an obligation to not kill his own child, (the cross he bears is heavy) and Guest Right is an obligation, but that just seems like a less insightful version of what Katie said.
Title? Dany is a mother to all the freedmen, and motherhood is also what Carol’s content is about. And the Rat Cook is a parent too…it’s totes a theme.
Kylie: Gilly is a mother to the baby she just named Sam! Honestly, the title is feeling pretty peripheral to me.
Katie gets full marks though, for sure. The three Stark kids kinda have a mutual loss of innocence (not than any of them are fully innocent at this point, of course). Sansa learns about her family’s fate, Arya kills her first man, and Bran heads north of The Wall. That one is kinda weaker, but given this is a season that ends in the middle of a book, it’s more of a parallel with them than I’d have expected.
The Butterfly Effect (cracks in the plaster)
Kylie: I don’t want to keep harping on the Sansa/Tyrion scene, but I think this is one of the clearest butterfly effects at play. Tyrion is made a really, really, really nice guy who the audience loves, so any character we are meant to like must love him too. In this case, Sansa. So take the whitewashing of his character that’s been there from the start, and two seasons later his prisoner child-bride is joking around with him, and Varys tries to set Shae up for life across the Narrow Sea, because Tyrion is apparently the only man who can save Westeros and he needs to be less distracted.
Katie: Agreed. I was shocked at how openly Sansa was used as an emotional prop in this episode.
Julia: Ugh, I feel like I can rant about Saint Tyrion for hours. In fact, I’m quite sure I have. I would argue that the changes to Tyrion’s character have the most butterfly effect of any decision in the show, maybe more than the decision to age up the kids, or the one to take out most of the supernatural elements. Tyrion’s characters flaws in the book drive the plot quite a bit, after all. And make his actions make any kind of sense.
At this point, I think many intelligent show-only watchers would be surprised to learn that Sansa is a POV character in her own right. And that Shae isn’t.
Katie: Also, this is a very small detail, and nit-picky, but I think it illustrated well the problems the show increasingly ran into down the line. I am not at all a fan of the choice to open the episode with… the mass slaughter of Northern extras. It’s supposed to serve as a carry-over from the climax of last episode, I suppose. But the reason The Red Wedding works as an emotional gut-punch is because it’s so intimate. It’s a shockingly and terribly personal moment.
As y’all noted last week, it’s a climax the show keeps trying to recapture, and it keeps trying… badly. In large part because it keeps aiming for grand scale over the emotional horror of individual moments. Michelle Fairley did such a good job of selling those last few seconds of emotion in The Red Wedding. Opening this episode with anonymous extras screaming and dying is literal overkill: it takes what should be the center of the scene—Arya seeing Wolf-Headed-Robb—and confuses and muddles it. Rather than a clear, stark (sorry), emotional moment, we get a frenetic, busy, overly-complicated scene. Clean it up! Bombast isn’t always best. It’s not a big deal, really, but it’s a wasted opportunity, and so indicative of what the show is going to prioritize as it goes along.
Julia: At least it gives the aforementioned hypothetical intelligent show-only watcher the tools to call bull on Tywin’s later line about all he did was kill a few dozen men at dinner, and what’s so wrong about that?
Kylie: True, though I’ll agree it was very visually busy. There’s that shot of Roose that opens it, and the way he walked to look out reminds me exactly of this one shot in Return of the King with an orc charging into battle. It was a wonky way to open things (also it was pretty damn dark), and given the effectiveness of the Walder and Roose scene later, I don’t think it’s a very necessary one.
Worth noting something that’s about to turn into a butterfly effect: the Night’s Watch vows. Sam found the “loophole” to make a case for Gilly staying (a compelling one at that). Next season we get the sex loophole, and I feel like we had one more at that too. Maybe the implicit loophole that allowed Jon to quit? It’s also symptomatic of D&D chasing a good thing, or something that lands. This is still pre-chicken joke GoT, remember.
Julia: Well, this section is getting harder and harder.
Um. Gendry fits rather seamlessly into Edric Storm’s role in this episode. Minus the way he bonded with Davos, I guess. They bonded in both cases, but not in the same way.
The small council scene about the Red Wedding was pretty good, at least until it became about how awesome Tyrion is for not raping a 14-year-old, but other than that the stuff from KL was not super faithful.
Kylie: Not at all. Though let’s chat about the adaptational decision with Yara. Is it that D&D just don’t plan more than one year at a time? Because I don’t think it’s about them feeling like we needed to check in with her and trying to come up with a great Season 4 plot for her specifically; we didn’t check in on the Iron Islands at all this year, and there’s nothing that necessitates putting the theater in next year either.
Even if they did plan, does that mean they purposely set up Yara for a completely futile, one-off failed mission? Because god knows they wanted Theon to be in his ADWD plotline, no matter what woman gets shoved into Jeyne’s role… I guess I’m just not getting what they were even trying for with this. False hope of Theon’s rescue?
Katie: Such big chunks of these finales focus on laying the groundwork for future plots. But in practice I think that sometimes bleeds over into just… setting up potential drama or tension? It wouldn’t surprise me if they just wanted another rousing (“rousing”) speech or set up for potential action next year, regardless of whether it would matter at all in the long run. The more generous part of me wants to say that there was some level of awareness that the Theon/Ramsey scenes were floundering and needed the (false) promise of some kind of narrative development before the end of the season.
Julia: In retrospect, though, it does seem cruel of them to set Yara up like that. As cruel as setting Shae up like that was. I think being even more generous is presuming that they had different plans for both these characters—they wanted Shae in particular to do something different during the trial and for Yara to maybe do something like her book plot with Stannis maybe–but audience reaction, or budget, or lack of writing skills made it impossible?
Carol Watch: who is Cersei this week?
Kylie: This is the most Carol Carol who Carol’d all the way to Carolville in her Carolmobile.
Katie: She reminded me of a mom who has been to so many grinding, exhausting parent-teacher conferences about her terrible kid. She knows the teacher is right, but she has to keep her game-face on? She’s just trying her best.
Julia: Imagine another hypothetical intelligent person, who only ever sees this episode of GoT, being told that Carol is supposed to be the villain.
Also, what on earth was that sleeveless number she was wearing in the last scene? And why was she looking at a seashell of some kind and smiling sadly?
Kylie: She was smiling sadly at seashells. She and Jaime used to sell seashells down by the seashore, or something. I feel like I remember that context being explained to us (was that something they talked about in the pilot?) but damn if I remember.
Julia: They talked about jumping off a cliff once.
Why was her scene with Tyrion even there? Like I say, it’s an odd thing to do with someone who’s supposed to be a villain. Was it all just so Tyrion can seem like a nice guy for not wanting to impregnate Sansa?
Kylie: Or to make it clear that once Cersei’s kids are gone, there goes the only good piece of her. Yay! Either way, there’s no debate this week:
Exposition Imposition: good or clunky?
Kylie: Tywin’s exposition seemed good, albeit horrifying. I guess Bran is technically expositing with the rat cook, too, though that’s really just telling a fairy tale. I don’t know, the things that jumped out to me as clunky in this episode were not exposition in nature.
Julia: What, talking about phantom cocks was not exposition? Maybe Ramsay should have asked a cock merchant, I’m sure they would know all about that.
Feel free to be annoyed at me, but the way Tywin said, “I raised you as my son, because you are a Lannister,” to Tyrion probably gave a lot of fuel to the Tyrion the Secret Targ folks.
Kylie: That was also following him saying “since I cannot prove you’re not my son” in another episode this season too, I think. Maybe Charles Dance is a Tyrion truther.
How was the pacing?
Julia: D&D seem to have more trouble with pacing within scenes even than the pacing of episodes.
Kylie: I’d agree with that. The entire episode stops dead at the sausage waving, and frankly Davos and Gendry’s conversation didn’t exactly get to a point.
Overall the episode just struggled from that spottiness we’ve been seeing all season. I can’t tell if it’s better or worse that they were trying to give so many characters a stopping point. Often jumping around helps break things up, but it sure didn’t feel like that this time.
Another week of no sex, baby
Katie: You know, given the number of scenes where people tell Tyrion to have sex with Sansa, maybe “no sex, (no) baby” is the theme.
Kylie: And now his watch begins, after all. He hasn’t seemed to be getting it with Shae either, now that I think about it. I guess she’s struggling with her maybe!jealousy still over Sansa?
Julia: No, no Kylie, she’s outraged that people would dare treat Sansa this way, since she loves that girl so much and would kill for her.
Kylie: Until she decides that whatever, let’s just implicate Sansa in a bunch of crimes. I can’t believe we have another season of Shae…
In memoriam…those Frey soldiers
Katie: In memoriam of the last time Arya’s character arc was interesting! Sorry.
Kylie: Ain’t it the truth. We’re about to get a full season of her and Sandor doing nothing, and talking about how nothing is nothing, and frankly that’s a highlight compared to Braavos and her arc quite literally iterating. Though…Arya in Season 7 was not boring. Many other things, but that’s one charge she gets away from.
Is this where we should talk about her kills in the book getting thrown in at random times and in random contexts?
Julia: I remember there being a chart.
This season’s been fun. I think I get people still having patience with this show after this, but in retrospect, it’s so totally off the rails already.
And I just remembered, the Pornish are coming soon!
Kylie: OH MY GOD.
Well, for us at least, the Pornish won’t be coming until 2019. We will have the Season 3 rewatch podcast out to you in the next couple of weeks, and then Season 4’s rewatch will start January 8th.
Thank you all for following along this season. We’re curious to know what you thought of this episode specifically, though. Did D&D leave a tantalizing endpoint, or are things just sloppy to the point of distraction? Let’s discuss that below, and we wish you both a happy new year and good fortune in The Wars to Come.