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Game of Thrones 2×03 Rewatch: What’s Ahead will Make Us Sigh

Kylie

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It’s Tuesday! That means we’re here with yet another installment of The Wars to Come, our Game of Thrones rewatch seeking find where showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D) let things slip out of gear. Last week, we sat through a rather boring episode. This week Bryan Cogman returns as the writer for “What is Dead May Never Die,” with Kylie, Julia, Danzie, and Jana here to break it down.

Episode Recap

We pick up right where we left off at Craster’s Keep, where Craster himself had just knocked Jon unconscious. The episode opens with Craster ordering the Night’s Watch to leave, and Joer Mormont yells at Jon to wait for him outside. Once there he scolds Jon for not following orders, but Jon tells him what he saw: something taking Craster’s baby. It becomes clear that the Lord Commander already knew about this, but the Night’s Watch can’t afford to be choosey in its allies. As they all prepare to leave, Sam says a goodbye to Gilly, and gives her a thimble from his mother that he wants her to hold for safekeeping.

Slightly further south, Bran tries to explain to Maester Luwin about his wolf dreams, where he imagines himself inside the eyes of Summer. Luwin tells him there’s nothing to make of it and that any tales about people with abilities to warg are just that—tales.

Much further south, Catelyn has arrived at King Renly’s camp, where he is holding a tourney. Brienne of Tarth bests Loras Tyrell, winning herself a place on his kingsguard, before Renly addresses Cat. She makes sure to insist on Robb’s kingship, and when it’s challenged why he didn’t come himself, she explains that her son is fighting a war while they’re playing at one. Renly shows her his 10,000 troops, though she seems skeptical that this “summer army” will do well once winter comes.

Renly has his own issue to deal with. Though he’s been enjoying his nights with Loras, there are apparently people whispering about them. Even more, Renly has married Margaery Tyrell, Loras’s sister, yet their marriage remains unconsummated. He tries to get that bit over with, though Margaery makes it clear that she understands his sexuality and relationship with Loras. She promises him that however they need to make arrangements to allow him to impregnate her, she will do it.

Over on the Iron Islands, Theon yells at Yara for her deception once they’re alone together, though she is not sorry in the slightest. Balon then arrives and tells Theon of his plans: attack the North while Robb is distracted and marching against the Lannisters. Theon tries to argue against this idea, but Balon won’t hear it. Yara tells him to make his choice whether to come with them or not, but they’re going either way. Theon writes a letter to warn Robb, but burns it, deciding instead to commit to his place with his family. He has a priest bless him with salt water.

Speaking of Lannisters, Sansa is still stuck surrounded by them in King’s Landing. She is forced to have a brunch with Cersei, Myrcella, and Tommen, where she is casually told that if Robb dies, she’ll still be expected to marry Joffrey. Shae is also unhappy with her situation, since Tyrion wants to get her a job in the kitchens washing pots. In a good solution for both women, Shae is made Sansa’s handmaiden. It’s clear to Sansa that Shae has never worked in this role before and doesn’t know what she’s doing, though the two seem to have a bit of a bond nonetheless.

Tyrion, meanwhile, is working on his political planning. He wants to figure out who is loyal to Cersei, so he tells Pycelle, Varys, and Littlefinger three different plans about where he might send Myrcella to keep her safe in the event of an attack on King’s Landing. Pycelle ends up being the one who tells of the plan to send Myrcella to Dorne, so Tyrion has him thrown in a dungeon. Varys congratulates him, though Littlefinger is mad that the plan Tyrion had told him wasn’t the one that was going to happen. Still, Tyrion has something else for Lord Baelish, which involves going and seeing Catelyn again.

Finally, on the way to The Wall, Arya has trouble sleeping. Yoren tells her that he also witnessed the murder of a family member before, and the way he was able to sleep was by reciting his brother’s killer’s name over and over as a mantra before bed. This story is cut short when their group is attacked by more Lannister soldiers, who kill both Lommy and Yoren. In the heat of the battle, Arya frees three criminals from a cage that had caught fire. The Lannister soldiers ask again for Gendry, but Arya quickly lies on the spot, saying Lommy was Gendry, since his famous helm was lying near him. It spares their lives, though we learn the Lannisters plan to march them to Harrenhal.

Initial, quick reaction

Kylie: Thinking back over everything that happened, there were a few clunkers, yet nothing particularly worse than the past couple of weeks. And somehow I turned it off with the feelings, “Wow, it’s starting to slip a lot more.” Is it because the lolz gay scene was that bad? Is it Lady Zuriff? Is it the pacing and that things are starting to feel tensionless? I honestly don’t know. I’m worrying this is a case where I’m sour on it because of adaptational choices (Tyrion the Infallible versus the books) more than a complaint about the actual quality.

Julia: Yeah, the season so far in general feels very…beige. Even the things I like, the Ironborn stuff, for instance, I don’t like that much. There was very little rise and/or fall of emotion. Even Shae only got me a little annoyed.

Jana: This episode felt a lot like a shopping list to me. A checklist, maybe? As in there were bits and pieces here and there with little to no interconnection outside of the fact that we kinda know 90% of the plot points are part of the same greater war, more or less. Most segments were perfectly alright on their own, but, like, they very much feel like several smaller episodes sewn together into a big one. That’s technically what every other episode is kind of like, too, but this is the first time I really felt it. So much so that it’s the one thing that sticks out to me. Might be a me problem, though.

Danzie: A little sleepy, but mostly benign. It’s funny, there is a kind of nostalgia in watching season two for me. It’s not that I fondly remember the episodes per se (although ACoK is my favorite book in the series, so maybe that helps), but I do fondly remember the positive feelings I had watching it back in 2012. It’s a weird kind of nostalgia.

Also, I have a feeling I’m going to be in the minority of liking the Catelyn scene at Renly’s camp. Sue me. I’m easily won over by Michelle Fairley and the Baratheon motifs everywhere.

Highlights/lowlights

Julia: Theon’s plotline in Pyke remains by far the best part of the season. And by best I mean the only part that seems to mean something thus far. There’s family drama, and I love it. My favorite moment was after Theon’s baptism when he looks over at Balon and is all, “Do you love me yet, Daddy?”

Also honorable mention for the conversation with Bran and Lewin where they talk about magic. I forgot how much I love this character and how his love for Bran shone through. Weird, but I’m glad he died when he did and not like poor Osha.

On the other end I think I’ll go with the entire sequence of Tyrion’s Cunning Plan™ to root out a spy by trading Myrcella like a baseball card, topped off with a conversation with Varys where he praises Tyrion as being the best schemer ever in a way that we have no choice but to take it at face value. I don’t know, Saint Tyrion is bugging me more than ever. Especially since he apparently didn’t let his girlfriend leave their room for god knows how long.

Jana: That scene was so much better when we didn’t know that Show!Varys is being perfectly genuine here. Nevertheless, my lowlight has to be our arrival at Sexual Liberation Capital aka The Reach. Yes, Margaery, explain to the gay how and why to make babies with you. Invite your brother along; fun for the whole family.

Also, “And Margaery’s a virgin?” Dude. Dude. What are you, a subreddit?

I’m gonna go and be boring and list the dinner scene and subsequent scene with Shae and Sansa as my highlight. Is this the first tense Cogman dinner? The children are adorable, Sansa is spot on, and Cersei daring her to say something out of line was weirdly amusing. I also thought Shae’s first day at work would be a lot more on the Sansa being a bitch side, but like. No. Not only was Sansa right in being frustrated with someone presumably being paid to do a job having no idea how to do her job, they also managed to convey pretty well that any and all lashing out she does is due to the horribly fucked up situation she’s in. Or at least that’s what Sophie Turner’s acting told me. My true highlight is probably Sophie Turner’s acting.

Danzie: Not gonna lie, the highlight of the entire season for me is Renly’s crown/armor. It looks gorgeous and fits Book!Renly’s style perfectly. I want a tiny version of it for my dog Renly.

Speaking less superficially, I agree with both Jana and Julia. I sort of wonder if I liked Theon’s scenes because his chapters in aCoK were, in my opinion, GRRM’s best work in the entire series. Is it mostly copy and pasting? Yeah, but it’s damn good copy and pasting. They aren’t “fixing” what isn’t broken from the source material. Alfie Allen sells Theon’s daddy issues so, so well.

I also enjoyed the emotional subtlety of Sansa’s scene with Shae. I’m glad it immediately followed the dinner scene, because I think otherwise it wouldn’t have worked. The projection of the abuse she’s facing was very real… but it’s still ever-empathetic Sansa, so the absolute worst abuse she can sling is milquetoast highborn elitism. I miss Sansa.

Lowlight: I liked the first of the two scenes at Renly’s camp, but you really are left wondering why the Margaery/Renly/Loras stuff even existed. It would make sense if they wanted to expand Renly’s character and show the challenges of being in the closet while trying to run a campaign that is really only afloat on popular appearance… but he dies next episode, so what is the payoff? It’s investing money into a company that you know is going out of business.

Marg and Renly’s marriage consummation was left purposefully ambiguous in the books, but I guess it’s important that we know Margaery isn’t lying to Joffrey when she says the marriage was never verified? Because… that matters?

I dunno, I’m trying to make sense of it, but really I think they just wanted to be the edgy show that wasn’t afraid to go there with gay sex… except they totally were because they had to cap off the fully clothed makeout scene with boobs for fear of alienating their core demographic.

Kylie: I think knowing what’s coming in terms of Loras’s scripting makes it all the worse, too. So much of those scenes banked on the notion that it’s funny for gay people to like, exist in a feudal order, and ha-ha Renly is screwing up his nose in disgust! Because straights are never forced into sexual relationships they find repugnant or off-putting.

And damn, yeah, he is dead next episode. Maybe time would have been better spent fully contextualizing his military position or like, platform, rather than giving him and his boyfriend a fight because the concept of lineage is escaping him.

That was my lowlight too, in case you couldn’t tell.

What’s funny about the Sansa/Shae scene is that while her frustration and panic over her situation (and confusion) read perfectly well for us, it’s also the kind of scene that gives Sansa haters fuel. “She’s just being a bitch again when Shae’s trying to be nice!” Cogman certainly isn’t responsible for fandom dialogue, and there’s a reason he’s known for awkward family dinner scenes. But what really works for us gets twisted so easily, and frankly situated in a show with intense Badass worship, it’s hard to blame people.

The Arya scenes were fine, but not amazing, and the other King’s Landing scenes were Saint Tyrion blessing us with his wisdom, so I think Iron Islands are my highlight by default. But I was having trouble super enjoying this episode, whereas it came more easily in 2×01.

Quality of writing

Danzie: It’s hard to really comment on it. It’s obviously not great, but nothing stands out as offensively bad either. However, you can see D&D starting to settle into their comfort zone of not giving a shit narratively. Scenes are more about plot points and less about tying together a bigger story. Renly can’t produce an heir, but that doesn’t go anywhere. Craster is involved with the white walkers, but nobody ever confronts him about it. Tyrion delivers major PWNage(?) to Pycelle but not much comes of this either, because they never figure out how to integrate Pycelle into the plot in a meaningful way. You can get away with it short term because you think it will eventually make sense, but hindsight is pretty unkind to these plot threads.

Julia: Maybe it’s because this was a Coggers episode but I felt that the writing within any given scene was, like, passable, but the structure of the episode as a whole was just designed to create boredom. Or lack of tension? I guess I think ol’ Bryan did the best with what he was given.

Kylie: That’s the best way of putting it, Julia. I think the beats he was made to cover weren’t the best, but lol-gayness aside, the writing was at least competent. And used a decent amount of book dialogue.

Julia: And his attempt to turn Cat’s inner monologue into dialogue only made me cringe a little bit.

Danzie: It’s funny, Julia. It might be my lady-crush on Michelle Fairley, but I think she sold those lines, and Renly keeping a cool head through it all with everyone around was a very Renly thing to do. It showed off her stanning the north, while he kept up his southern appearances.

Also, Brienne! This is her first episode, and I think her reveal was great!

Jana: Also beyond that, the writing was competent. The episodes issues, besides, you know, Renly’s tent and also Shae, were mostly structural, since basically everything in this episode was a set-up for something, and that was done competently. Let’s just enjoy a time when most setups still have pay-offs.

Our 8th grade book report (on themes)

Kylie: Hey, the episode title worked this week!

Onto themes… Lies? Secrets? This is such a general theme, I know, but I was thinking that it permeated every plotline. Jeor was “lying” or at least not being forthcoming about Craster’s true nature, Renly was lying about his Tyrell relationships, Shae lied about Lady Zuriff, Tyrion lied to everyone, and Ayra lied to the Lannister soldiers that came for them. I guess Bran and Theon kind of stick out here, since Theon just made a choice, and Bran was trying to get Luwin to take his warging seriously. But it’s the best thread I can find.

Julia: Wow, Kylie, full marks. I can tie a very tenuous thread that’s, like, expectation versus reality between Shae, Sansa, Theon, and Bran. Bran thought magic was real but Lewin tells him the story about how his own dreams there were disappointed. Theon thought he would be welcomed back into his family. Imagine how happy 1×01 Sansa would be if you told her that she would be having dinner with the Royal Family. And poor annoying Shae thought Carol’s Landing would be way more glamorous than this. I guess we can throw Jonny in there too, since his expectation of how the Night’s Watch needs to behave north of the Wall was challenged.

Danzie: It’s hard to nail down a theme, because every scene was so… not interconnected in any way? I feel like this section is only going to get harder to write as we continue down the rabbit hole.

Jana: Yeah, what Danzie said. This season will prooobably still do okay on that front, but we’re already having to split segments up between themes, that’s… Foreboding.

Cracks in the plaster (the bullshit to come)

Julia: I think this was the first time Varys spent a conversation telling Tyrion how wonderful he was, so that’s a huge milestone for the show. And Sansa and Shae are now together, so it won’t be long before all of Sansa’s scenes are about Tyrion and Shae’s relationship.

Kylie: I don’t just want to harp on Renly/Loras/Margaery, but Jesus, Margaery is anachronistic for Westeros. This may be the biggest crack in the plaster yet, since it relates to everything: mainly, how they have no fucking idea what they’re doing with women, or what Martin’s doing with the setting. People on the westeros.org forums have been speculating about Marg’s hymen since they were launched, probably (was that post 2005?), so of course let’s run with that ambiguity and make the embodiment of performative maidenhood a scheming sexpot who can remove her dress in 2.5 seconds.

Julia: I honestly thought she was in her underwear until Renly said “Nice dress, hun.” So, yeah, welcome to the show, anachronistic scantily clad Reach ladies.

Danzie: …#WomenOnTop?

Jana: Also, like, Cat is just a walking crack. In the plaster, I mean. Still with little to no agency, and even though her lines were also her observations in the books, they came off as a tad too antagonistic for someone as wise as Catelyn. Brienne is still fine so far, at least. That’s nice.

Kylie: Maye there’s a reason her observations were internal…

Remember adaptation?

Julia: Oh dear. The editing in Mission Marry Off Myrcella made all the difference, didn’t it. So was omitting the part where Varys flat out tells Tyrion that he knows exactly what he’s doing, thereby destroying any effective spy catching that might be happening.

This Tyrion is just the best, you guys.

I also like how there was no reaction to the rather major revelation that Pycelle has been a Lannister loyalist, like, forever. “Since the days of the Mad King.” That’s kind of a huge deal, and in aCoK Tyrion’s thoughts made that clear. They could have had his smug smile fall for a second or something.

Jana: Varys just, genuinely stanning Tyrion here with no ambiguity and no sense of playing him at all. Hindsight is a bitch. Also, the riddle? What’s the point of the riddle when who actually is to blame for Ned’s death is just… Never elaborated upon? I mean, there isn’t even Shae in the background going “it’s the rich man!” to hammer home her characterization, so what even?

…And here I just praised them for their setups still having pay-offs. Yay.

Danzie: Varys’ dialogue (as always) was just such overwritten nothingness (designed to be a trailer one-liner they can put on merch), and so was Tyrion’s humble brag of “I don’t like riddles, golly gosh, is the short person casting a large shadow referring to me? You’re too kind Varys.” Varys was declaring his love for Tyrion so hard that you half-expected them to makeout at the end.

Also, the editing for the schemy scene (schene?) looked like it was done by a first year film student. Like, points for creativity, but it ended up looking so gimmicky.

Julia: I’m also a little confused about Sam this week. Now he’s great at talking to girls and pressuring them into taking presents?

Jana: That’s the charitable reading. I felt Sam’s scene with Gilly was extremely uncomfortable in the context of all the times he fantasized about girls so far. Not the intended effect, that’s for sure, but after all that, to me at least he came across as much more of a creep than necessary. Especially considering how Book!Sam is not a creep at all.

Kylie: Gilly did seem super pressured. I wanted to shout at him to leave her alone. Maybe she doesn’t want the thimble!

Julia: Maybe her father/husband/abuser will find it and want to know where she got it? I doubt that would be pleasant for her.

Carol Watch: who is Cersei this week?

Kylie: I mean, Carol definitely loves her children, but this is pretty much Cersei out of the books too. Maybe it’s because this is a situation that really does fucking suck for Carol and Cersei alike, because patriarchal bullshit? Sometimes Cersei is put-upon too.

Jana: It was a Carol-esque plight with a very violent, Cersei-like reaction that you could almost understand. Like, there was nuance to the scene and there were grounds for you to be on her side. That’s what makes it hard to differentiate here, I think, usually the scenes with her are less… Ambiguous?

Julia: And the dinner scene felt like it was compatible with both. It all depends on whether Cersei was thinking about how dumb Sansa is or if Carol was thinking about how much she wanted to hug Tommen.

Danzie: It was Schrodinger’s Cersei. She was both book!Cersei and Carol depending on what mood you’re in.

Exposition Imposition: good or clunky?

Julia: I think it was fine. We even learned that the Martells hate the Lannisters. The world building with Luwin explaining about maesters’ chains felt very natural. So did the Greyjoy’s battle plans. We got to find out what a handmaiden’s job description was.

Danzie: I want Luwin to have his own spinoff where he’s a history teacher who inspires inner city kids to believe in themselves. He can exposit literally anything and I will hang on every word. I love this man.

Jana: It’s Cogger’s episode, so like most of the writing, the exposition was competent. But for real, I feel like people in general didn’t stan Luwin enough back when the show came out. He is so great in every scene he’s in.

The only thing that was maybe a little clunky was the dinner scene, though that still played very well into Cersei trying to provoke Sansa into saying something incriminating, and also, look at these kids. Of course they need some more explaining what’s going on. They’re, what, 7 and 10?

Kylie: Even Renly’s “here’s my war position” exposition wasn’t bad. It fit with the walk-and-talk of the scene.

How was the pacing?

Kylie: I felt bored. I’m assuming this has something to do with the pacing? I feel like they didn’t really linger too long on any one plot, it’s just that the individual scenes were very slow-going. Or maybe I was just bored.

Julia: I don’t remember being bored reading A Clash of Kings but that might be too apples to oranges. It does feel like nothing has happened in this season yet, doesn’t it?

Danzie: It was definitely slow going, but since it showed off some of my favorite stuff from aCoK, it gave me the warm fuzzies of reading the book for the first time. So I wasn’t bored, it just made me want to re-read loads of stuff again. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing? 😛

Jana: Yeah, everything in this episode was setup, which takes the momentum right out of everything. But that’s largely a structural problem, as mentioned above. Even much better shows have slow episodes of getting the pieces into place. It’s fine. This is fine.

Let’s talk about sex, baby

Jana: Renly’s tent sure was a busy place this week.

Julia: My favorite part is, as you mentioned Jana, the arrival of the Reach as the sexual liberation capital of Westeros with Marg’s décolletage that goes all the way down to her navel in the tourney scene and her “official” virginity.

Jana: And she wore that piece of nothing surrounded by people in heavy cloaks or full armor and in weather conditions that would make this uncomfortable at best. Like with Ros going commando and flashing Theon last season, wearing that cannot be healthy.

Kylie: I liked the part where Marg offered to lie on her stomach so that Renly could pretend she was Loras. I’m just… I’m thinking about Book!Marg now and her big performance during Maiden’s Day.

Danzie: I like how she knows he’s gay but still tries to seduce him by getting naked. Like, Marg, it really doesn’t matter how nice your boobs are, he’s not into it. What is it with this show and playing sexual assault off as a joke when the victim is male?

They genuinely want you to laugh at the dumb-dumb gay who doesn’t want to have sex with the beautiful woman who is throwing herself at him. Even his boyfriend is trying to force this crap on him. Gross.

Jana: And then there was the sex worker they caught Pycelle with. Because of course. Let’s just have a pair of tits in the background for the scene. Well, at least she was paid extra?

Kylie: It was FUNNY when Tyrion gave her an extra coin!

Jana: But… What for? That she didn’t get to enjoy such a spry man as Pycelle? What exactly is the joke here? Am I too dumb and literal to get it?

Kylie: It’s funny when sex workers witness arrests. Like, oh man, that’s awkward. Are you not laughing yet?

It’s also a meme now!

In memoriam…Yoren, Lommy

Julia: I didn’t hate them? I don’t even mind Arya’s riverlands adventures being a compressed at bit. That is, until I remember that it’s so they have room for her to bond with Tywin Lannister.

Danzie: Can’t say I’m gutted over Yoren, but he had a likable little role. Him killing the crossbowman was pretty badass, but there’s a reason ranged infantry, y’know, stand at the back? Like, why are you reloading your crossbow five feet away from an oncoming attacker? Stand behind your buddies with swords so they can cover you, you dingus.

If these are the soldiers in the Lannister army then no wonder Robb is kicking their asses.

…and I don’t have much to say about Lommy. I completely forgot he existed until this rewatch.

Jana: To be fair, cutting down on the amount of characters and misadventures in Arya’s first trip through the Riverlands is probably not the worst decision. Not until you remember what they do with all the time they saved that way. Ugh. Yoren went out like a badass, yay; Lommy went out like a bit of a dumbass, but hey, at least his death covered for Gendry. Though you’d think the guys would have been briefed about how all of Robert’s bastards have black hair…

Kylie: I had a hard time feeling much of anything for either of these characters. I think Yoren worked for the role he was in, but it wasn’t this horrible “ohhh nooo” moment like it felt in the books. Also the Lannister troops told us they were coming back, so it felt more like a, “well, what did you expect?” kind of thing. But yeah, Jana, it’s always going to get worse.

That takes us to the end of this week’s rewatch, and we’re definitely curious to hear everyone’s thoughts. Is there a lack in the tension, or are we being too negative because of the changes from portrayals in the books? Was the lolz-gay scene as bad as we’re making it out to be? And where do Lady Zuriffs go? We shall discuss below, and as always, we wish you good fortune in The Wars to Come.


Images courtesy of HBO

Kylie is a Managing Editor at The Fandomentals on a mission to slay all the tropes. She has a penchant for complex familial dynamics and is easily pleased when authors include in-depth business details.

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Ivana
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Ivana

It’s good to see someone else who appreciates ACOK – it’s not my favorite book in the series (that would be ASOS – I know, unoriginal, but it is the best), but it’s pretty close – I certainly preferred it to AGOT (not that I don’t love AGOT, but in retrospect, I like the less than the other 4 books). The early parts of ACOK is pretty slow and full of travelogues, that’s true, but that never bothered me, because of all the world-building and character development we get. Arya’s travels first shine a light on how bad the situation… Read more »

Ira Shantz-Kreutzkamp
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Ira Shantz-Kreutzkamp

“Nice Grandpappy Tywin” That’s one thing I’ve never understood. This guy’s fighting to install a hegemony of power over a continent for his personal profit, committing egregious crimes against people who never did anything to him to do it, and willingly is fighting to protect Joffrey’s claim, again for his personal benefit. But he’s humanized not to make his monstrous deeds and words even worse by making them come from somebody the audience understands, but to bolster him as an impressive and cool guy.

I thought Americans hated monarchists and rich assholes shoving poor people about, what gives here?

Mytly
Member
Mytly

You’re expecting a way deeper level of thought from D&D than they’re capable of. The one and only reason* why characters on GoT get more screentime than they do in the books is that D&D like the actor and want to keep him/her around more, even if that means twisting their character out of all recognition from the books. That’s how we get Nice Grandpappy Tywin, Revenge-Crazy Ellaria and Ramsay Sue.

*(Well, in case of female characters, willingness to do nude scenes is also a major factor – case in point: Roz, Shae, Margaery).

Ira Shantz-Kreutzkamp
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Ira Shantz-Kreutzkamp

I suppose in hindsight we should be grateful Sarella and most of the Sand Snakes never made it into the show. Though Darkstar “I can’t even kill a child three feet away, making me the most dangerous man in Dorne” could only have been improved. Almost wish they’d made HIM the big revenge-wanter instead of ruining Ellaria.

Ainara
Guest
Ainara

It’s also weird how he regularly talks to a girl that he knows is 1. From the North and 2. Highborn, while he’s fighting a war AGAINST THE NORTH, and he just… lets her roam around? Instead of checking if she could, I don’t know, make a good hostage?

Ainara
Guest
Ainara

That’s how I feel about AFFC, it’s probably my second favorite after (you guessed it!) ASOS.

Ann Taylor
Guest

I have one more note. Like… where did all the other children of Doran Martell, that Tyrion explicitly said Doran has in this episode, go? Did they find out where do whores go and bail off the show before season 5? Or is Tyrion actually kind of stupid and doesn’t even know the basics about the other party he’s solding his niece to? I know, just continuity error, but really stupid.

Ann Taylor
Guest

I mean… he said Myrcella will wed their youngest son. I assume there should be some older sons if Trystane is the youngest according to Tyrion.

Blackmambauk
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Blackmambauk

Subjected to D&D’s special brand of rectonning their writing and hoping no one notices. But we certainly do all right. Just watch any of their bits on the specials and they are constantly contradicting themselves on everything. The two truly do not giving a shit about the plot, the characters they are using.

Ann Taylor
Guest

You mean the special videos when they basically explain the episode (because they are incapable of making an episode that doesn’t need an extra explanation)? Well, I don’t watch these. If they can’t give a shit about the stuff they are doing, I can’t give a shit about their attempts to defend it. If it’s not said, shown or hinted on screen, it didn’t happen for me. Their extra talk behind the scene is not elemental part of the show, tha would be BS, so… They aren’t able to make some logicall argument that doesn’t fall apart by brief scrutiny… Read more »

Blackmambauk
Member
Blackmambauk

Watched one just for the bile fascination, and Christ the two are deluded on how dissonance on what they are saying contrasts on what’s on screen and what they did in earlier seasons. It only increases if one has listened to their commentaries.

Mytly
Member
Mytly

Arianne and Quentyn heard what a travesty the show had become and decided they wanted nothing to do with it, so they decided to table their differences and went off to lay low with their mom in Norvos until GoT ends.

LadyJeyne
Member
LadyJeyne

1. If I’m remembering correctly (and I haven’t read the books in a while) Westeros isn’t the most homophobic place ever. Renly and Loras’s relationship is a bit of an open secret (Catelyn notices how close they are at a dinner) and no one really seems to care. Oberyn is mentioned as having male lovers, though admittedly that’s brushed off as a “Dornish thing”, sort of, if I remember right. 2. Oy gevalt… I really hate what the show did to Margaery. I understand wanting to age her up a bit but that doesn’t mean they had to sexualize her… Read more »

Mytly
Member
Mytly

Westeros is homophobic in the books as well – it’s just that its homophobia comes in a different flavour than ‘kill all gays!’ variety that modern Western people are familiar with (which, incidentally, is as extreme as it is because it’s a backlash against increasing acceptance of homosexuality in modern Western societies). Westerosi homophobia is of the type where homosexuality is by and large invisible, and what little is visible is treated as an aberration and/or a joke, rather than being taken seriously as something involving or affecting society as a whole (once again, the reason for the virulence of… Read more »

Ivana
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Ivana

I don’t think it’s just class. There were a couple of Night’s Watch brothers who were pretty strongly hinted to have had a very strong bond, which is never explicitly mentioned as romantic, but the way one of them grieves for the other and the way they seemed to have had a special relationship seems to indicate they weren’t just best friends. Overall, Renly, Loras, Whoresbane Umber etc. are not treated as Satin because they are stereotypically masculine in other ways, as warriors or knights or men who engage in stereotypical masculine pursuits. Satin is a different case because he… Read more »

Ivana
Member
Ivana

The changes that D&D make to the characters and the story are sometimes so random. Most of the time, I can see what they were going for, even though I think it’s stupid and a terrible idea (like doing their best to make Tyrion an unproblematic good guy), but sometimes… I have no clue why they did what they did. I mean, look at all the changes they did to the female characters, or their own original female characters. What kind of female characters do D&D seem to like? They like fictional women who are sassy and outspoken, seductive, sexually… Read more »

Chieroscuro
Guest
Chieroscuro

Honestly, this just makes me sad that they ruin Loras. If we’re going to get Margaery & Loras leaning on Renly here, it should pay off with Loras maddened by grief assaulting Dragonstone.

Ainara
Guest
Ainara

Thoughts as I read: Season 2 is kind of a weird one. Thoug it does have what probably is my favorite episode 9 (which as we all know, needs to be THE episode each season…), so there’s that. I’m trying to think if any character had such a radical change in personality compared to the books as Margaery, but… Well, actually, I guess Ellaria. Varys being turned into Tyrion’s fanboy is pretty sad but also kind of really, really funny. “Varys’ dialogue (as always) was just such overwritten nothingness (designed to be a trailer one-liner they can put on merch)”… Read more »

Maidens and Mules
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Maidens and Mules

The first three episodes of Season 2 were a bit slow, but unlike the wheel spinning of later seasons, they’re slow because they building to something in this season and beyond. This is especially true for the Starklings. We see Sansa trying to take what little agency is available to her as a hostage, Arya forming her first pack, and Bran experiencing ever more frequent wolf dreams. There really was the start of something special for all three here, which makes it all the more disappointing when, in later seasons, the character traits the show spent so much time setting… Read more »

Kevan
Guest
Kevan

Well, I could feel that the episode was trying to go somewhere, so… Not that bad ? Congrats on Renly’s army for being the only one to look like a medieval army, with mitch and match armour with some sigils here and there, rather than an uniformous group of faceless goons. However, the scene presents the same flaws that will appears later on with Dorne : how hard was it to film it on a sunnier day, or at least make it look more sunny ? The knight of summer narrative disappears entirely if : 1) we don’t see any… Read more »

Mytly
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Mytly

This is the beginning of the ‘Northern Ireland stands in for all regions and climatic zones on Planetos’ phenomenon that becomes really egregious in the later seasons. (Which is kind of weird, as they had a budget for more varied locations in the later seasons.) While they do film in specific locations for the city-based scenes – such as Croatia for the King’s Landing scenes or Morocco for the Slaver’s Bay scenes – they have a tendency to use the Northern Ireland countryside for all ‘generic countryside’ type locations, even when said countryside is on different sides of the planet.… Read more »

Analysis

Game of Thrones 2×04 Rewatch: Garden of Groans

Kylie

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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.”

While Kylie, Julia, Danzie, and Griffin can’t wait to discuss what’s clearly going to be a jump in quality, we first need to go over the events for anyone who missed.

Episode Recap

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.

Highlights/lowlights

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.

Remember adaptation?

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.

Griffin: Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup.

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.

Oh wait.

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

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Analysis

Tragedy in Lady Knight

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Image courtesy of Random House

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.

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Analysis

Friendship in a Time of Blood and Ice Cream

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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.

It’s almost like a visual metaphor for something standing in-between their relationship.

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.

Nevermind Ed’s a zombie.

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.

They even make the paperwork cool.

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.

It’s another visual metaphor.

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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