Welcome back to The Wars to Come, our weekly Game of Thrones rewatch going back through the watchable years. Last week, showrunners Benioff and Weiss (D&D) introduced us to the world of what will become Weisseroff. This week, it’s “The Kingsroad,” presented by Kylie, Julia, Jess (our illustrious Season 7 reviewer), and Dan.
For those who weren’t able to watch, Kylie’s prepared her usually summary of events.
It’s literally go-go-go (for once) in the second episode! Bran somehow survived his fall, but is in a coma, his mother Cat absolutely refusing to leave his bedside. Yet this tragedy doesn’t slow the King one bit, as he sets out with his party back to King’s Landing. That means it’s time for Ned, Sansa, and Arya to leave home, their direwolves in tow.
These are not the only people with Stark-blood leaving Winterfell, however; Jon Snow takes off as well to join the Night’s Watch! Before he departs, he gives Arya a present—a small sword she names “Needle.” He says goodbye to Ned too, getting a promise that he’ll learn all about his mother soon, before journeying north with his uncle Benjen Stark, and Tyrion Lannister, who’s merely curious to see The Wall. On the way, Jon meets two more men set to become his brothers in the Night’s Watch: rapers! Has the high esteem he’s held the order in been misplaced?
Despite everyone leaving, there’s not a dull moment in Winterfell to be had. A strange catspaw assassin sneaks into Bran’s room, intending to kill him. Thanks to Cat, and ultimately Summer, he is unsuccessful (and dead), but that anyone would want Bran murdered further arouses Cat’s suspicions. She is convinced the Lannisters are somehow behind it all, just like her sister had warned her about Jon Arryn’s death, and feels she must alert Ned. But how? His party is long-gone! Cat decides she will ride the Kingsroad herself, taking only Ser Rodrik Cassel as protection, and putting Robb in charge while she’s gone.
Further south on the Kingsroad, things heat up there as well! When the betrothed Joffrey and Sansa decide to go on a romantic stroll in the woods, they find Arya practicing sword-fighting (stick-hitting prime!) with her friend Mycah, the son of the butcher. Joffrey cruelly teases them and begins to hurt Mycah with his very real sword until Arya hits him. When Joffrey turns his rage on her, her direwolf Nymeria leaps to the rescue and mauls Joffrey’s arm.
Arya scares her wolf away in order to protect her, but when she’s brought before the King and Queen to face “justice,” Cersei demands that a direwolf get punished all the same. In this case that means the only one left: Sansa’s direwolf Lady. Ned, disgusted, insists on putting her down himself. As Lady dies, Bran awakes from his coma.
And finallllyyy, in the Dothraki Sea, the new Khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen is desperate to make her situation better. She determines the best thing she can do is win Khal Drogo’s affection, and thanks to some sex training from a sex
worker slave traveling with them, insists on intercourse in a manner of her choosing. It may be a small degree of agency, but it’s certainly a start.
Will she be able to “rule the Khal” from the bedroom as Doreah said? Does Bran remember what he saw in the tower? Will Jon commit himself to the Night’s Watch? Find out next time on the Game of Thrones rewatch: The Wars to Come!
Initial, quick reaction
Kylie: My reaction was mostly favorable again, and Sean Bean’s performance actually made me emotional. Emotions. I forgot that was a possibility. I feel like I have more nitpicks over all with this episode, but how much ground was covered made me not be overly annoyed by any one thing. Like…this spanned *months*, didn’t it? (Not in a bad way.)
Julia: Cersei did say it took them a month to travel up, I don’t see why they would been speedier down. And Cat said she’s been praying for more than a month.
I see your Sean Bean and raise you all the child actors. Where did they find all these kids? Even lil’ Tommen and Myrcella are so natural.
Jess: Agreed with everything said above! Those kids!!! Mostly positive about this episode save one or two things (namely the full on introduction of Carol), but wow! Colors, characterizing the setting, small meaningful character interactions even in the background! Other than the obvious benefit of majorly following the books in the early seasons working to their benefit, I really think the lower budget forced them to be more creative and focus on what mattered because they couldn’t blow it all on a dragon battle.
Dan: I’d forgotten how much I loved this show until I rewatched this. Everything that brought me in and kept me hooked is here. Dialogue from the books put directly on screen, artful worldbuilding, subtlety. All the characters are as they should be and D&D are just executing an adaptation, not making masturbatory fanfic.
Julia: I can’t think of a moment that made me cringe or embarrassed to be watching, which is how I would judge a lowlight these days, but I can’t say I enjoyed watching a lot of the Dorthraki stuff. There was something about the sex lesson especially that was a little eye rolling. But this episode doesn’t even register on my Game of Thrones (GoT) Cringe-O-Metre as currently calibrated.
My highlight has to be Harry Lloyd again. Kylie mentioned last week how his beaming at the thought of murderous Dothraki weddings characterized him so perfectly. Well, this week it was his “Under my reign you won’t be punished for such nonsense,” to Mormont. The “nonsense” he was talking about was, of course, fucking slavery. It characterized him as a king so perfectly. Just 100% entitlement, and no sense of duty whatever. The polar opposite of what Varys will say is Young Griff’s main strength way in the book!future. Lloyd just gets this across so wonderfully in an instant.
Jess: Nothing registers as detrimentally bad, especially within the episode, but my lowlight would probably have to be the rise of Carol with Cersei’s story about the baby she lost with Robert. It was a weird choice for her character on so many levels because at first you’re inclined to think she’s lying, especially with her wish that Bran should wake up. She definitely doesn’t want that to happen. However, we find out later she’s definitely not lying about the baby. It also is one of the early instances of them erasing a female character’s assertion of grappling for any agency they could get within the context of the patriarchal setting. While I’m not condoning incest, the act of preventing herself from having any kids with her rapist and only wanting the kids she had with the man she consensually loves is a powerful act from Cersei in a position that wants her to remain inactive. But sad, sympathetic mom is more interesting right?
Highlight would probably have to be Maisie Williams as Arya. Contrasting the horrific and emotionless performance she’s being directed to give in the current seasons, watching the pure and natural performance she gives here is really moving. She is Arya. Especially with her show siblings. It feels like a family. There’s a beautiful moment when Sansa is realizing that Cersei means for Illyn to kill Lady, where, in the background, Arya puts her hand on Sansa’s arm for support. And the goodbye scene with Jon always tugs on my heart a little.
Julia: Honourable Mention to that scene with Robert and Ned in the middle of the field. Mark Addy was being wonderful with lots of noise and fury, and Sean Bean was just as good mostly sitting in silence looking deeply uncomfortable.
Kylie: I feel like I should echo Jess’s lowlight as mine, since that was the only scene my brain was incapable of focusing for. But in general I think I’m more bothered by the Dany sex lessons, like Julia. There was something almost comedic about her final scene with Drogo? Again, I have no clue how to translate this relationship. If we start with it being made clear she has no agency or ability to consent in this marriage, which is not necessarily a bad change, we have to get something like this moment where she decides her best play is to utilize her sexuality as a sort of weapon. I think maybe it was the framing: this is her using the only tool in her belt. However, she was vocalizing it as “making the Khal happy” (which I know gets echoed later by Viserys in Tub Scene #1™). And yeah, you can write these things off as POV bias, but given what happens to that concept as time goes on…
Sorry guys, I’m picking Sean Bean as my highlight again. His “I promise” actually made me choke up. I don’t know, I had a long day and there was dust in my eye.
Though another potential lowlight for me is there too: Kit Harington’s Jon. He can’t really help being about five years too old for most of his lines, but boy does he have the range of a woodblock. At least a rewatch is proving that Emilia Clarke can move her face—him? Mouthbreathing confusing out of the gate.
Dan: My highlight in this episode is and will always be Ned and Bobby B at camp, reminiscing about the war before news of Dany spoils everything. Not only are Mark Addy and Sean Bean able to deftly shift from comedy to tragedy in the blink of an eye, but they do so in a truly human way. The pain in Robert’s voice as he remembers the pain the Targaryans have caused, the subtle sadness behind Ned’s smile. This scene comes almost entirely from the books and is presented perfectly. Second place would be Jon saying goodbye to Bran, thanks entirely to Michelle Fairley’s acting. I especially love how she’s able to channel all of her emotions into her little doll as she tries, tries and ultimately fails, to play it cool around Ned’s bastard.
The only lowlights I really find in the first run of episodes are the Dothraki scenes. Between the uncomfortable Orientalism and the blatant fetishization of Dany’s sexual stockholm syndrome, I usually zone out or fast forward through these on normal rewatch. Thank god for Harry Lloyd, who only has a small appearance but is just so wonderfully slimy.
Kylie: Thank you for those succinct labels too, when I’m trying to express why those scenes are so bothersome. Though let’s be clear we’re saying “literary stockholm syndrome,” since the medical syndrome itself is…well, the dialogue is fraught.
Quality of writing
Julia: At this point, I could still believe that D&D are competent writers.
Kylie: What effusive praise, Julia. I’d venture to even say “good” based on this episode. Granted, as with the pilot, so much of that is thanks to Martin’s dialogue. It just sounds right for the setting, and most of the actors can really deliver on it. Though the added goodbye between Ned and Jon didn’t fall into their normal D&D Original Scene™ traps even a little bit. I guess it wasn’t long, and there’s an element of, “Well what else would you write there?”, but I’ll give credit where credit is due.
Julia: It didn’t even fall into the trap of, “Oh no, we can’t give them any actual clues or it might wreck the shock!” I loved Ned’s conversation with Jon, and Ned’s conversation with Robert. The latter is just a book scene that D&D get no credit for, but they need to get credit for that Jon scene. Like, how did these two bright kids go so terribly wrong?
But…then there’s that scene of Cersei monologuing about her dead baby. What the fuck was that?
Jess: Yeah this episode reminded me of several good show invented moments in the first season. I even liked that scene between Jaime and Jon. It’s a really great moment that shows an understanding of Jaime’s character that they seemed to lose once they decided to forego the Kingsguard arc…but I just can’t wrap my head around the Cersei monologue. What were they going for with this? Did they just skim her storyline for all future books?
Julia: I’m sorry, I’m still on the Robert/Ned scene. They so didn’t fall into their usual trap there, that they actually lead into that scene from the scene where Jon asks Ned if his mother is still alive/cares. And we get the “answer” that she’s some random chick. It’s like they’re inviting the audience to ask questions, like, “why would Ned hide that from Jon? Is there more to this story?” They would NEVER do that in the later seasons.
And was it just me or did Tyrion seem less insufferable this episode? He was a dick to Jon on the road, but the family breakfast scene was very sweet. Also, Joffery getting slapped. It’s rather complicated, since we’re talking about hitting a child, but you believe he could be the Good Guy Lannister.
Kylie: It might just help that you and I have recently reread Tyrion in the first two books, and we were treated to seven pages of him congratulating himself for sticking it to Benjen by taking a cloak he had been offered. However, Dinklage is wonderfully charismatic and can do well with material that has actual depth. He and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau sold that sibling dynamic perfectly, and it was actually nice to see some familial affection there, even if it’s reserved for only a few family members with the Lannisters.
I’m as flummoxed about the dead baby monologue as you are, Jess. This was too early for them to already be taken with Lena Headey, so I’m not sure where the motivation came from to script it, entirely. I’ll blame it on the hair color reveal.
Jess: Yeah, it’s probably a fall back on lazy writing without thinking about it affecting the future of these character arcs (something we know they fall into frequently in the later seasons). I guess when in doubt they went the cheap and easy route, just like the CSI Cat scene when she finds the one blonde strand of hair in the tower.
Julia: Omg, that was hilarious. I’m also not sure if the magic doll mandala Cat made is on the same level as the eye stones, either.
Dan: You may read me as honeypotting, but I always viewed that scene as Cersei telling Cat what she wants to hear. It’s Cersei trying to put up the face she feels is expected.
This whole episode just seems to work better in hindsight, as this was when the show actually built up its twists and revelations, instead of shitting out deaths and resurrections every week to get Twitter worked up. So, things like Robb’s line about the next time he and Jon will meet, The Hound’s interactions with Sansa, and yes, even Cersei’s little speech on her child. It all pays off in some way later in the season or the show as a whole. D&D are probably on their best behavior because their writing has to line up with the book/Martin’s writing; they can’t just let it go off into bullshit as it would stand out a country mile.
Kylie: It’s definitely a honeypot, Dan, but it’s not the worst I’ve heard for the scene. I’m just gonna stay here yelling, “it’s Doylism!”. Hair color seeding. I’m putting all the jellybeans on it.
Our 8th grade book report (on themes)
Julia: Um… power? Or, like, finding agency? Or a role? Cat thinks her role is to be the neurotic concerned mom, but then she discovers she supposed to be the Mama Bear? Dany finds agency through ruling in the bedroom? Ned finds a way to let Lady die by his own terms? Best I can do.
Jess: I feel like even in the better episodes they’ve never been great about thematically connecting all story points in a single episode. I guess we know why. I think Julia found the strongest line in finding agency within an oppressive, unjust system. Even though I think they also worked against it by steering in the complete opposite directions for Cersei and Cat’s character. It definitely works for Dany, Sansa in the trial scene, Arya’s resistance, Jon choosing the Wall, and Ned. The rest I don’t feel so strongly about.
Kylie: Well, Benioff’s famous “themes are for eighth-grade book reports” quote was specifically in the context of a critic asking about if there was intentionality that could be inferred from the season as a whole. It doesn’t shock me that there’d be even less concern about thematic cohesion for individual episodes. There’s a few exceptions, like in “Home” where you can go, “look these characters are talking about their homes or in their homes,” but even those are shallow. Critics have said, without irony, that “boxes” is a theme of an episode on this show.
I can live with “female agency” being the strongest thread, though most of me assumes it’s happenstance.
Jess: I would also argue that thematic threads within individual episodes that pop up, especially in the first two seasons, are probably an accidental result of grouping chapters from the book together, that Martin intentionally wrote with thematic connection, on screen.
Dan: Along similar lines, the “others” are the focus of this story and the way that the patriarchal structure robs them of the agency Julia touched on. Whether it is the women of the story or the men who rank lower in the social hierarchy due to their birth (Jon, Mycah) or appearance (Tyrion). Cat and Cersei represent opposing examples of the type of woman who might be able to survive in this sort of world. They’re paralleled multiple times in this episode, but by the end of the season we’ll find out just how successful Cersei is compared to Cat.
I’d argue that even Ned and Bobby’s scene works to play out that idea of agency and control, especially as it relates to female characters. Women are, to Robert, playthings at best. Even as he finds joy in sex with the barmaids of his past, he demonizes Dany for sex as well purely because her “breeding” plays a direct threat to his power where a barmaid “spreading her legs” poses no danger to him.
Even the title ties in here. All of the characters (Dany aside) are traveling to meet what they think are their destinies. But the only way they can get there is the Kingsroad, a direct line to the seat of power robbing them of all of their agency.
Most of this, like Jess said, is probably because they’re still sticking to Martin, so the sorts of things he was doing are still intact.
Cracks in the plaster (the bullshit to come)
Julia: There might be a bit of a crack in the way Doreah and her sex lesson was framed and filmed. Ya know, two women having sexy-times in a very heterosexual context.
Jess: Oh yes the sex lesson! The overall framing of it in the story was better handled than most of their similar content, but it still felt incredibly male-gazey in terms of how it was filmed. A lot of focus on the bodies.
Kylie: It was Dany’s college experiment!
May I just add, CAROL!!! She makes her shy debut here, though I’d say she doesn’t fully form until Season 3. I’m not sure if this is a crack in a plaster officially? It’s definitely indicative of what’s to come with Cersei (she’s just a sad, put-upon mom, guys), but their penning of her was more a choice to write someone entirely new than like, “we’re erasing Cat’s political ambitions.” Which was also a thing this episode again.
Julia: The very first Put Upon Carol Monologue cannot be ignored.
Jess: Most definitely the Carol Monologue! I kind of forgot how both bad and strange of a choice it was. What a fundamental misunderstanding of her character and that’s right off the bat. If they were in love with this monologue so much I wish they would have at least intended it as disingenuous. The Cat stuff is pretty bad too. Motherhood has to be the only defining trait for these female characters.
Dan: It’s 100% the sex stuff. It’s where they get their sexposition in, which was the single biggest recurring red flag this season. Plus, we’re already getting hints of Deadpan, as Emilia is having to spend some time outside of “scared and confused foreigner,” and she just can’t really do it. Some say she’s still trying to emote to this day.
Kylie: She wants to, she really wants to. Her face moved in the Solo trailer, didn’t it?
Kylie: CAROL!!! No really, was there any reason you can think that they gave her a dead brown-haired baby with Robert other than to awkwardly seed the parentage reveal? Had they just forgotten A Feast For Crows (or assumed they’d never adapt the prophecy)? Is there a reason this is the change I’m fixated on? (Yes.)
Julia: It’s a very odd choice.
Jess: Yeah…that’s my answer for a lot of these questions. It was certainly the point of the episode that stood out like a sore thumb. In the “Inside the Episode” Benioff says he thinks she’s manipulative, but he “believes her” devastation over the loss of her son. What is she trying to manipulate here or gain? I can understand her needing to feign sympathy to avert any suspicion and do her queenly duty, but they make it out like this moment is supposed to mean something more and certainly give it the time to do so. Also, we are well into the beginning of the staring off into space monologues with emotional music.
Julia: Good point. You kind of touched in this earlier Jess, when you asked if they just skimmed Cersei’s later material. I feel like FeastDance made me know Cersei and the way she thinks quite well, but I can’t imagine how that character would have convinced herself that what she needed to do was randomly tell Cat Tully about the greatest trauma in her life. In fact, Cersei never confides in anyone ever, I don’t think. The closest I can think of is when she tell Sansa about how Robert would always fuck off when she went into labor. So they never understood this character at all, or they never thought she was worthy of their show.
Jess: Yeah, Cersei very rarely reveals truth or trauma about herself. She never wants to be vulnerable. The few times she does you can tell it’s because she feels so in power in the situation, and is considering the other person such a nonviable threat, that she can let down some of her defensive guard without repercussions (i.e. with Sansa). Cat is an adult and the Lady of Winterfell. For Cersei to ever choose to be emotionally vulnerable here, especially given the wider situation with Jon Arryn and Bran, really just doesn’t make sense from a character perspective. And, you can tell from how D&D talk about it that they have no idea what her motivations in this scene are.
Dan: The most glaring change to me is the way they’re handling Khal Drogo and Dany. In the book, the two have affection for each other from the get-go, and Drogo is not some wild beast man for the pretty white girl to “tame.” But D&D decided to go with that, along with a dash of a weird empowerment narrative and just a pinch of over-sexualization. It really lessens the impact of Drogo and helps him seem more villainous than he was in the books.
Kylie: Though of course…in the books given the inherent exploitative nature of that situation, he’s not exactly my nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize. Definitely a different tone, no question.
There was a lot of movement and time passing in this episode. Did this work, or was it hedging into Jon and Sansa on a bullet train territory?
Julia: I think it did work. They actually put effort into reconciling it too. Like, the Dany stuff and the King’s party travelling was clearly happening over a longer period of time, but the stuff in Winterfell could conceivably be in one day. So they went out of their way to say that Cat’s been praying for Bran for more than a month. Nice.
Kylie: Yeah, I agree with you here. Sure, tuned out audiences may not be able to really grasp distance, but there was obviously still a thought to it. Like, “hey if this is all that happens in Winterfell, won’t that seem weird to viewers?” Game of Thrones today doesn’t give the slightest shit, where we get Arya clearly not experiencing more than 24 hours, while Jon and Sansa are on a journey that should be taking months.
Jess: Yeah exactly! It was so strange to also see them consider travel time and location. The title sequence with the map really worked to help establish Dany’s distance from the rest of Westeros and track her journey for viewers. It also helps the viewer feel the separation between the Starks as they all part ways. It just seemed like they cared about establishing it for viewers, but also only sped up time when it made sense for the characters. Everyone is in a state of flux (Cat grieving, Dany’s suffering, Ned and the girls finding their ground in the King’s party, Jon leaving) until the story catches up with them at that moment of change.
Dan: God bless Littlefinger and his jetpack. Can you imagine if they’d stuck with the speed of this episode for the whole show? They wouldn’t have been able to get away with near as much bullshit. They’re using the movement the way it’s supposed to be used, as a time to develop the world and the characters that inhabit it. Not having episodes like this really create a lot of problems later on in the series.
Related to the Carol Monologue: Do you see any Good Guys and Bad Guys emerging here? Or is this all a giant Grey mass?
Julia: Well, the Starks are definitely Good Guys. The whole murder plot set up would imply that the Lannisters are the bad guys, but then there’s that stupid Carol Monologue…ugh. I think the only person who seems a total Bad Guy might be Viserys? But even then, Robert isn’t coming across great, so it’s not like we’re rooting for him to stay king or anything.
Kylie: Even with the Carol monologue, I’d argue Cersei is still fairly villainous. Like, her advocating for Lady’s death was quite clearly driven by pettiness that Robert wouldn’t cut off Arya’s hand, or whatever it is she had been hoping for. The tragic backstory undercut it, sure, but let’s just call her “Thanos.” Because who doesn’t like an open cans of worms?
I guess Drogo is now out of the “bad guy” category since he liked looking at Dany during sex, though I’m not sure how entirely comfortable I am with that framing to begin with. Viserys certainly is “bad guy.” I’m not sure what to make of their framing of Jaime, since he’s been an asshole to everyone but his family and flung Bran from a tower. That’s “bad,” isn’t it?
Jess: I would say in this episode, as per Jack Gleeson’s insane performance, Joffrey is pretty bad. Especially when he takes a blade to Mycah and Arya. The Lannisters overall seem to be the closest we get to “bad,” but they counteract that pretty quickly with Tyrion and Cersei’s sad monologue. Jaime is still being framed as pretty bad, especially with him belittling Jon, but then we get that breakfast scene where we’re shown the bond he shares with Tyrion. It’s that level of greyness where we are still able to root for some over others (the Starks) but have the waters muddied enough that it’s not a hard line. They’re people. Which is nice compared to the villains we get later on in the series. There was less focus on it, but the Hound riding down Mycah also seems quite villainous, and we haven’t gotten any moral ambiguity from him yet. “He ran” is quite the ‘bad guy’ line. Especially when framed against Ned’s righteousness and morality.
Julia: I forgot about Joffery. But it’s hard to see a kid that way. Same for Sandor. Like, it’s clear he’s a henchman more than anything.
Dan: Overall, though, everyone is still occupying actual grey areas. Jaime is pompous but a good brother and seems a little respectful of Jon. Cersei is positioned as a victim of the system like Cat or even Sansa, and even Joffrey is still a petulant idiot and not the complete monster that he’d become. He’s Draco, still, not full Voldemort. Robert would come off a lot worse if Mark Addy weren’t so good. Plus, Lena Headey plays Cersei so villainous that you almost pity Robert even as we see him as a violent, sexist boor. This episode really makes Sansa come across as more of a villain, as the show clearly wants us to empathize with Arya more. Which kind of just starts the trend of the show not knowing how to handle Sansa.
Kylie: It’s also indicative of the “what even is morality” to come. Good guys and bad guys end up doing the same shit, just to different musical cues. At least for now this is a useful question.
Though on the Sansa and Arya point, Dan, Ned is given a line next episode to explain Sansa’s actions in a decently adequate way. It’s not perfect, but people point to the early books as having Arya-favoritism, too.
How was the pacing?
Kylie: I thought the pacing last episode worked. Then this episode came along and I was thinking, “Wow this is much more engaging somehow.” I don’t know…it wasn’t less “dead air” or anything like that, but I think I forgot how much time passed (and still felt like it was passing) and how much ground was covered. My brain was never zoning out or thinking about what lunch I wanted to pack for the following day.
So in a word: good.
Jess: Agreed. The pacing really sped up in this episode without skimming over character moments. It was engaging from start to finish and I think showcases how much you benefit from basically only including what’s necessary and not spending most of your page count trying to fit the run time.
Julia: It was a little overwhelming when thinking of my highlights and lowlights, how many things happened in this episode. But it didn’t feel rushed in the slightest. And it certainly didn’t feel like character was being sacrificed for the plot or anything.
Dan: Agree with all of the above, not much to add. It’s fast paced in some ways as it covers multiple plot threads, but its still relatively slow as episodes go. It leaves plenty of room for character and worldbuilding.
Let’s talk about sex, baby (if applicable)
Julia: Were there even any sex workers in this episode?
Kylie: There was a sex slave, does that count? I don’t think we get Ros flashing Theon until next episode though.
But no, all we’ve really got is Dany’s sexual education, which we touched on already. So a very chaste episode of this show, when you get down to it.
Jess: Surprising lack of sex, especially considering the reputation this show has. However questionable it is, at least the Dany stuff was tied directly to character.
Dan: I don’t care for how they messed with Drogo to make this episode’s stuff work for Dany, but I think there was most likely a conscious effort to limit the sex stuff to as it was written. Vague “feminist” points.
Is it holding up?
Jess: I would say it is for sure and I feel most of the first season will. It feels like intelligent storytelling and looks like it’s made by people who care about the material. I’m sure some of that comes from a lower budget on such a high production value show, making it a passion project by default, as well as sticking closely with the successful source material. This episode was so enjoyable and I definitely miss feeling that way about the show. Still, the little cracks stand out like craters now knowing how big they grow and where they end up.
Julia: Yes, for sure. There was a lot of world building in this episode and most of it felt very natural. I like the bits about dragons especially.
Kylie: And that was without anyone in a tub! (No really, I’m excited for that scene.) But yes, this is again, a decent adaptation, and a decent show. I’m finding Dany’s storyline far less convincing than I did the first time around, but contextualized by everything else, I would think it keeps the show in the “let’s wait and see how this plays out” category for most first-time viewers.
Dan: This is one of my favorite episodes of the show, and I don’t know if I can really say why. It just has so many good moments. I mean, think of just how many memes this episode birthed (whether they were in the book at first or not): The Tyrion Slap, “wear it like armor, “a mind needs books,” Tyrion’s eyebrows, and most of what Bobby B said. Might be a bad omen considering how obsessed with being memetic the show became, but it really was a great episode then and holds up now.
In memoriam: Lady, Mycah, and “You’re Not Supposed to Be Here” Catspaw
Kylie: It doesn’t matter that I knew it was coming and I knew exactly how it was staged, Lady’s death hit me like a truck. I had to keep telling myself, “It’s okay, Sophie Turner adopted her in real life,” after the episode cut to black. Ugh. I feel bad that this overshadowed Mycah, but damn it’s effective.
Jess: Lady’s death will never not be sad. Sophie Turner acts her face off in this scene and Sean Bean’s stoic solemness, trying to hold in all the anger, sadness, and guilt really hits hard. I also wish Mycah’s death had its time for the audience to process but Sean Bean is so good here that he kind of does it for us, building up to this suffocating feeling of danger and grief.
Julia: I’m a horrible person, but the Catspaw was more funny than anything. Why would you draw attention to yourself like that? What did he think would happen?
Dan: The catspaw just looks like a Frey, which kind of makes his fucking up understandable. Mycah was whatever, because we’ve no real attachment to him. Lady, yeah, that was rough. But I’ve always loved what Lady’s death meant for Sansa and what it represented for of the direwolves. So it’s a sad death, but it’s one of the most important in the first season.
Kylie: I’m team #ThrowRocksAtDirewolves. Come on Ned, join that club.
Thus concludes another chapter in The Wars to Come. Please let us know your impressions [re]watching it below. Do you think it’s holding up as a solid episode? Are we over-blowing the cracks in the plaster? We have such questions, and as we’re on this journey, an eagerness to continue. We’ll see you next Tuesday.
Images courtesy of HBO
Game of Thrones 2×04 Rewatch: Garden of Groans
Good fortune and tidings as we return to The Wars to Come! We can’t wait to dive into yet another chapter of our Game of Thrones rewatch series, seeking to explore the path that took the show from engaging and competent to…wormholing ravens and confusing trials. This week we’re in for a special treat: the only woman to ever grace this show’s writers’ room, Vanessa Taylor, is credited as penning “Garden of Bones.”
Things are grim and grotesque in the riverlands! Robb earns himself a victory on the field against the Lannister forces, yet after the battle we see many injured. He helps a field-nurse from Volantis name Talisa amputate a man’s foot, and she points out to him that the smallfolk are the ones paying the price for his war.
Meanwhile, Arya, Gendry, Hot Pie, and their fellow travelers arrive at Harrenhal as prisoners, only to discover that the guards have been selecting one a day to die. They witness the torture of an unlucky man, who has a barrel containing a hungry rat strapped to his chest. He is asked questions about “the brotherhood,” but cannot answer any. The Lannister guards hold a torch to one end of the barrel, giving the rat only one place to go… Gendry is selected the next day for this grisly fate, but is saved just in the nick of time by Tywin Lannister’s arrival. He immediately chastises his guards for wasting good men, and once recognizing Arya as a girl, selects her to be his next cupbearer.
Down in King’s Landing, Joffrey is not behaving a whole lot better. First, he reacts to Robb’s military victory by ordering Sansa to be beaten by his kingsguard. Tyrion intervenes and put a stop to it, even giving Sansa a chance to ask out of her situation. However, she tells him she is loyal to her “love.” Bronn and Tyrion discuss Joffrey’s disgusting behavior, and Bronn suggests getting him some sex workers to work frustration out on. Tyrion does that, but Joffrey instead commands one of the sex workers—Ros—to brutalize the other as a message to Tyrion.
Tyrion receives another message from Lancel, who asks him to release Pycelle on Cersei’s behalf. However, Tyrion quickly turns the tables when he corners Lancel about being in a sexual relationship with Cersei. He promises not to tell anyone so long as Lancel reports to him on the queen’s comings and goings.
Other royalty is busy over in the Reach. Littlefinger arrives in Renly’s camp, but the self-fashioned king holds no love for him. Yet if the time should come when Renly reaches King’s Landing, Littlefinger makes it clear he’s willing to flip sides. He then meets Margaery Tyrell, who he attempts to grill on the details of her marriage to Renly. This queen doesn’t reveal much. Littlefinger finally gets to speak with Cat, who is furious with him. He does manage to present her with Ned’s bones, and slips in a lie about the Lannisters holding both Sansa and Arya.
Renly and Stannis treat with each other, and despite Cat trying to encourage them to get along as brothers, neither will step aside to acknowledge the other as king. Stannis tells Renly that he has one night to reconsider. Later, Stannis asks Davos to smuggle Melisandre for him. Turns out it’s so she can give birth to a shadow in the caves below Renly’s camp.
Finally in Essos, one of Dany’s bloodriders returns with a gift from the Elders of Qarth, called “The Thirteen.” Her party turns to head there, understanding that outside the walls are referred to as the “garden of bones” thanks to all the skeletons from those who had been turned away. She meets the Thirteen, and when she refuses to show them her dragons, nearly gets refused from the city herself. However one of the Thirteen, Xaro Xhoan Daxos, invokes “soumai,” vouching for her and taking legal responsibility for her party. The uncertain group head into the city.
What will greet them in Qarth? What is the shadow that Melisandre gave birth to? And is there gold hidden in the village? We’ll find out next week, but first…a discussion of what we saw.
Initial, quick reaction
Kylie: I had to triple check that this was written by Vanessa Taylor and not D&D. And yes, I know that it’s a writers’ room, and individual credit only goes so far, though I’d argue that with GoT, we can usually tell notable differences and the process comes across as more siloed than it does for other shows.
Still. The first half hour of this was easily as bad as Season 5, with a small exception that the words spoken in between the gay/fart jokes, the torture, the abuse of sex workers, and the gore were mostly shaped by George R.R. Martin’s prose. The best I can say is that the second half of the episode became moderately passable, albeit still lacking in the tension as discussed last week.
Julia: Yeah, this episode felt like it had all the worst aspects of GoT all shoved together, especially in the first half hour, and I came away with the feeling that I was just watching trash. A few ‘fros and bell bottoms and it could have been a 70s exploitation movie.
Even this rewatch write-up is so painful because I feel like I had nothing to say beyond, “god that sucked.” And explaining in detail why things are bad is kinda my thing!
Danzie: Lordy, what a pile of crap that was. I had blocked everything but the Stormland’s scenes from my memory. You really get the full GoT dumpster fire potpourri here, though. Juvenile humour, sexual violence, torture porn, disappearing and reappearing medieval patriarchy, hammy acting… the list goes on. It’s a handy little episode to use as evidence to back up the claim “Yes, this show really is that bad. No, I’m not overreacting, Shannon!”
I am going to use this gem to win so many arguments.
Griffin: All of this. It was gratuitous. Gratuitous and bad. I kept waiting for it all to end. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to say, or what was supposed to be appealing about this show after this.
Julia: Oh boy, oh boy. A highlight. The first thing that springs to mind is a little weird because it’s not usually me, but… I think I really liked Renly this episode? I’m a sucker for any time someone tells Littlefinger what a slimeball he is, and that ham line was genuinely clever and even a little funny. It’s painfully obvious how much more the writers like him compared to Stannis, but hey, maybe he’s not so bad?
As for a lowlight, um, everything else?
Griffin: I’d honestly have to go with the one singular moment that had me cracking up: cutting straight to the throne room with Joffrey aiming a crossbow down at Sansa. The framing of it was just so ridiculous and weird that it honestly looked like self-parody. The more they took it seriously in the scene, the funnier it got. What the hell was he going to do? Just start shooting people with a very slow to reload weapon and not expect to get gutted by, like, the third Kingsguard he cuts down?
As for lowlights, again, the crossbow. Really should have cut away from that “let’s mutilate some sex workers aren’t we trendy???” scene when he started screaming “harder”…and before he got the garden weasel looking thing out.
Kylie: My highlight was the burrito dress. I screamed and clapped. I wish I had a non-ironic highlight, but this is truly what warmed the cockles of my heart the most.
It’s so hard not to pick the Joffrey & sex workers scene as a lowlight, especially knowing what that “sets up” in Season 3. But there’s plenty to go around. The general levels of gore were really distressing for me, since I’m already not great with that. The Talisa cutting off a leg scene was one that I didn’t look at, but thank the gods her feminist candor was spoken clearly.
I don’t know—the protracted torture scene at Harrenhal? So glad we had a full five minutes of the guy we never met before getting eaten by a weasel. Do we think these Lannister folks are bad news, or something?
Julia: It was a rat, Kylie. God. Clearly all your criticisms are invalid now.
Danzie: One of my favorite chapters in the entire book series was (lucky for me) the only truly decent scene of the episode. Renly is at his best in the entire run of the show here. I’ve always said that I could watch Renly troll Stannis for hours and not get bored. It’s his social intelligence that I love about him. He understands exactly what it is that the masses love about him and hate about Stannis. I’d like to have seen the inclusion of the peach, and for him to have been unarmed, but other than that, yeah, this is peak Book!Renly.
However, my other Baratheon darling didn’t shine here like he does in the books, and that’s a shame. Loads of good personality things they lost out on here, like Stannis showing up to the parlay exactly on time and having to wait around for his self-centered little brother to finally feel like showing up. Also missing is Stannis promising Catelyn to try and reunite her with her daughters as soon as he is able. But most importantly what’s missing is Stannis’ guilt over killing his brother, an act that near mentally destroys him in the books. It’s minor stuff now, sure, but it’s things like this that go on to utterly destroy any chance at Stannis’ likability.
Lowlight: The shadow baby. Okay, I know there was loads of stuff that was worse in this episode, but I really feel like I need to point this out.
Davos rowing Mel ashore makes no goddamn sense under these circumstances.
The reason he does it in the books is because she is trying to kill Cortnay Penrose. However, because he’s inside Storm’s End (which has magical wards within its walls), Davos has to bring her in underneath the castle via his old smuggling run. It’s then that he puts two and two together about Renly’s death and she admits that Renly was much easier to kill because he was totally unprotected (from magic anyway) at his camp.
So why does she have to do this from shore? Why do we need to be in this tunnel? Where is this random tunnel? In fact, where even are we right now? The Reach? The Stormlands? Renly certainly isn’t in Storm’s End.
Julia: My random quibble: who were those 4 women following Sansa around and why do we never see them again?
Quality of writing
Kylie: I’m sorry, Vanessa, but the extended gay joke with a fart punchline is about as bad as it gets. Maybe I shouldn’t hyperfocus on it, but there was something about this episode that was so unrefined, that it comes across as utterly amateur.
Julia: Like I said in my initial reaction: it was just trashy this week. The “humor” was on par with the worst of seasons 5-7 and it revels in all the abuse and torture that’s going on.
Griffin: It kind of felt like an entirely different show to me. I mean, with the exception of that one episode Martin wrote, and to a lesser extent 2×01 (which was helped considerably by the fact that very little needed to be established, and they could just go) this show has never been written that well from my point of view. But still, this was a new level.
Danzie: There’s just not much that is salvagable here, and (all jokes aside) I’m someone that really tries to liberally give snaps to the stuff I like. In so many ways I think this was the first major warning sign of what was to come. I still prefer this to seasons 5-7, because at least at this point they still sort of care about telling a story, but damn. This is the first episode of this rewatch where I actually felt ashamed for liking this show once. It’s made me question my entire relationship with this show.
(This picture belongs in a museum, though.)
Our 8th grade book report (on themes)
Julia: Pass. Unless you count “everything sucks and aren’t we edgy.”
Griffin: How about, “Everything sucks and aren’t we edgy and also surprise feudal feminism!!!!”
Kylie: I love how those concepts seem like they shouldn’t go together at all, but they sort of represent the building blocks of this show.
Okay, I’m going to make an earnest attempt: everything comes with a cost. Talisa kind of delivers it to Robb in a neatly packaged thesis statement. Granted, this theme doesn’t really mean anything. The cost of Robb’s war was Sansa being brutalized, the cost of Tyrion sending sex workers to Joffrey were the sex workers being brutalized, the cost of the war in the riverlands were the brutalization of the prisoners…
Um. Typing that out, the theme was maybe just brutalization. And also the titular “garden of bones” didn’t really tie into this, because Dany didn’t get any sort of negative repercussions for violently threatening The Thirteen of ”Kwarth.” I guess the more central point of this episode is that…violence is a necessary part of this world? Which is more a feature, but damnit, Vanessa Taylor isn’t giving me much to work with.
Then we have the inserted ~feminism~ of Talisa, and I’m starting to suspect Ms. Taylor is not the world’s best sensitivity reader.
Julia: I think maybe the theme is “Damnit, Vanessa Taylor!”
Danzie: I want to somehow tie Renly’s line of “a man without friends is a man without power” to something. Robb makes a new friend in Talisa. Dany has trouble getting in to Qwarth (sic) because she doesn’t have a friend to vouch for her. Stannis’ power comes from his gal pal, Mel. Tyrion thinks Joffrey having some “adult friends” will help him chill out. LF wants to be friends with the cool kids, but they all tell him to fuck off.
The Garden of Bones is also a metaphor for friendship.
…okay, not really, but this episode broke me in a way I wasn’t expecting and quite honestly I’m just tired of trying.
Kylie: We are all bones in the garden now. The title fits!
Cracks in the plaster (the bullshit to come)
Julia: The cracks are just the plaster coming off the wall in sheets in this episode. The scene with Joff and the two sex workers is as bad as anything in season 5, and that rat torture scene is as bad as Theon in season 3 so… congrats, you’ve reached peak GoT.
Kylie: Then there’s also the worldbuilding. We discussed the magically disappearing patriarchy (in so many terms) with the sexually liberated Margaery last week as a crack. Well, Talisa is the fucking Kool-Aid man busting through. Julia and I have joked so many times about the “unchaperoned field nurse sass-talking a king” that the phrase almost means nothing to me, but…yeah, it’s a fucking high-born (I think?) woman walking around alone on a battlefield, sass-talking a king. The patriarchy is truly destroyed here.
Of course, it will magically reappear when there needs to be a justification for violence against women, or random bullshit like making Lyanna Mormont’s stand against socks seem very Progressive™. In my mind, this hole in the wall is everything that becomes wrong with Game of Thrones, because it certainly connects to the brutalization Julia just mentioned too.
Julia: Just, like… let’s think about this character for half a second.
She’s from Volantis. (Show-only peeps have no idea what that is, but it’s a giant city in Essos that has slavery and thinks highly of itself.) For reasons of being so sassy and feminist and ahead of her time, she decides that slavery is bad and that healing people is good. Okay. So then she thinks her best plan is to go to this fairly barbaric and benighted part of the world and be a field nurse. Like, was she already a traveling healer type around the riverlands and just thought this war was an excellent opportunity for more service? Did she hear about the war and come running from Essos? Her mastery of the Common Tongue suggests she’s been chilling there a while. Where did she get her supplies of opium and silk bandages? Is that family money she’s using to buy them, or does she have a local benefactor? Where did she gain this medical expertise?
Why do I suspect this is more thought put into this character than the writers had?
Danzie: I like to think that it was all a mailing error. Talisa was supposed to be the sassy new resident doctor on a medical drama but the character pitches got mixed up and now Grey’s Anatomy has a mild-mannered girl from the westerlands.
Kylie: Another crack in the plaster is the torture porn, which only gets more and more drawn out as the series goes on. Edginess is a distant horizon they’re constantly chasing, I guess.
Griffin: I remember Davos being a much, much more sympathetic and likeable character. Now he’s…just sort of there? I dunno, but he seems pretty one-note and flat to me so far. I’m pretty sure that Melisandre was supposed to be that in the books, so it works here (I guess?) but…that birthing scene. With the shadow.
I’ve seen some stupid things in my time, but I’ll admit that there was just no good way to shoot that. Seriously, I feel like that’s something that just was never going to translate well to the screen no matter what they did, since you can’t cut away from it or it doesn’t work. Maybe if they’d done the sequence more like a monster movie? That might work.
Kylie: The best I’ve ever seen a shadow of death translated was in the Charlton Heston movie The Ten Commandments. I think it was watching the literal squeezing out of the shadow that made it so odd. And it kinda gets a face next week…
Alright, I have to bring up Tough but Fair Grandpappy Tywin. Because he’s apparently so awesomely awesome and Fair that he will reward a random peasant girl for disguising herself as a boy. Yes, Tywin of the books wouldn’t have wasted working bodies on senseless torture. But the idea that he’d give a shit about any one of them, let alone enough to call Arya “smart” and select her as a personal cupbearer, is ridiculous.
Julia: I mean, it was really dumb of them to kill blacksmiths. Tough but Fair Grandpappy needs to be frugal; I would say why, but that would spoil the cleverest twist D&D ever pulled off.
It’s almost weird saying this, but so far they’ve done alright with Renly. And Stannis is still perfectly salvageable. Obviously the gay punchline stuff was horrible and out of place, but PLOT wise, it’s all pretty here? Like, Stannis has the best claim, legally speaking, but no one likes him. Renly’s claim is bull, but he’s popular. That’s minimally sufficient at least, which is more than we get in later seasons.
What do we think of the direction they’re going with Qwarth so far? It’s a change from the parade they threw her in the books.
Danzie: I dunno, but I thoroughly enjoyed the performance of whoever played the Spice King. He seemed to be the only actor who knew the ridiculousness of the show he was in. He was just having so much fun!
Julia: It’s a sense of awareness we won’t see on the screen until Ian McShane’s Ray in season 6.
Kylie: If I can seriously try to answer Julia’s question (though agreed about the Spice King), I think it’s part of D&D’s general misunderstanding that struggle is necessary in every facet of a journey to make any end triumph meaningful. Maybe this is thinking it through too much, but I’m just remembering the way the summarized Jon’s arc in Season 6 as, “well he began the season dead and now he’s king, so he’s doing well!” Keeping in mind they bend over backwards to aid Ramsay at every turn. It turns into “no one is nice to anyone anywhere,” and I honestly do think these are the beginning signs of it.
Or maybe they just didn’t want to spend money on a parade.
Carol Watch: who is Cersei this week?
Kylie: Poor Cersei/Carol, she was only mentioned this week. Sending Lancel to Tyrion could have been a move by either of them. So, I say we skip this section for this week.
Julia: Joffery’s actions do suggest Cersei’s parenting, though.
Kylie: Sure, even if the more Carol comes out, the less that much tracks.
Danzie: Another question is was it Carol or Cersei who commanded the Lancel sexytime? I wanna say Cersei, because Carol, as we know, wouldn’t dare sleep around on Larry.
Julia: Yeah, but Larry’s in jail and she’s SAD.
Exposition Imposition: good or clunky?
Kylie: Jorah got to explain Qwarth and the Garden of Bones! He must have been so happy!
Griffin: Yeah, that was like, literally all he did in the episode. I remember saying something along the lines that his description of the Garden of Bones isn’t really different from any other city with walls and gates. If they only had graveyards surrounding a massive city, with no suburbs, okay, that would be pretty freaky and one hell of an image, but…nope. Just a desert. Why not make it a point to mention sandstorms? Maybe they kick out prisoners or beggars or something into the sandstorm when it goes so they can die in the desert.
I think the rest of it was mostly fine; nothing really stands out to me as particularly egregious, though everything with Littlefinger was kinda “HEY LOOK AT ME I’M DOING THINGS!!!!”. I don’t know if that’s just who he is in the show, or silly. Is it both?
Kylie: He overstates the case a ton on the show, and is also the official expositor, so it’s kind of hard to tell where the character ends and contrived writing begins. I think it read fairly organically considering some of his other scenes, and it helped that both Renly and Cat were not about to give him the time of day.
Julia: Speaking of overstating the case, Dany. God she likes to yell about all the people she’s going to kill. I wouldn’t blame anyone who wrote off this character as an annoying, entitled asshole.
Danzie: Yeah, she really does just yell and stomp her feet… which I guess Xaro found charming? Because it’s only after this that he decides to let her in.
Julia: Ah, arbitrary laws and oaths based on cutting your hand with a sword. I was wondering when the blatant Orientalism would show up.
How was the pacing?
Julia: I think it’s pretty safe to say there were a few scenes that dragged on too long.
Kylie: Griffin is understating his reaction to this, I might want to point out. He was next to me yelling, “Why is this still going on?” in at least three different spots.
To say something vaguely nice (?) the second half of the episode moved a lot better. Or at least, I wasn’t viscerally uncomfortable and mentally begging the scenes to end in my mind.
Danzie: The actual script on paper was way shorter than other episodes. A big chunk of what made up the screen time was just people being beaten or tortured.
Let’s talk about sex, baby
Kylie: The sexworker scene was so horrible that I feel as if we’re not even willing to talk about it. Yes, Bronn suggesting Joffrey needs sex workers was in the books. Actually making us watch a scene of him ordering Ros to beat up her coworker while he sits and grins for as long as we did was just plain gross. We get it. We would have gotten it had the scene ended three minutes beforehand, too. We don’t need this insight for Joffrey, and it pushed into gratuitous somewhere around the belt smacking.
Danzie: The scene just flat out wasn’t needed. Joffrey is a monster, and as you said, we get it. We have tons of examples of it already. We don’t need a scene of Cruella de Vil drowning a cat to know she’s evil when literally all she does is try to kill puppies all movie long.
The only thing I can think of is that now we are supposed to feel even more terrified for Sansa? “Be worried that Joffrey will brutally rape Sansa, audience!” Good thing she eventually gets out of King’s Landing so she is safe from that sort of thing.
Kylie: Thank you, I’m mad all over again. Great analogy though.
The other sex was the off-screen Lancel and Cersei sex that Tyrion calls out. Lancel is like, clearly being coerced, right?
Griffin: Yeah, that sexworker scene, as I mentioned above—what even was that garden weasel thing? Half of a candle stick? Very disturbing and way, way, way too long
I’m pretty sure Lancel is supposed to be…are we supposed to sympathize with him for being coerced? I’m not totally sure that we are since Tyrion makes a point to explicate that Lancel clearly didn’t hate shtupping his sister. Doesn’t make it better, but it’s kind of hard to see the merit of that sequence aside from Tyrion being by far the most entertaining character on the show. Maybe it was just a showcase…?
Julia: I’m mean, it’s not rape if you enjoy it. Especially if you’re a teenager and she’s a hot 30-something.
What is there to say? I think the last time we saw sex between two people who liked each other and both wanted to be there was Ned and Cat cuddling in episode 1. Renly and Loras too, I suppose.
Kylie: Hey now, the ship captain’s daughter seemed to be fine fucking Theon. And his view on it was clearly free of issues…
In memoriam: 2 homophobic Lannister guards, 5 Lannister Men for Every 1 of Ours, random prisoner, and Stafford Lannister
Julia: Does Stafford Lannister count? He died off screen and we never even met him. I’m still not done mourning for those 2 homophobic guards, though. What a loss to the art of comedy.
Kylie: The site that has this list put him down, so he counts! But in terms of who we saw die, I guess the tortured prisoner eaten by a weasel was the most…effective? Which again, we did not need to see all of. We knew they were dying from the first scene with that old lady.
Talisa has sassy words to say about 5 Lannister Men for Every 1 of Ours. Death is bad! The smallfolk are the ones paying! I mean, she’s not wrong, but I’m kind of remembering when Weiss tried to get all deep after Shireen’s death, saying audiences were hypocritical for caring so much about that moment, but being okay with Stannis killing people in “Blackwater.” There’s a dang narrative, Talisa!
Honestly though, most of my annoyance there is that they’ll float the plight of the smallfolk as an edgy, messed up feature of the world, but then not bother to give their point of view any consideration.
Danzie: Silly Kylie. Sex workers and smallfolk are only there to get tortured and killed. Getting their perspective wouldn’t be dramatically satisfying.
Julia: That random old lady earned her SAG scale, though.
Wow, this is shorter than usual. We really hated this episode.
Kylie: No argument from me. But what about everyone in the comments? Was it really, truly this horrible? And what the hell, Vanessa Taylor? Let us know your thoughts, and next week we’ll get the good ol’ boys back as the writers, continuing The Wars to Come.
Images courtesy of HBO
Tragedy in Lady Knight
The dedication to Lady Knight reads “To the people of New York City, I always knew the great sacrifice and kindness my neighbors are capable of, but now the rest of the country knows, too.” It’s a somber beginning to a book about the tragedy of war. Obviously, it talks about the events of 9/11, and the book was published in 2002, barely a year afterwards. It’s the grimmest of Pierce’s books so far, but like the dedication, it also shows the most kindness.
Spoilers for Pierces previous work. Warnings for mentions of abuse and the murder of children.
Friendship in a Time of Blood and Ice Cream
Edgar Wright’s Blood and Ice Cream trilogy, also known as the Cornetto trilogy, is a trio of movies that stand in a league of their own. Each movie is its own story and any of the three could stand on its own without the others. Yet they’re all linked by their craftsmanship, themes and, of course, Cornetto. They’re all top class comedies, while also being well-executed character-driven action movies. Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End each focus on the friendship between their protagonist and deuteragonist (each time portrayed by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost respectively). They delve into the deeps of friendship and the aspects, both negative and positive, that can exists in relationships.
It’s not you, it’s the Zombies
Before the zombie apocalypse, Shaun was living aimlessly, while Ed, his best friend, loafed around on his couch playing video games all day. Shaun had a serviceable job, a stable relationship with a girl he loves, good friends, and pub to go at the end of the day. He was hardly living a full life, but he was living. Sure, he had plans for the future—get a better job, commit more to his relationship, and get Ed off his couch—but he never acted on them. He made promises to his girlfriend that he’d do better, but had no follow through. When anyone pointed out that Ed was a hindrance to him, Shaun would always defend his friend.
Ed’s antipathy to development is even worse than Shaun’s. He doesn’t have many expectations for himself. Instead, he’s content to let Shaun defend him while he plays games and does a whole lot of nothing. Ed only helped keep Shaun stagnate.
Everything changed when they found zombies in their backyard. It takes the z-word to get Shaun to act on his plans. With the undead knocking at the doors, he firmly decides what’s important to him and sets out to protect it. He finds not only is he good with the follow through, he naturally assumes the leadership role, adjusting quickly on the fly to keep his friends and family safe when their lives are on the line. When disaster strikes, he makes decisions no one should ever have to make, zombie apocalypse or not.
And Ed, well, actually, Ed doesn’t change all that much. He’s more interested in getting to drive the cool car than he is about the zombies in the street. In the few minutes, Shaun takes to get his mom and stepdad he manages to crash the car. When they’re surrounded by a horde he nonchalantly takes a call (from a guy he occasionally sells drugs too).
Shaun’s willing to forgive and ignore Ed’s apathy until this moment. It takes the world ending and their lives at stake to Shaun to finally confront his friend. The apocalypse becomes the catalyst that pushes Shaun to making decisions. One of those decisions is letting go of a friendship that had been holding him back.
But it’s not all sad; Shaun gets the girl and still finds time to play games with Ed occasionally.
They’re not Bad Boys
Nicolas Angel is kind of cop who’s good at his job. Every part of his job, including the paperwork, but everything else in his life suffers. He breaks up with his girlfriend. The other officers are all too happy to get rid of him because he makes them look bad by comparison. The only constant in his life before moving to Sandford is his Japanese Peace Lily.
Danny, on the other hand, is the kind of cop who never had to be good at his job. He lived his whole life in a small village where the most work the cops had to do was deal with ‘accidents.’ His father is the inspector. Everything he learnt about his job was from action cop movies.
Friendship in Hot Fuzz goes in a different direction. Nicolas and Danny aren’t the lifelong friends Shaun and Ed were. In fact, a drunk Danny almost runs overs Nicolas when they first meet. Danny actually learns what it means to be a cop from Nicolas. Nicolas learns there’s more to life than the service and there’s more to service than enforcing every law. For Nicolas, Danny becomes the person he cares about more than the job.
By learning more about Sandford from Danny, Nicolas becomes more willing to let smaller infractions go when working to keep the greater peace. By the climax, he even enlists the help of some vandals he’d been suspicious of on his first night in the village. Danny, on the other hand, learns that being a cop isn’t about the big action shootouts, and even when the big action shootout happens, he and Nicolas fight their way out while only using non-lethal takedowns. In this view of friendship, each one makes each other a better cop and a better person.
The Crowning Glory of the End of the World
Gary King is the king in his mind and every king needs a court. For Gary, his court is made up of his friends or, to be more accurate, his enablers. Like so many, Gary found his adulthood paling in comparison to the glory of his youth and has been trying to regain that feeling. The height of his youth had been trying to conquer the Golden Mile, a twelve pub crawl with four of his best friends. They never finished the Mile, but that night still left a mark on Gary. For him, it never got better and that’s where the problems start.
He keeps searching for that same high in the substance he linked with the first: alcohol. Never finding it, he makes one last ditch attempt to regain his crown by reclaiming the Golden Mile and finishing what they’d started all those years ago. He rounds up his old friends, who have all grown up and progressed in their own ways. Among them is Andy Knightley, who used to be Gary’s right hand but has been sober since the very night Gary is trying to reclaim.
Amidst the discovery that their hometown has become a hub of alien activity, Andy learns just how deep Gary’s addiction goes. Of the Blood and Ice Cream trilogy, Gary King is the most tragic protagonist. His addiction sends him on a dark spiral. Even as he tries to regain his youth with his friends, he keeps them at distance emotionally. He thinks he needs drinking buddies more than he needs true friends who will help him.
Gary’s inability to say no to a drink inevitably leads to the World’s End, both the name of a bar and the actual end of the world. But when he hits rock bottom and realizes Andy was willing to follow him there for his sake, that’s when he finds the strength to stop living in the past.
Be it the heartbreak of losing good friends, the surprise of finding friendship in the unlikeliest of persons or wanting to help a friend who’s not ready to help themselves, the Blood and Ice Cream trilogy portrays the complexities of platonic relationships. Best of all, it shows how they evolve as we grow and change.
Images courtesy of Universal Pictures.
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