Welcome to the third and final installment of Cheryl’s Landing, where Kylie and Julia (“Julie”) revisited just one plotline from Season 6 of Game of Thrones to fully appreciate all its nuance. Where we last left off, we had recapped the events and spent time talking about the character arcs and implications, which means we are now raring to jump into what we might call the highlight of this story: the utter lack of logic.
No Really—Nothing Makes Sense
We get a lot of shit for making this comment about GoT. But look at everything we’ve written about this plotline up until this point: you’ve probably noticed that we pose an awful lot of questions, even in the recap. The thing is, as much as we are earnestly trying to understand what D&D were going for with this plotline, we really can’t make declarative statements, because what happens is just so divorced of logic.
The Only Honest Man
Let’s start with the High Grandpa, because we truly don’t know what we’re supposed to make of him. However, it’s not for lack of trying on the part of the show’s marketing. Since his introduction last year, there’s been numerous interviews that all drive at the same thing:
Benioff continues in the same interview to confirm this:
“[The High Sparrow’s honesty and honorable intentions], of course, makes other people in the show distrust him even more, because they can’t believe that anyone would be honest; everyone’s playing some kind of secret game.” -David Benioff
Then even in the midst of Season 5, we were still told by the creators, that the High Grandpa is a 100% pious, honest dude:
“From the High Sparrow’s perspective, Cersei is a symbol of everything that’s gone wrong in this country. She’s someone who’s taken power with complete cynicism, who doesn’t have any faith. Who’s been not only an adulteress, but an incestuous adulteress… [Cersei] didn’t realize that everything he was saying was true. He told her, ‘this is what I want to do. I want to stamp out corruption and make sure that these wicked people—these evil-doers—are punished.’”—David Benioff
That’s well and dandy, but we have a very difficult time believing that this year’s scripting of him, where he’s clearly manipulating TomTom, threatening Olenna, and using Marg to acquire power, an accident. So how does this not make him just another cynical “player”?
See the thing is, if he is cynical, then the events of Cheryl’s Landing do kind of make sense. Kind of. Because then we can assume that all his actions are because he wants the Faith, and by extension himself, to grab as much power and influence as they possibly can. By necessity, since power is a zero sum game, this comes at the expense of the monarchy and aristocracy.
This doesn’t necessarily sit in contention with him having “pure” or “godly” motives, we suppose. He could honestly want a pseudo-Marxist revolution and to oppress all the gays, but it doesn’t change the fact that he must be aware of the fact that he’s manipulating people with a skill and awareness that would make Littlefinger take notice. His threatening of Olenna is the clearest example, in our opinion. He couldn’t have done that unknowingly, or if he was truly just worrying about her soul, that was an incredibly odd way for it to be framed.
Maybe this was all character development and he learned on the job? Because unless the man really is a barefooted psychic Littlefinger, there’s no way he could have expected this to happen to him. He was just a charismatic preacher with a few thug followers, serving soup and beating people up at the beginning of the fifth season. He couldn’t have predicted that Carol would inexplicably hand the government over to him. So maybe these tricks he picks up, of always maintaining dominance in conversations with nominally more powerful people, for example, are a purposeful progression.
However (and you knew there’d be a however), if we do assume his motivation is (or has become) to accumulate and maintain power, then there are actions of his that sit in contention. Actions apart from his suddenly turning stupid in the last episode, that is; that’s just par for the D&D course at this point. We’re talking about everything leading up to that moment.
High Grandpa got himself a sweet deal wherein his governmental authority was legitimized by the crown. The man had control of the capital, as well as “hundreds” of armed thugs; but if the Lannister and Tyrell armies turned on him, he was fucked. He can’t compare to the military power of either of those houses, let alone both of them. So it behooved him to do everything to make sure that the amenable Tommen stays in power, especially since that is the dude that sanctioned this whole “Faith running the place” thing. If that’s what’s going on, that is; we still don’t really know.
Therefore, our question is: why is High Grandpa doing everything possible to make sure Carol loses her trial? Need we remind you, that if she’s found guilty of adultery and incest, Tommen’s legitimacy goes out the window. Right along with much of what High Grandpa has achieved.
We suppose you can honeypot that he’s thought of this. Perhaps he outlawed trial by combat so that he could guarantee Carol gets off on her charges. But, unfortunately, D&D have Jossed that, outright stating that this was a move that would ensure she’s convicted:
“[Trial by combat being outlawed] is a grievous blow for Cersei, because she’s been counting on trial by combat, really since the end of Season 5. This was always her ace in the hole. The Mountain was never going to lose a trial by combat; there’s no one out there who could beat him. And then Tommen takes it away from her, knowing, really, what he’s doing. He might be a weak king, but he’s not an idiot. You know, he understands that this move is to mean that she’s probably not going to fare that well in this trial. So, it’s a pretty devastating moment for Cersei, and you see that in her reaction, and partly because it bodes so ill for this coming trial, and partly because it’s her own son who’s really betrayed her.
“You know, [Tommen] is in a tough position where he has to do what he thinks is right, and unfortunately for Cersei, what he thinks is right in this moment is doing something which is very much against Cersei’s interests.” —David Benioff
Well then. Does this mean he’s just so honest and honorable that he’ll sacrifice the Faith’s newly expanded role to punish this one awful sinner? His manipulations to ensure her guilty verdict was because he knew in his heart that she was a sinner? Or was he not manipulating everyone, and just happened to have bad knees and a concern for Olenna’s soul, and everyone else projected on to him?
And while we’re asking impossible-to-answer questions, why did High Grandpa send the thugs for Carol that time she chose violence? What was so urgent and important the he had to send for her, but not so important that it never needed to be mentioned again?
Crud, even before his focus on ensuring Carol’s defeat, the way he went about achieving power just doesn’t add up. We know he and Marg didn’t have had a frank conversation at any point about how to play TomTom; he bought into her act hook, line, and sinker. So, was he simply that sure in the power of Marg’s “piety” that she could convince her husband to completely uproot the institutional structures in place? If so, when did he determine this? Because the timelines don’t add up here, at all. (What a Shock!)
Like, we know that he told TomTom about Marg’s secret Walk of Shame. Which was secret despite such a thing being an inherently public event. (That’s kinda the point of it…) TomTom in turn tells his mother during the scene that immediately followed Marg visiting Loras—long before her performance of piety…before she even showed a modicum of interest in the Faith. So then based on how early TomTom has this information, it seems like the walk was an earnest threat…something that was actually going to happen. But then, how was this kept secret, why was this kept secret, and why would High Grandpa elect to tell TomTom about it at all? To us, it seemed like more of a calculated move on his part; as though he knew he’d have an ace in the hole the day of the slut-shame (perjury-shame?) walk, or that maybe he was trying to smoke out Carol and the Tyrells. Except unless this man has green dreams, there’s actually no way he would have been able to foresee Marg getting TomTom to make that deal, so therefore inciting the Barathestyrells would have fucked him over.
OMG. He’s Howland Reed.
Maybe just the threat of the walk was suppose to be the sole motivator to getting TomTom to put the seven-pointed star in his sigil? High Grandpa knew Marg was a popular public figure and parading her naked for perjury would probably not help his mission of…spreading the Faith. However, this doesn’t explain why Marg was playing TomTom like she was. Did the High Grandpa tell her this contingency idea? Was she still going to have to actually do the walk had her conversation with TomTom not gone so well, or had he not thought the idea of new kingsguard armor was dandy?
The real question is if Septa Spoonella knew the walk was cancelled, because she was certainly there with her shame bell.
And for a walk the Tyrells and Lannisters knew nothing about, it was definitely well-marketed because the attendance outside was quite high. You’d think if the High Grandpa was concerned about the ramifications of forcing Marg to walk, he wouldn’t have teased it first. Also how nice that the crowd suddenly stopped giving a shit about her, because not a single “boo” was uttered when High Grandpa confirmed this was all over perjury.
And then… are we supposed to think that he knew Larry was coming and he engineered TomTom’s awesome entrance just because he wanted to make the whole thing as dramatically satisfying for the audience as possible?
We know we’re getting stuck in the weeds, but this was the moment that the dude won, and no matter how you slice it, it makes no sense. His complex political ploys simply don’t have any sort of grounding in logic.
So then maybe we are supposed to believe that the High Grandpa is being uncynical and earnest this whole time after all. He outlawed trial by combat because he thinks it’s unjust, and he wants Carol to be convinced because he thinks she guilty, major king-legitimacy related issues be damned. This option also has some support. He seemed taken in by Marg’s performance of piety, and genuinely shocked when she yells at him. And his endless speechifying all seemed sincere too. Maybe because he monologues about wealth inequality, D&D just assumes that’s enough to paint him as this “true believer,” so then his means are all in service of this godly end-goal. Which makes him a hypocrite, but that might be the point, too.
We’re tempted to assume that all the manipulation stuff was Jonathan Pryce and Natalie Dormer getting together and honeypotting as a way to stay sane, but we have no evidence for that, and plenty to the contrary, as we just pointed out.
It would be lovely if we could give D&D the benefit of the doubt and say that High Grandpa’s hypocrisy was the point, except there was no follow-through on this at all. We suppose Larry pointed out the sexist double-standards of the Faith, a couple of times actually, but it’s not like the High Grandpa even got negative feedback for his scheming. In fact, he got everything he wanted, and it was an awesome day to be High Grandpa, right up until the second he blew up. If only he hadn’t ignored Cheryl murdering one of his people before!
We’re really sorry to keep bringing that one up too, but this was possibly the dumbest thing that happened all season—the choosing violence having no repercussions. The only way to make it work is if we assume that the Faith Taliban who showed up to drag Cheryl out of the Red Keep in Episode 8 did so on their own accord, and then never told High Grandpa what happened. What they would have done had she agreed to go with them is beyond us, though maybe High Grandpa likes surprise guests to monologue at and they were trying to give him a treat.
Then that also means that the trial by combat was outlawed just ‘cause High Grandpa thought about it one day. Plus Lancel, who watched his brother’s head get smashed in by Zombie Gregor, not only never saw fit to report this crime, but when asked to fetch Cheryl in the same damn situation, with even fewer men accompanying him, never felt the need to raise a single objection.
We repeat, this is the option that makes the most “sense”.
We suppose there’s a certain logic to saying “Cheryl choosing violence resulted in trial by combat being outlawed,” since it showed Zombie Gregor’s…skills(?). But you can’t have it both ways, where in one second the High Grandpa is so scared of the idea of Zombie Gregor defending her, and so ready to respond to her act of violence, that he encourages TomTom to change the law (dooming her, according to D&D), and in another moment he just forgets that she’d resist summons, or that sending his key witness off to fetch her when she is protected by a man of such fighting prowess may not be the best move.
We’re sorry, but nothing that happens in this plotline follows what came before it! It’s just random scenes slopped together until everything blows up. Kylie even wanted to make a flowchart like last year, but there was just wasn’t enough connected to itself to even present in such a form.
It’s not like not understanding this is for lack of trying on our part either… we’re 2500 words into this analysis, for fuck’s sake, and that’s not counting the time we spent trying to parse out the arcs and implications in Part 2. We have done our damnest to do D&D’s jobs for them and figure out a honeypot that makes all of this comprehensible. There’s no path to that end, there’s just not. D&D seem to be banking on the hope that if they keep things vague enough, people won’t notice or think it through.
Also, vague political machinations aside, we’re still waiting on anyone, anyone to explain Lancel’s hide-and-seek game. You don’t have to think deeply about this to realize how completely idiotic it was. There was a little boy running. Why did Lancel chase him when he had a rather important charge? Why did the little boy run towards a powder keg about to blow? Why would they even chance Lancel finding it and stopping it? The little kid was just that confident that he’d be able to completely incapacitate him? Did Qyburn tell him to do that, should any Faith Militant leave the sept?
The Caged Woman
Honestly, the little boy’s actions are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the issues surrounding Cheryl’s fireworks. The biggest question is when Cheryl made the decision to put her ~explosive~ idea into action. Like, last time we talked about how the inception point for the idea was probably her conversation with Olenna, though there was also Kevan’s remark from the third episode that could have gotten Cheryl’s creative juices flowing:
“And you cannot make us stay. Not unless you’re gonna have that thing murder us all.”
“That thing” being, of course, Zombie Gregor. So whether it was Kevan, or whether it was Olenna, at some point Cheryl came to the realization that killing everyone who was “keeping her down” was an option to consider, those wildfire rumors Larry apparently told everyone about might have come to look like a good thing to check on. This could almost be seen as reasonable in light of the events of “Blood of My Blood”, when the authority of the misogynistic, destructive, homophobic zealots was apparently formalized by TomTom. We’re not sure what actually changed there, but everyone acted like something did, so it was probably important.
However, the issue is that when Cheryl actually chose violence against the Faith, Qyburn hadn’t confirmed the wildfire rumor yet. Like…she’s damn lucky that no one thought to arrest her for murdering a Faith Taliban member just because those sept cells suck, and it’s not as though she knew about this ace-in-the-hole yet. Maybe she hoped it was true, but it was a huge gamble. Her entire plan all season had basically been:
- Demand and win a trial by combat
- Get frozen yogurt
The Faith weren’t about to disappear even if she won her trial; they still were going to be operating under TomTom’s horrible deal, so, the only sense of this we can make is that Cheryl felt that blowing up the Faith with the wildfire was a long-term solution to undo the damage arming the Faith (and Marg’s Deal of Idiocy) had done. And perhaps there’s a case to be made that she was planning on blowing everything up some time after the trial, when only the Faith would be harmed (she’d probably remember to secure the king). But when they outlawed trial-by-combat, she had no choice but to put it into action earlier.
But then why did she choose violence before she knew she’d be able to actually answer this threat?
Maybe this is a consistent personality flaw of Cheryl’s (remember when she put the cart before the horse when she armed the Faith?).
Still, let’s talk specifics. Larrol’s Plan A was getting this sorted by using the huge Lannister and Tyrell armies to (forcibly) have Marg and Loras released, thereby securing the upper hand for the monarchy in this conflict. Larry was assuming the High Grandpa would end up “in custody or dead, preferably.” Sadly, this fell through because of Marg’s super clever and totally sense-making deal. So Plan B, once Carol was sans Larry is to… try that again and offer Olenna another alliance. What had changed to make her think it would work the second time around? As far as we can tell, the situation was even worse, and even if she did manage to enter the sept and break Loras out by force, it wouldn’t solve the problem of the Faith’s political power now being legitimized.
And frankly, this just makes Olenna’s part in that conversation even more stupid. Why is she continuing to frame this as a Tyrell vs. Carol thing at all? Maybe it makes sense for her to want nothing to do with Carol’s half-baked scheme now, since it would accomplish nothing and the Lannister army was literally just sent off with Larry, but that’s not how it’s framed. She’s not playing along specifically because Carol is horrible. Olenna’s problems are just as severe as they were the episode before. Her grandchildren are still being held hostage by the Faith. This angle just makes her seem petty.
So then Plan C became burn everything down to the ground. But again, was this about her trial, or about the Faith problem at large? The framing was certainly, “oh no, there’s no trial by combat option, so this is how to avoid dying.” Though we think it’s rather clear that
Carol Cheryl’s plan went well beyond protecting her own person when she elected to blow up literally everyone except her son. Which like, okay, maybe this was the only way she saw to rid the city of this major, major Faith problem now, but… Ah goddamnit! We’re back to the choosing violence timing!
At this point we can only throw up our hands and content ourselves with the idea that at some point, Cheryl decided that her best play was to blow up the sept. It makes the most sense, in our opinion, that this was determined after she knew trial by combat was no longer an option, and she just choose violence in the Red Keep because Lancel has an annoying smug face. (And she really lucked out no one seemed to care). Why not.
Now it’s time to talk about the execution of this Plan C.
Like, okay, Qyburn ordering the kids to stick the goo under the sept and then place teeny candles there…that can happen off-screen. We’ll give them that. Those must have been some sugared plums though, especially to convince that one boy to run towards the wildfire after the tea lights were already burning. But while Qyburn’s sudden competence as Master of Whispers is a touch on the convenient side, it’s not illogical. We’ll also refrain from making fun of the fact that the wildfire was apparently being stored in wooden barrels, which… didn’t they go into some detail about this stuff in season 2?
What is illogical, however, is why part of this wildfire plan included Qyburn singling Pycelle out for a stabbing. Their rivalry had been somewhat established, because we heard Pycelle bringing up very reasonable concerns about Qyburn, the practicing necromancer, so we guess it wouldn’t have been out of the realm of possibility for Qyburn to want to really stick it to the guy, or at least personally see to his death.
Except that’s not what happened at all. D&D misappropriated Varys’s speech to Kevan about a new candidate for king who hadn’t shown up yet, so we were treated to this:
“(Children stabbing the shit out of Pycelle in the background) Please, Grand Maester, I bear you no ill will. Please forgive me if you can. This pains me, my lord. Whatever your faults, you do not deserve to die alone in such a cold, dark place. But sometimes before we can usher in the new, the old must be put to rest.”
Well jeeze, guy, he could have died in the balmy sept with all his friendos around if you had just let him go to the explosion.
The whole thing with the Varys/Kevan scene from the A Dance with Dragons epilogue, not to bring in too much book knowledge, is that Varys frames this murder as a necessary evil for his own plans, because Kevan is actually super effective at governance and he was helping calm down tensions in Westeros—tensions Varys had planned on taking advantage of (kinda hard to introduce a third party candidate when the establishment is fine). But that framing just is utterly out of place with Qyburn and Pycelle, of all people. The dude did nothing but shuffle around and mumble his opinions. No one took him seriously, not even TomTom, the most malleable person in existence. The idea that Pycelle needed extra attention is nothing short of ridiculous. How was he threatening to interfere with Cheryl’s plan, exactly? It would be one thing if they killed him simply because they didn’t like him, or because he was a creep who liked to give the women of Cheryl’s Landing invasive check-ups, which we know upsets Cheryl, but that’s not what was said at all.
Then there’s the head scratching “before we can usher in the new, the old must be put to rest.” Even if we pretend our argument about Cheryl being an establishment candidate is pedantic (especially given that male preference primogeniture seemed to have existed in Weisseroff), there’s the fact that Qyburn and Cheryl weren’t planning on bringing in anyone new. She clearly had Zombie Gregor bar TomTom from leaving so that no harm would come to him (how sad that she also needed him to help with septa torture instead of staying with him), so then this means Qyburn’s reference to the “new” was…the exact same king. Unless, did he read the script and know Cheryl would ascend?
Has anyone thought of a way to explain Cheryl not giving a shit about her son randomly in the final scene? Especially when contextualized by six seasons of everyone—characters, actors, and writers alike—claiming that her “one redeeming trait” is how much she cares for her kids? Like, yes, it’s absurd that a king would ever be left alone like that, but D&D wanted this to be pinned on Cheryl specifically, saying in their interview how it was her fault alone. But…what is the reason that happened, other than “they wanted it to”? Cheryl just figured that while she was at it, she might as well specifically torture the septa who had been doing her job, we guess.
Boy do we wish we had seen the mission to extract Spoonella on our screens though. That woman had been dogging Marg rather faithfully at that point. No one noticed? Why was it Cheryl was holding her so specifically responsible? And fuck, if whoever plucked Spoonella was so skilled, why didn’t she just order this to be done to High Grandpa ages ago?
The Befuddled Knight
It’s not only Cheryl and Qyburn on team Lannister who seem to be acting entirely at random, though. For the first six episodes, Larry was running around Cheryl’s Landing screaming about his love for
Cheryl Carol, and how they’d make everyone else pay; how he wanted revenge and she was the only person who mattered. He stuck his tongue halfway down her throat when she gave him the sexy parting words “[they have] no idea what we’re going to do to them.” This was after he defied his king to set an army against the Faith because that’s how much he hated the situation. Carol was perfectly calm and collected, willing to be patient and play the long game. He was the one who was fixin’ to blow shit up. But we guess his field trip to Riverrun changed him a lot more than we knew or, like, than the narrative merited, because when he returns, he seems very concerned to see that his sis has done exactly what he was advocating to her.
Is it just because she didn’t have a chance to clear up the “don’t worry, I didn’t blow up TomTom and I’m actually gutted about it” issue yet? Is it because Larry is anti-wildfire on principle? Is he a booksnob and had been hoping Loras would survive the ordeal so he could maybe join the Kingsguard (we guess as his own replacement…)? We know why Jaime Lannister would be bothered by this, but this seems like it should have been in Larry’s wheelhouse.
Maybe that was the point? Was it like a monkey’s paw thing and Larry was horrified by the consequences of his wish coming true? But we strongly suspect it was more “Larry the loyal lover finally sees that awful, vile Cheryl for the monster she is.”
We mean, clearly this has a simple Doylist explanation, and they have to set up the breakdown of Larrol for next season, but Doylist expediency doesn’t excuse you from having to make Watsonian sense. Which…is our issue with the entire show.
This lazy storytelling, however, also exposes the fact that all those wonderful chats Larrol had at the beginning of the season were more or less meaningless filler. The writers just stuck them in there because they sounded cool, or because they think Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Lena Headey make a hot couple. (They do. Broken clocks and all that.)
The Concerned Sister
That leaves us with the actions of the third most important player this year: Marg. And oh what a surprise, none of her actions make any sense either.
We’re disposed to be a little more charitable to her, since we know what her motivation is: to stop “it” being done to her brother, so we can accept that maybe she’s not thinking long term and is desperate. But even so, her plan is shitty.
If her goal is simply to save Loras, then we’re a little perplexed as to why she didn’t take the opportunity to ditch this god-awful deal at the first chance she got. When she was backed into a corner and seeing her brother suffering, it makes a horrible kind of sense that she would be willing to walk naked through the street (if that was a real threat), and we’re willing to believe that she would accept the condition that she bring Tommen into the Faith (thus formalizing their power) and deal with a septa probation officer. Is the Faith-Crown alliance just as myopic as Carol arming the Faith in the hope she could use them to eventually get Marg? Of course. But both cases were women who were trying to save a loved one from clear and present danger: Carol wanted her son away from his manipulative rapist, and Marg wanted her brother away from his (implied) torturers.
Still, lady, your dad showed up to save you and broseph with a massive army. Why would you tell him to stand down? We get it’s annoying to change plans when you’ve put all this work into manipulating your underaged husband and went out on a limb, but really?
This was why we had to seriously toy with the idea that her conversion was sincere right until the moment she gave Olenna that doodle. Her actions totally make sense if her conversion was earnest. It’s almost as though the writers prioritized preserving the “mystery” of her act over, like, any kind of coherence of plot, setting, or character.
And this deal she made with High Grandpa is so bad, you guys. It’s the worst deal ever.
This all started last season when the writers were so desperate to have Marg and Tommen have sex that they were willing to destroy the circumstances that the source material meticulously plotted to get her into the Faith’s clutches. So since fornication and adultery were off the table, the thing they finally settle on was… perjury. For this, she gets imprisoned until she “confesses.” To lying, we assume.
Like, perjury is a serious crime, but weeks, if not months of torture seems a tad excessive. And what’s more, the one thing that perjury is not is a gendered crime. Which is why this whole notion that a walk of atonement was hanging over Marg’s head is so ridiculous.
We apologize for bringing the dreaded book knowledge but… in the books the “Walk of Shame” is a clear tactic to control women’s bodies. Cersei is subjected to it because she confessed to what the High Sparrow called “simple fornications”: she had sex. Not committed adultery, mind, just had sex. (If she had confessed to committing adultery, she’d be about a head shorter right now.) It was a specifically gendered punishment designed to destroy her credibility as a political force, because her value, even her value as a ruler, is all dependent on her sexuality and her desirability to men. Cersei herself is very aware of this.
But in the case of Marg Boleyn, it doesn’t work, because there was nothing in her “crime” that transgressed the patriarchal norms. The same patriarchal norms, that is, which only exist on this show when it’s convenient for the scene that happens to be on the screen at the moment. D&D framed the Walk of Shame as some kind of catch-all punishment, like community service, or something. Do they make trespassers parade naked too? This completely destroys the meaning of Carol’s walk last year, too. And that was one of the few scenes that kind of worked.
Another undeniable thing about perjury is, as serious as it may be, is not as serious as high treason, adultery, incest, and murder. Those are the things that Carol is being charged with, in case you forgot. She confessed to the adultery, did her walk, and can now is out on bail, totally free to do whatever and continue to make whoopie with her brother. Marg on the other hand, was never charged with anything but perjury. She not only confessed to this, but fully came on-board to the Faith’s way of seeing thing and did them a huge favor by convincing Tommen to do likewise, something Carol never did. Marg’s own legal troubles are done. There’s no trial waiting for her. Yet, not only could she not get her suffering brother out on bail, she was also subjected to constant surveillance so tight that she’s unable to have private conversations. Even with that, the High Grandpa continued to makes demands of her, threatened other members of her family, and insisted on even more public displays of support.
Why this discrepancy exists without explanation, we can’t tell you. Unless it’s so that the writers can also punish Marg for daring not to choose violence, like all empowered women are supposed to.
You know, it’s a rare, rare day that the two of us have anything nice at all to say about Season 5. But despite the giant game of Idiot Ball, the arming of the Faith coming from nowhere, and perjury trap logistics, it at least managed to tell a more consistent story than Season 6. It wasn’t a better story, mind you: it was the story of Carol being continually shat on for trying to protect her son from very real and present danger, until she trusted in the wrong person and paid dearly for it in a spectacularly misogynistic fashion. Our biggest issue was that the show tried to convince us that she was the bad guy and that walks of atonement can be gender neutral, making that consistent story lose all potential impact.
However, Season 6 didn’t even manage that much. It wasn’t like the High Grandpa spinning this immaculate web of plots, and Cheryl finally took action; the dude triumphed when the story needed him to triumph, and was ineffective when the story needed to be ineffective. Marg’s subplot was the best thing to come out of this, and the only takeaway we could discern was “conciliation is for dumb-dumbs.”
Then there’s the fact that the ending point of the season—everyone getting shoved into a room and blown up—negated the need for D&D to even think through most of the details of these plots, so we were left with shit like the “union of the two pillars”, which we’re still unsure how it’s any different than the way the place had been operating since Carol armed the Faith.
And like, knowing that final sequence, this is what they came up with? Four episodes of Carol picking her threads? Olenna and Kevan flip-flopping their stances as the plot demanded? A septa tailing Marg for her great crime of lying once, while the woman accused of incest and high treason skips around planning military revolts? They were clearing the board anyway, so how is this the story they wanted to tell, or a story that they thought was remotely coherent?
We guess they wanted another Red Wedding, with it’s massive shock and game changing implications. But, again, they seem to built seasons around those “shocking moments” and not particularly caring how they get there. This plotline had the worst pacing we’ve ever seen outside of a Mary-Kate and Ashley movie, characters continued to randomly do things so that other characters would say badass things, and the rules of the setting changed whenever they needed to.
Then just to salt the wound, the final episode is called “The Winds of Winter” yet it’s still balmy enough for Cheryl to chill on the balcony all day, or for the Reach ladies go sleeveless to the trial.
Clearly this is the best drama on television.
If you enjoyed Julie’s thoughts on this plotline, then be sure to check out the Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire podcast starring Julia and Kylie, Unabashed Book Snobbery! You can subscribe/listen on iTunes, subscribe to our RSS feed, search for “Unabashed Book Snobbery” in any podcast app, or find a complete list of UBS episodes on Kylie’s personal blog here. For Cheryl’s Landing, Kylie and Julia recorded two episodes, where they planned out these essays and tried not to go to any of their dark places (Part 1/Part 2).
Images courtesy of HBO